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President Trump Tells Russia to Get Ready for Missile Strikes in Syria; Speaker Ryan Won't Seek Re-Election; Dow Set To Drop After Trump Taunts Russia. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired April 11, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[09:00:17] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. John Berman here. Major breaking news this morning on two fronts, in national security and politics.
As you've been hearing a huge transfer of power in Congress. Sources tell CNN that House Speaker Paul Ryan says he will not run for reelection. He's expected to make the official announcement behind closed doors any minute then we expect to hear from him at about 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time on camera shortly after that so stay tuned. We're getting new details about how and why he made this decision and about who exactly he has been telling.
The other breaking news, dateline calm and calculated, where the president of the United States just announced a missile strike and he did it on Twitter. This is the breaking news and official statement from President Trump. "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready, Russia, because they will be coming. Nice and new and smart." Pay attention to those words. They're important. "You shouldn't be partners with a gas killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it."
So leave aside for the moment that this seems to break the president's long-standing claim that he would never telegraph military action, a larger consequence the fact that the president also noted that the U.S. relationship with Russia is worse than it had ever been and he did that all within a few minutes of bragging about stability within the White House.
This is a major escalation and rhetoric with international security consequences. We're on it from all angles starting with Abby Phillip at the White House -- Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, John. President Trump this morning really escalating the dispute for now the war of words with Russia on Twitter. Both telegraphing that he is going to do some kind of missile strike in Syria, but also warning Russia against an arms race.
Here's what he tweeted in addition to that one that you just mentioned, "Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it's ever been and that includes the Cold War. There's no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy something that would be very easy to do and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?"
The president also just seconds ago sent another tweet about the Russia investigation accusing the bad blood with Russia -- sorry, accusing the Russian investigation for contributing to the bad blood with Russia. So clearly this is something that is on his mind this morning and the back and forth between the president and Russia has been going on for the last 24 hours now, but this is a president who just a few years ago actually warned against doing this exact thing, warned against telegraphing an attack on social media. He warned against doing this sort of thing in advance of potential military action.
In some ways it seems that Russia is getting exactly what they wanted out of this president which is a tit-for-tat on social media. The president's relationship with Russia in the last week has been different from what we've seen in the past. He's called out Putin by name. He's talking in more aggressive terms about Russia than he has in quite some time, and perhaps this is a turning point for him but it's unclear exactly what this is going to mean beyond the issue in Syria.
Is it going to extend also to how he responds to Russia when it comes to election meddling? It's really not clear. The president right now just taking it all out venting on social media and also warning Russia in no uncertain terms that an attack is coming.
BERMAN: Abby Phillip at the White House. Abby, stand by for a moment because there is more breaking news.
As you suggested, the president just seemed to tie the imminent military action in Syria and the consequences with Russia to the Russia meddling investigation. This is what he wrote. "Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused with the fake and corrupt Russia investigation headed up by all Democrat loyalists or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all, except Rosenstein who signed FISA and Comey letter. No collusion so they go crazy."
We're going to talk much more about what this might mean. This seems to be the first time he mentioned Rosenstein ever on Twitter. CNN has new reporting he's been musing about firing Rosenstein overnight. We'll get to that in a moment.
Back to the national security implications and what seems to be an imminent missile strike in Syria, something the president has called a nice and new and smart missile strike. What does that mean?
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is with us -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, good morning. Not only showing his military intentions which he said he'd never do, declaring war on Twitter, the missiles are coming, how does the president of the United States pull back from that? It seems he is committed and he knows exactly that the Russians are watching this very carefully.
As you pointed out a minute ago, look at the tweet, the use of the word, smart, U.S. smart weapons.
[09:05:03] The Russians know that the U.S., the UK and France, which all may be involved in this have precise weapons, precision guided weapons guided to their targets by satellite. These are smart weapons. The Russians know it but the president signaling this is very important because the Russians have already keyed in on it by him saying smart weapons, the Russia's know there's only so many directions that those weapons would be fired into Syria, the Mediterranean, from Turkey in the north, possibly even from the Persian Gulf, though that is a stretch because that requires a lot of refueling and overflight rights.
The key here is this, Russian air defenses in Syria. Over the last year, the Russians have built up air defenses. Those are the radars and the missiles in Syria that can be used to shoot down those smart weapons. Trump knows they have it there. The Russians know what's going on. So this is now not just a threat on Twitter, this is playing out the battlefield on Twitter before anything even starts. It's very dangerous business and it's basically driving the Pentagon nuts I think it's fair to say.
BERMAN: All right. Very important. Barbara Starr, thank you very much.
You heard us all talking about the fact that the promise -- the president promised he would never telegraph military action. I want to give you a sense of just what we're talking about here. Here's a brief reminder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable. We are totally predictable.
Why do they have to talk about it? Don't talk about it. Element of surprise. Why can't they win first and talk later?
Militarily, I don't like to say where I'm going and what I'm doing.
America's enemies must never know our plans. I will not say when we are going to attack.
We no longer tell our enemies our plans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: "We no longer tell our enemies our plans," though this is the president who just said the missiles will be coming and they will be nice, new and smart.
There has already been reaction from Russia. Nic Robertson live for us in Moscow right now.
Nic, what are you hearing?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, we're hearing from the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, she responded within minutes to President Trump's tweets, taken to Facebook with quite a lengthy statement and a huge allegation packed into this statement as well.
Let me read you what she says here. "The smart missile should fly towards the terrorists, not the legal government that has been fighting international terrorism for several years on its territory. By the way," she adds, "By the way, where's the OPCW?" That's the U.N.'s chemical watchdog -- chemical weapons watchdog body. "Where the OPCW inspectors warned that smart missiles -- were the OPCW warned that the smart missiles would destroy all evidence of chemical weapons used on the ground or is the whole idea to quickly cover up the traces of provocation through the smart missiles? So the international inspectors have nothing to look for as far as evidence."
What she means there and it's been Russia's implication all along that these -- that the chemical weapons, the alleged chemical weapons used was a U.S. and Syrian rebel fabrication so what she's saying is, these missile strikes would destroy the evidence of the fabricated fake chemical weapons attack.
So this is a huge allegation that she's making here and remaking. She goes beyond that. She responded even more, if you will, in a cynical terms to President Trump's next tweet about stopping the arms buildup. She says, "Yes, let's do that. Let's start with chemical weapons." One of us lead the whole international focus here, not just on Syria but in the chemical weapons used targeting that former Russian spy in Britain recently has been on Russia's use of chemical weapons. So the rhetoric here is really ratcheting up.
One thing I would add, however, is that President Putin's spokesman today shortly before President Trump's tweets said that we should sort of essentially pause, that we should try to de-escalate the situation, but as far as shooting down U.S. missiles was concerned when he was asked about that, he said, I don't want to get into any kind of speculation at this time.
BERMAN: All right. Nic Robertson for us in Moscow. Thank you very much.
Let's talk now with CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.
Admiral, there's a ton going on here. A lot of it is political smoke and fire here but let's talk about the military reality of what's happening. The president announced a missile strike. He did it on Twitter. He said the missiles will be coming nice, new and smart. What does that tell you?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, it tells me that they have certainly made their decision to actually conduct a series of strikes. I suspect this won't just be one. It may be a series over a course of time. So it tells me that they've already made that decision. The president's committed to that and they're moving forward. I don't think, John, that this is from a military perspective going to
change the heck of a whole lot about how the Pentagon plans in conjunction with our allies to conduct these strikes.
[09:10:08] Now what they'll do, and they will do this even without the president's tweet. They'll be constantly checking the intelligence that they have available to see what the Russians and Syrians are doing on the ground. Are they moving assets? Are they bunkering up? Are they doing anything that would change the targeting picture? But they would do that anyway.
They're certainly going to do it after this tweet. But I don't think tactically speaking it's going to change much in terms of whatever strike is coming.
BERMAN: Assuming that they're going to do a strike that is greater, harsher at a higher level than the one last year and that seems to be what they're suggesting, can you do that without directly impacting Russian forces, Iranian forces on the ground there, and perhaps causing an even bigger conflict?
KIRBY: Yes, sure. I think you can. I mean, I suspect and again I don't know that the targeting process has been probably deliberately arranged not to provoke unnecessarily Russia or Iranian forces, and probably focused strictly on Syrian targets.
Now the Russians and the Iranians can make that harder for us to do, right, by putting some of their forces there.
KIRBY: So yes, I think they can. It's really going to depend on how big they want to make this statement -- a bigger statement they want to make out of the strike and what they're exactly going to target. The only -- the big two unknowns that we have right now are timing. When are they going to do this and targets? How many and what are they going to be? And I do think that you can do it in a discreet fashion still. But it's really going to depend on how the Russians and Syrians behave in the wake of this tweet.
BERMAN: All right. There are a couple of issues with the president's statement today which he did on Twitter announcing military action on Twitter. I want to get to this larger point which is people have been saying when is President Trump going to be tough on Russia.
BERMAN: He's being pretty tough on Russia right here and we've seen it specific action before, yes?
KIRBY: Yes. There's no question about it. I mean, I thought it was very interesting that this tweet was so targeted at Russia and even not as much on Assad as you would think. That was pretty telling to me. And look, I mean, I'm glad to see that he is -- that he sees how much Russia has propped up Assad and how maligned they have been in Syria. But, John, the more I thought about this tweet, you know, coming here
this morning, the more angry I got because he's the commander-in- chief.
KIRBY: And I can't remember ever in my lifetime and certainly in my study of American history any commander-in-chief treating the potential use of armed force in this cavalier of fashion. It's really reprehensible that he would just tweet out something specific about a strike when lives are at stake, not just lives on the ground but American lives and probably allied lives because it's likely that there's going to be some manned aircraft involved in these strikes. There are serious as Barb says air defenses in and around Damascus that the Russians have fortified over the last year.
I mean, this is dangerous business. This is real stuff. It's war. And for a president to treat it like this really offends me deeply.
BERMAN: Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, thank you so much. Important words there. We appreciate your time this morning.
KIRBY: Thank you.
BERMAN: As we said, major breaking news in other fronts. Speaker Paul Ryan says he will not run for reelection. We will hear from the outgoing House speaker in just minutes.
Plus sources say President Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He just made an official statement about Rosenstein on Twitter. What does all this mean?
And first it was trade wars now it's the threat of real wars rattling the U.S. markets. The Dow set to plunge after the president announces a missile strike.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The major breaking news from Capitol Hill, a seismic shake-up in Congress, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan is telling his friends and colleagues he will not run for reelection. There will be a new House speaker one way or the other. Might not be a Republican, that's a whole different matter.
We're expecting to hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan very shortly. He will speak live on Capitol Hill and we will take that live when it happens.
In the meantime, Phil Mattingly joins us from Capitol Hill. I don't think it's a surprise, Phil, necessarily, but it's still a major moment.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the fact that Speaker Paul Ryan is not going to be serving in the 116th Congress is not a surprise. That has long been assumed to be the case. I think everybody has expected that he would leave at the end of this Congress, what's the surprise is that it's happening now.
I'll tell you why for a couple reasons. First and foremost, the expectation has long been that the speaker would hold on to the job and run for reelection for two primary reasons.
First and foremost, he is a fundraising giant inside the Republican Party raising tens of millions of dollars both for himself, for the NRCC, the Republican campaign arm but also for his super PAC that's very helpful in trying to defend Republicans who have a very, very complicated midterm election year facing them at this point in time.
The second is the idea that this will now likely throw the House Republican Conference, which John as you know quite well can be often a divisive place into a pretty nasty leadership battle where people don't understand or know yet necessarily who's going to take Speaker Ryan's place so long as Republicans remain in power.
So, those were the things that people expected Speaker Paul Ryan to try (inaudible) and therefore run for election. Why he decided to do this now? Here's what I've been told based on some individuals that spoke to the speaker this morning when he started making calls about this.
He cited two things on those calls, first and foremost, his family. He does have a young family and while I know this is the common refrain as to why people leave positions in Washington, this one's actually pretty true. He's stated this too close confidants, staff, and frankly to some of us over the course of his time as speaker.
That with three kids, very close to his wife with the fundraising schedule, with dealing with a rather rowdy conference, with the entire package that comes with being speaker, it's very complicated.
And I think on top of that, you had somebody who in his mind when it comes to policy, the major tax reform bill in 2017 was a major achievement and the reality is, when you look at the road map going ahead, whether or not Republicans are going to be in charge.
Whether or not he still wantS to oversee a Republican conference that can be difficult to say the least, the decision was now was the time and now is the time to let everybody know so everybody can plan -- John.
[09:20:09] BERMAN: All right. Phil Mattingly for us. Phil, thanks so much.
Let's try to dive deeper here, understand more. We're joined by CNN political director, David Chalian. You know, David, I've heard people say that Paul Ryan is the one thing holding the Republican caucus together. That might be an exaggeration, but he's certainly key to holding that caucus together.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean, he is. As Phil was saying, a challenging environment for Republicans that may be a bit of an understatement. I think this is the toughest electoral environment Republicans have faced, John, in probably a decade or 12 years or so.
And to have the leader of that effort say, hey, I'm not going to stand for reelection, whatever the reason, is obviously a big blow and the fundraising point is critical. He just transferred $40 million or touted his transfer of $40 million this cycle over to the NRCC, the campaign arm. Nobody is raising money like that for Republicans in House races the way that Paul Ryan is. So, that's a critical component of this.
And quite frankly, having a leadership battle inside the conference during an election year can be distracting for the party when they're focus needs to be on staving off a potential blue wave and making sure that Democrats don't win the 23 seats that they need to win for the majority.
BERMAN: This will not help them hold the House. I think that statement is obvious at this point. All right. David, that's the future. The now we're getting some new information, Paul Ryan says he wants to spend more time with his family.
He's got his tax cut but another reason that he is not running for reelection and this is due to reporting from sources close to the speaker, is he's had enough of dealing with President Trump.
And by that I think it means it's got to be exhausting for House Speaker Paul Ryan who every time the president does something controversial, tweets something controversial, he has got to answer for it one way or another. And it seems that he finally reached his limit on that.
CHALIAN: Right. I don't think it will surprise anyone that Paul Ryan is not a good fit inside Donald Trump's Republican Party. Paul Ryan made that clear in 2015 and 2016 throughout the entire course of the campaign.
He then sorts of swallowed all of that and played the role of loyal soldier, I guess, for the party and has been standing side by side with the president pretty much in lock step for the better part of the last 14, 15 months of the Trump administration, John.
I have no doubt that it is exhausting for him to constantly be, just an example, a couple weeks ago on the spending bill, right? Paul Ryan had to get down to the White House and explain the huge spending bill that Republicans were about to pass that at the very last moment the president was threatening that he wouldn't sign.
That kind of constant trying to keep the president on board with what Congress is doing and trying to align all their goals together, I'm sure that's exhausting. I doubt that that is the main reason, I don't doubt Jamie's reporting at all.
I'm sure it's something he is saying but I do think that as Phil was saying with the family considerations are obviously front and center for Paul Ryan, but this is not -- this is not a Republican Party that he envisioned he would be leading when he was Mitt Romney's vice- presidential running mate in 2012. There's no doubt about that. BERMAN: Several lifetimes ago. Let me ask about that. I think the only thing Paul Ryan ever wanted to be was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which he was for about 10 minutes before he was House speaker, but yes, he was the vice-presidential nominee. Do you think that we will see Paul Ryan again in an elected office? Will hear his name being floated as a presidential candidate at some point, I'm sure?
CHALIAN: Yes, probably in about 5 minutes from now, I would imagine. This is somebody who was a staffer on the Hill, as you know. This is somebody who has politics in his blood. He has now served at the upper echelons of political life in America. That doesn't tend to go away just because you leave a position.
So, there is no doubt that Paul Ryan's name will be around as a potential future prospect, I'm sure. That is not going to come in the immediate cycle and I certainly don't anticipate Paul Ryan's going to try to jump in the Republican primary to challenge the sitting president in 2020.
BERMAN: All right. David Chalian, please don't go far. The morning we're having we might need to speak to you again in a hurry. I appreciate it.
CHALIAN: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: All right. Get ready for a Dow drop. We're heading to the New York Stock Exchange where markets are set to sink this after the president announced a missile attack and he did it on Twitter. Stay with us.
BERMAN: We're just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street and the Dow is expected to open lower, perhaps much lower. The markets reacting from the announcement from President Trump that missiles are coming in Syria.
Our Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange. Alison, what are you hearing?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, it is that tweet from President Trump that caused futures on the Dow to drop at least 200 points when the market opens in about 20 seconds from now we're expecting a triple digit drop on the Dow.
Look, the market doesn't know how to handle possible military action in Syria. It doesn't know what the consequences are, so it's that uncertainty and that fear -- that is what investors will be trading on.
So, the Syria (inaudible) tensions are really setting the tone of the day. This is a market that's going to be moving on every news headline that crosses today and depending on what that headline is, you're going to see action immediately unfold here --