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Syrian Military Base Targeted by Dozens of American Missiles; President Xi Jinping and Madam Peng Liyuan of China Visited the U.S.; Anti-Government Protests Escalating in Venezuela Right Now. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 8, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:07] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with me.

Up first, the Syrian air base pounded by dozens of U.S. tomahawk missiles is back in business tonight. You are looking at new video of jets moving again on a tarmac less than 24 hours after President Trump's strike. President tweeting the reason you don't generally hit runways is that they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix, fill and tap.

And just in to CNN, brand new video showing the aftermath of new bombings that happened just north of that airfield. The same town where 89 people died this week in a chemical attack that the U.S. blamed on the Assad regime. Although, it is not clear who launched these airstrikes. We do know Russia and Syria planes have gone after rebels in this area and 16 civilians have been killed in this latest attack according to the (INAUDIBLE) civil defense group.

Meanwhile Russia is sending a warship armed with cruise missiles to coast of Syria as tension with the U.S. reached a boiling point. The Pentagon now questioning whether Russia was complicit in the Syrian chemical attack as the president slammed President Trump's action as an act of aggression. Today, one of ours sighted that President Trump on his golf course in West Palm Beach, Florida. And we have a team of reporters and analysts covering each angle of the story.

I want to begin with CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward live near the Syrian-Turkey border.

And Clarissa, Russia said today the U.S. has no proof chemical weapons were used and we know up until a few days ago the Trump administration said removing Assad was not the priority. So why then would the Syrian president gassed his own people?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's any number of reasons and it is always difficult, Ana, to speculate as to the mental state of President Bashar al-Assad who has been torturing and maiming and bombing and shooting his own people for years now and has killed hundreds of thousands of them. But there are some people and some analysts who believe that perhaps he chose to gas his own people at this time for two reasons. One, possibly he felt somehow empowered that the international community had given up on trying to solve Syria, that no one was essentially trying to stop him as he continued on his winning streak. And two, potentially that he was also empowered after the win or victory in Aleppo to the extent that it can be called a victory, because nothing really remains of much of that city to this day, that perhaps he then felt that he wanted to focus his efforts on Idlib province. Idlib province is the rebel-held area, really essentially the last remaining rent-held strong hold in the northern part of the country. And others have also suggested that it's possible after the comments that we heard from secretary of state Rex Tillerson when he essentially said it's not for America to say the president Bashar al-Assad must go, it's for the Syrian people to decide. That perhaps at that point, he realized that there were no red lines after that, maybe he thought nobody occasioned anymore.

As to whether this is going to really have an impact, that remains to be seen. It is fair to say that it looks at this point like the U.S. does have more leverage again when it comes to the negotiating table. But I think this meeting this week between Rex Tillerson and between his Russian counterparts Sergey Lavrov will be very telling in terms of whether this continues to escalate or whether everyone takes a deep breath and step back, Ana.

CABRERA: Clarissa, thank you. In fact, let's bring in our CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance who was in Moscow.

Matthew, we learned that secretary of state Rex Tillerson called the Russian foreign ministers today to discuss this upcoming visit to Russia? What are the expectations now for that visit?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that it was always going to be a controversial visit, of course. So Rex Tillerson was coming here originally as somebody who was seen as incredibly close to the Kremlin. He was awarded the order of friendship in 2013 by Vladimir Putin when he was the CEO of the oil company Exxon. They have done billions of dollars-worth of (INAUDIBLE).

The controversy surrounding this visit, though, just a few days later, in fact, is that he's the secretary of state of a country that has struck hard against the biggest ally of Russia in the Middle East, and that obviously has generated its own momentum and its own controversy.

The content of a telephone conversation that took place tonight at the state department tonight has been very tightlipped about what was discussed. But the kremlin has let it all out. They have given us a readout of what was discussed. Said that Serge Lavrov as the foreign ministers of Russia stressed that the attack on a country whose government is fighting terrorism. That's And tow they characterize the government of Bashar al-Assad. His counterproductive and it has as consequences in place into the hands, they say, of extremist.

Also, the foreign minister told Rex Tillerson again that the allegations that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian military in that attack in southern Idlib do not correspond to reality. They are doubling down on this version of events they put out before, which is that there were no chemical weapons involved on the part of the Syrian military, any chemicals were spilled when the Syrian military carried out an airstrike on the storage of the rebels and their chemical munitions were causing the loss of light. So it is, at the very least, going to be a very interesting meeting in the middle of next week when Rex Tillerson comes here to Moscow, the Russian capital and his Russian counterpart and to meet president Putin as well.

[19:05:44] CABRERA: Two, dueling narrative there for sure. Matthew Chance, Clarissa Ward, out thanks to both of you.

Now U.S. ambassador to the U.S. Nikki Haley has been one of the most outspoken voices in condemning Tuesday chemical attack in Syria. In a brand-new interview with our Jake Tapper, Haley talks about the White House's plan moving forward and where the administration's position on president Bashar al-Assad stands. And here's part of that interview.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Is regime change in Syria now the official policy of the United States?

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: So there's multiple priorities. It's getting Assad out is not the only priority. And so what we are trying to do is obviously defeat ISIS. Secondly, we don't see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out. And then finally, move towards a political solution because at the end of the day this is a complicated situation. There are no easy answers and a political solution is going to have to happen. But we know that it is not going to be -- there's not any sort of option where a political solution's going to happen with Assad at the head of if regime. If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad.

TAPPER: Well, of course, it is hard to, but is the position of the Trump administration that he cannot be ruler of Syria anymore, regime change is the policy?

HALEY: Well, regime change is something that we think is going to happen, because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria.


CABRERA: Right now joining us to discuss, CNN senior political analyst and advisor to four U.S. president's, David Gergen, CNN military analyst and retired air force colonel Cedric Leighton and CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Bear who is also a former CIA operative.

Colonel, you heard from Ambassador Haley there. Can regime change be accomplished without ramping up the use of the U.S. military?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Ana, in a word, no. I think it's going to take a lot of work. It may not necessarily just be the U.S. military and shouldn't be just the U.S. military. But if we want to have regime change in Syria, we are going to have to commit ourselves to that and that means that U.S. forces are going to have to be used one way or the other.

CABRERA: Bob, should that be a priority for the U.S. to get rid of al-Assad?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think it should. Assad is symbolic of Syria. There's about 80 generals who play key roles in this (INAUDIBLE) how it works. But he is not the only one, minority community, the allowites (ph) that govern the country. They have got a tight hold on Damascus and other major cities. Getting rid of Assad isn't going to make any difference and was certainly not good for the U.S. force to be in the middle of a civil war. But right now, looks like there is no end to it.

You know, my feeling is the only solution is really to take a country like Syria and set up a no-fly zone and essentially divide that partition. I don't see another way out.

CABRERA: David, Rex Tillerson, we know, is headed to Russia next week. It was supposed to be a meeting that had been set up a while ago that maybe didn't involve Syria at that time. Well now that has changed clearly in light of the hard line that Tillerson and Republican took this week. That Russia was either competent or even complicit in the chemical attack.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's been hard to follow all this. I think for all the satisfaction that so many of us draw from saying that U.S. give Assad a punch in the nose and there have many, including Democrats like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, who wanted a see a tougher response in the Obama administration. So they have been welcoming this.

But even saw it, it's been really hard to follow whether there's any strategy at all. You know, during the civil war, it was so much change happening so rapidly. Lincoln famously said my policy is to have no policy. In effect, it was then you have to adjust the times and that seems to be what this administration is doing. After all, it was only 10 days ago that they basically said we are going to let Assad stay. It's the best way to bring down ISIS and we can't get rid of him, anyway. Now they are into - now he has to go. He sounds like Obama. He has to go before we can get peace. We will see.

I don't -- I think the world is very, very uncertain what the strategy of the United States is and that Rex Tillerson is going to have some - he will have some tough arguments from the Russians and there's going to be a lot of time spent figuring out just what it is we're going to be committing to. To hear this conversation here tonight, for example, are we really going to send in troops either in an international coalition or alone to go after Assad? That seems very far-fetched to me given the current circumstances.

[19:10:29] CABRERA: I want to the play another clip from Ambassador Nikki Haley. Let's listen in.


HALEY: He won't stop here. If he needs to do more, he will do more. So really, now, what happens depends on how everyone responds to what happened in Syria and make sure that we start moving towards a political solution and we start finding peace in that area.


CABRERA: Colonel, she says the president will do more if he needs to. What do you see as options?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think one of the things, Ana, that we could look at here is more of a diplomatic solution. So in the best of all worlds, if President Trump was able to convince president Putin of Russia that Assad had to go but that he could actually have somebody else of the same religious group, somebody who would be in essence beholden to Russia just like Assad is in Assad's place, that might be a solution that everybody would consider a kind of a win-win for themselves. It might not necessarily be a win-win for everybody involved, especially the Syrian people but diplomatically, that might be the way this works out.

CABRERA: I'm wondering, Bob, do you think it is wise not to choreograph, not to talk about what's next?

BAER: You know, I served the Syria for many years. I was there last year. It's probably one of the most complicated countries in the Middle East ethnically, religiously. It's a sectarian war. You know, what's unfortunate is we haven't gotten the Russians to the table to talk about this reasonably and the Turks as well. And I don't think we can fix this without the Russians.

What really worries me at this point that unintentionally we are going to hit a Russian unit and airplanes something like that because this thing could escalate very quickly overnight and we could be in a hot war with the Russians over Syria. And I think that's -- yes, we have got to go through diplomacy, whatever that looks like. We have to do this with the Russians. We have to also do this with the Iranians. We have a lot of assets there, including Hezbollah, which was fighting under the Iran flag.

CABRERA: David, any risk in responding too quickly? I mean, do you feel like the action that the U.S. has taken so far made sense?

GERGEN: The actions we have taken so far does make sense. It would -- it would be reassuring to a lot of diplomats and analysts if it took place within the context of a firm strategy. If there was some sense when Nikki Haley said if we do more, the president will do that. Do more in the service of what end? And that's extremely unclear tonight.

So I think, you know, it's easy to go and hit somebody to start with. But it's a lot tougher to figure out where you go after. And that's where we are right now. They have got to figure that out to know whether they are going to commit more troops and more forces.

You know, the Russians are not going to leave. The Russians are there to stay and they have to be forced out. They have a port there, it's the only port on the Mediterranean. It's important for them to have the large presence. And right now, the Russians and the Iranians and Assad seem to feel they have the upper hand.

CABRERA: In fact, colonel, Russian defense minister said today that the U.S. has no proof that chemical weapons were actually used by the Assad regime. Now, the Russians have limited allies in the world, so who do you think they were speaking to when they say that?

LEIGHTON: I think they are speaking to what we would call their base, Ana. And that really means that they are giving us, you know, kind of a consumption for their own people, the types of things that some of us talk about in that way. But I would say that, you know, that's a patent false, let's just be blunt about it.

What you are dealing with here is a situation where chemical weapons were, in fact, used. It does violates international law and the Russians do know that this is first of all a serious issue but it also can color their relations with everybody else.

CABRERA: Colonel Leighton and Bob Bear, thanks to both of you. David, you will be back with me in just a moment.

And a quick programming note. You can catch Jake Tapper's full interview with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley tomorrow morning on "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 eastern right hereon CNN.

Coming up, does this picture tell the story of a White House shakeup about to happen? The new palace intrigue surrounding Trump's staff.

And later, as the president vow to punish people for leaks, we will take a look back at some famous leakers throughout history who have shaped Washington.


[19:19:10] CABRERA: We are getting a behind the scenes look at President Trump's first military strike against a foreign government. The White House released this photo of the makeshift situation room at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida where the president was briefed on the Syria operations. Tonight there is growing speculation that some of the faces in this picture may be headed for the door or at least be getting reassigned.

CNN's Sara Murray has details - Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Ana, amid the most consequential moments of President Trump's young presidency, at least one realization was clear to him, he is not happy with the team around him. And now a staff shakeup may be afoot.


MURRAY (voice-over): Some of President Trump's top staffers are in tenuous territory. As an idea logical battle rages in the White House. Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon is facing an uncertain future and has become increasingly isolated in the quest wing, sources tell CNN. The president is concern about his brain trust coming as Trump took an unexpected leap on the foreign policy front this week in ordering a military strike in Syria.

[19:20:13] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will in the end prevail.

MURRAY: The move, highlighting the fault lines emerging between the nationalist wing between the Trump White House led by Bannon and the more moderate crown including Trump's son-in-law with Jared Kushner. The president's decision to intervene in Syria appeared to be the latest indication that the America first group is losing some sway.

TRUMP: I know have responsibility and I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly.

MURRAY: It's an abrupt change in tone from Trump on day one when he relied heavily on Bannon to craft his speech hammering home this message.

TRUMP: From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first.

MURRAY: But Trump has grown frustrated with in-fighting among top aides and his inability to make more progress on his domestic agenda. The relationship between Bannon and Kushner has grown especially estrange, sources say, with Bannon even lamenting to someone that he has lost in an unwinnable battle with Trump's family.

This week, it was Bannon who lost crown. Trump removed him from the national Security Council's principal committee. This as Kushner was brushing up on foreign policy recently returning from a trip to Iraq.

But the chief strategist isn't the only Trump team member who could on the ropes. Trump's one (INAUDIBLE) on his chief of staff.

TRUMP: He is a star. And I knew that a long time ago.

MURRAY: Now Trump confidantes are floating names of potential replacements for Reince Priebus. Among them, Gary Kohn, Trump's top economic adviser who has close tie to Jared and Ivanka. Also on the list, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy. He is quietly built a relationship with Trump and has experience on the hill. But a source cautioned there have been no serious talks about him taking the job.

On Thursday, the president shag rugged aside staff shakeup rumors aboard air force 1 insisting he is already shaking up Washington.

TRUMP: I think we have shaken them up. But I think we have had one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of the presidency.


MURRAY: Now, officially, the White House is denying that there could be any change to Donald Trump's top staffers. Lindsay Walters, a spokeswoman for the White House said once again, this is a completely false story driven by people who want to distract from the success in this administration. Back to you. CABRERA: All right. Sara Murray, thank you for that report.

And now we are getting word President Trump has actually told his son- in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and his chief strategist Steve Bannon to quote "cut it out." That's what senior White House officials telling CNN tonight. The order coming as we are told differences between the two are causing major risk in the White House.

I want to bring in CNN senior political analyst David Gergen back with us.

David, you worked in four different White Houses. What do you think is causing this tension between Priebus and Bannon and Kushner?

GERGEN: Well, the fact that the first 75 days have not been very successful for the president. He had a very good week this past week. He had a very good, you know, couple of few days with Judge Gorsuch. But if you look at the overall pattern, any president who is sitting on the mid-30s and the lowest approval ratings of any president - new president in the first 100 days and has so little to show in terms of legislative accomplishment ought to be looking a way to shake up his White House do something to change, a major course correction.

So it is not surprising. But Donald Trump, of course, had three changes in his campaign team. This is the way he likes to do it. He likes confrontation. He likes tension but he doesn't like to having spill into the grass and make him look bad.

CABRERA: Right. And we have been told the competition among people because he think it kind of elevates the chance for a performance.

GERGEN: Right.

CABRERA: Has there been --

GERGEN: Absolutely.

CABRERA: Go ahead, David.

GERGEN: Well, I was going to say, the word has come out that he told Bannon and you know, and Kushner to work it out. They sat down with the chief of staff, Priebus, and apparently they reached some kind of truce. No one knows how long it will last. But I think the critical thing right now is that the forces represented by Bannon are sort of on a downhill slide in terms of authority in the White House, whereas the forces around Kushner are going uphill. He is taking more and more responsibility and are Gary Kohn from Goldman Sachs. The Goldman Sachs team has really taken some major power here in the White House. They are very smart people. They know how to run things and they are rising to the top with Gary Kohn leading it. He may well be the next chief of staff. We will have to see. Wouldn't that be interesting after all that they have (INAUDIBLE) with Trump against Goldman to have an alarm at Goldman, the former president of Goldman run his White House?

[19:25:07] CABRERA: I'm wondering what that would mean for the president's agenda especially if Steve Bannon, as you point out, is on the way down or I mean, he hasn't been demoted or anything like that yet but in terms of his influence being lessened?

GERGEN: Well, that's a good question, too, Ana. And I think it goes right back to our earlier discussion about what their strategy in Syria, what their strategy in the Middle East. We really aren't sure. But certainly if the traditionalists have their way, it would signal to a lot of conservatives that the president is going to move more to the center, more to the left overall in his planning.

You know, one of the arguments that Steve Bannon has had against Kohen and Kushner, Ivanka and Dean Powell, who is also an alum of Goldman is quote "you are Democrats." You are wicked far to the left. We got elected, you know, by having this hard-hitting agenda and you want to make peace with China and we think China is ultimately going to be an enemy of the United States. So it does have consequences in terms of policy. I think that's what a lot of the fights are about is about the direction the president should actually take. And Kushner is saying why don't we have a major course correction in terms of policy which would be very important for, you know, sorts of fronts.

CABRERA: All right. David Gergen, we always appreciate your advice and your analysis. And we will talk more as we see the situation play out.

GERGEN: All right.

CABRERA: Coming up, some breaking news we are following. Massive protest in the capital of Venezuela. Thousands of people furious at the government taking to the street. They want elections now and are fighting with riot police in Caracas. The details next.


[19:31:00] CABRERA: Breaking news out of Venezuela right now. Anti- government protests are escalating, one day after the government banned a top opposition leader from running for president. This is the scene today. Riot police firing teargas, rubber bullets, the demonstrators marching in support of the opposition leader.

CNN's Rafael Romo is joining us live for more now.

Rafael, what more can tell you us about this protests? RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICA AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, Ana, this

is not the first day of protests. It all started on Tuesday when opposition leaders started protesting against a decision by the government to essentially take the legislative powers out of the national assembly and take them into their own hands. And then to complicate things even more, a very popular opposition leader Henrique Capriles was told by the government on Thursday that he was banned from doing any political work.

It would be similar to here in the United States, Bernie Sanders being told by the government that because his position is opposite, he is barred from doing any political work for 15 years. And the images that we are getting from Caracas are very, very violent. We see the Venezuelan National Guard clashing with protesters in some of the major thoroughfares around the Venezuelan capital. The National Guard has been using, as you see in these images, canisters of teargas and also water tanks to fight the protesters.

And again, this is not only happening in the capital, Caracas, but in some other cities throughout the country. And just to make a little bit of history, Venezuela has been suffering from shortages of the most basic food products and medicines. And people are very angry and they demand a change in government.

But the president -- the government of President Nicolas Maduro says that they are democratically elected and they are not about to go anywhere anytime soon, Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Rafael Romo reporting.

I do want to bring in Stefano Pozzebon. He is freelance journalist on the ground in Venezuela now.

Thank you for spending some time with us. We can see it looks a little more quiet in your picture. Describe for us what you have witnessed.

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes. So today was again as just before me the first time in less than ten days that people took to the street. Today was by far the biggest and the most violent protest so far. We have seen huge oppression from wide use of teargas, wide use of pepper spray, wide use of water cannon. The protesters, they normally gather in the east of Caracas, which is where I'm standing right now and normally try to get towards the west of the city, which is where the main government buildings are and they are blocked, time and time again, they never managed to get towards the government building.

Earlier today I was in front of the office of Henrique Capriles who is, correctly me to say before me is the main opposition who got banned for 15 years from office and his office has been set on fire today. So it's completely burned. And we were right there in front of it about a couple of hours ago. The situation here is precipitating quickly and protests have turned earlier ugly.

CABRERA: And when you talk about this opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, how big a threat is he to the president?

POZZEBON: Sorry, Ana, I couldn't hear that. There was a big truck coming out after me.

CABRERA: Understandable. I'm curious if you could tell us a little bit more about Henrique Capriles as the main opposition leader that you talk about. Is he a threat to the president?

POZZEBON: Yes. People here are shouting on street as the truck behind me was a truck from the National Guard. So they are starting to shout at him. The situation is getting really, really tense. Still, after ten hours of protests, people are on street, trying to turn cars on fire, stuff on fire and shouting at the National Guard, which is what is just happening behind me.

[19:35:04] CABRERA: Well, we do hope you stay safe there, Stefano.

I do want to bring back Rafael Romo because I know Stefano is having a hard time hearing me. What more can you tell us, Rafael, about the opposition leader and what kind of a threat he might pose to the current administration here?

ROMO: Well, he is a very charismatic leader. And he ran previously for president. He narrowly lost against the late president Hugo Chavez. But this time around he has a lot of support from the opposition. He is only 44 years old and he has managed to get together a very important coalition. He's a fire brand. He has been talking about the fact that he is not running for himself but he is running to bring a regime change in Venezuela, a change to real democracy. Because he says that all three branches of government had been sequestered by the government, the president Nicolas Maduro. Meanwhile, the president himself has made it very difficult for him to operate politically. And as I said before, he has been banned for 15 years to do any political work, Ana.

CABRERA: Definitely, an intense situation on the ground right now in Venezuela.

Our thanks to both Stefano and Rafael for those reports. Of course, we will keep an eye on this development.

Still ahead here at this hour, as President Trump prepares for a critical trip to China, look at how his daughter Ivanka could be the secret weapon to friendlier diplomat ties.


[19:40:35] CABRERA: President Trump took arguably his biggest international foreign policy test this past week hosting the president of China at his south Florida resort. How did he do? Even the president admits his score is to be determined.

But he tweeted this morning -- it was a great honor to have President Xi Jinping and Madam Peng Liyuan of China as their guest in the United States. Tremendous, good will, and friendship was formed. But only time will tell on trade.

CNN correspondent Ryan Nobles is joining me now from Washington.

Ryan, Donald Trump had so not so flattering to say about the China during the campaign and even before then and really even days before this visit. But at this point, friendship and good sounds like a good starting point, right?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It seems that way, Ana. And the one thing we know about Donald Trump is that he can be brash and maybe sometimes perceived as arrogant when he is in front of a big crowd of people. But one-on-one, he tends to be very charming. And these are the areas where he excels, when he is talking to somebody on a personal level, he's affable, he is often funny. And that appears to be what occurred during this meeting with President Xi. They were able to talk as two very powerful men - leaders on the global stage and talk about some of the common interest between these two countries.

And you know, if you compare it to the reviews after Donald Trump's meeting with Angela Merkel where reports of things very rocky. We are getting exactly the opposite reports of this particular interaction. By all accounts it appears that Donald Trump made a good impression. But Of course as you point out, Ana, they still have a long way to go in terms of all the very many things that Trump was critical of when it came to China touring the campaign.

CABRERA: And there wasn't necessarily anything tangible in terms of progress or any deals made, so to speak, during that meeting.

But Ryan, I so want to play an adorable highlight really of the Chinese president's visit. Ivanka Trump's daughter, Arabella, performing a song for the Chinese president and first lady in Mandarin. Let's watch this together.


CABRERA: Kind of hard to hear there. You hear her voice, sounds rather pretty and the big smile on the Chinese president's face.

I understand Ivanka is very popular in China. She gets favorable media coverage there. So is the first daughter going to be the president's secret weapon in that relationship with China?

NOBLES: Well, she has already played an important, Ana, as she made a visit to the embassy after the United States failed to recognize the Chinese New Year back in February. So she made, you know, kind of a personal reconciliation tour over there.

And as you mentioned, the fact that their children are learning Mandarin and speak Mandarin is something that the Chinese are very impressed by. President Xi in particular takes, you know, is very much appreciative of people that respect and understand Chinese culture and tradition. So this can only be an asset to the president as he attempts to form (ph) this very delicate relationship.

Now, whether or not one of Ivanka Trump's daughters singing in Mandarin can solve the crisis in North Korea or trade and balance within the United States and China is unlikely, but the start of something can only be a good thing.

CABRERA: Doesn't hurt to build that rapport as we all know.

Ryan Nobles, thank you.

Still ahead from Edward Snowden all the way back top Deep Throat, a look at how Washington's history has been paved by leakers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You tell me what you know and I will confirm. I will keep you in the right direction if I can, but that's all. Just follow the money.



[19:48:30] CABRERA: This week, the intelligence reports that the White House has portrayed or has evidence of surveillance abuses by the Obama administration were made available to the full House intelligence committee now. President Trump continue to insist that that is the real story, not Russia's meddling in the election.

Find the leakers, he tweeted just a few days, whether that's a deflection or a real complaint, there's one thing no one can dispute. Leakers have shaped history.

CNN's Anderson Cooper takes a look back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story behind the story and the unmasking of Deep Throat.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, AC 360 (voice-over): He was the most famous anonymous source of the 20th century.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just follow the money.

COOPER: Mark Felt, the high-ranking FBI official who for more than three decades was known to the world only as "Deep Throat" after helping fuel Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's blockbuster reporting on Watergate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effecting at noon tomorrow.

COOPER: But Felt was neither the first nor last Washington figure to rock the country with insider knowledge. In the early 1970s, a military analyst named Daniel Ellsberg leaked a top secret defense department study to "The New York Times." The resulting bombshell known as the Pentagon papers revealed the government had lied to Congress and the American people about the scope of the Vietnam War.

DANIEL ELLSBERG, LEAKED PENTAGON PAPER: With the smallest chance of having some effect on the war was worth my going to prison for the rest of my life.

COOPER: Charged with espionage and facing 115 years behind bars, Ellsberg went free after a federal judge dismissed the case citing improper government conduct.

In 2003 conservative writer and former CNN host Robert Novak wrote a "Washington Post" column blowing the cover of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

[19:50:18] VALERIE PLAME, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: My name was intended to be leaked in retaliation against my husband who was a fierce critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq war.

COOPER: Then vice president Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby ultimately was convicted in connection with the leak. His sentence commuted by President Bush.

Seven years later WikiLeaks posted hundreds of thousands of classified documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A young army private now known as Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for giving the documents to WikiLeaks. Just before leaving office President Obama ordered Manning to be released in May of this year.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers have received.

COOPER: But there's been no presidential reprieve for Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor whose 2013 revelation of secret government surveillance programs left him fleeing charges of espionage.

TRUMP: This guy is a bad guy. And, you know, there is still a thing called execution.

COOPER: And accepting asylum in, of all places, Russia.


CABRERA: Our Anderson Cooper reporting.

I want to bring in now CNN senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter.

So Brian, there is no doubts leaks have revealed some very important developments in our history and have really been news. But how difficult is it for the media to decide when to hold back with information versus putting it out there in front of the public.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: These days it seems like a lot of stories will have anonymous sources. Leakers from inside the government. It can seem like journalists jut take all the stuff willy-nilly. But there are choices made every day about whether to grant anonymity.

But there are different kinds of sources - the stories based on leaks right now. And I think Anderson is describing these kinds of leaks that are whistleblowers, in some cases from people motivated to inform about secret government programs.

Then there is other kinds of leaks. A lot of leaks we are seeing from inside the White House, stories about infighting, in trading between right now, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner and Rience Priebus.

A lot of those kinds of stories are also based on leaks. But they are more basic level, sort of insider gossip. Yes, gossip is a good word for it. However, it is gossip that affects all of us as Americans. So I would say that there's different kinds of leaks. And when it

comes to what we are hearing from inside the White House, what's dominating the headlines right now, a lot of it is those kinds of gossipy stories that do have impacts on politics.

However, we have also heard about Russian meddling from these leakers, from these, in some cases, whistleblowers. When the president says find the leakers, it's, in some cases, an attempt to plug the leaks of really important information that we are learning from sources.

CABRERA: Well, we know that at least some of the information that has leaked out is classified information. Again, the information about Michael Flynn being involved in some kind of surveillance, into dental collection.

STELTER: And probably it shows many people inside the government are motivated to inform people of what's going on right now. Some of these leaks are from people who feel they need to blow the whistle. Others though, are more agenda driven, perhaps anti-Trump leaks.

CABRERA: And let's talk a little bit about the narrative this week and how it shifted. I mean, for President Trump a lot of people supported how he came out after Syria's chemical weapons attack. Let's listen to his announcement.


TRUMP: It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There could be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.


CABRERA: Now the Syria strikes certainly changed the focus from the Russian investigation.

STELTER: Indeed. And I understand why there are viewers out there that are skeptical or maybe even downright cynical wondering if President Trump was trying to change what was on the front page. If that's the case, he's not the first president to try to change the narrative about his administration by going and seeking a foreign issue, by taking foreign action to distract from domestic issues.

However, I would say there's a big difference between skepticism and out right cynicism. And sometimes those lines do get blurry. We heard commentators here on CNN say this was a presidential moment for President Trump that he became Trump. I think others would say it's not presidential to break something. It is presidential to fix something. And fixing Syria, you know, where would you even start? That's an enormous task. I think it's too soon.


[19:55:10] STELTER: Yes. I do think it's too soon to know really what this was on Thursday, what the president's motives were. We have been told it's because he saw these horrific images and felt compelled, felt compelled to do something. He was overwhelmed by the emotions. I think it's too soon to tell this is one, really, for the history books.

CABRERA: All right. Brian Stelter, good to have you. We will talk to you next hour as well. Be sure to catch Brian on his show "RELIABLE SOURCES" tomorrow morning at 11:00 right here on CNN.

A quick break. We will be right back.


[19:59:54] CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And we begin with that Syrian military base targeted by dozens of American missiles and a harsh brand-new warning from President Trump's team. That Syrian airbase was up and running less than 24 hours after that U.S. missiles attack.