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U.S. France and U.K. Launch Military Offensive in Syria; Interview with Brendan Boyle; U.N. Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting After Syria Strikes; Trump's Personal Attorney Ordered To Attend Court Monday. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired April 14, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[10:59:44] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. and key allies launched a narrow barrage overnight. This, in retaliation for the alleged chemical attack by Syria on civilians last Saturday.

This morning the President used an historically-loaded term, "mission accomplished", to describe what had happened and a short time ago the Pentagon released new details on the operation.


DANA WHITE, CHIEF PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: We can say assure you we took every measure and precaution to strike only what we targeted and we successfully hit every target.


BERMAN: The key questions at this moment, what is the U.S. strategy on Syria going forward? Does this mean that every chemical weapons attack from the Assad regime will be met by a U.S. military response? Has the strike done anything to shake the growing power of Bashar al- Assad in his regime?

CNN has a team of reporters covering every angle in this story from all around the world. Want to begin at the Pentagon. Barbara Starr is there -- you were at that briefing. What have we learned?


Well, let's start with the President's tweet, "Mission accomplished." Loaded words, of course, for the U.S. military since George Bush used that phrase many years ago about Iraq. From the Pentagon's point of view, the military mission that they executed last night against three chemical weapons storage research and development facilities -- that mission was accomplished.

So they feel very confident that they had success in striking those targets and, at least for now, seriously degrading Assad's ability to reconstitute and launch additional chemical attacks.

Guarantees? No. The military can't guarantee any of this. Could he reconstitute it in the coming years? Absolutely possible. But what the Pentagon is making clear is they picked the targets they did. They didn't go for a broader mission. They were very specific and one of the top generals here a short time ago explained exactly why.


LT. GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, DIRECTOR, JOINT STAFF: This strike aimed to deliver a clear, unambiguous message to the Syrian regime that their use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians is inexcusable and to deter any future use of chemical weapons. We selected these targets carefully to minimize the risk to innocent civilians.

We're still conducting a more detailed damage assessment but initial indications are that we have accomplished our military objectives without material interference from Syria.


STARR: So a couple of keywords there -- to deter Syria, to send a message. This is not about regime change. Nobody thought this is going to get Bashar al-Assad out of power.

But it is a message not just to Syria; it is a message to his essentially Russian masters -- a message to Moscow, talk to Assad, cut this all out. No clear idea however if this is a new red line, in fact if there are additional chlorine attacks, if there are additional chemical attacks. And let's remember the conventional bombing continues killing Syrians -- what will the U.S. reaction would be?

Right now, we do not expect additional attempts -- John.

BERMAN: No. Deliberate ambiguity in the response there from the Pentagon this morning at that briefing you attended. Barbara Starr -- thank you so much for your reporting.

The action shifts to the United Nations this morning. This emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council under way. Our Richard Roth there covering it. Richard -- what do you expect to hear?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: We expect to hear what we've heard this whole week. This is the fifth meeting on Syrian and chemical weapons in just the last five to six days.

Russian Ambassador Nebenzya who is now in the Security Council chamber talking to other ambassadors including the U.K. ambassador who just criticized Russia and held it responsible for supporting the Assad Regime. Nebenzya is going to talk about the attack by the United States and following the lead of his president and his foreign minister, he's going to fiercely attack what happened.

And he's got a draft resolution, according to a Security Council diplomat, that he hopes to get the Security Council to pass to condemn the aggression. But that is highly unlikely based upon the line up of votes -- BERMAN: Right.

ROTH: -- and the fact that the U.S., France and U.K. have veto power -- three of the countries who staged that attack.

A lot of the talk here, John, not surprisingly is the legality of the strike. But as we saw with the Iraq war when major powers of the Security Council don't like what they may get inside the Security Council or can't achieve it here at the U.N. they can take matters into their own hands.

The British ambassador said a few minutes ago, the strike was legal. She's right about it. It was certain because of the attack by using chemical weapons by the government was out of bounds and against existing chemical weapons treaty -- John.

BERMAN: Richard -- again, we're looking at live pictures right now from inside the Security Council. We expect the U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley will speak there. Any sense of what she plans to say this morning?

ROTH: She is no doubt going to defend the attack and condemn Assad. She has used the word that President Trump used last evening, "monster".

But she will speak after the Russian ambassador. Yesterday she said that she doesn't know how the Russian ambassador Nebenzya delivers his remarks with a straight face because that's how much the U.S. and western countries doubt the Russian story that it was all staged -- this latest chemical weapons attack by terrorists, by activists and that Assad was not responsible.

[11:05:07] The Security Council had a regime to inspect chemical weapons attacks before. Russia blocked continuing it.

BERMAN: Richard Roth for us, senior U.N. correspondent covering the situation there. Again -- this emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council about to start there. When U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley speaks, we will bring that to you live.

Our thanks to Richard for that.

In the meantime, let's talk about what the President has been saying about this. He put out a new statement this morning on the strike overnight. This is what it says, "A perfectly executed strike. Thank you France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine military -- could not have had a better result. Mission accomplished."

Now, for those with a short memory that last phrase, "mission accomplished" is historically loaded. That was what was hanging on the banner behind George W. Bush in 2003 when he spoke on the Abraham Lincoln, that aircraft carrier, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He was later criticized for perhaps prematurely sending the (INAUDIBLE) that the U.S. mission in Iraq was over when there was so much more complications and killing to happen there. And in fact U.S. troops are still there.

Let's go to the White House, CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins standing by. What else have we heard from the President this morning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we heard more from him on Twitter today -- John. He went on after that tweet about "mission accomplished" to say "So proud on our great military which will soon be after the spending of billions of fully-approved dollars the finest that our country has ever had." He said there won't be anything or anyone even close.

So certainly, the President is taking a victory lap on Twitter this morning. But John -- your attention back to "mission accomplished". Of course, as you noted, a phrase that haunted former President George W. Bush when he uttered it in 2003 and stood in front of that banner. Something he later went on to say he regretted it.

It raises all these questions of what is the mission here in Syria. What was the President's mission yesterday?

The Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White was actually asked about that statement during that press briefing just a short while ago. And she said she agreed with President Trump that their mission was accomplished last night. And that they did achieve their objectives there.

But it does raise a whole series of questions of what the President's overall objective in Syria are because of course, last night there was that allied air strike but just a few days before the chemical attack that caused that air strike, the President was saying he wanted to withdraw the U.S. from Syria -- those troops that are there, those 2,000 troops that are fighting ISIS there.

So it raises question about what the President's overall strategy here is going to be. Certainly something that has been the talk on Capitol Hill.

This seems to be a move that is breaking along party lines with most Republicans being supportive. Democrats like Tim Kaine who was Hillary Clinton's running mate, being critical of the President saying he does not have the authority to grant these kinds of strikes. But Senator John McCain applauded the President for this air strike but raised questions about if the President has thought through this strategy here -- John.

BERMAN: Right. Well, we're seeing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley right now move through the hallway there. She will enter the chamber at this emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council very shortly.

That is what we have our eyes on. That takes place as we speak. And you see it's starting right there.

In the meantime, Kaitlan, what's on the President's agenda today?

COLLINS: So far, we've only heard from the President on Twitter. He has nothing on his public schedule today which is usually typical for most Saturdays, we should note. But there is no marine standing in front of the West Wing and when there is one that normally means the President is in the Oval Office. They're milling around the West Wing.

But it seems that he has been in the residence today. And I should not that they just called a travel photo led here at the White House which in reporter speak means that the President is not expected to make any public appearances today. He'll likely be watching Nikki Haley here when she speaks today, watching the coverage of those strikes from last night, maybe responding to it more on Twitter.

We'll be waiting to see what the President has to say, surely making some phone calls today -- John. And we'll get back to you if the President says anything else. But right now we are not expecting to see the President yet today.

BERMAN: All right. Kaitlan Collins for us at the White House.

Again, on the right hand side of your screen, you're looking at live pictures for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. Right now they are going through some business. Then what happens is that the Russian ambassador to the United Nations will speak and as Richard Roth pointed out, the Russians are actually going to propose a measure condemning the U.S.-led air strikes in Syria. That is certain to fail.

Then we will also hear from the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley who has had strong words over the last few days for Russia and the Syrians as well. We will bring you her statements live.

In the meantime, we want to go to northern Syria. CNN international correspondent -- senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground there. And Nick -- this is a different part of the country where Assad does not hold power. Nevertheless, what has the reaction been to these strikes over night?

[11:10:00] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here and there are continued (ph) pockets of pro-regime supporters waving flags, honking their horns but more broadly in this Syrian-regime held area, I think it's fair to say they're trying to wake up this morning as though not much really happened.

Here is a video put out by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad just strolling in to work with his briefcase across a clean, pristine marble floor as though frankly he had a lovely night sleeping and just starting off to a normal weekend day at the office.

But also to Syrian state TV team to show life going about as per normal. They are showing rubble particularly from the (INAUDIBLE) site which was hit heavily in Damascus. We've seen also the Pentagon show the aerial pictures of the damage done there.

They believe that's a key part of the chemical weapons capabilities of Syria. It has historically been known for a while as potentially a site like that has been hit in the past by the Israelis reportedly too.

So you have to wonder what was still left there by the Syrian regime that was sensitive (ph) given they had so many days warning of this. But obviously the buildings are pretty hard to move into an area of shelter.

But also the Syrian regime trying through its Russians backers -- to give a message out to technical superiority -- the Russians suggesting that 71 of 103 missiles launched were intercepted by Syrian air defense. Well, frankly that would be extraordinary if it were the case, flatly denied by the Pentagon who say that they hit all their targets. Nothing was interfered with and the Syrian air defense only kicked in once targets had all been hit.

So a different picture frankly depending on who you are listening to. But it is quite clear many things were hit last night.

The U.S. says no civilian casualties. The Syrian regime -- there were three civilians injured in fact by the fragment of a missile that strayed off target after being hit by air defenses.

So a picture this morning really of the Syrian regime trying to brush this off, brushing yes and the Security Council is going to flail its arms around a bit about the violation of international law. Iran talking about the major crimes, Ayatollah Khamenei their Supreme Leader, but really I think they were putting this in a box perhaps and maybe moving on, the message given clearly from the U.S., U.K. and France that chemical weapons there was ultimate reaction -- John.

BERMAN: Nick Paton Walsh for us in northern Syria. Nick -- we are lucky to have you there and have you reporting this morning. Thank you so much for being with us.

Did the strikes in Syria send a clear message to the Assad regime? What exactly was that message?

I am going to speak with a congressman on the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee, next.

Plus a new crisis hitting the White House -- the President's personal attorney Michael Cohen ordered to appear in court. Sources close to the President say that they feel this could be a bigger problem for the President than the Russia probe. That's coming up.


BERMAN: All right. You are looking at live pictures from an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. Speaking right now is the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya. He is expected to deliver a scathing rebuke of the U.S.-led military effort in Syria overnight, the missile strike against chemical weapons facilities. He's even expected to call for a resolution condemning those strikes. That resolution will fail.

When he is done we do expect to hear from the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. She will speak. She has had very strong words against both the Russians and the Syrians the last several days. So standby for that.

In the meantime I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania. Congressman -- thank you so much for being with us.

Let me start with the very basic question. Do you believe that Assad's use of chemical weapons one week ago needed -- demanded a military response?

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA), HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Yes, I do. And I happen to have called for that immediately in the aftermath. Also one week before that latest chemical attack, I led a letter along with a Republican colleague that saying this administration needed to do far more to formulate a policy and also consider as a possibility any sort of strikes that would take away the ability of this regime to deliver those sorts of chemical attacks.

Because keep in mind even though this is -- this latest attack by Assad is the one that got a lot of media attention this is just the eighth chemical attack this year --

BERMAN: Right.

BOYLE: -- undertaken by the Assad regime.

BERMAN: Military officials -- Pentagon officials say that this blow, this overnight attack crippled the ability of Syria to produce these chemical weapons. How will you assess -- how do you assess what you have heard?

BOYLE: I hope that that's correct and that the initial reports are correct. But at this point, we have no -- as a member of Congress, as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, until we have a hearing or a classified briefing, we really have no basis to draw that conclusion.

I would be a little bit surprised if limited strikes such as these completely eliminated the ability of the Assad regime to deliver these sort of chemical attacks. So I hope that that's correct but I will reserve judgment until we get the classified briefing.

BERMAN: You used the word "limited attack". I've also heard "narrow" to describe what the United States, the United Kingdom and France did overnight. Do you believe these attacks should have gone further?

BOYLE: Well, again until we get the full information on what was taken out and how successful they were, I would hold back judgment.

But let me say this. We are going to focus on these strikes that happened last night, and as I said, I have been someone who along with a number of colleagues from the other side of the aisle have really pushed this administration to consider not just suddenly saying you are pulling out and withdrawing but to actually standing up to the Assad regime.

[11:20:04] Now, while I am pleased that we have finally had some action from the west and for very little cost had an ability to stand up and send a message to Assad that the civilized world would not stand for the gassing of children -- that said as I sit here on this Saturday morning, I can not tell you what this administration's policy is towards Syria.

One week ago he was talking about entirely pulling out. That ended up giving -- appeared to give a green light to Assad and you saw how Assad took that green light and ran with it in terms of gassing innocents including women and children.

Now, suddenly we have these strikes on a Friday night. So as I sit here, I am completely bewildered as to what exactly this administration's policy is now or going forward.

BERMAN: One difference between this and the Obama administration is the Obama administration decided not to respond to the chemical weapons attack and the Trump administration seems to be saying that sometimes it will respond to a chemical weapons attacks. It did one year ago and it did to this attack last Saturday. What we don't know, Congressman, is what it will do going forward.

The Pentagon officials were specifically asked what if Assad uses chlorine gas will that prompt another response? Do you believe that chlorine as opposed to a nerve agent like sarin, do you believe that chlorine alone is enough to prompt a U.S. military response?

BOYLE: I am not going to get into hair splitting about what sort of awful weapon were used requires a response or not. I do want to say though on the first part, the premise of your question -- look, there is plenty of blame to go around in the last two administrations when it comes to Syria and I have already said that publicly.

But, just to correct the record as far as President Obama. After -- if you recall David Cameron leading Britain at that time was an ally of the United States. Suddenly Britain had to pull out because their parliament voted against any sort of military strikes.

At that point President Obama said that before he would move forward, he wanted Congress to vote on the issue. It was at that stage that the Republican-led Congress that had been demanding a vote suddenly refused to take one. That was why we did not proceed in Syria.

So I think really -- we do have bipartisan blame on our hands.

BERMAN: Look, I can sit here and I can tell you that Congress did not take a vote then, has not taken a vote now and the Constitution says the congress should vote on military action. That is fairly clear here.

In addition to what you are saying, which did happen there was no vote on military action. President Obama took that famous walk with his chief of staff Denis McDonough when he determined that he did not want to push for a military response to Syria and instead wanted to strike that deal where Russia would oversee the withdrawal of chemical weapons from Syria and there were a lot of chemical weapons that were taken out but clearly, clearly not all the chemical weapons right now. I understand -- and I understand you don't want to --


BERMAN: -- hang on, hang on -- Congressman. I do understand you don't want to split hairs here about what horrific weapon Assad uses going forward should demand a chemical response. But that's the issue. When you are talking about a strategy, when you're asking for a clear strategy from the White House that's the unknown.

We don't know what the United States wants to do going forward about this, about Assad. Except for I think we perhaps know this morning they don't want to do anything to necessarily upset his hold on power.

BOYLE: Well, I was going to just comment when you talked about Russia because that's an important part of this dynamic. We did have, as you recited the history an agreement with the Russian regime which they guaranteed the removal of chemical weapons; clearly while some chemical weapons were removed, as we have seen the evidence, not all. Therefore, we must hold the Russian regime accountable.

That means real sanctions. That means Putin paying a price for these chemical attacks. Unfortunately, as part of this, even though Congress has by an almost unanimous basis passed wide-ranging sanctions on the Russian regime, this administration and this White House has refused to actually follow the law and follow through on making sure those sanctions stick.

That has to change. I hope that President Trump is finally waking up when it comes to Vladimir Putin. He's no friend of the United States or the west. We need this White House to finally put into place the sanctions that Congress passed overwhelmingly.

BERMAN: Congressman -- can I ask you, do you think Bashar al-Assad is scared this morning? Do you think that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is in any way chastened this morning?

[11:24:54] BOYLE: Obviously I don't know, and this is speculation, I don't think Assad is scared but I do think he is much more concerned now than he was 48 hours ago or certainly last week.

I happen to believe that moving forward, if we are ever going to get back to a real peace process to end this nightmare of a civil war that has lasted seven years, cost hundreds of thousands of lives and caused 12 million refugees. If we are ever going to get that place, it is going to be after the U.S. has led western coalition strikes such as we have seen.

BERMAN: I do appreciate you bringing up the victims here. The millions of Syrians who have been displaced or killed since this tragedy began some years ago.

Congressman Brendan Boyle -- thank you so much for being with us and discussing this, this morning. This is an issue that affects not just the Middle East but the entire world. Appreciate your time -- sir. And again, you're looking at live pictures on an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council right now. That is the Russian ambassador to the U.N. speaking. The Russians, they are proposing a measure to condemn the U.S.-led attacks over night.

That will fail. That will not pass. It's an impossibility for it to move forward, nevertheless the Russians are making a clear statement there.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley will speak right after this. And we will bring that to you live.

In the meantime, CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott joins me right now.

And Haley has been tough on the Russians. She's been tough on the Russians even when the rest of the administration wasn't and she's also been quite strong against the Syrians the last few days as well -- Elise.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right -- John. And I don't think the remarks that we're going to hear from Nikki Haley are going to be any different talking about the barbarism of the Assad regime and the support and the enabling by the Russians. I think that's what we're going to hear.

And I think Nikki Haley also, you know, look to the U.N. Security Council and what she thinks is a failure by the international community to really stop these attacks.

You know, just as you said, this is destined to fail just as the Russians have always vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions against the Syrian regime so too will the U.S., France and Britain veto this resolution.

And I think that's part of Nikki Haley's frustration that the U.N. Security Council have not been able to act. It's really just become a forum for people to kind of, you know, gripe at one another and nothing stops. So I think you will hear Nikki Haley talk about the, you know, horrible situation and why the international community felt it would need to act.

There will be a lot of hand ringing and a lot of name calling. But I don't think you will see any kind of new strategy. I think the U.N. Security Council today will be though talking about what's next and they're I think speaking to diplomats there is a real genuine desire to start a real political process that could -- in trying to end this civil war and to that and supporting for the U.N. envoy, Staffan de Mistura.

There is a lot of talk about the so-called Geneva process but that really for years hasn't gone anywhere. So I think the question is how do you end this? Because even if these strikes and chemical weapons -- we're not, we don't think that they necessary they will, the Syrians as we've seen have plenty of ways to, you know, attack their civilians with these horrible barrel bomb -- (CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: All right, Elise -- hang on one second. Elise -- Ambassador Nikki Haley is speaking right now.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This is our fifth Security Council meeting in the past week to address the situation in Syria. A week has gone by in which we have talked.

We have talked about the victims in Douma. We've talked about the Assad regime and its patrons -- Russia and Iran. We've spent a week talking about the unique horror of chemical weapons. The time for talk ended last night.

We are here today because three members of the United Nations Security Council acted. The United Kingdom and France and the United States acted, not as revenge, not as punishment, not as a symbolic show of force. We acted to deter future use of chemical weapons by holding the Syrian regime responsible for its atrocities against humanity.

We can all see that a Russian disinformation campaign is in full force this morning. But Russia's desperate attempts at deflections cannot change the facts. A large body of information indicates that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in Douma on April 7th. There is clear information demonstrating Assad's culpability.

The pictures of dead children were not fake news. They were the results of the Syrian regime's barbaric inhumanity. And they were the result of the regime's and Russia's failure to live up to their international commitment to remove all chemical weapons from Syria.

[11:29:57] The United States, France and the United Kingdom acted after careful evaluation of these facts. The targets we selected were at the heart of the Syrian regime's illegal chemical weapons program. The strikes were carefully planned to minimize civilian casualties. The responses were justified, legitimate, and proportionate.

The United States and its allies did every thing we could to use the tools of diplomacy to get rid of Assad's arsenal of chemical weapons. We did not give diplomacy just one chance, we gave diplomacy chance after chance.

Six times, that's how many times Russian vetoed Security Council resolutions to address chemical weapons in Syria. Our efforts go back even further, in 2013, the Security Council passed a resolution that required the Assad regime to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons.

Syria committed to abide by the Chemical Weapons Convention, meaning it could no longer have chemical weapons on its soil. President Putin said Russia would guarantee that Syria complied.

We hoped that his diplomacy would succeed in putting an end to the horror of chemical attacks in Syria, but as we see from the past year that did not happen. While Russia was busy protecting the regime, Assad took notice. The regime knew it could act with impunity, and it did. In November,

Russia used its veto to kill the joint investigative mechanisms, the main tool we had to figure out who used chemical weapons in Syria.

Just as Russia was using its veto, the Assad regime used Sarin, leading to dozens of injuries and deaths. Russia's veto was the green light for the Assad regime to use these most barbaric weapons against the Syrian people, in complete violation of international law.

The United States and our allies were not going to let that stand, chemical weapons are a threat to us all. They are a unique threat, a type of weapon so evil that the international community agreed they must be banned. We cannot stand by and let Russia trash every international norm that we stand for, and allow the use of chemical weapons to go unanswered.

And just as the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons last weekend was not an isolated incident, our response is part of a new course chartered last year to deter future use of chemical weapons.

Our Syrian strategy has not changed. However, the Syrian regime has forced us to take action based on their repeated use of chemical weapons. Since the April 2017 chemical attack at Khan Shaykhun, the United States has imposed hundreds of sanctions on individuals and entities involved in chemical weapons use in Syria and North Korea.

We have designated entities in Asia, the Middle East and Africa that have facilitated chemical weapons proliferation. We have revoked the visas of Russian intelligence officers in response to the chemical attack in Salisbury.

We will continue to seek out and call out anyone who uses and anyone who aids in the use of chemical weapons. With yesterday's military action, our message was crystal clear. The United States of America will not allow the Assad regime to continue to use chemical weapons.

Last night, we obliterated the major research facility that it used to assemble weapons of mass murder. I spoke to the president this morning and he said if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.

When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line. The United States is deeply grateful to the United Kingdom and France for its part in the coalition to defend the prohibition of chemical weapons.

We worked in locked steps, we were in complete agreement, last night our great friends and indispensible allies shouldered a burden that benefits all of us. The civilized world owes them great (ph) thanks.

In the weeks and months to come, the Security Council should take time to reflect on its role in defending the international rule of law. The Security Council has failed in its duty to hold those who use chemical weapons to account.

That failure is largely due to Russian obstruction. We call on Russia to take a hard look at the company it keeps, and live up to its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Council, and defend the actual principles the United Nations was meant to promote.

Last night, we successfully hit the heart of Syria's chemical weapons enterprise and because of these actions, we are confident we have cripple crippled Syria chemical weapon program. We are prepared to sustain this pressure if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will. Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You have been listening to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley responding to a measured proposed by the Russian ambassador to condemn the U.S.-led air strikes on Syria overnight. Again, that measure will not pass.

The U.S. ambassador, Nikki Haley, going after Russia once again for its support of the Syrian regime and maybe adding a little meat to the bones of what the U.S. strategy is going forward in regard to Assad and his chemical weapons.

She says the United States will not allow the Assad regime to continue using chemical weapons, if it uses this poison gas again, the U.S. is locked and loaded. I am joined again by CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. Elise, what do you hear there?

ELISE LABOTT, GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's the clear message to the regime, John. It may not -- those strikes may have dampened or took a dense in the Syrian program. Perhaps they could use chemical weapons again and it did not destroy the program.

But if you are prepared to absorb more U.N. strikes then U.S. will. I think the question is what Russia is prepared to do. I think you can see a diplomatic campaign and more sanctions against Russia if it does not stop.

I did not hear a kind of full strategy about a genuine political situation to end the war. As we were talking about before, the Syrians could simply stop using the chemical weapons and start using barrel bombs. How does the U.S. and its allies stop the violence and I did not hear an answer from Nikki Haley of how the U.S. wants to go about that.

BERMAN: No, and they have been clear since yesterday that the goal of this mission overnight was not regime change in any way. It is clear from everything they have said that it was not in any way to design the offset of balance of power in that country.

Nic Roberston is standing from Moscow for us right now. We have seen this rhetorical dance from both sides from the Russians and the U.S. on this. Do you have any better sense of how far Russia really will push back here.

Because proposing a measure to condemn the United States for this mission overnight that you know it is not going to pass is really nothing much more than kabuki theater -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: -- ambassador to sit up there lambasting the United States, France and Britain, which is something -- which is (inaudible) that they appear to continue to do. They called the United States action with its allies aggression likened to hooliganism, major hooliganism because it involves nuclear armed nation.

The ambassador used the most fiery rhetoric he could. But, what he's dealing with there is a situation where the vast majority of those sitting around table don't agree of his position is not a resolution that's going to pass obviously.

It is going to be blocked by the United States and France and Britain, so it has limited real value, but what will likely to see in the coming days of Russia and we have to think here in terms of sort of a symmetric response.

We know that the parliament here on Monday is going to begin discussing the response to U.S. sanctions. Just over a week ago, they will likely include components of anger and language that will reference the strikes in Syria over the weekend.

They will certainly within the domestic environment here in Russia gets strong support for whatever actions they decide to take against the United States. Again, what lasting impact can that really have?

But, Russia will continue it seems and that's what we are hearing here. We'll continue with this narrative against those that it feels are aligned against him. I think the tone of that was set by the Ministry of Defense here, which essentially said they were going to double down in this (inaudible) for Syria and boost Syria's air defense systems.

BERMAN: Our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, is standing by at the United Nations. Richard, one of the key things that we have seen Nikki Haley trying to do over the last several days is build international support for the U.S. response and indeed this was a coalition effort with the United Kingdom and France as part of it. What is the international sentiment as best you can see now?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: The international sentiment is generally favorable here at the U.N. for actions against a country which used in the council's majority opinion chemical weapons on its own people.

[11:40:11] When a panel to investigate what happened was voted on last Monday only Russia with a veto and Bolivia voted against it. China abstained. Nikki Haley knows very well the Russian position. At times the U.S. would not mind seeing these Russian vetoes continue.

It just boasting through the case of Washington for taking military action outside the Security Council's rules and regs. The U.N. secretary general, top diplomats trying to achieve the balancing act saying it is abhorring to use chemical weapons called again today for Security Council unity which certainly is not there as he tries to cool down these countries that are at logger heads for years now on Syria and on the use of chemical weapons. BERMAN: I am also joined by CNN political analyst, Ryan Lizza. Ryan, it is very interesting to Trump supporters and allies of the White House, they noted a couple of things. Number one, Donald Trump and this White House has responded to Syrian chemical weapon attacks when the Obama White House did not.

And now number two, a year into this with this second response, this missile attack was twice as big, it hit three sites with twice as many weapons and included an international coalition. They are pushing that notion hard this morning.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, actually, if you listen carefully to Nikki Haley, what she said the Trump administration is doing is defending the deal that Obama made in his second term and that was that Assad promised to remove these chemical weapon and Russia guaranteed they would be removed.

And in the intervening years, we see that that deal fell apart. Russia vetoed this investigative mechanism that had people on the ground to figure out what happened after the chemical attack and the entire thing fell apart.

Nikki Haley very specifically said that they abrogated that Obama administration agreement and, in a sense, the United States, the U.K. and France, this attack was to defend the Security Council resolution.

BERMAN: I will say on the other side of that that I am hearing from Republican sources and also international analysts here, they were struck by how narrow this was, limited this was. By the rhetoric they have been hearing, they have been on the ground in Syria perhaps expecting much more than they saw.

LIZZA: Look, the Trump administration has been incredibly consistent on Syria. They don't use chemical weapons, right? Last April, he laid that down. When everyone asked me what's the grander in strategy, is it regime change? Is it, you know, American intervention, or some bigger or grander way, they have been very consistent, no, it is not.

There is one red line and that's the use of chemical weapons and for a lot of people this is not exactly much of a strategy, but in their defense, they have been consistent, and they have said that's the only way that the United States is getting involved there.

BERMAN: It would be interesting to see what chemical weapons means because does it mean just chlorine, chlorine and sarin on this. We'll have much more coverage on this. We'll be right back.



BERMAN: The United Nations Security Council holding an emergency meeting as we speak. This is at Russia's request. Russia's foreign minister called the U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria unacceptable and lawless. President Trump used a historically loaded term this morning when he declared "mission accomplished." The Pentagon said the strikes hit the heart of Syria's chemical weapons program and delivered a clear message to the Syrian regime. That's one part of news this morning.

Other news involves the latest legal trouble for the president's person lawyer, Michael Cohen. He's been ordered to appear in court on Monday and hand over his client list. This is the latest development as Cohen's legal team tries to stop federal prosecutors from getting materials seized during FBI searches of Cohen's home, office and hotel room.

Sources tell CNN the material include recordings, recordings that Cohen made of his conversations with the porn star and an ex-Playboy model, who say they both had affairs with the president which the president sort of denies.

On top of all of that, the Justice Department has confirmed that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months.

Joining me again, CNN political analyst, Ryan Lizza, chief correspondent for "Yahoo News," Michael Isikoff, and criminal defense attorney, Trent Copeland. Michael, I want to start with you here, this Cohen news has really reached a very high and potentially perilous level for the president of the United States. It is a new and different front than the Russia investigation and we expect court developments on Monday, how do you see it?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT FOR "YAHOO NEWS: Yes, I mean, look, this is as serious as any legal development has been for the president if only because Michael Cohen has been the president's personal lawyer for so long and involved in so much.

Certainly, the hush money payments and we have gotten more and just learned more just in the last days about the hush money paid to a woman who was involved with Eliot (inaudible), the Republican fundraiser that Michael Cohen engineered.

He apparently had a habit of paying hush money to people who could say awkward things about the president and others who were associated with them. So, there's no telling how much is there with Michael Cohen. I should also point out that you can't divorce this from the Russia investigation at all.


[11:50:09] ISIKOFF: Cohen was intimately involved in numerous activities that are being investigated by Mueller, including the second attempt to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign, and that something that is worth -- definitely worth remembering.

BERMAN: It's a fair point, Michael. I suppose what you can do is separate the Robert Mueller investigation and what appears to be something now in the purview of the Southern District of New York and there is overlap there. But Mueller is overseeing one part of it now and the Southern District is quite clearly overseeing this other part that concerns Michael Cohen. Trent, legally speaking, I had Alan Dershowitz on a short time ago, who often defends the president, who does not think he should face legal jeopardy for collusion or obstruction.

He thinks the president faces serious legal jeopardy with the Cohen matter because either he says that Michael Cohen is his lawyer, which means that some of these tape recordings, the president could be held responsible for or connected to or he says the president wasn't working as my lawyer here which means, you know what, all this evidence, have at it.

TRENT COPELAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That's right, John. Look, here's what's important about this. Not only was Mr. Cohen under investigation in the last month or so, he's been under investigation for several months. And this is the man entrusted with Donald Trump's most intimate secrets.

This is the man who really has for the last decade or so been the man responsible for negotiating these hush agreements we've talked about, been the man who's negotiated some of the most intimate business details that Donald Trump has.

So, he's going to be responsible for overseeing everything in Donald Trump's orbit, all those things that are very personal to Donald Trump. If he has information and that information is tape recorded information, then it is not going to be the subject of an attorney/client privilege.

So, I think -- I think Professor Dershowitz is correct in the sense this poses a far greater risk to Donald Trump and his presidency than maybe even the Mueller probe.

BERMAN: And Ryan, I'm sure you've been hearing the same things I have from inside the Trump world, that the president is more agitated about this than anything else. That gets to the fact that Michael Cohen is this unique figure in this world, a unique figure who, by the way, was smoking a cigar outside with friends on Friday as it was a court hearing that dealt with him. That apparently upset the judge.

LIZZA: Yes, I guess he wanted to portray this idea of, you know, no sweat, I'm fine. As Dershowitz pointed out, you don't do that with Kima Wood, the judge overseeing this, she's very serious and requires a certain amount of deference from people would come into her court.

I think defenders of the president who are skeptical of the Mueller investigation have long made a couple arguments about it. That one is, obstruction of justice, you know, legal acts that the president took like firing someone or inquiring about an investigation, that doesn't amount to obstruction of justice.

Another argument they'll make is that anything would have leaked by now if there were true criminal collusion. So, Trump's going to be fine on this. You're hearing and seeing a lot of people close to the president publicly and privately say this is different. Michael Cohen knows all the family secrets.

He worked for the Trump Organization. So, he knows everything about the many, many business dealings of that organization. He knows about the Trump children. He knows about the president's most inner secrets.

If you read that court filing from the prosecutor's yesterday, they noted he had this relationship with the law firm and that he buttoned down everything that he had, all his documents in his office, he had to have the key to the office.

He was not connected to the law firm's server. He had a safety deposit box. They were painting this picture of someone who had a lot to keep secret, right, and now they have access to all of that.

BERMAN: You know, Michael Cohen, you know, it's interesting, Michael Isikoff, plays such a central role inside Trump world, has such a close relationship to the president, and you talk to any attorney right now and you also see it with your own eyes.

It's clear Michael Cohen is in trouble. Michael Cohen faces serious legal jeopardy. Based on what you know, Michael, is he ever the type of person who could turn on the president if pressured?

ISIKOFF: You know, anybody can turn with sufficient pressure and I actually was struck by his initial comments to CNN suggesting that he did not anticipate what impact all this would have on his family. To me, it sounded like somebody who just might be flippable. Now, he is as loyal as anybody is to Donald Trump. I don't think it's, you know, going to happen quickly. But, yes, I think there might be some opportunities there if sufficient pressure is put on him.

[11:55:02] BERMAN: Trent, the last question, Kima Wood, the federal judge overseeing this case, a familiar name to many Americans for some other reasons dating back several years. What do you make of how she will approach this case?

COPELAND: I've been in front of Judge Wood a number of times. I'm going to tell you, she is going to hold these lawyer's feet to the fire. They're asking for attorney/client privilege to be attached to most of these documents. She's going to make sure they establish and prove that there's actually attorney/client privilege by forcing them to come in on Monday morning and demonstrate who those clients are for the lawyer.

I just don't think it's going to happen. I think Judge Wood is going to hold them to the fire. I don't think these documents are ever going to be excluded from the government being able to see them. I think the government is going to be able to see them.

BERMAN: Trent Copeland, Michael Isikoff, Ryan Lizza, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

We're going to have much more of our special breaking news coverage ahead. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaking moments ago about the air strikes in Syria. The spokesperson for the U.S. State Department join us very shortly. Stay with us.


WHITFIELD: Hello, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me this Saturday in Washington, D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Right now, the U.N. Security Council is holding an emergency meeting. Russia lobbing insults after U.S.-led strikes in Syria.

Just moments ago, Russia proposing a draft resolution condemning the U.S. for what it calls aggression in Syria, but the U.S. is not backing down.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: A week has gone by in which we have talked. We've talked about the victims in Douma. We've talked about the Assad regime and its patrons, Russia and Iran. We've spent a week --