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Trump Warns Russia; Lawmakers Warn over Mueller Firing; Ryan Not Running for Re-Election. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired April 11, 2018 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:32:30] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We do have breaking news this morning.

President Trump sending a stark warning to Russia in a tweet. It says, 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. You shouldn't be partner with a gas killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it.

Russia is now accusing the U.S. of trying to destroy evidence of the chemical attack in Syria with those missiles. And Syria says the U.S. is using, quote, fabrications and lies to strike its country.

So let's bring in Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Good morning, senator.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: What's your reaction to the language that the president is using when he says, get ready, Russia, because the missiles will be coming, nice and new and smart.

BLUMENTHAL: The troubling irony, Alisyn, is that the president's doing exactly what he criticized other presidents for doing, giving our adversaries a warning about military action. And that's unnecessary and unwise. But there has to be a military response. It should be part of a total strategy which seems to be completely lacking here and it should involve our allies and our partners in the region.

So this apparent, impulsive, one-off strike is lacking in strategy and I think has to be supplemented by a real commitment to the region and an outreach diplomatically to other countries there to join us in rebuilding Syria.

CAMEROTA: Look, I think it's just hard to know for the public whether this is a raising of the stakes. Is this kind of heated rhetoric, has something changed? Does that mean that we're sending more missiles? Does it mean that it's happening right now? Or, as your colleague Senator Ron Johnson told us earlier this morning when he was on, maybe this is just a sort of typical Trump negotiating tactic. Maybe its bluster.

BLUMENTHAL: The problem here is that we simply have no idea. There are more unknowns, more unanswered questions than there are facts. And that is unsettling to our allies and to the country's that depend on us, including Israel. So the troubling factor here is that this strike, if it comes, is lacking in an overall strategy that is made known, articulated clearly and part of a longer term plan for replacing Assad, a war criminal, for engaging Russia in some rebuilding effort, which has to stabilize the region, and we need a longer term outlook. The unknowns are as troubling as the facts we know.

[08:35:18] CAMEROTA: Whatever happens next, militarily speaking, does Congress need to grant the authority? Even if it's just launching another 57 or so tomahawk missiles at an airfield?

BLUMENTHAL: Great question. Perhaps not for launching those tomahawk missiles, but for continued war in the region, if that's what we're going to be doing. Congress should be called on to renew the authorization for military force. I've long advocated that Congress must be engaged in giving its explicit approval. And the American people --

CAMEROTA: But what are the parameters of that? Just so I'm clear. So a one-time missile strike, no. You're OK handing off that authority to the president. And then what does a longer term military plan mean to you? Meaning, if it's a three day campaign? If it's a week long campaign? What are those parameters?

BLUMENTHAL: First, as to the military strike, let's be very blunt. Bashar al Assad is a war criminal who is murderously and brutally killing his own people through the use of chemical weapons that are barred by international law.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: They're also barred by our agreement with the Russians. So this kind of action, an emergency response to brutality, unspeakable cruelty that has to be stopped in humanitarian terms is a different kind of military action from a longer term kind of engagement. And we've been engaged for some time and that's why I've advocated for some time that Congress must be involved. The American people need to be involved. The president owes it to them and he owes it to the military --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: To gain American approval.

CAMEROTA: And a longer term strategy that you're talking about, you would support?

BLUMENTHAL: I would support continued engagement. We have fought successfully against ISIS. I supported that effort. I thought we should have Congress approve the continued military engagement for the sake of the military as well as our constitutional process.

CAMEROTA: Meaning, even -- even if it's, what? I mean just explain what that looks like. So if we're going to go into Syria, this means our soldiers on the ground in Syria?

BLUMENTHAL: We are in Syria, Alisyn. We are engaged right now in Syria. We have some 2,000 or more troops there. The president has said, let's withdraw them, and then he has apparently reversed himself as to our continued presence there. It is this inconsistency that needs to be addressed by Congress and by the American people, as well as the president.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about what's happening with Robert Mueller and the investigation. As you know, the president is agitated about his long time attorney Michael Cohen's home and office having been searched by the FBI.

You have a bill to protect Robert Mueller because the president seems to be in the mood to fire someone, but we don't know who, but the reporting suggests that he's considering firing someone. So, is your bill to protect Mueller with legislation getting any traction on the Republican side?

BLUMENTHAL: It is gaining traction and that is a very important timely question because my Republican colleagues are increasingly alarmed by the tirades and rants, the apparent inner turmoil and upheaval the president has exhibited, and they are increasingly fearful about the president possibly firing Robert Mueller. It would trigger a constitutional firestorm. Preventing it has to be a priority.

In the next few days, possibly week, I think you will see strong and positive movement on the Judiciary Committee, where I sit, a new bill, which I will support, that combines the measures that have been introduced so far and I believe very strongly offers a prospect of deterring the president from very unwise and impulsive rash moves that could do grave damage to this presidency.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Can you -- can you just quickly tell us which Republicans you think will support it?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, right now we have Senator Tillis (ph) and Senator Graham. I'm hoping for others as well. I've been engaged as recently as minutes ago in private conversations with a number of my colleagues. And I'm hopeful that we can move forward with them.

CAMEROTA: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you. Always nice to have you on NEW DAY. Thanks so much for being here.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: A lot more news when we come back. NEW DAY will return momentarily.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:43:47] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. CAMEROTA: OK. In a morning full of breaking news, we actually have

some more right now.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has reportedly told confidants that he will not run in re-election in November. The Republican from Wisconsin is expected to make that announcement very soon.

Our own political director, David Chalian, has some information on this and he -- actually, hold -- stand by, David Chalian, because we have our reporter, Phil Mattingly, from Capitol Hill, on the phone with us right now.

Phil, what's your reporting?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, as you just said, Alisyn, Speaker Paul Ryan will not seek re-election. He's expected to tell his conference, the Republican conference, at a 9:00 a.m. closed door conference meeting this morning. The expectation is he will go into this and explain his reasons why at that conference meeting.

I'll say, to some degree, this is a bit of a surprise, not that he was going to leave Congress -- it has long been assumed, at least for the last couple of months, that Speaker Paul Ryan probably wouldn't be in the 116th Congress -- but the expectation was that he would likely stick around and run for re-election for a couple of reasons. Most notably, he is by far and away the biggest and best fundraiser in a party. And this is a party that in a tough midterm cycle desperately needs the money. Just, I think, over the course of this cycle, Alisyn, he's already transferred $40 million over to the NRCC, the Republican campaign arm. So he's extremely valuable in this regard and there's been some concern that if he leaves, that that fundraising would drop.

[08:45:13] The other issue is whether or not this sets up some type of leadership battle, a very contentious leadership battle, in the Republican conference again in the middle of a difficult midterm year.

However, what's obviously the most important thing here is, Speaker Paul Ryan made the decision that he is going to leave Congress. Why? This has been kind of assumed that at some point it would happen over the last couple of months. There's a couple of reasons. First and foremost, when it comes to things that Speaker Paul Ryan wanted to achieve, obviously the tax overhaul that they passed in December of 2017 was probably the one thing he came -- cared about and focused on more than anything else throughout his lengthy career, not just as a congressman but also as a congressional aide.

And I think on top of all of that, he's got a young family. He's very close to his family. I think the difficulties of dealing with a rather rancorous Republican conference at times, as well with the travel schedule and the fundraising schedule, I've been told from several people has worn on him to a degree.

That said, it will be very interesting when he speaks and I'm sure we'll be carrying this live at 10:00 a.m. what he has to say about this and his explanation itself. And I think perhaps also really important is what kind of domino does this set off going forward.

But the major headline, Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in the House, one of the most powerful Republicans in the entire country, Alisyn, he won't be seeking re-election in November.

CAMEROTA: Phil, thank you very much for sharing all of your reporting and that -- and that breaking news with us.

But in terms of the back story, as you were just giving us a little context, is there a Trump factor? Have things gotten harder for him with President Trump in office?

MATTINGLY: You know, the interesting element is, he and the president, you know, contrary to, I think, probably some popular belief, actually have a pretty good relationship. They speaking very regularly on the phone. The president's known to call the speaker very early in the morning and often very late at night as well.

I think it's more of you -- perhaps the Republican Party that Paul Ryan was the vice presidential candidate of, the Republican Party that Paul Ryan came up trying to drive from an ideas perspective -- you know, take one primary example. Speaker Paul Ryan has been talking about budgets and entitlements for as long as he's been in Washington. President Trump does not believe in cutting entitlement programs. So they diverge on key economic issues. I think there's been -- clearly the speaker's been uncomfortable with some of the foreign policy things that the president has done. And I think, frankly, if you just go to any press conference with the speaker, and he has to say for the 150th time, no, I didn't read that tweet this morning and I'm not going to comment on it, whether or not he'll say it publicly, that, obviously has the possibility of wearing someone down.

Again, he has a good relationship with the president. I think people on both sides of the relationship, his office and his team and the president's team would tell you that. But, to your point, Alisyn, clearly the Republican Party has, over the course of the last two and a half, three, maybe four years moved in a different direction from the type of Republican Party that Speaker Ryan was trying to be the vice president of back in 2012. And does that have an impact? I think to some degree. But I also think it's worth noting that he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish on taxes. I think he feels -- or he's said that he feels like they've moved things in a direction that he wanted to move things. And, at this point in time, especially given the family considerations, feels like he's done what he came to do to some degree.

CAMEROTA: All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you very much for all of the breaking news. Get back at it. Tell us when you have any more scoop on what Paul Ryan is going to say to his colleagues this morning. Thank you.

Let's bring in our political director, David Chalian, now for more context.

David, surprising or no? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: So as Phil was saying, what's

not surprising is that Paul Ryan's not going to be serving in the next Congress. That -- that was largely believed to be the likely scenario. What is surprising is that he's not going to run for re-election this year and is -- you know, and is basically standing down on that now. The filing deadline in Wisconsin was June 1st, so everyone sort of had that circled on their calendar, Alisyn, to see if the speaker would make an announcement.

And in one of the things that we have noted in the last, I would say, three months, Paul Ryan, on multiple occasions, had been asked in interviews if he's running for re-election and he had refused to say. It's very odd that the speaker of the House refused to just simply say, of course I'm running for re-election. That meant it was an open question, which got a lot of concern among Republicans because of the point that Phil made about fundraising. This is so key.

I think it is safe to say the Democratic chances of winning the House probably improved a bit this morning with this news because Paul Ryan's fundraising prowess in the party, now that he won't be there going forward into the next Congress, probably diminishes a bit. He has been a huge fundraising power inside the Republican Party.

And then, of course, you're dealing with a Republican Party who is facing -- which is facing its toughest election season in a decade plus probably. Just in terms of the overall political environment. And the leader of that effort is now saying, I'm quitting. I'm not going to stand for re-election in November.

[08:50:02] I also want to note one other thing, Alisyn, about this very micro-note in terms of the context of Paul Ryan. His district, the first -- the first district of Wisconsin, the first congressional district there outside of Milwaukee, is a whole heck of a lot more competitive of a district than say that Pennsylvania 18th congressional district we just saw where a Democrat won in the special election even though Donald Trump had won it by 20 points. This kind of district is exactly the kind of districts, heavy suburbs, that Democrats are playing for and his opponent there has been raising a ton of cash. So this now becomes a very competitive race in that overall battle for Democratic control of Congress (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: I've got five seconds left. Who's the next speaker?

CHALIAN: It's going to be a battle between maybe Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise. But Kevin McCarthy, right now, is the number two. I think he probably enters this with some edge in that battle.

CAMEROTA: All right, David Chalian, thank you for the context on our just continuing bonanza of breaking news this morning. Thank you very much. Talk to you soon.

CHALIAN: Sure.

CAMEROTA: All right, after what a show, "The Good Stuff" is next. Stick around. It's a good one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:55:00] CAMEROTA: All right, time now for "The Good Stuff."

A bus driver in Utah helps make a big difference in a student's life. When Isabella's mom died two years ago, the 11-year-old did not know how to style her own hair before school every morning. And that's when her bus driver, Tracy Dean (ph), stepped in to help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRACY DEAN: Seven years ago I found out I had breast cancer and that's one of the things that went through my head is, who's going to take care of my little one. Not that my husband couldn't do it, but that's what mom's do, they do their kids' hair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Isabella is grateful for the help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISABELLA: It makes me feel like she's a (INAUDIBLE) to me and it makes me really excited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: That's so beautiful.

All right, so we have had a morning of breaking news that will continue with CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman after this quick break. See you tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:00:12] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.