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Report: Trump Says Strike Vital to National Security; Gorsuch Confirmed to Supreme Court; Survivor Of 2013 Gas Attack Has Message for Trump. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 7, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] KIRK LIPPOLD, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S.S. COLE: But clearly the intent was no to take down the runway which may have other purposes but in fact take out the true targets that were causing the damage to the Syrian people.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK. And what about just the weapon? Explain to me, commander, why a tomahawk used back during the gulf war back in '91 is still the weapon of choice here.

LIPPOLD: Well, that weapon that we used in the first gulf war in the early 1990s up until today has undergone significant improvements. Some of the GPS targeting, much more sophisticated, much more well- designed, much more capable than they were back in those days 20, 30 years ago or 20, 25 years ago. The ones there today, it's truly an evolutionary weapon. It continues to be extremely capable. It is the backbone of the Navy strike capability from the sea and we want to continue to use them and continue to build them. Not only as we're coming up with an enhanced version for the future, but also continue to use the one that we have today because it is still the primary strike weapon that a combatant commander uses, whether in the European theater which you see being exercised with Syria or the central command area in the Middle East.

BALDWIN: What, then -- I mean, we can't telegraph what the white house is thinking as far as potential next steps or not but from your perspective, what could be a larger strategy beyond what we've seen there at the airfield and the tomahawks and would that be enough to stop Assad?

LIPPOLD: I'm not sure. I think time is going to tell. I think this was clearly a single at both the tactical and strategic level. It sent a message that the red line that was drawn is going to be enforced. You use chemical weapons, there will be consequences. By the same token, it sent a signal. You have to remember, one of the primary supporters of the Assad regime, is the number one state sponsor of terrorism. When you send a signal to a country like Iran that says, look, we're not going to brook the use of this type of weapon or type of chemical weapon in and against civilians and if you do, there will be consequences. That's sending a message that if you cross that line, where you allow a terrorist group to use it, that is not going to be tolerated as well. That also tells North Korea, hey, with that nuclear program of yours, you better be careful what you're doing because as Secretary of State Tillerson said, the time of strategic patience is over. BALDWIN: A message to North Korea as well, isn't it? Finally, I was

telling you on commercial break I was out on the Arabian Gulf this time last year seeing life on an aircraft carrier and I'm just thinking of our American sailors on board these ships. What are the dangers, commander, that they are in on board these ships, especially in that location in the eastern Mediterranean?

LIPPOLD: Well, right now, now that we have named the ships, they are going to be looked at as targets by terrorist groups. They are going to increase their vigilance but they were operating within a fairly large launch basket so they can maximize the efficiency of the weapons when they hit the target. By the same token, they are going to have to go back to some point to rearm and refuel, get the other batch of tomahawks on-loaded so the commander has the ability to use the weapons again should the Assad regime continue to do chemical weapons attacks. We also want to make sure that we are working with Russia. Let's take a step back. Now that we have sent the signal, how can we figure out that what the Assad regime is wrong, how do we begin that long-term transition, hopefully the Russians go along with that because at some point in time, we have to stop with the bubble that for decades has existed over the Syrian people with the Assad regime and we must find a way for them to get out from underneath that dictatorship.

[15:35:00] BALDWIN: All excellent points keeping in mind the secretary of state is heading to Moscow for meetings next week. Commander Lippold, thank you so much.

LIPPOLD: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Next here, big picture, is a west wing shakeup on the horizon? Reince Priebus may soon be replaced as White House Chief of Staff? Who is on the short list? What is going on? We have Jamie Gangel on that. Also, ahead the senate making history today confirming the next Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch. His official swearing in not until Monday. We'll take you live to Capitol Hill coming up.


BALDWIN: Behind the scenes of President Trump's first military strike against a foreign government here, the white house releasing this photo, this sort of makeshift situation room down at Mar-a-Lago where the President oversaw the offensive against the Syrians. One of those people sitting around the table who may or may not be sitting there for much longer. Jamie Gangel has some intel for us. Who are we talking about and what are you hearing?

[15:40:00] JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, let's just say this may happen to start, that it's under consideration and everyone likes Reince Priebus a lot as a person but we've all known that there's been a lot of dysfunction, chaos is the word we've been using about the way that the white house is running. So, what I've been told is that there's a short list of four people who are under conversation.

BALDWIN: For chief of staff?

GANGEL: For chief of staff if President Trump decides to make a change. And here are the four people. The first person is -- and I think we have them -- house majority leader Kevin McCarthy, Wayne Berman of the Blackstone Group, David Urban of the American Continental Group who used to work for Senator Arlen Specter and worked on Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania and Gary Cohn, who we've been hearing a lot about, Trump's economic adviser, former number two at Goldman Sachs. Jared and Ivana say he's the rising star.

On that list, I'm being told that the two top contenders are Kevin McCarthy and Gary Cohn. He's seen as a Democrat so some Republicans don't like him but Jared and Ivanka like him and support him. Kevin McCarthy is very interesting. He's the majority leader. He's seen as someone as building coalitions and getting legislation passed and what does Donald Trump want? He wants some wins and he didn't get that with health care. A lot of people are saying that this guy can get the job done for you.

BALDWIN: My producer jumped in my ear and said Jim Acosta is saying that a white house official is telling him that Reince Priebus is going nowhere.

GANGEL: Right. Here's what we have from our senior white house correspondent Jim Acosta. A senior white house official was adamant that Reince Priebus is not going anywhere and second one says this is just palace intrigue. Let's remember, until Donald Trump decides he wants to make a change, there's no change. But there is a list going around.

BALDWIN: And you've got the list and you told us who the top contenders are. Jamie Gangel, thank you very much, as always.

Meantime, the battle over Neil Gorsuch, Judge Gorsuch is over. The U.S. Senate today confirming him to be the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court with a 54-45 vote. Only three Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly sided with them. This is a huge win for Republicans. Tell me more.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, the dust may have settled on Neil Gorsuch but it's not settled on the environment here at Capitol Hill. One thing that needs to be highlighted is how fiercely partisan it is right now. As you said, to get the Supreme Court nominee through, it took extraordinary measures, controversial maneuvers invoking the so-called nuclear option that broke long- standing Senate rules and had both sides really entrenched into their corners. So, a lot of talk here in the aftermath about what this means for the Senate going forward. Not only as it applies to future Supreme Court nominees, now that this rule has changed, but how it applies to potentially legislation.

Will both sides be even more entrenched in their sides? So, a lot of questions up here on Capitol Hill about what this all means, how this predicts the Senate operating going forward. But certainly, as you noted for the white house this is a big win for them today. We know that Neil Gorsuch will be sworn in on Monday, one private ceremony at the Supreme Court and then a public one at the white house. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Sunlen, thank you.

Let's take a moment to honor this week's CNN hero, who helped some of the three million children in the U.S. with hearing loss. Michelle Christy has helped the low-income children get the help they need.


MICHELLE CHRISTY, CNN HERO: A child with a hearing loss can achieve anything but, unfortunately, some fall through the cracks. Sometimes these kids are bullied. And a lot of people in their life tell them that they can't do things. Their parents are often told that their child is never going to learn to speak, which is not true.


BALDWIN: You can see Michelle speak up on our hero's page. While you are there, nominate someone who you think should be our 2017 hero.

[15:45:00] Coming up next here, it was two days ago when a man who survived the Syrian gas attack in 2013 pleaded with me here live on TV, a plea for President Trump to please step in and help. He is back with me live to react to the U.S. missile strike, next.


BALDWIN: When news of the missile strikes broke overnight in Syria, I couldn't help but think of a man who I talked to just this week who actually told me what it's like to be poisoned by sarin gas, a former activist and rebel fighter barely survived in what remains the largest chemical attack of the Syrian war back in august of 2013. Earlier today he told me of the sensation of fire in his lungs, what it was like to open his mouth to scream but actually hearing no sound, losing consciousness in the middle of the street and then waking up in a hospital. He is Kassem Eid back with us now. Thanks so much for coming back. I mean, it was just incredibly compelling hearing your first person account of the chemical attack and your pleas to -- to President Trump to do something, and now he has. What's your response?

KASSEM EID, SYRIAN SARIN ATTACK VICTIM: Thank you, again, Brooke, for having me. I woke up for some reason, I couldn't sleep. I woke up. I saw a lot of texts on my phone. I saw the news. I cried out of joy. I thanked god. I don't know. I was overwhelmed. We've been asking for protection. We've been asking for consequences for more than six years I cried out of joy. I thanked god. I don't know. I was overwhelmed. We've been asking for protection. We've been asking for consequences for more than six years and today for the first time it happened, for the very first time we see Assad held accountable just for once, held accountable for his crimes against humanity. I was overwhelmed. I felt grateful for President Trump. I felt grateful for the United States. I felt grateful for each and every person who lobbied and kept on talking until someone actually listened. I felt very, very grateful. BALDWIN: Kassem, I understand your gratitude but still you bring up

Assad. He's still there, and, you know, the real question is what's next?

EID: You're right. You're absolutely right. Assad is still in Damascus. He's still ordering his troops to kill and rape and torture. He killed half a million people and displaced 12 million people. He tortured thousands and thousands of people like we saw in the report. He raped thousands and thousands of women. He helped creating is with his atrocities. He drove people to desperation to join extremist groups when they didn't find justice and they went after revenge. He displaced millions of people. He made -- he remember the little boy who drowned at the sea. He made him drown and run for his life, just like he made millions of Syrians leave their houses. We ask for safe zones in Syria. I was talking with my friends inside of Syria. Everybody kept telling me, please, if you're going to talk again, please, for the love of god, tell them we need safe zones. Tell them to stop Assad's airplanes from keep bombing us. Shortly after the raid on Assad's airport, the Assad regime and the Russians launched many attacks all across Syria with aircrafts, and they target hospitals and schools and civilians --

BALDWIN: And that's a huge piece. That's a huge piece. I know the U.S. military is investigating whether or not Russia is complicit on this and whether or not they potentially dropped a bomb on one of these hospitals to cover up that initial chemical attack, but there are people in America and I hear you supportive of President Trump and so many people are, Democrats and Republicans, but there are also people over here in America saying all right, clearly President Trump is motivated as we all have compassion for these just horrible images of, you know, these babies who were killed, but at the same time this is a man who, you know, doesn't want Syrians to come into this country with this refugee ban. Let me just play some sound. Hillary Clinton weighed in.

EID: We cannot in one breath speak of protecting Syrian babies and in the next close America's doors to them.

BALDWIN: Quickly, Kassem, how do you see that?

EID: With all due respect, with all due respect, I didn't see each and every person who was demonstrating after the travel ban. I didn't see you three days ago when people were gassed to death, when civilians were gassed to death. I didn't see you in 2013 when 1,400 people were gassed to death.

[15:55:00] I didn't see you raising your voice against President Obama's inaction in Syria that led us refugees, that made us refugees get kicked out of Syria. If you really care about refugees, if you really care about helping us, please, help us stay in our -- in our country. We don't want to come to United States. We want to stay in our country, with all due respect. This is hypocrisy. If you really care, if you really care, help us stay in our country. We don't want to become refugees. We want to stay in our country. Help us establish safe zones.

BALDWIN: Understand.

EID: Help us stay in our country, and if you just give me a few seconds just to tell President Trump once again, please, sir, what you did was amazing, what you did was powerful message of hope for a lot of people inside and outside of Syria. Please, don't stop on this. Please, help Syrians stay in their country. Please establish safe zones and please take out Assad owes air force so they won't be able to commit more atrocities committing traditional weapon. Just so people can know what we've suffered in the past six years.

BALDWIN: Kassem Eid, appreciate it. We'll be in touch and we'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Ebola, Zika, bird flu, CNN's new original film "Unseen Enemy" looks where the next outbreak might come from and what we might do to stop it.


NARRATOR, CNN FILM, "UNSEEN ENEMY": The world changes around us at increasing speed. We cause a lot of that change. Migrating to cities, stripping the earth of its resources and altering the jungle.

We're seeing total ecologies, that which you can see with your eye and that which you can only see with a microscope, one system after another completely reshaped.


BALDWIN: Do not miss "Unseen Enemy." It airs tonight here on CNN at 10:00 eastern and pacific. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. Have a wonderful weekend. Don't move. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts now.