Return to Transcripts main page


ISIS Claims Responsibility For Palm Sunday Church Bombings; Trump Defends Syria Strike In Letter To Congress; What Is President Trump's Next Move In Syria?; Were Trump's Syria Strikes Legal? Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 10, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:04] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The numbers are still coming in about how many were murdered on Palm Sunday. These two bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, 49 is the latest number. Again, it could still rise. ISIS anxious and eager to claim responsibility for the attacks at churches in Alexandria and Tanta in Egypt, and promising more.

CNN's Ian Lee live in Egypt outside one of the bombed churches. This is the big week in the holy calendar for Christians leading up to Easter. Obviously no coincidence.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Easter coming next week. ISIS vowing that this is just the beginning, but there seems to be, Chris, a fundamental disconnect between the people and security services. When I speak to people here, they say the government doesn't provide enough security.

Yes, there are a couple of guards out front, but they are not checking people like they should be. They say it is more the veneer of security. When I brought that to the new chief of police here in Tanta, I expressed those concerns and he said who told you that.

There is plenty of security here. People are safe to do what they want. They are safe to pray. A real difference between what you are hearing from the people and security services.

So last night, I was here for those funerals. Thousands of people gathered for some of the funerals of those killed taking place. I spoke with one man who was inside the church when that bomb went off. Take a listen.


DAVID SAEED, EGYPT CHURCH BLAST SURVIVOR: We were just singing and suddenly in a blink of an eye, smoke, fire everywhere.

LEE: This is your friend's blood on the robe. What happened to your friend?

SAEED: He was killed.


LEE: President Trump has offered his condolences to President Sisi. President Sisi in turn declaring a three-month state of emergency, which gives security forces extra powers to go after ISIS and those perpetrators of this attack, but with Holy Week coming up as well as the pope visiting later this month, it is to be seen if those security measures will actually work -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: My gosh, Ian, the numbers there are staggering. Thank you very much for that reporting.

President Trump's missile launch in Syria, do members of Congress think it worked? Senator Angus King joins us with his thoughts next.



CAMEROTA: President Trump defending his decision to order that missile strike in Syria. In a letter to Congress, the president says, quote, "I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the united states pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as commander-in-chief and chief executive.

The United States will take additional action as necessary and appropriate to further its important national interests." So will Congress approve President Trump's next move?

Joining us now is independent senator, Angus King of Maine. He is a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. Good morning, Senator.

SENATOR ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Do you agree with President Trump's letter to you that this was in the vital national security interests of the U.S.?

KING: Well, it's a close call. If he is narrowly construing it as the dealing with the issue of chemical weapons, we're a member of an international agreement on chemical weapons not using them for over 100 years. I think he can make a legal case.

The question is what happens next and are we talking about a broader engagement in which case I don't think the president has the authority. That's when we get down into what is Congress's responsibility here, which they've so far avoided over the last three years.

CAMEROTA: Before we get to what's next, I want to ask about this missile strike on Thursday night accomplished? Because when we had all of our military experts on Friday morning before they knew exactly what the damage was to the air base, they all pretty much unanimously said, well, one of the things that you would do if you wanted to stop future chemical attacks on civilians, is you'd crater the runways. OK, so that debilitates the airport. You can't launch future missions from there. That's not what the U.S. did with those 59 Tomahawk missiles. President Trump this weekend talked about that. He tweeted.

He said, "The reason you don't generally hit runways is that they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix, fill in and top." Well, again, that's different than what so many of the military experts said.

And then basically the day after the U.S. missile strikes, President Bashar al-Assad was back at it and launching more strikes on civilians. So what did it accomplish?

KING: And they were launching more strikes from the same airport on the same city that they had been attacking with the chemical weapons. You are right. It did not seem -- again, let's see what they do with chemical weapons.

[06:40:03]If they launch another chemical weapons attack, then obviously it was ineffective and didn't send the proper message.

CAMEROTA: Sure but to your mind, this was only about chemical weapons?

KING: -- if on the other hand, they back off from the chemical weapons and maybe it made some sense.

CAMEROTA: But there you go. That's the point, right, is that what the U.S. did was just as a deterrent to chemical weapons. Not to the barrel bombs or attacks on innocent civilians.

KING: That's right. That's one of the dilemmas here is that Assad has been attacking his people with barrel bombs indiscriminately hospitals, schools, children for four years, five years. So the chemical weapons are clearly a violation of international law.

But they're not necessarily the worst of what they've doing, and that is one of the problems with Syria. I mean, Syria is an incredibly complicated situation. It's a civil war. You've now got the Russians and Iranians involved. It is a sectarian war.

It is very, very complicated and as I think the administration over the weekend, a little bit of the disarray that you heard indicates that there is no clear way forward here. They are right. You will not get to ISIS until you get rid of Assad.

But you are not going to get rid of Assad unless you can work with the Russians because they are the real people that have the influence over Assad. So you know, I'm not sure whether this strike was a strong reaction to chemical weapons.

But strategically, I'm not sure it really will accomplish the goal of furthering the downfall of Assad, which then can allow us to turn our attention to ISIS.

CAMEROTA: OK. So that leads us to your original question of what's next. Do you understand today what the U.S. policy is on Syria?

KING: No. Do you? No, I don't think so. You know, it was hard to understand what the Obama administration policy was. Like I say, this is a really complex situation. If there is going to be further involvement -- by the way, I think it would be a mistake.

By the way, just to tell you how complicated it is, there are 1,200 opposition groups to Assad, 1,200 different groups vying for power and trying to overthrows Assad. All the way from somewhat moderates, although, I'm not sure what a moderate means in this context but way over to ISIS and al-Nusra, the very radical Islamist.

So it is such a complicated situation, but if we try to go in with troops, and some people have advocated that, I think that would be a huge mistake. That's what ISIS wants. They want to bog us down in a land war, if you will, in Syria.

I think that would be a huge mistake. All of this is leading up to saying I do think the administration needs to form a strategy and I know the president likes to be unpredictable, but there has to be some strategy and come to Congress.

Clearly the authorization from 2001 doesn't apply in this situation. We are going into another country against a sitting government. They need to come to Congress. I talked to John McCain and Tim Kaine at the end of last week. They are working on authorization.

I don't know whether we can come together on something but we should. This is Congress' responsibility. Chris Cuomo and I have been talking about this for three years. It is time for us to step up. Not just sit on the sidelines and criticize, but say, OK, what is the U.S. policy and the president has our authority.

CAMEROTA: Senator Angus King --

KING: Or not.

CAMEROTA: Understood. Thank you for explaining all of this to us this morning. Nice to see you. Let's get to Chris.

CUOMO: All right, big story from the world of sports. You see what happened at the Masters? Sergio Garcia at the center of what was looking like an epic choke. The "Bleacher Report" live from Augusta next.



CAMEROTA: So a major warm up is in store for the northeastern U.S., but strong storms threaten the Great Lakes to Texas. CNN's meteorologist, Chad Myers, has our forecast. Hi, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Alisyn. It's 80 degrees in New York City tomorrow afternoon. It's already 68 in Chicago right now. It will be 81 in Nashville this afternoon. Obviously spring in full bloom. So all of the pollen is out there with the big warm up as well. It will be warm for the next few days.

But along that front, there will be some storms. Not the severe weather tornado outbreak that we've seen in the past couple cold fronts, but still a chance of a strong storm.

Look at the temperatures even for D.C., 83. New York City will get to 80 tomorrow afternoon. It will feel like spring. The grass is greening up and even down south, temperatures are nice and warm back into the 80s again, 80 for Atlanta, all the way through, rare, Chris, you get the same temperature in New York that I get here. This week, you've got it.

CUOMO: You're still better looking. You see the Masters? What a finish. Chad Myers, thank you for the good weather. Sergio Garcia, historic finish. Andy Scholes live with the "Bleacher Report" in Augusta. This could have gone the wrong way, but he was always a kid in our eyes. Now he's a big man and got a big title.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. What a finish to the Masters. I followed Sergio for quite a while yesterday. Nearly everyone in the gallery was rooting for him. He appeared in 73 majors before winning one. He got it done. It was a battle with his friend Justin Rose.

Sergio, it looked like things were going bad on the back nine until this eagle on 15. You see he was pumped up. He knew that may have been the putt of his life. It goes to a playoff. On 18, Sergio with the birdie putt to win his first major.

His fiancee runs out to give him a big hug. The 37-year-old from Spain finally getting that major monkey off his back.

[06:50:04]And he did it on what would have been the 60th birthday of his idol, Spanish golf legend, (inaudible).


SERGIO GARCIA, 2017 MASTERS CHAMPION: Major, no major, I said many times. I have an amazing life. I have so many people that care for me and love me and support me. This is something I wanted to do for a long time. You know, it never felt like a horror movie. It felt like a drama, maybe, but obviously with a happy ending.


SCHOLES: Definitely a happy ending for Sergio. Alisyn, the lesson is if you don't succeed on the first, second, third, 10th, 20th, keep going because on your 74th try, you might get it done.

CAMEROTA: That's why I continue to play miniature golf on the boardwalk. I hope it takes.

SCHOLES: You'll win.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. All right, Andy, great to talk to you. Thank you. So he did not consult Congress or the U.N. before launching missiles into Syria. Was President Trump's action legal? Our experts break it down next.


CUOMO: Did you know that President Trump can bomb anyone, anywhere he wants if he feels like it's the right thing to do? Seems to be the case based on what we just saw in Syria. Congress for the most part seems to be OK with it.

[06:55:09]Let's discuss with CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffery Toobin, and CNN military analyst, Lt. General Mark Hertling. You saw the letter that Trump sent over to Congress saying, look, you know, this was really bad what they did. We had to send a message. I sent it. Figure out what happens next.

Congressmen on both sides of the aisle saying, well, we think what he did there was OK, but he has to consult. Where in the law, any applicable law, is what happened in Syria OK legally?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: OK, the constitution says only Congress can declare war. The last time we had a declared war was World War II.

CUOMO: Romania.

TOOBIN: World War II. We have had a lot of wars since World War II. The bar for congressional authorization of war has been dropping and dropping and dropping. We had the (inaudible) gulf resolution in Vietnam.

We had the authorization for the use of military force after 9/11 which led to Afghanistan and Iraq. Now basically we are leaving it up to the president. As a legal matter, there is virtually no authorization for what President Trump did.

But as you seen in Congress, as you saw with Senator Angus King who caucuses with the Democrats, there is no political opposition to this to speak of and that means the president has a free hand.

CUOMO: So General, when something like this happens, you know, it was articulated in the letter that this is about our national interests. That's why we did this in Syria. That's very different than saying in defense of this country, of its possessions, of its people at home or abroad, very different standard, right?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It is, Chris. I'll tell you two things, first of all, I think many Americans would be surprised by the fact that as a military commander at the two-star level and three-star level, there is always a lawyer right next to me. It is hard to believe, but it is true.

In combat, in interesting strikes or certain strikes, I always had to get the advice of legal counsel. That may seem strange. The second thing, though, is more philosophical. There was this guy named (inaudible), who lived in the 18th Century, he said before a nation goes to war they should assure themselves of three things.

Number one, the capability of the military. We have that in the United States. Number two and three are more important. It is the will of the people that is represented by Congress and the support of the government.

That is a combination of the president and the Congress coming together. As you said, we have not had that for a long time and perhaps that may contribute to some of the confusion in terms of strategy.

The will of the people, capability of the military, and the support of the government that's what you need to successfully execute combat.

CUOMO: It seems to your point, though, that Congress has decided this being in the business of owning what we do militarily, dangerous, bad for re-election. If this president wants the power, give it to him. If it turns out good, good for me. If it turns out bad, shame on him.

TOOBIN: Well, that's right and in 2006, you saw the Democrats retake control of the House of Representatives in part because the country rebelled against the Iraq war. Now we have by and large, popular support for this one move against Syria.

But if it becomes a bigger commitment, then you may see the politics changes. The only person in the Congress who seems to care about this is Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, Hillary Clinton's running mate, who've said even to Barack Obama, look, I am tired of the military ventures with no congressional authorization. But Kaine is very much alone on that.

CUOMO: There are few. They pop up. Marco Rubio made some comments about this. Tim Kaine and I had a very interesting discussion about it on "NEW DAY." We got sideways whether or not he should stop if it he cares so much. He said well, I didn't really know. You know, Russia knew. Members of Congress didn't know it was coming.

General, is it an interesting part of the dynamic between political and military when something like this gets ordered up? Do the military share any of the burden of saying I wonder if this is legal? I wonder if this is done the right way or do you do what the commander-in-chief says?

HERTLING: No, not at all, Chris. It gets back to my first point earlier. There is always a lawyer next to us that is saying this is a legal action. It is admittable by the Constitution. You can do this.

Because you are certainly as a military commander don't want to commit war crimes. But it goes back to the point, at every level of strike and this weekend, there is a military commander saying OK, Mr. President, I got that, let me check real quick.

Usually it happens before obviously the orders giving, but you can bet that military commanders do get the OK before executing strikes.

CUOMO: So just quickly on this one, General, what made this one OK? HERTLING: Well, by the wording that the president sent over, saying that this was in the interests of national security. It was an attack against a country that was using chemical weapons. There are conventions against that. Worldwide conventions that.