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.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President (inaudible)?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
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VAN SUSTEREN: Some Democratic and Republican senators think President Trump will need approval from congress if he wants to take further military action.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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.
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.
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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.
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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?
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--
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--
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.
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?
CATANESE: He graded himself an "A"--
VAN SUSTEREN: He did.
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.
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.
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--
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.
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.
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