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White House: Syria Will Pay "Heavy Price" for Another Chemical Attack; Senate GOP Delays Health Care Vote Amid Opposition. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 28, 2017 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[06:30:57] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: There is a global cyberattack crippling businesses around the world. So far, those hit, Ukrainian firms, including the state power distributor and Kiev's main airport, and the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The ransomware attacks are now spreading to other firms in Russia, the U.K., and here in the U.S., raising concerns that many businesses still have not secured their networks from aggressive hackers and raising the concern that maybe they can't.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN ANCHOR: Venezuela's president condemning a helicopter attack against the country's supreme court calling it an act of terrorism. Grenades were lobbed from the chopper. At least one failed to detonate. Witnesses also described hearing gunfire between the guards and the helicopter.

This video, and just check it out, unbelievable. Surfaced online of the alleged pilot who stole the helicopter, declaring his opposition to the Venezuelan government, on behalf of the military, police and civilian officials. And just about a mile away, clashes broke out between opposition lawmakers and national guardsmen at the national assembly. One journalist was injured.

CUOMO: Three Chicago officers are charged with conspiring to cover up the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. You got former Detective David March, and patrol officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney, all are accused of lying about what happened in order to prevent Officer Jason Van Dyke from being investigated and charged.

Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times killing him in 2014. He said the teen lunged at him with a knife. But dashcam video shows a different story. Van Dyke has pleaded not guilty but is suspended without pay.

WARD: The White House doubling down on its warning to Syria over use of chemical weapons. How effective is the message? We'll be talking about it, next.

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[06:36:28] WARD: The White House doubling down on hits warning to Syria against carrying out another chemical weapons attack. Here is what a Trump adviser told CNN last night.

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SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: The president was sending a very clear message. Under this administration of Donald J. Trump, red lines mean red lines. What would you do, Erin, in his position, if the most powerful nation in the world demonstrated to you that we can see what you are doing? Wouldn't you think again about actually executing on that decision? I know I would. I wouldn't test Donald J. Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: Well, joining us now to discuss this is former Brigadier General Tony Tata, best-selling authority of "The Siege". And CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, let me start with you. Do we have any sense that this has been an effective warning?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think we do, Clarissa. It's going bounced around the world not only in Syria, but also against the intended targets of both Russia and Iran. The message is a good one. It's backing up a U.N. mandate from 2013 that said Syria should not have chemical weapons and they should eliminate them.

So, in and of itself, it's a good message. Unfortunately, whenever you send a message like this, you do have to back it up with force. In some cases, you ought to get congressional approval for the use of military force in these kind of situations.

CUOMO: Well, we could argue, General Tata, this is one of those situations. The documentation, the agreement about chemical weapons that General Hertling is referring to does not include any unilateral action clause in it. And it does raise the question, while, you know, to have Trump's surrogate out there beating his chest and saying, you know, don't cross Donald J. Trump, that sounds very muscular.

But on what authority does the United States take unilateral action against Assad for any actions against his own people?

BRIGADIER GENERAL ANTHONY TATA, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, Chris, I think there are two things first. First, you got the national security strategy that was actually developed by the Obama administration that talks about denying the spread of weapons of mass destruction and enforcing an international order based on the rule of law in Syria as actually violating both of those. And so, what you have is really a need to go after that. And then you've got the authorization use of military force that President Obama has been using for the past eight years.

CUOMO: It's from 2001.

TATA: Right, since 2001, that's right. But in December of 2016, the White House lawyers gave a brief that said this thing is still in effect and it's still good. I imagine that was probably to cover President Obama, but that doesn't mean it doesn't apply to President Trump.

CUOMO: Right, but lawyers are irrelevant here. This is about political authorization from Congress. And you can very easily argue, and we have many times on this show, that this is Congress bucking its duty under the Constitution to declare war and to insist a president comes before, General Hertling, makes the case for what he or she wants to do, and then they either authorize or don't by vote. That hasn't happened.

Should it happen now?

HERTLING: It should happen, Chris, and I agree with you. And that's a different kind of war than the authorization of use of military force that was drafted, the one you just described. That was against terrorism, against al Qaeda. This now has the potential of being a conventional fight against multistate actors in a different part of the world.

[06:40:03] And that's why I think Congress does have to get behind it, not only for their approval as part of the constitutional authorities, but also to show the American people as their representatives that they are, in fact, representing them whenever you send young men and women into harm's way which could be possible when you make these kind of threats. The threat has to be backed up.

And Mr. Gorka's comment last night is interesting, but I don't think he's ever seen combat. It's unfortunate that he has to realize when you send people into harm's way, you ought to have not only the government's backing, but the people's backing to do so. We don't have that right now in Syria.

WARD: And I think you also want to have arguably a clear and coherent strategy for dealing with Syria. After the last strikes on the Assad regime, after the last chemical attacks, we heard a lot of talk about the need to formulate this coherent strategy.

General Tata, are we any closer to formulating it? Because on the one hand, we say our priority is to fight ISIS. On the other hand, Assad also now appears to be an enemy. And in the meantime, we are teaming up with Assad allies in the fight against ISIS. It starts to look like a very muddy picture.

TATA: Well, Clarissa, unfortunately, it's three-dimensional chess you're playing in Syria. We are trying to get Syrian rebels to help us in the fight against ISIS. That doesn't mean at the same time, we don't have geopolitical and strategic interests to fight the Assad regime and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

We just need to show the pictures of those young children running through the streets with blood coming out of their ears and nose and dying and twitching in the middle of the street. I mean, what else do we need to see? I mean, this -- we're talking about the use of chemical weapons in this day and age, and so, it's not really America's red line. It's not Trump's red line. It's the world's red line that we need to prevent the spread of WMD. And clearly, this Assad wants to use WMD, has in the past, and it

looks like he's going to continue to do it. So, the strategy is to live up to our national security strategy which is to enforce an international order based on the rule of law and to prevent the spread of WMD. I think it's very clear what the president is doing.

CUOMO: We have new video of Assad kind of making the rounds, showing his determination as a leader. Showing off basically.

WARD: Having his "Top Gun" moment.

CUOMO: Right. You know, so, he's out there on the airfield and they showed him a little bit with the citizenry as well moving around. But the most stark images of his citizenry are those who have been victimized by his forces according to U.S. intelligence and the suffering of women and children.

You know, General, you make a very compelling case. Nobody is going to argue that anyone should stand by and watch what Clarissa Ward has brilliantly reported for well over a year that is an obvious and on going humanitarian crisis in that country. You could argue we've ignored it, as opposed to be in there. But that doesn't mean you have the authority.

And I keep coming back to that, General, because while it is emotionally compelling to say, we don't want it, it's in our national security interest, that's not an easy legal leap to say that Assad using chemical weapons on his own people is somehow a national security threat to the United States. And that's why you have rules, you have votes, you have procedures. They've been ignored, and it does suggest we're at a tipping point, because this sounds like war against Syria, not a simple battle against a bad guy terrorist.

HERTLING: I think you're right, Chris. That's exactly right. We do not have a strategy for Syria. I disagree with my friend Tony in the fact that an action -- it does not mean a strategy. A strategy means you have an end state in mind. If that end state is to get rid of chemical weapons, we already have that. We have to get the authority to go after that with military force.

The other thing I'd point out, too, in your film on Mr. Assad climbing into that jet, right next to him was a guy by the name of General Gerasimov, who is a Soviet general who pushed the efforts of asymmetrical warfare, which is exactly what's happening not only in Syria, but in places like Ukraine, and Georgia and Moldova and other places as well.

CUOMO: We'll see what the Congress does, what the president does in addressing the American people. We'll have you, gentlemen, back on.

General Tata and General Hertling, thank you, as always. Appreciate it.

TATA: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Massive wildfires are burning out west. We've been covering them. The troubling question is whether or not firefighters can get a foothold? The environment, the conditions are against them. Live report, next.

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[06:48:36] CUOMO: All right. This is just a terrible combination for fighting wildfires. You've got triple digit temperatures and low humidity. What does that mean? It's going to be dry and hot, they're going to burn.

You have more than 1,500 residents chased from their homes in southern Utah where the largest fire has burned through nearly 50,000 acres. Meantime, evacuations ordered for 200 residents of southern California as a fire east of San Bernardino spreads over 900 acres.

WARD: The central and eastern U.S. looking at severe storms this weekend. And it could sadly impact your holiday weekend.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has your forecast.

Can we get out the barbecue, Chad, or too early to say?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think so -- it's going to be all right. New York City, maybe Sunday afternoon, you could see a storm or two. But that's about it.

Great to have you with us, Clarissa, this morning. Great insight out there.

This weather is brought to you by Xyzal, the allergy medicine for continuous 24-hour allergy relief.

Let's get to it. Minneapolis, you're getting storms right now. New York City, you're in good shape. Flying out of the city this afternoon, great, great day to do that.

But severe weather could impact Chicago, Minneapolis, all the way down to about Omaha. Tomorrow, a little bit further to the south, into Kansas City.

So, let's go day by day. We have to do this quickly. But here is into this afternoon, into tomorrow. We will see some scattered showers through the Appalachians.

Now, I'm moving you ahead to Saturday, still fairly dry all along the I-95, but wet in the Ohio Valley.

[06:50:03] By Sunday, this storm gets very close here, that front very close to the big cities. By Monday, it's still drying out.

And a good looking Fourth of July, Chris, for the Northeast at least now. This is the seven-day forecast. You got to give me time here. But the Midwest looks wet, Florida looks wet, but the northeast looks dry.

CUOMO: Look, I'll take it. You have a good gift of letting people know, always judge your own weather by what others are dealing with around the country.

MYERS: That's true.

CUOMO: And it could be a lot worse for us here in the Northeast. So, Chad, appreciate it. We'll check back with you, my brother.

All right. We are divided in the United States. That's not a secret to anybody. There is especially a partisan divide. We're seeing it play out in the health care battle.

So, here should be the question: how do you bridge the gap to take care of the American people? Let's dig a little deeper, bring in David Axelrod and talk about progress, ahead.

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[06:55:01] SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Any negotiations with the Democrats would include none of the reforms that we would like to make.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Their bill is aimed at helping the very wealthy, whereas we are trying to hurt -- to help American families.

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CUOMO: And therein, brothers and sisters, you see the problem and the solution, getting the parties to work together for your benefit is what this should be all about. How does that happen?

Let's bring in CNN senior political commentator and former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod.

Ax, as a student of your game and a deep reader on multiple occasions of your book, you've looked at what affects the ability of sides to go from opposition to a fundamental proposition of any kind of gain. Do you see any chance of that here now?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what was interesting to me yesterday was that Senator McConnell warned his members that if they didn't work -- if they didn't work something out on health care, they would have to work with Democrats later to try and shore up the health care exchanges which are honestly being undermined right now by the inaction of the administration in terms of extending the subsidies that were promised to people to buy insurance policies. So, that was interesting to me.

And now, he didn't mean it as a proposition, to use your word. He meant it as a threat to them, but there may be something to that. But in the main, we are in a terribly polarized environment. And I think some of it is positioning, you know, people trying to score points on one side or the other.

Some of it is an honest philosophical difference. I mean, Democrats really believe in the tenets of the Affordable Care Act. I think some of them feel like it needs to be fixed. It does need to be fixed, and there are things they could do together to do it.

But most of it is just, you know, this fierce entrenched partisanship and a fear of compromise being seen as your -- as betrayal on the part of political bases. So, it's a very -- it's a very toxic environment.

WARD: Toxic is the word. And you say polarized. I can't help but feel almost paralyzed.

AXELROD: Yes.

WARD: It seems from my perch sort of overseas watching this play out, you have Democrats who acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act needs work. You have Republicans who have been fighting for seven years to repeal it.

Is there any way in which you can see the two parties could come together -- they don't necessarily have to sing kumbaya at the end of it -- but where they could come together and find some consensus on some issues that would make Americans happy?

AXELROD: I think kumbaya is off the table, Clarissa.

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD: But, you know, I think it's going to be very tough. I don't -- you know, fundamentally, Republicans and Democrats have different positions on tax reform. I think it's going to be hard to reach consensus on that.

And, you know, one thing that hasn't been widely discussed is that the Republicans and the White House really need this health reform for technical reasons to move forward on tax reform. So, you know, I think that's going to be very difficult. That's a main priority for the Republican majority.

There's talk of infrastructure. But the approach that the administration has suggested, which is basically to give tax credits to private entities to do infrastructure is not really going to get at the fundamental needs of the country from a Democratic standpoint, not going to build roads and bridges and so on. So, I'm not real optimistic about the near term in terms of cooperation. I think both sides are going to the mattresses for 2018 right now.

CUOMO: To your point, there's usually or traditionally, historically, a bridge in this situation. And we haven't mentioned the name of the bridge once yet in this discussion and its name is the president of the United States. In moments like this when we've seen episodes of leadership, you've had a president who could go to the two sides and say, I know you have problems with her, and I know you have problems with him, but you're both going to have bigger problems with me, because the American people are on my side.

We are not seeing that authority in play here in any real way with President Trump. That's something that has to be addressed. He is saving most of his ammo for us in the media. That's who he takes on most actively, and that is about him, his notion of respect and his feelings about marketing and his own personal brand. But he's not getting it done on this bill.

AXELROD: Yes. Look, I don't think that -- I think one of the big problems here is I don't know he has a philosophy about what should happen on health care. I don't think he's into the details. I don't think -- he wants a win.

CUOMO: He wants a win.

AXELROD: And he promised his base that he would get rid of Obamacare, and I think that for him personally, destroying what he sees as a legacy of his predecessor seems important to him.