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Putin May Bear Responsibility; Trump Vows Forceful Response; Trump Slams FBI Raid. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired April 10, 2018 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:30:41] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says the suspected deadly chemical attack in Syria will be met forcefully, vowing a U.S. response to the tragedy could come at any moment, and adding, nothing is off the table.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Damascus, Syria, near where this deadly bombing is suspected.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, we're only a couple of miles from where that suspected bombing took place over the weekend. And I think, Chris, it's slowly starting to sink in with the Syrian leadership that the president is deadly serious about possibly using force here in this country. You hear a lot more about that here on state media. And this morning we also saw a very large Syrian military convoy go past the area where we're at. Now, whether or not they're moving those troops around to get them potentially out of the line of fire, or whether those are other troop movements, isn't clear. But you certainly see that there is a degree of nervousness here among the Syrian leadership after those very strong remarks by President Trump yesterday.
Let's remind our viewers of exactly what he said. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours. We are very concerned when a thing like that can happen, this is about humanity.
QUESTION: Does Putin bear responsibility for that?
TRUMP: He may. Yes, he may. And, if he does, it's going to be very tough. Very tough.
QUESTION: He'll pay a price if --
TRUMP: Everybody's going to pay a price. He will. Everybody will.
(END VIDEO CLIP) PLEITGEN: The Russians, who, of course, are the principle backers of the Assad government are calling the president's remarks and any sort of talk about possible use of force here in Syria unconstructive. It's interesting because they are actually now a de facto in control of the area where that happened and they have said they would be willing to let international investigative teams on the ground to see for themselves what exactly happened and try to see whether or not chemical weapons were used. We'll wait to see whether or not they actually follow through on that promise, Alisyn.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Fred, thank you very much for being on the ground in Damascus for us with all of that reporting.
So what should President Trump do about that attack in Syria? We will ask the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, next.
[06:36:54] CAMEROTA: President Trump pledging a forceful response to Syria's attack on civilians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're making a decision as to what we do with respect to the horrible attack that was made near Damascus. And it will be met, and it will be met forcefully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Here with reaction is Ambassador Robert Ford. He was the U.S. ambassador to Syria from 2010 through 2014.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for being here.
You know this Syrian crisis all too well.
What do you think the White House should do now?
AMBASSADOR ROBERT FORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: We have been watching President Assad's government use chemical weapons repeatedly, regularly, since 2013. And the only way to deter him from using them again and again is to forcefully strike him so that he pays a military cost.
He uses chemical weapons because of his manpower shortage. He has a military incentive to use chemical weapons. We have to make him pay a military price in order to compel him to think twice or three times before using chemical weapons again.
CAMEROTA: And what does that military price look like?
FORD: A year ago the Trump administration ordered a strike against a Syrian air base, and they destroyed some Syrian air force jets as well. It was good. I supported it at the time. I still think it was the right thing to do. The problem was that there was no follow-up. There were subsequent reports some months later Assad was deterred for a few months. Then he started testing our resolve again and the Trump administration didn't respond at that time.
After an initial strike that we would do in the near future, when Assad again tests our resolve, we will again have to strike him so that he learns American resolve is quite firm. Your correspondent in Damascus just reported that Assad and his government seem a little surprised that the Americans are reacting this time. And that's precisely the problem. There isn't deterrence. So we will need a series of strikes as he uses chemical weapons to get him to understand we're not kidding.
CAMEROTA: So just to be clear, last year around this time President Trump sent, as you know, those tomahawk missiles and destroyed, as you said, that runway at the air base. So this time, what, it has to be ratcheted up, destroy the entire airport? I mean does it have to keep sending a larger message this time?
FORD: Well, I don't want to second guess the military planners. I think the price that they need to extract from Assad now needs to be significant, maybe destroy some more of his air force jets. The Syrian air force, after this many years of war, is not that big. But there needs to be a price to pay. It's just as important to follow up so that when he tests us again in a month or two or three --
[06:40:08] FORD: We again strike him so that he understands each time he tries this, there will be a military cost to pay.
FORD: That's how we establish deterrence.
CAMEROTA: Is there any value in trying to get rid of Assad?
FORD: No. I think there are two problems with that. Number one, it probably will cross a Russian red line and could put us into a situation where we are directly confronting the Russians. The message now to the Russians has to be, we're not trying to overthrow Assad. We're not trying regime change. We're trying to stop the use of chemical weapons.
The second problem is, very frankly, I would be surprised if American intelligence really knows sure with certainty where Assad is.
CAMEROTA: Because so much conversation, particularly from President Trump, centers around, well, President Obama should have fixed this, if President Obama had only not let Assad cross his red line, if only he'd acted. You were there at that time. It's more complicated than obviously President Trump sometimes makes it sound.
So was that the beginning of all of this cascading mistakes? I mean, was it -- do you draw the beginning of this problem with Assad back to President Obama not enforcing that red line?
FORD: At the time the State Department, we wanted a strike in the internal deliberations of the Obama administration. Secretary Kerry and I and others urged the president to conduct the military strikes. We actually went to Congress and tried to get the Congress to go along with it.
I have to say, very frankly, the House of Representatives, dominated by the Republican Party, was very reluctant to vote to support a strike. And although the senate foreign relations Committee voted in favor, it looked like it was going to be difficult with the full body of the Senate. I think that history is more complicated than just Barack Obama by himself.
The more important thing now is, the president needs to explain to the American public, number one, why is deterring chemical weapons use important for American national security beyond just Syria. And, number two, that establishing deterrence will probably take a series of strikes over the coming weeks and months in order to get Assad to understand we really mean business this time.
CAMEROTA: Ambassador Robert Ford, thank you very much for your message, your experience. Really helpful to get that context.
FORD: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right, another big story to watch. FaceBook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg is just hours away from being grilled on Capitol Hill because of the data mining scandal that exposed the private information of millions of you. The details, next.
[06:47:03] CAMEROTA: Chinese President Xi Jinping says China will lower tariffs on vehicle imports as part of an effort to open up China's economy. But Chinese state media says those measures will only apply to trade partners and not countries that, quote, wage trade wars, end quote. It is unclear if that commentary reflects official Chinese government plans or is just talk.
CUOMO: North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un breaking his silence on upcoming talks with President Trump. North Korean state media reporting on the possible direct talks with the U.S. and discuss the relations between both nations. Kim's historic face-to-face with South Korean President Moon Jae-in is set to happen just later this month. The North Korean dictator's meeting with President Trump could happen as early as next month.
CAMEROTA: FaceBook CEO Mark Zuckerberg taking his apology tour to Capitol Hill today. According to prepare remarks, the head of the social media giant is set to acknowledge that his company did not do enough, allowing the data of some 87 million users to fall into outside hands, including the data mining group Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg is said to have a plan to prevent this from happening again and prepared for his two days of grilling by meeting privately with lawmakers.
CAMEROTA: All right, so President Trump is clearly outraged over the FBI searching his personal lawyer's office and other environs. What will he do? We have never seen the president as aware that he is vulnerable in this investigation as he is right now. Maggie Haberman, inside scoop, next.
[06:52:42] CAMEROTA: President Trump raging after the FBI raided the office and hotel room of his personal lawyer Michael Cohen. The president calling it, quote, disgraceful, and calling the Mueller probe an attack on our country.
Let's bring in CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She knows what's going on behind the scenes.
Maggie, I'm glad to have you here to share some of your reporting with us.
First, big picture, can you tell us who Michael Cohen is to the president beyond his personal lawyer? They go back a long way.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They go back -- they go back over a decade. What Michael Cohen is, and we've all written about this, we've talked about it, he's extremely loyal to the president. What that means is, he has been the person who the president relied on in house, basically not just to solve problems, not just to clamp down on real and perceived threats, but to keep secrets. He knows a lot of different things. He knows where the bodies are buried. He knows what the president has been involved in. And he has been reliable at not talking about that kind of thing. The fact that he is now being targeted personally is a huge personal red flag for the president.
CUOMO: And look, you know, you can check me on this, the idea of why the president is so upset. Well, because Cohen is his guy. Because they took privileged communications that almost certainly have to involve communications between the president and Cohen. All right, so that's fact.
But there's also feeling here, which is, my suggestion is, we have never seen the president as aware as he is right now that he is a focus of this investigation. That there is jeopardy. And in his own mind, that means my lawyers, they don't know what they're talking about.
CUOMO: There's people around me who say they have my back, they don't. These people they told me to put in positions of power --
CUOMO: Are going against me.
HABERMAN: Correct. What you just said I think is the key that folks are missing is, this will go back to him as, I told you all, you couldn't trust these people. There was no point in talking to them. He and Cohen are convinced that this all begins with Mueller. Now, Cohen's lawyer has said this began in part or relies in part on a referral from Mueller. But not in full. And this is the southern district of New York. This is not Mueller's team. Mueller did that intentionally. This is several people removed. Several things had to happen for this search warrant to be put into place and criteria had to be met. But all that Cohen and Trump see is a hidden hand of Mueller, and that is going to impact how the president behaves.
Look, we have seen him walk back from this ledge repeatedly. He has been critical of the investigation before. Never as critical as he was yesterday. Never as publicly as he was yesterday. I was amazed that that pool spray still took place, where the cameras came in. In the past, I think you would have seen Hope Hicks, the departed communications director, try pretty hard to stop that and to keep them from coming in because she knew what he would say.
[06:55:20] What he does from that remains to be seen. Again, we know he has a habit of trying to see how far he can push things. This is a direct threat to him, to your point. And there is nothing he likes less than that.
CAMEROTA: As those of us who have gotten nice handwritten notes from the president from time -- before he was president --
HABERMAN: Playing fast and loose with the word nice.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, nice handwritten notes and sometimes not so nice tweets --
HABERMAN: Sometimes on the best stationary, like a ripped out piece of newspaper, yes.
CAMEROTA: All of that. My point is, he doesn't e-mail.
CAMEROTA: He does not e-mail. He does not use e-mail.
CAMEROTA: So what could these communications between he and Michael Cohen be?
HABERMAN: I mean it could be notes that Michael Cohen has written down. It could be something that Rona Graph (ph), the president's long-time assistant, and who is sort of chief among the number of secretaries who sat outside the president's office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower had sent Cohen.
HABERMAN: We don't know -- we really don't know the extent of what was grabbed in terms of these communications. And not all communications between a lawyer and a client are privileged, especially as -- and you check me on this, but my understanding is, if there is evidence of a crime or -- that is going to be committed or has been committed, those are not privileged at all.
CUOMO: It involves the counsel and the client.
HABERMAN: And -- that's right, and the client.
CUOMO: So they're going to have a segregation team. They're going to go through everything.
CUOMO: But that's the concern. The mode of communication is one thing. The extent and the duration of the communications, what would have me spooked, which is, this is my lawyer. Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky --
CUOMO: Has to be rattling around in the president's head because he's saying, I've seen this happen before --
HABERMAN: That's right.
CUOMO: Where they started in one place. Now they never had a trove like this in -- with Clinton. They also didn't need it because what he had done was much more obvious.
However, now there's another element, which is, how he found out.
CUOMO: Him being somewhat surprised by this. Him not being able to help Cohen or himself on this. What do we know about that aspect?
HABERMAN: We know that he found out -- my understanding -- and, again, all of this always gets tweaked later on. But from what we know now, he found out after the raid had ended. But he found out sooner than we did at "The Times" that this -- that this had gone on.
He was incredibly upset. He was very angry. He had been -- spent most of yesterday popping off about it to various advisers.
What we saw on camera from the president in terms of a reaction was a fraction of what he was saying privately. And he has been venting about, you know, the men who he believes as involved in sort of the larger picture of this, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general who recused himself from the Russia probe, which is the main person who Trump blames for all of this. He has vented about both of them repeatedly yesterday. He's been venting about Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, who he doesn't believe has done enough to protect him or to go after Hillary Clinton. These were the targets of his anger.
And, again, it was mostly fuming. It was most -- I hate that word because we use it all the time about him, but it really was essentially venting. But it startled a lot of people at the White House. I -- for the first time I had two people say to me, they really weren't sure what he is going to do on this one. In the past they have -- they have all said, I don't think he's going to fire Sessions, I don't think he's going to go after Rosenstein, I don't think he's going to try to go after Mueller.
And, by the way, we should really note here because I don't -- I think that this gets lost repeatedly. It's not like he can pick up a phone and fire Mueller. There -- he has to order Rod Rosenstein to do it. And most people believe Rosenstein will leave and resign instead of doing that. So then we set up a Saturday night massacre type of situation where you're trying to find someone to do it. That creates a huge problem for the president. That is, I think, more in play now than people have believed it was before.
CAMEROTA: And we have many more questions for you. Stick around, if you would, Maggie.
We want to thank our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "TALK" Is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.
CUOMO: All right, good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY.
President Trump lashing out after the FBI searches the office and New York City hotel room of President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen. CNN has learned the feds were looking for bank records, communications, anything between the president and Mr. Cohen. Who knows what kinds of communications got caught up in that. Some certainly related to Stormy Daniels. "The Washington Post" reports that Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
CAMEROTA: The president delivering a strong and lengthy response to the FBI raids in a room filled with military leaders gathered to discuss a response to the attack in Syria. Here's part of what the president said.
[06:59:54] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys. A good man. And it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt. I've been saying it for a long time. I've wanted to keep it down.