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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Trump Warns Russia To Get Ready For Military Response; Trump Says Missiles Will Be "Smart"; U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan Won't Seek Re- election; Source: Trump Considering Firing Rod Rosenstein; 257 Killed in Crash of Military Plane; Anti-abortion Protestors Banned Outside London Clinic; U.K. Mulls Response To Latest Syria Attack. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired April 11, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones sitting in for Hala Gorani.
Tonight, Donald Trump taunts Russia and says, "get ready for a military response on Syria." This as the Kremlin says it's (inaudible) to Twitter
And Syrian forces go on high alert as they prepare for a strike.
Plus, Mark Zuckerberg in the hot seat again. How he's coping on his second day of questioning on Capitol Hill.
(Inaudible) prospects of punishing military action in Syria really hinged on a tweet. We are living in extraordinary times and today we are
witnessing an extraordinary war of words between the U.S. and Russia over a suspected chemical attack in Syria.
Donald Trump surprised even some of his own aides with this taunt on Twitter earlier. He warned Russia to, quote, "get ready," saying, "nice
and new and smart missiles are coming to Syria," adding, "you shouldn't be partners with a gas killing animal who killed his people and enjoys it."
The Kremlin already responding saying, it won't take part in what it calls Twitter diplomacy. One Russian official warns that any American missiles
would be shot down.
We are covering all angles of this story for you tonight. Fred Pleitgen is the only Western journalist in Damascus. Kaitlan Collin is at the White
House for us, and Sam Kiley standing by in Moscow for us.
Fred, let's start with you. Now that it looks like, you know, there is going to be some kind of military intervention it seems from outside
forces. What is the regime there saying?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's solely sinking in with them, Hannah, and they are preparing for it so
that this could happen and that this could happen very soon. And you know, one of the things that we've been hearing, Hannah, is that apparently
there's additional troop movement by the Syrian military.
We are hearing reports that apparently jets from the Syrian Air Force are being moved away from military bases, presumably to get them out of the way
of any sort of potential strikes that might happen.
We've also see additional Syrian military convoys it seems (inaudible) on the streets. It's unclear whether or not that could be related to the same
matter. At the same time, the Syrian government is lashing out at President Trump -- calling that thoughtless escalation.
And saying that they lack rationality and that it is a threat to international peace and security, but, of course, the other big nation
President Trump took aim at was Russia, and indeed, Russia here in Syria.
And the Russians responded, Hannah, not only by saying that missiles will get shot down if they were shot towards Syria, but also, that any of those
bases where those missiles are fired from will be targeted as well.
That, of course, could mean American warships and the American planes from having been here 20 times, including with the Russian military, the Russian
do have a lot of new and just a lot of military hardware here in this country that they seemed to be willing to employ -- Hannah.
JONES: Yes, Fred, you mentioned there about the west and Donald Trump in particular rounding on Russia. How crucial then is Russia to Syria? How
reliant is Assad and his regime on Putin and the Kremlin?
PLEITGEN: You know, that a very important question. One of the things that people always say is that the Assad government essentially relies on
three outside players to stay afloat. They are talking about the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran and Russia.
When you're here on the ground, you realized that the Russians are by far the most important outside player here in this country. If you look at the
Syrian military, it's in lockstep with the Russians.
It's a military that is built basically just like the Soviet military, and so these are two armies that really work exceptionally, efficiently side-
by-side. Now at the same time, the Russians really only have the most sufficient air force that's fighting on the side of the Assad government.
Without Russian air power, none of the gains that have been made over the past years would have been possible. Certainly, the Iranians and also
Hezbollah play a major role on the ground as well, especially those Hezbollah fighters who are often overlooked.
Those are some very, very tough and efficient fighters, but Russian air power also some Russian ground power that has really made the difference
for the Assad government over the last couple of years since Russia has gotten involved in this war.
Now it seems Russia is willing to go very, very far to protect Bashar al- Assad and the government even in the face of these threats from the United States -- Hannah.
JONES: Fred, thank you.
[15:05:01] Let's go over to Kaitlan Collins. She's standing by for us at the White House now. Kaitlan, Donald Trump's own self-imposed timeframe or
deadline is now up, you know, its path. So, have you heard anything from the White House yet about what kind of -- what we can expect, when and what
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, despite this being a president who said he wasn't going to telegraph his moves and he was going
to make regarding the military, the president essentially did just that with that tweet this morning about Syria.
Essentially telling Russia, get ready, because missiles are coming for Syria or for Russia about to strike down any missiles that came in that
direction. So, that is always heard from the president so far.
Nothing beyond those tweets from the White House. Of course, they will to answer questions about that in the upcoming press briefing here, but that
the president is remarkable in that way because in that tweet he was saying essentially that Russia need to get ready for military action.
Something that wouldn't be totally surprising because the White House has essentially signaled as much with his several meetings with military
leaders, a very strong language coming out of the White House.
But final decision seemed to have been made at that point until the president did tweet that this morning. So, it's very remarkable at two
fronts that one, of course, and then also because the president said he wasn't going to telegraph these moves.
And now he essentially seems to be doing just that. We do know he is continuing to meet with top military commanders, including the defense
secretary, James Mattis, who is at the White House this afternoon.
And we are looking for a decision to come officially from the White House, but we do know also, they did cancel the president's upcoming trip to South
America in anticipation of how they are going to monitor the American response to what happened in Syria.
JONES: Yes. Kaitlan, interestingly you mentioned James Mattis, the defense secretary, his response so far has been much, more measured than
his boss' response.
COLLINS: It certainly has. Just today, he was asked, and he said they're still monitoring the intelligence. Still assessing that to make sure that
they can say who is culpable in this attack.
Of course, that is what they typically do going forward, especially when other countries are involved. It seems to be a joint effort. The
president is on the phone friends quite a bit over the last few days.
But he did say when asked if they were prepared to have these retaliatory strike, but then Secretary James Mattis said they simply were ready to
present the president with all the military options that are available to him.
But did not go as far as the president did on Twitter to say that, yes, we have made a decision on that, which does raise a lot of questions of
whether or not the White House and the Pentagon are on the same page here.
JONES: Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much, at the White House for us. Let's go over to Sam Kiley. He is standing by in Moscow for the Russian
reaction to all of this now. Sam, Donald Trump has said to the Russians, "get ready." Is the Kremlin taking him at his word and doing that?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think (inaudible) to know interestingly is that Vladimir Putin himself stayed out
of the rhetorical exchanges over this. Pretty much entirely this afternoon he talked -- he said that sense would prevail.
His ministry spokeswoman said earlier in the day that using some of the language from the two tweets that smoke bombs should be used to tackle
international terrorism not to attack the legitimate government of Syria, which itself was fighting terrorism, those were her words.
And then you've got the Ministry of Defense officials suggesting that this whole attack against civilians in Duma that has been blamed on the Syrian
regime is actually a fake attack put together by White Helmets (ph).
A smear that they have been applying to White Helmets since today was heavily involved in civil defense rescue volunteers in Eastern Aleppo when
the Russians absolutely pounded that city from the air with conventional weapons.
So, there's mixed messages coming out from the Russians, but still that resolute attitude that any attempt to fire missiles into Syrian airspace
would be met by antimissile missiles from the Russians.
And a suggestion not repeated in Moscow but came out of the mouth of the Russian ambassador to Lebanon that they would also be attacks on the source
of those missiles, if indeed they are fired into Syrian territory opening up potentially the possibility for attacks on American or other ally
vessels, submarines, or even aircraft in the region.
That I have to stress is not something that has been echoed or reiterated here in Moscow. One official really talking about this, but this is all
highly incendiary, the language of Donald Trump and the response from the Russians, indicating that these two superpowers may be coming close to some
form of war.
And that is something that we haven't seen since before the Second World War. I mean, there hasn't been a war between Russia and the United States
because of the concept (inaudible) the destruction and nuclear weapons -- Hannah.
JONES: Sam Kiley, we appreciate it. Thanks to all of you, Sam, Fred, and also to Kaitlan. Thanks very much indeed.
[15:10:08] Now Mr. Trump's critics are accusing him of declaring war on Twitter, but is that really what we are seeing or could be some other kind
of strategy here?
Let's bring in former U.S. assistant secretary of state, James Rubin, also a contributing editor for "Politico." Great to see you. Thank you.
It seems very much to an outsider looking in that global security is kind of playing out in this juvenile Twitter spat at the moment, but is this
more than just playground politics between two guys? Are we talking about war here?
JAMES RUBIN, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I don't think this is going to lead to a war between the United States and Russia. I
think the fact that President Putin has kept a low profile and the fact that the Russians, you know, recently Russian mercenaries were killed by
the hundreds on the ground in Syria when they tried to attack an American military base, and nothing happened.
I think the Russians are trying to deter the United States from a large response. They're trying to defend as best they can an ally who has
committed these abominable acts of using chemical weapons in the past.
Remember, Russia has promised the world that they are going to prevent Syria from having chemical weapons at all, let alone using them so there on
the defensive here and they are squealing because they don't want to see the United States overrate respond.
But I think they fully expect an American military response. I think it will be larger than the one that was done a year ago. That was the 59
cruise missiles and I think the United States is going to warn the Russians, generally speaking, where the locations are to avoid.
And I think with the capabilities of the U.S. military and some careful planning, the chances of Russians being killed are going to be minimized
down to probably none at all.
JONES: We do know that he's going to do something. We don't know as yet even though you just eloquently describe what might happen. We don't know
the details of any strike as yet and it's interesting that all of this is coming from Donald Trump, who in the process that he would keep cards very
close to his chest on this. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Why do they have to talk about it? Don't talk about it, the element of surprise. Why can't
they win first and talk later?
I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or what I'm thinking. I'm not like other administrations where they say we are going to do in four weeks
and that it doesn't work that way.
We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables will guide
our strategy from now on. America's enemies must never know our plans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And yet they know exactly kind of what -- that something is coming anyway. Does this suggest to you, James Rubin, that there is no real
strategy in place yet?
RUBIN: Well, I think we have to unpack this because it's fairly complicated. There's two issues that President Trump was referring to.
One, I think he has stuck to what he said and that is to define when you're going to pull troops out by an arbitrary deadline.
Now he hinted that he wants to get them out, but he has avoided using timelines that is we are going to keep them for one year. We are going to
keep them for six months. That is something that President Obama did and frankly, President Clinton, who I worked for dated from time to time.
And that he is criticized, and you know, it's an arguable question in a democracy of how much detail you provide to your country, and he hasn't
done that. But when it comes to telegraphing that he's going to do something, yes, in fact, he has been telegraphing for the last 48 hours
that is going to take military action.
And there's a reason for that is because if you want -- when you are a candidate, you don't think about these things. If you want to get allies
to support you, you need to talk to the French, British and the more countries you talk to, the more likely that the information is going to get
out that you are consulting about the use of force.
So, in the real world unless it's some super-duper secret raid like the Osama Bin Laden raid conducted by President Obama, then you're going to
have some information get out and people are going to know what you're doing.
And you're also want the Russians to know that they are going to have to prepare to make sure they're not subject to these attacks because I'm
pretty sure the hardest thing going on in the White House right now is trying to pinpoint locations that can be struck by American smart weapons
and other weapons that minimize to down to zero the chances of Russian military forces be located there. That would be the real stake of this
JONES: There's an interesting article in "The Washington Post" today suggesting that Donald Trump, this is a no-win situation for him, and this
is a guy who we know likes to wind. Do you think he has pushed himself into a corner somewhat that there is no easy way out?
[15:15:08] RUBIN: I think that article, I did read that and that comes from people who sort of thrown up their hands about Syria, and it's
understandable that people would throw up their hands, 500,000+ people have died. The United States has done very little about it. Frankly, nobody's
done very much about it.
And Syria has been allowed to collapse and the worst kind of leader, Bashar al-Assad has been helped by the Russians and the Iranians. However, there
is still one thing that the use of force can do is try to the best of your ability in this messy situation to put a punishment associated with the use
of chemical weapons to try to distinguish between the mass murder that is committed every day by the Assad forces on innocent men, women and
children, and the use of nerve agents and chemical weapons.
And a correct response now having seen the deterrence of what was done a year ago evaporate might include the use of military power to set a
standard that there are some things in this world that the United States, at least, and our western allies are going not to tolerate and to try to
prevent becoming the norm.
If chemical weapons became the norm in our world, in all these wars we seen around the world, it would be even uglier than it is today.
JONES: James, what do you make of the different voices that are currently in Donald Trump's ears from just a couple weeks ago, John Bolton, in now.
Mike Pompeo as well, and we were just talking earlier to our correspondent about this, sort of the more measured response to James Mattis.
And also, the fact that just yesterday I was talking to the U.S. ambassador to NATO and she was saying that perhaps the U.S. will, you know, err on the
side of caution, if you like. Take a listen and we'll talk at the back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: I think that the U.S. is talking to some of our allies about what the appropriate response is and
sometimes talking takes a little more time and I think it is right to do that. I do think that having a response to what is happening Syria,
chemical weapons used on innocent civilians, including women and children has to be -- have a response.
So, I do think that a response that is measured and correct is better than necessarily quick, but I think the hope of our president is that we will
have a strong response that all of the civilized world will agree is the right response.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So, it's better to have a measured response than to have a quick response. Do you think the different voices talking to him now are pushing
RUBIN: I think you can piece together, although not easily what the theme of all these different voices is. General Mattis now the secretary of
defense is a very cautious man. He's not going to want to get caught doing anything other than providing the president options because that's his job.
I think the ambassador of NATO is doing her job, which is she is saying if it takes a little longer in order to get more and more support from what
she described as the civilized world meaning NATO countries, not the Russians.
And if it means 34 days maybe five days rather than the 24 hours, the president was signaling that's worth it. When it comes to John Bolton, I
think he's a little bit of a wild card here in the past.
He's suggested that using the military power to defend the principal I just suggested of chemical weapons is not worthwhile. He's throw up hands about
Syria, but I think if he sees that the president is as moved as he was, he will go along with it and not make his first action in government to oppose
the president on a matter of national security.
So, I think we are seeing what's likely to be a response -- not too far away that will be supported by many countries, and my guess is it will be
significantly more than the 59 missiles that were struck -- used last year.
GORANI: Yes, definitely, a big first week for John Bolton coming straight in on this. James Rubin, always great to get your analysis. We appreciate
it. Thank you very much.
OK, so we've got some breaking news just into us here at CNN. We are hearing from Yulia Skripal, of course, the daughter of the former Russian
spy, Sergei Skripal, targeted in a never agent attack in Salisbury in Southern England.
In a statement issued through London's Metropolitan Police Force, Yulia Skripal emphasizes that no one speaks for her or her father and thanks her
cousin, Victoria, but asked not to visit or attempt to contact her.
Victoria Skripal earlier went public with details of the conversation she'd had with Yulia Skripal. She also says that this is Yulia speaking. She
also says, she is safe and has especially trained offices to help her now that she's been released from Salisbury Hospital.
[15:20:03] And she says she doesn't want help from the Russian Embassy but will contact officials there if she changes her mind. That's the very
latest and the first time we've heard directly from Yulia Skripal in this case of the Russian spy poisoning in Salisbury in England.
All right. Still to come on the program tonight, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg goes back to Capitol Hill for another day of questioning of the
millions whose data was comprised, there was one pretty famous name in there.
JONES: Welcome back. The Mark Zuckerberg apology tour continues on Capitol Hill Wednesday, this time the Facebook CEO was questioned by
members of the U.S. House of Representatives. He has been on the defense following the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the information of tens
of millions of users was compromised.
Today, we learned that one of those users was indeed Mark Zuckerberg. Well, he came out on Tuesday's Senate hearing relatively unscathed in part
because of the many senators didn't quite seemed to grasp how Facebook even works. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: How do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FOUNDER/CEO, FACEBOOK: Senator, we run ads.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Is Twitter the same as what you do? So, Instagram, you bought Instagram. How did you buy Instagram?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I'm emailing within WhatsApp, does that ever inform your advertisers?
ZUCKERBERG: No, we don't see any of the content in WhatsApp, it's fully encrypted.
SENATOR SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R), VIRGINIA: Once you make that mark in the internet system, it never really goes away.
SENATOR DEB FISCHER (R), NEBRASKA: How many dated categories do you store? Does Facebook store on the categories that you collect?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, can you clarify what you mean by --
SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Are you willing to go back and work on giving me a greater right to erase my data?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, you can already delete any of the data that's there or delete all of your data.
KENNEDY: Are you will to work on expanding that?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I think we already do what you're referring to, but certainly we are always working on trying to make these controls easier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Well, the U.S. House was somewhat different (inaudible). Our senior technology correspondent, Laurie Segall, have been the testimony and
she picked up the story for us from Capitol Hill.
So, Laurie, he was pushed again albeit by perhaps slightly more tech savvy crowds today on how Facebook collects and how it uses our data.
LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the feeling today was very different. I get the sense that the lawmakers today took a look
at the lawmakers yesterday and look at their lines of questioning.
Looked at what Mark Zuckerberg would be saying. I'm told (inaudible) Facebook that he was expecting a more aggressive approach today and that
what he got. You know, there was a lot of frustration that he wasn't answering certain answers and also, you know, there were lots of follow-
[15:25:02] I think the format is hard when it comes to just having 5 minutes to get some real technical answers. But it was very aggressive,
and I want to play one sound for you. There was a representative who's called out Mark Zuckerberg for what he didn't answer. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: As CEO, you didn't some key facts. You didn't know about major court cases regarding your privacy
policies against your company, that the FTC doesn't have finding authority, and Facebook could not have received fines for the 2011 consent order.
You didn't know what a shadow profile was. You didn't know how many apps you need to audit. You did not know how many other firms have been sold
data by Dr. Cogan other than Cambridge Analytica and Inouye (ph) Technologies even though you were asked the question yesterday and yes, we
were all paying attention yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEGALL: Certainly, paying attention. You can tell from those lines of questioning. He was also pushed on drug sales online, Russian influence
on, you know, -- and today felt a lot more bipartisan. There was a lot of questions over censorship.
A lot of folks thinking -- saying that Facebook was essentially taking conservative content offline. So, you know, it was a very different feel
today. One -- you know, they did -- one representative did ask again about the monopoly question, is Facebook too powerful?
And Mark Zuckerberg had an interesting answer. He said, well, you know, Facebook is also app and the average American uses eight apps a day. You
know, something that struck me is Facebook owns three of those apps, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, so, you know -- and WhatsApp.
So, it's interesting to look at this moment in time. After the hearing, Chairman Walden came out and he said let this be a sign to other tech
companies too. They want more tech CEOs to show up here to be accountable, and he said, you know, look what happened with Facebook, invited CEOs to
come up and testify as well.
JONES: Yes. Laura, you mentioned just now as well about being questioned both yesterday and today on Russian influence and yesterday he said
something about Facebook being in an arms race with Russia. What did he mean by that?
SEGALL: Well, you know, Facebook (inaudible) on this and I think it's valid is you know, you're always race. It's not like -- if you're a
platform, it's not like they are never going to be bad actors trying to do bad things on your platform.
There's never going to be (inaudible) security because when you have such a powerful platform, it is going to be weaponized. Now the question is how
do you get in front of that? And you could argue that Facebook hasn't gotten in front of that in the last year.
That they were too reactive and not proactive, that they didn't see the Russian influence that's happening. They were too slow. You know, Mark
Zuckerberg said yesterday, one of his biggest regrets is being too slow on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
JONES: Fair enough. OK, Laurie Segall, we appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Still to come on the program tonight, Donald Trump put Syria and Russia on alert. He says a missile strike is coming. We're live at the Pentagon and
in Beirut to see what that could mean for the region.
And a red flag for Republicans ahead of the midterms as the U.S. House speaker, Paul Ryan, says he won't be seeking reelection.
[15:30:44] HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back. Let's get back to the top story then.
U.S. president, Donald Trump says the U.S. military will be striking Syria. And how did he announce it? On Twitter, of course. He wrote, "Russia vows
to shoot down any and all missile fired at Syria. Get ready Russia. They will be coming, because they will be coming -- because they'll be nice and
new and smart."
And on Monday, Mr. Trump promise a major decision on Syria would come within 48 hours. Well, that deadline has now passed. So the question
being asked around the world is, will any U.S. military action destabilize what7 is an already an extremely volatile situation?
Let's discuss all this in with Barbara Starr. She's standing by the Pentagon for us. I also want to get the perspective of Ben Wedeman. Ben's
been covering the Syrian war since it begun and he is standing by for us this evening in Beirut.
Barbara, so you first. Donald Trump says it will be these missiles will be nice and new and smart. Apparently -- well, presumably, the Pentagon will
be scrambling right now to give us a bit more detail on that. What are you hearing?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are very closemouthed right now because what we do know is the president currently
is reviewing potentially final options on what he wants to do and the question is, how -- what will those strikes look like. Will there be a go-
decision to do it? And then what kind of targets will they go after. When the president talks about smart missiles, what he's really talking about,
of course, is satellite guided, essentially precision missiles and bombs guided to their targets by satellites. That is something that Russians
would be very familiar with. They would know that the U.S. has that capability and that capacity, so he's giving a little bit of the goods here
and that may lead the Russians to adjust their own air defenses inside Syria to be able to deal with strikes if they come.
JONES: Yes. Any more detail at all -- I mean, you talked a bit about the possible targets, and presumably, as we were hearing from other guests in
the show so far, they're going want to avoid too much of a Russian target, perhaps going after chemical weapons caches as well or the Syrian regime.
What are you hearing about where these strikes might hit?
STARR: Well, that's right. Let's start with, you know, how this -- the original attack that may lead to this retaliation, not just by the U.S., of
course, but by British and French allies. So it was a chemical attack on civilians by all account. If you want to go after that threat, if you want
to go after that situation, you only have a couple of options. There were chemical weapons apparently delivered by helicopters. Helicopters are
mobile. They move around. You're going to hit a couple of airfields that's really not going to deal with the helicopters. If you want to hit
chemical storage site, you risk the real damage of hurting civilians, dispersal of a chemical agent in the air.
If you want to expand, essentially go downtown Damascus, hit Assad where he lives. Essentially, he's command in control, his military and intelligence
headquarters. That is a significant expansion. That could lead potentially to some other retaliation by the Russians or the Iranians.
There would be a lot of concern about that.
But what you don't want to do is hit the Russians. There's no intention, as we understand of hitting Russian forces. So some of the signaling is
certainly giving the Russians time to get out of the way.
JONES: Ben Wedeman is in Beirut for us. Ben, you've been covering the Syrian war since it began. Give us the bigger picture here. I mean, it
seems that we've got lots of proxy wars taking place when you've got the U.S. trying to take on Russia and then you've got Iran trying to take on
Israel. Who's looking out of Syria in all of this?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, nobody really and that's the irony of the situation. You have multiple levels of conflicts. You have the
United States which since the beginning of the uprising in Syria in 2011 has sort of change this policy time and time again. We had President
Barack Obama laying down a red line over the use of chemical weapons. In August 2013, it does appear that chemical weapons were used. The United
States didn't act. The United States was financing various groups in Syria. Some of them that turned out to be quite unsavory to say the least.
And now you have President Trump who just a few days ago, we were talking about him expressing a desire to pull out of Syria. Now, he's switched
gears gone on the opposite direction intended, expressing his desire to strike Syria in a way that I have never seen before. A tweet, basically
telling the Russians this is what not just the Russians, the Syrians and the rest of the world, what they're going to do.
[15:35:34] And I think a lot of jaws dropped today when that tweet went out and certainly there's no expectations in President Trump, perhaps after
hitting Syria along with his allies a few times, isn't going to indeed turn around and leave as he would like to do.
JONES: We've known for a long time though that the Assad regime is being cropped up by the Russians at the moment and Donald Trump, under his
administration have long said that regime change isn't what they're after in Syria. Can you have any kind of military intervention from the outside
without some kind of transition of power in Damascus?
WEDEMAN: Not really. I mean, at this point it's important to stress that even though the Assad regime has done things that are reprehensible in the
eyes of many, he does still have a bedrock of support. What's significant is Syria is not Egypt or Libya where the populist isn't quite as divided
along a sectarian lines and they were willing to basically go through see a change of government. In Syria, it really is a question for many of the
minorities there. Their very existence to keep Bashar al-Assad in power and therefore he has a bedrock of popular support that some of these other
regimes simply don't have. Of course, his alienated a lot of the Sunnis in his country. But any fantasy about regime change is dangerous, given the
experience the west has in regime change in place like Iraq. Hannah.
JONES: Let's go back to Barbara. She's in Pentagon still for us. Barbara, just explain for our viewers how big a role Iran, significance
Iran has in the region and how significant that will be when the U.S. militaries in considering how to formulate some kind of strike in the
STARR: Well, there certainly is a significant presence of Iranian proxies, if not regular forces. Ben knows much more about this than me, inside
Syria. And in fact, the Israelis in recent weeks have struck at least twice that we know of against an airbase where they inside Syria where they
believe the Iranians are freely and openly operating. And this is a big concern to the Israelis to have the Iranians so close to their border. The
Israeli have really been pushing back against this. The Iranians are a significant presence in trying to exert their influence inside of Syria.
And we've also seen that along the southern -- the southeastern border, if you will in Syria. The Iranians very much would essentially like to have a
land bridge that will take them right across Syria with their influence, their access, and their power all the way to the Mediterranean. This is
just another front where the U.S. administration sees the Iranians trying to become a regional, if not, global power. Hannah.
JONES: Finally, back to you, Ben, standing by in Beirut for us. I'm wondering about the lessons from Iraq in the Iraq war. Will the U.S.
admiration -- will Donald trump personally have learned any of those lessons in terms of having an entry strategy been on necessarily knowing
when to come out or coming out too soon?
WEDEMAN: No, I wouldn't think so, Hannah. I mean, if you look at some of the tweets he put out in 2013 when President Barack Obama was contemplating
military action against Syria, after that 21st of August, the chemical attack in the Ghouta. He was a great opponent of it. It doesn't seem he's
learned anything because -- Syria is a wildly complicated country and President Trump's understanding of its intricacies is weak at best and
certainly today's tweet, I hate to go back to it, but it had left me in a state of shock and awe when I read it. Certainly indicates, not only a
lack of understanding about the basics of Syria, but a lack of understanding about how a military operation like this would be conducted.
[15:40:07] I've seen the United States launching military action into Balkans, in Iraq, and elsewhere, and certainly they were not under previous
administrations for all their foes sending messages like that. Hannah.
JONES: Certainly not doing it on Twitter either. Ben Wedeman, Barbara Starr, many thanks to you both.
Now, we're going to go a different story now and he's one of the most powerful man in Washington. He is third in line to the U.S. presidency.
But now, speaker of the house, Paul Ryan is walking away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This really was two things. I have accomplished much of what I came here to do,
and my kids aren't getting any younger. And if I stay, they're only going to know me as a weekend dad. And that's just something I consciously can't
do. And that's really it right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Well, Ryan was also keen to make the point that he took the job somewhat reluctantly back in 2015, but his retirement will fuel concern
within Trump's Republican Party ahead of the upcoming crucial midterm elections.
Let's go live to Washington now. Stephen Collinson is there for us.
Stephen, what's the feeling in Washington on the Hill about this? Was Paul Ryan's senate seat on shaky ground somewhat? I mean, what's the real
reason behind all of this?
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, his decision to announce his departure has already being taken as yet more evidence that the Democrats
are poised for a huge victory in the midterm elections and could potentially take the House of Representatives. The fact that the House
speaker says he will not be in Washington next year has led many people to conclude that he thinks that the Republicans are going to lose, even though
he said that's not the case and he thinks the Republicans will keep their majority.
He says, of course, that it's -- as politicians often do on these occasions that he wants to spend more time with his family. But it's not been a
secret that Paul Ryan has been finding it very difficult in the polarized, brutal political environment of Donald Trump's Washington. He's frequently
asked to respond to various tweets and comments by the president. He's had to sort of trying finesse his own sort of classic conservatism with Donald
trump's takeover of the Republican Party. He's really kind of subsumed much of the ideology of the Republican Party that Paul Ryan represents. So
it's almost like Paul Ryan has been overtaken by his own party and there's not much left for him in Washington potentially after next January.
JONES: Yes. I guess he could always come back again and run for office again down the line.
Let's turn to a slightly different story though and stay with you, Stephen, on this. The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein skating on thin ice
at the moment. Lots of speculations as to whether he's going to keep his job. And more speculation on top of that as to whether the reason Trump's
going after him is really to go after the special prosecutor and go off to Mueller.
COLLINSON: Right. The president is absolutely outraged by this raid this week on the offices and residence of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen in
New York. We're just learning some more details about that raid right now. The New York Times reporting that some of the evidence the FBI agents were
looking for was related to that Access Hollywood tape, you remember from before the election and which the president was seen making lewd comments
We'd learned yesterday that the prosecutors were also seeking information about payments made to two women by Cohen, Trump's lawyer before the
election. Those were alleging relationships with the president. So it's clear that what's happening here, the president believes that this is an
attempt by Mueller to move from the initial investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia into his own
personal and private and financial life. And that's where the president is so exorcised and he's been telling aides in the White House if he would
like to get rid of Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, because he is the person that's overseeing the Mueller investigation.
JONES: We will be talking about this again soon. Stephen Collinson, thanks very much.
All right. Still to come tonight on the program, it is the deadliest air disaster in years. This plane slammed into the ground in Algeria. We'll
tell you who's on board after this break.
[15:45:31] JONES: Algeria is searching for answers about why one of its planes went down carrying scores of soldiers and their families. CNN's
Lynda Kinkade has more.
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Big black smoke rising through the air as first responders rushed to the scene. Saying media reports at least 257
people are dead after military plane crashed in Algeria, 10 of those were the plane's crew. It's unclear if there are any survivors. Fire trucks
and ambulance surround the aircraft, as the crane lifts pieces of the plane away from the crash site.
It happened near the Boufarik Air Base between the country's capital Algiers and the city of Blida. The cause of the crash is unclear, but
investigators are at the crash site.
One witness described the horrific scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was in my house and it was around 8:00 a.m., something like that. We heard a big explosion and then
me and my neighbor drove here by car. There was very heavy smoke and then we realized it was an airplane accident. When we arrived to the spot
itself, we found piles of bodies. It is a disaster, an absolute disaster. I don't want to speak about the bodies.
KINKADE: This is the deadliest plane crash worldwide since 2014, when 298 people were killed after a Malaysian Airlines jet was shut down over
Ukraine. That same year, a Hercules C-130 carrying men of Algeria's air force and their families, crashed in the eastern part of the country,
killing 77 people.
Lynda Kinkade, CNN.
JONES: We're turning now to a story that's getting an awful lot of attention here in the U.K. A local council in London has become the first
in the country to implement an exclusion zone outside a local abortion clinic. It is a bid to protect women from protestors, accused of
harassments, and verbal abuse.
CNN's Phil Black has the details.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Should anti-abortion protesters be banned in France of an abortion clinic? That's a big question taking route in the
U.K. and one London borough in particular is at the center of the debate.
Here at the Marie Stopes Clinic in Ealing, West London, anti-abortion protestors gather nearly every day.
JOHN BREVETTI, CLINICAL OPERATIONS MANAGER, MARIES TOPES EALING: They call themselves pavement counselors. They're saying things like, mommy, mommy,
don't kill me. Please. I see women very upset, crying, shaking.
BLACK: Now, the local council has voted to create a buffer zone around the clinic. So why is a vote in one London borough is such a big deal? Well,
some saying it could pave the way for bans to spread across the country.
EEVE WHITE, LONDON RESIDENT: Ideally, we want a national solution with legislation that is all these problems, specifically. It shouldn't be up
to the residents and the clinic users and the start of each individual area to solve this problem that the government needs to set in and protect
BLACK: Like the U.S. there is a right to assemble in the U.K. but there is also a provision, meaning gatherings can be restricted to public safety.
Buffer zone are often created in the U.S. and in other places. So women can enter clinics without being harassed. Anti-abortion protesters argue,
they are not harassing women, instead they say, they are providing guidance and support.
The group outside this clinic refused to speak with CNN. The chain here could build momentum, and eventually impact the entire United Kingdom.
Phil Black, CNN London.
[15:50:01] JONES: Phil, thanks very much. There's more to come on the program this evening including.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The I's to the rights, 272, the no's to the left, 285. So the no's have it. The no's have it. Unlocked.
JONES: Well, that was the moment in 2013 when the British parliament voted against intervention in Syria. If the country gets involved this time,
will the parliament have a say again? We'll discuss it all, next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: We have a pretty good idea of how President Trump wants to react to the -- those chemical weapons attack in Syria, related all that for us, on
Twitter. But here in London, it's a little bit more difficult to work out what the Prime Minister, Theresa May is thinking. These are two of the
main newspapers here in the U.K., the Times and the Daily Telegraph. Today, both splashed headlines saying very different things. The Prime
Minister says the indications are that the Assad regime is indeed behind that attack, but no word yet on any military action. So let's get a
diplomatic view on all that is going on. I'm joined live by Sir Christopher Meyer. He is a former British ambassador to the United States.
Sir Christopher, welcome to the program. Thank you.
CHRISTOPHER MEYER, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Hello.
JONES: It is a question of just how special the special relationship still is in this phone call that Donald Trump and Theresa May had yesterday, do
you think it was a case of trump saying, we'll I'm going to say jump in -- Theresa saying, sure, I'll say, just tell me how high.
MEYER: No, it's got nothing to do with that at all. Special relationship, so-called, plays no role in this. You have to remember, the special
relationship is a phrase of rhetorical advised that is long outlived its utility to be perfectly frank. What the discussion would have been about
is the evidence for the Syrian air forces attack from the use of chemical weapons. The choice of a target which wouldn't hit with collateral damage,
Russian troops and the effectiveness on the Assad regime of any kind of punitive attack. These hardnosed issues that need to be worked through
matters of intelligence, matters of security, matters of foreign policy. Special relationship -- just take that away. It is not relevant to our
JONES: Well, she had said though that what happened in Syria, if it wasn't with the chemical weapons attack, that it cannot go unchallenged. Those
are words of Theresa May. There are reports tonight that she is going to bypass parliament. She's not going to put it to a vote there. Can she do
MEYER: Yes, of course she can. There is no constitutional requirement or whatsoever for her to go to House of Commons and seek a vote either in
favor of or against military action. It is perfectly true that David Cameron did that and lost a vote. And Tony Blair did that until 2002
relationship to Iraq and won the vote. But she is not under a legal obligation to do this. The question becomes, is it politic to do it or
not. Now, there is a further complication in that. The House is not sitting at the moment. And if she were to decide that she needed the
backing of the House of Commons, then parliament would have to be -- would have to be reconvened.
JONES: Well, Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition leader, Labour leader, he said that he does indeed once a vote in parliament. You mentioned David
Cameron, the former British prime minister in the aftermath of the vote, if he lost. Let's just listen to his reaction to that particular vote back in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:55:08] DAVID CAMERON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Let me say the House has not voted for either motion tonight. I strongly believe in the
need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons. It is very clear
tonight that while the house has not passed a motion is clear to me that the British parliament reflecting abuse of the British people does not want
to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And so, Christopher, I mean, I guess the problem with giving parliament a say is that you then are obliged to listen to what parliament
has to say after that. Do you think that five years on the mood in the country and the mood in the house is very different?
MEYER: I think they were pretty disgusted by what they have seen going on in Syria and I think that the attitude five years - after five of bloodshed
and the use of chemical weapons, to the mood in the country, the mood in the House of Commons maybe rather different than it was back in 2013. And
I think that if Theresa May, when it comes to the House of Commons and make a case of military action on the evidence, for example of the use of
chemical weapons by the Syrian air force, much like she did in the case of the Skripal failed assassination. She would probably win a majority.
Another raising certainty but I'm pretty convinced of that. She would be holding within her rights to take a decision, simply based on the
discussion in cabinet. She could do that and she might well decide that that is the most politic and effective thing to do.
JONES: And with your experience of being former British ambassador to the United States, how crucial then is it that Theresa May will stand alongside
Donald Trump, with whatever decision it is that he does make? How crucial is that for the U.S.?
MEYER: Well, I think it's very important -- I mean, the U.S. is still the world's greatest superpower and it can act on its own if it wants to. We
know that that's still the case. But I think even Donald Trump would like to do it in good company if he decides he is going to make an attack
against a Syrian facility and he would like to have it with him, the two European powers, the only two European powers who are capable of protecting
source abroad, one is France and the others is the United Kingdom. And I think Theresa May would like, if at all, possible to maintain the Franco
British-U.S. solidarity. Don't forget she is very grateful to Macron and very grateful to Trump for the support that she's had from them in the
Skripal case. It was in the back of her mind as well.
JONES: Absolutely. I mean, it's quite convenient. It's briefly, it's convenient timing if you like for Theresa May right now.
MEYER: Well, I don't know if convenient is the right word after an appalling atrocity in the suburb of Duma, but she has to think
geopolitically and she has to think strategically. And that is why the support that we have had in the U.K. over Skripal will play an important
role in the pieces that she has to -- in this matter.
JONES: We have to leave it there. Sir Christopher Meyer, we appreciate your analysis. Thank you, sir.
MEYER: Thank you for having me.
JONES: Thanks also to you for watching tonight. Stay with us here on CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up, next.