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Administration's Muddled Message On Syria; Syria After The Missile Strikes; Trump Administration Flexes Military Muscle; Kushner And Bannon Feuding; Death Toll Rises In Egypt Church Bombings. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 10, 2017 - 05:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: -- on a government airfield. But top administration officials seem to be putting out a muddled message on the fate of Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC News that the strike was only aimed at deterring further use of chemical weapons by Assad, not at regime change.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are hopeful that we can work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria, and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all of the parties on a way forward and it is through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will ultimately be able to decide the fate of Bashar al- Assad.


SANCHEZ: Meantime, President Trump's U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says the U.S. has what she calls multiple priorities in Syria and one of them political stability is impossible with Assad still as president.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: There's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the 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.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Haley also says the U.S. is calling out Russia and Iran for their support of the Assad regime. The U.N. ambassador warning that the possibility of tougher sanctions against the two countries is not off the table.

All of this ahead of Tillerson's high stakes meeting with the Russian foreign minister. That sit down comes later this week, but the secretary of state's message is already clear quit propping up Assad. SANCHEZ: So now that the smoke is cleared following those strikes, has anything really changed? For answers, let's bring in senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman. He is following the story from Antakya, near Turkish border with Syria.

Ben, good morning to you. The air base that was bombed is apparently now back in operation. So did these strikes actually create a deterrent or did the mission fail?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, perhaps they did create a deterrent for another chemical strike like we saw last Tuesday which left 89 people dead but looking at the bigger picture, it really hasn't changed the reality inside Syria.

What we have seen is that there have been a repeated airstrikes in the Province Idlib where that chemical attack happened, dozens of people have been killed as a result.

And if you just look at for instance the numbers by my very rough calculations one fourth of 1 percent of more than 400,000 people killed in the last six years were killed in chemical attacks.

The vast, vast majority have been killed by conventional weapons, barrel bombs and other means and therefore that slaughter continues unabated and there doesn't seem to be any indication that that's going to change at all.

Certainly the missile strike on that Syrian airbase did send a clear message that there's a high price to pay for continued use of chemical weapons, but the rest goes on.

And we did hear Nikki Haley talking about three priorities in Syria, defeating ISIS, getting rid of Iranian influence in the country, and seeing the end of the Bashar al-Assad regime, those are tall orders for an administration that is just in office and just beginning to understand the harsh realities of Syria -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Ben, there are certainly some confusion considering just a few days ago, Rex Tillerson said that it should be up to the Syrian people whether or not Bashar al-Assad stays in place. Ben Wedeman, thank you.

ROMANS: The Trump administration is also flexing its military muscle in the Western Pacific. Right now, the nuclear powered 97,000 ton USS Carl Vinson is leading a strike group toward the Korean Peninsula. The aircraft carrier has more than 60 planes, 5,000 personnel on board. The show of force follows a series of recent provocations from the North.

CNN's Alexandra Field tracking the developments live for us from Seoul. Hi there, Alex.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Christine. This is clearly a show of force, as you point out, a flexing of American muscle and that's something that's being recognized by officials right here in South Korea. They say that the return of the USS Carl Vinson to the waters of the Korean Peninsula is certainly a sign of the gravity with which the U.S. regards the current North Korean nuclear threat.

We do, of course, have to keep mentioning that it is not unusual to see a U.S. aircraft carrier in the waters off the peninsula, this is a place where you've got 30,000 U.S. troops permanently stationed, but they have upped their resources returning this carrier to the waters directly in response to North Korean provocations.

That is the official word from Washington, D.C., where we continue to hear from Trump administration that all options for countering those nuclear threats are being explored and that all options are on the table.

[05:05:09]That's something that the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month on a trip right here to Seoul, South Korea, he said military options could be explored if indeed that was something that was needed.

It is not something that anyone wants to see, but you do have this ship that is now in the region and it is clearly intended to send a powerful message, it comes after the U.S. strike on Syria. North Korea has condemned that strike and said that it is evidence of why North Korea needs nuclear weapons to defend themselves they say -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Alexandra Field for us in Seoul. Thank you, Alex.

SANCHEZ: To help us break down the day in politics and global affairs, CNN politics reporter, Eugene Scott is here with us. Eugene, good morning to you.


SANCHEZ: We have to start with these mixed messages from Nikki Haley and Rex Tillerson on whether or not Bashar al-Assad should stay in place. Do you think these contradictory messages are by design an administration that's kind of playing good cop, bad cop or does this reflect just kind of the chaos of this administration in the sense that this doesn't seem like it's part of a plan when Donald Trump decided to launch these strikes after watching video of the chemical attack? It wasn't something that was plotted out before.

SCOTT: From what we can tell, it looks like it could be closer to the latter than the former. You have to remember during this time last week, we were getting messages from the Trump administration that suggested that they would not get involved as much as they have.

Here less than a week later after some of those statements from Tillerson, we have seen significant activity, I think what we will find out is that the Trump administration is still trying to figure out how they are going to respond and they are going to have to communicate that to all parties involved regarding what the next best step is.

SANCHEZ: The other question about that is the approach to Russia, right, because Nikki Haley at the U.N. has been very aggressive in dressing down Vladimir Putin and his support of Assad, but then you have Rex Tillerson saying that we should work with the Russians to try to ease this thing out. What's the plan there?

SCOTT: I do think, though, tillerson has expressed his frustration with increased aggression from Russia and so they are a bit more on the same page when it comes to their frustration with how the Russian government is involved in this situation.

But to your point, the next step they still aren't clear about, they still haven't articulated to the American people or the press what they think is the best step and I don't know if that's consistent with the president's on going statement about not wanting to make it public to everyone what he wants to do or if the truth is they really don't know what they want to do.

ROMANS: Who is the person who is speaking for American foreign policy here? You know, that's another question, you have Jared Kushner who just took that trip to Iraq. You have Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador speaking very forcefully about Iran, and this morning, Rex Tillerson wakes up in Italy to attend the G7, used to be called the G8, but they kicked out Russia because Russia was invading Ukraine. The international community isolated Russia, so one wonders how much authority Rex Tillerson has when he goes to Russia this week.

SCOTT: And perhaps some of the people wondering that most are leaders in the international community. They want to know where the Trump administration is going to take things next and Rex Tillerson would be the voice, the one who to communicate what the agenda is and what the Trump doctrine is.

If you recall last week Vladimir Putin criticized or at least his government criticized Trump for perhaps not even having a clear foreign policy. So I think quite a few folks are wondering where this administration is going to go when it comes to responding to both Russia and Syria.

SANCHEZ: Now we do have to ask about kind of the elephant in the oval office of infighting between Jared Kushne and Steve Bannon. Reports coming out last week that President Trump told them, get together and cut it out.

But we've seen people kind of get in the way of Jared Kushner before, right, famously Corey Lewandowski was fired from the campaign in part because of the rift between he and Trump's family.

And also distancing from Chris Christie after the election in part because of a perceived rift between he and Jared Kushner, are we seeing the same thing now with Steve Bannon?

SCOTT: I think that's very possible. I think what we have to remember is for all intents and purposes, Jared Kushner, is the president's son-in-law, but he is the husband of the daughter, in addition of his oldest daughter, in addition to his senior advisor.

And what we do know about President Trump is that he values his kids and keeps them close and have been with him since before he got on the Trump train himself to get to the White House. Steve Bannon has not and it will be interesting to see who has the most power in terms of where the president wants to take his administration.

ROMANS: I mean, the world views of Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner are almost polar opposite, aren't they? I mean, it's almost that Jared Kushner is almost like a Democrat compared to Steve Bannon.

SCOTT: Well, that's certainly what Bannon would like to say. Democrats on the other hand think they are a bit more close together in the fact that they are both senior advisers to somebody that they are all are resisting.

[05:10:05]But what we also have seen from President Trump or at least critics of him is that he's not a clear ideologue, and so which side he's going to land on isn't quite clear, but based on policy, but based on relationship, my vote would be on Jared.

SANCHEZ: All right, Eugene Scott, thank you so much.

ROMANS: Nice to see you bright and early this morning. Thanks, Eugene. The Trump administration drafting an executive order to investigate how certain imports affect the U.S. trade deficit. The goal here to find out if unfair dumping of goods is lowering prices and hurting U.S. competition.

If the results show that it is happening, administration officials say, it could lead to tariffs on imports. The investigation could target things like steel, aluminum, household goods and appliances.

The Obama administration slapped several tariffs on Chinese steel, and American steel manufactures, producers, have been screaming about what they is unfair competition from China for years.

The last of those tariffs was imposed last summer raised the tax on importing the metal to 500 percent. While tariffs are a serious possibility, a White House official warns the investigation could result in no action on imports, which of course, would be very different from what you heard from this president on the campaign trail.

He promised sharp tariffs immediately regardless his attempt to follow through on that campaign promise to go after countries that take advantage of U.S. trade policies.

SANCHEZ: You have to imagine that was part of the conversations at Mar-a-Lago this weekend.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: We have some very heart wrenching images to show you out of Egypt where a state of emergency has been declared after a pair of deadly church bombings on Palm Sunday. We'll take you there live next.


SANCHEZ: The death toll from two bloody Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt is now up to 49 with ISIS claiming responsibility for both deadly attacks. The terror group identifying the bombers as Egyptian national and they're threatening more violence to come.

Targeting of two Coptic churches coming on one of the most important days on the Christian calendar. Let's go live now to Tanta and bring in CNN's Ian Lee.

Ian, this is a very sensitive time in Egypt, not only because of this Holy Week, with Easter just a few days away, but also because Pope Francis is supposed to visit that country at the end of April. So what are officials there doing to ensure security at this time?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris, this is supposed to be a time of celebration for Egypt's Christians especially many of them looking forward to the pope's visit at the end of the month. But there's a lot of concern here tonight. There's a lot of fear and sorrow.

People saying that there isn't the security needed at Egypt's churches across the country to make people feel safe. They say yes, of course, there's a couple of guards out front from the police, but that's just a veneer of security, but not actual security.

The chief of police here in Tanta was fired in the aftermath of that attack. The president has said he declared a three-month state of emergency which gives police and army extra powers to make arrests and searches and to detain people.

But people we have spoken with say that probably isn't enough and that they're going to need more the president vowing that he will hunt down the perpetrators and detain them, but we're also hearing that from security officials that across the country the army has been deployed the make sure that it is safe. The pope's visit is safe and that Easter next weekend is secure -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: All right, Ian Lee reporting live in Tanta, thank you.

ROMANS: It's 17 minutes past the hour. Over at the National Security Council revolving door continues to spin. Top deputy, K.T. McFarland, who witnessed the ouster of Retired General Mike Flynn, and the arrival of current National Security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is set to become the U.S. ambassador to Singapore.

McFarland says she will stay on at NSC until she is confirmed by the Senate. A senior administration official telling CNN that appears to still be months away.

All right, the 74th try was a charm. Famed Serio Garcia finally winning over his major, finally, it was a thrilling playoff victory over his friend, Justin Rose at the Masters. Coy Wire with this morning's "Bleacher Report" next.


ROMANS: A long wait for a golfer, Sergio Garcia, is over. Garcia winning the 2017 Masters, and finally earning that elitist major championship.

SANCHEZ: And that flashy green jacket. Coy Wire has this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris and Christine. Coming into this Masters, Sergio have that dreaded title. I heard Boris mentioned earlier, best player to never win a major. The 37-year-old Spaniard always had what it took to win big, but for 18 years coming up short on the biggest stages, not any more.

Sergio, and Englishman, Justin Rose, turned the Augusta back 9 into a two-man show battling back and forth but where Sergio used to struggle in the past, he overcame those demons on the grandest stage after winning on a play-off home, Sergio would end up taking his first green jacket in his 74th major appearance.

He was there with his fiance, she was putting notes on his mirror all week long to keep him inspired. Sergio told our Don Riddell what that moment was like.


SERGIO GARCIA, 2017 MASTERS CHAMPION: Everybody around that green, it felt like they were just waiting for that to happen and you know just a lot of different thoughts, a lot of different memories. Just a whole bunch of little flashes that it was nice to go through it that quickly I guess.


WIRE: How about this awesome moment from yesterday as well, American Matt Kuchar, with a tee shot on the 16th hole and this guy is the type of guy that always seems to be smiling and probably because of shots like this, the long slow roll all the way back for the hole in one. There we go.

Even cooler afterward he signs the ball, reaches over the rope and gives it to the little kid with the nice little outfit. I know Boris likes to wear those types of hats. What a great moment at the Masters.

History made in the NBA last night in jaw dropping fashion. Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook breaking Oscar Robertson's record for most triple-doubles in a season. Westbrook had double figures in points, rebounds and assists for the 42nd time in season.

[05:25:09]Look at that shot there as the buzzer sounds to knock the Denver Nuggets out of playoff contention. OKC wins 106-105. It was a good day in sports. Happy Monday to you both.

ROMANS: Happy Monday to you. SANCHEZ: Same to you, Coy. I've never worn one of those hats but that orange polo looked great I might bring one on tomorrow.

There are major shifts in the geopolitical landscape after the U.S. strikes in Syria. What's the next move for the White House?

And will Russia dial back its support of Assad and now an American aircraft carrier is on the way to the Korean Peninsula. We'll help you break it all down right after this.


ROMANS: Conflicting messages from top officials at the White House wave next steps in the Syria crisis. Now the secretary of state with harsh words for Russia days before his trip to Moscow.

SANCHEZ: And an American show of force headed toward the Korean Peninsula. What will it embolden --