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Lawmakers Voice Support for Trump's Airstrike; Interview with Senator Richard Shelby; Unemployment Rate Drops, Lowest in 10 Years; World Leaders React to U.S. Strikes; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 7, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


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[10:31:36] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging Speaker Paul Ryan to call the House back into session to debate the authorization of the use of military force, of course, following those U.S. air strikes in Syria overnight. Pelosi saying just a short time ago that, "The president's actions and any response demand that we immediately do our duty."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is a very busy day on Capitol Hill. You're looking at live pictures right now. That's the senior senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch. Final debate on the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the next justice on the Supreme Court. That vote will happen within the next hour and he will be confirmed in just the next few minutes. But first, I want to go to CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly, who's watching all this from Capitol Hill.

The congressional reaction, Phil, to the action overnight.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've just learned that there will be a 1:00 p.m. closed-door secure briefing with all senators, Republicans and Democrats, so that will be pretty much the last thing these senators do before they leave for their spring recess.

As you noted, the vote on Neil Gorsuch is at 11:30. That is expected to be approved. But the big question, and really, everybody I'm talking to right now, both senators and staff, are talking about the Syrian strikes. I think a really interesting moment was on the Senate floor, Senator John Cornyn, the number two-ranked Republican, said he welcomed the demonstration of the American commitment based on what happened last night, but he added, what comes next is harder.

And I think that's the biggest question right now. You talk to a lot of members who either were called last night by the White House or White House officials or have found out about this the same way we did, and they want to know, what's the strategy and what happens next in Syria. Most members I'm talking to say they have been told that there is no expectation of new strikes any time soon. Whether that could change, those are the things they want to find out. They want to know what the strategy is going forward.

And as you noted, Poppy, when it came to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, they want to know when the debate on any authorization of future military force will occur. As I noted, these members are all leaving for two weeks, for recess, just in the next couple of hours, and so those questions are outstanding, those questions have no answers, and I think that's going to be a lot of what senators are asking in this private secure briefing at 1:00 p.m., guys.

HARLOW: All right. Phil Mattingly on the Hill with all of that, thank you very much.

Let's talk more about this with Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby.

It's nice to have you on, sir, especially today. Just to get you on the record on this, are you supportive of the president's actions, the air strikes overnight?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I'm very supportive. I think that it was a measured response to what happened with the chemical weapon attack on innocent civilians and so forth, but we've got to know what's going to come next. We've got a bad situation in the Middle East. Russia's a player there, we're a player there, and others. But Assad needs to go, and the sooner the better. And I think that should be the topic of some international movements.

BERMAN: You know, Senator, and we're going to talk about what happens next in a second. It is interesting that as of five days ago, the policy of this administration was that Assad didn't have to go. And it's an interesting point because you're supportive of the action overnight, but Bashar al-Assad, he was a very bad guy before this week. He was attacking his own people before this week using chemical weapons. So should this attack that happened overnight from the United States have happened sooner?

SHELBY: Well, sometimes you have to create a dynamic, and Assad created the dynamic to bring the world down on him by using chemical weapons, violated the international law and everything, and all --

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[10:35:04] BERMAN: But he has done that a long time ago.

SHELBY: Absolutely.

BERMAN: But he's done that a long time ago.

SHELBY: Hey, he's a bad actor. His father was a bad actor. Look what he's done brutalizing his own people. We should do everything we can to stop this. We have to -- we shouldn't go it alone, but he needs to go.

HARLOW: I just want to get an answer to John's question, though, and that is, should this have happened before? Because after that attack in August of 2013, you and many other -- many other members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, didn't want to hold a vote on the authorization of the use of military force. You said that you thought President Obama failed to assure us that an attack would not further destabilize an already unstable part of the world. Should --

SHELBY: Well, first of all, if we look back --

HARLOW: Should this have happened back then?

SHELBY: I thought then and I know now that President Obama and his administration was very weak, they were very vague on what they would do. What President Trump needs to do next is have a comprehensive plan to get rid of Assad and try to let the Russians know that we're not just going to be the only player in that area.

BERMAN: Senator, and certainly President Obama's administration has come under criticism for what it did or did not do in Syria. You said President Trump needs to send a clear message. What is his Syria policy? I think it's a fair question, because --

SHELBY: Well, I think --

BERMAN: What he ran on was very different than what you saw overnight. If someone asked you to articulate the White House policy on Syria this morning, could you?

SHELBY: I don't think they have a policy yet, but they'd better have one because things are probably not going to get better in the Syria area there. They're going to get worse and we're going to be involved one way or the other, so we need a policy. We need to know what it is. The president ought to articulate it to the Congress and the American people, and we should respond if it's a good one.

HARLOW: Given the most recent chemical weapons attack last week on these innocent civilians, you've got dozens dead, including children, horrifying images to see. You know, not that long ago, in 2015, when asked about the refugee situation and Syrian refugees coming into the United States, you said, quote, "The Syrian refugees, we don't need those people in this country." Do you still feel that way, Senator?

SHELBY: Well, we certainly don't need people that would be terrorists. We should vet them. You know, we all -- we're a nation of immigrants. We benefit from immigration, but we should know who's coming into this country, and a lot of people were coming from Syria then, probably now, we know very little about them and that was my point.

BERMAN: It is a two-year vetting process for people from Syria, some of the strictest in the world. And again, just given the situation these people are facing right now, the victims of atrocities, do you feel that we need to be more welcoming?

SHELBY: I think that we need to bring civility, if we can, to the area. That's a very difficult thing to do, because if we don't, you're going to have more -- you're going to have thousands, if not millions of refugees.

HARLOW: Sounds like you would not change your position on that at this point.

Senator Richard Shelby, we appreciate you coming on. Thank you.

SHELBY: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, he calls the U.S. strikes in Syria an act of aggression, but other countries have a different response. Stay with us.

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[10:42:35] HARLOW: All right, a pretty disappointing jobs report this morning, and of course, uncertainty across the Middle East sending a lot of mixed signals to Wall Street as the market opens today. Crude oil prices spiking overnight on news of those U.S. air strikes in Syria. Syria not an oil producer, folks. That's not what this is about. It's about geography. It's about the Strait of Hormuz, where 20 percent of the world's oil passes through. And when you have intention the region that complicates things.

BERMAN: And the jobs report was a bit of a disappointment. Only 98,000 jobs added last month, well below expectations.

CNN's Cristina Alesci here with that -- Cristina.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: We're seeing a lot of fluctuation in the market this morning because investors are digesting a lot of information, but two key takeaways here, geopolitical risks are out there. It's really hard to price them in. You can't do that until they actually happen. The U.S. air strikes on Syria were a reminder of that. But investors quickly turned to the jobs report this morning, which was a mixed report, right? Because we had unemployment actually fall to 4.5 percent, but the number of jobs, as you indicated, John, is well below what we've seen over the past few months. 98,000 jobs is not a strong number.

Retail took a particularly hard hit, losing 30,000 jobs. So not good. One bright spot was wages. I mean, wages at 2.7 percent, not bad, given the fact that during the recovery, that number was really holding steady at 2 percent.

Bottom line, economists are not seeing all negative things this morning. What they're saying is, basically, look, maybe this is an indication that the job market is pretty fully baked in, that there isn't really room to create a lot more jobs, and this is just one month. Maybe the bad snowstorm in March had an impact here, so maybe it was a blip. So all of these things, they're taking it in stride but not good news for Trump because he wants to create about 200,000 jobs a month, and 98,000 is well short of that.

HARLOW: Yes. Not even close.

BERMAN: It is interesting seeing the market not move really far down. In fact, it's up a little bit right now because typically investors don't like uncertainty and it must mean that investors do not view this military action overnight as contributing to uncertainty that much else. You would see a big market drop, which actually does usually come or often come with military action. HARLOW: That's a really good point.

Cristina, thank you for the reporting. We'll keep an eye on it all day, of course.

All right, also following these U.S. air strikes overnight, we want to remind you just of the humans, the real toll behind all of this. The president said the stories, the images from the chemical weapons attack are what led to his decision.

[10:45:02] The words he used, "choking the lives out of these people," stories like that of Abdul Hamid Yousef, a father who lost his entire family this week in the chemical weapons attack. This is Yousef crying at the grave of his twin children who were killed following that. Yousef also lost his wife, his brothers and cousin from this Assad regime attack. This is Yousef talking about it.

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ABDUL HAMID YOUSEF, FAMILY KILLED IN SYRIA GAS ATTACK (Through Translator): I found that the atmosphere wasn't good for breathing. It was difficult to breathe. I gave my kids to their mother, and I said, stay here. I went over to help my neighbor's kids. Every time I would find someone, I'd see them fall over. I went to my parents' house. I tried to help my first brother and he was murdered on the spot. I went to my second brother, Kadeem, and he died, too. I went to see my kids and they were murdered, too. The foam was on their mouths and there were convulsions. They had all been on the floor.

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HARLOW: And that is the human toll. We'll be right back.

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[10:50:36] BERMAN: All right, we have new reaction coming in from Russia to the U.S. attack in Syria overnight, this from the Russian prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev. He said the attack put the United States and Russia on the brink of military clashes. He added, "Instead of the much publicized the U.S. policy about a joint fight with a common enemy, ISIS, the Trump administration has proven that it will fiercely fight against the legal government of Syria." Again, that from Russia.

HARLOW: Yes, another divide, a widening gap between the U.S. and Russia on all of this. We're getting a lot of reaction this morning from around the world. The United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May very supportive of this strike, also France and Germany, saying mass crimes cannot go unpunished. Other U.S. allies like Canada, Australia, Italy, calling the strike proportional. Meanwhile, Syria saying the strike makes the U.S. an ally of ISIS. Russia calling it an act of aggression. China and Iran also opposing it.

Here to weigh in, no one better than Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." So nice to have you here with us live this morning. How does this

change the situation fundamentally in Syria? And do you believe that a diplomatic solution, pathway to peace, is any more real or possible now?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: It doesn't really change the fundamental situation in Syria, and that -- you know, that is the one problem with this, which is that it puts the United States' thumb on the scale in the middle of the Syrian civil war. It seems as though we are now, you know, opposed to Assad and are trying to find a way to get him out, but he is still very powerful. This is one airfield, it is a very limited strike.

The further complication here is, the reaction, as you guys pointed out very well, is that you have Russia, Iran, China on one side, condemning the U.S. attack. The most important thing here is Russia and Iran because Trump had said as a candidate, his one obsession was to defeat ISIS.

HARLOW: Yes.

ZAKARIA: The countries that are fighting ISIS or could potentially fight ISIS are Iran, Russia, the Syrian government and the Iraqi government. So your most natural allies to take on ISIS, the people who are fighting ISIS on the ground right now are Shiite militias, Iranian militias, the Syrian government, the Iraqi forces. Most of them are opposed to this strike. You have driven a wedge between the people who could help you fight ISIS and, you know, your natural allies.

So that's the one complication here because once this is done, a few weeks from now, we'll get back to -- the United States will get back to its principal objective in that region, which is defeating ISIS. But now it will not have a cooperative Russia, it will not have a cooperative Iran, it will not have cooperative militias on the ground. What happens then?

BERMAN: And we simply do not know what the Trump administration's policy will be and we don't know what it is today effectively. We know they carried out air strikes overnight as a reaction to Bashar al-Assad's chemical attack, but we don't really know how much they'll do to remove him from power. We don't really know how adamantly they feel about removing him from power. And we don't know what the military posture will be in the coming days and weeks.

ZAKARIA: You're exactly right, John. I mean, it's important to remember that a day before, a day before this American attack, after the Syrian attack had taken place, after the chemical weapons attack, Sean Spicer said we don't think we should be calling for the removal of Assad. That doesn't reflect the realities on the ground. And the Trump administration's position had been the Obama administration was wrong to be calling for the removal of Assad. We want Assad to help us destroy ISIS.

Now after the attacks, Tillerson and McMaster, the secretary of State and National Security adviser, essentially reversed that policy in one day, in one briefing. They said, no, no, we now want Assad to go, we want to go to Geneva, we want a political solution that gets him out. But the question is, does that hold? I mean, we -- you know, with this administration, you keep wanting to hear from Donald Trump.

HARLOW: Yes.

ZAKARIA: Because there are so many contradictory, frankly, incoherent strands, that only he can clarify. Is he now back on board with what is, frankly, the Obama administration policy, which is we're not militarily going to try and dispose Assad, but we want him to go?

HARLOW: Fareed, why do you believe Bashar al-Assad would do this? Why would he use Sarin gas on his people the same week that Nikki Haley and Rex Tillerson basically said -- all but said to him, you can stay?

[10:55:06] ZAKARIA: I think he got overconfident. And I think, frankly, the effect of some of those statements by the Trump administration must have given him cause to be confident. Look at the way Assad must have looked at it. He was back on his heels a couple of years ago. He had consolidated power. The Russian intervention had helped him. He was gaining strength, and then the Trump administration comes in and says, we're going to hand Syria over to Assad. Assad can do what he wants. We don't believe we should be involved. Last week, Secretary Tillerson said it's up to the Syrian people to decide who governs them.

HARLOW: Well, it's not.

ZAKARIA: As if they're holding primaries in Syria.

BERMAN: Yes.

ZAKARIA: You know, so, that -- all that must have given him confidence. And remember, he is a brutal dictator who has been trying to demonstrate to his people the price of opposing me is very, very high. And this regime, the Syrian regime, has been pretty brutal about that to try to make people understand --

BERMAN: That is his foreign policy, in fact.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Fareed Zakaria, great to have you with us. Thanks so much. We need to learn a lot more from this administration.

We are following two big stories. The fallout from the missile strike overnight. Also what appears to be some kind of vehicle attack in Sweden. A lot going on there. Stay with us.

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