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Netanyahu: Iran Crossed "Red Line" with Missile Attacks; Interview with Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania; Cheney: Enhanced Interrogation Program Should Be Active And Ready To Go; Sen. McCain Pushes GOP To Reject CIA Nominee Haspel; Fox News Guest: Torture "Worked" On John McCain. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 10, 2018 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Turning to our world lead now: growing fear of all-out war across the Middle East.

[16:30:02] Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu warning that Iran crossed a, quote, red line. After launching a series of rockets towards Israel from Syria overnight, the Israeli military responded with a barrage of firepower, targeting Iranian intelligence posts, military command posts and weapons depot in Syria.

The direct confrontation comes just days after President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is in the Golan Heights, along the border between Israel and Syria.

Oren, where do things stand right now?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPODENT: Jake, there's almost this bizarre sense of quiet behind me here that has held for the past couple of hours, a far cry of seeing here last night when the Israeli military says just after midnight, Iran or Iranian forces in Syria, rather, fired off some 20 rockets at Israeli military positions near where I'm standing right now.

Some of those rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system, some fell short and landed in Syrian territory. Israel responded and saw that very much from where we're standing right now. Throughout the night, a number of surface-to-surface missiles fired, as well as artillery fire that echoed across the valley here. And in response, we saw Iranian anti-aircraft fire and perhaps some anti-aircraft missiles, as well. All of that lasting throughout the night.

Israel says it struck a number of Iranian positions, dozens, in fact, of Iranian positions in Syria. Since then, the international community has gotten involved. No surprise here, Jake, the U.S. firmly taking Israel's side of defending its right to defend itself. The statement from the White House read in part: The United States condemns the Iranian's regime provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens and we strongly support Israel's right to act in self defense. The Russians taking a very much more middle line, speaking to both

Israel and Iran, and essentially telling both sides to knock it off and urging restraint to try to make sure this dissipates.

Jake, what's very interesting to point out here, we have not heard from Iranian leaders. Some of them had public appearances throughout the day, but didn't touch on this as well, focused almost solely on the Iran nuclear deal. That's very much what we're waiting for. Iran has not commented at all, neither denying nor acknowledging that it was their rockets that were fired at Israel.

So, it's very much been Israel speaking out about the own right to defend itself from E.U., Russia, all urging all sides here, restraint to make sure this dissipates before this turns a regional war -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Oren Liebermann, thank you so much.

President Trump says a lot of things and he made a lot of campaign promises, but is this actually his most successful week so far? Stay with us.


[16:36:32] TAPPER: We now know the time and we now know the place. President Trump tweeting today that his historic summit with Kim Jong- un will take place on June 12th in Singapore. This is just the latest in a streak of Trump developments that have shaken up the world.

Before daybreak today, the president welcomed home three American detainees from North Korea. Earlier this week, he announced the U.S. was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. Next Monday will be the formal opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem. And if you were in the camp that didn't take candidate Trump literally, it's been quite a week for you, too.

Joining me now is Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent.

First of all, just generally speaking, are you pleased? I mean, you have been a critic of the president. But are you pleased with these developments?

Obviously, the world is pleased about the detainees. But what about the Iran nuclear deal? What about other moves that he's made?

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, on North Korea, this is a bit unorthodox, the process, but we are in a better place. The temperature's been turned down. I would have rather waited to do a summit before -- I would wait to do the summit until we have something concrete to announce, but that said, I'm glad there's dialogue. So I'm giving him good marks on North Korea. On Iran, I think we should deal with one nuclear crisis at a time. North Korea's a lot to deal with. No, we have Iran back on the table.

I would have been hesitant to retreat from that agreement. That said, I voted against the Iran nuclear agreement. I didn't think it slows Iran down toward a path to nuclear weapon. But I think right now, this pulling out of the Iran deal may isolate us a bit more than I like and I don't know -- I can't speak whether or not it causes Iran to be more adventurous in the region.

TAPPER: I wanted to get your thoughts on that. Do you think that President Trump pulling out of the Iran deal had any affect on Iran's calculus? Obviously, I'm not blaming President Trump for the reprehensible things that Iran does. But do you think that it had any affect on their calculus in terms of launching these attacks on Israel? Is that possible?

DENT: I guess it's possible. But Iran is misbehaving in the region for a very long time --

TAPPER: Of course, yes.

DENT: -- down in Yemen and Lebanon and certainly in Syria.

So I -- maybe, maybe this -- maybe Iran is sending us a signal and taking a shot at Israel as a result of our withdrawal from the pact. But I wouldn't blame the administration for this one.

TAPPER: Another thing that I wonder about with North Korea, you expressed some concern about whether or not the summit to be held without already having arranged for North Korea to make concessions. Are you worried at all that the United States is being played in any way? What if this summit happens and Kim Jong-un says, yes, we'll denuclearize and withdraw all U.S. troops from South Korea and Japan? Which I think a lot of people in the United States will say, we shouldn't do that.

DENT: Well, I'll tell you what, Jake. I -- North Koreans like to take two steps forward and one step back. I would be very careful. I think we are -- we are talking about denuclearizing, giving up the nuclear weapons program. I'm not sure that's what Kim Jong-un is saying. I think it would unrealistic for us to withdraw our forces.

There's a massive conventional threat on the Korean peninsula. I was just there a year ago. They have the artillery shells aimed right at Seoul. We have a conventional threat, too.

Good news is temperature's down, but I would not be any means suggest that I predict a denuclearization of Korean peninsula at the summit. I still think the danger and risk is there.

It seems that President Moon certainly wants an agreement. He's more accommodating than his predecessor was. So, I think there's some room for optimism but again --

TAPPER: You're also skeptical?

DENT: I'm concerned. Look, if we -- if something happens here, if something happens to the extent that, you know, nothing is accomplished, then Kim Jong-un comes out on the same stage as the president of the United States, that's a bit of a victory for him.

So, we need to get something, at least a process established so that we can move this process along.

TAPPER: You are not running for re-election. Again, you've been a Trump critic. I do want to ask you about this new CNN poll. In a generic ballot, 47 percent of registered voters say they'll support Democratic vote, 44 percent will throw their support behind the Republican candidate.

Back in February, Democrats had a 16-point advantage in this generic ballot. Now, it's just 3 points. I know in your home district, Democrats have an advantage.

But what does this mean do you think? Is Trump and Trumpism paying off for Republican congressmen?

DENT: Well, certainly, this CNN poll encouraging for Republicans, or more encouraging. I would still -- if I'm a Republican, I'm operating under the assumption that I'm down. You can never work hard enough, you can never raise enough money. You can hope for the best, but you have to plan for the worst.

These generic numbers are going to float. That was a national generic number. As I mentioned to you earlier, in my district, there's a plus 11 generic right now for the Democrat.

TAPPER: Democratic advantage.

DENT: My district's dead even district. So, I look at these generic ballots really on a district by district basis, more than our national base. I learn from the generic that way.

But the generic is only one factor. I look at the intensity levels and certainly, the Democrats have a lot of intensity, anger, enthusiasm in their direction and expected when they're party out of power. So, look, I'm a bit more encouraged for Republicans, but I would not rest on my laurels. You still have to assume the worst.

Best case for Republicans in these midterms is we hang on by our fingernails. Worst case is we can lose by over 30 seats.

TAPPER: Congressman Charlie Dent from the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thank you so much, sir. Always good the see you.

DENT: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: It's the issue that could tank Gina Haspel's Senate confirmation as CIA director. But now, one prominent Republican says the torture program never should have ended.

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: Former Vice President Dick Cheney making waves suggesting the U.S. should bring back the enhanced interrogation program, what many human rights experts will tell you is torture.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: If it were my call, I would not discontinue this program. I'd have them active and ready to go and I'd go back and study them and learn. You know, there are a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks in the terrorism business.


TAPPER: This comes as Gina Haspel, President Trump's pick to run the Central Intelligence Agency is in danger of not being confirmed because of her role of running a CIA prison, a black site where terror suspects were subjected to some of these techniques or torture post- 9/11. Let's bring back my panel, also joining us is Phil Mudd who served in the CIA as a Counterterrorism Analyst. Phil, you were there and you thought the controversy over this interrogation program, you were involved in it. Do you support Vice President Cheney's suggestion of bringing back these techniques?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Heck no! Bring your own bucket and bottled water because nobody who did it when I was there would do it again. There's a couple of reasons why. Number one, America's moved on 16 years after we first initiated that program formally in August of 2002 if I remember correctly. We've learned a lot in this country, not only about the adversary but also about what America wants.

People like are denigrated every day for what we did. After the Senate told us at that point it was appropriate and the Vice President and President told us it was the policy of the land. I'll tell you one other thing that people forget.

The only reason we got to that place in 2002 is we didn't understand the adversary. We did not understand why there was a second wave of attacks, we didn't understand their anthrax capability. ISIS today and al- Qaeda today looks nothing like 2002. Why would we do it again, especially when we knew the politicians would throw us under the bus after we got comfortable again? No way, Dick, no way. It's not going to happen.

TAPPER: David, go ahead.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was going to say, you heard what Phil there, right? So now the Senate is somehow aghast at what happened when -- as Phil will tell you, they were briefed. The leadership of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee, they were briefed about these things. They didn't stand up and say it was wrong then. Now in retrospect, they stand up and say it's wrong, but they were complicit with the whole program. Is that correct, Phil?

MUDD: Yes.

TAPPER: Kirstin, John McCain called for people to not vote for Gina Haspel because she couldn't answer a question offered by Senator Kamala Harris about whether or not torture is immoral. She wouldn't say one way or the other. Senator McCain said that was disqualifying. That doesn't seem to have had an effect on other Republican Senators including Lindsey Graham who is, you know, a close friend of McCain's and has said well, it's good enough for him that Haspel has said that she will not continue this programs.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Yes, I think it's not going to move. Lindsey Graham is probably not going the move a lot of people but it is fair to point out that John McCain has a lot of personal experience with this issue and so he's been seen as, you know, a very powerful voice. And the fact that she can't say that, you know, yes, we've learned a lot since it happened and the fact she cannot now say it's immoral I think is problematic. I do recognize that people make bad decisions under pressure and hadn't really thought through what are the morals and values but we have done it now and we have -- as a country, for the most part, have decided that it's immoral.

TAPPER: So you've talked about Senator John McCain having personal experience. He was tortured in a Vietnamese prison or war camp in Vietnam. He's been an outspoken critic of Haspel. I want you to take a listen to a military commentator, Retired Air Force General Thomas McInerney talking about John McCain and how torture works on Fox Business Channel.


[16:50:12] THOMAS MCINERNEY, RETIRED AIR FORCE GENERAL: The fact is, John McCain, it worked on John, that's why it call him Songbird John.


TAPPER: OK, first of all, nobody calls him Songbird John except for crazy people and jerks and I'm using my language carefully here. The host of the show Charles Payne has apologized for not challenging the General McInerney. Jeffrey Toobin, your response.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, of course, that's a sickening and disgusting comment. But, you know, we don't need Dick Cheney to talk about torture. How about the President of the United States? Donald Trump says we're going to do worse than waterboarding. Remember that during the campaign? So I mean, this is not John McCain's Republican Party, it's Donald Trump's Republican Party. He's the one who's calling the shots. He's the one who wants someone running the CIA who was involved in the torture program and the Republican Party is going to give it to him. I mean, it's as simple as that.

URBAN: Jeff, just to clarify their point. Not just the President has said she's qualified but lots of folks on your side who are no supporter -- the Democratic side of the party who are not supporters of the President. You had you know, General Hayden, you've had big critics of the President say Gina Haspel is incredibly qualified just like A Few Good Men, you need Gina Haspel on that wall.

TOOBIN: A Few Good Men is actually a movie, it wasn't in real life.

URBAN: Jeff, let me tell you. I've been in the military, so is Phil. Let me tell you, you need Gina Haspel. POWERS: What you need is somebody who can learn from mistakes and I

think you want to have -- you want to know that if this happened again, --

URBAN: But she said it. She said it.

POWERS: Can I finish what I'm saying?

TAPPER: Go ahead, Kirsten.

POWERS: Seriously.


POWERS: You know, I don't even remember what I was saying.

TAPPER: You talked about you want somebody that learns from mistakes.

POWERS: You want somebody who -- you want somebody who learn from mistakes and that if something we that haven't considered happens that she's going to stand up to it and that going she's going to maybe challenge the President or she's going to go to Congress and talk about it and nothing that she said in her hearings would suggest she would do that.

TAPPER: So Phil, one of the other reason --

MUDD: Oh, you got to be kidding me.

TAPPER: Go ahead, Phil.

MUDD: You have got to be kidding me.

TAPPER: Go ahead. Go ahead.

MUDD: Didn't she just say yesterday -- and I spent many -- I spent years with her. I saw her every day. Didn't she just say, we would not do it again?

POWERS: No, no, but I'm talking --

URBAN: Yes, I think she did, Phil.

POWERS: Phil, I'm talking about something that we -- yes, she said that but all I'm saying is you want in the future if she can't say that that was immoral, then I think it doesn't make people wonder, well, what are her values then?

TAPPER: Why would you disagree with the idea, Phil, that in 2018 it should be acceptable for and easy for a CIA Director say that torture is immoral?

MUDD: Well, torture is immoral. Nobody in my business and including I suspect Gina would say what we did was torture. So, of course, it's immoral, it's also against U.S. law. We would never do that. And if I admitted we did torture, you ought to arrest me. TAPPER: What about enhanced interrogation techniques that are not

currently used by the CIA, is it fair for Gina Haspel to be asked are those immoral and if not is it not fair for people like Kamala Harris or John McCain to say, if you can't say that's immoral I'm not going to vote for you?

MUDD: No, I think that's a fair question. You know, if I had answered (INAUDIBLE) is I would have said, I don't think what we did was immoral. That said, if you look at her career, and I have the advantage on this panel and had spent years with her, the people like me in the business don't look at her involvement in the interrogation program as the most seminal point in 33 years of service. When I watched her I reflect on what I saw as a person in terms of even temperedness and you saw that yesterday. In terms of judgment, believe it or not, she has a pretty darn good sense of humor.

And then you look at what you do know, you saw some of her resume. I know more than you do. She was the best -- one of the best I ever saw in the business. She's being judged by something Americans supported 16 years ago and if you look at polling data, still support and people forgetting the (INAUDIBLE) share of what I witnessed was a terrific professional who would say no. I guarantee it.

URBAN: And Jeff, she said that.

TAPPER: And Jeffrey Toobin, Jeffrey Toobin, go ahead.

TOOBIN: Well, I just think we ought to listen to what people say and the President of the United States Donald Trump has said we should do waterboarding and worse. And if the circumstances arise again, we are going to do waterboarding and worse because he's the President and she'll do what he says.

URBAN: She said she wouldn't.

TAPPER: Do you think that --

POWERS: Well, I think that's the concern. And the fact that -- and the fact that she would not -- and like I said there's -- so prior to 9/11 nobody had even talked about waterboarding before, right? So that's the point. Like, you have the kind of know who you are before it happens. And so, she's now -- OK, I'm not going to do that other thing that I did. Well, is there something else she's going to do? I don't know.

URBAN: Look, she clearly said -- Phil was there, I watched the entire hearing. She said she wouldn't do it. She laid out, you know, verse by verse. Would you do this? No. She said she wouldn't do it. I take her at her word. She's under oath.

TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. We got a lot more to talk about. How did President Trump go from calling Kim Jong-un names to showering him with praise in just a matter of months? Wolf Blitzer will take a look at Trump's transformation in "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's next.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: I've got live pictures right now of a Trump campaign rally in the Hoosier State of Indiana. The President is expected there soon. He's going to talk about the benefit of tax cuts, at least that's what he's supposed to talk about. You have to also suspect that President Trump might go off script a bit as is his want. That's it for THE LEAD today.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Don't forget to get your copy of my new novel the Hellfire Club at or your local bookstore. That's it for us. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.