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Immediate Syria Withdrawal; Trump's Tariffs Against China; Snow Headed to Northeast; Masters Par 3 Contest. Aired 6:30-7:00a ET

Aired April 5, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:30:30] DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: As you know by now, President Trump is at odds with top military brass in his national security team over Syria. CNN learning the president became irritated with advisers, warning him about the risks of immediately withdrawing U.S. troops from the country.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Damascus, Syria, with more this morning.

Good morning to you.


It's certainly those words from President Trump sent a clear signal to all the players here in Syria, both the international and the national ones, that America wants out of here. And that's already done a lot to undermine America's credibility here on the ground.

If you look, for instance, at America's allies and the fight against ISIS, especially the Kurds, they're obviously quite angry saying, look, we were essentially your ground forces fighting ISIS really thought that America would be in it for the long run. Some of those Kurdish forces are already talking to Russia because, obviously, they all want to survive here in the future.

And one of the things that President Trump said, he said he wants other countries to step up here in Syria. Well, three countries that certainly are stepping up are Iran, Turkey, and Russia. I would say, right now, the Russians are the strongest outside player here inside Syria, especially where I am, in the Damascus area. They're helping the forces of Bashar al Assad gain a lot of ground. Those three countries also just had a summit about the future of Syria. Clearly America not at the table. And America sort of getting squeezed out of the equation as to what this country is going to look like in the future, Alisyn and David.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Fred, great to have your reporting from on the ground here. Thank you very much.

Joining us now to talk about Syria and much more is Richard Haass. He's the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "A World in Disarray," now available in paperback. Richard, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: Beyond wanting U.S. troops home, which, of course, I think everybody would want, do you understand what President Trump's policy in Syria is?

HAASS: Well, essentially we no longer have a Syria policy. What he's reluctantly agreed to is the continuation of a counterterrorism policy, counter-ISIS policy in Syria. But he's taken the United States out of the -- out of the competition, shall we say, to shape the political future of Syria and to do much for the Syrian people.

CAMEROTA: By announcing this, how has he taken us out of that competition?

HAASS: By announcing this. Essentially he's sent the message that the United States is not there to stay. And for as long as we stay, it's an incredibly narrow, anti-ISIS mission. But he's put a freeze on American humanitarian help and he's essentially saying without explicitly using the words, we're living with the government. Russia, Turkey, Iran, you essentially decide the future political composition of this government.

GREGORY: And let's pick up on that, because we've seen this before. I think if we've learned one overarching lesson from 9/11 is that failed states result in safe havens, result in critical threats to our national security. And so, in Syria, you both have that, which is how ISIS was able to form, but you also have this vacuum that Iran and Russia are eager to fill.

So what does that mean? If the U.S. pulls out of this idea of trying to shape Syria's future, what advantage is it specifically for Russia?

HAASS: What it does is it shows that Russia is willing to act decisively in a country we're not, so others will start aligning themselves with Russia. And more, even on the narrow counterterrorism mission, it means it's a question of when, and not if, we may have to go back because groups like ISIS or al Qaeda or similar to that will -- one way or another they'll find a way to reconstitute themselves.

What the president needs to take on board is the idea, this is not a traditional war. This kind of war doesn't have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It just continues so long as the terrorists want to apply their trade. We have to be there, modestly, but we need to be there working with locals, in this case the Syrian Kurds, in an open-ended fashion. This haste for clarity, for completion is not -- is totally inconsistent with the nature of the enemy we're fighting.

GREGORY: But isn't the pushback here, look, Obama felt he got rolled by the military by surging up in Afghanistan. The forever war in Afghanistan is still, at some point, going to result in the Taliban being in the government. So is the only answer that the U.S. has to have some presence to keep terrorism from taking root? And that's a pretty tough pill to swallow. HAASS: I don't understand why it's that tough of a pill to swallow.

There's a difference between trying -- keeps troops places in order to transform the political nature of these countries, to turn them into democracies or whatever. That's a bridge too far. But the idea that we may need to keep limited numbers of troops in several countries around the world, this would be one. Syria would be one.


HAASS: Afghanistan would be another.

GREGORY: Right. We're still in Korea. We're still in --

HAASS: For limited purposes.


[06:35:01] HAASS: You could keep troops in countries for decades with a limited purpose of deterrence. You could keep troops for decades in countries for the limited purposes of counterterrorism. That's something the president needs to level with the American people on, this -- this, again, this haste to get -- bring the boys and girls back home. I understand it, but it's at odds with the nature of the adversary we're fighting. If we leave, like we saw in Iraq, things will deteriorate. We will be back under far worse circumstances.

CAMEROTA: And about that. About the adversary, the enemy that we're fighting, what is the status report on ISIS? We hear different things. Have they been mostly decimated? Are they on the run? Have they lost all of their land? I mean, where are we with fighting ISIS?

HAASS: They've been dramatically weakened. But it's not a conventional army. So it's very easy for groups like this to reconstitute themselves because they feed off of discontent, they feed off of radicalization. So if we were to disappear, it's a -- it literally -- they'll reform. We saw that in Iraq. We will see it here. We've seen it in Afghanistan.

GREGORY: Well, that -- and some of this -- you talk about critical infrastructure. Just preventing Syria from failing. Who picks up that mantle? Who's responsible for it against the backdrop of an historic refugee crisis in the region folks who can fall prey to an ideology like that?

HAASS: You're right to raise that. That's a whole separate set of questions. More than half the population of Syria, more than half, is either internally displaced or is now across borders of refugees. The government wants to reassert authority. Lots of people in the country, lots of Sunni Arabs, the Syrian Kurds obviously do not want that. Iran and Russia is helping it. But that's a big issue. And what we've seen, as the government reasserts authority, it's -- rather than alleviating the humanitarian situation, they're exacerbating it. More and more innocent men, women, and children are being killed. So there's no answer to your question at the moment.

CAMEROTA: What happened to not telegraphing your plans for the enemy? I mean President Trump, when he was a candidate, Donald Trump, was so vociferous about how Barack Obama had made all of these mistakes, playing his hand, letting people know when we'd be getting out. Of course that allows the enemy to make plans. And now he's doing the very same thing. What's that about?

HAASS: What's that about is Donald Trump has two fundamental views about the world. And we've seen them both in the last 48 hours. One is on trade. He believes the United States gets disadvantaged by trade, wants to introduce tariffs and the rest. Secondly, he believes that the costs of American involvement in the world have far outweighed the benefits. So, in that sense, he's quasi isolationist. He does wants to bring people back home.

And this is his whole view of American history. He looks at the last 70 years and he says, what have we gotten for this. And if only we had done less abroad, things would be much better at home, America could have been great. This is at the core of his philosophy.

CAMEROTA: I think that's right. I mean I think that that is what it is. Though it is strange that he is doing the very thing that he, you know, so often hit President Obama on.

HAASS: He's doing that and it can't work. This -- the fundamentals of this world is what happened in places like Syria, as we learned on 9/11. What happens in remote parts of Afghanistan -- you know, the world isn't Las Vegas. Things don't stay there. Things come here. We are going to be affected for better and often for worse by developments around the world because of globalization. That affects climate change, it's about trade, it's about terrorism, you name it. So Mr. Trump has at this attention between his preferences of moving back, moving out and these realities.

GREGORY: Right, and we also can't forget, it seems in the -- process matters. There's a process to how you implement and move forward on foreign policy, especially issues of troop withdrawal. But he's an impulsive guy. He's like, no, no, I want them all out. And then people say, actually, that would be a horrible idea and here's why. And he says, oh, yes, right, that's right.

HAASS: Pushing that across the -- look at the North Korea summit.


HAASS: This is -- this is not careful, modulated foreign policy where we're thinking three or four moves ahead.


HAASS: This is foreign policy, one impulse, one spate (ph), one tweet, one step at a time. We're playing against people who are thinking things -- much more strategically.

CAMEROTA: All right, stick with us, Richard, if you would. We have many more questions for you. Because President Trump says there is no trade war with China. So, are the tariffs just a negotiating tool? We discuss that and more, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:43:15] GREGORY: So, a big question this morning, are we in a trade war with China? Well, the administration's attempting to ease fears of a trade war between the U.S. and China, suggesting that tariffs on Chinese imports may just be a bargaining chip in negotiations.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a negotiation using all the tools.

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Even shooting wars end with negotiations.


GREGORY: So, back with us, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "A World in Disarray."

Richard, you heard two things yesterday, the idea, you know, art of the deal. That this is -- this is a president who's been consistent over time, saying that we are getting killed by the Chinese in trade, and that this may just be a way to get them to the table. And that, oh, by the way, as Wilbur Ross was saying, that all -- even the impact of exports would just be three-tenths of 1 percent of our GDP. So even if we're in a war, it wouldn't be so bad anyway.

HAASS: With all due respect to the secretary of Commerce, it's easier to begin wars than it is to end them, much less chart their course. And we can't say exactly where this would take us.

Look, we need serious trade talks with China. There's -- it's a fair critique to say that China has gamed the system, it's stolen intellectual property, it's demanded property transfers as a condition of access. They still have tariffs in place that are far higher than ours on them, which --so it's not reciprocal. There's legitimate grounds for pressing against China. What's not smart, I would argue, is kicking off a trade war. So what we found --

CAMEROTA: We saw this happening -- is this a negotiation or is this the start of a trade war?

HAASS: I think it's a confrontational approach to set the stage for a negotiation. SO it's a high-risk strategy. We could have just had the negotiation without all the histrionics, without the market falls and the rest. But this is Mr. Trump's style. He likes to begin things with a controversial boom. And then whether it's, you know, with China and North Korea, now we're seeing it with Russia. And then he's hoping that that sets the stage where the other side is more likely to compromise. That's his style.

[06:45:12] CAMEROTA: But, I mean, I think that they would also say that we've tried discussions with China in the past. We've even tried using alliances and it hasn't worked. So, you know, let's go to DEFCON 3 now. HAASS: Actually, we haven't tried it for -- in many cases and also we haven't used alliances. If we had used alliances, Mr. Trump would not have yanked the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in week one of his presidency. It would be much better if all this conversation were happening not bilaterally but with another 11 countries at our side saying, hey, China, here's the higher rules you need to play by.

CAMEROTA: And they've never done that?

HAASS: No, they didn't do that. Indeed, they weakened themselves by the -- the unilateralism in the first week of Mr. Trump's --

GREGORY: Well, also there's another piece here. I mean, you know, you could say that this is impulsive by Trump. The critique has been consistent. But in the short history of the administration, he was appealing to China and there was this charm offensive to get leverage on North Korea.

HAASS: Right.

GREGORY: So he didn't have his foot to the metal when it came to trade until he did, which is now.

HAASS: Right. And, you know, there's an interesting debate about whether this helps or hurts or policy towards North Korea. My own sense is, China's pretty much going to do what it's going to do or not going to do on North Korea based on the merits of its strategic considerations there.

I think the real question here is whether this does lead to an acceptable settlement where China restrains some of its inappropriate behavior in the trade realm or not. I just don't see the need for this and for so unsettling the world's markets and for taking the risk that we won't be able to work things out and then it really will escalate.

GREGORY: Right. And here's what concerns me, you talk about the impulsive point. Yesterday they saw how rattled the markets were and they made a point -- the president starts tweeting in the morning. Kudlow is talking about, this is a negotiation tactic, so why would you talk about this being a negotiation tactic. So clearly to try to calm the markets. And you -- that's like a day --

CAMEROTA: And it works.

GREGORY: Yes, but it's such a day to day approach, which is dangerous.

HAASS: Yes. No, you can't have a president who constantly tweets about the markets, how well he's doing.


HAASS: And the barometer of success, then the markets plummet.

Look, Mr. Trump's style is to keep everybody off balance. We see it politically. We see it strategically. Now we're seeing it in the trade and economic base.

The problem is, markets and businesses like a degree of predictability. If you're going to make long-term investment decisions, if you're going to enter deals, you've got to -- you've got to know what the playing field's going to look like tomorrow.

This type of tactical uncertainty does not make strategic sense.

CAMEROTA: Richard Haass, again, your book is now out in paperback. It will keep you up at night, but it will make you smarter.

HAASS: Some would say it doesn't keep them up at night.

GREGORY: Right. Well, the (INAUDIBLE) of this -- the (INAUDIBLE) of this is something you tweeted recently, which is, we have a confluence of events in the world not driven by events but by our own choices, that they're incredibly perilous, which makes your views important and also the moment important.

HAASS: True. And, thank you. Yes, people have to remember, we still haven't had a real crisis in this administration.


HAASS: What we have is a lot of churn.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. "A World in Disarray" is the book.

Richard Haass, great to see you.

HAASS: Thanks for having me.

GREGORY: Thanks, Richard.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.

All right, so FaceBook revealing the Cambridge Analytical data scandal was bigger than first reported. Are you among the millions who had their information improperly accessed? We'll tell you how you can find out, next.


[06:52:17] CAMEROTA: OK, believe it or not, and I don't, another spring snowstorm is reportedly heading to the northeast this weekend.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar has this forecast.

Come on, Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know, and I actually hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there's actually two storms on the way. So let's get to the first one right now.

SO you've got some areas of lake effect right now impacting areas in the Northeast. We're talking upstate New York, areas of Pennsylvania, as well as Cleveland. But those lake effect bands are stretching pretty far to the east.

Now, here's the next thing. We've got this first system that's coming through. That's going to bring areas of rain and snow to portions of the Northeast. But you have to watch this one. This is the one that's actually going to initially focus mostly on the southeast. But then it's going to start to slide north. This could, in turn, end up producing some pretty decent snowfall for areas of the mid Atlantic, specifically Washington, D.C.

Now, when we talk about snowfall accumulation, relatively light up across areas of the Northeast. Say up to about two inches. But when you look a little bit further south, towards Washington, D.C., this is where we end -- could end up seeing say as much as six inches of snow. And the reason for all of this cold weather, guys, is the cold air that's going to dip back down over the next couple of days.

So, David, even if it's not snowing, it's just going to be bitter cold and feel more like January than April should feel like.

GREGORY: Apparently my white shoes are not coming out this weekend.


GREGORY: All right, thank you, we think.

CAMEROTA: Thank goodness.

GREGORY: In other news, Cambridge Analytica is denying a claim from FaceBook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The data firm may have had information on as many as 87 million FaceBook users without their knowledge. A previous "New York Times" report had the number at around 50 million. Cambridge Analytica says it only had data of 30 million people.

Starting on Monday, FaceBook will notify users if their information was improperly accessed by the data mining firm. Zuckerberg, as you know now, will testify twice next week before Congress about the privacy scandal. That's going to be a good time.

CAMEROTA: New England Patriots star Julian Edelman may have prevented a school shooting in Michigan. "The New York Times" reports that Edelman's assistant contacted police after the wide receiver saw a post on his Instagram account where someone threatened to shoot up a school. Authorities tracked down a 14-year-old boy who admitted to making that threat against his middle school. That teenager is now in juvenile custody, charged with making a false report of a threat of terrorism.

My gosh, these are the times.

GREGORY: Right. Yes, exactly.

CAMEROTA: And, you know what, see something, say something.


CAMEROTA: I mean that's what -- that's what it takes right now. GREGORY: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And he did the right thing.

GREGORY: High profile example.

All right, when we come back, golf legend Jack Nicklaus has six Master green jackets, of course, but nothing compares to what he just saw his grandson do at Augusta. Details in the "Bleacher Report" coming up next.


[06:59:07] CAMEROTA: All right, David, I'm about to read sports. I might need an assist.

GREGORY: Yes, I'm here.

CAMEROTA: OK, thanks.

Of all the traditions at the Masters, few can compare with the fun and excitement of the annual Par 3 Contest.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Tell us everything.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, I'm going to bring some levity to your morning. Some sweet moments.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

One of the most highly anticipated Masters tournaments in years tees off in just a couple hours, but yesterday the Par 3 Competition, it's known for golfers having their families there, their caddies. Watch this moment. Kevin Chappell had his wife Elizabeth, his 15-month-old daughter, Collins (ph), and his son, Wyatt, as his caddies. But watch Wyatt celebrate after sinking a putt. He throws the ball into the lake. Was he celebrating or was this a case of the terrible twos? I'm done, dad. Can we go home, dad? I turn three next week, dad. I just want to go home.

[07:00:02] How about this moment? Jack Nicklaus letting his 15-year- old grandson, G.T., take his last tee shot, provides perhaps the sweetest moment we'll see out of this year's Masters.