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U.S. Led Coalition Launches Missile Strikes Inside Syria; Russia Calls for Emergency U.N. Security Council Meeting After Airstrikes in Syria; President Trump's Attorney Michael Cohen Ordered to Appear in Court; NFL Player Discusses Charitable Work. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 14, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's continuing coverage will start at the top of the hour. So much has just transpired. Keep it right here. We've got all the events of Syria covered.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. John Berman here continuing CNN's special coverage. Mission accomplished, those are the historically loaded words from the president this morning to describe the airstrikes in Supreme Court overnight. There are larger questions about what exactly the long-term mission is, but in the short term just minutes ago Pentagon officials say the U.S. led air strikes achieved their goal which they say was to cripple Syria's ability to make chemical weapons.


LT. GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, DIRECTOR, JOINT CHIEFS: This strike aimed to deliver a clear message, unambiguous message to the Syria regime of their use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians is inexcusable and to deter any future use of chemical weapons. We selected these targets carefully to minimize the risk to innocent civilians. We're still conducting a more detailed damage assessment, but initial indications are that we accomplished our military objectives without material interference from Syria.


BERMAN: CNN's Barbara Starr was at that briefing. Barbara, it was interesting to hear the initial damage assessment as well as the array and U.S. and allied forces used.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, John, good morning. They laid out in considerable detail of the U.S., British, and French military forces from the Mediterranean to the west of Syria from the north Arabian, the Persian Gulf area, a combination of submarines, surface ships, bombers, more than 100 missiles fired into Syria at basically three chemical weapons research and development and storage site.

So the point that the Pentagon is making here is this is very different than what we saw a year ago when they bombed the airfield trying to keep aircraft from going into the air delivering chemical weapons again. This is not about the delivery system. This is about what they call the heart of Assad's chemical weapons program. And they believe they were successful in striking these sites, especially a major R&D site, research and development site, in Damascus. That takes you to the fundamental military calculation that was made here that last night they could get the missiles and aircraft passed Assad's air defenses, his radar and missiles could bring down U.S. missiles, U.S. pilots obviously staying well out of the way.

They did not see a response. The Russians are there as well. They did not see a military response from the Russians. The missiles that the Syrians fire came after the mission was over according to the U.S. So now at sunrise, we are left with the fundamental question, what was accomplished here? The president says mission accomplished. What the Pentagon is saying is they believe they dealt a massive blow in this mission to Assad's chemical weapon program. Nobody can guarantee that he can't start something up again. But they believe they have set it back considerably, that they have destroyed much of the equipment that is being used, the R&D facilities, and they think that destroys the heart of his ability to carry out another major chemical weapons attack.

Is it guaranteed? No general in the U.S. military is going to guarantee anything on this. But they do believe that they accomplished that mission last night. John.

BERMAN: And importantly, Barbara, just want to follow-up here, the Pentagon officials were pressed on what would it take for the U.S. to attack again or respond again, specifically if Bashar al-Assad uses chlorine, which is a different type of nerve-agent than sarin, would that prompt a response, and there was no direct answer.

STARR: That is absolutely right, and that's a very crucial point. Let's start with this. Of course over the last many years of the civil war in Syria, thousands and thousands of people have died at the hands of Assad's conventional bombing, if you will. He has bombed his cities for years now and the world of course has not stepped in. On chlorine, there has been dozens of chlorine attacks and no one has stepped in.

So this is a very awkward question for the U.S. government on a hold to make that decision. They have seen these attacks and done nothing. We believe that their justification is the potential use nerve-agent here. But they have not come out defensively and said nerve-agent. They believe it based on those videos we saw last week of the victims suffering. It was symptomatic with the deployment of nerve-agents, but nobody has publicly confirmed that yet, and that is a very crucial question. Is there a new red line for the U.S., John?

[10:05:11] BERMAN: That's exactly right. They are being careful not to say that. They are also being careful not to suggest they are doing anything to shake Bashar al-Assad overall power in that country. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much, terrific reporting overnight and into the morning.

This is what the president had to say about all of this, this morning. He wrote "A perfectly executed last night. Thank you to France and to the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine military. Could not have had a better result. Mission accomplished." You'll remember mission accomplished was that banner flying behind George W. Bush after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was later used against him, being critical of him to suggest or at least the implication that the overall mission was over when several thousand more people were to die in that country and including hundreds of U.S. troops.

CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins joins me now with the overall White House response. The president does seem pleased this morning, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: He certainly does, John. He didn't just tweet that. He went on a little bit further saying "So proud of our great military which will soon be after the spending of billions of fully approved dollars the finest that our country has ever had. There won't be anything or anyone everyone close."

The president certainly is taking a victory lap on Twitter today, John, but those two words "mission accomplished," of course as you said evoke those memories of President George W. Bush just in 2003 when he was signaling that the Iraq war was over when clearly it was far from it. So it raises the questions of what exactly the mission was here last night.

But Dana White, the Pentagon spokeswoman, was just asked about those two words that the president used in his tweet, and she says she believed the mission last night was accomplished and that they did achieve all of their objectives there. But it does raise the questions of what exactly the president's overall goal in Syria is going to be because, of course, last night, there was that allied air strike, but just last week a few days before that chemical attack, the president was saying he wants to withdraw those U.S. trips who are in Syria fighting ISIS. So now the question are going to be going forward what is the president's strategy for Syria overall, John?

BERMAN: Kaitlan, what does the president's day look like, who is he meeting with? Is Syria in the spotlight in the coming hours?

COLLINS: Right now, John, there is nothing on the president's schedule. That's typical of a Saturday here at the White House, but there is no marine standing in front of the West Wing, usually a signal that the president is in the Oval Office or walking around the West Wing. So it seems he is still in the residence. That's where it seems he sent these tweets from this morning. But funnily enough I should not as the president is taking a victory lap on Twitter after those airstrikes last night, they are giving spring garden tours and we can hear the marine band playing in the background.

BERMAN: It is a nice sound to hear on any morning. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you very much.

CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground in northern Syria. A very different part of the country, Nick, and a very different control aspect right there. But insofar as you can see, what has been the reaction?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: None really here. We have seen limited pockets of pro-regime supporters in the Syrian-Kurdish here. There are little pockets of support for them here, driving around, honking their horns and waving flags. They're sort of being forced sense of victory this morning because it was not anywhere near as bad as perhaps this sort of reports of how John Bolton was thinking it could necessarily has been.

And true indeed that it appears these, according to the Pentagon, U.S. missiles went straight through their targets. That will potentially lead some to think that it could be significantly broader in the scope of targets that were actually hit. And the Pentagon believed all the responses happen well after everything they launched had already hit their targets.

So a different picture we're certainly hearing from the Pentagon about what occurred last night from that which we heard from the Russians and Syrians who claimed that 70 out of the 100 missiles were in fact intercepted by Syrian air defenses. That seemed, frankly, unlikely when we heard it. If Russians had used their more sophisticated technology they could have perhaps got a small fraction, maybe. You might have thought missile defense is in itself a very complicated task.

But we're saying today a Syrian regime trying to act like they're taking all this in their strides, really. Bashar al-Assad on his Twitter feed, the Syrian video, submitting a video of him just sauntering into work with a briefcase, walking through a nicely polished marble hallway.

But it is interesting to hear the Pentagon go through precisely what they thought they had hit. They were clear they hit the heart of the chemical weapon program, but it was still possible it could exist in some form having been set back a number of years.

This is the key point here because they didn't want to go into precisely what substance was used. That is very important because Nikki Haley says the U.S., U.K., and France have quote, analyzed the situation, the substance, frankly, if you heard her at the state capital at the U.N. before the last meeting there.

[10:10:07] And also too we heard from U.S. officials suggesting that a sarin like substance may have been detected in samples the U.S. has seen along perhaps with a mixture of chlorine, too. It is important because it defines what has been the red line here. Is Syrian use what causes the military to response or is it the use of chlorine? That's used way more frequently, dozens of time, in the 50 or so the U.S. said that the regime has used chemical weapons at all during this war.

There is also the possibility too that these weapon sites, well known, frankly, over the years may have been particularly cleared out, potentially the issues or elements that the U.S. was hunting. We simply don't know. They seem confident. That's the nature of the game, frankly, when you are giving as assessment of what you did last night as a military. You're not going to stand up and say we missed a lot of things. But it does appear to be very stark differences here, and frankly the Pentagon has a better track record of truth in this part of the world than the Syrian regime and the Russians. The Syrian initially said they didn't have chemical weapons, then agreeing to give them up, and now apparently using them again. John?

BERMAN: A sentiment from inside Syria that they could have been much worse. They perhaps were expecting a much harsher response that was delivered. Nick Paton Walsh in northern Syria. Nick, great to have you.

I want to get more analysis on this. I want to bring in CNN military analyst, retired Air Force colonel Cedric Leighton, and Samantha Vinograd, a CNN national security analyst, former national security adviser in the Obama administration. Colonel, if I could start with you, we did get some details filling in some of the blanks in exactly what weaponry was used, 105 different weapons from a variety of different platforms. What strikes you with what we heard from the Pentagon on that front this morning?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, (RET) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: John, I would say the biggest thing is the use of the jazz of the so ca-called joint air to service attack weapon. And the basic idea behind this weapon is it is a true standoff weapon. It has a little bit greater of 600 miles range so that means that the B-1 bombers that were used to employ that weapon could have fired without actually penetrating Syrian airspace. And they may or may not have done that. We don't know that yet. But what we do know is that based on the Pentagon briefing, this was a highly effective employment of these kinds of weapon systems.

The other thing that struck me was the fact of integration of the strike packages was very, very good. That is the strike packages between the U.S. pieces, both in the air component and the naval component, as well with the British and the French air components and naval components. So this was a good demonstration of coalition of power, and it was very useful to see how effective it was against a Syrian air defense system that's based on the Pentagon assessment at least was very ineffective in dealing with this.

BERMAN: From a political standpoint it seemed very important for briefers to note it was twice as many weapons as used last year in response to a chemical attack, three times as many targets. They seem to want to be saying this was a ramped-up response. But Samantha, it is also a very, very narrow response here. They said they succeeded their goals in destroying the targets they were aiming at. They say they crippled the capacity of Syrians to produce chemical weapons. That it their claim right now. It will be interesting to see how that plays over in the future. But it doesn't seem like they were even trying in any way to alter the balance of power right now in that region.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: John, I couldn't agree more. And that was one of the striking parts of the briefing for me. The Pentagon made clear that this was a precision mission, to use their words. This was going after three specific sites with the specific focus on destroying the ability of the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons again.

This was purposely not broader I think because the administration and allies did not want to risk escalation with Russia or Iran. Keep in mind that the Pentagon said that the Syrian air defense system did not engage any of our missiles. That tells me we may have had the capability in fact to destroy the Syrian missile defense system and chose not to, again probably because we did not want to further escalate the situation with the Russians.

The problem though, John, is later in the briefing the spokesperson could not answer the question as to whether we would act again if C.W. was used. And to me that completely undermines the deterrent mission that supposedly took place last night. We said that we would act or respond to C.W. The president said "mission accomplished." And then just hours later we can't say if chlorine or saris was used again if we would repeat this mission.

BERMAN: C.W. of course is chemical weapon. There is a strategic value in ambiguity, but nevertheless, Colonel, if you are Bashar al- Assad waking up this morning, and of course the Syrians put out that propaganda video of him walking into work with the briefcase, are you concerned about your hold on power right now? Perhaps do you know more of what the U.S. and allies will not do as you flex your muscles against your own people?

[10:15:17] LEIGHTON: I think somebody like Assad who loves to walk across those beautiful polished floor is going to look at this and say, OK, I can, OK, I can go up to a certain point. I can actually employ certain elements of the type of weapons that I have. I have these chemical weapons that he was most likely to employ and has employed in the past, of course, chlorine based. And that's a very common substance that's basically everywhere. The use of chlorine mixed with something else which is probably what happened in the case of Douma, and that something else made may very well be serum, that may be the unofficial red line that the administration and its allies have now set. But essentially they have not been very explicit in saying that, as Sam mentioned, and that I think is also a big danger point at this point.

BERMAN: Go ahead.

VINOGRAD: I actually think that Assad in some way is feeling better this morning because the administration has clarified, to me the administration does have a policy on Syria. And it is to counter ISIS, and it is to sometimes launch strikes against one specific war crimes, and that's the use of C.W. The administration clarified this morning that it would not act against a broader range of activities. So if you are Assad, I think you might feel even more empowered after that briefing to use other forms of violence against civilians in Syria.

BERMAN: We'll discuss this much more. We are going to run right now. We have a lot more time to discuss this over the course of the morning as we get new details in. We'll have much more on the breaking news, of course, is the attack on Syria overnight. Russia has condemned the strikes, although only rhetorically, calling them an act of aggression against a sovereign state. Will the Russian reaction goes beyond just words?


BERMAN: All right, in less than an hour the U.N. Security Council is holding an emergency meeting. This comes after Russia's request. This after the Russian ambassador to the United States warns that there will be consequences for the strike between the U.S. and its allies in Syria overnight. Our Nic Roberston is live in Moscow, what are you hearing from the Russians this morning, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what Putin is saying is he wants to take this to the U.N. Security Council to discuss the aggression that the United States and its allies, France and Britain. We are hearing from the defense military here, but I think you have to look at what the defense ministry has said and take it with a big pinch of salt because they laid out how the Syrian defense systems have taken 71 out what they said were 103 missiles fired at Syria. Of course we now know from the Pentagon that what the Russian ministry of defense has said just does not stack up against the evidence that the Pentagon has.

But interestingly, no indication that President Putin is about to turn away from the dark part of supporting Assad, which is one of the things that President Trump talked about last night. Also General Mattis last night and again at the Pentagon this morning talking about the need of for Russia to push Syria towards peace talks at the U.N. No indications of that at all so far. Indeed the opposite because the defense ministry here is talking about doubling down on supporting Assad's air defense system by upgrading those air defense systems.

So I think the picture that emerges from Moscow right now is rhetoric rather than action. It is notable that although air defense systems may have been switched on last night that they did not target U.S. and coalition aircraft or incoming missiles. That I think is a significant part of the picture we have at the moment.

But undoubtedly we're going to see Russia spin this as aggression against Syria, aggression against them. And Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister who is speaking right now has just made this point, that these strike comes before the chemical weapons inspectors get to work in Syria. Implicit in that statement is what we've heard from the foreign ministry in the past few days that the strikes would be to cover up what they have called this fake attack, John.

BERMAN: These strikes, the nature of the strikes seemed very carefully designed with the Russians in mind at every level, to not to do anything would upset overall their presence or influence if the region. On the other hand, the French claim the Russians were warned. The United States says that was just in terms of deconfliction. Did the Russians say anything about that this morning, Nick?

ROBERTSON: Nothing from the Russians on that. They've very quiet on that front. What we do know obviously from the French is President Macron called President Putin yesterday. A part of the readout of that call was that Macron told Putin that they would continue to be in touch, implicit that something would happen and they would continue to be in touch. The French were saying that they made clear that they did not want an escalation with Russia, and I think that's been the tone that we have heard restated many times from the Pentagon during the briefing last night, that they did not want to injure civilians or foreigners inside Syria. That message does seem to have been understood here. Precisely how it was communicated, the kremlin really not giving any indications about that. But we do know that those deconfliction phone lines are active, both the Pentagon and the Russians here saying that those lines are active but not saying what passed along them, John.

BERMAN: Nic Roberston in Moscow for us this morning. We have to listen very carefully to the exact words that the Russians say and do not say over the course of the next several hours. That will be very telling. Thanks, Nic. We're going to have much more of our breaking news coverage on Syria ahead.

[10:25:00] But up next, one of the other crisis on the president's plate this morning, his personal attorney Michael Cohen ordered to appear in court next week. We're going to speak with Alan Dershowitz who knows the judge in this case quite well and has a variety of opinions on this matter.


BERMAN: All right, CNN has learned exclusively that the FBI has seized recordings from President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen apparently taped his conversations with a lawyer who once represented both an adult film star and a former playmate who say they had affairs with the president, something that president denies.

[10:30:00] And this comes as the Justice Department reveals that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months. Joining us now, Alan Dershowitz, criminal defense attorney, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, the author of "Trumped Up," a new book about some of the legal issues and political issues facing the president. Professor, thank you so much for sticking around with us this morning.

I want to talk about the latest developments in this case against Michael Cohen and as it pertains to the president. The president could be facing new legal jeopardy here and has important legal choices to make. What are they?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He has one very important choice to make right away, and that is, if his lawyer Cohen was on the phone and taped material about his case, under the law of the second circuit, some of those statements can be attributed to the client. The lawyer is authorized to make statements on behalf of the client, they are attributable to him. But if the president denies that Cohen was acting as his lawyer, then he loses the claim of having standing to object to lawyer-client privileged information being used. So he has to make some hard choices.

BERMAN: I think the legal term is between a rock and a hard place, because the argument that any of this is privileged so far as the president is concerned would be that Michael Cohen is his personal attorney. DERSHOWITZ: And acting as his lawyer in the communication at issue.

BERMAN: Because you can't just say Michael Cohen is an attorney so everything that we have said between us is protected, correct?

DERSHOWITZ: Absolutely. If you authorize your attorney, for example, to make a public statement, not only the public statement is not covered but some courts have held that the authorization to make the public statement may not be covered either. It is a very technical and interesting issue. And it is before a great judge, Judge Kimba Wood, who I remember at a student at Harvard lawsuit is brilliant, sophisticated, courageous. She was the judge who put Michael Milken in prison and then reduced the sentence. She has had a lot of experience and she doesn't take any nonsense from lawyers. I think it was a terrible mistake, Michael Cohen's lawyer, not to have Michael Cohen in the courtroom but being videotaped smoking cigars as it was a scene out of billions. You don't do that.

BERMAN: That's a choice. Michael Cohen does not stand outside smoking cigars by mistake.

DERSHOWITZ: You bring your client into the courtroom, he looks deferential, he wears a tie and a jacket, shows respect for the court.

BERMAN: Let's just finish up this legal argument here, because the government's case in the footnotes when you read the government versus Michael Cohen, this whole document that is now out there is that Michael Cohen wasn't really doing any legal work for anybody or much of any legal work at all. So they seem to be suggesting here that none of this communication.

DERSHOWITZ: I don't think it is right. Lawyers' work is very broadly defined. It is not just going to court. It is making deals for clients, it is helping clients out. I can easily imagine a phone call from the president to Cohen saying, you know, the "Access Hollywood" tape was probably illegally obtained. I didn't know the microphone was on. Can you stop it, can you do anything legally? Sure, that would be a lawyer-client communication. So I think the government overstates its case.

I also think the government has raised some questions. Do you invade a lawyer's office and risk the privacy of his clients when the crimes being investigated are not terrorism, organized crime, very, very serious matters. A sense of proportionality always has to be used when you raid a lawyer's office, a doctor's office, a priest's office, because you are talking about the potential of a taint team which are government agents reading confidential material.

BERMAN: We've heard your concerns over the last several days on that, and I think a lot of people who watch any variety of cable networks have seen you in some cases not defending the president but perhaps standing up for the president's legal rights. You are talking about the boundaries of investigations. But I think what's notable this morning, what people should hear, is you think in this instance insofar as an investigation on Michael Cohen, this is where there is jeopardy for the president. DERSHOWITZ: I think that's very much the case. I've said for months

that he has much more jeopardy concerning his pre-presidential business and personal activities. One of the reasons I am standing up for the president's civil liberties rights is because the ACLU is falling asleep on the job. They actually came in and issued a statement justifying and defending the raid without raising issues about the client's confidentiality. And when nobody else is defending the civil liberties of the president, this can establish precedents that could affect us all. So I have stand up for human rights and civil liberties for a man I did not vote for.

BERMAN: But that defense only goes insofar as you're talking about those liberties. You are not saying there is not a problem here for the president.

DERSHOWITZ: I always thought there is a problem.

BERMAN: And that is specifically what here?

DERSHOWITZ: His specific problem is his pre-presidential activities which are not within the scope of the special counsel. His real problem is now with the Special Counsel now. His real problem is with the southern district of New York, which is less visible, does things less under the radar than the Special Counsel.

[10:35:06] And I think his priorities of his defense team, I'm not part of that, has to shift now to focus much more New York than Washington.

BERMAN: And his argument, because his team is now part of this case, do you think it will be or should be successful that none of this evidence collected by the FBI should be admissible?

DERSHOWITZ: Look admissible is one thing, but reviewable by the government is another. What I would think the best protection of civil liberties would be for Judge Wood to take all the material, read it herself. She's trustworthy, she's not going the leak anything. Determine which is covered if anything, which is not covered. What's not covered turns over to the prosecution. What is covered is given back to the lawyer and his client.

BERMAN: The important thing is you think some of it would and should be admissible here.

DERSHOWITZ: If it is not privileged and it was legitimately obtained by a legitimate search warrant, traditionally it gets admitted into evidence, of course.

BERMAN: How should that make the president feel this morning?

DERSHOWITZ: It should make him nervous about his lawyer who he spoke to and called. I don't know, he knows, I don't know what's in those conversations and whether he should be nervous about what is in conversations between him and his lawyer that may not be privileged. That's the concern.

BERMAN: Professor Dershowitz, always a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you so much for coming in.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: Enjoy the good weekend here.

We're going to have much more on our other breaking news this morning. British and French forces joined the U.S. on the airstrikes against Syria overnight. Next we're going to take you live to London and Paris for the international reaction here.


[10:41:00] BERMAN: All right, much more of the breaking news this morning. Any moment, the U.N. Security Council meets, this after the United States, the United Kingdom, and France hit Syria with missiles overnight in response to the alleged chemical attack near Damascus last night. They targeted three sites, all associated with the research and storage of chemical weapons. British Prime Minister Theresa May said this is not about regime change, as did the Pentagon. Listen to this.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This was not about interfering in a civil war. And it was not about regime change. As I discussed with President Trump and President Macron, it was a limited, targeted, and effective strike with clear boundaries that expressly sough to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.


BERMAN: Russia called the attack an act of aggression against a sovereign state and warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. We are getting new reaction from both England and France this morning. Let's first go to CNN's senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir outside 10 Downing Street. Nima, what are you hearing this morning?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Interestingly it seems that the message of this strike was as much about delivering a message to Russia as it was to Syria. And you were quoting the British prime minister there saying that this isn't about regime change. And yet in a way her message to the Russia premier was almost pointed. She made reference to attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. And she put it in a continuum of Russian aggression as the Brits are seeing and the use of chemical weapon with impunity around the world. And she made sure to state that this will not go unresponded to and this will not go unpunished.

And what we are hearing from British officials behind the scenes, John, is that Britain was very much a major actor in this. I know in the past there has been the sense since the Iraq war of Britain being pulled along with this special relations to do the U.S.'s bidding. But in this it seems Britain's national interest are very much on a par with the the intention over Douma. They believe there has been Russian overreach stretching all the way back to the annexation of the Crimea by Russia, and that this is the point which Britain and Europe and the U.S. say enough is enough not just to Bashar al-Assad but also to president Putin, John.

BERMAN: Nima Elbagir for us outside 10 Downing Street. Nima, thank you very much.

I want to bring in CNN senior international correspondent Atika Shubert live from Paris this morning. And President Emmanuel Macron in some ways have been on the edge here, at the forefront of pushing this action, Atika.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Even before the strikes were announced there was actually a video the presidential palace put out actually saying, you know, supporting the strikes and saying France will shoulder its responsibilities, so no surprise that France was involved and quite significantly actually from that Pentagon briefing we now know that the three missiles were launched from the French frigate and another nine scalp missiles launched from a combination of Mirage and Rafale jets. So quite significant from the French contribution.

We are hoping get more details from a ministry of defense very shortly, but we have not heard directly from President Macron. All we heard was his tweet very earlier this morning saying that red line has been crossed. I don't think it is a coincidence that he used the same word that President Obama used in the past, and that's because France has been looking to hit at Syria's chemical weapons stocks for quite some time. It's just we're in the air in 2013 when Obama made that quick U-turn on striking. So France has always been supportive of striking at the sites and clearly it was happy to contribute this time around as well.

BERMAN: It has been very interesting to hear U.S. officials speak about what happens next, Atika. Pentagon officials were asked this morning, what if Bashar al-Assad uses chlorine gas, chlorine, as a chemical weapon in the future, would that prompt another strike? Does France have a lower bar than the United States might have moving forward? Are you expecting to hear any details from the French on that?

[10:45:14] SHUBERT: France has always made clear that even though this is a targeted strike and it's proportionate that if there is another instance of chemical weapons being used, it won't hesitate to support another strike. The question is as you point out is what defines that. We don't even know at this point what exactly the chemicals were used in this attack in Douma. So France has been very much on the forefront trying to prove exactly it is, is it chlorine or mixed with sarin? What exactly is it? We are hoping to get details, but at this point we don't have any scheduled press conference to tell us exactly what the breakdown of the analysis is.

BERMAN: Atika Shubert for us in Paris, Atika, excellent analysis, thanks so much for being with us. We're going to have much more on our breaking news on Syria ahead, including an emergency meeting at the U.N. Security Council. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, she will be there at the meeting just minutes away. Stay with CNN's special coverage.


[10:50:53] BERMAN: As he embarks on his 15th NFL seasons Saints tight end Benjamin Watson knows a thing of two about overcoming challenges. The Super Bowl champion spoke with Coy Wire in today's "Difference Makers."

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: This "Difference Makers" is brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

Benjamin Watson has played in four different cities and he has left every place a little bit better than when he arrived. I even played against him in my NFL career. I'm probably on his highlight real. He has a big impact on the field but an even bigger impact in the lives of others.


BENJAMIN WATSON, NFL PLAYER: It is not about you. It is about others. It is about how you fit into this whole story and what you can do for other people. There are things bigger than simply your journey and what you are going through. So I believe that I should be someone that stands for the vulnerable, stands in the gap and defends them. I should advocate for people that are in need. I believe all those things because I believe in the dignity of humanity.

And for some guys it is education for children or providing opportunities for children that maybe they did not have it when they were kids. And for others it's going overseas like we have in going to see victims of sex trafficking and abuse and help people erect justice systems to protect them. Or going into your own neighborhoods, going next door. You don't have to go overseas, you go next door. People are hurting in so many ways. It might be emotionally, it might be physically, it might be financially. People are hurting. What are we going to do and how are we going to help?


WIRE: Benjamin Watson is the type of person you look to. And even other NFL players say I want to be a little more like that guy. His list of philanthropic accomplishments reads like a phone book. He left a big impression on my life. I hope he has a bit of impression on yours as well.

BERMAN: Coy, thank you very much. Benjamin Watson, a former New England Patriot who he had a very big influence on my life.

Three decades ago a former dancer and athlete was paralyzed from the waste down after a skiing accident. Now she is creating cutting edge technology to help others like her regain mobility. Meet Amanda Boxtel.


AMANDA BOXTEL, BRIDGING BIONICS FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Twenty-six years ago I went out skiing, and I remember I somersaulted and I landed on my back. And I knew in that instance I was paralyzed, but I was determined to show that I wasn't going to give up so easily.

I was inspired to create a program that could give mobility to anyone who has a neurological impairment.


BERMAN: To see more on how Amanda's is using technology and robots to help people regain mobility, go on And while you are nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero.

Up next, more of CNN's special breaking news coverage on airstrikes against Syria. The United Nations Security Council holds an emergency meeting just minutes from now. You're looking at live pictures from the United Nations. We will bring you this meeting live. This meeting called by Russia. What will the Russian reaction be to the U.S. airstrikes planned very carefully not topple or upset the balance of power in that region. Stay with us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: It is 11:00 on the east coast, I am John Berman. This is CNN's special coverage. At this moment the United Nations Security Council is convening an emergency meeting following the U.S. led attack on Syria's chemical weapons program. You're looking at live pictures right now. U.S. and key allies launched a narrow barrage overnight. This in retaliation for the alleged chemical by Syria on civilians last Saturday.

This morning the president used a historically loaded term "mission accomplished" to describe what had happened. And a short time ago the Pentagon released new details on the operation.