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A Suspected Shooter Still on the Loose; Syria's President in Full Denial About the Deaths in Chemical Attack; White House Power Struggle; National Security Adviser General McMaster Speaking from Afghanistan. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 16, 2017 - 19:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:00:19] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for joining us.

We have breaking news on the hunt for a suspected killer Steve Stephens in Cleveland, Ohio. We just heard from Cleveland's mayor and police chief. They say Stevens broadcast a brutal killing of an elderly man today on Facebook. And here's what police chief Calvin Williams had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND DIVISION OF POLICE: I mean what happened today is senseless. And Steve has an issue, he needs to talk to some folks to get that resolved. I know Steve that you have a relationship with some of our clergy out here in northeast Ohio. I encourage you to give them a call and talk to them and then call us and turn yourself in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Stephens is considered armed and dangerous. He was last seen driving a white Ford fusion. He works at a behavioral health facility that serves thousands of children, teens and families every year.

Our team of team of reporters and analysts are covering every angle of this story as police continue their manhunt. Joining me right now, correspondent Polo Sandoval, CNN senior law enforcement analyst, former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes as well former public safety director in DeKalb police in Georgia, Cedric Alexander and senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.

Polo to you first. You are hearing from the victim's family. Tell us more.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, one of my colleagues had an opportunity to speak to a woman on the phone who identified herself as the mother of the suspect. The Cleveland police right now are on the hunt for right now. She said that she last spoke to her 37-year-old son in the moments after some of these images began to circulate on social media and also whether that manhunt began. She told CNN that she had an opportunity to speak to him and

recommended that he simply turn himself in. She didn't recognize her son in that horrible video that has circulated online. And also in some of the image that's have been put out by Cleveland police that the man they are searching for and finally in a very brief conversation said she essentially recommended that he turn himself in which a message that we heard just a few minutes ago by Cleveland authorities. And they continue to search for this individual.

And finally, Ana, what we do understand is that he works at this point, he is employed with a -- with beach broke, which is a behavioral agency in Ohio that essentially provides services to kids and families and the representative of that organization or of that company now saying that they are quote "shock and horrified." The individual, one of their employees could do this. This is awful.

Again, this is just gives you an idea of what the situation is like for people there on the ground, people who are obviously not only outraged at the sight of this by all accounts random elderly individual being shot and killed. But also provoking some fear and also some cautions for individuals to shelter in place.

CABRERA: Let's listen now to what we are hearing from family members of that victim. We don't know a lot about this victim. But police have identified him as Mr. Goodwin. And we know our affiliate there in Cleveland had a chance to speak to some family members reacting to this horrific event. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were laughing. I mean, he's a good guy. Easy -- I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would give the shirt off his back, I mean. And I'm not just saying that for these cameras like people do knowing they people really isn't right. But I'm telling the truth. This man right here was a good man. And I just hate that he is not here. I hate that he is gone. You know what I mean? I don't know what I'm going to do. It's not real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like my heart is going to stop. I feel like my heart is going to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like it's going to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lisa, Lisa.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: So again, those are victim's family members trying to make sense of this horrific crime. Again, police are saying they believe that the man was a random target.

And Brian, I know you have had a chance to actually see that video of the murder that was posted on Facebook, the alleged murder. Police say they have been able to confirm that this person was killed. What can you tell us?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: What is so disturbing about the video, of course, there is actual crime. Then there is the video of the crime. And what is so disturbing when a person broadcasts a crime when they are actually holding their camera phone up as they are committing a crime is the intimacy. The awful intimacy of a crime like this that you can see the gunshot and then you see the victim fall to the ground. This case, you hear one gunshot. Then you see this elderly man fall to the ground already bleeding instantly. And you see the suspect talk about the crime before and afterwards on Facebook live.

It doesn't seem he is posting anything more to Facebook live now, Ana. Perhaps he has turned his phone off. Perhaps he is aware of the manhunt. We don't know. But clearly, the -- what we know from Facebook from this person's posts is that this was premeditated. That he was out there looking for someone to shoot and kill. This is one of the awful realities of our digital media age. The same technology that allows us to share pictures of birthday parties and babies and families also allows people to post images of murder, of crimes in real time. Maybe, however that, video will help the police in some fashion. You know, there is this recording of the crime.

[19:05:40] CABRERA: Well, it is key piece of evidence, I would assume, Cedric Alexander, that that piece of video they must be combing through to get more information as they continue this man hunt, right?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, they will certainly do. That they will look at that and examine that piece of video over and over and over. And look for details inside that video which you and I may not be aware of. But it's an ongoing active investigation and certainly one that is probably going to involve local authorities along with state and federal authorities and Facebook, the company itself. So this is going to be an engaging investigation, one that very different than what we know to date in social media.

CABRERA: I want to play a clip from that press conference we just held. And listen to what the mayor said. He was appealing directly to the suspect.

OK, I'm afraid we don't have that. But let me read it to you. He said to Steve Stephens, we know who you are. You will eventually be caught. We are saying to him that he need not do any more harm to anybody, any innocent people. Whatever concerns or problems he is having, we are here to have a conversation with him.

Is that how you would approach this, Tom Fuentes, if you were trying to communicate with the suspect?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: If I was a politician, yes. But in reality, it will have no effect on Mr. Stephens. You know, he will have zero remorse. And I would ask Brian having watched the video during the actual commission of the crime and his description after he committed it, did he show the slightest concern for the victim or was it all about his film production that he was putting out on Facebook? So I think comments like that, politicians always do that. It's pretty much meaningless.

STELTER: I think we hear the suspect talking about his personal life, blaming others for the crime that he may be committing in this instance, seemingly bragging about it. And again to the intimacy of this. We all have these camera phones. We all stick them around faces and take selfies with them. He is turning the camera around, putting the camera on himself at various points as if he wants the attention. He wants the publicity.

The positive out of that negative is that social media can also be used to find this person. And we are seeing that now. We are seeing law enforcement authorities using social media as well as national and local television to get the word out. You see this double edge sword of the internet that allows this man to go out seeking some perverse form of fame by trying to record himself committing this crime. And then, of course, the flip side is we have photos of him right away of the suspect right away and police are able to get the word out more broadly, more widely right away.

We have seen on Facebook, we have seen crimes we have seen victims of crimes on Facebook. We remember (INAUDIBLE) who was shot by a police officer last July while streaming on Facebook live. Four people in Chicago were charged with a hate crime in January for attacking a mentally disables man and streaming it on Facebook.

This is a little bit different today to see someone shot at point blank range streamed live on Facebook. And we have seen a statement from Facebook. We can share it on screen. This is relatively new technology. And the company says this is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook. We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook and we are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when they are direct threats to physical safety.

So the original video, this original video of the shooting has essentially been taken offline by Facebook. However, there has been lots of copies made. And so, people on Facebook and twitter, other sites are seeing the copies, in some cases auto playing as soon as they log on to the social network this horrific video. It confronted in people's faces as a result.

But as I said, relatively new technology. This is not something Facebook or other big companies were doing just a couple years ago. And we see companies like Facebook and local police departments wrestling with the consequences of people being able to share this kind of terrible behavior on social media.

CABRERA: Right. And on social media, this individual was having conversations with other people, apparently saying he was killing more victims.

STELTER: And he seemed frustrated people didn't believe him.

CABRERA: And it's important for us to point out though that police have said they have not been able to verify the deaths of anybody else besides this one individual presumably the person who was shown in the video, as you described it, Brian.

But Tom, what do you make of the suspect claiming to have murdered multiple people and police say they have checked multiple locations and at this point they believe there is only one victim?

[19:10:24] FUENTES: Well, it just shows that he is an extreme narcissist. He has no regard for anyone else which would include family members. It's all about him. It's all about him becoming famous. It's about him putting this on media. You know, if he just -- if this wasn't on Facebook and he just killed a guy in Cleveland, Ohio, or was one of the several dozen people being shot over the weekend in Chicago, we wouldn't be talking about it. It's the fact that it's on the air that, he streamed it, that he bragged about it, that he showed no remorse that he showed that he is a stone cold killer. And that's why we are here talking. Otherwise, it wouldn't have mattered. The life of the victim unfortunately would not have made the news.

CABRERA: Cedric, you seem to be agreeing with Brian when he was talking about how social media is a very useful tool in this case. We obviously were able to get information very quickly about the suspect because of the evidence that was right there on social media.

ALEXANDER: Yes, that is correct. And now that we have identified him and that is a very important and certainly I think we are all glad that we know who we are looking for. But what is immediate in that we really have to pay close attention now is finding him and bringing him to justice. He could be in a variety of places. He could be somewhere hiding out. We don't know yet whether there are other victims or not. We certainly pray and hope not. We don't know whether he has done harm to himself or not.

So I think as we continue to go through the evening, through the night and into the morning and as the police along with partners there continue to investigate and follow any possible leads that may come into play, we are going to find this to be somewhat of all of us not just in Cleveland but across this country we have all been traumatized by this. Because this is -- this is beyond nag we could have ever imagined someone would do with social media.

CABRERA: And in that way, Brian, I mean, this crime is suddenly affected each of us and touched so many people because of the access to that connection through social media to see it.

STELTER: How direct it can be. And then you see this pop-up on your social media feed, you may want to look away to see a copy of this video show up somewhere. There is an element of this that makes it look like a video game. Because if you think about video game, the first person is shooter. People in a game, there have their controller. The gun is in front of him and they are firing. That is how a lot of young people experience weapons. They experienced guns as video game. Unfortunately, a video like this has that same perspective and yet, it is so real. And the blood is so real. As I have seen people online comparing it to a video game. People commenting and say this looks like a game. Very disturbing.

CABRERA: But it also I think affects us individually because all of us use social media and to be able to see this in almost real time. I mean, you probably didn't see it as it was happening. But to have access to it at your fingertips, to see a crime and there is an individual who is still out there. We don't know where he is. That makes it very scary for all of us.

We have to squeeze in a quick break. Please standby as we continue to follow the manhunt for a man name Steve Stephens. Police believe he is armed and dangerous, has murdered one person according to police in Cleveland. They are appealing for him to turn himself in. And they are warning the public to be vigilant and to call 911 should they see anything suspicious. They say he is driving a white Ford fusion.

You can see also that there is a university that has been told to (INAUDIBLE). We know a hospital in that area, the university hospital, telling CNN that they has been on lockdown. This is a developing situation we are continuing to follow every angle here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:18:13] CABRERA: Breaking news here on CNN tonight. The U.S. says all option are on the table when it comes to the nuclear threat from North Korea. Although, the hope is to resolve it peacefully.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The president has made clear that he will not accept the United States and allies and partners in the region being under threat from this hostile regime with nuclear weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now the warning from President Trump's national security adviser comes a day after the rogue regime attempted and failed to launch a missile. But all after parading its arsenal through the streets of Pyongyang. You see the video from this parade.

Tonight President Trump is now back in Washington after a weekend in Florida where he remained largely silent and out of sight as these events unfolded. A much different story though for his vice president Mike Pence who is speaking from the Korean peninsula today called the failed missile launch a provocation and a reminder of the danger we face.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under President Trump's leadership, our resolve has never been stronger. Our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger. And with your help and with God's help, freedom will ever prevail on this peninsula.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN's Suzanne Malveaux in Washington.

Suzanne, the one thing we heard from President Trump on North Korea today came on twitter.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Typical, yes. Like President George W. Bush and Obama's administrations, Trump is focusing on China's role, North Korea's biggest trading partner, energy provider, try to curtail its nuclear ambitions. So he suggested that he could reverse his campaign promise to designate China a currency manipulator tweeting this this morning saying why I would call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens.

Now President Trump recently held a summit with China's president and he dangled some other carrots in front of him suggesting that the U.S. could make a sweeter deal with China if they got tougher with North Korea.

Now at the same time, he is also suggesting that if China does not help the U.S. that U.S. will take on North Korea on its own. He tweeted that the U.S. is preparing for more aggressive action if necessary saying this, our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before. Frankly, we have no choice.

Well, Trump's national security adviser General McMaster speaking from Afghanistan said that the NSC along with the Pentagon, the state department, and U.S. intelligence agencies, they are all working on a wide range of options for Trump to use if North Korea continues a threatening behavior. Those options include diplomacy, economic incentives, sanctions and military action but he says that goal is to resolve this peacefully -- Ana.

[19:21:08] CABRERA: All right. Suzanne Malveaux reporting. Thank you.

Joining me now to discuss CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to four presidents, David Gergen. Also with me, senior fellow at the Atlantic council and former National Security Council staffer in the Clinton administration, Jamie Metzl.

David, I will start with you. Trump came to the presidency as we know with no foreign policy experience. He had a reputation for being bombastic. But are we actually seeing an example of him showing some restraint in the sense we really heard very little if him this weekend on North Korea?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I think we have seen a welcome change in the administration's posture toward North Korea over the past 24 hours. You know, we sent a carrier group and (INAUDIBLE) on a carrier group. (INAUDIBLE) was weapons. And the emphasis seemed to be just two or three weeks ago secretary of state Tillerson said, you know, we have run out of patience. Diplomacy is on the table, off the table now. We are not doing it that way. And it looked as if we were on the knife edge as China was saying, knife edge with North Korea. Then we had this fizzle of a missile from North Korea which made them look slightly ridiculous. Yet another failure with the missile system.

But very importantly today when the Trump team went on television, we just heard a clip from General H.R. McMaster, the head of the NCS and also K.T. McFarland who was out there with one of the deputies soon to be ambassador to Singapore. But I mean, they were both emphasizing diplomacy, sanctions, let's do things short of war. I think that's very helpful. Clearly they are giving China some time to see if it won't apply stronger sanctions. The Chinese have already stopped the export of coal from North Korea. The Trump administration would like to see them stop the export of oil which would be -- would hurt the North Koreans. And failing that there are continue -- they continue to be other options such as warfare.

But coming in as Mike Pence went into South Korea, South Koreans really don't want to fight. The emphasis shifted to negotiations, diplomacy and I think that's both wise and welcome.

CABRERA: Jamie, just since February, we have seen North Korea attempt at least five missile launches just since February, since this administration took office. So you could argue that all of this tough talk has done very little to dissuade North Korea from developing and continuing its nuclear weapons program and instead could be doing the opposite?

JAMIE METZL, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: We have to ask why is North Korea trying to get nuclear weapons. And what are they achieving throughout these tests? There are some people who believe they are making political statements. And if they're -- only making preliminary statements, then this pressure can help.

If they are trying to get a deliverable nuclear weapon as quickly as possible, which I believe they are, then all of this pressure is going to push them to make a very fateful choice and that is going to, in my view, push them towards getting these weapons as quickly as possible. Because they have seen what happened in Ukraine. They have seen what happened in Libya, countries that gave up the nuclear weapons and then were vulnerable. And the Kim regime recognizes more than anybody how vulnerable they are now. And they are deeply concerned that the United States can work with China to put more pressure on North Korea. If North Korea has nuclear weapons that limits China's ability to influence them and, therefore, everybody's ability to change North Korea's behavior. And that's what this is really all about.

CABRERA: Why does that limit China's ability to influence them? Because China is their key economic driver, right?

METZL: It is. China provides the majority of the food and fuel that keeps the North Korean regime alive. But no, the North Koreans know that at the end of the day, China values a North Korean ally as bad as the relationship is more than they would welcome which they wouldn't at all a reunified Korean peninsula potentially allied to the United States.

So until that changes, China is going to pay lip service and even take some very significant actions to put pressure on North Korean but not enough to change North Korea's strategic calculus.

[19:25:07] CABRERA: You believe North Korea has that upper hand.

METZL: Certainly in that relationship because China wants North Korea to be there. And the only ultimate pressure that China will have, they will dissuade North Korea from developing these weapons is putting so much pressure on the North Koreans. But the Kim family and President Kim, they begin to believe that he could lose power unless he drops his nuclear weapons program. And right now the North Korean leadership still believes that they will be stronger with nuclear weapons than without them.

CABRERA: So David, let's talk a little bit about the politics of all of this. Well, what is the alternative? Do you have -- do you see another way out, David?

METZL: So what David was asking about what is the alternative? I think that is policy actually makes a lot of sense. We have to put pressure on North Korea. We have to put pressure on China to put pressure on North Korea. Because the alternatives are far worse. I mean, certainly, was is not really an option for the United States even though we are saying that all options are on the table. As Seoul, a city of 25 million people is highly vulnerable. North Korea feeling they didn't have nuclear weapons could obliterate Seoul very quickly. So the policy of putting pressure makes sense.

At the end of the day, though, this is a question for China. Because China will have to decide whether it can live with the nuclear arms hostile North Korea on its border. And if so, it's going to be forced to accept a lot of bad behavior by the North Koreans. And so the name of the game is to give China in many ways enough strategic reassurance that over time they can see which I believe is the case that it reunified Korean peninsula is actually in everybody's interest including China and frankly, the people of North Korea.

CABRERA: So David, how much power do you think the U.S. administration has in all of this, in dealing with North Korea?

GERGEN: I think it has a great deal of power. It doesn't have dominant power. It cannot dictate an outcome. And that's why it's so important for the United States to work with China to jointly put pressure on, to have the South Koreans. They have an election coming up. They need a government that is going to be supportive of this. Have Japan putting pressure. Isolating the North Koreans.

But the critical thing now, Ana, and I think in the last 24 hours is United States seemed to be threatening a preemptive attack just a few days ago. The question was are we going to hit them before they ever have a chance to build a missile? Because -- and if that had been the case, you know, we would be at war now. And I am really pleased to see them stepping back from those kind of, you know, very, very antagonistic, very aggressive statements and trying to give diplomacy a chance.

We may ultimately have to use force. I do think one thing is true. I don't think that the U.S. or China, but especially the U.S., will live with a nuclear armed North Korea that can hit Los Angeles. You know, just as the Obama administration really wanted to find a way out on Iran so they wouldn't have a nuclear weapon for a number of years. I think the -- it's going to be -- it is central to the Trump administration to stop North Korea one way or the other before it can hit Los Angeles.

CABRERA: Now Jamie, of course, in the past, the president has really advocated an America first policy that we need to take care of our own. And yet, we are seeing all these different things happening around the world in which the U.S. has taken the lead in some respects when we see the strikes on Syria following the chemical weapons attack. We see Afghanistan and they drop this mother of all bombs. And now with North Korea, there has been so much dynamic happening between the U.S. and China and North Korea. Do you see the Trump doctrine taking shape here?

METZL: Well, the Trump doctrine if, this is something new, looks like a little bit more like America's global responsibility that frankly every responsible president for decades has lived up to. This America first, the foreign policy that Trump articulated in the campaign if realize would have destroyed many parts of the world and significantly harmed the United States.

So it's very good. I think nobody would want, I mean Trump is certainly flip-flopping on so many issues. But in many directions in, many cases, it is flip-flopping in the right direction. So we heard what vice president Pence was saying in South Korea. It's better to be telling one of our closest allies and say to the South Koreans that we are going to stand by you. That's much better than what candidate Trump was saying was you are on your own and you should develop nuclear weapons and you need to pay us more to protect you. That was entirely the wrong message. So it is certainly very, very positive.

But coming back to what David was saying a moment ago, it's a very difficult situation because the United States it would and for anybody a preemptive attack on North Korea would be catastrophic. Because North Korea is building a missile capability designed to survive a preemptive attack. That's why they were investing in these mobile launchers. That's why they have submarine missile that can be launched from submarines.

So we just need to be very, very careful here. And at the end of the day, yes, the rhetoric is that United States can't live with nuclear arms North Korea and we shouldn't. But at the same time, there may be no other choice because if China isn't willing to put maximum pressure on North Korea up to the point of threatening instability, North Korea is moving relatively rapidly toward developing a nuclear weapon. And at that point, we may be in a containment situation like when he with the Soviet Union for many decades.

[19:30:46] CABRERA: Jamie Metzl and David Gergen, thanks for the discussion.

David, you'll back with me in just a moment.

Coming up, the White House power struggle, drawing comparisons to "Game of Thrones." Where it is while some top advisors stock is falling, other stocks are on the rise. We will discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:35:13] CABRERA: President Trump is about as comfortable as they come with saying you're fired. He let go of his two campaign managers before the election. He ousted his national security adviser just weeks after moving into the White House. And now sources tells CNN his chief strategist Steve Bannon could be next. We are told the president is distancing himself from Bannon both privately and publicly. And one of the reasons for this falling out involves a certain "Saturday Night Live" skit.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Brianna Keilar has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's chief strategist publicly dressed down by the boss. I like Steve but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors and I didn't know Steve, Trump hold "the New York Post." I'm my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.

Asked if he has confidence in Bannon amid reports of infighting among top aides including Trump's influential son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump said Steve is a good guy but I told him to straighten it out or I will.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I think the president is sending a very strong message which knowing him I assume he is also said it in private which is I don't like this bickering. And enough already. And get your act together.

KEILAR: The review comes just one week after Bannon was dumped from the national security council, a sign his influence on Trump's foreign policy has diminished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I happen to believe and I think many others do he is probably the greatest public speaker in those large arenas since William (INAUDIBLE).

KEILAR: And early an ardent admirer of Trump's, Bannon interviewed Trump for Breitbart radio back in 2015 when he was then heading up the far right media conglomerate.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to keep our talented people in this country. I think you agree with that. Do you agree with that? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I got a tougher -- you know, when two-thirds

or three quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think -- my point is that countries more like sessions, a country is more than an economy. We are a civic society.

KEILAR: Less than one year later, Bannon was heading up Trump's campaign, orchestrating some of its most outrageous moments. Like this photo op just before a presidential debate with women who had accused Bill Clinton of assault, Bannon looking on.

In the White House, he was instrumental in Trump's controversy travel ban of several majority Muslim countries.

TRUMP: And I said we will get the criminals out, the drug lords, the gang members, we are getting them out.

KEILAR: CNN has learned it wasn't just the infighting that frustrated Trump. It was also the frequent suggestion portrayed here on "Saturday Night Live" that Bannon was his puppet master.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's enough fun for tonight. Can I have my desk back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course, Mr. President. I will go sit at my desk.

KEILAR: Donald Trump spoke to the "Wall Street Journal" calling reports of infighting overblown. But that said he also described Bannon as quote "a guy who works for me" and reiterated that he, Donald Trump, is his own strategist.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.

CABRERA: Our thanks to Brianna.

I want to bring back David Gergen, former presidential advisor and senior political analyst.

David, you heard Brianna mention Trump calling Bannon just a guy that works for me. As of late, there has been a lot of conversations suggesting Bannon could be on his way out especially with all the friction with Jared Kushner.

But David, I read your op-ed where Trump's White House shake-up began. And you argue the key to Trump's success is less about maybe changing the staff right now and more about changing himself. What changes personally do you think would help him?

GERGEN: Well, thank you for going back to that argument.

Listen, I discovered in the presidency starting with Richard Nixon, my first president I worked for, that what we may have in the White House is the president, leadership starts within. But then the person who is president, the temperament of that person, the kind of integrity they represent, what kind of signals they give to the team, those radiate out across the staff across the team. And people take their cues from it.

The fact that Richard Nixon, for example, Ana, you know, was willing to have an enemy's list or after people (INAUDIBLE), other people then the White House picked up on that very fast and they began engaging in the same thing. So I think it's, yes, can he create a better White House team? A stronger White House team or coherent, a better organization? Yes. I think we are seeing some of that on the national security side. He has been better served in recent days by the organizational side.

But leadership starts within. It's whether the person who is present is well-anchored. And I think that all the changes in the world won't solve a problem unless Donald Trump himself looks inside, figures out how he can be a more active president.

For example, just in the -- you commented earlier in the show just in the last couple days, we haven't had the sweet storms that we have been used to on Saturdays and Sundays. And he has been - he has been much more restrained about what is going on in North Korea. That is a sign of a president who is trying to get into a better place. I think that's what Ivanka and Jared are pushing toward. And they see Bannon as someone who, you know, frankly is out for himself.

Everywhere has been widely reported Trump was ticked off to see Bannon on the cover of "Time" magazine, a place where Trump likes to be. You know? And called a manipulator in effect. Like he is manipulating Trump. But I do -- I cannot underscore enough if the president is well-anchored if, the president sends out good signals, the other people in the White House, they do the same thing. And you get a better White House, you get more integrity, the more transparency. It's the president's highly secretive, other people in the White House are going to be highly secretive. And we have seen that with the logs, the visitor logs.

So I feel -- I just can't tell you, president after president, the key to success is the quality, the temperament and the character of the president himself and soon herself.

CABRERA: Real quickly, David. We only about a minute left for this segment.

GERGEN: Sure.

CABRERA: Is there something that you feel is missing from his team currently? Where does he need help?

GERGEN: Yes. He needs a strong chief of staff and he needs a good friend who can talk to him straight. Having a children around like Ivanka telling him straight is great. But he needs somebody who is a peer. And he needs a - seems to have everything up before he threw the chief of staff.

CABRERA: Do you think Reince Priebus needs to go then?

GERGEN: He either needs to go or he needs to have a -- he needs to be supported by Trump in such a way as he really can scrap the whip and do what McMaster is doing on the national security side. McMaster is turning out to be a strong leader for national security. Reince Priebus either has to do better. I think he needs to find somebody else.

CABRERA: All right, David Gergen, always good to have you. Thank you. And Happy Easter.

GERGEN: OK. Thanks, Ana.

We are keeping a close eye on this situation developing in Cleveland. A manhunt under way right now for this man. He is the suspect who police say killed a man and broadcast it on Facebook. Police and the mayor asking him to turn himself in.

Much more coming up. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[19:46:42] CABRERA: An update on our breaking news. A suspected shooter still on the loose in Cleveland, Ohio. Police say this man, Steve Stephens stopped his car and brutally gunned down an elderly man he didn't know and broadcast the killing on Facebook. He claims to have killed many others.

Right now police and the FBI are scouring the city of Cleveland and the surrounding area. Police chief, the mayor are urging Stephens to turn himself in and they are warning Cleveland residents to stay on the lookout.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: No. Nothing is on lockdown. But we are encouraging people to be careful and to be vigilant. To watch for one another.

What happened today was senseless. If Steve has an issue, he needs to talk to some folks to get that resolved. I know, Steve, that you have a relationship with our clergy in northeast Ohio. I encourage you to give them a call and talk to them and then call us and turn yourself in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Stephens' victim has now been identified as 74-year-old Robert Goodwin. Police say Stephens had no apparent connection to Mr. Goodwin, apparently picking him at random. Goodwin's children spoke earlier to CNN affiliate WOIO.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were laughing. I mean, he is a good guy. I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would give you the shirt off his back. I'm not just saying that for these cameras. Like people do know that they people really -- but I'm telling the truth. This man right here was a good man. And I just hate -- I hate he is gone. You know what I mean? I don't know what I'm going to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like my heart is just going to stop. I feel like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like it's going to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. That's enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Police say Stephens was last seen driving a white Ford fusion with a temporary tag. He is just over 6 feet tall and weighs approximately 245 pounds. We will update with you any new developments.

Still ahead here in the NEWSROOM, Syria's president in full denial about the deaths of innocent children killed in a chemical attack that the U.S. and allies say he launched.

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[19:53:08] CABRERA: There is a new development now with that horrifying chemical attack in Syria, the one that moved President Trump to attack a Syrian airbase. This week's Syria's president Bashar al-Assad is not only denying he is behind the atrocity but questioning whether it even happened.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more. And I have to warn you this report contains graphic images.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the world of most Syrians -- rubble, bombs, indiscriminate slaughter, even chemical weapons.

But welcome to the world according to Bashar al-Assad where things than can make look bad, simply didn't happen.

BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT: We don't know whether those dead children, were they killed at Khan Sheikhoun? Were they dead at all? Who committed the attack if there was an attack?

WALSH: Denial is nothing new for a man who was an eye doctor trained in London yet has found himself a hated dictator.

In the 17-year reign, that's swung from reformist to murderist, but despite U.S. missile strikes and talk in the Trump administration like this.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our view the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.

WALSH: It's unclear that's on the verge of happening.

He denied bombings like this have ever happened. He has denied being behind this Sarin massacre in 2013, before later agreeing to give his chemical weapons up under Russian president.

Denial, pretty easy, if your world is in a palace that you haven't really left for five years. In fact, this may be the only time Assad left war time Damascus on a military plane en route to meet Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. A public sign of the Russian support that has turned the war in his favor. Central Damascus is a lot quieter than the rest of Syria, and is now with the regime on the military front (INAUDIBLE). And when a place is damaged, it's often repaired.

The Syrian first lady, British born, Asma al-Assad, once a brief darling of "Glamour" magazine even dubbed quote "a rose in the desert by vogue" can enjoy the calm and charm she flaunts on Instagram often sharing photos of her with her family.

Assad never knew this lonely and twisted role was coming his way. Rushing into the presidency after his older brother's fatal car crash, yet he adapted to it with terrifying speed and strategic patience. The last man standing in his warped reality whose personal fate influences how much longer his people suffer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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