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Kushner versus Bannon at the White House?; Doctors on the Front Lines of Syria's Bloody War; Neil Gorsuch Takes Oath as Newest Supreme Court Justice; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired April 10, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:31:34] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This morning a possible truce in a White House turf war that has gone pretty public. On one side Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law whose portfolio of responsibility seems to be growing daily. On the other side of it, Steve Bannon, the chief strategist who helped steer Donald Trump to his big win in November.
Their tensions spilling out of the confines of the Trump administration. A forced sit-down over the weekend at Mar-a-Lago and the message from the president to both of them, work it out. Cut it out. Get along.
Here to discuss, CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers, a Democrat and a former South Carolina State House member, and CNN political commentator Kevin Madden, who's also a Republican strategist.
I mean, Kevin, what do you make of this? You know, it's different than most of sort of palace intrigue stories and White House infighting because normally one side isn't the son-in-law of the president.
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right.
HARLOW: I mean, can Steve Bannon ever win out in that kind of fight?
MADDEN: There's certainly an advantage there. But, look, I think tension inside White House staffs is not new. I mean, just by the simple fact of the pressure that you have on, you have the long, stressful hours, you have to work very closely together. That's not new.
What is new, Poppy, is that so much of this is playing out hour-by- hour in the media.
MADDEN: And that is never a good thing. But, look, by all accounts Jared Kushner is a very formidable figure inside this inner -- this White House inner circle and I think what is most important is that everybody has to remember at the end of the day, they're still a staff. And that staff's goal, staff's focus, has to be about serving the principal and serving the principal's agenda. And that's this president. And they have to find a way to have a more collaborative atmosphere and they have to find a way to keep these divisions behind closed doors and then publicly make sure that they're executing on behalf of the president and his agenda.
HARLOW: Yes. I think that's going to be tough because everything, especially out of this White House, seems to be leaking out to the media pretty quickly.
HARLOW: But, I mean, Bakari, Steve Bannon opposed the -- you know, arguably the biggest move of this president yet certainly in foreign policy terms, and that is the airstrikes on Syria.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. And I think that that actually lends itself to credence that Steve Bannon is the one who is behind this America first isolationist strategy that Donald Trump is abandoning. Many people, including myself, and I'm not sure if Kevin can help us illuminate what the president's foreign policy may be, but many people don't have any idea what it is.
Steve Bannon did have some ideas about which direction he wanted the president to go and the president chose to go the other direction. And I think that also highlights the fact that his influence in the White House may be waning. You've seen over this past weekend that many people from the far right have come out against these airstrikes. Many of these people are accolades of Steve Bannon.
And so the question is, is Steve Bannon there for the long haul? I know that there are many people including myself who want Steve Bannon out of the White House and don't think he belongs, I don't think he's listening to Democrats, he being the president. However, we'll see where that ends up.
HARLOW: So, Kevin, to that point.
HARLOW: I mean, you do have Bannon being removed from the National Security Council last week. Now I should note he is allowed to be in any of the principal's meetings that he wants to. In fact he went to one late in the week last week. You know, McMaster, Lieutenant General McMaster said over the weekend, this is much ado about nothing, but do you see him as having a waning influence in the Oval Office?
MADDEN: Well, I think it has more to do with when a president gets in the White House and recognizes the power of the executive and the power of being a commander-in-chief and listening and hearing directly from military advisers like Henry McMaster, like General Mattis over at the Pentagon, I think that that influence tends to supersede that of a staffer who doesn't have direct experience there.
[10:35:13] I think the timing is interesting given that Jared Kushner was in Iraq and spending time with a lot of these top military officials and then, subsequently, this move was made to the National Security Council. That may be one of those instances where Jared Kushner's influence, you know, feeding these opinions from -- directly to the president about what the general's preferences are as it relates to the formulation of policy, I think that may have been manifest in that move.
HARLOW: Bakari, I know you're not a fan of Steve Bannon. You made that very clear. But do you think that given him -- you know, if that is what's happening, less and less power, and Jared Kushner more and more power who's, what, 37 years old, and has had success in the private sector, but no government experience is the right move?
SELLERS: Well, personally, I don't think that Ivanka, Jared or Steve Bannon have the experience necessary to be in the White House and make these decisions that they're making, and have the direct ear of the president of the United States. With that being said, I mean, if I am going to have to choose world views one over the other, I think anyone who doesn't want to see the destruction, quote-unquote, "of the deep state," whatever that may mean, and wants us to be a leader in the world, would pick Jared Kushner over Steve Bannon any day of the week.
His history of Breitbart, his history of comments that have been made lend me and many others to believe that he has no place in the White House. Not in this administration or any other.
HARLOW: Look, this is still someone who has the president's ear and who is still very close to him. We'll see where this all lands.
Bakari Sellers, Kevin Madden, thank you.
MADDEN: Great to be with you.
SELLERS: Thank you.
HARLOW: All right. Over the weekend, more bloodshed in Syria. The very same site of that deadly chemical weapons attack last week hit by new airstrikes that are believed to be by the Assad regime or Russian aircraft. Much more on that ahead.
[10:41:19] HARLOW: More horrifying images out of Syria. At least 16 civilians are dead. At least 20 more injured and more airstrikes over the weekend. That is according to Syria's civil defense volunteer group the White Helmets. Those airstrikes are believed to have been carried out by Syrian or Russian aircraft.
This attack happened in the same province that was hit by a chemical attack just days before. This happened a day after the U.S. bombed that Syrian air base sending a message to the Assad regime.
Joining me now is someone who has extensive -- has spent extensive time on the ground in Syria. She was just there last month treating these innocent civilians, Dr. Annie Sparrow, critical care pediatrician.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for what you and all your colleagues are doing. Since you've been there so recently, can you talk to us about the desperation, but also what you now see as hope? You see hope after these airstrikes led by President Trump.
DR. ANNIE SPARROW, PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST: We do. Just the week before the chemical attack I lost another colleague, (INAUDIBLE), in another chemical attack. Very close. Literally just six miles away. And he was operating when the bomb comes, having to drive to the hospital, the gas has sinked (PH) down so in the OR you're particularly vulnerable. And he's one of so many colleagues and friends that I've lost in so many (INAUDIBLE) over the last six years. So on Tuesday morning actually we think it was kind of overkill. I don't think Assad or Putin wanted to draw international attention. And -- and then -- but then since then we've seen a lot of retaliatory strikes as you've shown.
Just over the weekend, there were five air raids using incendiary weapons, that means napalm and hostile weapons and all those kind of totally illegal ones and all on civilian targets. And that's a place where civilians are being targeted every day and the chemical weapons are obscene. But incendiary weapons that are only slightly less so.
HARLOW: And you go in knowing this. You mentioned your colleague, this doctor who is operating on a child who died because, you know, he was trying to finish the operation, the procedure, and he was choked to death by this. It's unbelievable. Will you go back knowing the danger you face?
SPARROW: My colleagues and friends will not let me go anywhere it's not safe. Raed Al Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, you know, we know what it is to lose colleagues. We don't try to put ourselves in the line of danger. On the other hand, there's no safe square inch for doctors in Syria because it's in opposition territory because it's always been targeted.
HARLOW: Would you say the Syrian people are more hopeful now about America's role after the air strikes last week?
SPARROW: Very much so. Really, in many ways very much so. I mean, at the end of the day Trump is a father and a grandfather, he has kids and grandchildren, and clearly he doesn't seem -- he doesn't like seeing kids die in such a horrible way any more than the Syrian parents do or we do. And that at the end of the day is kind of important. What it must be is not just a limited strike because of the Sarin, because there is such a small piece of the war. And so what we need to see is this conversation we're not just going to respond to one. We will respond every time.
HARLOW: A sustained response.
SPARROW: A sustained response. Absolutely.
HARLOW: Because you're right, the barrel bombs, the previous chemical attacks have killed more people.
SPARROW: Many more people.
HARLOW: Than this most recent attack. For people watching who feel helpless, who sees these images and it breaks their heart, and brings them to tears, what do you say to them? They're not physicians, they can't go over like you can to operate on these children. What can Americans en mass do?
SPARROW: What they can do is support the White Helmets who are the bravest group of volunteers.
[10:45:05] All volunteers, and they themselves have lost almost over 117 of their team, but they have rescued over 85,000 civilians, which is amazing. So you can do that. You can support a lot of the Syrian NGOs directly through groups like (INAUDIBLE) or other ways, and feel free to contact me. I know them all. But I think most important is that message of solidarity. That's why I keep going back because they need to see that we're here. And at the end of the day it's so important. I even take my 9-year-old son. I have been taking him for three or four years.
HARLOW: You take him?
SPARROW: I only take him to the border. But, you know, he gets it. And this is the real world. In a lot of ways to show support and that is so important because then you realize we're humans together and that's the best way to engage.
SPARROW: They're not terrorists. At least in Syria I'm a terrorist, too, because I'm a doctor. But we aren't terrorists, really. We're all human.
HARLOW: Dr. Sparrow, thank you so much for being here and even more for what you do for these people.
SPARROW: My pleasure. It's an honor.
HARLOW: Thank you very much. We'll be right back.
[10:50:02] HARLOW: So at any moment Justice Neil Gorsuch will be sworn in as the newest member of the Supreme Court in a public ceremony to be held with the president at the White House. This is actually his second swearing in ceremony this morning. Just last hours you're looking at pictures of that private ceremony with Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath, his wife holding the bible, his two daughters were there, as well.
You're also looking at some new pictures showing Gorsuch with his -- you see Chief Justice Roberts over there and other smiling colleagues alongside him, as well. And there you have it. It was obviously quite a contentious debate leading to this point with Republicans in the Senate using the nuclear option to get him confirmed. Meaning just a simple majority of 51 votes is needed.
Our senior congressional reporter Manu Raju is on the hill with more. This was a very big deal. This changed how the Senate works, you know, possibly forever. What's the reaction on the Hill this morning? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this morning
they're on recess right now, but I can tell you, Poppy. This was a huge development in terms of the Republican agenda. This has been a very difficult period, opening period for the new Trump administration. Not being able to get health care done as they want it to get done by the time they head home for this two-week recess in addition to doing other things legislatively. They have not been able to do that.
Getting Gorsuch confirmed, a huge accomplishment for Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, actually saying last week that the most consequential decision of his three-decade career in the Senate was his decision to leave that final Supreme Court seat vacant for an entire year. The final year of President Obama's term in order to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court and having to go through that process of -- of invoking the nuclear option to change the rules of the Senate to push Gorsuch through, infuriated Democrats.
In fact on the day of that confirmation vote on Friday, Mitch McConnell could be seen giving a high five to John Cornyn and some members of his staff. That had actually really angered some Democrats, including Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat who said it was a sad day for the Senate.
So you're seeing the dividing lines play out because of the hard ball tactics that the Republicans employed and concerns that perhaps this could be used, again, maybe even to change the filibuster rules for legislation which would really change the way this institution works. If a filibuster could be defeated by a simple majority. Right now Republicans are saying they will not do that, but clearly this Gorsuch move, a hugely significant move. Not just for the court, but for the Senate itself.
HARLOW: Right. Right. And look, and it works for Republicans favor this time. This is what they wanted. But when they're not in power will the Democrats use it on them? Potentially changing the Senate and how it works for this process forever.
Manu Raju on the Hill, thank you very much for that.
Moments from now Judge Neil Gorsuch will be publicly sworn in. You're looking at live pictures of the White House. A beautiful day in the nation's capital. A historic moment for this country, for this president is straight ahead. We'll see it all live right here on CNN. We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
[10:57:19] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. This is CNN's special live coverage of a historic moment in our nation's capital and our nation's history. The swearing in of Neil Gorsuch as the 113th justice of the Supreme Court. This happening any moment now. This will be, of course, part two of his official moments today. We have new photos just released of part one showing Gorsuch taking the constitutional oath administered, as you see right there, by Chief Justice John Roberts. That happened at a private ceremony at the Supreme Court just a short time ago.
And now this public swearing in ceremony is about to begin. You're looking at live pictures from the Rose Garden at the White House. Despite the drama leading up to this moment, it is no doubt a huge moment for President Trump. His pick to the highest court in the land will be taking the judicial oath just moments from now. It will be administered this time by Justice Anthony Kennedy who Gorsuch once clerked for. This as another bit of history to this day, this will be the first time ever that a justice will serve alongside one of his former clerks.
Along with the official swearing in, we expect to hear from the president and also from the man of the hour, the 49-year-old Appeals Court judge from Colorado who is about to take a lifetime position on the Supreme Court bench.
Very important news happening this hour. Jeff Zeleny is at the White House watching it all. He's in the Rose Garden where the ceremony is about to begin.
Jeff, they could not have asked for better weather. It was absolutely gorgeous in the Rose Garden. This is a big moment for the president, certainly a big moment for Neil Gorsuch. This is also a big moment for the country.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No question about it, Kate. It is a sun-splashed day here in Washington. Really, you know, the height of spring here in the Rose Garden. And you can say this is the probably one of the biggest moments, as well, of the Trump presidency so far, Poppy. There -- sorry, Kate. There have been some highs and lows, of course, throughout, you know, the first 11, 12 weeks of this administration. But the selection of Judge Gorsuch was certainly one of the highs and now that he is being sworn in is certainly part of the Trump legacy. No question.
And he asked Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, obviously, to help thank for this because as we saw last week they changed the rules of the Senate, which is historic as well. But Judge Gorsuch will sit on this Supreme Court for potentially 30 years or so. Perhaps longer. 49 years old as you said.
He'll be here in the Rose Garden with the president. The last time he was here at the White House of course was when he was announced by this president. And as one of the -- in terms of the strategic choices was viewed as the highlight of this administration and now today is the culmination of all of that.
And you said the fact about Justice Kennedy, as well. Historic, as well, that he will be swearing in someone who worked for him as a -- on the Supreme Court as a young man and now the judge will be -- being sworn in as 113th --