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White House: Syria Used of Bombed Airfield a "P.R. Stunt"; White House Feud Between Bannon & Kushner; Deadly Shooting at San Bernardino Elementary School; White House Suggests Barrel Bombs Cross "Red Line" for Trump. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 10, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Time and Time again, Spicer was deft in terms of framing the Syria strike, in terms of the America First doctrine. A lot of former Trump allies, at this point, aren't necessarily allies on this because they feel this is military adventurism, something they didn't like from other Republicans. Libertarians like Rand Paul not pleased with this move. And others saying he should have had looked to Congress for authorization. So I think we'll see this scene play out again and again.

This is the education of this president who came in really as a bumper-sticker candidate and then bumper-sticker candidate promising things would be easy. The fight against ISIS he said at one point would be quick and early. He said I'll eradicate them pretty quickly. He's seeing that's not possible. Syria plays into that. Russia is a piece of that. And Tillerson is meeting with Russian officials later one, and we'll see what comes of that.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: On that -- and let me play a little more sound. The, Kirsten, I want to follow up on Tillerson and this maybe non-meeting with Vladimir Putin.

But first this.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You have taken two pre- field planes and taken them off, it's a P.R. stunt. The bottom line is their fueling capability has been taken out, their radar capability was taken out and over 20 percent of their fixed-wing aircraft in their entire air force is taken out. Their ability to operate successfully out of that air base is gone. Like I said, as a P.R. stunt, they took pre-field planes, pushed them over to make it look like others. But make no mistake about it, their radar capability is gone, their fueling capability is gone, and a good chunk of their aircraft is gone. That's a huge success.


BALDWIN: Kirsten, before I go to you, Michael, let me just ask you about what Sean Spicer just said. There's been activity. We have seen these pictures of these planes. Sean Spicer says it's a P.R. stunt. The U.S. came in and took out the fuel areas. A lot of the planes, not the runways, serious damaged that air base. Can you fact- check for me what Sean said, and do you think it's just P.R.?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FOREIGN POLICY FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: I haven't seen enough intelligence to know how many of the aircraft were destroyed. I certainly would expect that radar facilities would have been destroyed. We're not likely to miss those. So I think the general thrust of his comments is probably accurate. Again, I have firsthand knowledge to be able to evaluate.


O'HANLON: It does raise the question of what's next and how do you turn this into a strategy for Syria. I think it was a good first step on its own terms, primarily regarding the chemical weapons threat and reestablishing deterrence of that. I don't think this points to an easy path to end the civil war and defeat ISIS and al Qaeda, unless you bring in other pieces to the equation as well.

BALDWIN: What about Russia? We heard Sean Spicer say Russia stands with Syria, North Korea and Iran. He said, we, the U.S., are on the right side of this issue. You know that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is en route to Moscow to meet with Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister there. How do you go all the way, Kirsten, to Russia and not meet Vladimir Putin? Especially knowing your former counterparts all would meet with him when they would go over.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That would be the ideal. The bigger thing here is just this incredible whiplash in terms of their change in tone on Russia. How quickly it's happened. And after as much as they would like to say, well, it's because of the chemical weapons attack happened and Russia is aligned with Assad and we're going to start being tough on Russia. Russia has been in line with Assad. This is not new. This also is not new. Also 400,000 people have been killed. I will agree that watching those videos of the use of chemical weapons on babies is horrifying. It's also horrifying when babies are killed just through conventional weapons. So it really is sort of astonishing how quickly they could shift gears and act like this is all new information and that nobody seemed to really be that concerned about it before this happened. And I mean, nobody in the Trump orbit.

BALDWIN: Sure, within the orbit.

And Jeff Zeleny quickly hit on the question, the whole sort of short term, long term ideological difference between his top advisors, who are in his ear.

Chris Cillizza, what do you made of it? I mean, Sean Spicer was asked about it multiple time, the fight, the struggle, whatever you want to call it, and he kept going back to, you guys are overblowing this. Yes, there was a meeting on Friday. Kushner, Bannon, work it out. But basically saying, we're cool.

CILLIZZA: I mean, look, on one level, I think he's right. There's tension built into any White House. These are powerful people who have real influence over policy and have usually very distinct views on what the president should say and how he should say it. Joe Biden versus Hillary Clinton on Syria. We don't have to go back that long and we can go to the same country where there's a debate. It's not new. What I would say is the public nature of it, and the fact that Trump built it into the DNA of his White House. When you have four people and give them essentially no job description, everyone is going to claw for space and territory. He has a habit of playing favorites and -- Steve Bannon ascended in the early going, now it's Jared Kushner. My guess is there will come a time for Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway. It's like phases of the moon. He moves around.

[14:35:39] BALDWIN: But doesn't he have a point? Doesn't he have a point that you don't want this monolithic thought from all of your advisors?

CILLIZZA: Yes. Absolutely.

BALDWIN: You want diversity in opinion?

CILLIZZA: You do. The one thing I would say is you want diversity of opinion. The danger with what Trump is doing because in many ways he was his views as he went along because he didn't have a ton when he started this campaign.

BALDWIN: He said he's flexible.

CILLIZZA: No. No one would attract a Steve Bannon or a Jared Kushner, except Donald Trump. It's a uniquely Trumpian combo. Those two see the world in fundamentally different ways. Do they see the world in two different ways to possibly find a way to work together? That's the work of this White House. It's important to remember we're 80 days in. He has three and a half more years to figure this stuff out. There's a tendency to jump the gun, but the fundamental differences between Kushner and Bannon were bound to, at some point, come to loggerheads.

BALDWIN: Nia, what do you think?

HENDERSON: This is all his doing. We focus on Bannon, we focus on cur Kushner, we focus on Priebus and all the ideological differences they have, but this is the White House that Donald Trump set up. You can see them in that briefing today try to make a case that the first 100 days has been good. They talked about Gorsuch and the stock market being up 12 percent and. Executive orders and border crossings being down 60 percent. But no one can look at this first 100 days and say this was a success if he's standing at 35 or 3 percent approval rating. If you look at Obama, he had major pieces of legislation and he passed the stimulus package and was sitting at 65 percent approval rating by the end of his first 100 days. This is a White House that's looking at a way forward trying to figure out what they can brag about over the first 80 or so days locking at the 100 days and locking at a White House that is in chaos. Has been in chaos and has been completely crafted by none other than Donald Trump. There is a sense he doesn't like it. This is how he thrived. He's like a father who is pitting these siblings against each other and told each they are the favorite first-born son. I think in this battle, you've got to look at Jared Kushner as the one that can't be fired and who is --


BALDWIN: When you're married to a Trump, that does change the game a little bit.

Chris, Nia, Michael and Kirsten, thank you all very much. I appreciate the dialogue.

A quick break. When we come back, new information on the shooting in California, San Bernardino. This is North Park Elementary School. According to police, a couple of students are injured, in the hospital. We have an update for you after this break.


[14:42:39] BALDWIN: Let's get back to the breaking news here. There's been a deadly shooting at an elementary school in San Bernardino, California. Police confirming two adults were shot and killed inside a classroom and some children may have been hurt as well. These are live picture over the scene, North Park Elementary School.

Let's get straight to Paul Vercammen who is on the scene, or rather in L.A.

Paul, tell me more about what you know.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The big news is that the police chief is saying that there's no longer a threat. The sad news is there are two adults deceased in a classroom. And this is believed, as you pointed out, to be a murder-suicide. They said earlier they thought the shooter was down. That would be consistent with all of reports. And the district suggested there was some sort of domestic violence issue here. Two students taken away to the hospital. Unsure how their condition is.

Also more information from the police chief. This is reemphasizing that they do believe that the threat is down. But the operations continue. If you look at aerial video, they say they are continuing to secure the area just in case, being extra safe here. But the thought is this is a murder-suicide and it took place, of all places, inside a classroom -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: So what's happening. What's happening with the students? What do parents need to know?

VERCAMMEN: There's several schools involved. Per the website, there's 531 students at this elementary school. They are all being taken to another high school. They are being moved to a separate location. As the video showed earlier, the students were being led, hand in hand, off the school grounds and to other safe places. They desperately want to get as many students out of there as quickly as possible, which they did. So parents are now going to this nearby high school to go ahead and bring their students home for the day.

[14:44:41] BALDWIN: My goodness. Paul, as soon as you get more information, we'll pop you on TV and pass it along to so many people who want to know.

Paul Vercammen, thank you, in California.

More on our breaking news here. The White House says more action may be coming in Syria.

Back after this.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The red line for this White House was chemical warfare. Is conventional warfare enough to get the president to go further there than this White House has gone before?

SPICER: I think the president has been very clear there are a number of lines that were crossed last week. He's not going to sit down -- we saw that in the last administration. They drew these red lines. Then the red lines were run over. I don't think you're going to see the same play. I think what not just Syria, but the world saw last week is a president that's going to act decisively and proportionately and with justification when it comes to actions like that.

And I will tell you the answer is that, if you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bomb in to innocent people, you can see a response from this president. That's unacceptable. And I think the rest of the world --


[14:50:13] SPICER: I think, look, again, one of the things I don't want to start doing is say, if you do this, this is the reaction you're going to get. The president has made clear throughout his time and in the campaign and the transition and now as president that he's not going to telegraph a response to every corresponding action because that just tells the opposition or the enemy what you're going to do and whether or not that response is worth taking.


[14:50:38] BALDWIN: That was just another clip of Sean Spicer in the daily briefing. We wanted to play that for you.

I have Michael O'Hanlon, who was good enough to stick around and continue this conversation. And Elise Labott is with us as well.

Michael, it was the line that struck us on, if you gas a baby and barrel bomb people, this is questions about your administration's red line, how significant is that piece for you?

O'HANLON: That would be hugely significant if it is an accurate reflection of President Trump's thinking. I'm a little dubious. I think Sean Spicer, who I thought gave a pretty good press conference made a mistake there. Because while I would welcome personally the idea of a new red line, if you will, that says that Assad can't barrel bomb his own people, he's been doing it for six years. It's been one of main methods of defeating population base that's larger than his own smaller minority population upon which his power rests. Dropping these horrible bombs and having them decimate neighborhoods where insurgents are believed to take root. So if you were to actually deprive Assad of that, it would mean destroying the helicopter on their launch pads. It might be hard, and it would also free up the opposition to start turning the side tide of the civil war in a way we might not want. Once the tide turns, Assad could lose all power and have a dominated insurgency taking over some of these cities. It's a hornet's nest. It would be a huge change in strategy if that's Trump's view at this point. So I'm skeptical that's really what Sean Spicer meant to say.

BALDWIN: Elise, how did you hear it?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I was going to say exactly the same thing. I think that's Assad's weapon of choice. If he's going to use these barrel bombs against the Syrian people, the U.S. would get more involved on a regular basis. After what we heard from President Trump after this targeted strike, that wasn't necessarily what he had in mind. I think right now, it is a smart strategy not to say what those red lines are going to be. They do want to keep the Syrians and the Russians guessing. I think --


BALDWIN: They don't want to be boxed in. They don't want to be boxed in.

LABOTT: The Russian calculation, if it, indeed, knew about this attack, and by all accounts they may not have been directly involved in it, but they had to have known what was going on, they probably thought there would have been an international condemnation. Now President Trump has shown he is prepared to act if he feels that the action by the Assad regime is strong enough. And particularly with chemical weapons, he did feel that. You're not going to see the Syrian regime using chemical weapons any time soon. He doesn't -- President Assad doesn't necessarily know what it's going to take for President Trump to act. And the fact he wants to keep his guessing is a smart move.

BALDWIN: A good think.

Elise, Michael, thank you so much.

I want to pivot back to the other breaking story here out of California. A deadly shooting at an elementary school in San Bernardino. Two adults killed, two students en route to the hospital. We'll talk to some eyewitnesses there in California, after this quick break.


[14:58:31] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Breaking news out of San Bernardino, California. There's been a

deadly shooting there in a classroom of this elementary school. Police are now reporting that two adults were shot and killed within the confines of the particular classroom. In addition, they are saying children may be hurt as well. Again, these are pictures of a number of students that will be bussed to a high school so their parents can pick them up.

Paul Vercammen is working this story.

Paul, tell me more about what you know.

VERCAMMEN: The school district is confirming they think that a shooter, most likely a male shooter, is dead in a classroom. They believe the target was a female teacher. While police are saying that there are two dead inside the classroom, the district isn't going that far yet saying that one of the employees is deceased.

They also said that two students were shot. They said they were rather quickly air lifted to a nearby trauma center. They don't know the nature of the injuries. They are not saying what grade level this is. The school goes from kindergarten to sixth grade and say normally there's about 30 students were classroom. But they are adding that if it was a younger group such as kindergarten, there would be less students in the classroom.

All of it unfolding today. Just a horrifying scene. Parents scrambling to pick up their students and hoping it's not their child who was shot.

Let's listen to some witnesses describing what they saw and heard this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who are you looking for?

UNIDENTIFIED PARENT: To see if my boy is OK, my smallest one.