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Trump on Syria Airstrikes: "Mission Accomplished"; Pence Speaks Out on Syria Attack; Pentagon: Research Center, Chemical Storage Sites Targeted; Adam Kinzinger Supports Syrian Airstrikes but Some Lawmakers Upset Trump Hit Syria Without Approval; Nikki Haley Slams Russia at U.N.: Chemical Attack Not "Fake News"; CNN Goes Inside Syrian Refugee Camp After Airstrikes; Judge Orders Cohen to Turn Over Client List by Monday; Missile Strikes Get Strong Reaction from Congress; Can Secretary of State Nominee Mike Pompeo Handle Syria Crisis, Regional Complexities; Comey Takes on Clinton in 1st Big TV Interview. Aired 3- 4p ET

Aired April 14, 2018 - 15:00   ET



[15:00:07] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. I want to welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. Thank you for joining us.

President Trump declaring "mission accomplished." And now we're hearing from other countries that sent missiles and fighter jets into Syria.

This, we're told, is what remains of a scientific research center near Damascus, the Syrian capital. The other places hit, some chemical storage facilities and what the Pentagon calls an important command post.

Now, here is where the information gets a little bit blurry. The U.S. military says every bomb and missile hit its target. Syrian and Russian officials, though, say most of them were intercepted by air defenses. Both sides say they are not aware of any civilians killed in these airstrikes.

Three nations were involved in this mission, the United States, Great Britain and France. Ambassadors from all three spoke a short time ago at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.


FRANCOIS DELATTRE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translation): The dismantling the Syrian chemical program in a verifiable and reversible way, this is essential.

KAREN PIERCE, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM TO THE U.N.: Our action was a limited, targeted and effective strike. There were clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We are prepared to sustain this pressure if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And now something else. Just a short time ago, confirmation from senior administration officials in the U.S. that a lot of significant information supports the suspicion that sarin gas was used in addition to chlorine in last weekend's horrific chemical attack in Syria. Now, this is key because sarin is a nerve agent, banned under international law 20 years ago, and many officials believe Syria has a stockpile of it.

Our military analyst, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, is with us. Also CNN White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez.

Boris, I'll start with you.

The vice president just spoke to reporters in South America. What did he say?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana. Vice President Pence taking that trip that U.S. President Donald Trump ended up cancelling for this weekend. He was in Peru and he was asked several questions by reporters about these strikes in Syria yesterday.

First, he talked about the difficulty in trying to prove that Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons on that attack on April 7th, but he did reiterate the confidence that he and the administration have that these weapons were used in justifying these strikes last night.

He also reiterated the relationship that the United States has with Great Britain and France, and relying on each other for these kinds of strikes.

Further, the president -- vice president, I should say, had a message for Russia. Listen to this.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time for Russia to get the message that President Trump delivered last night, that you're known by the company you keep. We understand that Russia has been standing by, aiding and abetting, and supporting this brutal regime. And the time has come for Russia to join the family of nations.


SANCHEZ: Russia, of course, denies that any chemical weapons were used by Bashar al Assad.

The vice president also went further in saying that the United States would be prepared to continue to respond with similar pressure on Syria if chemical weapons are used again in the future.

Then he had to clarify a message from President Trump, who as you know, Ana, tweeted out this morning that the mission was accomplished. The vice president focusing on the idea that last night's mission was accomplished, but that the broader mission in Syria is not over, and that the United States would act if necessary, something that interestingly President Trump really is -- it is a position he is new to. If you recall, just a few weeks ago, he told supporters at a rally in Ohio that the American presence in Syria would be scaled back, that he was ready to bring the troops home, in his words, "very soon" -- Ana?

CABRERA: Boris Sanchez, on top of the latest developments at the White House. Thank you.

Admiral Kirby is also with us.

I'm hoping, Admiral, you can walk us through the places the airstrikes targeted and why they were considered valuable targets.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Sure. Let's do that quickly here. Let's look at the targets. Three targets were hit last night. Two storage facilities up here near here in Homs and a research facility down in Damascus. All related to Bashar al Assad's chemical weapons program. The Pentagon was very careful today to say that they did not obliterate all of his program, they didn't wipe every chemical weapon site off the map. But they wanted to send a strong message that it was the chemical program that was the real problem for the international community, in these cases, and that they wanted to do it precisely. They did it in the middle of the night and with precision-guided munitions to cause the most damage to the target and the least damage to the surrounding areas.

Let me show you what I mean by that, Ana. Look at this. This is before the strike. You can look right -- wait a minute. There we go. This is before the strike. If you look right here and see there are the three buildings of the research center. And look after the strike. It's completely gone and everything else around it, all still in place. Very precisely done on these three specific targets.

[15:05:16] CABRERA: Now, one of the differences, of course, in this strike that was done on an international level, compared to what we saw last year in 2017 that was solely the U.S. acting, we know the U.K. and France were involved this time.

KIRBY: That's right. This was a coalition effort between three countries. That's another thing that makes this very different from last year.

Let's just take a look at some of the assets available at sea. You had a French frigate in the Med. You had U.S. Navy ships and submarines in the Red Sea and also in the Mediterranean, all firing Tomahawk missiles. In fact, of the 105 missiles fired, 75 percent were Tomahawk missiles, which has been a workhorse for the Navy. And we'll take a quick look. It's 20 feet long. Flies at subsonic speeds but very accurate. Flies very low to the ground. Very hard for air defense systems to pick up. It can do immense damage. You can see the range all the way out to 1,500 miles to keep you away from any Russian air defense systems.

But it wasn't just a sea coalition effort. There was an air coalition effort. It looks like almost 40 now of these cruise missiles were actually launched from the air, sort of Tomahawk missiles from airplanes, and from B-1 Lancer bombers, the JASSM, Joint Air Subsurface Missile. The first time we think this has been used in combat. Very, very effective.

CABRERA: The U.S. officials are saying this operation was double the size of the mission in 2017, as you've pointed out. These targeted areas were hit with missiles and, yet, the Russians are saying intercepted a lot of these missiles. What about the Russian defenses? Did they pose any threat?

KIRBY: Not really. Now, this is what the Russian air defense system would have looked like if it had been used. They had a cruise missile range well into the area and an air system defense using their S-300 and S-400 missiles -- can go out to about 250 miles, and with a warhead of 315 pounds. Very mobile. Very easily deployed. They were not used. And we don't even know how effectively the Syrian air defense systems were used. They have a much shorter range, less than 200 miles. If they were used, they weren't effective at all because you saw the damage clearly in the photographs.

CABRERA: Admiral Kirby, thank you so much for walking us through that.

Let's get reaction from Congress. Some members on both sides of the aisle are angry that the president didn't get authorization for these attacks.

Joining us is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois. He serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He also served in the Air Force during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Congressman, thank you for being with us.


CABRERA: You have long supported military action in Syria. You lobbied for President Obama to take action in 2013. I take it you're among those who support these latest strikes?

KINZINGER: Yes, this was absolutely the right thing to do. I actually think we need a broader strategy in Syria. But given the fact that we really haven't had a strategy in Syria since the beginning of this conflict, at least holding that chemical weapons have no place in the Western world or any battlefield is a good start. So the president did the right thing.

For those in Congress that say the president should have come to Congress for this, look, it's a legitimate position, but the Constitution is clear that our role in Congress is to declare if a state of war exists, which we didn't declare yesterday, and to give the financial means to the military to do what they need to do. The president is the commander-in-chief. There are a lot of members of Congress and Senators that want to think of themselves as president. They look in the mirror every morning and go, hello, Mr. Future President. That doesn't mean there are 535 commanders-in-chief. The president was right to act without Congress' consent yesterday. If we go to put 100 to 200,000 troops in Syria or go to war, he absolutely needs to come to Congress for that.

CABRERA: The question is, what happens now? Do you think these strikes will have a different result than the one last year?

KINZINGER: I think the one last year was effective. We saw basically the regime think twice about using sarin until recently. And so hopefully, they are more powerful. But here's what the message is. The message is the cost of using chemical weapons will far exceed any benefit you gain. So this did multiple things. Number one, it sent a very strong message, don't use any more chemical weapons. The other thing it did is show the Russians that despite all their bluster, frankly, there is not a whole lot they can do or they would be smart to not really retaliate against the U.S. military. We outpower them. The Russian military is actually fairly ineffective. And Russia is a declining economy. While we have to respect the fact they're a great power, they're not the old Soviet Union. And it also sends a message to Iran, which is the United States is not going to turn our backs to what's going on in Syria, especially when it comes to tragedies like the use of chemical weapons.

[15:10:00] CABRERA: What makes you so confident that this round of strikes will be a deterrent when, obviously, the last round of airstrikes wasn't a deterrent? Because here we are in the situation we see today.

KINZINGER: Well, I can't say I know for sure. I'm not Vladimir Putin. I'm not Bashar al Assad. What I can say is I think the president's made it clear that if chemical weapons are used even yet again, there will be another round of strikes. And the point is in calculus, it's saying, you use chemical weapons, the cost to your regime is much higher than any benefit you're going to gain. And beyond that, it sends a strong message, whether it's to North Korea or any other future despot that decides that chemical weapons are going to have a place in his arsenal that we are not going to stand for that. This is important not just for what's going on in Syria but upholding international norms and this convention for future generations, including grandkids and great grandkids from now.

CABRERA: When you look at the future -- you talked about the lack of strategy -- do you believe it's important for this president to lay out a clear strategy in Syria? Just a couple of weeks ago, he was talking about completely getting out of Syria.

KINZINGER: I do believe it's important. I wish the last president would have done it, and I wish this president would do it. Now, I think this war has progressed far enough that intervention by the United States military is no longer a real option. But I think forcing the table, going to this U.N.-brokered peace process, coming to a conclusion where all parties have a seat at the table, and I also think it means Bashar al Assad needs to be out of power. I don't see how people reconcile under this man whose father killed so many people and he killed half a million. It will be a U.N.-brokered process at this point. But there needs to be strategy which includes cutting off Iran's access to the border of Israel, too, because that's a huge flash point that I think could lead to some big problems.

CABRERA: As you know, Russia has said the alleged chemical attack one week ago was staged. They've condemned these airstrikes. Russia continues to put out information that counters what U.S. officials say happened.

Listen to what we heard from Nikki Haley earlier today.


HALEY: We can all see that a Russian disinformation campaign is in full force this morning, but Russia's desperate attempts at deflection cannot change the facts. The pictures of dead children were not fake news. They were the result of the Syrian regime's barbaric inhumanity.


CABRERA: You heard Haley use the term "fake news." Is this point in case why facts matter and does the Trump administration's pattern of dishonesty risk questioning by the international community about who is telling the truth and what to believe?

KINZINGER: This is a very different thing from a political disagreement or a disagreement with what's happening domestically. With the Russians through their FSB and, frankly, through some of the conspiracy theorists you see in the media here, basically, on blogs and stuff, that are claiming this is some kind of a false flag operation. I don't believe anything Vladimir Putin says, to be honest with you. This idea that anybody who calls themselves an American would believe that British Special Forces did a chemical attack for an impetus into war, if you actually believe that, please look in the mirror and look at your allegiance to your country. I'm going to tell you what, this was not a false flag operation, and quit listening to what the Russian trolls on the Internet and Twitter are telling you every day. That's real fake news. Americans need to push back on it and be smarter than that.

CABRERA: How important is it for this administration, too, to make sure they get their facts straight every time?

KINZINGER: Well, I'm always a big fan of truth, and especially when it comes to -- well, everything, but when it comes to issues of international affairs, international relations, this is essential. I think Americans can have massive political disagreements. We always have. Frankly, we're at a pretty divided time right now, and this is going to continue. But when it comes to overseas, when it comes to passing the water's edge, we've got to be united as Americans. As you mentioned in the intro, I was very supportive of President Obama in 2013 attacking Syria. I was upset when he didn't, but I was willing to back a Democratic president because it was the right thing to do and I put partisanship aside.

CABRERA: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you so much for coming on with us.

KINZINGER: Any time. You bet.

[15:14:12] CABRERA: We have an exclusive look inside Syria. Arwa Damon spending time at a refugee camp just hours after the first missiles were launched. She'll join us next live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go away.


CABRERA: Syrian refugees are begging the Assad regime for an end to this seven-year civil war. Now, just one week ago, we brought you the news live here on CNN, an attack that killed at least 70 people, including 43 who reportedly showed symptoms of exposure to chemical weapons.

Hundreds of families are living in makeshift camps now as they flee areas they once called home.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, got an exclusive look inside one of those tent cities, and she spoke to people just hours after this new round of U.S.-led airstrikes.

She's joining us now live from the Turkey-Syria border.

Arwa, these families have fled their homes in search of safety. Tell us what you're hearing about from them.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it was for some, yes, they fled, for others, it felt more like a forced evacuation. These are people, Ana, if you can even begin to try to imagine, who have endured months of relentless bombing, and then, of course, that alleged chemical attack that took place. They lived underground. For them, something like feeling the sunlight on their skin, that was a luxury. And when this chemical attack took place, many of them who we spoke to talked about how terrifying it was.

One mother said that she felt her throat closing. She couldn't breathe. She felt her entire body go week. She tried to grab her daughters, twins, 7 years old, and drag them to one of the upper floors, but then she said airstrikes, artillery strikes began, so they were stuck in this building where the lower floors were filled with this stench from chemicals. The upper floors, they couldn't actually get to them because of the ongoing airstrikes. They're finding themselves in this tent city.

This is not just an isolated story. This is something that's been happening over and over again over the last seven years. She in particular was just saying, look, let's find some kind of political solution because enough, enough bloodshed, enough war. Children, her children, they were 2 months old when this all began. This is the only reality they know, and she wants to be able to show them a life that isn't as cruel as the one that they've been exposed to.

[15:20:48] CABRERA: Such a heartbreaking reality, Arwa.

What is their plan now? Do they plan to try to go back home any time soon, some of these people you've been speaking with? DAMON: No, because they can't. There is no home to go back to, to

speak of. This part of Syria has been completely and utterly decimated. Streets have been completely destroyed. These are people that have largely been living underground.

And, again, I go back to the stories that the children tell you because when you've gone through such fear and such horror that you can't put it into words, perhaps that is the best way to describe it, but, again, this particular family, the daughters, again, they're just 7 years old. Their mother bought them this tiny toy. When they packed up this toy doll in the cardboard box, they spoke to the doll. And one of the daughters said, look, I know it's hard for you to breathe inside this box, but at least you'll be safe from the bombs. When they got to this tent city, this refugee camp, they were playing outside, and their mother said they began digging a trench and were talking to the ants and telling the ants they could go hide inside this trench if the bombings began. And it's only when you listen to these kinds of conversations that you really begin to get just the slightest idea of what this trauma has been like. And, again, it's not just one day or a week. We're talking months, if not longer, that these families have had to go through this.

CABRERA: It is their life, and it is so hard to imagine what that's like.

Arwa Damon, thank you for bringing us a glimpse into what's going on there in Syria.

President Trump's personal attorney, meantime, is facing a new deadline. He has to turn over his client list. And this is part of that expanding criminal investigation into his business dealings. We'll have new details on this straight ahead, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:27:09] CABRERA: President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has until 10:00 a.m. Monday to provide a list of his law firm's clients along with proof of his relationship with them. This is part of the expanding criminal investigation into the man who has referred to himself as President Trump's fixer.

CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is joining us now.

Shimon, attorneys for Cohen, they went to court yesterday to try to stop federal prosecutors from looking at materials seized earlier in the week in a series of FBI raids. That's not what they got, though. Zero in for us on the critical developments that came out of that hearing.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Ana, I was there throughout the day. It was a hearing all of us thought would last relatively 15, 20 minutes maybe, and it turned into an all-day thing with the judge really not happy with Michael Cohen's attorneys. She was asking them -- they made this emergency request that the government not be able to look at any of the documents that the FBI obtained in these search warrants. They claim that it relates to his work as an attorney and all of it is privileged and that the government, the FBI and the prosecutors in New York should not be looking at them. Then when the judge kept asking his attorneys, Michael Cohen's attorneys, well, who are his clients, who are Michael Cohen's clients, how many clients does he have that could potentially affected by this privilege you're claiming these documents pertain to? Throughout the day, every time the judge went to these attorneys, they could not answer those questions. They said that they were bound, in some cases, perhaps, by ethical reasons, but in the end, it really seemed that they were not getting all the information that they needed to go ahead and make these arguments to the judge. So now she's moved everything to Monday and she's ordered Michael Cohen to appear because she's hoping to get answers to all of these questions with, perhaps, Michael Cohen there, those answers -- those questions can be answered.

CABRERA: A headline in today's "New York Times" reads, "Trump sees Cohen inquiry as greater threat than Mueller." Why would that be?

PROKUPECZ: Well, perhaps because there are a lot of documents that the FBI now has that pertain to Michael Cohen's business dealings. The president has previously worked on some business dealings maybe with Michael Cohen, and there is some concern with that. You know, we all know how Michael Cohen is referred to in terms of his relationship with the president, their past, how long they've known each other, the work that he's done for the president before he was president, and in his private business dealings.

The other issue here is also that, Ana, yesterday, the president's attorneys, newly hired attorneys came in yesterday, they were actually hired Wednesday night, they came into the case. They are now also arguing that the government should not see certain documents as it pertains to the president because Michael Cohen was his attorney and the only person that can waive privilege would be the client, and that is the president.

And I just need to point out quickly that the government has not yet even viewed any of the materials that they got in that search warrant. They don't know what they have yet.

[15:30:12] CABRERA: Right. There is this tag team that's sort of the in-between --

PROKUPECZ: Exactly right.

CABRERA: -- that comes in and determines what is attorney/client privilege and what should be turned over to the prosecutors in this case.

Shimon Prokupecz for us. Thank you for staying on top of the latest developments.


CABRERA: Up next, we go back to our other top story this hour, the air strikes on Syria. Now getting strong reaction from members of Congress. Some lawmakers say the president should have consulted them before hitting Syria. That includes my next guest, Congressman John Garamendi, of California. I'll talk to him about it when CNN NEWSROOM returns.


[15:35:17] CABRERA: Welcome back. Some members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican, say President Trump should have gotten congressional approval before launching 105 missiles at Syria. In fact, just hours before President Trump announced the strike, 88 members of the House signed a letter urging the president to consult with them before taking any action.

One of those lawmakers who signed this bipartisan letter is Democrat John Garamendi of California. He's joining us now.

Congressman, thanks for being here.

If the president had come to you with this plan he carried out last night, would you have approved it?

JOHN GARAMENDI, (D), CALIFORNIA: Quite probably. If it was a very limited authorization to use military force, much as they did, that is to go after specific targets, the chemical gas manufacturing facilities, storage facilities and the like, I think it probably would have passed nearly unanimously within both the House and the Senate. Probably some limitation on time, and if it's still a problem after six months or a year, the president could come back with proof and continue on. That didn't happen. Instead, now we have a raging controversy, really around the world, as to whether the president acted beyond his powers and illegally.

CABRERA: Could one argue, though, President Trump is upholding the red line President Obama didn't enforce?

GARAMENDI: No, that's not the case. Actually President Obama did come to Congress to ask for an authorization to use force. It didn't happen. Simultaneously he was working on a diplomatic effort. That diplomatic effort which involved Russia and NATO did result in the elimination of all of the chemical gasses in Syria and the manufacturing facilities. That was certified by the U.N. Commission on Chemical Warfare. Now, in the intervening years since 2014, obviously Syria has rebuilt its chemical weapons program. Russia was supposed to have been a guarantor. They obviously did not guarantee that it would not reoccur and therefore Russia has a serious liability here.

CABRERA: Just a couple of weeks ago, as you know, President Trump talked about withdrawing all of the U.S. resources from Syria. Would you support that?

GARAMENDI: No. I would not. The United States cannot walk away from another war. We're going to have to maintain our involvement in the area. I would suggest it be very, very limited and it has to be done in coordination with our allies. You consider for now that we have Iran seriously involved in Syria as well as Iraq. We know that Israel is involved. We know that Turkey's involved. We know the Kurds are involved and obviously Syria's involved. So it's a very, very complex place and we cannot walk away. What we have to do is develop a coherent goal. Sometime in the future we would like this or that to be the result. And we have to have a strategy to get there. Unfortunately, this president doesn't operate that way. He wakes up in the morning, decides something ought to be done, tweets it out, expect it is to happen. The next day, he reverses himself. You just gave a wonderful and a very, very sad example of that kind of change. Two weeks ago, we're going to get out, it's all over, we're getting out, and he said leave it to others. Well, here we are. Chemical attack a few days later. Guess what? We're back militarily without an authorization to use force from the Congress of the United States. This is the Constitution of the United States. It says Congress has the only power to wage war. Article II, Section II, says the president is the commander-in-chief to conduct the war. No war was declared against the Syrian government. Even though --


CABRERA: Are you saying that this is --


GARAMENDI: We didn't attack the Syrian government.

CABRERA: Do you see this as war?

GARAMENDI: Of course, it is. It is an act of war. When you bomb somebody, that is an act of war, no doubt about it. And, you know, that's just -- that is the definition of an act of war. Unfortunately, the president didn't take the time to come to Congress to ask for that very simple declaration to go after the chemical manufacturing supplies and other elements of that program. Furthermore, he has no diplomatic strategy. There is no ambassador in Turkey. There is no ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Qatar. And certainly, we have not even seen a secretary of state for the last couple of weeks.


CABRERA: Let me ask you about the secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo. Do you have confidence in terms of strategy that as Trump's new secretary of state, if confirmed, that he will be able to lead diplomatic efforts in dealing with the Syria crisis and the regional complexities around there?

[15:40:09] GARAMENDI: He has no option but to do so. He has a rather bellicose way of going at these things, but he has a different job now. He's a very smart fellow, a lot of experience, and he's going to have to change from the military background that he has and the CIA background to a diplomatic background. I think he's capable of doing that. But bottom line is there is nobody else. This is the man that the president has chosen. Hopefully, he'll be able to carry out the diplomatic task, which is so sorely missing from this current military effort and the launching of these various numerous missiles against the chemical program in Syria.

CABRERA: When you talk about that being an act of war, do you worry about retaliation by Russia or Iran?

GARAMENDI: Well, they've both said that there should be consequences. We have no idea what those consequences are. We do know that Russia and Iran are known for their asymmetric actions. They're not likely to launch rockets against the United States or any of our troops anywhere, but they are asymmetric, and let me give you an example of Russia's asymmetric work in Syria. They have what we might call little green men, these are people that are soldiers that are trained by the Russian Army and various elements, they are operating side by side with certain elements of the Syrian government. That organization attacked an American Kurd position in northern Syria. About a month ago, there were heavy, heavy casualties amongst the Russians who were operating in that area. That is an example of an asymmetric operation. There are many other kinds of asymmetric operations, most of which come under the word terrorism, car bombings, all of those kinds of activities that are so horrific and so common. Horrific among the various things is the use of chemical weapons.


GARAMENDI: And I really believe that if the president had come with a very straightforward request for an Authorization to Use Military Force, he would have had it in half a nanosecond.

CABRERA: Very quickly, if you will, if he comes to you now with the idea of using additional military force, would you vote for it?

GARAMENDI: I'd want to know what the overall strategy is. What's the purpose? What's the goal of such an activity? What is the strategy? Where are the diplomatic efforts? Who are our allies? Those kinds of questions are critically important in any military operation. If there is an additional military operation to take out additional chemical warfare activities in Syria, Mr. President, just come to the Congress.

CABRERA: OK. Got you.

GARAMENDI: Tell us what it is you want to do. Tell us what the goal is. You're likely -- highly likely to get approval of that.

CABRERA: Congressman John Garamendi, thank you very much.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

CABRERA: New developments in the feud between President Trump and fired FBI Director James Comey. More on that.

Plus, a new clip of Comey's interview was just released. We'll bring that to you. He takes on Hillary Clinton. Again, we'll have that for you right after a quick break.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:47:52] CABRERA: We just got a new clip of fired FBI Director James Comey in his first big TV interview with ABC. Comey's memoir, called "A Higher Loyalty," hits the shelves in just three days.

Here, Comey talks about his decision to go public about the newly discovered Clinton e-mails just 11 days before the 2016 presidential election. Watch.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton's convinced that that letter defeated her. What do you say to her?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR & AUTHOR: I hope not. I don't know. I honestly don't know. I sure hope not, but the honest answer is, it wouldn't change the way I think about it. I mean, my hope, I didn't write the book for this reason, but talking about leadership, it was important to tell the e-mail story because it's me trying to figure out how to lead well. The people will read that story and try to put themselves in my shoes. Try to realize that I'm not trying to help a candidate or hurt a candidate, I'm trying to do the right thing. You can come up with different conclusions. Reasonable people would have chosen a different door for reasonable reasons, but it's just not fair to say we were doing it for some illegitimate reason.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But at some level, wasn't the decision to reveal influenced by your assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win and your concern that she wins, this comes out several weeks later and then that's taken by her opponents as a sign that seize an illegitimate president.

COMEY: It must have been. I don't remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been. I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. I'm sure it was a factor. I don't remember spelling it out, but it had to have been. She's going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected, the moment this comes out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If you knew that letter would elect Donald Trump, you'd

COMEY: Deputy general counsel in the FBI who is a thoughtful, quiet person who didn't speak a lot. And that morning, we were making that decision. She asked should you consider that what you're about to do may help elect Donald Trump president. And I paused. And then I said, thank you for asking that question. That's a great question. But the answer is not for a moment. Because down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent force in American life. If I ever start considering whose political fortunes will be affected by a decision, we're done. We're no longer that group in America that is apart from the partisans and that can be trusted. We're just another player in the tribal battle.

[15:50:28] STEPHANOPOULOS: There's no precedent for putting out information like this at the end of a campaign?

COMEY: I've never heard of it before. As I say in the book, I think I did it the way that it should have been done. I'm not certain of that. Other people might have had another different view.


CABRERA: Let's talk about this. Josh Dawsey is joining us, the White House reporter for "The Washington Post" and CNN contributor, and Steve Vladeck, law professor with the University of Texas.

Steve, first, your take on Comey admitting polls played a role in his decision regarding the Clinton e-mail probe.

STEVE VLADECK, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Ana, it's not that surprising. I think it's hard to imagine how they couldn't have given the political climate that we were in in October of 2016. Given the climate today, I think there's no question had this not come out until after the election and had Hillary Clinton won the election, of course there would be screams of illegitimacy, of taint, et cetera. Now I think the question is, why are we having such a hard time accepting the credibility of Jim Comey, even if we might not have made the same decisions he made in that highly contested moment?

CABRERA: Josh, we know how sensitive the president is about the legitimacy of his pas presidency. How do you think we might react to this?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We've seen him explode already. His tweets and public comments. He's sent Sarah Sanders out to the podium to unleash a few insults against James Comey. Called him a liar, a leaker. Someone no one should be talking about. For the past 24 hours the news has fixated on Syria and other issues including Michael Cohen, his long-time lawyer. You have to imagine this interview tomorrow night be dominate the air waves. I can't imagine the president doesn't watch. I think he does watch the interview and watches Comey impugn him. I imagine we'll see him go back to Twitter and really have his say. Again, we've seen the RNC put out a lot of talking points, create a new website, surrogates are on TV all weekend from the White House. Blanketing the air waves by blanketing Jim Comey. There's an effort to go after him because they're afraid the president will make a rash decision if Comey gets a lot of positive attention.

CABRERA: In addition to the James Comey book memoir releases that we've seen, his interview with George Stephanopoulos, there was news yesterday regarding his lawyer under criminal investigation in the New York area. The president, is, quote, "pissed" at the raid of the residence the hotel room, the safety deposit boxes, two cell phones, that this was a final blow for the president. The president's anger now they say is beyond what anyone can imagine.

Josh, what are you hearing from your White House sources?

DAWSEY: He's not happy. I think beyond what anyone can imagine may be an overstatement. But the president was rattled Monday by the raid. The fact that they swept up his recordings, his documents, all sorts of years and years of paperwork about Trump and other clients of Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is President Trump's personal fixer. A lot of people in the White House believe this part of the probe, Michael Cohen, and the southern district of New York could eventually will more perilous to the president than the Russian collusion. A lot of people around the president have questioned whether there was any collusion. A lot of them dismissed that. What the president did during the campaign and before in his business and personal life could prove personally embarrassing to him and potentially problematic in the legal sense. We don't know that yet.

CABRERA: We'll see.

What do you tell us in terms of the legal implications here for President Trump regarding Cohen?

VLADECK: Yes. I think Josh is right. We have to wait and see. I think one thing that got lost in the shuffle yesterday and what was a busy news month in about 12 hours was the government filing the responsive brief in the district court in New York against the effort by Michael Cohen to basically prevent the government from actually look agent the stuff it seized on Monday.

And, Ana, I think folk ought to read the brief. It lays out not just how careful the government was on Monday when it conducted the searches, but just how long this investigation into Michael Cohen, specifically, and not just Michael Cohen as President Trump's lawyer, has been going on. Just how much evidence the government already has. I think it's clear Michael Cohen is in a world of trouble whether that goes to Trump or not, I think remains to be seen.

[15:55:11] CABRERA: Steve Vladeck and Josh Dawsey, always good to see you guys. Wish we had more time. There's never enough time because we have so many questions. Thank you, guys.

VLADECK: Thank you.

DAWSEY: Thank you.

CABRERA: No one knows exactly how they would handle sudden life- altering adversity. But we can all hope it would be something like this week's "CNN Hero." Amanda Boxtel was an athlete, a dancer, an avid skier. It changed in the blink of an eye. She then turned her pain into purpose.


AMANDA BOXTEL, CNN HERO: Twenty-six years ago, I went out skiing, and I remember I somersaulted and landed on my back. And I knew in that instant that 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 gift mobility to anyone that has a neurological impairment.


CABRERA: To nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero," go to (COMMERCIAL BREAK)