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U.S. Sends Mixed Messages on Syria, Assad's Future; White House Feud Between Bannon & Kushner; Intense Manhunt for Burglary Suspect Who Mailed 161-Page Manifesto to Trump. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 10, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:33:01] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Strong words following the first U.S. military strike against the Assad regime in Syria. Strong words, but a conflicted message, leaving many wondering what is the president's official policy towards Syria right now. President Trump's top two diplomats, the ambassador to the U.N. and his secretary of state, they seem to be on different pages.


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. And it is through that political process that the Syrian people will decide the fate of Bashar al Assad.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: There's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime. If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it is hard to see a government that is peaceful and stable with Assad.


BOLDUAN: So, do they want Assad out or not?

Let's go to CNN's international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, near the Syrian border.

Clarissa, the world is waiting to hear what President Trump had planned in terms of what is next for the U.S. posture towards the war- torn country. What is the impact you're hearing, which sure seems to be one thing from the U.N. ambassador and another from the secretary of state?

[11:34:21] CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, there is a very clear discrepancy, Kate, between what we heard from Nikki Haley and what we heard from Rex Tillerson. Nikki Haley making it clear that she thinks one of the U.S. top priorities along with fighting ISIS is somehow expediting the ouster of al Assad, whereas Tillerson singing a slightly different tune, reiterating this idea that the fight against ISIS is America's priority in terms of its Syria policy. Although he did also allow for the caveat that he doesn't seem how there can be stability inside Syria with president Bashar al Assad as president.

Meanwhile, if you look at what is happening inside Syria, we know Syrian jets are taking off again from the runway and from the air base that was struck on Friday. Airstrikes have been continuing, particularly across Idlib, the last sort of rebel stronghold inside Syria. So, there hasn't been a huge effect on the ground. Then, again, the stated purpose of these strikes by the Trump administration were not to take out the runways, were not to stop ordinary airstrikes, but what they called a measured and proportional response to the use of chemical weapons.

So, at this stage, I think there is a sense that not a whole lot has changed on the ground. But the question becomes, has a whole lot changed behind the scenes? It's possible that the U.S., which now has more leverage in the game, will be able to push Russia on certain issues? But it's still unclear, Kate, whether they have the political will to do so.

BOLDUAN: Clarissa Ward, on the Syrian/Turkish border right now. Thank you, Clarissa. Appreciate it.

Joining me now to continue this conversation is Ambassador Nicholas Burns who was undersecretary state for political affairs under George W. Bush and he also, of course, served under President Clinton; and Jack Kingston, former Republican Congressman from Georgia, and now a CNN political commentator.

Ambassador Burns, I just gave you another job.

Ambassador, it seems that they are, when you look at these two top diplomats, that they are offering conflicting messages. But from your perspective and from a diplomatic standpoint, are they?

AMB. NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, I think the problem here is that the Trump administration had to move its position, change it entirely last week with astonishing speed after the chemical weapons attack that President Assad had ordered, the cruise missile strikes. I think that was the right decision. Now, they've got to work out a broader strategy. I think that where Secretary Tillerson is probably reflects where the administration is. And that is, as he goes to Moscow this week, can the United States push Russia hard to agree to political talks, to a negotiation, perhaps to a localized cease-fire to end this terrible civil war. He's, Secretary Tillerson, is going to have a tough job doing that. But he's mentioned over the weekend several times that's where the administration wants to go. So, I think he and H.R. McMaster, who also said the identical thing, are probably talking about where President Trump is right now. But it's early days. It will take them a while to put together a bigger strategy.


But, Congressman, let me bring you in on this because I do wonder what the problem is here in terms of messaging, or is it messaging or policy. Because, you have this major strike, you have the administration then putting out their top two diplomats to the Sunday shows. Why aren't they in lockstep and on message? They know everyone would be parsing their words so specifically.

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, General McMaster has bridged the two statements, the one by Haley and the one by Tillerson, and he said, you know, you can do both of them. I think where they're moving to is a three-prong process of now there is a military option on the table along with the diplomatic process, which President Obama started. And then ramping up the economic process, which Secretary Ross actually alluded to with a fine to the largest, second-largest telecom company in China. A major, an over $1 billion fine for doing business with Iran and Syria against the sanctions. I think doing all three things at once is very important.

And I agree with ambassador burns that Tillerson is meeting in Russia this week is extremely important. It's very, very important to stay engaged with Russia right now, and hopefully bring them to a position where they'll stop playing games and they'll realize that they're not going to sign on to some phony deal the way they did in 2013 with the chemical weapons ban.

BOLDUAN: But, real quick, Congressman, as it relates to Bashar al Assad, does the administration want Assad out or not? Do you think it is a priority?

KINGSTON: I think that stabilization and stopping the civil war is a priority. As you know, if you look at it from -- I'm coming at it as a member of Congress -- we took out Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein, it leads to chaos. We changed the regime in Afghanistan and put in Karzai and we did not have stability in Afghanistan. So I think the administration is very correct in being cautious with, let's just get rid of this guy and then there will be peace in the valley, and that never has happened in recent times.

BOLDUAN: The clarity of message is where there is a question. Not the clarity -- you know, prerogative, whatever policy position they want to take.

Ambassador, Senator Graham, Lindsey Graham, on the Sunday shows, says the fact that Assad is back up and flying planes out of this very same air base that was struck, he said it is a message, a very clear message to President Trump. Listen to this.


[11:39:58] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He killed babies with conventional bombs, it's still a moral outrage. Here's what I think Assad is telling Trump by flying from this base, "F" you. And I think he's making a serious mistake, because if you're an adversary of the United States and you don't worry about what Trump may do on any given day, then you're crazy.


BOLDUAN: That message -- that message that Graham sees, do you think that is the message from Assad right now? If so, what does it mean?

BURNS: I think the message from Russia and Assad is defiance against the United States. And they're going to hold -- they want to seek a military victory for Syria in this civil war. I do think President Trump was right to strike against this, the base that carried out the chemical weapons attack. But the administration, Kate, you said, needs to get in the same page publicly and need to have a bigger strategy for d diplomacy. And I think this does call into question the refugee ban. We can't solve all the problems of Syria but we should take in Syrian refugees as other countries are doing. It's the greatest, most horrific refugee crisis since 1945.

BOLDUAN: That question now will linger, especially in the change of position we've seen in the president and what drove him to react and to order this strike.

Ambassador, great to see you. Thank you.

Congressman, great to see you. Thanks so much.

BURNS: Thank you.

KINGSTON: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Still to come, a West Wing power struggle between President Trump's closest advisers spilled out into the public. The president telling Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon to work it out. But is family loyalty Kushner's Trump card?

Plus, some big-name liberal leaders calling on voters to vote out a fellow Democrat. Why? Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is skeptical that Assad is behind the chemical attack. Why are Democrats now saying that means she should be out.


[11:46:11] BOLDUAN: "Work it out," that's the message from President Trump to his son-in-law, who is now an adviser, and the man who helped him win the White House. In a fight between Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon, is blood thicker than "Breitbart?"

Joining me now, CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza.

Great to see you, Chris.


BOLDUAN: We always say palace intrigue is fun for a lot of folks, for some. But what does it really mean this type of infighting with this level of people within the West Wing? What does it mean for folks at home?

CILLIZZA: I think what you're seeing is not atypical. It's just earlier than what we usually see. There's always some level of disagreement, particularly about big things like should the U.S. strike Syria in reaction to the chemical attacks. These are major policy decisions. If everyone agreed at all times, I think that might be more worrisome, frankly.

But what you're seeing here is Donald Trump put in place a sort of four-part sharing of power. Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon are two, Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus are the other two. They are four people with different titles, but roles that are, if not the same, sort of ill-defined in between one another. You're going to see some bumping up against one another.

I'll say in answer to your first question, you never want to fight a member of the president's family because you will not win that fight.

BOLDUAN: But, here's what I've been wondering as we watch this. If the travel ban had worked out and hadn't ended up where it has, if health care had passed and didn't end up where it has, would Kushner and Bannon have been able to find a way to work this out amongst themselves without the boss stepping in?

CILLIZZA: Sure. If you ever played on any sports team ever, you know when you win, the tensions between people don't matter as much. When you lose, they're right there front and center. So, yes, if you would have had a bunch of victories here, you might have. I would say, though, that it is important to remember Donald Trump formative experience, other than business, prior, his most recent experience here is building a show with Mark Burnett called "The Apprentice." What did he do in that show, which is created in his vision? Have a boardroom situation in which a lot of different voices were arguing one against the other and he came in and was the decider. He's put in place this system that is going to, by necessity, almost, create those levels of tension and he comes in and solves them or tells them to work it out. That's his vision of a management structure. It's, obviously, got problems in it and you're seeing those problems play out.

BOLDUAN: Chris, one thing he did on "The Apprentice" is fire people.

CILLIZZA: Yes, he did.

BOLDUAN: This message was, work it out, not you're fired. Is part of this that Bannon, if he left, could be maybe even more dangerous to this White House as an outsider?

CILLIZZA: That's a really interesting point. Look, I think in some ways, one of the keys to Donald Trump's success when he brought on Kellyanne Conway as the campaign manager and Steve Bannon as a chief strategist in the summer of 2016 was sort of bringing the outside voice in Bannon into the tent. Now, if that outside voice gets expelled out of the tent, yes, of course. Anyone who has access to an entire media news site and can sort of direct the editorial content, if that person is not happy or looking to, you know, make a grudge good against you is problematic. That said, Donald Trump, I think, likes to make changes. He had three campaign managers. He's not someone who is afraid to fire people. But you are right, the Bannon thing is more complicated than just letting someone go.

BOLDUAN: It's complicated. That's definitely one way to describe all those relationships.


Great to see you, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Kate.

[11:49:52] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, an intense manhunt for a suspect who police say stole more than a dozen guns. What we know about the manifesto that he sent to President Trump before going on the run. That's the guy right there.

Be right back.


BOLDUAN: A manhunt is intensifying for a burglary suspect who mailed a 161-page manifesto to President Trump. Joseph Jakubowski allegedly stole more than a dozen firearms in Wisconsin and police fear he may be plotting an attack.

Alison Kosik has been following this whole story

More details come out. Most of it is caught on tape.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORERSPONDENT: A lot of it is caught on tape. But also very disturbing, this has been going on for almost more than a week and after more than 400 tips, no sign of him.

But I want to show you some video and him actually talking to a cell phone to video. These are some of the last moments authorities know where he's been. Take a look.


[11:55:05] JOSEPH JAKUBOWSKI, WANTED BY POLICE: Somebody might want to read it. There it is. You see it's good shit. Revolution. It's time for change.


KOSIK: I don't know if you can hear him. He was saying revolution, we want change.

What he's holding there is that manifesto you mentioned, a 161-page manifesto that you see there that he mailed to President Trump. An acquaintance of his also gave that same manifesto, it's believed, to the sheriff's office. In that manifesto, he lists grievances against the government. He talks about anti-religious views. It's a long laundry list of grievances that he spelled out in 161 pages.

What also worries authorities is that, yes, he robbed this gun store, taking high-powered weapons and a bulletproof vest as well. They're worried he could be looking to do a mass-casualty kind of event.

BOLDUAN: 150-some law enforcement on the search yesterday and the FBI is looking for anyone's help, offering a $10,000 reward anyone giving information leading to their arrest.

Thanks so much, Alison.

KOSIK: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, moments ago, a historic moment for the country and a big win for President trump. Here's what the newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, will be doing in his very first hours on the bench.

Be right back.


[12:00:01] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your time with us.

No vacancy. President Trump's pick, Neil Gorsuch, joins the Supreme Court. And a number of big cases will soon test his views and his influence.