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Russia Calls Nikki Haley's Syria Comments "Sabotage"; U.S. Strike Group Heads to Korean Peninsula; Blast Tears Through Church in Egypt on Palm Sunday; U.S. Deploys Carrier Group to Pressure N. Korea; Investigation: Alabama Governor Abused Power to Hide Affair; Jordan Spieth in Contention at the Masters. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired April 9, 2017 - 07:00   ET



[07:00:10] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik, in for Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

And this morning, North Korea is denouncing the U.S. missile strikes on Syria, vowing to strengthen their defense capability. A U.S. Navy strike group is on its way to the Korean peninsula over growing concerns over North Korea's missile tests.

KOSIK: Plus, Russia is slamming U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, calling her comments on Syria sabotage after she said, quote, "There is no way to find a political solution with Assad at the head of the regime."

All this as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gets ready to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow this week.

BLACKWLL: Let's talk now about North Korea's reaction to the U.S. strikes and the USS Carl Vinson strike group headed to the Western Pacific.

Let's bring in Will Ripley, who is the only American TV correspondent in Pyongyang. And also, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, CNN military analyst, is with us as well.

And I want to start with you, Will. What are you hearing from North Korea?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was with government officials when we learned about the carrier strike group being sent back to the Korean peninsula. And they didn't seem too fazed by it. Of course, the strike group was there just a matter of weeks ago for joint military exercises with South Korea. And there's a new round of joint exercises due to kick off this week, a very important week here with a major holiday coming up on Saturday, a time when this country, in the past, has done things major shows of force, both domestically and internationally. Of course, analysts say the country could be ready to push the button on its sixth nuclear tests at any moment.

What the officials said about the missile strike in Syria in particular is that, quote, "the previous U.S. administrations have been attacking those countries who haven't gotten nuclear weapons and the Trump administration is no different from the previous U.S. governments in pinpointing those nonnuclear states. They're talking about Syria. They're also talking about Iraq and Libya, countries where regimes have been toppled by the United States. They believe a nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland U.S. will protect the regime led by Kim Jong-un from being overthrown by the United States.

And so, they say, in fact, they feel emboldened to move forward with developments and (AUDIO GAP) as possible. That means (AUDIO GAP) more tests.

BLACKWELL: All right. We are having a bit of trouble with your signal there. Hopefully, we'll figure that out.

Let's go on to you, Colonel Francona, as you -- and I'm sure you read that comment from that North Korean official, what's your response to the rhetoric we are hearing from North Korea?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I don't think it's surprising at all. I mean, that's what they're going to say. They have to indicate that they are not frightened by the United States, they don't think, care about a carrier group presence much more of a threat. I think they are doing what we expected them to do.

You know, North Korea is a totally different animal than Syria. So, it has to be approached differently. We've got a lot of force in the area and beefing that up, but I'm not sure it's going to have any effect on the North Korean at all. The force isn't the issue. It's the will of the United States. They're not quite sure what the politics are, how the policy has changed.

I know they have said this is the same administration policy but that's not exactly true. I think Syria demonstrated that. I think they are reassessing what this president is capable of doing and what he might do.

BLACKWELL: So, let's take those independently, the force and the policy. First, the force. You say that North Korea is not concerned about the potential force that the USS Carl Vinson brings with it. Are you concerned? Will this be just a show of force?

FRANCONA: I think it is a necessary show of force. I think it's a necessary show of force. It does indicate a bit of political will that we are willing to react to events on the Korean peninsula but there's a lot of force there already. We've got 30,000 troops in South Korea. There's a lot of land-based aviation in countries in the region, and the Carl Vinson brings yet an additional capability.

I think that the North Koreans have seen this are before. What they don't understand is, are we willing to do something different than we have in the past? BLACKWELL: So let me bring this back to you, Will. I think we fix

that issue with the video there.

Whether it is the accurate or actual strategy of the United States or not, does Pyongyang believe it knows what the U.S. strategy is or will be in dealing with them?

RIPLEY: Well, there is a sense of uncertainty when you talk to officials here. They don't know what the Trump administration is capable of. But they do think that the fact that president Trump launched that air strike on Syria while he was having dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping, they believe that was a warning to China, that and China step up its enforcements of sanctions against North Korea, and they also think it was a veiled threat against this country, that things are potentially changing, that there could be missiles raining down here in Pyongyang and other cities.

[07:05:05] But they are very defiant. And the area of sanctions, they said the nuclear missile programs is last thing they'd cut. They go without food and electricity, they say, to develop these weapons, to protect the rule of their leader Kim Jong-un. This is a one-party state. He has absolute power.

So, of course, you ask somebody a question on the streets and they are going to tell you that their number one priority is to keep Kim Jong- un in power. That's what they say publicly and that's all that we can report. This is not a country with freedom of expression and it's not a country with ideological freedom whatsoever, but people will say they want their government to stay in power and they believe that this strategy of building up the military and developing these weapons is the right path forward for their country even though critics say it has led to economic hardship and isolation for the people here.

And the people here do want to interact with foreigners. The way they were interacting with foreigners running in a Pyongyang marathon today, smiling, high fives, talking with people. They are curious about the outside world, but they are kept isolated from the outside world by the government that is in power here.

BLACKWELL: Colonel, any evidence that the Trump administration will be any more successful in forcing China's hand to exercise its influence over North Korea?

FRANCONA: I haven't seen it yet. But it's still early. And he does have the Chinese president there with him. So, we'll see what happens over the next few days.

The Koreans are watching the politics in the U.S. much more closely now that Trump is making his openings to the Chinese. If there's a policy shift, if the president is successful, of course, that does not bode well for North Korea. But, you know, North Korea and China, they really have this symbiotic relationship that is going to be very difficult for Mr. Trump just as it was for Mr. Obama to penetrate.

BLACKWELL: All right. Colonel Rick Francona and Will Ripley, thank you both. Breaking news out of Egypt where a tragedy is overshadowing one of the

holiest days of the year. At least 25 people now dead and 60 injured after a bombing at a church in Tanta, north of Cairo. The state media says thousands were inside celebrating Palm Sunday services.

KOSIK: And you're looking at the first video from inside the church when the explosion happened. And we want to warn you, this may be hard to watch.


KOSIK: So someone was taking video of the ceremony, and then at that blast, you see it go to bars.

Security officers are digging through the debris right now. It may be little difficult to make out what you're seeing here, but concrete, wood, paper -- it's all part of what is left behind after the bombing.

CNN senior international correspondent and former Cairo bureau chief Ben Wedeman is live near the Turkish/Syrian border.

Ben, I understand this bomb was literally inside the church during this very holy day.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alison. We can see from the pictures, it was very close to the front of the church when it happened, or rather the front rows of the church. There were more than 2,000 people in the St. George's or the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, which is about 60 miles north of Cairo when the blast happened. And, of course, it's Palm Sunday. So, the church was full of people.

Now, I should also add, we are just learning now that there has been another explosion outside the St. Mark's Church in Alexandria, which is Egypt's secretary largest city. We don't have any more details on that other than it was outside the church.

But, yes, this blast is just the latest in series of attacks on Christians in Egypt. You'll recall back in December, there was an attack on the church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Cairo that left 25 people dead in that instance. In February, there was a series of attacks on Egyptian Christians in the northern Sinai. Many of them ended up fleeing that area altogether because of the dangers of those attacks by ISIS.

In the past, we have seen the Egyptian security outside these churches have been pretty lax. The soldiers or the policemen guarding them underpaid, undertrained, poorly led, and not very well-motivated as well. We understand that the president of Egypt has called for a meeting of the National Security Council in Egypt to look into this, that the general prosecutor has begun an investigation.

But, of course, with news of a second attack on a church in Alexandria, clearly, the situation is getting worse, Alison.

[07:10:04] KOSIK: And the focus of these repeated attacks on Christians, Coptic Christians, especially by Islamic extremists, as you said, nothing new. We're now hearing, as you had, a second blast at a church. How far away is that church? Are there any claims of responsibility for either of those blasts?

WEDEMAN: Well, the church from Tanta to Alexandria is about an hour and a half's drive. Now, there has been no responsibility so far but ISIS has many supporters in Egypt. They have an affiliate, this Sinai province of the Islamic State that is functioning, running a low-level insurgency in the Sinai. In the Nile delta, in Cairo, and other Egypt towns and cities, there had been a series of attacks on police and government officials and on Christians going back several years -- Alison.

KOSIK: All right. CNN's Ben Wedeman, thanks very much. And keep us posted on details, not just of this first blast but a second blast at a second church. Thanks very much.

Nikki Haley's claims that Bashar al-Assad can't lead a peaceful Syria getting slammed by Russia, while the British defense secretary says last week's chemical attack is Russia's fault.

Plus, violence after thousands of protesters take to the streets in Venezuela. Why they say the government is violating their human rights.

BLACKWELL: Also, Alec Baldwin is back on "SNL," skewering the president on Syria, jobs, and the economy.


ALEC BALDWIN AS PRESIDENT TRUMP: Do you like that I bomb Syria? Are you right there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sure do, sir. But I wanted to talk about my job. I recently got laid off from a coal mining plant.

BALDWIN: God, I love coal!



[07:16:03] KOSIK: This morning, a top Russian official is leveling sharp criticism at U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley accusing her and the Trump administration of, quote, "sabotage" after she had there is not a peaceful Syria if Bashar al-Assad is in charge.

BLACKWELL: Haley made these comments during this interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: Is regime change in Syria now the official policy of the United States?

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: So, there's multiple priorities. It's -- getting Assad is not the only priority. So, what we are trying to do is, obviously, defeat ISIS. Secondly, we don't see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out. And then, finally, move towards a political solution because at the end of the day, this is a complicated situation. There are no easy answers and a political solution is going to have to happen.

But we know that it is not going to be -- there is not any sort of option where political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime. It just -- if you look at his actions, if you look at the situations, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad.

TAPPER: Well, of course, it's hard to. Is it the position of the Trump administration that he cannot be ruler of Syria any more? Regime change is the policy?

HALEY: Well, regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring in CNN's Paula Newton. She is in Moscow for us.

Paula, has the Kremlin responded to do what we heard from Ambassador Haley?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the Kremlin hasn't responded directly as of yet, but we have had some very sharp pushback from the head of the foreign council committee and he's saying, "Look, we are calling a spade of the spade. This is direct sabotage of the international community's efforts to start a process of political negotiations between the authorities and the opposition."

You know, Victor, that pretty much amounts to a big "butt out" to Nikki Haley and the Trump administration. And what's at issue here is they are saying, look, we've been at the table for years now without you. In terms of coming in right now, our priority is attacking ISIS and destroying ISIS. Very strong pushback.

And, you know, Victor, it has to be said, when you look at the Trump administration, we have had some conflicting views. Nikki Haley there seemed to go a bit further than Rex Tillerson was willing to go earlier in the week in terms of regime change. You know, the Trump base, this was sharp and short. Would they be willing to tolerate more intervention in Syria?

BLACKWELL: And, of course, this all informs this meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who -- that's coming up mid-week.

NEWTON: Yes, it's going to be a big meeting on Wednesday. Now, Boris Johnson, who's the foreign secretary in Britain, he cancelled the meeting that was supposed to happen here on Monday. Instead, he will meeting with his G7 partners, including Rex Tillerson, on Monday and they are getting their policy together and straight. They're going to have really an allied front to present to Russia on Wednesday.

And you can see the United States starting to coalesce support. You know, the British defense secretary having very strong words for Russia today in an editorial saying, look, you guys are to blame for every civilian death during that chemical attack.

And you can see here that Rex Tillerson wants to bring a new paradigm, a new peace process to the table in Russia. The question is, will Russia play ball?

BLACKWELL: All right. Paula Newton for us in Moscow -- thank you.

Haley also told CNN last week the -- rather last week the strike could be followed by more action if necessary.

Watch this.


HALEY: He won't stop here. If he needs to do more, he will do more. So, really, now, what happens depends on how everyone responds to what happened in Syria and make sure that we start moving towards a political solution and we start finding peace in that area.


[07:20:05] BLACKWELL: And you can watch Jake Tapper's full interview with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

KOSIK: OK. There's a story developing in Wisconsin. A man who's on the loose there, armed with several high-end handguns and rifles, threatening to use them against public official or at a school and detailing his rage in 161-page manifesto that he sent to the president. The FBI is on a massive manhunt for this man. You're looking at him there. Joseph Jakubowski. He is armed and dangerous. Investigators say he stole the guns Tuesday and mailed his manifesto the same day.

BLACKWELL: They say the 161 pages, they include anti-religious views and grievances against the government. Officers also believe he set a car on fire a short distance away from the gun shop. They have since set up patrols at churches and schools across the state.

KOSIK: Outrage in Venezuela. Thousands of people filled the streets to protest the government. Police fired tear gas into the crowds while demonstrators threw rocks. The crowds are angry at the country's president and current members of Supreme Court. They say those leaders are repressing them and violating human rights.

BLACKWELL: Ahead, more news out of Egypt. We are learning new details about a second explosion at a church there on one of the holiest days of the year.


[07:25:39] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KOSIK: OK. We got breakings news out of Egypt, where tragedy is overshadowing one of the holiest days of the year. A blast has hit another church, a second church, this time in the second biggest city of Egypt, Alexandria. At least two are reported kill, 21 injured.

What's interesting about this blast in the second church is Egyptian state media also reporting that the head of Egypt's Coptic Church pope looks to have been inside the church that was bombed. And this comes just hours after a bomb killed at least 25 people celebrating Palm Sunday in the city of Tanta, that's north of Cairo. So, there have been two bombs at two different churches today.

What you're looking at here, video from inside the church. The church that is in Tanta where the first explosion happened. And I want to warn you, this is hard to watch.


BLACKWELL: Security officers are digging through this now, the debris there, trying to figure out if there are any survivors who are under all that rubble. It may be a little difficult to make out what you're seeing here. It's just piles of wood and concrete. It's all part what's left behind after this bombing.

But, of course, now, we are now covering a second bombing and in that church, we know that two people were killed, 21 were wounded. That explosion happened in Alexandria. The bomb is actually outside.

But what you're looking at now, 25 dead and the head of Egypt's Coptic Church inside of this church in Tanta.

KOSIK: And the perpetrators of this were looking for maximum impact, they certainly apparently got it on a day like today. Palm Sunday is one of the most important days on the Christian calendar. And, of course, you're seeing these horrific pictures come out of the church in Tanta.

All right. President Trump appears to be taking on two dictatorships at once. First, the missile strike on Syria.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and now, a U.S. Navy strike group is moving toward the Korean Peninsula, and a North Korean official says aggressive moves by the U.S. are justifying their nuclear ambitions.

KOSIK: All right. Joining us now to talk about this, CNN correspondent Alexandra Field, and CNN national security correspondent Juliette Kayyem, she's the former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Alexandra, let me start with you and get the latest from you.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Alison, we know the USS Carl Vinson is making its way back to the waters off of the Korean Peninsula. This is a U.S. aircraft carrier that was actually just in this exact area. It was participating just last month in joint U.S. military exercises between the U.S. military and the South Korean military.

So, the presence of a U.S. aircraft carrier in this area is certainly not uncommon. What is very significant here however is the fact that the U.S. official is saying it, that USS Carl Vinson is returning now as a direct response to provocations from North Korea. The presence of this aircraft carrier sure to again rankle North Korea, but it is certainly one of a series of strong messages that are now being sent by Washington, D.C.

You had White House officials recently stepping out saying that all options are on the table when it comes to dealing with the nuclear threats from North Korea. You also had U.S. President Donald Trump recently saying if China won't solve the North Korea problem, the U.S. will. North Korea was, of course, a big topic on the agenda when Trump met with the Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago just last week. He is looking to China to provide more support, to apply more pressure on North Korea to stop this ratcheting up of missile tests that we have seen.

It's important, Alison, to point for our viewers that we have seen four missile tests now out of North Korea since the start of the year, and more than two dozen missile tests in North Korea in just of the last year. This is a huge acceleration of the pace of these tests.

We've also seen tests of missile engines which is indicated to certain analysts and experts that the North Koreans are making stride in terms of the sophistication of their weapons program, and you got analysts who are closely watching satellite images coming from North Korea and they say that they have seen suggestions of activities around nuclear sites, which could indicate that we could soon see a sixth nuclear test from North Korea.

[07:30:14] Serious and strong signs coming from North Korea that the U.S. is reacting to now with this show of force, this presence of this U.S. aircraft carrier returning to the area, Alison.

KOSIK: Juliette, let me turn to you because, you know, you hear that moving this aircraft carrier is not out of the ordinary but there is a certain timing of this as well that can't be just sort of overlooked. Tell us what this means for the tensions in the Korean peninsula and South China Sea. And can North Korea view this redirection of this carrier from the U.S. as a provocation?

KAYYEM: Oh, I think they will -- they absolutely will view it as a provocation and while it may not be unique, it is certainly a statement, right, that we are changing our footing militarily and moving the Vinson back into the Korean Peninsula. That combined with the strike in Syria, combined with at least news reports that President Trump is getting briefed on a variety of options to deal with the North Korea problem, including going after this leader directly, and the lack of what all of this means in terms of a Trump doctrine vis-a-vis North Korea has got to make Japan and South Korea and China a little bit nervous. Look, they met -- the Chinese president and President Trump met this

weekend from all accounts, we are not getting a sort of definitive read-out of what they, in fact, talked about. So, I would suspect that our allies and even China are a little bit confused about what all of this means. So, you know, we are going to be waiting and seeing at this stage.

KOSIK: And a lot changing by the minute, it seems. Alexandra Field, Juliette Kayyem, thanks so much for your analyses.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Now, certainly, the U.S. strike last week informs what's happening there along the Korean Peninsula. So, let's bring in another voice of this conversation to talk about the Trump administration's foreign policy moves, CNN counterterrorism analyst Phillip Mudd.

Phil, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: Let's start here with the broader question of how does the president's decision to strike there at that air base in Syria change how America's foe, how its allies and in this conversation, namely Kim Jong-un, how they view this president?

MUDD: I think one of the questions you have to face is, what's next? I think there is over-interpretation of what has happened in Syria and I think the statements out of the United States, including U.N. Permanent Representative Nikki Haley are too aggressive.

Let's be clear about what happened here. We are six years into a civil war and 400,000 people dead, maybe more, 5 million refugees. In one instance when the Syrians used chemical weapons against their own people, we sent in 59 Tomahawk to one air base. We didn't attack regime security facilities, including palaces, we hit one air base. And all of a sudden, we are fast forwarding into saying Assad can't stay.

I think people looking at what's happening in Syria rightly say this is an indication that the president will act unilaterally in this case without other allies and without Congress. But to suggest that we can fast forward from one privilege strike to ousting a dictator who's gaining ground after six years of civil war I think is too much.

BLACKWELL: Let's play a portion of that interview with Jake Tapper that's going to air little later this morning in which she talks about the U.S.'s view of Assad's future there in Syria.

Do we have it?


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: Is regime change in Syria now the official policy of the United States? NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: So there's multiple

priorities. It's -- getting Assad out is not the only priority. So, what we are trying to do is, obviously, defeat ISIS. Secondly, we don't see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out. And then, finally, move towards a political solution because at the end of the day, this is a complicated situation.

There are no easy answers and a political solution is going to have to happen, but we know that it is not going to be -- there's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.


BLACKWELL: So, Phil, let me ask you. You say that the U.S. is saying that Assad needs to go. It sounds like she's stopping just short of that and taking a passive approach there by saying, we don't see a political solution with him there instead of saying what we heard from the Obama administration that Assad must go?

MUDD: Well, if you can figure out what she said, Victor, you're a better man than I. She said, get Assad out. She said start a political process. She said defeat ISIS.

Let's have a reality check here. Number one, if you want to get Assad out, you either going to take direct action with the U.S. military.

[07:35:01] I doubt it, given the Iraq debacle we have been through, or you're going to expand contacts with the Iraqi opposition that we've been working with and has been proven unable to make progress against Assad or you work with the Russian on a political solution.

So, the question you have to face in the wake of that interview which I thought was incredibly confused is, are we going to increase military action to get him out? If not, are we going to undertake a political process with the Russians who now say we violated international law by striking?

I don't think we have many options to take him out and I think we are getting confused responses because the administration doesn't know what the next step is.

BLACKWLL: All right. Phil Mudd, we look ahead to that interview and hopefully learn more.

Quick break. We'll be right back.

MUDD: Thank you.


BLACKWELL: President Trump made the call to strike Syria during a summit with the Chinese president.

KOSIK: Now, he is moving navy ships toward the Korean peninsula to send a message to China's ally, North Korea.

[07:40:02] Let's discuss all of this and many foreign policy signals coming from the Trump administration with Errol Louis. He's a CNN political commentator and political anchor at Spectrum News, and Julian Zelizer, CNN contributor and a professor at Princeton University.

Thanks for joining us and good morning to you both.

Errol, let me start with you and just kind of get the overall political picture of how this latest activity. This week had been a busy one, with all of these events, with Syria, with North Korea. How is the Trump administration faring?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no one can say they weren't warned about this. The Trump administration did not lay out a coherent foreign policy during the campaign and this is the result. What you see is the president reacting, the administration reacting to provocations. We get provocations on a regular basis from North Korea, this is how the president is reacting.

We see in Syria that there are attempts to measure the resolve of the United States and figure out how far the Assad regime can go. They attempted -- they have used chemical weapons in the past and used it again. They are trying to see what this administration will do and they got an answer in the form of these bombings over of the last week.

So, what we don't have still is a coherent policy. What we don't know is what the administration will do when provoked in the future by these and other dictators.

KOSIK: Let me interject a second. But, you know, Donald Trump made it clear on the campaign trail, he doesn't want to tell his next move to the public. He doesn't want to publicize that.

Why show your hand especially if there's a war coming around the bend? So, maybe that -- could we assume that that's why he's not being so public with this?

LOUIS: This is one of the things that foreign policy professionals and war planners actually criticized quite strongly during the campaign is that, it's not just a matter of as if you're in a Hollywood movie, not letting your adversary know what you're going to do. You have allies around the world. You have refuges. You have rebels who are holding out with their lives at stake who need to know that help is on the way.

You need to sort of signal to them what you are going to do and when you're going to do it, and there is an immense amount of power that comes from being able to do that. Donald Trump has rejected that kind of logic.

BLACKWELL: Julian, I went back and read the president's inaugural address and probably 40 words about the rest of the world. It was an American first strategy. How do his supporters likely view what's happening the last week when we focused on other parts of the world and not so much on the U.S.?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, his supporters are upset. America first was a key theme, even though he didn't talk about foreign policy.

The notion that the United States would remain aloof and distant from some of these kind of conflicts was a core theme. Both for a lot of his supporters and, frankly, for a lot of the country who is still war weary after Iraq.

And so, I think this definitely doesn't sit well with many of his supporters. Some of have been vocal and many Republicans, as Errol is saying, who have been worried from the beginning that there is no strategy, there is no doctrine.

And it's true, you can't react to foreign policy not simply because people are waiting our commitment but every action has consequences. That's what happened in Iraq. If you don't have a plan, this could go very poorly.

BLACKWELL: There has been a certain degree of inconsistency, namely from the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who is on CBS's "Face the Nation" this morning. Here is a portion of that conversation.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The first priority is the defeat of ISIS. By defeating ISIS and removing their caliphate from their control, we now have eliminated at least or minimized a particular threat not just to the United States but to the whole stability in the region. And the once ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria.


BLACKWELL: The question that John Dickerson posed, though, and having watched that portion of the interview was, should Assad go? Should Assad leave or be out of power there? We are not seeing a consistent answer, not just from the entire administration but from Tillerson alone.

ZELIZER: Yes, that's the question with Syria. And so, the administration doesn't want to commit to regime change, meaning that the United States will orchestrate that for many political reasons and for many policy reasons. That would not be something popular to say. But it is an attempt to send a signal that the United States is open to rebels doing it, possibly with U.S. support.

So, we're not in a very different place than we were under President Obama, other than now, missiles have been launched.

KOSIK: All right. Very interesting. We've got to go, unfortunately.

Errol Louis, Julian Zelizer, thanks so much for your time this morning. ZELIZER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Impeachment hearings are set to begin tomorrow for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. Next, how an explosive report says he tried to cover up his affair with an adviser.


[07:48:53] BLACKWELL: Coming up on 11 minutes to the top of the hour now.

And impeachment hearings are set to begin tomorrow for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. Now, this comes after an explosive new report that says that he used his cover up his affair with an adviser.

KOSIK: According to that report, he'd used state law enforcement officers to intimidate staffers and to keeping the affair under wraps.

CNN national correspondent Polo Sandoval joins us live from Atlanta with more.

Good morning.


Governor Bentley did try to stop those impeachment hearings. It was a short-lived victory, however, after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled those impeachment hearings could continue come Monday. These will happen after the release of a scathing new report of the governor.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): The accusations are mounting against Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.

GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA: I have done nothing illegal.

SANDOVAL: On Friday, the embattled governor once again denied using state resources to cover his alleged affair with former top aide Rebekah Mason.

BENTLEY: If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no. I have not.

[07:50:00] SANDOVAL: But a newly released report issued by Alabama's judiciary committee says otherwise. Accusing the two term governor of hampering the nearly year long investigation. The report recommends state lawmakers consider the governor's noncooperation as, quote, "independent ground for impeachment."

Friday's findings also alleged Bentley directed police to track down provocative recordings between himself and Mason.

BENTLEY: If we're going to do what we did the other day, we're gong to have to start locking the door.

SANDOVAL: Even instructed officers to end the extramarital relationship for him.

The report also clears Spencer Collier of any wrongdoing associated with the Bentley accusation. He's a former head of the Alabama law enforcement agency who was fired and accused by Bentley of misusing state funds. Collier was reportedly forced out once he publicly confirmed the governor's inappropriate relationship.

Bentley and his defense team insists upcoming impeachment hearings were scheduled without affording him due process.

This lawmaker calls that claim frivolous.

REP. ED HENRY (R), ALABAMA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The Judiciary Committee that has been handling the articles of impeachment have given him ample opportunity to share his side of the story.

SANDOVAL: Ed Henry, the Alabama representative leading efforts to impeach the governor wants the hearings to happen soon.

HENRY: I'm saddened that it's taken us a year to get to this point.

SANDOVAL: Just days before the new report, Alabama's ethics commission ruled their governor may have violated the law. A district attorney will decide if there's a criminal case to prosecute.

BENTLEY: I, Robert Bentley --

SANDOVAL: As for lawmakers, they will decide if Bentley remains at the state's helm or if he becomes Alabama's first governor to be impeached.


SANDOVAL: Well, not only does Governor Bentley maintain he did nothing illegal, he's defiant when it comes to stepping down. On Friday, he took to the steps of the Capitol, stood on the very steps where he took the oath of office and said he won't resign -- Alison, Victor.

KOSIK: Something tells me there's lots of intrigue to come. Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.

SANDOVAL: You bet.

KOSIK: OK. It is the final day of the Masters, but who will finish at the top of the leaderboard?

CNN's Andy Scholes is in Augusta.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alison, there's been one common denominator the last four years here at the Masters and that's Jordan Spieth in contention. We'll hear from the 23-year-old about his odds of winning his second green jacket coming up.


[07:56:31] BLACKWELL: All right. Two players tied for the lead entering into the final round of the Masters.

KOSIK: But will one of them hang on to the win for the Green Jacket?

Andy Scholes is in August with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning.

SCHOLES: Good morning, guys.

I tell you what? We are heading towards one thrilling finish here in the final the round of the Masters in Augusta.

And you know what? One guy to look out for, Jordan Spieth. In his three appearances here at the Masters, he's finished second, first and second and he made a charge up the leaderboard yesterday.

If you remember, Spieth, he had an epic meltdown last year in the final round after leading for pretty much the entire tournament. This year, he's actually trying to complete the biggest comeback in Masters history. No one has ever come back from being down ten strokes after the first-round.

But with another solid round yesterday, Spieth, now he's two shots off the lead entering today.


JORDAN SPIETH, 2015 MASTERS CHAMPION: We shot back tremendously to have a chance to win this golf tournament. And no matter what happens in the end, we will have a chance to win with the really good round. Finishing fifth versus tenth doesn't mean much to me, so that frees me up a bit tomorrow.


SCHOLES: All right. Your co-leaders right now are Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. Sergio is trying to win his first major. He's played 73 majors and never won one before. It's the third longest streak all time. Rose, meanwhile, he's won a major and an Olympic gold medal but says there's nothing like putting on that green jacket.


JUSTIN ROSE, TIED FOR THE LEAD: I may be a champion but I'm looking for more. And I'm certainly looking for my first Masters and first green jacket, and this is a place I dearly love and love to be a part of the history here.

SERGIO GARCIA, CO-LEADER: Having a chance of winning a major and winning here at Augusta is extra exciting. So, you do have to calm yourself down and then just try to cope with whatever comes your way the best way possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: All right. So, here's a look at the current leaderboard heading into today's final round. Seven guys are within three shots of the lead.

Guys, we could have one thrilling finish later on this afternoon here in Augusta. I tell you what? The weather is going to be perfect. The forecast is 78 and sunny, really looking forward to it, guys. Couldn't have planned this any better.

KOSIK: I want to be there.

BLACKWELL: Yes. After the rough days of weather earlier in the week, this is a great way to finish it.

Andy Scholes, thanks so much.

KOSIK: Thanks, Andy.

BLACKWELL: All right. Before we go, if you missed it last night, here's a bit of "SNL".

KOSIK: Alec Baldwin pulling double duty as President Trump and someone else as well. Let's listen to this.


ALEC BALDWIN AS PRES. TRUMP: And can I tell you something I actually see a lot of myself in you, bill.

BALDWIN AS BILL O'REILLY: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for coming to my defense last week even though no one asked you to. You even went as far as saying, quote, "Bill O'Reilly did nothing wrong.'

BALDWIN AS PRES. TRUMP: That's correct.

BALDWIN AS BILL O'REILLY: That's based upon --

BALDWIN AS PRES. TRUMP: Hunch. Just a loose hunch.

BALDWIN AS BILL O'REILLY: You're not familiar with facts of the case.

BALDWIN AS PRES. TRUMP: I mean, I'm more familiar with this case than I am say health care, but I didn't really look into it much no. I was too busy being super presidential by bombing a bunch of (EXPLETIVE DELETED)


KOSIK: You know, it's amazing I thought he couldn't do better than Donald Trump. And there you have it, Bill O'Reilly.

BLACKWELL: Double duty.

KOSIK: All right. Thanks so much for starting your morning with us.