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, Charlie Leocha
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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 this comment.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump saying he is refusing to answer questions about the Russian president.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, has view changed of president Putin?
DONALD TRUMP, THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
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VAN SUSTEREN: And late today new comments from President Trump on Syria.
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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.
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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 they didn`t.
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 that.
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 takes over?
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 Russia?
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, Ukraine --
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 next?
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.
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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.
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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 see you.
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, April 15th.
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 Koreans.
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.
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AUDIENCE: You lie! You lie! You lie!
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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.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, this is wrong. Oh, my god. Look at what you`re doing to him. Oh, my god.
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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, fascinating stuff.
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.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also supported all efforts to make sure that financing is limited --
AUDIENCE: You lie! You lie!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some positive issues. Anybody --
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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.
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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.
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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 advance --
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 that.
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 days?
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 me next.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 mistake.
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 the administration.
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 United Airlines
(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 other airlines.
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 do this.
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 competition.
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 @Greta ...
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