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New Airstrikes in Syria; Russia Suspends Deconfliction Hotline with U.S.; Bombed Syrian Air Field Back in Operation; No Comments from Trump on Missile Strike; Amb. Robert Ford Talks Syria; Heated Debate in Congress over Trump's Syria Air Strikes; Truck Was Meant to Explode in Stockholm Attack. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 8, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:50] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us with this special bi-city NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in New York.
JIMJ SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto, joining Fredricka today. We have a lot to cover.
WHITFIELD: We sure do. Thank you for joining us.
Today, CNN is learning about new bombings in Syria. The town that suffered the chemical attack is now being hit by airstrikes. Though it is not immediately clear who is behind these new airstrikes, the planes are most likely from Russia or the Syrian regime. To be clear, this is not the same region that the U.S. targeted earlier Friday. U.S. Tomahawk missiles struck a Syrian airfield further south where it is believed that the Syrian regime stored chemical weapons before launching them into civilian neighborhoods.
We are also now learning that this same airfield is back open and operational today. This new video purports to show a Syrian jet moving on a tarmac there.
This, as the Pentagon continues to investigate if Russia was involved in the attack and if it executed a cover-up.
We've got team coverage from the ground in Syria to Trump's southern White House in Florida.
Let's begin with CNN senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward. She is near the border between Syria and Turkey.
So, Clarissa, what are we learning about these new airstrikes?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, what we're hearing so far -- and this is from activists inside Syria -- that there were a series of airstrike strikes. So far, reports of only one woman being killed and three others being injured. As you said before it's not clear exactly who was responsible for these airstrikes. But it's important for our audience to understand that essentially it is only Syrian regime fighter jets and also Russian planes in the skies bombing rebel-held Idlib.
This could be an act of defiance and attempt on part of the Bashar al Assad regime and army to show that they are active and somehow, perhaps, punishing this town. This is the town where that ghastly chemical attack took place. The death toll is now more than 85 people who were killed in that chemical attack.
We're also seeing, in concordance of an idea of a defiant posture of the regime of Bashar al Assad, that the air base that the U.S. struck on Friday is now operational again.
And we've seen the Russian military moving a frigate into the sea, to the west of Syria. This, again, apparently having cruise missiles on that frigate. Apparently, looking to be some kind of a show of force. But, so far, no word on more airstrikes taking place tonight.
And it is important for our viewers to remember that these types of airstrikes, particularly in the rebel-held province of Idlib, where most of the opposition is now based, are very typical. These have been happening day in and day out for months now. Nothing exceptional in hearing that there are more airstrikes taking place. But hard to believe that it would be a coincidence that the very town that was at the center of this chemical attack is now bearing the brunt of more strikes -- Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: All right. Clarissa Ward, keep us posted at the Turkish/Syrian border. Thank you so much.
SCIUTTO: I want to check in with our Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne.
We have some news, clarity, finally, on this deconfliction hotline that Russia and the U.S. have had. It is clear that Russia is, at least, suspending this hotline?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Coalition officials say they won't discuss the state of the hotline basically. But the Russians made it very clear via state media they would no longer use this deconfliction channel, it's being called, which has played a role in helping avoid any collisions or negative interactions between the U.S.-led coalition forces and the Russian and Syrian air forces. And, of course, the coalition has been ramping up its airstrikes against ISIS in Syria as the coalition and its allies make this push on Raqqa, ISIS's capital there. This is a real concern.
But there's also a thousand U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, helping local forces. This deconfliction channel has also been used in the past to make Russians generally aware of where U.S. forces are to avoid accidental bombings. And this was used to alert the Russians of the cruise missile strikes against the air base to prevent any accidental Russian casualties from the result of the strike. So the suspension coming just days after it was used to avert Russian casualties.
[13:05:34] SCIUTTO: So it benefits both sides. I'm curious, how concerned are folks in the Pentagon about losing this channel, purely for the safety of U.S. forces both on the ground and in the air over Syria?
BROWNE: There is concern. There have been increased conversations between U.S. military officials and the Russian counterparts, going all the way up to the level of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dunford. He has had multiple conversations with his Russian counterpart, all out of this acknowledgement that there's a lot more U.S. and Russian activity in close proximity with one another over the skies of Syria. They're definitely have to come up with some way to kind of replicate what this deconfliction channel has operated in the past.
SCIUTTO: In the wake of this cruise missile attack, the U.S. ratcheted down its force presence in Syria, I imagine, flights as well as troops on the ground. They knew, they surmised they would become a bigger target, perhaps. Does that continue now for a longer period of time because they then also have to be concerned about Russian planes, if not intentional targeting -- of course that would be an act of war -- but possibly accidently targeting, dropping a bomb in another operation too close to U.S. forces?
BROWNHE: The coalition is telling us they're taking these precautionary steps in the wake of the cruise missile strike. We saw a marked downshift in the number of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Syria the day after than we had seen in the days before. And these precautionary steps will continue. They're using surveillance assets to keep a close eye on what the regime and what Russia is up to, to make sure there's no retaliatory steps.
Where this goes from here, we're not sure. They'll be closely monitoring the situation to see if they can ramp up their operations back to the prestrike levels.
SCIUTTO: Now the other big issue that we've noticed in the last 24 hours is that air base that was struck so definitively with 59 cruise missiles -- is a big deal -- dropping it on a single target, the base is operational. Planes taking off, landing there. And, in fact, there's been bombing in the same area that was targeted by that horrific chemical weapons strike earlier in the week. Does the Pentagon respond to that response, in effect, that the Syrians are doing the same thing again, short of a chemical weapons attack?
BROWNE: A military official told me that they did observe regime aircraft in the area where chemical weapons -- now again, using potentially conventional ordinance and not chemical weapons.
With regards to the air base, the Pentagon wants to make it clear that the purpose of that cruise missile strike was not to obliterate this airfield or to render it totally not operational. They did destroy what they think to be 20 Syrian regime aircraft, radar sites, anti -- it was about sending a message, an act of deterrence, and it was tailored to chemical weapons use. They want to make sure that the signal was sent to Syria that this chemical weapons use would not be tolerated in the future. And they opened the door for potentially more strikes should the regime in Damascus continue to use chemical weapons in the future.
SCIUTTO: A very focused mission, not going to affect the conventional war on the ground, but specifically chemical weapons.
Ryan Browne, thank you very much.
Back to you in New York, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Jim.
Meanwhile, President Trump has no public events on his agenda today. Our cameras did see the president golfing at the Trump International Golf Club, however, in West Palm Beach.
Let's go now to CNN's Athena Jones in nearby Palm Beach.
So, are we hearing any comments from the president in detail on the missile strike?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, no comments in detail. We are seeing his first remarks about Thursday night's missile strikes since that night. He tweeted earlier today, "Congratulations to our great military men and women for representing the United States and the world so well in the Syria attack."
Those are the first comments we're getting from the president on that attack.
As you mentioned, we did capture some footage of the president on the golf course today here in nearby West Palm Beach. This is his 15th visit to a Trump-branded property and the tenth week he has visited such a property. He often frequents his golf club, whether in south Florida here, West Palm Beach or Jupiter. He also frequently visits a golf club in Virginia. It's an opportunity for him to promote his brand, to promote these golf clubs. What interesting, Fred, is often the White House will tell us that he is taking phone calls or having meetings. Occasionally, they'll answer questions about whether he is playing golf. We have not received that information from the White House today so far. But we did see him out on the golf course, out on the links. And this is notable because, before he was president, before he ran for president, President Trump spent a lot of time on Twitter, criticizing his predecessor for spending so much time playing golf.
This, of course, comes on the heels of the pretty momentous last several days, first-ever meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. He tweeted about that this morning, and Thursday's missile strike, which the White House says -- the question is, what happens next in Syria? That's going to depend a lot on what Syria does next. We'll wait and see what happens -- Fred?
[13:10:53] WHITFIELD: Athena, you called reference to some of the tweets in the past of President Trump, talking about golf, criticizing President Obama in 2013, saying, "President Obama is not busy talking to Congress about Syria. He is playing golf. Go figure."
Thanks so much, Athena Jones. Appreciate that.
SCIUTTO: Those tweets can come back to haunt you. Right, Fred?
WHITFIELD: Yes, they do.
SCIUTTO: I want to bring CNN's Phil Black, in Moscow, monitoring the Russian response to the U.S. strike in Syria.
So, this hotline that the U.S. and Russia have had is frankly helpful to both sides. It's intended to keep both U.S. and Russian aircraft, and U.S. and Russian ground forces safe from accidental strikes by the other side. So how is Russian responding to that new reality?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, you're right. From a certain point of view, it seems like a self-defeating move. Russia has today confirmed that it is suspending these deconfliction lines of communication between the Russian and American forces over Syria that are supposed to ensure they don't accidentally bump into each other and create some sort of incident that could rapidly escalate. They're doing this as a protest because they say they feel so strongly against the American strike on that Syrian base. In doing so, they still acknowledge that this, in fact, does raise the possibility of unintended conflict between Russian and American forces to the highest level that, perhaps, it has ever been. Remember, these channels have been in place since October 2015, very shortly after Russia began operating in Syria. There's always been that direct line of communication so one side could let the other know what they are doing. They're no longer there. Russia admits it's dangerous. They're doing it anyway.
SCIUTTO: That's a pretty remarkable statement. To emphasize that, Russia says this raises the possibility of accidental conflict between U.S. and Russian forces to its greatest threat, by some degree, well, certainly in some time. I think it's worth highlighting because, yes, have you U.S. and Russia operating in the same war zone on opposite sides, both in the air and on the ground. That is a real change. It's a real danger.
BLACK: It is, indeed. But I think the Russian view will be, this isn't our fault. We didn't make this happen. This is the result of an American strike that was unjustified that is based upon faulty information that can't really be supported, that didn't take place for the reasons stated. Russia is very much sticking to its narrative that the Syrian government did not use chemical weapons, does not have chemical weapons and, indeed, is implying strongly today, through the most recent statement of the Ministry of Defense, that there were no chemical weapons at the air base struck by those cruise missiles. The Russian view is that, yes, this increases tension, but not because of Russia, not because of Moscow or decisions being made here. That as a result of an unjustified, illegal military operation, Russia now takes the view that it must withdraw this pretty important area of cooperation between Russian and American forces. SCIUTTO: It's a difficult argument to make, at least from the U.S.
Perspective, as they have tracked those very Syrian planes dropping those chemical weapons.
Phil Black in Moscow, thank you very much.
Fred, lot of big questions there. And our viewers should remember that. U.S. and Russian forces in very close proximity to each other over and on the ground in Syria.
[13:14:28] WHITFIELD: Yeah. People want a lot of answers and people want to hear what the strategy is. What is the plan. Straight ahead.
Thanks so much, Jim.
Still ahead, the U.S. bombarded a Syrian airbase to send a message to the Syrian regime. The question is, was it received, and what was the message? We'll talk to an expert.
Plus, Syria's president can be a charmer. He can also lie to your face. We'll talk to a U.S. ambassador who has met with the two faces of Bashar al Assad.
WHITFIELD: We're following new developments in Syria. There are new airstrikes today aimed at the town that suffered this week's devastating chemical attack. Although it's not immediately clear who is behind these attacks, the plans are most likely from Russia or the Syria regime.
I want to bring in Fawaz Gerges. He teaches Middle East Studies at the London School of Economics. Also he's written "A History of ISIS." That's the book right there.
Good to see you, Mr. Gerges.
In your view, Russia is saying these U.S. airstrikes helped ISIS. Do you agree with that?
FAWAZ GERGES, EMIRATES CHAIR, MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & AUTHOR: Well, I mean, I think the American strike is a very limited strike, very targeted strike. It won't make a dent in the complex dynamics in Syria. The question is not whether the Trump administration has launched an attack against Assad. We know there is so much blood on Assad's hands. The question that Trump has not told us is that does he have a strategy, a political roll back is he willing to engage in a sustainable matter in Syria to find a solution to the blood bath that has exacted terrible, terrible costs on the Syrian people, 400,000 people killed? With all due respect, Mr. Trump's attack does not change the dynamics in Syria. We need a strategy. And so far, we have no clarity at all from the Trump administration.
[13:20:47] WHITFIELD: So in the interim of the Trump administration coming up with a strategy, sharing what it would about a strategy, is it your feeling that these airstrikes, at least, sent a message to Russia, to Syria's president, Bashar al Assad?
GERGES: If I were Bashar al Assad, I would think twice about using chemical weapons. The Russians were very upset with Assad because their credibility. They were the one to guarantee that Assad would dismantle his chemical weapons. The reason why I'm coming back to the morning after, what's next? What's the end game of Donald Trump? He does not have any plan on the political situation. Here it is. Donald Trump is not just facing Assad. He is taking on the Russians. He's taking on the Iranians, Hezbollah and Lebanon. This is a formidable position. Idlib, the same place that was basically bombed a few days ago by chemical weapons now the Syrians basically retaliated by bombing the same place. What I'm trying to say, without a sustained diplomatic strategy by the Trump administration, without diplomatic engagement, without engaging the Russians, Iranians, the Turks -- in fact, I would argue you're going to see more escalation in Syria, more war by proxies. This is a formidable position. President Trump must celebrate his muscular attitude that he is different than President Barack Obama. At the end of the day, what's next? What's next is more escalation. In fact, I would argue -- and I hope I am wrong -- what Donald Trump has done may come to haunt him in the next few weeks and next few months unless he basically engages diplomatic in a very sustained way and help find a solution to the nightmare that we call Syria today.
WHITFIELD: So, simultaneous to the U.S. missile strikes, the U.N. was collectively working on some sort of strategy of intervention for Syria. Do you believe that that effort can continue, or has that effort been defeated as a result of the U.S., essentially, going it alone with these missile strikes?
GERGES: I'll tell you. I am in the heart of Europe now. I am in London. I spoke to European diplomats, the U.N. special representative. They all have been complaining that they have no political clarity from the Trump administration. He has not put forth any kind of ideas. In fact, he has avoided laying out his vision for Syria. And now President Trump tells us that his heart was shifted, his heart was moved by the signs of killing by chemical weapons. I'm delighted. I'm delighted that suddenly after six years, Donald Trump basically has seen the light, has seen the light of the suffering. Yet at the same time I'm not convinced that Donald Trump cares a great deal about the Syrian people. Think of how he treats the Syrian refugees. Think how he talks about Syria itself. At the end of the day, if Donald Trump would like us to believe that he really wants to help the Syrian people and this particular blood bath, he has to tell us what kind of ideas that he has. He has to put his cards on the table. Otherwise, this particular political process is not going to go anywhere. And my argument, in fact, the American military strike could prove to be counterproductive because it would really trigger more escalation and more by proxies by the Iranians, by Hezbollah, by Russia, not to mention the risk of a major confrontation by the two powers of Russia and the United States.
[13:54:46] WHITFIELD: You're not alone there. Many have expressed on this network they want to see a strategy. They greatly anticipate to see what is the plan from the Trump administration from here.
Fawaz Gerges, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.
Still ahead, at the center of the Syrian conflict is that country's president, Bashar al Assad. Up next, we'll talk to someone who has met him many, many times, the last American ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. His impressions.
[13:30:00] SCIUTTO: We've heard some strong words from Bashar al Assad in the wake of a U.S. strike on a Syrian air field and we have seen real action as well. Flight operations have resumed from that same airfield, and airstrikes in the same area struck by that horrific chemical weapons attack earlier this week. Activists tell CNN that at least one person was killed in a Saturday morning strike in a residential neighborhood also near that airfield.
Russia, meanwhile, has promised to help Syria boost its air defenses.
We're joined by the former U.S. ambassador to Syria and to Algeria, Robert Ford.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us on this Saturday.
ROBERT FORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA & ALGERIA: My pleasure to be with you.
SCIUTTO: You've heard them frame this U.S. cruise missile strike as sending a message to the Assad regime and the Russians as well, specifically about chemical weapons use. You have met Assad more than once. Do you believe he is a man, in this case, who will take that message and restrict, at a minimum, his chemical weapons attacks going forward?
FORD: The language of force is exactly the language he understands but it's a very clever, very patient government. And I would expect that he may stand down from using chemical weapons for a time, month or two or three. And then he will start using them again in small scale here and there and testing the American president's resolve.
SCIUTTO: That kind of activity, I assume, not affected by this kind of strike.
FORD: Oh, no, not at all. In fact, today there have been heavy bombardments in areas, suburbs of Damascus to the west of Damascus, up around the city to the north of Damascus called Hama. Then again up around Idlib. There have been heavy strikes, even large surface-to- surface missiles today.
SCIUTTO: You left your post in protest to the Obama administration's lack of attention. From your perspective, is this a valuable change in U.S. policy toward Syria?
FORD: It could be. As I said, I think Assad with his Russian -- will begin to test after a period of time, they will begin to test American resolve and the resolve of our allies, with us, and about helpful if secretary Tillerson in Russia next week can convince the Russians that we are determined to, again the point driven home by ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Tillerson has to get the Russians to understand that and, in turn, for the Russians to lean on Bashar al Assad.
SCIUTTO: Tillerson has said in the past 24 hours there is something of a plan to remove president al Assad. Does the U.S. have the leverage now after this strike that it needs to push negotiations where, as you well know, have failed? They failed many times before despite the enormous, tireless efforts of Secretary Kerry?
FORD: Well, heaven knows Secretary of State John Kerry did his very best. No, I don't think a one-time strike against one airfield in Syria changes the American leverage very much in a six-year long Syrian civil war. I think that would be stretching it. Right now, if we could just get the use of chemical weapons stopped, that would be one step towards containing and ultimately reducing violence in getting toward a more serious cease fire. The Russians have been trying to get a cease fire without much success. In fact, perhaps if Assad will stand down the use of chemical weapons, it might be possible for the Russians to make much more progress on the cease fire.
SCIUTTO: And civil wars really end out of exhaustion, they say, eventually. Both sides or all sides, in this case -- multiple sides -- become tired with losses and violence. Do you see Syria reaching that inflection point, or close to reaching that point?
[13:35:08] FORD: I think Syria itself reached that point a long time ago. But now we have foreign intervention in a very big way, in particular, from Russia, and especially from Iran, with thousands of Iranian mobilized fighters from places like Iraq and Afghanistan, even Pakistan, fighting in Syria. And they don't even speak Arabic, some of those fighters. So I think if it was up to Syrians, perhaps there would be enough pressure on Bashar al Assad to negotiate. But Assad has firm support from Iran and has no incentive to make concessions.
SCIUTTO: Outside actors have a way to add fuel to the fire.
SCIUTTO: Ambassador Robert Ford, thank you very much.
FORD: My pleasure.
SCIUTTO: Fred, back to you and NYC.
WHITFIELD: Thanks, Jim.
Heated debate over President Trump's decision to launch strikes in Syria without congressional approval. Our legal guys weigh in.
But first, CNN Money's "Away" series discovers a hidden inspiration behind the hustle and bustle of busy San Francisco.
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This is a top site area. We have our elephant seal patients and our sea lions. Our volunteer crews are bringing out the fish milkshakes, fish mash and the equipment they're going to use to feed the animals.
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[13:40:17] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. There's a heated debate in Congress about whether President Trump skirted the law in terms of the air strike in Syria. Republican Senator Marco Rubio weighed in hours after the strike saying it was completely legal, but Democratic Senator Tim Kaine insists he should have consulted Congress before issuing the strikes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: It was legal, enforcing the agreement that the United States and Russia were party to, for removal of chemical weapons, in furtherance of a treaty that they signed, in international law that says you cannot use chemical weapons.
SEN. TIM KAINE, (D), VIRGINIA: There is no legal justification for this. From a moral standpoint, absolutely, I agree with Senator Rubio, it was the right thing to do. President Trump's doing this, finally waking up to the atrocities in Syria is a good thing but he should not have done this without coming to Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Let's talk more about this, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor in Cleveland; and Richard Herman, a criminal defense attorned and law professor, joining us on the phone from Vegas. You will not see him but hear him.
Avery, you first.
Was President Trump's decision to launch missiles against the Assad regime without congressional approval legal or not?
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHT ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Well, it wasn't legal. But here is the question. Here is the analysis. The legal analysis not political. You look at Article I. The exclusive power to declare war rests with Congress. But under Article I, the president is commander-in-chief and has the obligation to consider national interests. His argument, and I'm constructing a legal theory here, is that it's legal if he can show that the national interest is protected. Now under international law, Fredricka, even if we did this for humanitarian purposes, it's got to be referred to, to the Security Council. That would have never happened. So right now, it is very dubious if it's legal. Reagan did it in '86. Clinton did it in '99. Trump did it this year. Does precedent make it legal? I don't think so.
WHITFIELD: So, Richard, in your view, was this unilateral strike within the confines of the purview for this commander-in-chief under such circumstances?
RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR (voice- over): You know, Fred, when you're in law school and they give you a fact pattern, at the end of the discussion they ask the professor, so what's the answer? What's the bottom line? And the professor usually laughs at you. There is no bottom line. There's a discussion. That's rationale. There are different sides. Here, there's no clean cut, 100 percent answer one way or the other. Avery gave you a good rationale and the discussion behind it. But the overriding principle is simply this. Did this somehow protect the national interests of the United States? If the answer to that is no, then this was domestically illegal. If the answer to that was yes, then it was legal. And it's only legal for a short term, 90-day, max. He will have to go to Congress if he wants to follow up with this.
But interesting note, this same exact procedure, based on a gas bombing in Syria, happened in 2013. At that time, then-President Obama sought congressional approval. And some Republicans wrote you can't do it, it's unconstitutional, we should not bomb Syria. Those same Republicans are cheering on President Trump right now. That's how insane our Congress is.
FRIEDMAN: No, that's a political argument.
HERMAN: That's how insane it is.
FRIEDMAN: That's a political argument.
HERMAN: It's so ridiculous. You can't even get a clear-cut answer.
HERMAN: In any event, the answer here, Fred, it's done. Now what do we do? What's our goal? What's our stated goal? What's the next step? If he will continue military action with the Russian battleship pulling into the area, he will have to get congressional approval.
WHITFIELD: Avery, why do you see the circumstances different than 2013? I mean, it was still -- I guess the effort of President Obama going to Congress, it was still a result of observation of chemical use of weapons.
WHITFIELD: The same applies here in terms of chemical weapons, Avery. Why are they different? One president saying he wants congressional approval and the other one saying, by action, don't necessarily need it?
FRIEDMAN: Well, I think the difference is enormous. Here is why. The Department of Justice told President Obama, you need -- I think we need congressional approval. But do you know what happened? He never did it because by the time that we're ready to go, the Russians intervened and claimed they convince Bashar al Assad to give up his chemical weapons.
[13:45:12] FRIEDMAN: But it never went forward. This time it went forward and I think it's a real serious question. I agree that under War Powers Act of 1973, federal law, ultimately, you have to go to Congress. But, you know what? You've got a 60-day window that the president essentially can do what he wants to do. Whether or not he does it again remains to be seen.
WHITFIELD: And so now you've got different messaging coming from the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., who says, you know, there is more where that came from.
WHITFIELD: The president and secretary were a bit more tepid, saying this just might be one time.
So then, Richard --
WHITFIELD: -- if there is another instinct by this president to do something, would that be the condition in which he would have to go to Congress?
We might have lost Richard's signal.
FRIEDMAN: Let me answer that question. Again, you have a 60-day window under that 1973 federal law. The president, theoretically, should go to Congress now. Because to declare war is a congressional function, not presidential. However, the president saying, look, I'm commander-in-chief. This is short of declaring war and, therefore, I'm allowed to do it. The 1973 law, Fredricka, says, ultimately, you have to go to question. That's the question. Are we going to have more bombings? Bashar al Assad is not going to stop right now. He probably has been deterred from further bombings. The question is, will he resume? And, if so, does President Trump come back in with more bombing? That's the question we don't know the answer to.
WHITFIELD: May be deterred with the use of chemical bombs but not traditional --
FRIEDMAN: That's exactly right.
WHITFIELD: -- because that continues.
Avery Friedman, thank you very much.
Richard Herman, wherever you are now, thank you as well.
Thanks for joining us.
Coming up, new developments out of Sweden. Friday's deadly attack in the nation's capital there could have been far worse. We'll bring you the latest after a quick break.
[13:52:15] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. We are learning Friday's attack in Stockholm, Sweden, could have been far worse. Swedish media says a bag of undetonated explosives was found in the truck that rammed pedestrians at high speed. Police are trying to determine if it was a bomb or perhaps another flammable device. Authorities say the man arrested Friday on terrorism offenses is from Uzbekistan and known to intelligence services. That man is suffering burns from those faulty explosives.
CNN international correspondent, Max Foster, is live in Stockholm with the latest.
Max, you look at the video of this attack of a truck speeding down of central Stockholm streets and it may have been meant to explode as well.
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Much of a tragedy as this was, it could have been so much worse. What about bombers of what the state media calling it and what if people had not managed to get away of the truck. You can see and you cannot see the road that it came down anymore. The roads very, very tight, indeed, and it was very busy, full of pedestrians, tourists and shoppers and people working around here. It is extraordinarily more than one hit. That's one of the blessings that we see today. There was a wall around the building, signs, and people started to put flowers there. Very emotional and could not really speak when she was doing it. After that, all these other flowers came and it is quite an extraordinary scene. What you have at this moment where you cannot see the ugliness of this site.
What happens here, a real message, the king says it is a safe country. The prime minister I just saw walking down the street in a way of demonstrating that people can carry on as normal and terror will not win over in this country.
SCIUTTO: Yeah, you made a good point. Often, we get caught up in the scene of attack itself. It is the scene that follows, really the rejection of the violence.
We are hearing this suspect was known to intelligence services. There are questions being raised as to why police had him under surveillance or able to stop this in.
FOSTER: Well, you will remember, Jim, back in 2010, there was a failed suicide bombing in that area, there was as big call for the government and more security. Perhaps it should have done more. It's coming under a bit more pressure today as a result of that. But this is a very liberal country, very open country. As soon as start putting up barriers and an increase in security, it's not like doing it in London or New York, they really fight to keep it open here. So that's what they could be grappling with in the days ahead.
[13:55:26] SCIUTTO: That's what they'll be focusing with in the days ahead.
Max Foster, in Stockholm, thanks so much.
Fred, back to you in New York.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, as tensions grow among top Trump advisers, a meeting is called between Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. Details on that straight ahead.
Plus, President Trump said Syria's Bashar al Assad crossed the line with his recent chemical attacks. Could these disturbing images change the president's mind on U.S. policy on Syria moving forward? We'll discuss.