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White House Sends Mixed Messages on Syria and What's Next; U.S. Sends Carrier Group to Korean Peninsula; Blasts Tear Through Palm Sunday Services in Egypt. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 9, 2017 - 18:00   ET

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


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR. The White House is sending mixed messages. Listen to what the U.S. envoy to the U.N. said on CNN today about whether Syrian President Bashar al Assad should stay in power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[18:00:04] NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: There's not any sort of option where political solutions going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime. It just -- if you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: You heard Nikki Haley there say there can be no political solution with Assad at the helm. But now, listen to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who in a matter of days will have to spell out the U.S. position when he meets with Russian officials in Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are hopeful that we can work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all of the parties on a way forward. It is through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will ultimately be able to decide the fate of Bashar al Assad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: While U.S. diplomats send those dueling messages, Russia and Iran are trying to show unity. Syrian state media citing a joint statement from Moscow and Tehran saying and I quote, "We will respond strongly to any aggression on Syria. Russia and Iran will not allow America to dominate the world."

That ominous warning comes as the Trump administration tackles another potential threat, North Korea. Right now, an aircraft carrier-led strike group is deploying towards the Korean peninsula. A U.S. official confirms to CNN this move is a direct response to recent North Korean provocations.

But what happens next? Secretary Tillerson said recently when it comes to North Korea, everything is on the table.

CNN is covering this as only CNN can. We have a team of reporters and analysts standing by from the Syrian border to Pyongyang where we are the only American TV crew, our correspondent Will Ripley inside North Korea.

I want to begin, though, with CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward live along the Syrian-Turkish border.

And, Clarissa, does it appear to our allies in that region that the White House has a clear plan?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think anyone in the region in terms of allies sees a clear plan, partially for some of the reasons that you were just illuminating, talking about the disparity that seems to exist between the type of rhetoric that we're hearing from the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, and what we're hearing also from the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. While fundamentally there seems to be agreement about the fact there has been a pivot away from this idea that Bashar al Assad does not necessarily need to step down, that that is a decision that the Syrian people should make, now there seems to be more of a growing consensus in fact it is unlikely that there can be any stability or peaceful resolution to the situation in Syria as long as he remains in power.

We do see a slight divergence of opinion with Nikki Haley apparently as you played with that sound, articulating a slightly more aggressive stance towards Bashar al Assad, arguing that that is a U.S. priority, along with the fight against ISIS, in terms of U.S. Syria policy, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson still appears to be emphasizing that the priority is very much about fighting ISIS and that while Bashar al Assad clearly cannot be part of the long-term solution, regime change is not the U.S.'s motivation here in terms of how it's engaging in Syria.

But whenever you have a little confusion or a little bit of disparity, that does allow the other side to kind of strengthen its resolve. We saw today Russia, Iran, Syrian regime coming out together, singing from the same song sheet, saying essentially that what the U.S. did in Syria was a violation of international law, that there must be an impartial investigation into these allegations as they would call them of the chemical attack, and essentially saying that they are going to take a much more aggressive stance if this is to happen again.

So far though, what we've heard from Russia and Iran and Syrian regime appears to be largely constrained to rhetoric rather than to any active or reciprocal act of aggression. But the devil will really come out in the details when we see Tillerson sit down in Moscow with his counterparts, Sergei Lavrov. They are going to have some very tough conversations, Ana, as they try to come up with some kind of consensus that they can agree on, with the U.S. definitely at the very least taking a much tougher tone on Russia and Assad and a much tougher tone on the regime that Bashar al Assad even if the fight against ISIS is still the U.S.'s priority in Syria -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Clarissa Ward reporting from the Turkey/Syria border.

Let's now turn to Will Ripley, live in Pyongyang, the only American journalist inside North Korea.

Will, a Navy strike group heading your way. What's the reaction there?

[18:05:04] WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is not unprecedented, Ana. The carrier striker group, the Carl Vinson, was actually deployed in the Korean Peninsula a few weeks ago for joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea. But what the United States has done is they had sent elsewhere, they have turned it around, and now, it is heading towards the waters off the Korean Peninsula as a direct result of North Korean aggression.

I was here in Pyongyang, meeting with government officials yesterday when the news first came in that the strike group was headed this way. They didn't seem particularly fazed by it. They said that this is yet another example of increasingly provocative behavior in their view by the Trump administration. Much of the world thinks that North Korea is the one that's provoking everyone else but North Korea feels that the United States is really ratcheting up tensions here in the peninsula.

They talked about the missile strike on Syria. They do not believe it was coincidental that that missile strike happened as President Trump was having dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It's no secret the United States wants China to exert more economic pressure on the government here in North Korea because China is this country's only meaningful training partner, accounting for anywhere from 70 percent to 90 percent of trade. And so, they think that by launching that missile strike, President Trump was threatening China and also threatening North Korea that things are going to change.

They say they're not worried about sanctions. They also they're not going to back down. They believe that the Trump administration will be very capable of launching a preemptive strike on this country. So, instead of slowing nuclear weapons testing and development, they say that they intend to accelerate it, which means more missile launches.

And already, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has launched more missiles during his short time in power than his father and grandfather combined and also, satellite data shows that North Korea is ready to push the button on its sixth nuclear test at just about any time, Ana. We don't know when that's going to happen, but this is a major week here. Tomorrow, a large political gathering here in Pyongyang., the supreme people's assembly. And then, on Saturday, this country's most important holiday of the year, the Day of the Sun.

It is around these major events that Kim Jong-un often decides to flex his muscles, to show military strength both for propaganda purposes here at home, also to project power to the rest of the world in addition to the scientific knowledge that he can gain. So, do not be surprised if we see more increasingly provocative behavior from North Korea very soon, Ana. CABRERA: Right. It seems advantageous for the North Korean

administration to frame this move by the U.S. as something threatening. But is there really any expectation that this is anything other than a show of force from the U.S.?

RIPLEY: Well, during the years of the Obama administration, the North Koreans, while they always have told people who live here, I mean, people are reinforced with this message constantly, that they're under the imminent threat of invasion by the United States and they tell people that's why they have to go without electricity. That's why they have not as good quality food or why they have less wealth when compared to the rest of the world.

And people, at least here in the capital city who are the most privileged people in North Korea, they have the highest standard of living, they say that they accept their country is going to invest in producing these weapons of mass destructions. They say that they are vital to their survival as a nation. Now, of course, this is a one- party state with a man with absolute power, so that is what they are going to say.

Government officials here though, they do believe that the Trump administration is more capable of raining down missiles on this country that during the previous eight years. And so, they said they want to be prepared and get that workable intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead ready to go as a deterrent. They don't want to see what happened in Iraq or Libya happen here in North Korea -- Ana.

CABRERA: Will Ripley reporting from inside North Korea -- thank you.

Lots of information to take in. Let's bring in our panel of experts to break down all of it. Joining me, senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, and CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein. He's also senior editor at "The Atlantic".

Ron, to you first. Does it appear to you that the White House has a clear strategy with Syria?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we have clarity on one point and no more clarity on the larger point. I mean, the very specific point on which I think we have more clarity is that they will respond when the red line, a kind of civilizational red line is crossed on the use of chemical weapons and I think they send a very clear message to Assad about that. On the larger question of their posture toward the Syrian regime and prioritizing the fight of ISIS over regime change, and whether it is even possible as Marco Rubio argued today, to in fact separate the two issues in that way, I think on all of those fronts, we still have a lot of uncertainty.

I think their instinct is clearly that they would prefer to focus on ISIS. But again, as Senator Rubio argued today, it is unclear that as long as Assad is power, that you can really defang kind of Sunni radicalism in Syria when his actions provoke and energize that kind of radicalism.

CABRERA: I want to bring in our CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.

[18:10:00] And I do want to play that sound you just referred to our viewers can --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

CABRERA: -- fully hear it and soak it in themselves, and then we'll talk on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Look, I listened to the interview earlier today I guess that Secretary Tillerson is going to have on your program and I'm a bit concerned about the outlines of the strategy as I understand it. I think it's based on assumptions that quite frankly are not the right ones and I hope they'll reconsider. This idea that we're going to get rid of ISIS then we'll hopefully use Assad and others to come up with a solution, it's not going to work. These people who have been killed and gassed and human rights violations against them will never accept Assad as a rightful ruler.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: David, do Rubio's concerns make sense to you?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it does. I think that Marco Rubio has been following issues for a long time now has pretty sophisticated views about them, and, you know, he basically argued, as many in the foreign policy community argue and have argued for a long time, that you can't do this in a sequence in which you first beat ISIS and then remove Assad. In order to beat ISIS, you need to remove Assad in the process, you know, which is essentially the view he's been arguing.

But I'll tell you this, very importantly, Ana, the one strike that the administration has launched against Syria, which, you know, brought so many cheers from around the world, that effect, the influence of that will wear off if there's no clear strategy. We seemed to be flailing. We're not sure where we're going. We're not sure where we're going with the Russians, much less, you know, other people in the area. This Tillerson meeting in Moscow is extremely important now.

But I do think that if it becomes a single shot, just a shot across the bow, and the only thing the United States is objecting to is the use of chemical weapons, not objecting to all the refugees, not objecting to all the barrel bombs, all the other brutalities that the Assad regime has imposed upon its -- the victims in this country, unless the administration also responds to that in some way, you know, we won't -- we won't take any Syrian refugees, and unless responded some positive way, I think, unfortunately, the strike yesterday will come to be seen as a more symbolic gesture than a meaningful gesture.

CABRERA: Gayle, you have been to this region. You've spoken and spent time with Syrian refugees. So, I know you really understand this crisis. What would be the most helpful for the U.S. to do that would be in the benefit to the people there? GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, SR. FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The

biggest thing that people want, especially if you talk to Syrians, is to end the war so they can go home. What's fascinating now to see the same debate that really in some ways caused a civil war among policymakers inside the Obama administration now taking place among the Trump administration, but much more visibly because it comes after the chemical attack and because it comes in large part on camera, right? I mean, there has always been this question about whether you can fight ISIS and topple Assad at the same time. And there were people inside State Department 2014, 2015 saying Assad is the cancer and ISIS is simply the symptom. You cannot get rid of ISIS without also dealing with the Assad question.

And now, you see an administration that did not want to get involved in this war any more than the Obama administration did, find itself really trying to figure out what is the way forward and what is feasible given that the ghost of Iraq and the ghost of Libya both hang over every policy question on Syria.

CABRERA: Which is maybe why we see senators like Marco Rubio who initially praised that air strike or the strikes I should say, missiles that were sent by the U.S. into Syria now kind of backing up a little bit, and say, wait a minute, what's the bigger plan here?

Now, let's turn to North Korea. The U.S. we now know deploying a Navy strike group to the Korean Peninsula. I want to play for you what Republican Senator John McCain said this week about the threat North Korea poses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The most immediate crisis we have is not in the Middle East. The most immediate right now is this crazy fat kid who is -- who is -- he is not rational. Everything I read about him, he's not rational. The worst kind of adversary would be an irrational person with a nuclear weapon. So, I would hope that the meetings with the Chinese leader who is now going through the process of consolidating his position, would be that he would take sufficient action against North Korea to stop this. They can do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: He sure cracked himself up there, didn't he? Well, on that serious side of things, though, President Trump has said maybe he would speak directly with Kim Jong-un. Ron, do you think he should?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, as one North Korean scholar described it -- described it, it is the country of lousy options, I mean, it is not clear what the option that could ultimately dissuade them from the course they are on. A preemptive strike in North Korea, as Gayle could tell you, is vastly the more complicated and risky than anything we've talked about obviously in Syria, perhaps even more so than in Iran, because of the potential from massive casualties in Seoul as a response -- in South Korea -- to any kind of military action.

[18:15:17] The China card may not be as powerful as some people hope, as Senator McCain argued there. I mean, there's a lot of dispute about whether China in fact could force North Korea to drop these ambitions. And I think it is a problem, you know, that is one without, is devilled three administrations who have struggled to find a solution.

It's not clear that direct talks amid all of this uncertainty would get you very far unless you have a very clear vision of what is the road out from the other side. But I think, you know, some combination of increased pressure from China and increase threat of military action, maybe the best cards we have to play, but there's no guarantee that's a winning hand.

CABRERA: David, what does the U.S. stand to lose by trying to speak with Kim Jong-un?

GERGEN: I don't think it has anything to lose. It does seem to me that I think Ron has made the right arguments, but I don't think they have anything to lose by doing it. What they do need to do, Ana, if they are going to send a task force there just, you know, within hours after they've struck Syria, they want to be very careful now, very deliberative not to be using -- to be seen as becoming reckless with force.

And what that means is they've got to go back to how the George H.W. Bush administration handled it going into Kuwait and kicking Saddam out of there some years ago. That's when Jim Baker was secretary of state. As you recall, they very carefully laid the groundwork before they took action. They went to the U.N. They went to all of the countries in Europe. They went around the Middle East. They collected money to help pay for it and they built up international pressure so it looked like that was -- everybody agreed that was the right way to do it and they wound up United States got paid more money than it cost.

So, you know, it does seem to me in this particular instance, they need to bring China into the game much more fully, much more visibly. Chinese can talk directly to the North Koreans. They can put together a peace conference of some sort. And the Chinese need to -- and we need to get the Chinese, you know, pushed into strengthening sanctions. But this is a moment of great delicacy.

John McCain -- Senator McCain is absolutely right. This is a far more urgent problem for American foreign policy than is the Syrian situation, ISIS situation, which is going to go on for a fairly long time.

CABRERA: If China is the pivotal player in the relationship with North Korea and what happens there, you can say the same about Russia and what's going on in Syria. And we know this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is going to have to delicately do a dance as he meets with his Russian counterpart about what to do regarding Syria.

Gayle, what message would you like to see him convey?

TZEMACH LEMMON: Well, I think what's fascinating about what you say, Ana, is that, you know, you make -- we run the risk of making the same mistake about China vis-a-vis North Korea as we do Russia with Assad, which is, are we overestimating the amount of leverage they actually have to bring either North Korea or Syria to the table? And I think that is very much an open question.

I think Rex Tillerson is very much going to be focused on, you know, what is happening with chemical weapons, offering the idea that, you know, we will take you into this community of nations if you stop backing Assad. But this whole time, Russia, Syria and Iran have been all in, and United States has been dipping a toe in the water here and there, 2011, '12, '13, '14, you know, until today.

So, when you have one side all in and other side trying to figure out how to stay out as much as you can, you have a mismatch and I think Tillerson is going to face that this week.

CABRERA: We sure have come a long ways from the day that President Trump, then-candidate Trump said, "Let Russia take care of ISIS and take care of what's happening in Syria", and now, here we are fast forward a little bit.

David Gergen, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and Ron Brownstein, our thanks to all of you.

Still ahead here, President Trump becomes the latest commander in chief to use a military strike to punish an adversary. We'll look at what the attacks have unfolded in the past and what they've accomplished.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:19] CABRERA: Palm Sunday is one of the holiest days on Christian calendar. Today, it was shattered by deadly explosions at the pair of churches in Egypt. ISIS has claimed responsibility for these attacks which killed 43 people at Coptic Christian churches in the Northern cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

We want to warn you some of the video you're about to see is graphic. It's from the city of Tanta where the first bomb went off during a televised mass. Watch.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

CABRERA: An explosive device was apparently planted under a seat in the main prayer hall. Witnesses say everything was destroyed. Twenty-seven people were killed, 78 were wounded, according to Egyptian state TV.

And then, later in Alexandria, a suicide bomber killed at least 16 people and injured 41 there at the cathedral, and the head of Egypt's Coptic Church was actually inside when the blast happened. He was not injured.

CNN's Ian Lee is joining me now from Egypt.

Ian, it looks like there's been an active scene there behind you. What's going on?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, there's heavy security now as some funerals are taking place at the church behind me. We've heard people chant which means "oh, God" in Arabic. And I have someone here with me, David Sayed. He was in the church at the time of the attack.

And just show them -- he was wearing this robe and you can see just the blood from this attack.

And, David, just tell me what was it like to be in there? What did you see?

DAVID SAYED, WITNESS: OK, it was a disaster.

[18:25:00] It was a big disaster. Just the whole thing happed in just a blink. There was fire, smoke, ashes (INAUDIBLE) and just blood. I tried to realize what's happening from that shock. I lost my hearing temporarily, so I just went to see my mom but then when I find her, I tried to get what I could to move her I canto the ambulance. And that's it. So, we rushed to the hospital and save who we can save.

LEE: You could just hear that it's just tragic. This is a community that suffered a lot, Ana, and this attack is another one. You had that attack in Alexandria, where the suicide bomber was fortunately stopped at the gate. If he got inside, there's a chance it could have been a lot worse. But still, tragically, over a dozen people killed in that attack.

The president says that he is going to do whatever is necessary to try to find the people who are behind this. He's declared a state of emergency for three months, which gives the police the army extra powers to go after the people that did this. But ISIS is claiming responsibility saying that this is just the beginning -- Ana.

CABRERA: Ian, I understand Coptic churches have reportedly repeatedly come under attack in recent years, homes too, and even physical attacks of those who are part of that religion. Why are they such targets?

LEE: Well, ISIS said in a statement essentially that Christians are their favorite prey. They enjoy going after them. They want to create a divide in the community here.

One thing though people we've been talking to, is they say this is bringing them together. I spoke with a Muslim man who said I just came down here to show solidarity with my Christian brothers.

But we have seen this increase in attacks just a couple of months ago I was talking to Christians who fled the northern Sinai because ISIS was targeting, killing them there and there has been criticism of the government saying that they haven't provided enough security. Even today, we saw in this church behind me where a bomb was able to be snuck inside and explode during the service. So, there is a lot of anger tonight about security forces that they are just not doing enough -- Ana. CABRERA: All right. Ian Lee reporting from Egypt.

And worth mentioning, we just got a note across the wire that President Trump has since called the Egyptian president to express condolences today.

A quick break and we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:31:55] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take you live right now to Air Force One landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. President Trump just arriving back after a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, and there is plenty weighing on his mind going into to this week.

Thursday's missile strike in Syria was one of a number of options President Trump's military advisers presented him. And in choosing it, he joined a long list of Commanders-in-Chief who have used military strikes to punish an adversary or send a message. CNN's Gary Tuchman takes a look back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five years before the 2003 war against a U.S.-led coalition, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was punished by bombing and Tomahawk missile strikes. A punitive four-day campaign ordered by President Bill Clinton following Iraq's refusal to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. Much of Iraq's military infrastructure destroyed. Iraq said hundreds of its troops and civilians were killed.

It wasn't the first strike designed to punish the Iraqi regime. In 1993, two years after the first Gulf War, 23 cruise missiles were launched into downtown Baghdad, a warning after an assassination plot was uncovered in Kuwait on former President George H.W. Bush who was visiting the country he helped liberate during the 1991 Gulf War. Colin Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF COMMITTEE: Should Mr. Hussein even dream of retaliating, we have more than enough force in the region to deal with this.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The missiles hit a building believed to have housed Iraq's intelligence service.

Punitive attacks have also been used in retaliation for murders of Americans. In 1986, Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi was said to be behind the bombing of a disco in West Berlin. Two U.S. service men were killed. The U.S. military reply? Sixty tons of munitions raining down on Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, at 7:00 p.m. this evening Eastern Time, Air and Naval forces the United States launched a series of strikes against the headquarters, terrorist facilities, and military assets that support Muammar Gaddafi's subversive activities.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And the result?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back there is the building where his wife and children were staying when the bombing came on Monday night. Two of them are injured, the smallest child, an adopted daughter, was killed.

REAGAN: Today, we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gaddafi survived. He wasn't at the site. Dozens of Libyans died, as did two U.S. Air Force pilots.

Another punishment for the murder of civilians came in 1998. Operation Infinite Reach led the strikes against al Qaeda targets in Sudan and Afghanistan after the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. More than 200 people were killed, up to 4,000 wounded.

These punitive strikes have been used by a long line of U.S. presidents to punish or to warn others when their actions are deemed a threat to American interests.

REAGAN: I said that we would act with others if possible and alone if necessary to ensure that terrorists have no sanctuary anywhere. Tonight, we have.

[18:35:08] TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Our thanks to Gary. Let's talk more about this with CNN Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley.

Thanks for staying with us. We just saw examples of times other presidents have used missile strikes as a warning or as retaliation. What does history tell us about the effectiveness, longer term, of this tactic?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, that was a very good package you just ran. Short-term, they've been effective. It sends a very loud message that the United States isn't going to tolerate miscreant behavior.

But let's just take Ronald Reagan in April of 1986, which you just ran, when the U.S. bombed Tripoli. I mean, we were very worried in '86 that Gaddafi was a loose cannon, not just the Berlin discotheque but the fact that he had occupied Chad. And Chad had a lot of uranium, so it was in U.S. interest to move and do something that told Gaddafi enough is enough.

I got the opportunity to edit Ronald Reagan's diaries of his White House years. And he was very concerned that they did lose those two U.S. Air Force captains being shot down, but besides that, that one was considered a success for Ronald Reagan.

And in 1993 and 1998, Bill Clinton's two that you just dealt with, Bill Clinton got some mileage out of those. But, alas, we didn't kill Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi on those strikes, and they continued to create mischief for the United States.

CABRERA: When you look back, a lot of presidents have faced a foreign policy test in their first 100 days, which is, of course, where we're at in the Trump administration. We have Nixon who was tested by North Korea, George W. Bush tested by China, and the list goes on. Do you think the chemical weapons attack was a move by Syria specifically aimed at testing President Trump?

BRINKLEY: It seems to be the thought that they could get away with it. Perhaps they believed the narrative that Donald Trump was so tied with Russia that he just wouldn't do anything. And so Trump has kind of broke the mold with this, but yet as you see, he's part of a tradition of these kinds of strikes.

I have to believe that Donald Trump is getting such strong reviews from Democrats and Republicans and/or allies around the world for doing this, that he may be encouraged to do others. That frightens me when it comes to North Korea because bringing China into the situation is a whole other can of worms. It's not Syria or Iraq or Libya.

CABRERA: And we have live pictures right now, on the right of our screen, where we're awaiting the President to walk off Air Force One. Again, just landing back in D.C. following his events that he had in Mar-a-Lago. And I should say this is in Maryland. He'll be eventually getting there to D.C.

As we await the President, I want to ask you if there is any historical context for how Americans might react to these missile strikes. Obviously, the President has had some pretty tough poll numbers recently in terms of approval ratings in the 30s. Might the American public respond positively in that there's sort of a rallying patriotism around what the President did, or does he risk facing head winds of Americans who are weary of getting in war?

BRINKLEY: He's going to get a short-term bounce out of this, if you like. You know, John F. Kennedy did the Bay of Pigs in his first 100 days. It was an utter fiasco, but nevertheless, Kennedy actually got a bounce in the polls for it because he showed he was looking after American interests.

I do think one of the clips in the Gary Tuchman piece ran about the U.S. bombing in Baghdad in 1998 -- Operation Desert Fox is what it's called -- we did have the United Kingdom on our side in that four-day bombing operation. And I think it's important to develop allies in some of these activities. In the case of Syria, Donald Trump went it alone. I think, in the future, he might have to work in coordination with NATO.

CABRERA: How important is the President's next move?

BRINKLEY: Well, right now, we're all watching, I mean, particularly, to see if North Korea, you know, decides to test Trump's martial will and launch a missile or do nuclear test, and will Donald Trump do something there. As for Syria, we've got Secretary of State Tillerson, I think, now in a very important mission to Moscow.

If you asked me 50 days ago, I thought a lot of it would be about the Ukraine, but now, clearly, Syria is going to be first and foremost on what Tillerson has got to talk about -- how can Russia and the United States solve the conundrum of Syria? It's a puzzle, and we'll have to hope that diplomacy, some kind, can work.

[18:40:01] CABRERA: And the President stepping into some sunshine as he now comes off Air Force One in Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Coming down the stairs, gearing up for a big week ahead. And as you point out, Douglas, that the President's right hand man, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, will be heading to Russia this week, following a very crucial week and developments on foreign policy.

Douglas Brinkley, thanks so much for your time tonight. We really appreciate it.

BRINKLEY: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up, White house power shift. A look at the growing influence of Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, as the President is tested on the world stage. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Another sign of a shake-up within President Trump's National Security Council, and it's one that could reflect the growing influence of National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.

Meantime, we're looking at pictures in Maryland. The President just touching down with his team. He was on Air Force One, now getting on to Marine One, heading back toward the White House.

[18:45:08] And you might have noticed that among that crew, Steve Bannon was there. Stephen Miller was there. And this is despite the fact that Steve Bannon, just this week, was removed from the National Security Council.

And now, we know that another member of that team is also leaving. K.T. McFarland, who was once the top deputy to Michael Flynn is on her way out. Again, days after Steve Bannon left the National Security Council.

Let's bring in CNN Correspondent Ryan Nobles. And, Ryan, why is all this so significant?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NEWSOURCE NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, Ana, we have to say that the White House is describing K.T. McFarland's move within the administration as a promotion. She's actually going to become the Ambassador to Singapore if she's ultimately confirmed by the Senate. But you're right, this shows that there is a different power source coming when it comes to the national security apparatus within the Trump White House. And H.R. McMaster, the new national security advisor, is certainly at the core of this new base of power. K.T. McFarland was close with Michael Flynn. She was his deputy. And

when he was pushed out, forced to resign, after not revealing that he had contact with some Russian officials, her role within the national security apparatus became not quite as influential.

Now, McFarland is said to be happy about this move to Singapore. Obviously, being an ambassador is an important position, and Singapore is an important country in that part of Asia. But this shows us that McMaster is really controlling this domain, the fact that Steve Bannon was removed from the Principal's Committee of the National Security Council, which you mentioned, is another sign of that.

And this could be one of the reasons that we've seen a different foreign policy posture on some of these big issues like, of course, Syria where the Trump administration did plan and execute that attack this week after saying for some time that they had no intention of doing so.

CABRERA: Right. Word is Steve Bannon wasn't too happy about that. Let's take another look at what has happened there on the NSC. McMaster is in; Flynn, Bannon, and McFarland all out. So, Ryan, does this suggest a more traditional makeup now to the NSC?

NOBLES: Well, if you talk to the foreign policy hawks in the Republican Party, sometimes dubbed neocons by those who aren't necessarily fans of theirs, it's certainty heading in that direction. Both John McCain and Lindsey Graham are big fans of H.R. McMaster. And McCain, himself, told me and another group of reporters on Friday that he firmly believes that the action in Syria is an example of Donald Trump listening to folks like H.R. McMaster. And perhaps that will guide his foreign policy decisions going forward.

You know, H.R. McMaster is a long time military hand. This is someone who is also, though not afraid to question decisions made by superiors, he is a man that speaks his own mind. And, of course, wrote a book that really criticized the U.S. government for their role in Vietnam. So he is certainly an interesting person to be in this position and somebody that's clearly exerting his influence early on in this position.

CABRERA: Ryan Nobles, thank you.

NOBLES: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, taking a stand for minorities. A huge march in the streets of Dallas today, thousands calling for immigration reform. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[18:52:33] CABRERA: Tens of thousands of people hit the streets of Dallas today. A massive gathering organizers are calling peaceful and an urgent call for change bringing those people out. They want their voices heard when it comes to immigration and racial equality.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is there. Ed? ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, on the streets of downtown

Dallas this afternoon, tens of thousands of protesters turning out to march in what has been billed as "Mega March 2017." Tens of thousands of people have been winding the way. This is a marching route that is now spanning several miles here through the streets of downtown Dallas, making its way from the cathedral in downtown here to the steps of city hall.

This is a pro-immigration rally, calling out what they view as the abusive policies of Donald Trump. That is what you see repeatedly from here, not just on questions of immigration but of how undocumented migrants are being treated currently by this administration. So you see this repeatedly.

Dr. Martin Luther King III, who's one of the lead marchers and as well as a number of civil rights activists and drawing out a great number of Democratic Party leaders here in the state of Texas as well. A similar rally was held back in 2006 where hundreds of thousands of people turned out. They're doing it once again this time. And this is a crowd that has grown to massive numbers here this afternoon in the streets of downtown Dallas -- Ana.

CABRERA: That's quite the crowd. Thank you so much, Ed Lavandera. We'll be right back.

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[18:58:25] CABRERA: Finally this hour, how will the U.S. strikes on Syria and tensions with Russia affect the markets? When Wall Street opens tomorrow morning, CNN MONEY Correspondent Cristina Alesci brings us today's "Before the Bell" report.

Hi, Cristina.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. The U.S. strikes on Syria last week are a reminder the geopolitical risk is out there, and it's unpredictable. These are the external factors Wall Street can't price in until they actually happen, and some analysts say we could see choppy trading going forward.

Although stocks recovered the pretty quickly from their initial jitters overnight Friday, investors quickly turned their attention to the March Jobs Report, which was mixed. The unemployment rate fell, but the economy only added 98,000 jobs, well short of the average jobs growth over the past year. The question for Wall Street now is, was it a blip, or does it signal slowing job growth going forward?

This week, companies also start delivering their quarterly report cards to Wall Street, and expectations are pretty high. Analysts forecast a nine percent jump in earnings growth versus a year ago. If that happens, it will be the best quarter of growth in more than five years. Oil, financial, and tech companies are expected to post solid profit growths -- Ana.

CABRERA: Cristina Alesci, our thanks to you.

Seven o'clock Eastern on a Sunday, you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have your company.

[18:59:57] Tonight, as a new week booms, adversaries and allies around the world have their eyes on the White House. They're searching for a signal as to what it may do next in Syria, particularly when it comes to the fate of this man, President Bashar al-Assad, the man blamed for last week's chemical attack on his own people.