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U.N. Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting on Syria Strikes; Refugees in Syria React to Strikes; Trump Proclaims "Mission Accomplished" in Syria; Pentagon: Russian Claims of Missile Intercepts Not True; New Video Shows Devastation in Syria; FBI Seized Recorded Conversations Between Cohen and Ex Attorney of Daniels, McDougall. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 14, 2018 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:23] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, everyone. And welcome this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in the nation's capital.

Emergency meeting. Right now, the U.N. Security Council coming together, discussing a U.S.-led strike targeting Syria's chemical weapons facilities. Russia condemning the barrage of missiles, calling it U.S. aggression. But the U.S. speaking loud and clear, warning Syria not to repeat the actions seen in Douma one week ago today.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded. When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line.


WHITFIELD: The Pentagon saying last night's joint strike by the U.S., Britain and France successfully hit each target, crippling Syria's chemical weapons capabilities.

This morning, President Trump is praising the joint military operations, saying, I'm quoting now, "Mission accomplished." We'll dig into the headlines and reaction to the strike in just a moment.

But we want to start with the human toll of the ongoing civil war in Syria. Nearly seven years now.

CNN's Arwa Damon spent the day in a refugee camp. She joins us from the Turkish side of the Turkey/Syria border.

What are you finding in people's stories there and experiences?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, we were at a relatively new camp whose inhabitants are those who fled Douma after the chemical attack took place. And it's quite difficult to put into words what it is they went through, because they themselves struggled to do just that. Imagine being under constant bombardment for months on end. Many of them spent the bulk of the last four months living in bunkers because of the ongoing aerial strikes and the barrel bombs. And then, of course, they had this horrific chemical attack that took place. Many of them describing how they felt as if they were suffocating. One man saying that he came to in a hospital to find himself frothing at the mouth.

We spoke to one mother. She had two twin daughters, 7 years old. She said when the strike took play she felt her body clench up and then her nerves feel as if they were giving out and she was trying to grab both her little girls to take them up to a higher level, and they managed to get a few floors up, but then she said other airstrikes began coming in, so they were forced to move one floor down. And when you talk to the girls, that's when you really begin to get a little bit of an appreciation for the psychological impact that all of this has had on them. Their mother had given them a small little doll and they packed this little doll inside a tiny box, and one of the girls said to the doll, you might not be able to breathe in here, but at least you'll be safe from the bombs. When they got to the refugee camp, what did they have to play with? Well, not a lot. So their mother says they were outside and they were digging a small little trench right next to their tent for the ants and they were telling the ants that they could hide inside this trench to try to escape the bombings and another chemical strike. And that is when you just realize the sheer scope of all of this and the price that this population has paid and continues to pay.

WHITFIELD: Psychological wounds are very deep.

And so, Arwa, when you spoke with people in this refugee camp, did they ever express they have the hope of one day returning to their home country of Syria, and hoping it would bring them peace or reclaim the lives they knew before this seven-year war?

DAMON: Well, let me clarify. So this refugee camp is actually inside Syria, so they're, in theory, inside their own country, but it's not a country they recognize any more. And their homes, the neighborhood of Douma, has been destroyed. Some of them say, of course, they do hope one day to be able to go back home. But one elderly woman who we spoke to, who had one of her sons and two of her grandchildren killed throughout the course of the last seven years, she said, no, I don't miss my home, I'm not going to miss my hole, because my home has been so cruel to me. The only thing I miss -- and this is when she really began to tear up and get emotional -- is the Friday afternoons we used to have before the war when the entire family could get together, when we were all alive.

Now, we asked a number of people about what their reaction was to the U.S., U.K. and French strikes on various different chemical sites. The mother of the twins, the twin girls I was talking about, she said she was pleased there were no civilian casualties because she said no one should ever have to go through what they went through. Whereas, other people said, look, this is just a political move. It's not going to change anything on the ground because we're still going to get bombed even if it's not by chemical weapons.

[13:05:35] WHITFIELD: Powerful.

All right, Arwa Damon, thank you, in Syria, on the Turkish border.

A short time ago, I spoke with the U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert about the president's declaration of "mission accomplished," in his tweet, and she said, "We took out and significantly degraded three chemical weapons sites in Syria." I'm quoting her.

I want to bring in CNN's global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.

Elise, was there any tension at the State Department from the strikes and the potential fallout from it?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I don't think necessarily just the State Department, Fred. I think the debate in the administration was everyone felt the need to answer the use of these chemical weapons, especially after the president tweeted earlier this week that this military action was coming. It wasn't only about responding. But U.S. credibility was really on the line. Otherwise, it would have been President Obama and the red line all over again.

WHITFIELD: But then before that, it was the president saying we're pulling U.S. troops out of Syria.

LABOTT: Correct.

WHITFIELD: You know, job done, no ISIS.

LABOTT: I think President Trump wanted to respond in a very big way to these strikes. And then, the U.S. would go back to moving outside of Syria. I think his advisers, General Mattis, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dunford, were trying to get him to think of the big picture, that the U.S. does want to respond to the chemical weapons. Doesn't want to escalate, doesn't want to get into a war with Russia or Iran. That was the message to the Russians and Iranians. The question is, what's the strategy now. It doesn't really seem there is a strategy for moving forward.

You know, I just saw, just before we came on, a statement by Senator Lindsey Graham. And says, you know, I'm glad the president took these strikes. They don't go far enough. There need to be a sustained U.S. presence there. When he said that when people say they don't have a strategy, he said the strategy is to pull out, and that's really concerning.

I think what you're going to see now is a real concerted effort by the U.S., France, the U.K. to work towards a genuine political solution to the civil war. Right now, you know, the U.N. has a process going, the so-called Geneva process, but that's been going on for years, and there's nothing.

WHITFIELD: Based on what we've seen in the last, you know, few hours, say, 12 hours or so, is there any hope that if and when there is a strategy, if that would be publicized? Because right now, the appearances are this is a reaction, but it hasn't been publicized with the overall U.S. strategy is, diplomatically or militarily.

LABOTT: I think it's because they don't know. They're still figuring out. They said this was a -- you know, kind of one off strike, but if the regime were to use chemical weapons again, they're ready to strike again. You know Nikki Haley with the famous "locked and loaded." But they don't have to use chemical weapons right now if that's the kind of U.S. red line. They can use these barrel bombs which are just brutal against the people --


LABOTT: -- and have killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions more. But, I mean, I think you're going to see the U.S. kind of stepping up the diplomatic pressure on Russia. They're the main supporters of Syria. There's not much more you can do in terms of sanctions to the Syrians. You could make Russia pay much more of a cost.

WHITFIELD: That's a big undertaking we all know.

All right, Elise Labott, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

President Trump praising the multi-country effort on Syria, saying, "A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine military. Could not have had a better result. Mission accomplished."

White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, is standing by for us at the White House.

Boris, we haven't seen the president today. I think, earlier, you said he had no scheduled public events. However, is it likely in some way other than a tweet he or his message will be conveyed?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Probably not directly from President Trump. As you noted, no public events on the schedule today. We are going to hear from some administration officials on a conference call within the next hour or so. Unclear exactly what the message going to be. But we anticipate they're going to be discussing these overnight strikes in Syria.

We should also mention that Vice President Mike Pence, who is on this foreign trip to South America that President Trump was supposed to be on before he ended up canceling it, did talks about these strikes in Syria from Peru.

Here's some of what the vice president had to say.


[13:09:56] MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump made it clear that the United States will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against men, women and children. And with the strong support of our allies in the United Kingdom and in France, last night, the United States forces brought extraordinary military effort against chemical weapons facilities and degraded and crippled the chemical weapons capability of Syria.


SANCHEZ: Pence echoing comments that we heard from Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, just a short while ago, this afternoon, at the United Nations, saying that the United States was prepared to sustain this kind of pressure on Syria. Should these chemical weapons be used again, the United States would be locked and loaded.

A note, though, about the president's position on this. This week, we reported that as these conversations were happening, the president was pushing his aides and top military brass for a strong response. He rejected, apparently, several plans that he felt did not give that strong of a deterrent to Bashar al Assad in order for him to not use these kinds of weapons again. Very different tone from the president that we heard just a few weeks ago when he was telling supporters in Ohio that he was preparing to remove American troops from Syria, in his words, "very soon." The president, historically, has been at the very least hesitant about American presence overseas, specifically in Syria and throughout the world.

Frankly, Fred, it is unclear what happens next. The president, the administration, maintaining they will be prepared to act if Bashar al Assad prepares to move forward on this. But because of his previous statements, you have to question where the president stands on this -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks so much, at the White House. Appreciate that.

All right. President Trump saying "mission accomplished" over the Syrian airstrikes. He tweeted that out. Does the Pentagon concur? Even though it says every one of the targets in Syria was successfully hit?

Meanwhile, the Russians are making the claim that 71 of the more than 100 missiles were intercepted.

CNN's Barbara Starr was at the Pentagon briefing earlier.

Barbara, is the Pentagon still trying to assess the real accuracy of the rate of these missiles hitting targets?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. Well, not really at this point. The briefing we got, they say their initial reports that they're very confident in are all of the missiles from the U.S., France and the U.K., hit the targets they were aimed at, and this business that some 70 of 100 missiles was shot down by Syrians simply is not true. That after U.S. assets left the area, after the attacks stopped, the Syrians then launched their anti-air missiles and blindly fired into the air with no guidance, just firing their missiles, and it had no effect on the U.S. and coalition effort. So right now they feel very good about it here at the Pentagon. Mission accomplished. Look, they accomplished the mission that they had last night. But

even here at the Pentagon, they will tell you that there are no guarantees. It is possible down the road that Assad could reconstitute his weapons program inside Syria. It is doable. But they feel that these strikes pushed it back considerably. They are very much still holding out the threat that there could be more strikes down the road. The unanswered question is, what would trigger more strikes. Simply another chlorine attack? We've seen many of those where Syrian people have suffered greatly, and nothing has been done. This one, they suspect, was chlorine plus nerve agent. But always, always worth remember, it is the Syrian people suffering, thousands dying in conventional bombing attacks over the years and still no solution for them -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Barbara, has the Pentagon or anyone made clear or given an estimation of just how many chemical storage or insulation facilities there might be in Syria? Three being taken out of representative of what?

STARR: Right. Well, it is a portion. You know, I suppose people would count it differently. But what they're saying here is this strike is different. They hit major research and development facility in Damascus. And to the north in the city of Homs, they hit some storage and bunker sites. They're saying what is different this time it goes to the core of the program. This is not, as it was a year ago, airfields and possibly some aircraft, the delivery systems. This is getting to the core of the program, research development production, bunkering of chemical munitions and they feel that by doing all of this, they have pushed the program back -- Fred.

[13:15:02] WHITFIELD: All right, Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

STARR: Sure.

WHITFIELD: All right, more on our breaking news straight ahead. We'll take a closer look at the new video coming out of Syria, showing the devastation following the strikes. And whether it's enough to bring Syria to the table for diplomacy.


WHITFIELD: All right. 3elcoem back. The Pentagon says the strikes on Syria were, quote, "successfully hitting every target." These buildings are said to be part of a research lab targeted in the strikes, buildings reduced to rubble. Smoke still rising from the wreckage.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is monitoring the situation from Beirut. He joins us now.

Ben, what kind of reaction has there been to these strikes?

[13:19:47] BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, by and large, certainly, when the strikes first started to happen, there was a good deal of alarm in the Syrian capital of Damascus. That is really the worst bombing of the Syrian capital since the 1973 October War. So it certainly rattled people.

But as the sun came up and they saw that only one particular site was hit -- that's the pictures you were showing before -- and that's the Barzeh Research Center. And by and large, nothing else was damaged. Keep in mind, President Trump did send a warning tweet earlier in the week letting the Syrians know that rockets were coming, so most if not all the facilities -- and there are only three that were hit in these strikes -- were completely evacuated.

And I was just listening a few moments ago to Bashar al Jaafari, the Syrian representative to the United Nations, who said only three civilians had been injured in these attacks.

So, as I said, initially shock, but now that people are seeing the level of the extent of the strikes, the level of the damage, not very impressed. In fact, one Israeli journalists said it was instant gratification but much ado about nothing -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: So, Ben, while you did say at the top some civilians were a bit rattled, what about the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad? Is there any indicator he has been rattled?

WEDEMAN: Well, what was interesting is that earlier this morning, at about 9:00 local time, the Syrian presidency put out a video of Bashar al Assad entering his palace, walking through the halls, carrying a briefcase. So certainly, at least the message from that is that the president is in perfect shape, going about his business as usual.

Now, it was interesting that before these strikes took place, there was some speculation that there might be some attempt to actually hit the Syrian president himself. Clearly, that didn't happen. There were only 105 cruise missiles launched by the United States and its allies. That's less than twice the number that was fired on that one Syrian air base a year ago. So it does appear that the Syrian government, and what we're hearing from officials in Damascus, is that they are greatly relieved that these airstrikes were not as extensive as anybody -- as many were expecting, and are over -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right, based on that video, presumably, President Assad not missing a stride there.

All right, Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Thank you.

Much more ahead on our breaking news. The coalition strikes against Syria.

But up next, another potential crisis President Trump faces. His personal attorney is ordered to appear in court next week. And Stormy Daniels, well, she may be there, too.

Stay with us.


[13:27:32] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. CNN has learned exclusively that the FBI has seized recordings from President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. A source says Cohen 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 the president denies.

And this comes as the Justice Department reveals Cohen has been under criminal investigation now for months. It's only after the raid we have heard the terminology that he's under criminal investigation.

Joining me right now are CNN political analysts, Josh Rogin and Karoun Demirjian.

Good to see you both.

If you read "The New York Times" today, it indicates, Karoun, the Trump White House is more worried about this investigation involving the personal attorney, Michael Cohen, than it is about the Russia and U.S. meddling investigation of Robert Mueller.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYLST: Well, Cohen has been with Trump a long time, right? If you are President Trump, you are thinking your conversations with him are privileged because he's your lawyer and you're save there. Now that's not the case. We know Cohen kept recordings of several conservations. We know the raid was pretty complete, his home, his office, his hotel suite as well. We're hearing in bits all the different elements of what they'd taken, which has something to do with the allegations by these women that were made by Stormy Daniels. That everything's connected to that. Presumably, if there's other elements on his laptop and other devices that have to do with other conversations he had with President Trump, then maybe those would actually take the investigation into different parameters than that. And we know the taxi medallion which came up. But really --


WHITFIELD: Bank fraud --


DEMIRJIAN: Right, it's a sense of the scope of where this could go. And that is messy. To the extent in which Cohen, because he's been saying -- let's start with just the Stormy Daniels stuff, right, I was operating alone. If this is proven not true, if Trump is connected, and that might be the most innocuous one, depending on where they go, it could be a real treasure trove for the FBI and minefield for the president.

WHITFIELD: One would think, particularly after this and now that your personal attorney is under criminal investigation, that perhaps there wouldn't be any more connection, dealings with or any more representation by. But our Gloria Borger did report that President Trump reached out to Cohen to check to see how he was doing. That's an indicator that he perhaps is very worried.

Of course, to be the fly on the wall, what exactly was that conversation? Is the president getting himself into deeper, you know, problems here?

[13:30:00] JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALAYST: It just seems to get deeper and deeper. There's no doubt that President Trump has an interest in maintaining a connection with Michael Cohen. The White House says Michael Cohen hasn't actually been charged with anything, hasn't been convicted of anything. So there's nothing inappropriate about it. But it seems like dangerous territory considering that now all their legal cases are entangled in a way we didn't know previously.

What the reporting says is that the White House is actually more concerned in a way about what's coming out of the New York prosecutors than what's coming out of the D.C. prosecutors for a couple of very good reasons. They can't pardon people who are charged under state law, right? That removing a big tool for Trump to keep his people in line. They have less control. They don't know where it's going. It doesn't have to relate to the Mueller investigation. It doesn't even have to relate to Russia. This opens up an entirely new range of crime, possible crimes they could be investigated for. So Trump has a real interest in talking about that with Michael Cohen, whether or not their continued relationship looks good or not.

DEMIRJIAN: It's an element of being caught off guard here, right? Not everything we've seen come over the Mueller probe. But a lot of the indictments were about things people kind of knew about, you know, Manafort's ties to Ukraine, the connection there. There are some avenues that opened up with the question that Papadopoulos played. But, again, it was Trump going over Twitter saying, not a big deal, not an important thing. You can't say that about your own lawyer, you know, who stood by his side. That becomes much more difficult. It's less of an easy message to say this is old news or fake news when it really is you and your guy.


And now also on the front burner, because, you know, these issues, these are all really such pronounced problems, that you've got Syria and you've got Syria and the timing of these strikes, really, at the same time, that all these details about the raid, about a personal attorney, about what the discussion, et cetera, is, all converging at once.

ROGIN: Right.

WHITFIELD: Coincidental or, you know, I mean what are the discussions around town about the decision making of those strikes?

ROGIN: There's speculation things are linked in the mind of the White House. There's not a lot of evidence of that. What we can say clearly is this White House has a capacity problem. They have a competence issue. They're starting a serious and risky military endeavor. In the middle of all of their troubles, it just makes all of that worse. Their communications effort is complicated.

WHITFIELD: And the personnel changes. And in so many cases, the lack of personnel. ROGIN: When you think about all the people in the White House who are

conflicted, and have a piece of the Russia investigation, and also a national security role, they're trying to manage these complicated interactions knowing they could be pulled into these investigations. It makes everything harder. And it just makes this whole Syria gambit that much more risky when you have an administration that's under fire, that's under suspicion, that can't communicate, and can't get its act together.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and the wonder is, you know, is the president being distracted. Will he be more knee jerk or have the capacity to be thoughtful given all these other things, problems involving his orbit, his personal life, happening?

DEMIRJIAN: Right, we had a normal time on Friday, we probably had what is two months of stories in a single day, between the potential constitutional crisis coming at the Justice Department, and everything with Syria, and the Cohen, and pardoning "Scooter" Libby, just all these things. We see the president is still impulsive about things. This Syria thing started with him tweeting there was going to be a response.


WHITFIELD: And before that, U.S. troops being pulled out --


DEMIRJIAN: Right. It's a yo-yo sort of thing. We don't know are we going to be running away, committing more? I think it's difficult to say this is exclusively a move to try to distract from the other stuff because it was a step taken in tandem with the U.K., with France. This is not a total go-it-alone. There is a lot of will in the international community for at least Western nations to do something. But where it goes next does depend a lot on what the president wants to do --


WHITFIELD: A few different messages coming from this. You hear from Nikki Haley who says this strike is a deterrent. And then the State Department says this opens the way for diplomacy.

ROGIN: Right.

WHITFIELD: Can it be all that?

ROGIN: It's true inside the administration some of the most fierce advocates for military action have been U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Ambassador John Bolton, and the president himself. You have Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arguing for a shorter, more limited effort. We don't have a secretary of state. If we had a diplomatic effort, we would need somebody to run it. But since we don't, that's not really a big deal.

WHITFIELD: We'll leave it right there. Good point. All right, Josh Rogin, Karoun Demirjian, thank you so much.

DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.

[13:35:40] WHITFIELD: For the White House, the strikes were about protecting innocents in Syria. For the Kremlin, they were an act of aggression. We'll look at the consequences of these strikes and how they could impact much more than Syria's civil war.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Russia is now responding to the U.S.-led strikes against Syria. Speaking at the United Nations Security Council, the Russian delegation called the attacks on Syria's chemical weapons facilities, quoting now, "an act of aggression." The U.S., U.K. and France launching over 100 missiles overnight, targeting three facilities, one in Damascus and two in the Homs area, hoping to send a message to the Assad regime and to Russia.

I talked to a spokeswoman from the U.S. State Department last hour.


HEATHER NAUERT, SPOKESWOMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT (via telephone): The United States does not take military action lightly. We have been working hard at the United States Security Council, with the E.U., with many of our partners around the world since this president took office more than a year ago. Those efforts have failed to bear fruit so far. Primarily, because Russia has stepped in the way. Russia, back in 2013, promised to be a guarantor to help Syria get rid of its chemical weapons. Russia failed to do that. Russia has the ability to bring Syria to the table. Russia has failed to do so.


[13:40:17] WHITFIELD: All right, President Trump is praising the joint military operations, saying, "mission accomplished" in a tweet this morning. The Pentagon calling the strikes, "precise, overwhelming and effective."

All right. Let's get some analysis now. Cedric Leighton, is a CNN military analyst and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, and Kim Dozier is a CNN global affairs analyst.

Good to see you both.

Colonel, when you hear Russia say, "This is an act of aggression," is that a sign posting for something to come?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Potentially, but the Russians always talk like that. They have to have their domestic constituency, which they want to placate. There's a huge amount of Russian nationalism that Putin is riding in order to maintain his power. And you have that. Then on the diplomatic front, the Russians have to maintain a degree of strength, and they do that by saying things like this. That does not necessarily mean there's going to be Russian military action against us. It's a possibility, but it's not likely.

WHITFIELD: President Trump tweets, "mission accomplished." Are those potentially dangerous words to be associated with this, given the historical reference of his predecessor? But even when looking at the video now released of the damage done to these three targets?

LEIGHTON: I would say it's probably not the best choice of words, especially give than historical reference to President Bush. Because the mission is not accomplished by just one strike. You have so many different facets. You've got the military piece. You've got the diplomatic peace. There's a lot that has to come together for that mission to truly be accomplished. In my mind, the only time the mission is going to be accomplished is when the Syrian civil war is finished and we're far from that.


KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And yet, what he's done is preserved other moves on the chess board.

WHITFIELD: What do you mean?

DOZIER: That if Assad strikes again, they can take out another few facilities.

Also, if the message was to Russia, we won't let you continue to allow your client state to do this kind of thing, Russia respects force, and this was the U.S. drawing a red line and then using force. So the question is, from the Russian side, is just the rhetorical response enough? Now do they go to Assad and say, cool it for a while? You're accomplishing plenty with conventional weapons.

My question is, how much access is the Assad regime going to give the weapons inspectors who are on the ground to that site and to other sites going forward? Because he'll be able to argue, I was following international law, I did what I was supposed to do, but you hit me anyway.

WHITFIELD: What would be the incentive to do that? To allow anyone to come in and inspect those three installations when there's already a suspicion that there are more?

DOZIER: Well, it's been so long since the strike, it is going to be possibly hard to find uncontaminated evidence at the scene of what happened, especially if it was chlorine not mixed with something like sarin. So he could, to his own people and to the part of the world that supports the Russian Syrian axis, say, "I've done the right thing." It's playing well at the U.N., among those who support him.

What this also could be doing, though, on the other side, is teaching Donald Trump that air power works. Some of the advice he's being offered going forward in Syria is pull out those troops on the ground, use your Syrian Democratic Forces backed with American air power, send in a raid or two when you have to. So what "mission accomplished" could also be communicating is that he's now bought into this way of doing business, the same way past American presidents have thought, this is a way not to risk American lives but get the job done.

WHITFIELD: Sometimes even when you have air assault, you still have to have perhaps U.S. troops on the ground because they're your intelligence gathering. They help give some directives.

But when we look at these three installations that were taken out, one can't help but wonder, you know, what was being stored in those facilities, how is it those emissions did not get in the air. You know, is it precision because of the way in which it hit this installation? I mean, talk to us about these precision targets and how it doesn't cause more harm potentially.

LEIGHTON: Right, Fredricka. What we're looking at is precision- guided missions. The fact that PGMs, as their known in the business, are used is really an evolution of warfare in a very positive way. Because it limits what they call collateral damage, which means killing innocent civilians. And doing things like hitting a target, having chemicals disperse in a non -- in a very bad way and a nonthreatening way would be great. But that's highly unlikely. So that becomes an issue. When you hit a chemical target, you have to be very careful, not only how you hit it but at what time you hit it. You have to look at weather patterns. You have to look at all kinds of things like that so, if something, god forbid, were to emanate from a struck target, it wouldn't affect a large area or a populated area. That's something that you have to be very careful of. And the targeteers that do this for a living, that actually production the targets for the air campaign, they have to be careful and precise when they actually do this.

[13:45:39] WHITFIELD: All incredible concerns.

DOZIER: And just briefly, did I speak to a former CIA officer in touch with Syrian opposition on the ground. Their word was that most of these facilities or these facilities were all evacuated at the time of the strikes. And that, so far, there have been no reports of any chemical weapons leakage from the areas, though they are blockaded by Syrian troops.

WHITFIELD: Perhaps the warning earlier in the week might have assisted in that.


WHITFIELD: Kim Dozier, Col. Leighton, thanks so much. Good to see you both. Appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: Thank you. Good to see you, too.

WHITFIELD: Michael Cohen, now the inner circle of the president's inner circle, and now finds himself ordered to appear in court on Monday. How much trouble is Cohen in? And what could it mean for the president? Next.


[13:50:52] WHITFIELD: All right. New details on the investigation into President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. A judge ordered him to appear in court Monday and hand over his client list.

Joining me right now are civil rights attorney, Avery Friedman, and criminal defense attorney, Richard Herman.

Good to see you both.



WHITFIELD: OK, Richard, you first.

The judge here is deciding if Cohen's team will win its fight to keep materials the FBI seized out of the prosecutor's hands. Do you expect that he might win that battle?

HERMAN: I think Michael Cohen's in a heap of trouble here, Fred. I mean, really serious trouble. To get warrants to break into his house and his hotel and his office and to retrieve -- (AUDIO PROBLEM -- they have stuff on him, Fred. This is not a fly by night operation. This is the southern district of New York. The judge they're before, I've had experienced with her. She basically broke a gavel -- when I kept making an issue on the record, she told me to shut up basically and I wouldn't. She's a no-nonsense judge. Harvard law student. And very, very tough and no nonsense, Fred. And Monday, if Michael Cohen comes in there and, you know, tries to play cute with answers or this and that, she'll hold him in concept. She'll incarcerate him on Monday. She's no nonsense.

FRIEDMAN: We'll see. We'll see.

HERMAN: The issue is attorney/client privilege covering these records and was Michael Cohen really an attorney? That's the issue, Fred. It looks like he was not an attorney through the past few years, even at a minimum.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It sounds like that representation is also being, you know, scrutinized a bit.

So, Avery, there may be recordings, because Michael Cohen is known to record conversations and, apparently, at least reportedly, there are recordings between Cohen and the ex-lawyer for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougall that were always seized by this FBI raid.


WHITFIELD: So talk to me about, you know, one or two-party consent when it deals with audio recordings. If these recordings, if they did, indeed, seize them, are they even admissible? Would it be an issue of transcribing them to allow THAT information from those recordings? What would happen?

FRIEDMAN: There are both civil and criminal implications under federal law when you tape without consent. I agree, the judge is tough. If she's telling Richard to shut up, you know she's tough. She's going to be serious unless that showdown has taken place in the next 48 hours. Some states don't require consent of both parties. Some require -- if one consents, that's good enough. But in this case, both state and federal law are implicated.

So starting out, putting aside the question of the deals in Kazakhstan or Prague or Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougall, right off the bat, we're dealing with the nature of those tape recordings and whether or not there was consent. So I'm in accord, I think, that Michael Cohen's law firm, his team are doing double and triple shifts right now, Frederica, because that showdown is less than 48 hours away.


WHITFIELD: There are a lot of things involving these parties, Richard. It's not just the issue of the affair, who was lying, et cetera.


WHITFIELD: But we're talking about bank fraud, potentially. This is a criminal investigation. Maybe even, you know, financial, you know, election financial disclosures involved here. When the president argues that he didn't know anything about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels --


HERMAN: There it is.

WHITFIELD: -- his attorney, Michael Cohen, got a home equity line of credit for that $130,000. What does this say to you about the whole, you know, president claiming, you know, attorney/client privilege, et cetera, when he commented, you know, on board Air Force One, one way, and he's commented a different way via tweet?

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: Right. It's preposterous, Fred. And Trump's got to be worried if his recordings with Michael Cohen are deemed non- attorney/client because then they're going to be reviewed by the FBI and by investigators. But New York is a one-party consent state, Fred. So you can tape somebody in New York without the consent of the other party without even telling them you're doing it.


[13:55:21] FRIEDMAN: It wasn't all in New York.

HERMAN: Well, but his office is in New York and allegedly that's where the recordings took place and that's where he had them.

FRIEDMAN: Well, we'll see.

HERMAN: That's what he's going to say --



HERMAN: But, it's more just the hush money and how they shut up all of these people, Fred.


HERMAN: The Prague visit.


HERMAN: That's lying. That's the connection to Russia. That's a very bad situation for Michael Cohen, lying about this one, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. We will leave it there for now even though there is so much more to talk about.

FRIEDMAN: There sure is.

WHITFIELD: We'll see you, again, next week, at least.

Avery and Richard, if not before, thank you so much. Good to see you. Appreciate it.

Let's switch gears quite a bit. Syria, what is at stake there, particularly after these strikes? Refugees also forced to plea after barbaric chemical weapon attacks. Now left wondering, what does their future hold? We'll take you into Syria and show you the refugees' plight firsthand. That's next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[13:59:54] WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me. I'm Frederica Whitfield, in Washington, D.C.

An emergency meeting for the U.N. Security Council now entering hour four. Right now, heated debates about the U.S.-led air strikes targeting Syria.