For the Record with Greta, Transcript 4/7/2017

Guests:
Karen Bass, Bob Scales, Jack Jacobs, Nicholas Burns, Steven Sestanovich, Michael Isikoff
Transcript:

Show: FOR THE RECORD

Date: April 7, 2017

Guest: Karen Bass, Bob Scales, Jack Jacobs, Nicholas Burns, Steven Sestanovich, Michael Isikoff

 

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: You didn`t miss it here.  That is all for tonight. 

We`re back on Monday with more MTP daily.  Meet the press on your local NBC

station.  It is a packed show I promise you.  For the record with Greta

starts right now.  Take it away, Greta. 

 

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks, Chuck.  See you Sunday.  I`ll be

watching.  Tonight exclusive NBC breaking news, President Trump thinking

about putting American nukes on South Korean soil.  Now this breaking news

is just this minute coming into our newsroom and we will have the full

report for you just as soon as it`s ready.  In the meantime, we start with

Syria and the question is President Trump about to strike again?  Less than

22 hours ago, the president unloaded those first strike unloading 59 U.S.

Tomahawk missiles on the Syrian air base for Assad`s vicious chemical

attack murdering innocent civilians including children.  And tonight as we

wait to learn President Trump next move, there are more questions than

answers.  What is the U.S. Military mission?  Is it to remove President

Assad?  And if Assad goes, who replaces him?  Could it be more catastrophic

for the Syrians? 

 

And if Trump decides more air strikes, does he need approval from congress? 

And if there are no further airstrikes, is the message to Assad that it is

tolerable for him to murder children with conventional weapons but just not

with chemical weapons?  President Trump said he was moved by pictures like

this.  But what about pictures like this?  And tonight this question,

should the U.S. rethink its policy towards refugees from Syria?  Are we

willing to drop bombs in the name of children overseas, but not accept them

on our shores?  And what does this all mean for President Trump`s relations

with Putin who backs Assad?  These are just some of the many unanswered and

very difficult questions today.  And today President Trump is not

responding to reporters. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. President (inaudible)? 

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Thank you very much. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Some Democratic and Republican senators think President

Trump will need approval from congress if he wants to take further military

action. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are some in congress who are pushing for very

active U.S. Military engagement in Syria.  I think that would be a mistake. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The constitution doesn`t allow the president to move

forward unilaterally just because it`s difficult to get an authorization. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think the president owes it to the American people to

come to congress and present a plan. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I urge the president.  You`ve got to bring this to

congress. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is illegal for President Obama to bomb Libya.  It`s

also illegal for President Trump to bomb Syria. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Tonight from the politics to the diplomacy and the military

strategy, we are on all of this from all angles and there are no simple

answers.  First to Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from the great state

of California, member of the house foreign affairs committee who said today

that the U.S. cannot, quote, bomb our way to peace.  Good evening,

congresswoman. 

 

KAREN BASS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE:  Good evening. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Congresswoman, everyone seems to be acting like this just

happened this week.  But this has been going on since 2012 and there have

been other allegations of chemical weapons.  You say we can`t bomb our way

to peace.  What do we do?  What would you do if you were president? 

 

BASS:  Well, I mean, I think most important is – well, first of all, I

have no quick answer, ok.  Let me just say that.  But I think in this

instance what concerns me is that we have a president that is been in

office for almost three months, and we have no idea what his foreign policy

is.  So, I just don`t know where this fits.  He also won`t tell us what he

plans to do next if there would be another strike.  To me that is exactly

why it`s so important for us to have the AUMF, the authorization of the use

of military force.  This needs to be discussed and debated in congress

because we just simply don`t know what he is going to do.  Just a week ago

he was saying something completely different.  We`re still not clear what

his relationship is with Russia.  And, so, with all of that, that is why

congress needs to play the role that it should play, which is the

authorization of use of military force that needs to be voted on, debated

on in the House of Representatives and the senate. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ok, a couple things.  Number one, he says he won`t tell us. 

Who is us, is it the American people, is it the members of congress, and is

it the gang of 8?  Is that who, the “us” is?  That is the first part.  The

second thing is the authorization of military forces, everybody in congress

has split.  You`ve all left town.  Nobody is in town. 

 

BASS:  Exactly. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Nobody has come back to town.  So, when would you like this

debate to occur? 

 

BASS:  First of all, just because we left town does not mean we can`t

return.  Second of all, he chose to do the strike when we were literally on

planes leaving town.  I mean, the senate was in session.  They were in the

middle of the Supreme Court.  But we had left four or five hours right

after we left is when he chose to do this.  So, I don`t know who he would

tell.  I don`t know, maybe the group of 8 knew.  But, you know, for the

authorization of use of military force, it needs to be a discussion within

congress.  And, so, we can go back at any time.  You can call us back any

time there is an emergency.  And I would call on the speaker to do that, to

call us back and say, this is an emergency, especially if we do not know

what the next steps are. 

 

But, again, my primary point is we have a president that does not have a

coherent foreign policy.  He submitted a budget that has us slashing the

state department and foreign aid by 30 percent.  At the same time he is

concerned about the children in Syria just as you said at the top of the

hour.  He doesn`t want to let them in our country as refugees.  So, without

a coherent foreign policy, we need some leadership here. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ok.  I understand your viewpoint.  I understand the need of

foreign policy and also the importance of bringing congress into the

discussion.  But if you were president tonight, let`s separate out the

issues of process and President Trump and let`s focus more on the imminent

problem.  If you had to make that decision tonight, if you were president

of the United States, what would you be doing?  Because this is a very

complex problem and I don`t think there is any perfect answer as you

acknowledge.  If you had to – I mean, if you had the horrible job of

having to make the decision, what would you do? 

 

BASS:  Well, what I would have done is, first of all, I would have not done

the strikes that were done yesterday.  I would have, you know, convened and

addressed this in the United Nations.  I would have talked to our key

partners, our key allies.  To me I think it has to be an international

solution.  It needs to be a political solution.  But it certainly – just

solving it because of how you reacted with the chemical attack, which was

horrific, and we know that it was not the only time that was done.  I think

the world needs to come together and address Syria.  That is easier said

than done, because I know that that has certainly been attempted.  But this

is no answer. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Since this has been going on up until – now it`s actually -

- hits a catastrophic point, because everyone is focusing on it.  We`ve

seen the images.  Because it`s going on a number of years, have we looked

the other way and ignored this problem until right now? 

 

BASS:  I do think we`ve looked the other way.  But I`ll tell you something

else I`d do.  I`d let Syrian refugees come into the United States.  That is

what I would do.  The children and the women that I was concerned about, I

would let them come into the United States. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Congressman, thank you very much for joining us. 

 

BASS:  Thanks for having me on. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And today the Syrian government denying it had any

involvement whatsoever in the chemical gas attack, a Syrian Ambassador

condemning the U.S. Air strikes which he argues could actually benefit

ISIS. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

 

Translator: this strategy harms counter terrorism by the Syrian Arab army

and its partners.  It makes the United States of America a partner of ISIL

and the United States of America leads a purported alliance against ISIL. 

However, the real achievement of that coalition is to kill civilians. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  With me, retired U.S. Army major general Bob Scales, medal

of honor recipient Colonel Jack Jacobs and former under Secretary of State

for political affairs Ambassador Nicholas Burns.  First to you, Colonel, if

you had the job tonight of being president of the United States and this

very difficult situation, what would you be doing and what would you have

done? 

 

JACK JACOBS, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT:  Whether I would have done the

strike or not, I would have done the strike.  I mean, you`ve got to start

at the end and work backwards.  What is the objective?  I think one of the

principal objectives was to pretty well make sure that Assad was not going

to use chemical weapons again.  And to that end, conducting the strike I

think had a positive effect on that.  I think it`s unlikely he`ll use

chemical weapons again.  It doesn`t mean that he is going to stop killing

his own people.  I mean, half a million Syrians have already been killed in

this war.  More will be killed going forward.  But if the principal

objective was to stop the use of chemical weapons, I think that has been

achieved. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  General, we haven`t stopped his capability.  The only

question is whether we have deterred him from doing it, right? 

 

BOB SCALES, RETIRE U.S. ARMY:  Right. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What have we actually done?  What destruction –

 

SCALES:  I`m 100 percent on board with Jack.  I don`t think Assad will ever

think about using chemical weapons again, if nothing else, Vladimir Putin

will –

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Why do you think that?  In my view, you guys are the experts

I realize.  But anybody who is so evil to have done it in the first place,

why do I think that it would be decent and rational now, even if he got 59

cruise missiles? 

 

SCALES:  In two words, Vladimir Putin.  He wouldn`t be alive today if it

wasn`t for Putin.  Regardless of what Putin says, he is been embarrassed by

this.  It`s kind of a bit of a humiliation for the Russians.  Notice how

muted his response was to these strikes.  Now, Putin has got a dog leash

around this guy and he won`t do chemical weapons again, you can bet on

that. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ambassador, two parts.  One is do you agree with colonel and

the general that now we have deterred President Assad?  That is the first

question.  The second question is – is it backing in 2013 the Russians and

Syria said that they were getting the chemical weapons out of there? 

Apparently that didn`t happen. 

 

NICHOLAS BURNS, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL:  I support what President Trump

did.  I agree with everyone else that chemical weapons are outlawed.  He

used them against innocent civilians.  There have been more than 50 strikes

according to H.R. General McMaster.  This can`t be tolerated.  We`re the

only country with the will and the capacity to do what we did.  So, it was

a good decision.  I would say this.  I think that we`ve now got to have a

strategy.  We`ve got to have a strategy for what we want to do in Syria and

I do agree with Congresswoman Bass.  Part of that, the most direct way to

help allow these civilians is to open the doors to refugees.  We`ve always

had that tradition in this country.  It`s been a mistake by President Trump

to cut off the refugee flow. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Colonel, the refugees is another problem that has dogged all

of us.  It is a crisis for the world, not just for the United States and

the Syrians.  I`ve been to that region.  I`ve been to the border of Syria. 

I`ve always had the sense that the Syrians would rather be home in a

peaceful place.  That is their home, than refugees, even if they`re here in

the United States or Germany or anyplace else.  You know, is not – is the

solution not to try to stop what`s going on in Syria so that they can go

home, rather than giving them a place to flee to? 

 

JACOBS:  Well, the only way you`re going to be able to square that place

away is through some sort of multi-party exercise.  We have to get the

Russians on board.  And by the way, it`s entirely possible that this strike

is one of the things that may drive the Russians to meet with us and others

behind closed doors, to work out something.  We know what the Russians

want.  They want influence there.  They want to be able to control that

region.  But most of all, they want to have a couple of warm water ports

which they otherwise would not have.  And, now, that doesn`t mean that is

going to be easy to do.  Nor does it take into account the fact that you

need to incorporate the Iranians into all this.  It`s a very complex battle

field over there and a lot of moving parts. 

 

And, so, it`s going to take a lot of leadership and a lot of effort.  But

one way to do all this is for everybody to get behind closed doors and try

to work it out.  And it doesn`t mean that it`s going to happen right away. 

If we exert some influence, exert our ability to operate in the diplomatic

sphere and integrate that with all our other abilities out in the world, I

think we may be able to make some progress, but it`s not going to be

something that can be done overnight. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ambassador, if we do successfully drive some huge wedge

between Putin and Assad so that Putin abandons Assad – let`s say Putin

gets Assad to go to leave, that he abandons, I suppose there is some

concern who is next, what`s next.  We`ve seen what happened after Mubarak

left in Egypt.  Qaddafi left in Libya.  And there are an awful lot of

jihadists there in Syria.  So, who is next in line?  Who is likely to take

control of that country if Assad goes? 

 

BURNS:  Well, it`s not at all clear.  He is the leader of the – he has a

faction controlling some of the curds.  I do agree the next move by the

Trump administration should be a concerted effort diplomatically.  The

Russians, Iranians and Syrians are running a sham negotiation right now. 

They`re trying to achieve a total victory and we shouldn`t want that to

happen.  It`s going to be extraordinarily difficult to put together a

negotiation that would try to piece Syria back together, have a localized

cease fire in Idlib province, maybe a more general cease fire.  It could

take years.  But you have to start somewhere, and that is the comparative

advantage of the United States because we can bring the Turks, the Sunni

Arabs and the Europeans into this and have some international support. 

 

And, Greta, you were right earlier.  The Russians are complicit.  They have

blood on their hands.  They assured the world in 2013 that Syria would take

out its chemical weapons.  They obviously didn`t.  The Syrians lied about

it.  And the Russians have lied.  So, we`ve got to press our advantage on

the diplomatic side and I do think the president has done a good thing by

intimidating Assad on the issue of chemical weapons. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  General, do you have any sort of idea – maybe too early

damage assessment – what would we do? 

 

SCALES:  Well, one of the things that surprises me is this whole thing went

down in 48 hours.  This is Washington.  The idea that we can have a

precision strike with two ships moved into position, launch 58 missiles. 

Strike fairly successfully on this air field and take down 20 some odd

planes is pretty extraordinary.  The problem is you don`t win an air

campaign with cruise missiles.  You win it with airplanes.  The problem

with that inside of Assad`s little circle are Russian missiles, Russian

anti-aircraft missiles, best in the world, s-400s.  No, we can`t, to use

the old expression, bomb Assad out of his office.  We`ve got to try

something else. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Colonel, let`s assume that Assad is still going to be – he

does more chemical weapons.  Worst case scenario, what`s the next step? 

 

JACOBS:  I think they`ll launch another attack.  One of the ways we found

this particular air field is that our overhead assets followed the aircraft

that dropped the chemical weapons followed them back to this air field.  We

have continuous overhead supervision over the entire country and we`ll know

very, very quickly whether or not it`s been done again.  And launching

another attack is something that is already planned.  We have an enormous

target list, and every day it`s reprioritized so we know exactly where we

have to strike.  I think that the administration has no compassion

whatsoever about launching another one, complaints from the congress

notwithstanding.  And I think it will do it.  But I do believe that this

strike has made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Assad and

his henchmen to launch some more chemical – another chemical attack.  I

think it`s quite right that Vladimir Putin is going to exert some influence

here as well. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Gentlemen, thank you. 

 

SCALES:  You`re welcome. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  So, just how far is Russia willing to go to prop up the

Syrian regime?  And will Putin risk a showdown with the United States?  And

here`s an extremely disturbing question that must be answered.  Was Russia

involved in that chemical attack in the first place?  That is next.  Also

does the steer I can`t airstrike show that Steve Bannon is losing influence

with President Trump?  New reports tonight of a showdown between Bannon and

Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and there is also breaking news.  Is

President Trump considering putting American nukes on South Korean soil? 

You heard right, South Korean soil?  A stunning report from NBC`s

investigative unit is coming up.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

 

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS:  It could be that

Russia is knowingly allowing chemical weapons to remain in Syria.  It could

be that Russia has been incompetent in its efforts to remove the chemical

weapons.  Or it could be that the Assad regime is playing the Russians for

fools.  The United States took a very measured step last night.  We are

prepared to do more.  But we hope that will not be necessary. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The U.N. Nikki Haley with a blistering message today ripping

Russia for supporting Syria and Assad.  Look at this, just minutes earlier

at the same U.N. Security Council meeting, the Russian Ambassador wagging

his finger at Ambassador Haley.  Today the Pentagon is reportedly looking

into what role if any Russia played in the chemical attacks, but at this

hour Russia is not even conceding that the Syrian government and Assad was

behind the chemical attacks.  Russian president Vladimir Putin calling

President Trump`s strikes an act of aggression.  All this coming as

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to meet with Russian officials next

week in Moscow. 

 

With me Steven Sestanovich, former U.S. Ambassador at large to the former

Soviet Union, Michael Isikoff, Yahoo news chief investigative

correspondent, in February he interviewed the Syrian president.  First to

you, Ambassador, Ambassador Nikki Haley says that one of the options with

Russia is they knowingly allowed the chemical weapons to remain in Syria as

part of the deal they had.  They`re supposed to get them out back in the

fall of 2013.  Or that Russia`s incompetent, I guess incompetent getting

the chemical weapons out of Syria or that Assad is playing Russia for a

fool.  Which do you think it is and why? 

 

STEVEN SESTANOVICH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR AT LARGE TO THE FORMER SOVIET

UNION:  I don`t think we know.  That is a good survey of the possibilities. 

It`s the same set of possibilities that Secretary Tillerson mentioned

yesterday.  The Russians are right there at that base from which the planes

took off with the chemical weapons.  So, one could say they had every

opportunity to find out what was happening.  But it`s a base that the

Syrians operated before the Russians came in the fall of 2015 and they`re

able to operate it on their own.  And we don`t know whether the Russians

are aware of what ordinance is packed on every plane when they take off. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Michael, as we noted, you interviewed President Assad just a

short time ago.  His reaction has been what to this so far? 

 

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO NEWS CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT:  It`s very

interesting.  When I interviewed him in February and confronted him with

photographs of his torture victims, political prisoners who were tortured

in his prisons, he called it doctor.  He used the phrase “fake news”

adopting our terminology.  Today in his response, he adopts the language of

the alt-right and talks alluded to the concept of a deep state.  He said

that this was – despite the new president, new administration, the

policies of the – the deep policies of the United States stays the same,

represented by targeting states, subjecting people and attempting to

dominate the world.  I spoke to a source close to the Assad regime today. 

Said this is a reference to – from the Syrian perspective.  These were

hawkish elements in the CIA and the DOD who manipulated Trump into taking

this action. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ambassador, how important is Putin to Assad? 

 

SESTANOVICH:  Putin is very important.  Putin saved Assad a year and a half

ago.  It seemed as though the regime was going down in the summer and fall

of 2015.  But Putin made it clear he was not prepared to accept that.  He

considers the pressure that Assad is under a kind of color evolution,

meaning pressure supported from abroad to bring down a government that the

Russians consider legitimate.  This is an old ally of the Russians.  The

Assad family has been with him for decades and he wasn`t going to let that

happen. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Michael, listening to the Ambassador.  Do you have the sense

when you interviewed Assad that he felt beholden to Putin? 

 

ISIKOFF:  Absolutely.  We talked about Putin.  He said he stays in regular

touch.  He had just recently spoken to Putin about the progress of the war. 

I mean, the interesting thing is when I was there just two months ago,

Assad was emboldened.  He seemed to be – he had just retaken Aleppo thanks

to the Russian air force`s help.  The rebels seemed to be on the run.  He

boasted about how Damascus was back to life and normal.  Since then he is

been on his heels.  There have been attacks inside Baghdad, terror

bombings.  There were gatherings.  All those people, the militants who left

Aleppo were congregating in Idlib.  And he was concerned about another

attack, another Idlib.  That was the reason for the strike at this time. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  So it seems to be the pressure point is really on Putin. 

That is where our pressure point should be, more on Putin.  It would be

more effective almost than on Assad, because Putin is always going to prop

up Assad. 

 

ISIKOFF:  At every point when I pressed him about what the future held,

this was a point where there was a lot of talk about the Trump

administration might reach out to Assad, cooperate against Assad.  He said

yes, only with our cooperation and the Russians.  He repeatedly brought up

the importance of the Russians. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ambassador, Putin says it`s an act of aggression, our

strike.  Is that just sort of talk and we should not worry too much about

that or think too much about that? 

 

SESTANOVICH:  No, Russian officials across the board are saying that. 

They`ve been very tough today. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  But in terms of – what`s the threat?  Where do you go

behind sort of the words, the threats that this is an act of aggression,

we`re horrible people because we`ve done it, we picked on this poor Syrian

president who didn`t do this, and these are the rebels? 

 

SESTANOVICH:  Sure. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  These words mean anything? 

 

SESTANOVICH:  Well, they mean that the Russians are nervous about what`s

happened and worried that it could continue.  But, you see, another side in

their reaction, the general staff, for example, claimed that attacks were

relatively ineffective.  They said only 23 of 59 cruise missiles hit their

target, and that is a way of belittling the effectiveness of it.  The

Russians are weighing the situation to figure out what the United States is

going to do next.  If this is, as some American officials have suggested, a

kind of one-off punishment, they can live with that.  They`ll adjust. 

They`ll tell Assad – you know, better to play it cool for a while.  But if

they don`t think more attacks are coming, then they don`t have to change

course in any fundamental way.  What will worry Putin and what he will try

to find out in talking to Secretary Tillerson next week is, is there more

of this ahead?  Is there a real change in direction by the United States? 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know, it`s interesting, Michael, is that the general

said that this would really intimidate the general, in the first segment,

colonel and general, this would intimidate Assad.  And I don`t have the

sense –

 

ISIKOFF:  It`s very hard to say.  He is dug in and as long as he is got

that Russian support, you know, I think he is got somebody watching his

back.  One thing that does – I do find curious is the military said last

night that the Russians were tipped off so that they could attack in

advance.  If we were tipping off the Russians, how were we not also tipping

off the Syrians that this was coming, which may explain why there are

reports today that Syrian aircraft is still taking off from that same air

base. 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Michael, Ambassador, thank you.  Up next the new picture of

the Trump war room, is Jared Kushner rising and is Steve Bannon falling? 

That is ahead. 

 

Also how the decision was made, a minute by minute look at the Syrian air

strikes and what could happen next, plus, that exclusive breaking news that

we`ve been working on, President Trump thinking about putting U.S. Nukes on

South Korean soil.  That full report is ahead. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Now to the strikes in Syria and the sheer speed with which

President Trump acted. On Tuesday, bombs mercilessly dropped in a town

located in the rebel-held territory in Syria. Soon after, very disturbing

images showing victims including children gasping for breath and suffering

from other symptoms consistent with a nerve gas attack, that day President

Trump quickly condemns the attacks and immediately huddles with aids.

 

The following day, Wednesday afternoon, military national security staffers

present the president with the grim options. The following day, Thursday

noon, the president flies on Air Force One to Mar-A-Lago to meet with the

Chinese President. At 2:00 p.m., as the president is in the air, Secretary

of State, Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is considering an appropriate

response, but explains no further.

 

Two hours later around 4:00 at Mar-A-Lago, the president meets with his

team, and then issues the order to strike Syria. Three hours later, at 7:10

p.m. Eastern, the U.S. warns Russian counterparts of an imminent strike.

Thirty minutes later, U.S. Ships fire 59 Tomahawk Missile which take less

than an hour to hit their targets.

 

Then the White House begins to notify foreign leaders and lawmakers in

congress. At 9:15 p.m., President Trump assembles top advisors in a secure

room at Mar-A-Lago. At 9:43 the president gives a brief statement to the

press.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  We ask for God`s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very

troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of

those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for

justice, then peace and harmony will in the end prevail.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And coming up that NBC News Exclusive, we`ve been working on

President Trump`s options for North Korea including placing nukes in South

Korea. That report is coming up. But first, is Steve Bannon`s influence a

political casualty of the Syria airstrike?

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The missile strike in Syria putting a bright spotlight on a

possible West Wing feud between Chief White House Strategist, Steve Bannon

and Senior Advisor and Son-In-Law, Jared Kushner. Both men were inside the

so-called Mar-A-Lago situation room for last night`s briefing on the

mission. You can see Mr. Kushner right at the table and Mr. Bannon sitting

just behind President Trump.

 

And today New York Magazine reporting as two sources close to Bannon who

say he argued against the strike because it did not advance President

Trump`s “America First Doctrine”. Now, Son-In-Law, Jared Kushner disagreed

with Bannon saying action against Assad had to be taken. And more White

House News, Axios reporting President Trump is now considering a broad

White House shake up.

 

Per that reporting, Bannon Chief Of Staff, Reince Priebus could be on the

way out, but the White House responding to that report calling it a

completely false story. All this possible internal strife coming at the

same time President Trump faces his biggest test on the world stage.

 

With me, Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent for the

Washington Examiner and David Catanese, Senior Politics Writer for U.S.

News and World Report. Let`s go first, Susan to the question of whether or

not there is going to be a shakeup and Bannon and Reince Priebus on the way

out.

 

And I always look at these things through my own eyes. I once read three

days after I signed a new contract with my former employer, which is a

long-term contract that I was on my way out and I was the fact that I was

locked in for a long time.

 

SUSAN FERRECHIO, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER:  Well, we`ve been hearing about a

possible shakeup practically since the oath was taken and President Trump

took office. Factions and shakeups and infighting are really common in

presidential administrations. We can talk about any president going back

decades and they are always infighting.

 

Look at President Lincoln with his team of rivals, everybody at each

other`s throats. But, I think that in this instance, you do see a sort of a

dividing line in the White House between Kushner and Ivanka Trump on one

side and Bannon on the other, you know, trying to push the Trump populist

agenda that got him elected.

 

But you`ve got Kushner on the other side trying to go more mainstream

agenda, you know, and taking action to Syria and other parts of the agenda

that I don`t think Bannon goes along with. So, I think there is a power

struggle and at this point it seems like Bannon is losing.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  David, I read one report that said that Steve Bannon

criticized Kushner, the Son-In-Law, Jared Kushner and said, you`re a

Democrat, which is about as nuclear as you can get, I imagine, in that

White House is to call someone a Democrat at this point, you know, and the

blood is really bad. But, you know, I don`t know – I don`t know whether

that`s just chatter.

 

DAVID CATANESE, SENIOR POLITICS WRITER U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT:  I think

that is chatter, but I think there is some bad blood there. And Steve

Bannon had a tough week with the NSE demotion and then him arguing against

Syrian strikes. He was at the losing end of the stick. But remember, just a

couple months ago the main factions that were warring were Steve Bannon

versus Reince Priebus.

 

Everyone thought they were at loggerheads and now it`s changed. They have

sort of a tacit alliance against Kushner, Ivanka and a sort of the New York

crowd. So, I think what we can say overarching about this is that President

Trump likes this. He thrives on getting different advice.

 

He wants the survival of the fittest, lord of the fly`s mentality, or his

advisors are hashing it out and arguing and then whichever argument is the

most compelling prevails in his mind.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, but there is sort of interesting discussion there and

that`s sort of the globalist, Steve Bannon and, you know, the sort of the

America First is really what got much of the populist where we`re going to

get President Trump elected. And the other faction really is sort of more

of a globalist, where you know, at least appears Jared Kushner. So, I mean

you`ve got an ideology struggle there, so it`s not just two people might be

fighting for land.

 

FERRECHIO:  I think that`s the story here, especially if you look at the

reaction to the Syria strikes, a lot of the Trump fans were really upset

with it and questioning, you know, this was not what Trump said he was

going to do when he became president that they want to stay out of these

kinds of conflicts and put America First. So, Bannon is right in a way if

he truly did try to talk him out of this and saying that this might not

make you more popular with the very group that got you elected.

 

CATANESE:  I would say don`t count Steve Bannon out, though. I met with a

White House official this week who said he is going to be heading

infrastructure, that`s his baby. That`s going to be the next domestic

project paired with tax reform. He`s the lead guy on this. He`s passionate

about it and I can`t imagine Donald Trump getting rid of Reince Priebus and

Steve Bannon at the same time.

 

That would just be lunacy and make him look bad. It would make his

administration look like they`re in chaos. I`m not saying both of these

guys have a ticket to ride forever, but the reporting that says they`re

both going to be thrown out at the same time–

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And let me repeat back, three days after I signed a long-

term agreement, I read in the newspaper that I was out.

 

FERRECHIO:  That`s right. And Reince Priebus don`t forget has a close

alliance with House Speaker, Paul Ryan–

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Right.

 

FERRECHIO:  –who really has befriended President Trump, I can`t imagine–

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Even after not being able to deliver the House vote?

 

FERRECHIO:  Well, he says he still talks to him practically every day and

that the two of them are pretty good friends. So, I happen to think that

that relationship is still strong at this point.

 

CATANESE:  If Priebus goes the tie to the Republican establishment goes,

the tie to Capitol Hill is really hindered and we – as you saw, as you

just mentioned, the healthcare fiasco was a tough loss and they`re going to

need those ties to Paul Ryan, to Mitch McConnell when they do tax reform

and infrastructure because that`s going to be a big project and it`s going

to be just as difficult as healthcare.

 

FERRECHIO:  And Priebus was very loyal to him throughout the election.

 

CATANESE:  True.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Loyal to who?

 

FERRECHIO:  To Trump.

 

CATANESE:  Trump, yes.

 

FERRECHIO:  When a lot of the GOP establishment was really refusing it will

be handled, we talked about it all along the way. And then there was Reince

Priebus travelling around on Trump`s plane and really sticking by him

throughout the whole process as we recall, so that also means a lot to

Trump. And I would think that that would factor in if he was really

thinking of getting rid of him.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  How is Trump doing?

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

CATANESE:  He graded himself an “A”–

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  He did.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

CATANESE:  –which I think is a little premature. But look, he`s had pretty

good end of the week. The Syrian strike has pretty much gotten bipartisan

support. A lot of Democrats came out and said they were for it and he got

Supreme – he got a Supreme Court justice vote. So, it Thursday and Friday

this week, this has been a pretty good week for him compared to the rest of

them. But, you know, we`re only, what, 70 days – 77?

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Capitol Hill, the Democrats were praising the execution of

this Syrian strike. That tells you something.

 

CATANESE:  Yes.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Thank you both ahead and NBC News exclusive, President

Trump`s options for North Korea including placing nukes in South Korea.

We`ll talk about it with America`s Former Ambassador to China Max Baucus.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  “Breaking News”, in the president`s options for responding

to North Korea`s Nuclear Program, NBC News, Cynthia McFadden has that

exclusive report.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, NBC NEWS SENIOR LEGAL, INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: 

Multiple top ranking intelligence and military officials tell NBC News that

if diplomacy fails with North Korea, President Trump`s National Security

Council has presented him with some highly controversial courses of action,

first placing U.S. Nuclear weapons in South Korea, an aggressive show of

force. The U.S. withdrew all nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula 25

years ago at the end of the Cold War.

 

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST:  I don`t

think that`s a good idea. I think that it will only inflame the view from

Pyongyang. The idea that we would use a nuclear weapon, even against North

Korea is highly unlikely.

 

MCFADDEN:  The Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Mark Luppert also

believes bringing back nukes to South Korea is a bad idea, but that it is

very much being discussed in Seoul.

 

MARK LUPPERT, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA:  It`s an interesting

debate in South Korea. What I would say is that public support for

reintroduction of tactical nuclear weapons is climbing. Some polls put it

well over 50 percent.

 

MCFADDEN:  A second option, target and kill North Korea`s Leader, Kim Jong-

un and other senior leaders in charge of missiles and nuclear weapons.

 

STAVRIDIS:  Decapitation is always a tempting strategy when you`re faced

with a highly unpredictable and highly dangerous leader. The question you

have to ask yourself is what happens the day after you decapitate. I think

that in North Korea it is an enormous unknown.

 

MCFADDEN:  Pushing for regime change could cause trouble with the Chinese.

 

LUPPERT:  Discussions of regime change and decapitation tend to cause the

Chinese great pause or concern and tends to have them move in the opposite

direction.

 

MCFADDEN:  A third option, covert action, infiltrating U.S. in South Korean

Special Forces into North Korea to sabotage or takeout key infrastructure

for instance, blowing up bridges to block the movement of mobile missiles.

The CIA, which would oversee such operations, told NBC News it could offer

no guidance on this option.

 

STAVRIDIS:  The best strategy we could undertake, if we are forced to reach

to a military operation, would be some combination of Special Forces with

South Korea and cyber.

 

MCFADDEN:  Should all of these options be under discussion?

 

STAVRIDIS:  It`s mandatory to present the widest possible array of options.

That`s what enables presidents to make the right decisions when they see

all the options on the table in front of them.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  NBC`S Cynthia McFadden is with me now. Cynthia, your

investigative report starts with if diplomacy fails. I mean, diplomacy has

failed because they are inching farther and farther towards nuclear warhead

that they can put on the missile.

 

MCFADDEN:  You know, the administration is putting a lot of hope in the

Chinese and today, of course, much got derailed because up staged, if you

will, because of the strike in Syria but soon it will be back on the front

burner. The administration is very much hoping that China will continue to

put pressure on North Korea and put much stronger pressure on North Korea,

but if that doesn`t happen and if the U.S. is unsuccessful in its

diplomatic efforts and as you say, it`s been 20 years of trying, then the

administration is asking what other options do we have?

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, even if the U.S. were to put nuclear weapons on the

Korean Peninsula that still doesn`t stop Kim Jong-un from having his

nuclear program–

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  –it just – it amps up the aggression.

 

MCFADDEN:  Right. And as you heard Admiral Stavridis say, it also, you

know, it`s a very tricky situation it amps things up and would the U.S.

actually use a nuclear weapon even against North Korea?  So, yes I think

that`s – that is being discussed, however. It`s an option. Now, let me

just emphasize and underline. These are things that are on the table and as

you heard the admiral say, it`s appropriate. The administration should look

at all the options and then make decisions. These have not been decided

upon at this point, of course.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Cynthia, thank you very much, always nice to see you.

 

MCFADDEN:  Great to see you, Greta.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And just hours ago, President Trump wrapped up meetings with

the President of China. Will he help the U.S. address the crisis of North

Korea and its expanding nuclear weapons program? Former Ambassador to

China, Max Baucus is with me next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  We`re back with the “Breaking News”. President Trump

considering putting American nukes on South Korean soils at least that`s

one of the options of many of, his national security team telling him, this

is an option, for dealing with North Korea`s nuclear program, NBC News

breaking the story.

 

And just hours after the President of China departed Mar-A-Lago, the two

leaders discussing North Korea, all of this coming of course after the air

strikes in Syria. Today, some are asking whether those strikes tell us

anything about how President Trump would deal with North Korea.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. President, what`s the end goal with the strikes

on Syria?

 

TRUMP:  Thank you very much.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. President, would you consider similar actions in

North Korea?

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Max Baucus is a Former U.S. Ambassador to China. Good

evening, sir.

 

MAX BAUCUS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA:  It is – good talking to you

Greta.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ambassador, I guess you know, when you think about this when

someone says what can we do, you put the worst case scenario on the table

and you put the best case scenario. The worst case was nukes, I guess, on

South Korea – on South Korea that`s pretty bad. And the best case scenario

is that diplomacy works. We have not so far been very – we`ve not been

successful in diplomacy. They still have a nuclear weapon program in DPR –

in North Korea. So now we have China, if we outsource this to China and do

believe China will do the right thing?

 

BAUCUS:  Well, there`s no solution without China in my judgment. China is

the big enchilada. This relationship, U.S.-China, is the most important

relationship in the world. We need each other. We work with each other. We

need to find a solution. About 80 percent-90 percent of North Korean

economy is dependent upon China. China does have a lot of leverage. It is

true that China has not exercised as much as it should. Why? Because China

wants the peninsula to remain stable, China abhors instability in the

Korean Peninsula.

 

Now, this idea of nukes, I think, is stupid. It is terrible. It would be

very destabilizing. We`re supposed to have fewer nukes in the world, not

more. After that, what`s going to happen? Kim Jong-un is going to thumb his

nose at the United States. It has no positive effect on Kim Jong-un.

 

After that, China is going to be irate. What does China think? We have

nukes in South Korea right next to China. China would be very, very angry,

and it`s going to increase the power of the nationalist element in China,

the PLA in China. It`s a stupid idea.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right. They have not said that they are going to that of

course it is just one of the many options anything in between. Now, what is

China`s incentive to help us? They want – they don`t want – they don`t

want nukes in Japan either and they don`t want a unified Korean Peninsula.

It`s what they don`t want. They don`t want 26 million North Koreans

flooding their borders. So what is sort of the leverage that we have with

China to do this?

 

BAUCUS:  I`ve been in a lot of meetings with President Xi where he has said

how much he very, very much not only disrespects but has extremely low

opinion of Kim Jong-un. He, I won`t say he hates Kim Jong-un, but it`s

pretty close to it, I`ll tell you that. And so as the moment of truth in

the peninsula gets more closer, that is, because Kim is building up nukes

and missiles and so forth, you know, that`s going to bother China more and

more just as it bothers South Korea and Japan and clearly us.

 

I think there`s an opening here. I think President Trump – I hope he did

this – sit down with President Xi and say, look, we`ve got a problem here.

We`ve got a problem here with this guy, Kim Jong-un. These guy are (ph)

talking about, let`s figure out a way to get rid of him because he, Kim, is

very much a thorn in Xi`s side. I think Xi would like to find some other

solution as well.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  But, it`s interesting as you said, you know, I always look

at this unfortunately through my own eyes and of course if a big brother

country like China was going to cut me off financially, I would say what do

you want? But the thing is that when you look through the eyes of Kim Jong-

un who is not I mean it`s bizarre.

 

BAUCUS:  It is.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  –and you know, the survivor. And he has already starved so

many of his people. So, you know, I still don`t get it, you know, what`s

the real incentive to him? I mean, you know, I don`t get what he`s going to

do.

 

BAUCUS:  I think Kim will do most anything to keep his power and nuclear

capability, missile capability allows him to do so. Now, years ago, not too

many years ago, Bill Perry working with the Clinton Administration, he got

pretty close to a deal with Kim. It`s pretty kind of complicated, but you

know, a lot of these solutions are extremely difficult to reach. It takes a

lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of staying power.

 

The U.S. has to spend a lot more time, in my judgment, in China talking –

let Chinese, how do we do this? More and more and more frequently with it,

as well as with the South Koreans and Japanese, it just takes time, 80

percent or likely is showing up. It`s just hard, hard work. And after a

while, you start to develop a little bit of trust, a little bit of

understanding, and then a way where the Chinese may say, well, yeah, maybe

if U.S. does this and maybe we can do that and so we can find a solution.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  I so hope you`re right, I just – I just fear that we`re so

headed in the wrong direction. But anyway, ambassador, thank you very much

for joining us.

 

BAUCUS:  We have no choice but to try.

 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Indeed. Thank you for watching, viewers. Have a great

weekend. I`ll see you back here Monday night 6:00 p.m. Eastern. And follow

me on twitter, @greta. And you know what, it comes up right now, it is

hardball with Chris Matthews.

 

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

BE UPDATED.

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