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New Airstrikes Near Site of Chemical Attack in Syria; Air Base Hit By U.S. Missiles Operational Again; Priebus Met With Kushner and Bannon Friday; Russians Sticks with Syria, Reacts to Airstrikes; Trump Sends Letter to Congress Explaining Syria Airstrikes; North Korea Criticizes U.S. Missile Strikes in Syria. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 8, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:00] DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: Make that deal with yourself. Get that exercise out of the way and reward yourself in small ways throughout the day because of it. Human behavior is pretty simple when it comes to certain things. If we do things that we love we're much more likely to stick with doing them. Why? It's much more likely to do it with a long run. And that's what can help you live to 100.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello on this Saturday. Hope your weekend is off to a good start. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. We're looking overseas today to Syria where American missiles hammered a military base less than 48 hours ago and now we're hearing that air base has reopened. In fact, Syrian warplanes are taking off from there again.

After American Tomahawk missiles blew up tanks, air planes and ammunitions at that base early on Friday. Pentagon officials say the strikes were meant to deliver a message to the Syrian government after the chemical weapons attack killed 89 people including 33 children earlier this week. Today, Russia responds, promising more military help to Syria and moving a navy ship with missiles on board into the waters off the coast.

President Trump praised the troops today who carried out the U.S. strikes, he tweeted this morning, congratulations to our great military men and women for representing the United States, and the world, so well in the Syria attack. And something else in Syria today, the town that was hit by that deadly chemical attack on Tuesday it was bond again today. Nobody knows just yet who was behind these new air strikes. But we now know at least a handful of people were killed.

CNN senior international correspondents Clarissa Ward and Matthew Chance are with us now. And Clarissa on the Turkish Syrian border, Matthew in Moscow. I'll talk to you first, Clarissa.

Tell us what you're hearing now about these latest air strikes in Western Syria, who's behind them and what's the possible explanation for why this town is being targeted again?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, from what we're hearing from activists on the ground, Ana, it's believed that the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which is as you said the town that was the site of this awful gas attack earlier in the week where 89 people were killed has been hit again. We're hearing from activists based there that at least one woman has been killed, three other injured. These sorts of air strikes are very much regular occurrences in particularly in the Idlib Province which is under the control of the rebels.

So, no surprises to see that airstrikes continue. But certainly, it is impossible to believe that this is not also some kind of a message, some kind of a retaliatory punishment to the people of Khan Sheikhoun. Although I should say perhaps one of the reasons that the death toll does not appear to be very high is possibly because the town is reportedly largely deserted. But I think more broadly speaking, Ana, what we're seeing today from the Assad regime is that they're trying to project a sense that it's business as normal. That they will continue to bombard the opposition as they please.

That they have not been cowed by the U.S. strikes on their base and of course, we heard today that Shayrat Air Base the base that was struck by those U.S. Tomahawk missiles is again now open for operation, Syrian jets are now flying from it once again. This shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone because the U.S. military was not trying to render that base unusable. What they were trying to do was to deliver a very specific, what they called a proportional response to the chemical attack and to try to ensure that chemical weapons were not used again and specifically not used again from that air base.

But they were not trying and did not attempt to destroy the runway which would render it unusable. So, definitely what we're seeing today, Ana, is a strong message from the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a show of force if you will that we will not be cowed by the U.S. aggression -- Ana.

CABRERA: What are you hearing from Syrians in that region that you're talking to about the event in the past few days in their country and specifically about the U.S. taking on the Assad regimes with these strikes?

WARD: Well, it depends on who you speak to. If you talk to people who support the opposition as do the vast majority of people who are living in Idlib Province which is controlled by the opposition, they were very pleasantly surprised by the U.S. strikes against the regime. They had dreamed of this for years. But they had long ago given up hope and felt that that dream died after the so-called red line incident of 2013 and there was a general sense of sort of disappointment and bitterness about the U.S. role in the Syrian conflict under the administration of President Barack Obama.

So, people were very happy to hear about these U.S. strikes, of course, the next thing out of their mouths though is, why only this one strike, why doesn't the U.S. do more to protect us? And why does it matter so much if people, if the Assad regime is killing our children with gas or if they are killing us with more conventional munitions. This is what they see a discrepancy in the policy of the U.S. and the international community. At the same time, I think most of them understand from what they're hearing from the Trump administration that they should not expect any more strikes any time soon unless the regime of Bashar al-Assad decides to cross that line and escalate the situation further -- Ana.

[17:05:32] CABRERA: Clarissa Ward along the Turkish-Syria border, thank you.

I want to bring in Matthew Chance now because Russia has been quick to let the U.S. know, it is not happy with the air strikes and now we're hearing there was a phone call earlier today between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. What more can you tell us Matthew about that phone call?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Ana. And unusually the State Department has been pretty tight lipped about the contents of that telephone conversation but the Kremlin have spilled the beans. And they're telling us exactly what they've discussed. They say this was a phone call that was made on the American initiative. In other words, Rex Tillerson called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to discuss the aftermath of those missile strikes against that air base in Syria.

This is what Sergey Lavrov say, he said that he stressed an attack on a country whose government is fighting terrorism, will only strengthen the extremists. He also used Rex Tillerson according to the -- of the Russian Foreign Ministry that the use of chemical weapons, the accounts of use of chemical weapons by the United States don't correspond to reality. Of course the Russians have been insisting from the Kremlin through the Defense Ministry that there was no chemical attack carried out by the Syrian Armed Forces on that place in Southern Idlib Province in Northern Syria.

Instead when the Syrian air strikes took place against the rebel sort of holding facility, a rebel storage facility, the chemical weapons that they controlled were unleashed and caused that dramatic and terrible loss of life. And that was something that was reaffirmed apparently again on this telephone conversation between Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state and his Russian counterparts Sergey Lavrov -- Ana.

CABRERA: So, it doesn't sound like Russia is feeling increased pressure to push back against the Assad regime over those chemical weapons?

CHANCE: No. And in fact, there are signs they're standing by -- increased signs that they're standing by their Syrian ally. They've said they're going to bolster in the aftermath of these missile strikes, they're going to bolster the Syrian military's air defenses. That means they'll going to be deploying more of their sophisticated S-300 and S-400 missiles systems which could have been used to blow those Tomahawk missiles out of the sky. But were not switched on.

They held back from doing that allowing these strikes to place. They've also deployed one of their most modern warships to the Eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Syria and that warship is armed with an arsenal of modern Russian missiles which could signal not just continuing support for Bashar al-Assad in Damascus but could signal an imminent intensification of Russia's bombardment inside Syria -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Matthew Chance in Moscow. Thank you.

Of course, that is coming ahead of Rex Tillerson's Secretary of State visit to Russia later this week.

Meantime President Trump is spending the weekend in Florida explaining his decision to strike Syria and why the U.S. military wasn't actually trying to destroy that runway at the Syrian air base. We'll discuss it in a live report.

Plus, North Korea openly hostile to the U.S. weighs in on the U.S. strike in Syria. We'll have a live report from inside the deeply secretive country's capital city.


[17:13:01] CABRERA: The Syrian air base targeted by U.S. missiles reopened less than 48 hours after it was attacked. We have new video shot by Russian media reportedly showing a plane taxiing down one of those runways. The U.S. Defense officials told CNN he's not surprised. The runways were largely avoided and the U.S. officials said that was actually on purpose. The source explains that the attack was not intended to render the air base useless but rather to send a clear message to Syria that the use of chemical weapons won't be tolerated.

Now, as the videos emerge, President Trump appears to be defending his decision to not wage a more destructive attack. CNN White House reporter Jeremy Diamond is joining us live from Palm Beach where the President is spending his weekend in Florida. Jeremy, what is the President saying?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Hi, Ana, yes, the President just as we are seeing these images of Syrian planes once again taking off from that air base against which the President ordered these Tomahawk cruise missiles strikes, the President is now explaining his rationale for not hitting that runway. He tweeted just a little while ago -- the reason you don't generally hit runways is that they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix -- fill in and top.

Now, the U.S. military did actually strike the taxi way at that air base as well as fuel depots, ammunition depots as well several airplanes that were struck at that base. But as we saw the base was not put out of commission entirely. And the President is explaining his strike there but he's also explaining it in a letter to Congress he just today, notified the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the Senate President Pro Tempore of his decision to strike this air base. And he also explained some of the legal rationale for why he did so.

Let me read a portion of that letter. He said, quote, "I acted in the vital National Security and foreign policy interest of the United States pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as commander in chief and chief executive. He said the United States will take additional action as necessary and appropriate to further its important national interests. That's very similar to what we heard the President say just a couple

of days ago as he announced these strikes saying that it was in the national security interest of the United States. So, clearly the President now notifying Congress formally and explaining that rationale -- Ana.

CABRERA: Jeremy, the President's decision to strike Syria is a complete 180 from his stance just a few years ago. In fact, I am looking at a tweet that he sent back in 2013. On August 29th and he writes, "What will we get from bombing Syria besides more death and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval." So, I know you've been writing extensively in looking into Trump's about face. How did it happen?

DIAMOND: Yes, that's right, Ana, not only did the President oppose strikes against the Syrian government back when President Obama was considering it in 2013. But during his campaign, he repeatedly made clear that Assad was not the primary target -- should not be the primary target for the United States which should focus on ISIS. But we saw this reversal now. And it didn't just happen over a matter of days.

Actually several months ago in December, the President hosted an off the record gathering with a group of reporters including myself. I was able to get those comments put on the record by the President's spokeswoman Hope Hicks. And during that gathering, the President made clear that the Syrian crisis was beginning to weigh on him as he prepared to take on the mantle of the presidency. He spoke about his responsibility, the U.S. responsibility with regards to the Syrian conflict. He talked about the tragedies taking place there at length talking about the high pain -- of the Syrian people.

So, clearly we were watching as a man was going from a private citizen to now President of the United States, and trying to figure out what that meant for his position as the President of the United States and the leader of the free world and clearly we saw here he ultimately decided that the U.S. did have some kind of moral responsibility to take action, to show the world and the Syrian regime that that these strikes -- that these chemical weapons attacks rather should not take place and would not be tolerated by the United States.

CABRERA: So, Jeremy, you're basically saying that he was having this change of heart well before this past week when those chemical weapons emerge.

DIAMOND: That is right. Well, it's clear that he was very moved by these videos that we saw earlier in the week with regards to chemical weapons attacks that killed dozens of civilians in Syria. But it's also clear that before that moment, when he talked about a responsibility he also talk about the U.S. responsibility back in December.


DIAMOND: So, clearly the weight of the presidency all of that started to shift a lot of his thinking -- Ana. CABRERA: Right. It sounds like it's been coming over period of

months. Jeremy Diamond in Palm Beach, thank you.

The tension among President Trump's top advisers including his son-in- law Jared Kushner and chief strategist Steve Bannon is happening, apparently, there's a lot of discussion about a big shake-up ahead. We'll discuss. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:22:18] CABRERA: The Trump White House has been fending off rumors of shake-ups and reboots. And there have been reports that the President may be getting ready to deliver his famous line you're fired to someone inside his inner circle. Now, we're getting word of this, senior official tells CNN that within the last 24 hours White House chief-of-staff Reince Priebus held a meeting with chief strategist Steve Bannon and the President's son-in-law and its senior advisor Jared Kushner, the goal, ending the turmoil, work together.

My panel is back with me. Former CIA counterterrorism analyst and a national syndicated radio host Buck Sexton. And CNN political commentator and former mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter. Buck, let's begin with this news from our source, that Priebus met with Bannon and Kushner to try to clear the air. Do you see Priebus and Bannon both surviving?

BUCK SEXTON, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Yes. I think they're going to stay and these are some of the early growing pains that I think any administration that has some very big personalities and people that have very serious goals for the country in mind. So, I don't see this as troublesome at all. I mean, quite honestly, this is very strong week for the Trump administration. I think that would be hard to argue. Otherwise, the elevation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is a huge win across the board on the right.

And then with the action in Syria which has received praise even from people on the left who have been deeply critical of Trump as the right thing to do and the humanitarian gesture that should have been taken I think a long time before. It's a strong week for the Trump administration. A little bit infighting among some of the senior people in the White House. I don't see it as troubling at all. I am sure they'll smooth it over and they'll move on.

CABRERA: And not like that's new or something that's different from past administration. I mean, there have been some shake-ups in the past. But I think the overdrive on this issue happened after the National Security Council made some changes removing Steve Bannon from the National Security Council and then this picture comes out showing Trump in his war room at the Florida resort in Mar-A-Lago and you can see who's in the picture where they're seated. Kushner and Priebus literally have a seat at the table but Bannon as you see is in the back corner, not at the table.

Mayor, what does this picture tell you?

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, maybe he's in the corner. Maybe he's on time-out. I don't know. But clearly --

CABRERA: Maybe we're reading too much into it, right?

SEXTON: Maybe.

NUTTER: Could be. You know, maybe that's where the last seat was. Who knows? But, you know, clearly this is not a White House that's operating like, you know, the old TV show, the west wing. This is kind of more like the almost -- this is not the PG version of House of Cards. Many have talked about it in the context of a little maybe a little bit of game of thrones. I hear that the team music in the White House these days is the old OJ's tune Back Stabbers. But, you know, that is just the rumor.

These folks -- there are a lot of personalities there and the challenge and I don't know any of these folks individually, but, you know, obviously Mr. Kushner enjoys an extra special and serious relationship with the President and it will be impossible for any of those folks to, quote-unquote, "compete with that." That is probably fatal in some cases. So, I would not be surprise at some kind of shake-up. It does often happen somewhere in the course of first year. Usually not in the first three months.

But there's been a lot of chaos down there and I assume the President is probably not too happy about it. Sometimes, you know, campaign people don't necessarily make it in the government. It's two different sets, two different kind of jobs. And whatever it is, they need to get it straightened out, settle down and gets to the business of representing America around the world.

CABRERA: I heard you say, Buck, earlier, that you believe that perhaps all three men of these men may survive, when we're talking about Priebus, Bannon and Kushner. Do you see any weak links there?

SEXTON: No, I think that there's been very strong relationship building between -- I'm assuming Priebus is the one that lot of folks would think is the one that at least tied in because at least he's an establishment Republican guy. And so, then he doesn't fit in with either the Trump wave of the campaign or even ideological with some of the other senior Trump officials. But it's always good as we know to have people who come from desperate parts of the ideological spectrum within their party. I am not saying from all over the place. And I think that they like what Priebus is done.

[17:27:06] Now a lot of this of course as all going on reporting from people who I think overwhelmingly dislike the administration and view every rumor and every little hint of some discord in the White House as something to make into a major news story. When in reality I think most of the folks that are working at the top level of this administration are probably much more focused on the policies and the things that they are trying to accomplished.

So, that's my read on this. Again, I think that the big stories of the week are quite clear. It's the airstrikes in Syria or the missile strike in Syria and the elevation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. A little fighting? I don't think this is going to go anywhere. Priebus plays a very important role because he gives some connectivity and some connective tissue to the Republican establishment which Trump needs along for the ride.

NUTTER: Well, I mean, you know, I hear you. But I mean, ultimately it is the, you know, the President's responsibility to do his best to have a cohesive team and, you know, one week of, you know, some looked upon as positive things, you know, you have to look at what's taken place since he's come into office, two bans that have been struck down a health care debacle. You know, Certainly Mr. Gorsuch, Judge Gorsuch got on the Supreme Court. But the Republicans do have a majority in the Senate and they had to change the rules to make it happen.

So, there have been some pretty significant bumps and bruises along the way and I don't necessarily know that it's only people who have an adverse view of the President that are reporting these kinds of things. There is a fair amount of chaos going on with this crew and I would pause to mention, has anyone seen Kellyanne Conway recently? She seems to have completely disappeared from the scene?

CABRERA: She was not in that picture at least from the angle that that picture was taken. You couldn't see her in that room that we showed earlier.

NUTTER: Well, not just the photo. I mean --

CABRERA: Buck Sexton, we do need to leave it there for a moment. But we'll have you back later this hour.

SEXTON: We'll looking forward to it. I will make sure my tires fixed. Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: I'll make sure my microphone is working again. All right. Thank you, guys.

NUTTER: Thank you.

CABRERA: Ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM, why military ties to Syria are so important to Russia. Also, what North Korea's government is now saying about the U.S. strike in Syria? CNN has rare access today. And we'll have a live report from inside North Korea's capital.


[17:33:44] CABRERA: Back to our top story, and new developments out of Syria this weekend. The area hit by a chemical attack on Tuesday has been hit by new airstrikes now. It's unclear who us behind the news attacks. But we can tell you that Russia and Syrian regime aircraft are the only ones that have been bombing this area.

We're also learning that flight operations have resumed at the Syrian military base that was hit by the U.S. airstrikes.

The Syrian government is now calling the United States a "partner of ISIS."

In response to the U.S. airstrikes, Russia has now sent a Navy ship armed with cruise missiles to a port in western Syria in an apparent show of force. So you might be wondering why military ties with Syria are so important to Russia.

Tom Foreman has that


[17:34:35] TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana. A fair question to ask why any country would want to get its military involved in something like this? The answer when it comes to Russia is because they already are. Look, here's Syria and all of these dots represent the place where the Syrian military has bases and where some of the rebel forces have bases as well. Right in the middle of it all, here are four big Russian bases out there. And there are Russian troops spread around other areas as well. Thousands of them. We don't have an accurate count but it runs into the thousands. There are also Russian jets, helicopters and radar systems and air defense systems.

Take a look at this if you want a sense of it. The middle flag over there on the far side, this that is this ground right here. This quadrant right here, in 2014, it looked like this. And in 2015 it looks like that. A brand-new state-of-the-art base built for the Russians and by the Russians. This is a permanent facility. They're not just visitors there. They intend to stay.

The Russians want influence. Syria is a longtime Russian ally and the Russians are making it clear they have no intention of going anywhere, even if a few jets quite close to them get blown up along the way -- Ana?


CABRERA: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you.

I want to talk about that U.S. airstrike on that base. Let's bring in CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Thank you, Colonel, for joining us.

The U.S. action has destroyed about 20 airplanes. But the air base has reopened. A short time ago, President Trump tweeted this, saying, "The reason you don't generally hit runways is that they're easy and inexpensive to quickly fix." And then he writes, "Fill in and top."

Is the president correct about runways there?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yeah, the reason we don't hit runways is because of that. Every air force in the world practices repairing runways. As soon as their cratered, you fill them in and top them. There are steel plates you can put down. Something that all air forces do. The weapon we chose to use in that strike, the Tomahawk cruise missile, isn't effective against runways. It's better at striking the fuel points, the ammunition points, maintenance facilities, the aircraft themselves. CABRERA: Now, Russia has suggested just today there's still no solid

evidence that chemical weapons were stored at that air base. Lavrov had said, "The allegations over chemical weapons aren't correspondent with realty." Even Congress woman, Tulsi Gabbard said on CNN that she's skeptical that Assad is responsible for the chemical weapons attack.

But, Colonel Francona, we know what happened with weapons of mass destruction prior to invading Iraq. Is it possible that the U.S. government and the Pentagon officials are wrong?

FRANCONA: In this case, I kind of doubt it. We got very good coverage of what goes on in Syrian air base because we have American aircraft flying in that air space, 24/7 coverage, radar surveillance, intelligence surveillance, a variety of sensors going on. Can't believe that the president of the United States would order a missile strike at this time of history in the state of the situation if he didn't believe his intelligence people. Having worked the Syrian problem myself for a long time, I have no doubt that this was the Syrians.

CABRERA: Where would those chemicals have come from, do you think?

FRANCONA: These aren't big chemical weapons. They're quite small. It doesn't take much chemicals to cause this kind of damage. They can be moved around the country quite readily. Years ago, for decades, the Syrians have played a game of moving their weapons around. They're stored in deep underground bunkers. So, taking out the chemical facilities would be very, very difficult. Taking them out in an area like on an airfield is much, much easier. I think that's what we were trying to do.

But you have to be very careful when taking out chemical weapons. When you hit a chemical weapons depot, you run the risk of creating the problem you're trying to prevent.

CABRERA: No doubt.

I want to read a part of President Trump's letter to Congress that he sent today about the intent of the U.S. airstrikes. And I quote, "I directed this action in order to degrade the Syrian military's ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons, thereby promoting the stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region's current humanitarian catastrophe."

In your opinion, did Trump accomplish the stated goals in the letter?

FRANCONA: If they destroyed 20 Syrian air-to-ground fighters, they did a pretty good job because the Syrian air force has atrophied over the years. Without the Russian air force -- they're providing most of the air support -- the Syrians wouldn't control their own air space. I think we're degrading it, slowly, but surely. But I think the real key to this strike was to send a message to al Assad you can't use chemical weapons with impunity. If you cross that line, we'll react. We'll punish you for that. That said --

[17:40:25] CABRERA: The U.S. also said it may increase sanctions on Syria, so, how is this going to affect the country moving forward? You know, when you look at the message the strike sent, possible additional sanctions, are we helping to create stability, or what would need to happen next in order to do that?

FRANCONA: I don't know how you can promote more instability in the country. The country has a four-way civil war going on. We need to figure out what our actual policy is. What's the policy toward Syria? The Obama policy, calling for the removal of the current regime, or the Trump policy, let's focus on ISIS and we'll worry about al Assad later.

CABRERA: What would you do?

FRANCONA: I would do I think what he planned to do at first. Go after ISIS. Let's defeat ISIS, get rid of them, even if that requires a little cooperation with the Russians, which was beginning up in northern Syria. If we can get rid of ISIS quickly, we can turn our focus to the ultimate political solution in Syria. And enlist the Russians as allies to do that. Maintain your position all along that we need to get rid of Bashar al Assad but we need to do it after we get rid of ISIS. And we need to do it diplomatically and politically, rather than another long, drawn-out conflict on the ground in Syria.

CABRERA: Colonel Rick Francona, great to have you on. Thank you.

President Trump has made a dramatic shift in his stance on Syria. Ahead, a look at how it's changed, and what it tells us about what happens next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:46:42] CABRERA: We're following a developing story out of Afghanistan where a U.S. soldier has been killed east of Kabul. A spokesman for the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan told CNN the fallen servicemember was a U.S. Special Operations soldier who was carrying out a mission against a branch of ISIS in the region. We'll bring more details as soon as we get them.

President Trump has openly admitted he has changed his attitude towards Syria and its president, Bashar al Assad. He said images like these from Tuesday's chemical attack deeply impacted him. The change in his attitude is a complete about-face.

My panel is back with me, former CIA counterterrorism analyst and national syndicated radio host, Buck Sexton; and CNN political commentator and former mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter.

Mayor, the president seemed genuinely moved when he described those images of those children dying. Do you think he was sincere that it was the images that changed his attitude toward Assad? MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He did seem sincere. I'm

not going to question that at all. In the previous newscast, someone indicated that the president has been, I would say, evolving in his view about Syria, apparently, going back to during the transition. So, but, nonetheless, these images certainly are powerful. They're horrific. You know, if you have children, if you care about children, know any children, you can't deal with this kind of stuff.

Having said that, you know, I said earlier, I think that proportional response was correct. You can't run foreign policy solely based on emotion and horrific images. The question now is, what happens next? That was a message, where's the policy and what's the strategy? And you really have to do that, I think, in more than a 140-characters. Sometime next week, not on Twitter, I believe the president of the United States should, in his own words, explain to the American public just what he plans to do. What's the game plan here, what's the strategy, who's with us, and what are we trying to accomplish? I think we're all owed that, in addition to Congress getting their notice and playing their appropriate role. I think we should hear directly from the president of the United States of America as to what he plans to do.

CABRERA: Buck, do you believe that the U.S. airstrikes or strikes, I should say, in Syria were a result of an emotional reaction or was it part of a bigger strategy?

SEXTON: I think President Trump was sharing the emotional responsibility with the American people, understandably under the circumstances. I also think that we would want the commander-in-chief to respond to events on the ground. The usage of chemical weapons -- I don't think anybody disagrees with or takes issue with -- is something apart from indifferent from the day-to-day what is a horrific civil war. The estimates are 400,000 to 500,000 over the course of it. But when chemical weapons are at play, it does change the calculation, I think, for any commander-in-chief, as President Obama would have said, and I'm sure all the presidents before him in similar circumstances would have said as well. So I think the president responded to what happened, as we would expect him to.

I don't see this as a huge change in his overall Syria policy. I think this is still to be seen. I do have my concerns that we may find ourselves drawn into a much larger role as a result of this shift in thinking. But this is the first step on what will be a long journey towards a major U.S. military intervention. I don't see that happening. I think members of his own party and I think people in his trusted inner circle would push back on that. We do not want to be in charge of this country. We don't want another situation like Iraq or Afghanistan where we are rebuilding a nation and providing its security. That's where I see it right now.

I don't think it's a sea change in his thinking overall. This is a response to a chemical weapons attack, which I think is broadly considered to be an appropriate and responsible way to go.

[17:51:03] CABRERA: Gentlemen, thank you for staying with me through the hour. We -- (CROSSTALK)

NUTTER: But it's a change in his past statements.


CABRERA: OK, there you go.

SEXTON: I concede to that. I'm saying it's not a change in the way he views the U.S.'s role in the world, which I think that's pretty defensible and clear.

CABRERA: Got to go, guys.

We have a live report coming up right from North Korea.

Michael Nutter and Buck Sexton, our thanks to both of you.

Another target of President Trump's ire is North Korea, weighing heavily on his mind, especially when he was meeting with China this past week. We will have a live report from Pyongyang. Here's a live look right now inside the capital city.

You're live inside CNN's NEWSROOM.


[17:55:58] CABRERA: This just in, Iran's President Hasan Rouhani is slamming the U.S. missile strike in Syria, and he's calling for a fact-finding commission to be formed, quote, "without the presence of the U.S. and other biased countries."

Another country criticizing President Trump's actions, North Korea.

CNN's Will Ripley joins us now from Pyongyang.

Will, North Korea did not mince words when it came to this strike.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, they are strongly condemning this strike, Ana, saying this airstrike justifies that is own nuclear weapons development. They liken their nuclear weapons to a sword of justice, defending against the United States, because this did play into the North Korean narrative that U.S. missiles could come raining down here in Pyongyang anytime.

You look around, it's like a normal Sunday morning here. People are putting on their Sunday best. There are thousands of people from outside the country running in the marathon today.

And the lead story is not about the Syrian airstrikes. But North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, in that a mushroom factory.

There are some officials who say they would not be surprised if things change quickly. You can infer what that might mean.

Analysts have been looking at satellite images saying that North Korea is ready to push the button on their sixth test just about any time.

CABRERA: This is your 11th trip to North Korea. Do you sense this strike sent a message? And is there any concern about how President Trump may deal with that country?

RIPLEY: There is concern. People were watching closely the U.S./China summit. One of the first questions officials asked me is whether there had been anymore statements from either leader specifically about North Korea. Of course, they were not specific about North Korea, aside from a very vague pledge to work together to help the country denuclearize. Which means the U.S. and China are probably pretty far apart on what they think the best approach might be. China wants to engage. The U.S. thinks that sanctions and potential preemptive action would be more effective.

The North Koreans are preparing for what they feel might be really provocative behavior on the part of the United States.

CABRERA: Finally, Will, when you talk about where the nuclear weapons capabilities are there in North Korea, should they push another button, I mean, do they have a missile that could reach the mainland U.S.?

RIPLEY: Most analysts say that North Korea does not yet have a workable ICBM, but it's only a matter of time, perhaps within a couple years. They keep perfecting the technology. They've already claimed they can miniaturize warheads. And each test brings them that closer to a goal of an ICBM that could travel the distance to reach the mainland United States. But there's still questions about the accuracy of that technology.

The North Koreans continuously say these nuclear weapons are the key to their survival as a nation. They feel if they have a viable nuclear weapon that could hit the U.S., they will not be invaded like Iraq or Libya. That's why they feel justified to continue to do these tests, despite international consternation from the United States, the U.N., and so many other.

CABRERA: Will Ripley, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Will, thank you.

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. We'll see you back here in one hour.

"SMERCONISH" is next. Thanks for being with us.