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President Trump Vows Syria Attack Will be Met Forcefully; Interview with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), Wisconsin; Trump's Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert Resigns. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired April 10, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:09] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, the White House says the president is canceling his trip to South America. There is a key summit taking place there. Instead, the White House says he has chosen to stay home. Their claim is to monitor the response to Syria's alleged chemical weapons attack. That response from the United States to that attack could come very shortly.
Our Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with the latest on that. Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. What we do know is the U.S. Military continues to look at options and discuss with the president what he wants to do. We also know that there is an attempt here to put some kind of coalition effort together.
The president talking to British Prime Minister Theresa May. He has already talked to the French leader Emmanuel Macron. Expect to see the French involved. They are very concerned about this situation. They have been very public about it.
But now what will they do, and one of the key questions of course is what targets do you want to hit in retaliation for this chemical attack. Do you want to hit air fields? Well, this attack was carried out by helicopters. They can move around very quickly. They don't really even need an air field.
Do you want to hit chemical sites? If you're going to hit chemical sites, you risk a cloud after a bomb. You risk dispersal into the atmosphere. And potentially injuring even more people.
Do you want to hit essentially Assad's heartland, targets in Damascus, his command and control, his intelligence headquarters? Do you want to go that far? And one of the big questions is, determining how complicit Moscow, the Russian regime may have been in this attack? The president saying very strongly that they would be held accountable if it is found that they were involved. And that may dictate some of the targets that they may plan to strike -- John.
BERMAN: So, Barbara, the president was meeting at the White House yesterday evening and afternoon with military leaders to make plans on Syria. And it was at that moment, and we're looking at the pictures right now, he chose to make that remarkable statement, the diatribe about the special counsel investigation and his reaction to the raids on Michael Cohen.
What are you hearing from military officials about how they felt at that moment?
STARR: Well, keep looking at that video. This is the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the heads of all the services, the combatant commanders who actually run wars around the world right now. And you see very somber looks, you see no facial expression, you see some of them looking down as the president is talking about his personal political views. Because, remember, these are military people. They are loyal to a president, they are loyal to the presidency, but they do not engage in politics.
This is not what the U.S. Military does in this country. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joe Dunford, sitting at that table has been absolutely adamant about all of that. So to put them in this position is frankly beyond awkward because as they're sitting there listening to the president talk about his own personal political views, and that's what that was, they have to be wondering if they're suddenly going to be called upon to speak.
Remember, the president said this legal situation, the raid on Michael Cohen, is an attack on the country. These are the people who are charged with defending the country and he has put them in a political environment that they did not expect -- John.
BERMAN: One might imagine their view on what constitutes an attack on the country might be different than what the president is talking about.
Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much.
Want to bring in Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, CNN national security analyst, an old friend and expert on Syria who's been there twice I believe within the last six months to talk about the administration's response here.
Gayle, you talk about the three W's here in weighing what the response would be. What they choose to do, when does it stop, in other words, for how long, and whether the United States will choose to confront Russia here. What do you mean?
GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, so it's hard to remember, but this is really an overnight crisis that is seven years in the making. Right? I mean, both the Obama administration and the Trump administration have wanted one way tickets out of Syria. But it is a conflict where, you know, adjectives long ago stopped being enough to describe its horrors and the U.S. continues to be called on to really make a stand because one international norm after another has been absolutely trampled in this conflict.
And I think what is striking is that, you know, in Syria, you've actually had some of the most constructive U.S.-Russia relations going on for the past several years. During the ISIS fight, there was a de- confliction line between Russia and the United States. From actually military-to-military worked fairly well. And the question now is whether we're going to see a shift from de-confliction to direct engagement as the United States and its international partners, you know, the UK and France, try to figure out whether there is a stand to be made here about the use of chemical weapons.
[10:35:00] BERMAN: When it comes to Bashar al-Assad, and the notion that he is waging chemical attacks on his own people, he will do, Gayle, whatever he wants until what or when?
LEMMON: That is exactly the question, John. Right? I mean, this is a road that has been paved with impunity. So you can forgive him for not ever having seen a stop sign and not thinking that the world would pay attention if he used chemicals on his own people. Right? I mean, really there has been this access of impunity. Syria, with its Russian backers and its Iranian backers, which have had a mismatch of will with the international community from the start. Because from the beginning, this group of countries has been willing to do all that was required to win this war. And you've had the U.S. and the international community, which since 2011, has wanted to do anything it could to stay out of this conflict, so there has been a mismatch in the will to win from the start on this conflict.
BERMAN: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, thank you very, very much for being with us. Thanks so much for your insight, I appreciate it.
LEMMON: Great to join you, John.
BERMAN: All right. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress just a few hours from now. How will he hold up to what will be grilling and grandstanding from lawmakers looking for sound bites?
A[10:40:19] BERMAN: All right, in just a little bit on Capitol Hill, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, will be in the hot seat in what could be a defining moment when it comes to regulation of social media and the social networks. He will face lawmakers who will question him on problems plaguing his company including how Facebook let Cambridge Analytica harvest the personal data of some 87 million users.
One of the senators who will be part of this really important hearing today is Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
Senator, thank you so much for being with us. And I do want to talk about Facebook in just a minute.
SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: Thank you.
BERMAN: But, Senator, if I can get your reaction to what has been this spate of breaking news over the last 24 hours, the FBI raiding the president's personal attorney, his home, office and hotel room, Michael Cohen. The president calls this an attack on the country. Do you feel like that's the case?
BALDWIN: You know, there was a high bar that needed to be met in order for the entry into Michael Cohen's residence and office and hotel -- hotel room. And that high bar means that there was probable cause. And this was not something that was conducted by Mueller, but indeed by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan who, by the way, is a Trump appointee.
BERMAN: Talking about Geoffrey Berman, no relation to me, who was actually appointed by the attorney general on a temporary basis, but is someone who maxed out in donations to the president, and is certainly a Republican here.
We just heard from Chuck Grassley, the chairman of Senate Judiciary, a Republican, moments ago who said it would be political suicide for the president to fire Robert Mueller, yet Republican senator leadership does not support any legislation that would protect the special counsel. What do you make of that?
BALDWIN: Well, certainly I do support such legislation, but I would argue that the rules are in place right now in order to -- first of all, the president himself cannot make that decision. It would have to be, you know -- it would have to be the deputy attorney general. And if he were to fire him, it falls under --
BALDWIN: -- the solicitor general's jurisdiction. And so certainly if the president is moving in that direction, I do believe we will be looking at some sort of constitutional crisis which I think we desperately want to avoid and certainly the president can avoid getting us into that sort of situation.
BERMAN: Let me ask you about Facebook now. You're just a few hours away from hearing from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. What do you feel like you need to hear from him today?
BALDWIN: You know, I -- first of all, I think we need to feel like Americans and Wisconsinites personal information is secure. Promises have been made. And we find years after the fact that people's privacy, their private information has been shared without their knowledge. And Facebook can't even answer to what it was used for, et cetera.
You know, I view this in very similar ways than I do the Equifax breach of nearly half of all Americans personal identifying information or Uber breaches and there are several others that have been announced just in recent days, that in the digital age consumers need to know who has access to their data, and needs to be notified if that access is breached.
In this case, we will not have Cambridge Analytica represented at the hearing today, and if -- if we're going to hear from Mark Zuckerberg that he doesn't know what they did with it, he doesn't know if they deleted the information as they said or as Facebook asked, that leaves us with a whole lot of additional questions to ask.
The other thing I want to hear from him is really an answer to some of the things we found in Wisconsin. Whether it was ads placed on Facebook, potentially from foreign countries, and what is going to be put in place in time for the midterm elections to make sure that we have gotten to the bottom of this and taken corrective actions.
BERMAN: Our Laurie Segall has done a lot of reporting on Facebook. And she reports that Zuckerberg is going to tell you that it's not Facebook's business model. He wants to clear up a misconception. It's not Facebook's business model he says to sell personal data.
[10:45:03] Do you feel like that might be parsing some of the language here?
BALDWIN: Well, I think we have a lot of questions along those the lines to hear precisely, you know, whether it's their business model, the question is, have they done it? And what were the consequences of that and how will they make sure that they're not going to do it again?
BERMAN: Wisconsin a key, you know, state in the Midwest, agriculture industry, we learned this morning that President Xi of China has suggested he might lower tariffs, he wants to lower tariffs for auto imports. This is something that President Trump has called for.
Do you believe that some of the president's pressure on tariffs has led to this reaction from China?
BALDWIN: Well, first of all, there have to be conversations going on between the U.S. and China. Certainly some of our agricultural products that Wisconsin is -- that Wisconsin produces have been under threat of increased tariffs. And, you know, we do know that China cheats in terms of a number of different ways. One is the theft of intellectual property, that's what some of these tariffs are focused on.
But we also know that many of their industrial enterprises are state subsidized, state-owned in some cases. I know that if Wisconsin farmers and Wisconsin workers have a level playing field, that they will compete and win. But I do think it's appropriate that we get that level playing field and go after China's cheating.
BERMAN: Senator Tammy Baldwin, thank you very much for being with us. We will all watch that hearing that you'll be part of today with Mark Zuckerberg. A very important moment. We appreciate it, Senator.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. The president set to make some major decisions on Syria and we're just learning a few moments ago that his Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert resigned at the White House. What was behind this resignation. What motivated him? Up next, we're going to hear from somebody who held the same position. Stay with us.
[10:51:33] BERMAN: We do have breaking news to report. One of the president's closest aides has resigned. Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, we learned just moments ago, has submitted his resignation. Joining me now by phone, someone who held that same job, Homeland
Security adviser under President Obama, CNN National Security Analyst, Lisa Monaco.
Lisa, what do you make of this decision? We saw Tom Bossert out on the Sunday shows just two days ago. And today he resigns.
LISA MONACO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, good morning, John. Good to be with you. Look, I'm actually out on the West Coast right now, and folks are literally waking up to this news. I'm at a conference with a number of former government officials and cyber security officials. And it's quite stunning, I think, to get this news.
As you point out, Tom Bossert has been out in recent days and indeed through much of his time thus far in the White House being a fairly -- a prominent and outspoken voice for the administration's policies, which is exactly what you do as the Homeland Security adviser.
Folks would understand this is a role that was created after 9/11. It is designed to be the president's chief adviser on counterterrorism issues, on homeland security, cybersecurity issues. And it is somebody who is by design supposed to have direct and immediate access and thereby the confidence of the president. So it's quite surprising. All indications were that he had that confidence. It's quite surprising to see this move.
BERMAN: Direct and immediate access to the president. Something that presumably Tom Bossert had. Now there is some speculation over the last several minutes, people trying to figure out, well, what changed since Sunday? Well, Monday was John Bolton's first day on the job as the National Security adviser. As opposed to Homeland Security adviser.
Now every White House is different. But traditionally speaking what's the relationship between the National Security adviser and the Homeland Security adviser?
MONACO: So over time that relationship has evolved and in this administration as in the last administration the Homeland Security adviser as I mentioned has direct and immediate access and is the chief adviser to the president on Homeland Security and counterterrorism issues.
That role, Tom Bossert's role, has been historically the deputy national security adviser. So there's a bit of a dual hat relationship there and organizationally that person reports through the National Security adviser. So as you point out, the new fact here is that John Bolton came in as the National Security adviser on Monday, so I think it's fair to speculate that this is the new team, maybe John Bolton wanting to have his new team in there.
But, again, I would stress what's so important about this Homeland Security adviser is having somebody who is directly reporting to the president, so this may be an indication that Bolton is looking to kind of really change that role and have his team and his team member be in that role.
BERMAN: And very quickly, Bossert is just the latest departure from inside the White House, Hope Hicks, you know, we've seen Rob Porter, so many changes at the White House and also the administration as we look at this picture right there. How does that change the working environment, do you suspect?
MONACO: Well, it's concerning, right? Because the Homeland Security adviser is somebody who is supposed to be spending 24/7 of their day and their job focused on Homeland Security threats and so to the extent this reflects just more upheaval and chaos in the West Wing.
[10:55:04] That's not great for having that focus on the Homeland Security --
MONACO: -- and cybersecurity and terrorism threats.
BERMAN: Lisa Monaco, waking up early for us with this breaking news from the West Coast.
Lisa, we really appreciate it.
We'll be right back.
MONACO: Good to --
BERMAN: A little breaking market news, the Dow surging up more than 460 points. This comes after China's president Xi Jinping said he is willing to cut auto tariffs and perhaps further open China's markets to global trade. This came after the president, President Trump, threatened to slap up to $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. So the market reacting to that and I think also frankly the return of Kate Bolduan. "AT THIS HOUR" begins now.