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NEW DAY SUNDAY
Haley: U.S. "Locked and Loaded" to Hit Syria Again; U.S., Allies Call for Probe of Chemical Weapons Attack; Conservative Media Slams Trump for Syria Strikes; Comey Responds to Criticism of Clinton Email Investigation; Questions Raised Over Long-Term Syria Strategy. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired April 15, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:24] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Size overwhelming and effective.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The Syrian regime, if they use this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to tell Mr. Trump, like, directly, I'm a Syrian refugee who survived chemical weapons attack. I would love to buy you a beer.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump and if I hide this from the American people, she will be illegitimate the moment she is elected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. I'm Michael Cohen, attorney-at-law. Also sometimes not at law. I'm Donald Trump's lawyer! I got a whole hard drive that is just labeled, yikes!
ANOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Sunday morning to you.
Just hours after launching military strike on Syria, American, British and French leaders are calling for a new investigation into the suspected chemical weapons attacks by the al Assad regime.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: The allies say it's going to help to dismantle the program verifiable and irreversible way. I want to show you some new images here of Tomahawk missiles being launched from submarine USS John Warner in the Mediterranean Sea.
Syria's most powerful ally Russia has called on the United Nations to condemn the action but members of the Security Council overwhelmingly voted down that resolution. Syria says most of the missiles were intercepted. And that some of the targets were left unscathed. Look at the satellite images. They appear to dispute that showing some sites just leveled.
Now, the Pentagon says the strikes on Syria's chemical weapon sites sets back the programs for years and some capability left, the Trump administration issued a stern warning against a future attack.
BLACKWELL: Now, CNN politics reporter Dan Merica is in the Washington bureau for that.
Locked and loaded we hear from the U.S. ambassador.
DAN MERICA, CNN REPORTER: Yes, some tough talk even hours after these strikes. And it's important as you note some of the Syria's capabilities remain and why the Trump administration, days after the strikes, are saying that they will continue to do this if President Bashar al Assad uses chemical weapons again.
Now, it's important to note that the Pentagon wasn't exactly clear to what the red line is with the Trump administration. They weren't able to say whether it was chlorine or sarin gas which U.S. officials are confident was used in the attack that spurred the U.S., French, and British response. All of this is happening in a political context. Democrats were initially very supportive of these strikes, including some that are up for re-election in 2018, but they are now calling on President Trump to come to Congress to brief them on his plans in Syria and his long-term strategy for the reason and also go to the United Nations and use the United Nations as a venue to brief and to find an end to the conflict in Syria.
Now, that is significant because the U.N. ambassador for the United States Nikki Haley is probably more hawkish than some members of the Trump administration. Take a listen to what she said yesterday about the strikes in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MERICA: You know, President Trump's response to the strikes has been kind of mixed. He said in a tweet yesterday that the mission was accomplished, kind of harkening back to what President Bush said during that famous around the Iraq war where the banner seemed to indicate that President Bush thought that the Iraq war was over and he said he has come to regret that statement.
So, it's unclear whether he is referring to just the mission of Friday night or the broader U.S. mission in Syria and seems unlikely that is the case. President Trump has been motivated throughout his presidency to do things that President Obama was unable to do. You'll remember that president Obama set a red line during his administration for the use of chemical weapons in Syria and then found a peaceful solution to that and did not resort to military action. It seems like President Trump is trying to step in and doing something where President Obama was unable -- Victor, Christi.
BLACKWELL: All right. Dan Merica for us in Washington -- Dan, thank you very much.
Syrian President al Assad is claiming at least partial victory.
PAUL: In a meeting with Russians lawmakers, he says defense weapons supplied by Moscow knocked many of the allies' missiles. It's worth pointing out these weapons are cold war relics from the Soviet era.
[07:05:01] CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us live from Northern Syria.
So, Nick, I understand that Russia is resolved to solidify their defense in Syria after what happened in the last 24 hours.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, you have to bear in mind it's a messy picture of exactly what happened in terms of Syria's air defenses. They are claiming in that meeting that it was Soviet era technology that took out top of the guided missiles launched from B-1 bombers. I personally find it a complicated sell and complicated to believe the Russia state of the affairs which means 70 of the 105 missiles fire were actually taken out of the sky by air missile defense. Complicated, certainly but even if it was top of the end Russian technology 70 percent success rate will be remarkable for most modern missile defenses.
So, there is certainly a message being given out. A victory to some degree that they have survived but they believe they intercepted much of this and woefully contradicted by the Pentagon's own satellite imagery, which were able to separately verify using commercial images before and the after what we're dealing with here, both three of the sites in question, particular buildings taken off the map.
Now, put that aside because, frankly, this is a conflict and everyone is going to sell you their own particular side even though the Russians and Syrians aren't able to provide much evidence of that effect. The messaging from the Syrians is still the same. We are still here. We are still going about our normal daily business. They say will beef up their air defenses. OK, fine.
But quite clearly, there was enough Russian technology in the mix to bring it in to take out the cruise missiles but I think frankly because neither Moscow and Washington want to be in a shooting war here, they may have chosen not to deploy those and something the Pentagon has better knowledge of than myself. Still, Bashar al Assad putting out pictures of him strolling into work yesterday, pristine marble reception floor and, today, talking about the need of $14 billion to rebuild the country that many say frankly has been his forces reduced to rubble in trying to crush the insurgency.
They are basically selling out a message that we are still here and we have brushed off the last 72 hours and the civil war continues in their favor as frankly we have known before. The outstanding question, though, as Dan pointed towards there, is what force in that gas used last week can? They talk about analysis U.S., U.K., and France but not clear who has important and plus some have shown. The OPCW on the ground now doing that kind of work and it's important
in the future, I think, that people understand whether it was sarin juice that caused this intervention or the use of chlorine. Chlorine is part of a majority of the 50 cases of so Nikki Haley said the Syrian regime is behind the chemical weapons since the war began. If chlorine is a new line it opens up a new whole potential military intervention.
The OPCW probably will make that determination, Wolf, publicly. Back to you.
PAUL: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, appreciate it so much. Thank you.
BLACKWELL: All right. Joining me now, Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and historian and professor at Princeton University.
Julian, good morning to you.
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.
BLACKWELL: So, let's first listen to General Kenneth McKenzie on the possibility or potential for chemical weapons that still existing there in Syria. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, DIRECTOR, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I would say there is still a residual element of the Syrian program out there and not say they will able to have a chemical attack in the future. I suspect however they'll think long and hard about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: So, let's just assume for the conversation here that the U.S. took out as much as they knew about the storage and the production facilities there. Syria would have to know after the 2017 military strikes and certainly after the ones just a couple of days ago, that there will be some proportionate military response so they have to factor that in to the potential to use them, right?
ZELIZER: No, absolutely. And the hope is that this kind of attack acts as a deterrent but it's not clear that it will. That's a good reminder that we already had a strike and, yet, we are in the same place a year later. And so, the severity of the civil war and the interests of the Assad regime with the continued backing of Russia might mitigate some of the threat that President Trump is trying to make through this one strike.
BLACKWELL: So we heard the rhetoric of locked and loaded from Ambassador Nikki Haley. We heard that the president say that the U.S. is prepared to sustain this response, militarily, economically, diplomatically. How does that correspond with what the president's supporters who voted for him when he said that the U.S. should stay out of Syria, that the U.S. should not get involved in these wars around the world, how does that square with them? ZELIZER: Well, it obviously contradicts what Donald Trump, his
candidate, had said. This is a bigger commitment than one strike. It's not a war film. This requires a sustained commitment.
[07:10:02] And it also contradicts not just what he said on the campaign trail, but what he said a few weeks ago that he was withdrawing forces from Syria. So I don't think many people have clarity about what he is going to do or what the long-term plan is, and I think this might rub a lot of his constituents the wrong way if this gets deeper rather than him moving past Syria.
BLACKWELL: More than his constituents, here is a member of his own party in Congress. This is Congressman Mike Coffman. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: Well, I think that is the frustration. Certainly, this was in response to use of chemical weapons but in terms of what is the overall policy that the United States has towards Syria, I think the president blurted out in a campaign style, what, gathering that he wanted to withdrawal all forces from Syria. The United States needs to have a coherent policy when it comes to Syria. Certainly, beyond deterring Assad from using chemical weapons and I think that's important for the stability of the region, important for the security of Israeli, and this administration doesn't have one right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Julian, you got the lack of a coherent strategy there. You got the president saying that it's time to come out of Syria. You've got Congress that will not vote on a new authorization of use of military force specifically for Syria.
Is it your perspective here that the U.S. has resigned itself to understand that it will not be part of this new political solution moving forward in Syria, that it will be up to Russia and Iran and Turkey to have some role there and U.S. will be off the table there?
ZELIZER: I don't know if the U.S. has resigned itself to that. I do think that is where the Trump administration is going and I'm not sure that this strike really indicates some shift in long-term policy. So, I think that is exactly the direction this moves.
And that might not be a very sustainable future because as we see, it's a very dangerous situation there and it's not clear you can just allow it to resolve itself nor can we trust Syria and Iran to work this out. And so, I don't think this is a sustainable strategy that the administration has and saying mission accomplished should be a good reminder of what happens when presidents don't think long term. It turns into a big mess.
BLACKWELL: Yes, there was the important line between the read-out between the president of France and they agree they have to reinvigorate, I should say, multinational stabilization efforts in Syria to ensure the long-term defeat of ISIS. These are not separate conversations. What happens after this war continues could lead a space for a group like ISIS to get a foothold.
Julian Zelizer, thanks so much for being with us.
ZELIZER: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: All right.
PAUL: So, as they were just talking about, some of President Trump's die-hard supporters, some of his base, they're not happy about these Syria airstrikes. We're going to talk about why some see it as a betrayal of his campaign promises.
BLACKWELL: Send or do not send. Former FBI Director James Comey had a decision to make just days before the 2016 election. He tells ABC what he was thinking when he sent Congress a letter about new Clinton emails.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: That she is going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she will be illegitimate the moment she is elected, the moment this comes out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[07:17:37] BLACKWELL: Let's talk more the political element of what we saw this weekend. And some of the president's reporters are really not happy about the decision to strike Syria.
PAUL: There are some, there is a refugee that was Kassim Eid, who said, listen, I've lived in Syria for two years, I know what it's like to be there, I want to buy the president a beer.
BLACKWELL: He doesn't drink but he would probably accept the compliment.
PAUL: He is happy about what happened with these air strikes. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASSIM EID, SURVIVED CHEMICAL ATTACK IN SYRIA: I just want to tell Mr. Trump, like, directly, I'm a Syrian refuge who survived chemical weapons attacks, who lived under two years of siege and bombardment by the government. I would love to -- like buy you a beer and just sit in front of you and tell you how bad it is in Syria, how you should listen to your heart, not listen to your generals. You proved, once again, yesterday that you have a big heart, at least a lot more bigger than Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: Now, it's interesting is that some of President Trump's base and the people that support him do not see it that way. They say it as a betrayal of Trump's campaign promises.
CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, who also hosts "RELIABLE SOURCES" which is coming out in just a few hours, has something to say about this.
Brian, what do you make of all of this?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The reactions really are fascinating. Many of the president's staunchest allies, his biggest supporters both in conservative media circles and on social media, they are not with him on the topic of Syria. They are deeply concerned by the prospect of another war, about the U.S. getting entangled even more deeply in another Middle East conflict.
Here is an example from Ann Coulter, she's a conservative columnist, quite a provocateur. She tweeted when the Syria strikes were announced on Friday, this is good for Boeing. Boeing is happy, meaning makers of weapons, makers of missiles and things, but Trump voters like the Brexit voters continue to wait.
So, she is trying to say there is a difference between, you know -- we have also seen this from others like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. And even Alex Jones who was crying or pretended to cry on his radio show when the strikes were announced.
I think this all relates to the president's tweet yesterday where he said mission accomplished.
[07:20:00] You know ,we have all seen this and talking about this tweet from the president there, whether he intended to refer back to 2003 or not, that -- those two words, mission accomplished, and the idea that, you know, war in Iraq and then raged on for many years after. There is such an aftermath, such a reaction to Iraq, to what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's a big part of the reason why Trump's biggest staunchest supporters in the media don't want to see another escalation in another country because of what the lessons were from Iraq. And so, why now we see many of his base breaking with him at this moment in time.
BLACKWELL: What does this mean for the midterm elections? Again, the president is not on the ballot. We have seen a couple of Republicans. I just played Mike Coffman of Colorado talking about a larger discussion about strategy. What does this mean for the members of Congress who are running?
STELTER: I think too early to say the same way that we couldn't look at the government shutdown and say that was going to affect the midterms for sure. But I am seeing this ongoing trend where Trump's staunchest supporters, his allies are only with him up until the border. At the border and outside the U.S., for example, this conflict in Syria, his allies are not necessarily with him.
There have been a lot of arguments about the border wall, disappointment of lack of border wall funding. That was a big topic last Monday. And now, this decision to strike in Syria is another area his big supporters or some members of his base are not with him. So, I think they are with him here in the United States but not necessarily with him outside of the United States, and that may be an ongoing trend which would discourage people necessarily from going out and voting in the fall.
But look, if you have only two choices a Democrat or a Republican, I would think that the Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingrahams, the Ann Coulters are somebody to support the Republican. I think ultimately, this is probably -- I would say there is ongoing discussion about what the right answer is when it comes to Syria.
Normally, they kind of stereotypical way we view this, if you lean right, if you lean conservative, if you support the president, you're going to support Syria strikes. It's actually not that simple. It's a lot more complicated and I think it's a good thing we are seeing debate on the right and on the left about the legality of the action, about the ethics of the action and about the end game.
We didn't necessarily always see this debate in 2002 or 2003, for example. So, I think it's a positive we are seeing this argument, seeing this discussion happening online and on TV.
BLACKWELL: Also, will there be a vote? More than a discussion, will there be an actual vote on that use?
All right. Brian Stelter, thanks so much.
BLACKWELL: Of course, that will be a part of the discussion continuing throughout the day. And Stelter will be back on "RELIABLE SOURCES", 11:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
James Comey says even if sending his 2016 letter to Congress helped elect Donald Trump, he would do it again. Next, he'll explain why.
[07:27:40] PAUL: So glad to have with us. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour. I'm Christi Paul.
BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.
PAUL: So, former FBI Director James Comey said if he had to do it all over again, he would still send out that pivotal 2016 letter whether or not change the outcome of the election.
BLACKWELL: Speaking to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Comey explained why he told Congress about finding new Hillary Clinton's emails just days before the 2016 election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Wasn't the decision to reveal influenced by your assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win and your concern that if she wins this comes out several weeks letter and then that's taken by her opponents as a sign that she is an illegitimate president?
COMEY: It must have been. I don't remember consciously thinking about that but it must have been, because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. So, I'm sure it was a factor. Like I said I don't remember spelling it out, but it had to have been, that she is going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she will be illegitimate the moment she's elected, the moment this comes out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If you knew that letter would elect Donald Trump, you would still send it?
COMEY: I would.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hillary Clinton is convinced that that letter defeated her. What do you say to her?
COMEY: 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 email story because it's me trying to figure out how to lead well, that 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 and 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Kelly Jane Torrance is a deputy managing editor of "The Weekly Standard" with us now.
What do you make, Kelly Jane, of this realization that he seemed to have had?
KELLY JANE TORRANCE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: You know, I've been saying for a while that the only man in Washington whose ego might rival of President Trump's is James Comey and now, I think they have something else in common, which is a lack of self- awareness. I mean, I watched that and to me, it's incredible. Politics clearly should play no role in than sort of FBI investigation and here he is talking about how politics informed his decision.
[07:30:10] It's incredible. I mean, he should be making those decisions -- he talks about leadership. The head of the FBI should be making his decisions based solely on the evidence before him. He should not be thinking about the political context. We rely on the FBI as everyone in Washington has been talking about lately, to make such decisions without a look at the politics. You know, looking at some of the excerpts from the book he talks
about, well, all of the polls had Hillary Clinton ahead. Why is he looking at polls? It's incredible.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It's something he has been criticized for.
I want to look ahead to Michael Cohen tomorrow because he is under deadline right now. As of 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, he is supposed to go to court in New York and produce or disclose his client list. There are people that know him that have said he's told us he only has one client, that one client being Donald Trump.
If he has one client, how pivotal then is what happens in court because would that not lead to President Trump?
TORRANCE: Yes. Christi, this is big. As you say, sources have said that Michael Cohen has told them, I have one client and it's Donald Trump. And, of course, prosecutors have noted that they searched his email and they found no emails with President Trump because, of course, President Trump famously does not use email.
And we are hearing that Donald Trump is far more worried about Michael Cohen now than he is about the Mueller investigation. It's about time he took his focus away from that. But, you know, when you look at what they were looking for in the search warrant he is under investigation, they said, for wire fraud, bank fraud, campaign finance violations.
I get the impression what they are looking at is whether Michael Cohen was part of a conspiracy to silence women before the election through fraudulent means. And was it that they told these women things that were not the case? Because he wanted to buy their silence.
And this could be very big. I think Donald Trump should be worried.
PAUL: Well, yes, there is actually a new ABC poll says 68 percent of women like dislike President Trump personally, although his new numbers are 47 percent approval for his job performance. So, that's a bit telling there as well.
And there's one other thing that I wanted to get to that was out today and that is Sarah Sanders, she tweeted this -- I want to show it to you. Last night, the president put our adversaries on notice when he draws a red line, he enforces. Inside the Situation Room as president is briefed on Syria, official White House photos by Shealah Craighead.
Here is the thing. You see the guy there at the very end of the table right next to President Trump there on the left? It looks like it's Mike Pence. We have not confirmed that to be.
However, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, noticed it and he tweeted fascinating tweet, in which Sarah Sanders reveals that Mike Pence was simultaneously in Peru and Washington. If this new capability doesn't scare our enemies, nothing will, #quantumentanglementmike. He is saying that because Friday, I think it was Friday morning, Vice President Pence left side for Peru and he has been there since then. What do you make of this?
TORRANCE: Yes, it's pretty strange and, you know, we all know that Mike Pence was on Peru because quite famously, he was on his way to a meeting the motorcade turned around and he went back to his hotel because he found out the strikes are about to happen and he was the one who actually called people in Congress. And a lot of people were surprised the president, himself, didn't call.
But let's face it. Mike Pence is more of a personable guy. I think if you want anyone calling Nancy Pelosi, calling Chuck Schumer, Mike Pence is probably the guy. But, yes, no, it's always strange whenever there is a big situation like this, they always seem important to tweet you or send out a picture of people looking serious making the decisions.
You know what? I'm less interested in those images than in hearing what evidence, what went through their minds, what was the reason they made this decision, and, you know, pictures like this, everything is visual these days, I guess. And people want to see things but I'd rather hear about the reasons behind it and hear about the debate. But, you know, this is -- this is the new Washington we get a picture tweeted out instead.
PAUL: All right. Surely, we will hear at some point more of the details you were talking about. Kelly Jane Torrance, always good to have you here -- thank you.
TORRANCE: Thank you.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Russia says Assad views the airstrike as an act of aggression and is praising Russian defense weapons used during the strikes. We'll talk more about the U.S. military strategy in Syria with our experts. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jack and Jackie's daughter Caroline became the U.S. ambassador to Japan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm also proud to carry forward my father's legacy of public service.
[07:35:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have Joseph Kennedy II, Bobby and Ethel's oldest son, who served a number of terms in Congress, along with his cousin Patrick. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was a lieutenant governor of Maryland. You have Christopher Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy, launching his political career in Illinois.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would not be possible to write a complete history of modern America without talking about the Kennedys and the contribution that they have made.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[07:40:00] BLACKWELL: New this morning, Russia says that Syrian president is praising Russian defense weapons using during the U.S. led air strikes and viewing the airstrikes as an act of aggression.
PAUL: Meanwhile, the U.S., U.K., and France are pushing for an irreversible end to Syria's chemical weapons program after a heated debate at the U.N. Security Council between the U.S. and Russia over those attacks.
BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Major General James "Spider" Marks, a CNN military analyst and Samantha Vinograd, CNN national security analyst. She also served on the National Security Council during the Obama administration.
Good morning to both of you.
And, General, let me start with you and just off the top, the credence you give to the potential or the claim at least by Assad that the Russian defense weapons were pivotal in the strikes in protecting some of these sites across Syria.
JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I think what we know now is that Russia chose not to engage directly militarily in this attack. In fact, I'm sure what happens is the Syrians, when the president announced that something was about to happen, the Syrians did the very, very best they could to try to intermingle their forces with the Russian forces knowing full well that the United States would try to desperate Russian forces from targets that the Syrians would present, and I guaranteed you the Russians, wait, wait, wait. Hold on, man. Don't get too close. I'm going to back out of here. You got some problems, we don't and the Russians chose not to directly engage.
PAUL: All right. I want to listen here to Representative Will Hurd. He was talking about what it's really going to take to clean up Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: You still have Bashar al Assad in power being able to kill many of his own countrymen. So, that part of -- that is not a success and I think until Bashar al Assad leaves, I would say the broader goals in the region have not been accomplished.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Sam, diplomacy, people are calling for it, but this has been going on for seven years, at least. It has not worked.
What are the options here when it comes to Bashar al Assad in Syria?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Christi, to your point, this conflict started when I was in the White House, and we looked at every avenue possible to mitigate the suffering of the Syrian people and putting this in a very strict U.S. national security perspective, to limit the risks to the homeland, and I think part of the reason the focus to countering ISIS. ISIS used Syria as a safe haven, to strike the United States and our interest overseas, which is why we have a very specific focus right now on countering ISIS in Syria. And so, in terms of what options we have, I think that we have to look at who Syria's patron is.
The road to Damascus, to me at least, leads through Moscow and Tehran. Absent Russian backing for Assad, I don't think that he would feel as empowered to use chemical weapons and to use every other type of terrorist tool in his tool kit to kill the Syrian people. So, I think in the briefing that President Trump gave on Friday evening, he mentioned diplomatic and financial pressure.
And if we are serious about getting Russia to step back their support for Assad, we have to levy costs that Russia is not willing to bear like potentially additional sanctions for their support for Assad.
BLACKWELL: General, U.N. diplomats shared with CNN a French resolution we know is supported by the U.S. and U.K. that calls for an independent investigation into the suspected chemical weapons attacks. Explain the virtue of the investigation now. The U.S., the U.K., the French didn't wait for the OPCW, the Organization for prohibition of chemical weapons, to do their work before they struck two days ago. They said, the country said they had the evidence that they need.
Why now are they calling for this investigation after the strikes?
MARKS: Well, clearly the United States doesn't have to rely on an external body to act in its own national interests and the president and the National Security Council made the determination that a strike against Assad's chemical weapons and an effort to either destroy or minimally to degrade and that's another discussion we could have, their capabilities going forward, was not relying upon an international body or determination. I think after the fact it's absolutely fine to open the door and say, look, let's have this investigation which really gets to the heart of Assad's efforts rip large to try to sustain this effort.
The United States had made the determination, based on the attack in Douma, the good intelligence on that attack in Douma to act and act very quickly. Now if the international community wants to have a follow on investigation, let's do that. But there has been a concerted effort to degrade these capabilities.
Look, the chemical weapons that Assad has will never be completely eliminated or taken off the table.
[07:45:02] They certainly have been degraded. They certainly have been reduced in their capabilities and Assad I think is an idiot and he's not absolutely an irrational individual. He understands now that he probably should be a little more measured if he wants to try to butcher his people, he should use some other type of weapon system. I'm not trying to be flip, I'm not trying to be crude, but Assad has other means to destroy his population.
He has demonstrated that, but when he uses chemical weapons, it's in our interest, both in our national interest and internationally to be a leader to eliminate that as best we can.
VINOGRAD: There also a history here in that the United Nations issued a report and conduct an investigation and saying the regime was involved in using chemical weapons. We have that history and nothing happened. And so I think in this case, we probably had intelligence.
Obviously, our partners shared the conclusion that there was proof, Macron said this publicly, that the regime is responsible for this attack and we were not willing to just get this information, sit on our hands and let it happen again. So, I do think that we have to give the administration credit for taking action against something when there is clear evidence that there was wrongdoing.
PAUL: General Marks and Samantha Vinograd, we appreciate you both so much. Thank you.
MARKS: Thank you.
PAUL: We'll be right back.
[07:50:30] PAUL: So, the president is tweeting this morning and on his mind it seems James Comey.
Unbelievably James Comey states that polls where crooked Hillary were a factor in handling, stupidly he says, of the Clinton e-mail probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win and he wanted a job. Slime ball.
BLACKWELL: OK. So, that's the president this morning. Just a reminder of how tables have turned for both parties here, let's go back to October 31 days before the election, this was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when the president, then candidate Donald Trump said this about the letter that former FBI Director James Comey sent to Congress about those e-mails. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. You know that. It took a lot of guts. I really disagreed with him. What he did, he brought back his reputation. He brought it back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: So that's the president after that announcement was made, of course. We saw the tweet from the president today.
We are seeing the same thing for the Democrats, as well. That is what we are seeing in this RNC campaign of the Lyin' Comey Website in which they are playing the Democrat's words criticizing the former FBI director ahead of the release of his book on Tuesday. Here it is "A Higher Loyalty". You hear from Congresswoman Maxine Waters saying Comey has no credibility.
Now there are many Democrats who are saying this book specifically tells the truth of that time. Back then they were saying they had no credibility and we just illustrated the tables turn for the president of the United States.
PAUL: And you know, we're going to be hearing more from James Comey on this because he is on his book tour. So, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to address what people are saying now not just about the book but about what he did leading into that era and how he decided to write the book, what he decided to disclose.
BLACKWELL: First cable news interview was with Jake Tapper. That's on Thursday and then a town hall with Anderson Cooper later in the week.
PAUL: So, we should point out, Michael Cohen is going to be in court tomorrow. He is being told by a court he's got this deadline 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. He's got to produce or disclose a client list.
Many people have said they know him and the only client that they know him to have is Donald Trump. Well, that was enough for Michael Cohen to make an appearance on "SNL." Of course, it wasn't Michael Cohen.
BLACKWELL: Yes, Ben Stiller. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking for something, Mr. Cohen.
BEN STILLER AS MICHAEL COHEN: Robert Mueller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you have a seat, Mr. Cohen? Here. Put these on. Have you ever used a lie detector before?
STILLER: I feel like I have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great.
Did you make a payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did President Trump know about it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you're lying.
STILLER: It was supposed to be a surprise for Stormy like a gift.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A gift?
STILLER: Yes, a gift like a rocket to her window with a note tied to it that says stop talking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[07:56:32] PAUL: So, this week's "Staying Well" focuses on a novel way to keep students focused in class. Is that possible? They say yes, by allowing them to exercise at their desks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your exams are not graded yet.
KANDICE PORTER, KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY: A classroom is an opportunity for students to move while learning. Here we have pedal desks, we have strider desks, as well as wobble chairs and standing desks.
MIA OBERTTON, LECTURER, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH PROMOTION AND P.E.: It's pumping that oxygen throughout, so it's waking the brain up to help it receive what is being taught. I don't see a lot of people kind of drifting off into la land or going to sleep. They are more engaged, they're focused.
AJ PEDERSON, SENIOR, KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY: I can physically move around. I can physically get the jitteriness out of my body while I still learning. So, I think I'm less likely to pull out my phone.
ALEX WHITTEN, JUNIOR, KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY: In a traditional classrooms, I am always staring off into the side. In this classroom for some reason, just being able to move my legs and having my body moving keeps me more in tune with the lesson.
SAMANTHA ARNOLD, JUNIOR, KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY: While you think the activity might be able to distracting say if you were in the ball and constantly moving, then you can move to the bike, where you're sitting stationary.
PORTER: There is not a lot of research on moving and learning at the same time. Some of the preliminary research does show improved neuro cognitive functioning. Our students do better on memory test. And so, they retain the information better and they are having a reduced BMI.
WHITTEN: I love it. It's great. I mean, I look forward to it every single day.
PAUL: I need that.
All right. Thank you so much for spending your morning with us. We hope you make great memories today.
BLACKWELL: Stay with us.
"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after a break.