For the Record with Greta, Transcript 4/11/2017
Show: For the Record with Greta
Date: April 11, 2017
Guest: Will Hurd, Theodore Kattouf, Matthew Rojansky, Evelyn Farkas, Bob
Scales, Kris Kobach, George Will, Sean Spicer, Annie Linskey, Annie Karni,
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: .does not reimburse the county. Not to be deterred,
Trump is heading back down this weekend to celebrate Easter. It will be
his seventh visit since taking office. That is all for me tonight. For
the record with Greta starts right now. Hi, Greta.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, NBC NEWS HOST FOR THE RECORD: Thank you, Katie. It`s
getting hot in Washington because house minority leader Nancy Pelosi is
demanding President Trump fire White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We didn`t use chemical weapons
in World War II. You know, you had a – someone who is despicable as
Hitler who didn`t sink to using chemical weapons. I think when you come to
sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that
Assad is doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Pelosi says he must go and we have a lot more on this
exploding controversy later in the hour. But we begin with this breaking
news. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Moscow tonight and the
burning question, will he meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin or
not? Tillerson said he would meet, but will Putin? Meanwhile, more
trouble with Putin. USA today accusing Russia, meaning Putin on trying to
cover up the gruesome chemical attack in Syria, Secretary Tillerson
blasting Putin support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it is clear to all of us that
the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. I hope that what the
Russian government concludes is that they have aligned themselves with an
unreliable partner in Bashar Al-Assad. They had signed the chemical
weapons accord themselves, the Syrian government. The Russian government
had signed that accord. And now Assad has made the Russians look not so
good under these circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Today the Russian president still denying the Syrian
government dropped that nerve gas on those innocent civilians even going
one step further saying the United Nations should investigate. Defense
secretary James Mattis asked today about Russia`s role in the attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY GENERAL: I don`t know. I will tell you
that we have gone back through and looked at all the evidence we can and it
is very clear who planned this attack, who authorized this attack, and who
conducted this attack itself. That we do know. If they use chemical
weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump saying he is refusing to answer questions
about the Russian president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, has view changed of president Putin?
DONALD TRUMP, THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: And late today new comments from President Trump on Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Should have been done by the Obama administration a long time
before I did it. And you would have had a much better – I think Syria
would be a lot better off right now than it has been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: With me, House Intel Committee member Will Hurd Republican
from Texas and former ambassador from Syria Theodore Kattouf, nice to see
both of you.
THEODORE KATTOUF, FORMER AMBASSADOR FROM SYRIA: Pleasure.
VAN SUSTEREN: First to you, congressman. Do you think Russia was involved
before it happened?
WILL HURD, HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE: Well, Russia is – their close
relationship with Syria, especially in that conflict zone, to think that
the Syrians would do something as serious as utilize chemical weapons and
not tell one of their closest partners is – it`s hard for me to imagine
that. But we have to get this right. We have to do a proper review of the
intelligence known before and after in order to make a case, if indeed the
Russians were involved. If the Russians were involved, I think this helps
us build a larger coalition of countries to work against the Russians and
put pressure on the Russians to see Bashar Al-Assad leave power.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, you were an ambassador to Syria among other
nations. Do you think that the president of Syria, Assad, would act and
gas his people without getting the nod from Putin?
KATTOUF: I think it`s quite possible. We have to remember that Putin and
Turkey convulsed a peace conference, a conference to have a cease fire not
long ago. And the opposition fighters and the Assad regime agreed to a
cease fire. And Assad broke it in the environs of Damascus against
Russia`s express instructions. I`ve seen the Assad`s operate over many
years, father and the son, and they`re not pawns of anyone. So, while I`m
not saying it`s the Russians didn`t know, I`m saying it`s quite possible
VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, who needs who more? Does Assad need Putin more
than Putin needs him or the other way around?
KATTOUF: Well, Assad needs Putin more than Putin needs him. But one thing
I would point out is even without Russia, he would still have Iran backing
him along with all the militias they bring including Hezbollah, Shiite
militias from Iraq, Pakistani in Afghan mercenaries and the like. Assad -
he will not fall even if Russia said we are done with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, what would you like to have the Secretary of
State convey to Vladimir Putin tomorrow assuming he gets to speak to him?
HURD: I think he needs to make it clear the support of the Assad regime is
not acceptable and Bashar Al-Assad is a, more of a problem to him than a
partner and that –
VAN SUSTEREN: What does that mean? Unacceptable, is that sort of like
just tell him he is bad or something like – there has to be some teeth to
HURD: In the future, what I think that means is that the future political
solution of who controls Syria means Assad is not involved, you know. The
reason we have a problem with refugees is because of Assad. The reason
that there was a civil war that created a space to allow a group like ISIS
to come in is because of Assad. Assad has violated the chemical weapons
convention on more than a dozen occasions. We`ve talked about the one from
a week ago, but he is done this on many occasions. So, he cannot be
involved in the future of the country and that means the Russians need to
pull back their air force and to support Assad and Syrian forces.
VAN SUSTEREN: Which brings the question, ambassador, if Assad goes, who
KATTOUF: That is the real question nobody addresses, and it`s a very
serious question. While I agree with the congressman completely, that
Assad`s a brute, a war criminal, and that he caused a lot of the refugee
problem, we have to remember who was on the other side. Idlib province
where he used chemical weapons is largely controlled by an Al Qaeda
affiliate. The same people who did 9/11, who did subway attacks in London
and Madrid, et cetera, are active in Syria. They have an Islamist
coalition behind them, and they`re probably the strongest fighting force in
the country. So, you know, when we talk about regime change, we did regime
change in Iraq, we did regime change in Libya. You have to expect
unexpected consequence or unintended consequence.
VAN SUSTEREN: Gentlemen, thank you both very much. With me former deputy
Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and you`re Asia, Evelyn Farkas.
The headline of her “the New York times” article today is Russia testing
Trump. Also with me, Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan institute at
the Woodrow Wilson Center, he is an expert on Russian affairs. Let me go
first to you, Matt. You can read Russian. We don`t have information, but
what are you reading in the Russian headlines about Tillerson being in
MATTHEW ROJANSKY, KENNAN INSTITUTE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Right. So, the
official Russian position as of a day ago and two days ago was that Putin
spokesman is saying a meeting between Tillerson and Putin is not on Putin`s
schedule. He phrased it consistently in that same way. Today the Russian
press is reporting that sources close to the foreign ministry but involved
in the organization of the visit are saying yes, a Putin/Tillerson meeting
will take place. And I have to say from my perspective, I would not be
surprised, be in one, the two men have talked before, they know each other
from Tillerson`s time as the head of Exxon. And certainly if Putin`s goal
and I think this is Putin`s goal is to lineup a summit with President
Trump, having that conversation directly rather than doing everything at
arm`s length through the foreign minister while you`re in town I think it
just makes sense.
VAN SUSTEREN: Evelyn, what does Putin want and what is it that Tillerson
needs to convey to him?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA: Well, Putin
wants the grand deal. He will not give up on that, which is to say he
wants to be able to do what he pleases in his geographic periphery. So,
VAN SUSTEREN: Would Georgia be included? Ukraine.
FARKAS: Yes. And he is continued since Trump was sworn into office, Mike
Merel and I have a story today, I have to put in a plug. What he is done
since January. So, he is continued to move, encroach on Ukraine
sovereignty in various ways. He`ll want that deal. He will also want a
deal in Syria that includes Assad staying. And of course he`ll hope
Tillerson won`t bring up the hack on our election.
VAN SUSTEREN: I can`t imagine if there is a summit, and that is Putin
wants, I can`t imagine Trump is going to roll over and say fine, Tillerson
will rollover and say fine. He wants the base in Syria. He wants to sure
up Assad. So where does this lead us?
ROJANSKY: What`s hard about doing U.S./Russia relations is there should in
theory be kind of a ceiling and floor on the relationship and when you
conduct summits and any kind of meetings it should happen in a certain
zone. I would argue right now we`re sort of way below the floor of where
you should let U.S./Russia relations sink. We have to restore some basic
dialogue. So, the fact of a meeting between the two heads of state is good
if for one reason only which is I`ve heard Russians tell me, look, if they
don`t get a signal from Putin that it`s time to sort of reign in the scary
stuff, the provocations, you know, over the air space in Syria, the ball
tick, eastern Mediterranean, et cetera, it`s not going to happen. So, they
need that signal. That is a good thing.
In terms of the agenda items doing counter terrorism operation, it`s
desirable. It`s going to be very, very hard. We define terrorism
differently. Obviously we would say Assad is a terrorist murdering his own
people. The Russians don`t see it that way. I think the Russians are
going to play for time. So, they want a U.N. investigation. Why? So that
they have time to sort of, if there are tracks to be covered, cover those
tracks but maybe figure out themselves what happens. I tend to think from
the beginning of this thing this is Assad kicking sand in Putin`s face.
Why, because he can. He can and he did. If Putin backs off and says
Assad, you have to go, what`s Putin`s leverage with Assad, right? Assad
knows he is at the end of his rope and he is going to do whatever he has to
survive. There is a dance going on between Moscow and Damascus even as we
are trying to put pressure on both of them.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right if Assad does go Evelyn, as I talked with the
ambassador, then what? We have to look beyond that, assuming he does go.
He hasn`t gone anyplace. I don`t know if he is going to go. What happens
FARKAS: It`s not just Assad. The security forces, the internal security,
the security police, they`re the ones really running the country. So, the
next person taking over would have to be obviously Russia friendly,
allowing Russia to exercise their prerogatives in Syria, the bases that
they have and keep them. But the person will also have to come probably
from the iolite community. I don`t think – if Russia is going to go along
with it, it won`t be a radical shift. I do agree Assad has to go. This is
why the Russians need us at the table, because to have the moderates
negotiate anything or to agree to anything, you have to have Assad leave
and you have to have the United States give them a palatable option.
VAN SUSTEREN: Matt, it was interesting that, you know, Secretary of State
Tillerson was friendly with Putin when he was CEO of Exxon, even got some
award, very harsh words today. I think the meeting today would be rather
awkward, tomorrow rather.
ROJANSKY: My read on this is number one. You have a guy who has
experience dealing with high-level Russians, right. Putin is his own
animal, but remember, powerful Russians are also a certain breed. And
Tillerson has that experience. That is not a bad thing. Second, there is
a positive dynamic there. There are pictures of them smiling. He is
received the award. But remember, a positive mood is something you seek to
achieve in business when you`re trying to get business done. In diplomacy
you also have the stick. Tillerson is demonstrating the stick right now.
He is doing it in coordination with Mattis, you heard that as well.
VAN SUSTEREN: What is the stick? Is the stick sanctions? Tough talk,
I`ve heard tough talk from everybody for years. What`s the stick?
ROJANSKY: The administration talks about negotiating from a position of
strength. I think the position of strength here is they`re saying, look,
there are certain kinds of tactics and I think we just heard this earlier
from Mattis as well. You know, you use chemical weapons, I would hope this
would extend to barrel bombing civilians, bombing hospitals, et cetera.
We`re going to be tested on that. Assad is going to do that stuff. He is
done it before he is going to keep doing it. Where if you do that we will
give warning to the Russians. We will try to avoid provoking a direct
conflict with the Russians, but we`re going to hit you.
VAN SUSTEREN: According to Mattis it`s going to hit hard, according to
Mattis the Secretary of Defense hit hard.
FARKAS: That is a multi lateral approach. I`m all for the punitive
strike. What`s next? It`s about chemical weapons, we need to get those
WMD accounted for and out of Syria and when we do, needs to be done in
concert with our allies. We`re in a coalition of 60 plus countries
operating in Iraq and then to some extent in Syria.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think it`s pretty safe we can`t let Russia be in charge of
getting chemical weapons out of there. That is pretty obvious. Anyway,
thank you both.
ROJANSKY: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Still ahead, Sean Spicer in the spotlight. We`ll dive into
his controversial comments about Adolf Hitler. Plus, leader Pelosi telling
President Trump Spicer must be fired. Meanwhile, less than two hours the
polls close in a special election in Kansas. It is not just any special
election. It could be a big sign whether President Trump could be facing
election backlash in the November 2018 midterm elections. We are live in
Kansas. And United Airlines in a tail spin that stunning video is now a
P.R. disaster with United taking a quarter billion dollar hit today in Wall
Street, the airline even turning into a late night punch line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen that video of the guy getting dragged off
the united flight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is how my mother used to get me out of bed to go
to school every morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I notice we have an empty seat here. We asked nicely
for volunteers. No one said yes. Let`s do this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, I don`t want to see the show. No, please,
please! I`m just walking by.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, brace yourself for this one. A nuclear threat from
North Korea, that rogue nation warning the United States it will use
nuclear weapons if the U.S. Aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson keeps
approaching the Korean peninsula. The North Korea foreign ministry
announcing – the U.S. accountable for the quote catastrophic consequence.
And President Trump then firing back on twitter, quote, North Korea is
looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If
not, we will solve the problem without them. Now, all of this coming as we
recently learned President Trump`s options for North Korea includes
replacing nukes in South Korea. With me Major General Bob Scales, nice to
BOB SCALES, RETIRE U.S. ARMY: Thank you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: I should add that is always been at one end of the scale.
The other is doing nothing. There is a lot that can happen in between
there. All right, there`s no question that they have nuclear weapons.
They don`t have a delivery system as far as we know, but they are saying
the threats are increasing.
SCALES: Well, every year they get better. A key date is next Saturday,
VAN SUSTEREN: The birthday.
SCALES: We have some evidence that they are working frantically on this
one tunnel system where they normally detonate nukes, and we`ll see next
Saturday if there is a boom next Saturday, a big boom next Saturday. That
means the North Koreans have made another step in building towards a
thermal nuclear weapon that is less than a ton that can be put on the top
of an ICBM. Every year they get closer and closer, but this is the big
deal. If they can make that nuke work next Saturday, if there is a boom
next Saturday, changes everything.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And we always talk about the nukes. Of course
they are terrifying. Everyone says they`re a little way off on that. To
me it`s the thing people want to pay attention to, the artillery, the DMZ.
How much is there?
SCALES: 15,000 and when I was in Korea, stationed in Korea, my job was to
build what we call a counter for our system to use South Korean and
American aircraft and artillery to shoot back. Let me tell you, Greta,
those things are buried so deep in those granite mountains, it would be a
long laborious process to take – it would take weeks to take them out. In
the meantime they`re shooting into Seoul. The range of those long range
missiles would reach all the way to the Hahn River to the southern suburbs
of Seoul. That would result in the deaths of tens of thousands of South
VAN SUSTEREN: So, whenever someone talks about the catastrophic
consequence, yes, it could be a nuclear weapon if they could figure out a
delivery system if they are successful Saturday, it could be the artillery
at the DMC.
SCALES: What do we do if that happens? We have 30,000 soldiers in South
Korea, some of whom are under the artillery umbrella of these systems, all
of whom are under the rocket threat. Because remember, they have several
thousand scud missiles. What if this guy gets up one morning and does
something stupid like start those barrages? What`s our response? It can`t
be nuclear. If Kim Jong-un miss calculates, that is the great fear.
VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed. We`ll watch and see what happens on Saturday,
General, thank you.
SCALES: Thank you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Up next the law maker who famously shouted, you lie at
President Obama, getting an earful from voters back home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUDIENCE: You lie! You lie! You lie!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: And White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in the center of
a new controversy, this one over his Hitler comment. We`ll talk about
that, and this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, this is wrong. Oh, my god. Look at what you`re
doing to him. Oh, my god.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: We just got a new statement from this man who was pulled off
the plane. That is coming up.
VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama has been incognito since leaving office.
But that changes next month. He is headed to Berlin where he will meet
with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They will take part in a discussion
about the local and global responsibilities of democracy. And where will
President Trump be that day, also in Europe, in Brussels at the NATO
summit. And today Donald Trump, Jr. squashed rumors that he was planning a
2018 run for New York governor. The 39-year-old did say he wants to leave
his options open for a run in the future calling politics, quote,
And a very, very rough home coming for the congressman who made headlines
for once yelling at President Obama during his speech to a joint session of
congress, you lie, Congressman Joe Wilson faced a very fired up crowd in a
town hall in South Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also supported all efforts to make sure that financing
is limited –
AUDIENCE: You lie! You lie!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some positive issues. Anybody –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Many lawmakers are avoiding town halls this Easter break
after the collapse of the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare.
Ahead, the first congressional election since President Trump took office.
Should the GOP be nervous about a seat it was supposed to win easily? We
are live in Kansas.
And United Airlines CEO apologizing to the man dragged off the plane. What
is the passenger saying tonight? That is ahead.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, NBC NEWS HOST FOR THE RECORD: Well, you better check
your watch. Polls are closing in less than two hours a special election in
Kansas that is getting national attention. It is the race to replace
former GOP Congressman Mike Pompeo who vacated his congressional seat to
become the President Trump`s CIA director. Pompeo`s now former
congressional seat has been a Republican seat since 1995, but the
Democratic candidate Jim Thompson is making this race a bit of a cliff
hanger. It is surprisingly close, meanwhile this week, Senator Ted Cruz`s
campaign with Republican candidate Ron Estes. Today President Trump
tweeting support after making a last-minute robo call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I need Republicans
like Ron Estes to help me get the job done. This is an important election.
There are really few very much more important and I need your vote for Ron
Estes on Tuesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: NBC`s Jacob Rascon is in Wichita Kansas, 90 minutes ahead of
the polls closing. Jacob, what`s going on?
JACOB RASCON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It`s been really busy. It`s as busy as
you might expect as a presidential election, but we have a steady stream of
folks. The lines there, they vote over here, and all day they`ve come up
and we`ve talked too many of them. I would say that half of them would say
something like, I`m voting Republican. That is how we vote here. That is
how we voted the last 20 years. Nothing is going to change. I`m
comfortable, I`m confident. But those who voted for the Democrat, the
political newcomer, many of them said, look. I feel more than ever like my
guy for the first time has a chance, at least of making it a close race.
That is what we`ve been interested in to hear from them. And then to see
in the last few days people like Vice President Mike Pence, the president
coming out with the robo calls, Ted Cruz as you know, they want not only to
win, but to win big as the first special election since the presidential
election. With us, in fact, just by chance, we have the Kansas Secretary
of State. Tell us about some of the numbers that we have which are only
KRIS KOBACH, KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE: Right, so we knew that before
Election Day we had 30,000 people approximately who advance voted. That is
a pretty good number. The interesting thing is you don`t have special
elections very often in a given state. The last time we had one was in
1950. So, we don`t really have a benchmark for what we expect to
participation to be.
RASCON: That is a lot less than the general –
KOBACH: Exactly. It`s not going to be in the 60s or 70s. We`re hoping
that we can get close to 30 percent. You know, April election, people
aren`t used to voting in April. There is only one race on the ballot.
I`ll be pleased if we get around 30 percent.
RASCON: What is the breakdown in the 30,000 Republican Democrat? I
understand there are more Republicans than Democrats.
KOBACH: That is true. In that 30,000. It`s also hard to tell, to make
too many judgments based on the composition of the advanced voters because
one party might do a better job of sending out mailers to get their people
out to vote early. You have to avoid drawing too many conclusions.
RASCON: Also unaffiliated the. Thank you so much for your time. I will
end by saying there are a couple people we talked to, one that voted for
Donald Trump, but said he had some buyer`s remorse and was changing his
vote. Only one person we talked to who said that. And then another who
voted for the Democrat whose husband she says always votes Republican and
cancels her out. But he was not enthusiastic about today`s election so he
stayed home. But, of course, we will not know today`s numbers until 7:00
central time. Greta?
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Jacob. And joining me, George Will, Pulitzer
Prize winner for the Washington post, George, Donald Trump won this
district by 27 points in November. So, that should be a hugely resounding
Republican victory. But they`re saying that it`s a little bit closer than
GEORGE WILL, THE COLUMNIST: Well, first of all, 65 percent turnout last
November. He just said maybe 30 percent turnout. Now, the question is who
is motivated. I think in politics anger is a more powerful motivator than
happiness. Happiness breeds contentment, contentment breeds lassitude.
The question is who is angry? It will probably work against the
president`s party, because this is the only way people have of expressing
themselves at this point. Whether it matters a lot, I don`t know. We`re
574 days from the 2018 elections.
VAN SUSTEREN: So, this is just fun for people watching elections or is
this of consequence, does this mean anything?
WILL: Well, if it`s a narrow victory by the Republican, it means
something. If it`s a defeat for the Republican, it will be a self-
fulfilling cascading media phenomenon. Clouded by the fact that one of the
problems is that the Republican governor might draw – who is unpopular at
this point for a variety of reasons, might draw a protest vote himself.
So, there will be all kinds of maelstrom of motives here. It`s hard to
know how you sort this out as a referendum on Mr. Trump.
VAN SUSTEREN: We`re approaching the 100-day mark of the Trump
administration. How is he doing?
WILL: It`s exhausting. I mean, how is he doing? Has it only been 100
VAN SUSTEREN: Not quite, we haven`t been there yet. I`ve only been here
less than a hundred days, too.
WILL: Exactly. The basic number is job approval rating. He is under
water. He began under water. He is probably the first president ever,
maybe Lincoln who won with 38 percent of the vote, was under water, because
the nation was falling apart. But his job approval is bad. I don`t think
he is been governing in a way that indicates he is devoted to getting his
numbers up. He is a polarizing candidate who seems to enjoy polarizing
people. So, at this point I`d say it`s not a success.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, his high point may have been the Gorsuch, he got
Gorsuch through. They had to go nuclear, the nuclear option to accomplish
that. His low point is what?
WILL: His low point I think has been the tone of the administration in the
sense people hoped when he became president he would suddenly be
transformed and be presidential, the constant tweeting, the picking of
fights, the choice of Mr. Spicer himself to be sort of pugnacious face of
the administration. I think people have decided we`re not getting the
transformation we might have wanted.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. What about the Syria/Russia crisis?
WILL: The question is what did he do with those missiles? 59 missiles is
nothing if it`s a one-off event. We heard him say our aim is regime
change. We`ve heard him say it`s not regime change. We heard Mr. Spicer
who is a gift that keeps on giving to people who analyze these things say
we had to act because of poison gas and barrel bombs. So, we think they
went in part because of conventional weapons. Mr. Tillerson said we are
seminally committed with our norms and values are assaulted around the
world. No, we`re not because we would be very busy if we were.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Secretary of State Tillerson is reporting in the
Russian press tonight is going to be meeting with Vladimir Putin tomorrow.
We haven`t confirmed it on NBC and not reported in the states. Assuming
that happens, how does this advance us?
WILL: We don`t know. We know what happens if he goes to Russia and is
snubbed, that is how it will be portrayed, probably correctly. It will be
a substantial set back. If he meets with Putin, again, there is another
asymmetry here. Mr. Tillerson said he needs to understand if he wants to
be a partner and have peace in Syria, et cetera, et cetera – no. Mr.
Putin has picked a side in a civil war and he wants his side to win. Civil
wars don`t end in negotiation, as Mr. Tillerson seems to think. English
civil war ended with Charles I getting his head cut off. Not with
negotiations. The American civil war ended with surrender at Appomattox.
The Russian civil war ended with - powering the Romanovs and the
Republicans retreating into France. The Chinese civil war ended with Mao
in Beijing and with the – his opponents on Formosa as Taiwan then was.
Civil wars don`t end at the negotiating table.
VAN SUSTEREN: George, always nice to see you.
United Airlines CEO promises the airline will do better. But is it a
little too late? And what does the CEO plan to do? But he is not the only
one in damage control mode tonight. So is White House press Secretary of
State Sean Spicer saying, quote, Hitler did not even sink to using chemical
weapons. A White House correspondent was in the room when he said it joins
VAN SUSTEREN: Breaking news. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
apologizing just moments ago, for those comments about Hitler. We will
have that apology in a moment. First here are the original comments about
Syria`s use of chemical weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: You look, we didn`t use chemical weapons in World War II, you
know. You had a, you know, someone who is despicable as Hitler who didn`t
even sink to using chemical weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Spicer saying Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons.
And of course Hitler murdered millions in gas chambers. Spicer making that
original comment in about 11 minutes later, he was given chance to clarify
his original statement. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to give you an opportunity to clarify
something you said. Quote, Hitler didn`t even sink to the level of using
chemical weapons. What did you mean by that?
SPICER: I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no – he was not
using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean,
there was clearly – I understand your point. Thank you. Thank you. I
appreciate that. There was not – he brought them into the holocaust
center. I understand that. I was saying in the way Assad used them where
he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent into the middle of towns.
It was brought – so, the use of it. I appreciate the clarification there.
That was not the intent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: After the press briefing, Secretary Spicer released three
separate statements to further attempt to clarify those comments. And
moments ago he apologized in an interview with NBC`s Peter Alexander.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You made the clarification
before. You want to make it clear the message you`re trying to deliver.
What you have to say?
SPICER: Obviously I was really kind of want to make sure we talked about
the Assad`s actions on his own people using chemical weapons. To draw any
comparison to the holocaust was inappropriate and insensitive and obviously
especially during a week like this, regret that.
ALEXANDER: First of all, did the president ask you to make that apology?
ALEXANDER: What was the intention? What was the point –?
SPICER: It doesn`t matter because it was a mistake to try to make any kind
of comparison. Assad has done bad things. To make a comparison is a
ALEXANDER: You recognize Hitler did kill –
SPICER: Yes, I`m well aware of what he did. It was a distinction that
didn`t need to get made. They both did horrendous heinous things to
innocent people. It was a mistake.
ALEXANDER: Two more questions. Your desire was an apology. I want to
give you an opportunity to make that apology.
SPICER: I`m absolutely sorry. Especially during a week like this to make
a comparison that is inappropriate and inexcusable.
ALEXANDER: Some people, critics would say this came in an effort because
the White House lacks a strategy, messaging strategy on Syria right now.
Did this demonstrate a lack of messaging strategy in terms of Syria?
SPICER: No, we`ve been forceful. The world leaders and domestic leaders
have praise the president`s action for being decisive proportional and
justified. This was my mistake how I was describing it. For that it`s
regrettable because it`s a distraction from the president`s actions.
ALEXANDER: Nancy Pelosi says you should be fired. Is your job safe?
SPICER: Well, you know what, I made a mistake. I am owning up to it and,
you know, this is obviously I was or I would hope that everyone understands
we all make mistakes and ask for forgiveness.
ALEXANDER: I appreciate the apology. Thanks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: With me Annie Linskey Chief National Correspondent for the
Boston Globe and Annie Karni White House for Politico. She was in the
briefing room. I want to go to you first, Annie, Annie number one, since
we have two Annie`s. What are your thoughts on all this?
ANNIE KARNI, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think this is out of the
blue, it`s an unforced error, invokes Hitler which is never a winning
strategy. It took him five tries to get to the apology we just saw on
television. But this is sort of not the first time the holocaust has been
a stumbling block for this administration. You remember Sean Spicer never
apologized for the leaving the Jews completely out of the statement about
holocaust remembrance day where he called it nitpicking that people
continued to ask why the statement didn`t even mention the Jews. I think
that it`s significant that Spicer chose to go on television and offer this
(inaudible). He thinks he is too overexposed as it is. So, this is a big
deal he goes on MSNBC and CNN to say he apologized. So, I think they know
it`s a major crisis. I don`t think his job is necessarily in jeopardy, in
part maybe because Pelosi and others have called on him to resign. I think
that would make Trump double down. The other question is who would want
this job right now.
VAN SUSTEREN: Annie number two, your thoughts on this, and he has
apologized. Does that end it? And are people taking swipes at him perhaps
it`s a terrible thing he said about that? But living in glass houses?
ANNIE LINSKEY, BOSTON GLOBE: Oh, yeah. First of all, it was definitely a
terrible thing that he said. It`s just a cardinal rule of P.R. that you
don`t ever bring up Adolf Hitler.
VAN SUSTEREN: And just decency. That is like a real – and I actually
think he knows that, too.
LINSKEY: I think he does know that. I think what is so difficult for him
– and I think what potentially, you know, could put his position in
jeopardy, particularly if he were to make a mistake like this again is
that, this is the rare week that has actually started off fairly well for
the Trump administration. I mean, yesterday we had a rose garden ceremony
with, you know, with strings playing and Neil Gorsuch was sworn in. And
then, you know, the president has been getting praise from unexpected
corners really for his strike on Syria. So he had some good news coming
into this week. And then all of a sudden here is the Trump White House
right back on its heels where it`s been essentially from day one, which is
on defense. So, you know, I think that is what particularly stings for the
White House, is that, my god, they finally got going, and now they`re
talking again, you have an apology.
VAN SUSTEREN: Annie number one makes the point that I think that she is
probably right, having Nancy Pelosi, a leader, calling for his head is
probably a job security. She he should call for other people`s heads in
KARNI: Keep Spicer, great job today. She is so quick to do that. This
isn`t the first time she jumped out.
VAN SUSTEREN: She had a faux pas. Any time you recuse yourself, you did
something wrong. She is talking about Sessions getting off the Russian
thing and every judge in the whole country gasped because so often judges
are recusing themselves. You know, out of appearance. She said a couple
of her own.
KARNI: She certainly has. I think that is true. It does give him a
little bit of hope that, my goodness.
VAN SUSTEREN: But, boy, this was a bad one. Spicer had a bad one today.
That was terrible.
LINSKEY: Just the fact he evoked it out of nowhere I think it was an
effort to look like how tough we`re being on Assad, and it just – he went
too far and tripped up. And then in the moment, the first comment, I don`t
think he realized, but it was a major mistake until the follow-up and he
was calling holocaust centers.
VAN SUSTEREN: That was bad, too.
LINSKEY: It got worse. It just got worse.
VAN SUSTEREN: It did get worse. We kept digging, digging deep.
KARNI: Trying to distinguish between –
VAN SUSTEREN: He couldn`t dig himself out. He kept thinking he`d dig
himself out. Anyway, thank you both. In a programming note, I will be
interviewing Sean Spicer tomorrow at an event in the museum here in
Washington, you can see the highlights of that interview, right here for
the record at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. Guess what I`ll be asking about?
Anyway, coming up, the CEO of United Airlines apologizing for the
disturbing incident that has everyone talking, for the first time we`ll
have comments from the passenger`s family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United Airlines has a present for our coach passengers
to California. We took out our six-across seats and put in five wider
ones, extra space in every seat. The five-across coach, it gives you the
widest seat in the sky. When you`re friendly, you do things for people
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: United Airlines` long time slogan, fly the friendly skies.
Well, today the airline is in the crisis mode over a video that is anything
but friendly. A passenger dragged off a plane. That is not friendly.
Today, CEO Oscar Munoz issuing an apology saying, quote, no one should ever
be mistreated this way and saying united takes full responsibility. A day
ago the CEO sparks fury for an e-mail in which he called the passenger
disruptive and belligerent. Today the airline`s stock price closing only 1
percent down, but at one point of losing over a billion dollars in total
value, today an attorney for the pastor Dr. David Dao putting out a
statement saying the family is thankful for the outpouring of prayers,
concern and support, and their main focus is on Dr. Dao`s medical
treatment. Several lawmakers are also getting into this, calling for an
investigation. The Charlie Leocha is the founder of travelers united, a
nonprofit, advocates for passengers, he is also the author of Travel
Rights, nice to see you sir.
CHARLIE LEOCHA FOUNDER OF TRAVELERS UNITED: Good to be here.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think?
LEOCHA: I think United has created a real mess. This entire problem was
created by United Airlines. First, they don`t know how to keep track of
their own people, and they are rushing them onto to planes at the last
minute to move them to Louisville. This shouldn`t have happened. It
wouldn`t have happened if they knew 20 minutes earlier. The other thing
that happens is the local management decided that they were going to
strong-arm people. First of all, you get an offer as much as they could
have offered because right now department of transportation says you offer
up to about $1,350 in cash, and I never heard that bandied about. I bet
you if they said $1,350 in cash, we`d have –
VAN SUSTEREN: A stampede to the front.
LEOCHA: You`re right. We`d have a whole group of people. They`d rent a
limo and all get back home in four hours. They could have flown them on
VAN SUSTEREN: They`ve got enough money to charter. Even if they had to,
they could have chartered on net jets if they had to.
LEOCHA: They really fouled up. So we ended up with a situation where the
flight was first termed overbooked and it wasn`t overbooked. It was only
united wanting to put their crew in front of their customers.
VAN SUSTEREN: I didn`t like the CEO in that e-mail to the employees. I
thought that calling the passenger belligerent –
LEOCHA: Well, you know, I think the CEO is in a hard – he is between a
rock and a hard place right now, because he has to support his employees.
On the other hand, what they did is not supportable. And it`s just a real
failure in management.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, one of the problems, we`ve got the letters here
from Senator John Thune, and other senators calling for some answers. But
I have always wondered why Department of Justice has let these airlines
merge because to me, the merger of these airlines has resulted in such a
decline in the service and the competitive pricing and so much.
LEOCHA: You`re talking to the guy that led the effort against the American
airlines U.S. Air merger. I thought we had won that battle when the
Department of Justice said that they objected to the merger. And word came
up from on high, this was going to happen. I never saw so many defeated
poor people as I saw at the Department of Justice.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are the airlines making money?
LEOCHA: Yes, they`re making tons of money right now.
VAN SUSTEREN: So they didn`t have to do any of this. They didn`t have to
LEOCHA: They`re making billions, and they have a very controlled
situation. And part of problem right now is that if we don`t like the
service, where do we go? Three airlines control 70 percent, and if you
throw southwest in there, more than 80 percent of the market in the United
States. And we really don`t have choice anymore because if it was all four
airlines at all big airports it would be one thing, but it`s not. They
divvy up the country, and we are really suffering from a lack of
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, for the life of me, I don`t know why the
Department of Justice wasn`t a lot more aggressive in protecting us that
way. They certainly didn`t protect us.
LEOCHA: I certainly wish they were.
VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, as they say, never dull. We`ve certainly – that
video has been played all over the place.
LEOCHA: It certainly has.
VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, thank you, sir.
And I have something to say for the record. Ok. We`ve all seen this video
multiple times of Dr. David Dao being dragged off that united flight.
Yeah, it is disgraceful what those handfuls of people did to a passenger.
He paid for his ticket and all due to United`s incompetency that is why
this happened. Yes, by the way, if united had offered more compensation to
volunteers, more than $800, think about if they`d offered $5,000, which is
nothing to united. There would have been a stampede to the front of the
plane to get off. It would have been completely different. But, alas,
united was stuck on stupid, and now we see this video. Only followed by
the united CEO, Oscar Munoz, first apologizing for having to, quote, re-
accommodate customers, whatever that means, then writing that internal memo
to united employees blaming the passenger. That was bad and then finally
sending another note to united employees taking full responsibility. I
guess the third time is the charm. To think, though, that he did all that
after he had time to watch the video.
And think about it. That is bad, isn`t it? Brother. But, this is
important, and why I want to talk to you tonight. While we all slap united
around, let us not forget United Airlines has more than 82,000 employees,
and all those 82,000 employees minus a couple, they didn`t do that. In
fact, they do their job every single day. They do it with great honor.
They do it very effectively, and they also get us to all our destinations
very safely. So all of those people, 82,000, it`s only a couple who do
this. I know lots of you have gripes about the airlines, but remember
there`s so many who do their jobs well. I`m sure you work someplace where
there are a few bad apples too and you do not like to be blamed when they
do bad things.
With so much outrage in the news, from Syria, to Russia, North Korea, I
thought you might like to see this, our friend the Brits. Queen Elizabeth
and Prince Philip feeding bananas to elephants at a new elephant care
center. That elephant does not seem fazed by the royal meal service. I
figure we could all use a chance to see that video after a long day.
Anyway, thank you for watching. I`ll see you back here tomorrow, 6:00 p.m.
Eastern. If you can`t watch live, set your DVR and follow me at Twitter
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