Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Asks U.N. to Probe Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack; National Guard Troops Head to U.S./Mexico Border; Caravan of Central Americans Heads to Mexico City; Stormy Daniels' Attorney Files Request to Depose Trump, Cohen; Trump Speaks in Cabinet Meeting. Aired 11:30a- 12n ET

Aired April 9, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Kelly, let me start with you.

The president will meet with his cabinet and national security team. Take me inside the room of that national security meeting. The principles are meeting this morning. The president is meeting with them later today. What happens now?

KELLY MAGSAMEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This will be John Bolton's first test, a bit of trial by fire. Right now, they'll all have to figure out how they'll address the immediate situation, vis-a- vis the chemical attack. Of course, the president has also gone out on Twitter and boxed himself in to a bigger response than the last response that they had. I think Bolton's job will be to look at the scope of options, whether military, diplomatic, or sanctions options, and put together a package for the president's consideration. I do think that another pinprick military strike is not really going to have much effect other than reinforcing the norm against chemical weapons use. I think the response will have to be a slightly larger one and that's what they'll look at this afternoon.

BOLDUAN: Tony, do you also think the president boxed himself in, as Kelly said, for a bigger response this time? You applauded the president ordering the strikes last time, but you said there needs to be more. What's needed now?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. I think Kelly is right. He boxed himself in by his tweet but also by the action he took a year ago, which was to strike out when Assad used chemical weapons. Here's the problem, the president did the right thing a year ago, but he failed to leverage the military strike into a strategy to get the Russians to be held accountable going forward for future strikes, to get Assad's Air Force out of the skies and push for political transition in Syria. There was a moment having used force where the president could have put in place a strategy. He failed to do so. Maybe he gets a second chance now, but there's a lot of water under the bridge.

BOLDUAN: Do you see the strikes -- the purpose of the strike was to serve as a deterrent a year ago. Did they fail then?

BLINKEN: They failed if they were to serve as a deterrent precisely because there was no follow up. There was no effort to say after the strike from here on out we're holding Russia accountable for anything that Assad does. Russia is the main patron of Assad. From here on out we're demanding that Assad's Air Force gets out of the skies, and we need a process to move to a transition. There was a total void. Maybe it wouldn't have worked. But absent trying, we don't know if he could have leveraged the good action that he took a year ago into a broader strategy.

BOLDUAN: So, Colonel, what do you think of this big price to pay tweet that the president put out? What does he need to follow after that?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, just like both have said, he's boxed himself in here. He has to react in some manner. It's got to be more than just the attack he did on the air base a year ago.

BOLDUAN: What's more from your perspective?

FRANCONA: He has to make a meaningful strike this time. That air base was up two days later. He needs to do some damage. He needs to extract a price from the Syrians for doing this. But I also take the comment that it needs to be part of a strategy, which doesn't seem there is right now. I don't think no matter what we do, it will change the situation on the ground. The actions of the Turks in northern Syria have mapped out what will happen in northern Syria. We know how this plays out. Bashar al Assad will remain in power. We can hurt him, but we won't change the situation on the ground. I think it's important that we demonstrate the importance of the use of chemical weapons. Because if we think this will be a long-term thing where we will hold the Syrians accountable or the Russians accountable. That's going to be very, very difficult. The Syrians have military cover on the ground from the Russians and diplomatic cover in the united nations from the Russians.

BOLDUAN: Kelly, John McCain put out a statement saying the president's promise to withdraw from Syria emboldened Assad and led to this attack. Do you think that's the case?

MAGSAMEN: Possibly. I think the challenge with Syria is that there are multiple wars going on at one time. There's a counterterrorism war to fight is, a civil war between Assad and anti-regime forces, and a major power proxy war emerging. The problem for Trump is that he's dealing himself out of the game on the major power proxy war front. He talked about withdrawing troops precipitously last week. If that is the case, he will deal himself essentially out of that game.

BOLDUAN: When you talk about multiple things at play with the conflict in Syria, Tony, if Israel is behind the strikes that happened overnight in retaliation, you could say, what is in it for Israel? What is this about?

BLINKEN: Israel has a long record of taking discrete strikes in Syria to prevent weapons from moving particularly into the hands of Hezbollah. And it's looking out for its own interests. It will continue to do that. But as Kelly said, absent some real engagement by the United States, we are totally dealt out of the game. And there is a moment again for American diplomacy to try to reassert itself. The Russians don't want to be holding the bag in Syria. They've done a good job of propping up Assad, preventing him from collapsing, but their finger's in the dike. As soon as it collapsed, they don't want to be there forever.


BLINKEN: Trying to leverage that interest would make sense.

[11:35:31] BOLDUAN: That also plays into something I had a question about, Colonel. Answer me this, there's no good reason for using chemical weapons, of course not. But is there any kind of twisted strategic -- I don't know, a benefit that Assad was going for being behind this attack? Why do this now?

FRANCONA: Yes. That is the first thing, why would the Syrians do this when they don't need to? They have that area surrounded. They're pounding it into submission. They have a deal for the fighters to leave and go up to Idlib, so why do it now? Militarily you can look at this and say if we make it so painful and so horrendous in the long run it will be over faster because we'll cause the resistance to collapse. That might have been the thinking, but I can't imagine the Russians would really counsel them to do that. I'm surprised the Syrians did this knowing it would irk others.

I want to pick up another thing. Actually, Tony, the Syrians do want to be there. The Russians, I mean, do want to be there for a long time. That's why they signed those 49-year leases on those bases. Putin is trying to --


BLINKEN: You're right, Colonel, but not with their forces. Putin has announced multiple times mission accomplished, we're getting out, and they haven't. It's costing them money. Creating enemies for them. Probably ginning up terrorism. And there will be a huge bill to rebuild Syria. If Vladimir Putin thinks the rest of the world will pay for it, he has another thing coming.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what happens today at the U.N. Security Council. And I'm fascinated to hear what the president has to say when he speaks for the first time to cameras.

Great to see all of you. Thank you so much. I appreciate your coming in.

Still ahead, right now, National Guard troops are headed to the southern border on President Trump's orders. And in Mexico, a caravan of migrants is making its way closer to the United States. We have live reports from the border and inside that caravan, on the progress, and what will happen.


[11:41:38] BOLDUAN: National Guard troops are on the move, headed to the U.S.-Mexico border after President Trump made the order last week. Arizona and Texas already deployed hundreds of additional guardsmen and equipment. Once they're set up, thousands more could join. And 4,000 troops could be deployed after all of this.

What exactly are they going to do, as the administration continues to face questions of, why now.

Kaylee Hartung is on the border for us with more details on this.

Kaylee, what are you hearing there?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, I'm told that 250 National Guard troops are in place in Texas in their operational roles as of today. These troops, in addition to 100 troops that Texas' Governor Greg Abbott sent to the border in 2014. As troops arrived over the course of the weekend, many of them walked right into planning meetings with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol agents to discuss the resources that needed to be allocated at different points along the border. If the troops are not members of that planning team, they are in other roles, doing work behind the scenes that allows Border Patrol agents to be out in the field doing the job they are trained to do. So you won't see National Guard troops on patrol or making arrests. They will be doing air support missions, surveillance, intelligence gathering, and some desk jobs, clerical work, again, to free up Border Patrol to be more visible and to enforce the laws that President Trump wants on the borders -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Kaylee, ramping up there, and ramping up across the border.

Let's go across the border now.

Kaylee, thank you.

And to the reason behind why the president is moving troops to the border. A group of migrants from Central America is headed through Mexico to the U.S. border. The president is calling it a, quote, unquote, "drastic surge" of illegal activity at the border, but it's worth noting this is an annual trip meant to highlight the problems asylum seekers are running from. It's clearly taken on much more meaning now.

CNN correspondent, Leyla Santiago, has been following their progress throughout. She's on a bus with some of these folks.

Leyla, what are they telling you?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listen, most of them will tell you this is not about illegal activity, this is about seeking asylum, fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. All of the people behind me, most of them are from Central America. Many of them families, traveling with small children, even babies. There's a pregnant woman on board. They're telling me they're fleeing violence from gangs that are controlling the areas in Guatemala, and El Salvador where they live.

They started as a caravan in southern Mexico. They made their way north. We just left Puebla. We will head two to three hours north to Mexico City. The plan there is to meet with immigration overwhelms, go officials, government officials, those who can give them legal aid. Many of them will stay in Mexico. Actually, let me ask them


Who will stay in Mexico?


These are the people who say they will be going to the United States. Some of them not answering. Many have told me they plan to stay in Mexico.

As you mentioned, this is an annual tradition, sort of pilgrimage that happens every year. They've been doing this since 2010. They had a group that went ahead to Mexico City. They had a protest there at the Angel of Independence, a famous monument there as well. They are trying to raise awareness of what they're living through. I've heard stories, scars on their bodies from gunshot wounds, stabbings or assault. One woman told me her sister was killed, her uncle was killed, she didn't want to be next.

These people feel this is not illegal activity. They are human beings seeking asylum. Some doing that in Mexico, others hope doing that in the United States of America.

[11:45:43] BOLDUAN: Leyla, we'll continue to track the progress and see how this ends up shaking out.

Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

I'll take to you Capitol Hill quickly. We're getting some new video I'll watch for the first time with you of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill as we speak. He's in Senator Bill Nelson's office, meeting with lawmakers ahead of what could be the biggest day of his company's existence, tomorrow, when he sits down to face the music and face tough questioning from lawmakers. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat with tone of the committees, is sitting down in front of Mark Zuckerberg in Washington. All of that will play out tomorrow in front of the cameras. We'll bring that to you. Much more on the meeting when we get it.

Back right after this.


[11:50:57] BOLDUAN: So if you've been able to keep track at this point, the president's legal battle with Stormy Daniels is taking a U- turn this morning. Daniels' attorney is once again asking to be able to depose President Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Does this bring the president closer to a courtroom when it comes to the nondisclosure agreement for the $130,000 paid to Daniels just before the 2016 election?

Here with me now is Paul Callan. Paul, Stormy Daniels attorney tried before to ask the judge to let me

depose Trump and Cohen. The judge essentially said slow down, like it's not the time. How is this going to be different now?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it is going to be different. The judge not only said it's not time now, I want to remind the parties that I have some really important cases on my docket and this is not one of them. That's in essence what he said. The reason he said that was because essentially when you just back off and look at what this suit is about, it's about a woman being paid $130,000 to keep quiet about something. OK, that's it. The federal judge has on his calendar people who have lost their lives in serious accidents, their businesses have been destroyed, there are suits sometimes between major corporations, and then you have this case. So why should this case jump to the front of the line, which, in essence, is what Mr. Avenatti is requesting. I don't see that's going to happen because a second motion to depose the president is made.

BOLDUAN: Do you think this gets the president any closer at all to facing a deposition?

CALLAN: I think it's unlikely that he's going to ever be deposed in this case. The reason I say that is because he did not sign the contract. Remember, when the case was first started, that was the big deal, that the president didn't sign it. If he didn't sign it, why do you have to take a deposition to prove that he didn't sign it? His signature is not on it. So they can already prove that, and I think the court will ultimately say, you don't need the president's deposition to prove that he didn't sign the contract.

BOLDUAN: Also, we've now learned that Daniels' attorney says they've now worked with a sketch artist to try to find -- and folks will remember this from the "60 Minutes" interview with Anderson. To try and find the guy who Daniels said threatened her and threatened her family to keep quiet back in 2011. He spoke this morning about it. Listen to this.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY TO STORMY DANIELS: A composite sketch has been produced. We're going to be releasing that tomorrow along with a significant reward, asking that the public come forward. We are very close to identifying this individual.




BOLDUAN: He says he's going to release it tomorrow. Do you see anything coming of this?

CALLAN: I don't know. It depends on who it looks like, I guess. If it turned out that it looked like Keith Schiller, who used to be Trump's major bodyguard, that would be big, you know. Or if it turned out to be somebody we all know, yes, that would be huge. But if it's just some vague photo --

BOLDUAN: I have no idea.

CALLAN: Or a sketch.

BOLDUAN: I've never worked with a sketch artist or been involved in anything like it. Is it typical for someone to work with a sketch artist so many years later?

CALLAN: No, this is seven years later we're doing a sketch. No, usually the sketch artist meets with the victim shortly after the crime while she still would have a clear recollection of what the person looked like. Seven years ago, who can remember what somebody looked like in a parking lot seven years ago? She might be giving a sketch of the guy who took her ticket in the parking lot, who knows.

BOLDUAN: She did say during the interview it's something she would never forget. She would never forget what that person would look like. So --

CALLAN: I was telling you a quick story about the Unabomber who was at large for seven or eight years before he was caught. They took a sketch of him late in time and it turned out to be a sketch of --


BOLDUAN: Not sketch, try video.

Oops, here's President Trump speaking at his cabinet meeting. Let's listen in.

[11:54:53] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- with banned chemical weapons. It was an atrocious attack. It was horrible. You don't see things like that. As bad as the news is around the world, you just don't see those images.

We are studying that situation extremely closely. We are meeting with our military and everybody else, and we'll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours. We are very concerned. When a thing like that can happen, this is about humanity. We're talking about humanity, and it can't be allowed to happen. So we'll be looking at that barbaric act and studying what's going on. We're trying to get people in there. As you know, it's been surrounded so it's very hard to get people in, because not only has it been hit, it's been surrounded. If they're innocent, why aren't they allowing people to go in and prove? Because they're claiming they didn't make the attack. So if it's Russia, if it's Syria, if it's Iran, if it's all of them together, we'll figure it out, and we'll know the answers quite soon. So we're looking at that very, very strongly and very seriously.

I would also like to provide an update on trade negotiations. We have a situation with China where we have a very good relationship with China, and I think we'll maintain that relationship. I'm very good friends with President Xi. I have lots of respect for President Xi. As you know, I spent two days in China. The president spent two days with us at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. And they were four great days.

With that being said, China has been taking advantage of the United States for many years. Really, if you look at it, since the start of the world trade organization, and they have really done a number on this country. I don't blame China. I blame the people running our country, I blame presidents, I blame representatives, I blame negotiators. We should have been able to do what they did. We didn't do it, they did. And it's the most lopsided set of trade rules, regulations that anybody has ever seen.

With that being said, we have many of them. NAFTA was a horrible deal. We're renegotiating it. We'll see what happens. But we're strongly renegotiating NAFTA. If you look at the European Union, they have tremendous barriers, trade barriers. We essentially have bad deals with everyone. We're making a deal with South Korea. They are to give us 2,000 jobs. That didn't happen, we gave them 2,000 jobs. We lost jobs. It was a horrible deal. That's being renegotiated. And we have -- we've made tremendous progress. We're fairly close to a deal on NAFTA, and if we don't like that, we'll terminate NAFTA and make a deal after that. But we have a chance to make a deal on NAFTA.

And like I said, the North Korea and South Korea situation which complicates it. The deal we have with South Korea, I think it's going to be a very fair deal. We want a fair deal and we don't have fair deals. North Korea, by the way, as you can probably see, we've been in touch with North Korea. We'll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June. And I think there will be great respect paid by both parties and, hopefully, we'll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea. They've said so, we've said so. Hopefully, it will be a relationship that's much different than it's been for many, many years. This should have been done by other presidents and they decided they couldn't have done it, but it would have been a lot easier if it were done five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. A lot easier than now. But we have a meeting that is being set up with North Korea, so that will be very exciting, I think, for the world. I think it's going to be a very exciting thing for the world.

We're going to be talking about opioid today, opioid destruction and drug destruction. As you know, we strengthened up our southern border. Last year, we had record low numbers. This year they've gone up to a certain extent. It might be because our economy is good, and people are trying to come into our good economy. But we're putting the National Guard and military at the border. We're beefing up the Border Patrol, who have done a fantastic job. ICE has done a fantastic job. And we will take care of that situation.