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tv   Wolf  CNN  April 5, 2018 10:00am-11:00am PDT

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first, i don't want to be there. i looked at the bush administration, i looked at obama. this isn't going to work, why are we there? now you create a vacuum and he'll get blamed if something bad happens. >> that off the cuff remark that he said before going through with his advisers and kind of running through this normal protocol, that's what put him in this situation he's struggling to get out of. thank you for joining us on "inside politics." we'll be back tomorrow. wolf starts right now. hi, i'm wolf bliltzer. it's 12:00 noon in washington. following the money trail. the special counsel eyes a new target with one big question. did russian oligarchs illegally
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funnel money into the trump campaign? it's a cnn exclusive. shoring up the border. president trump makes it official and sends u.s. military personnel south, feeding into his base as details of the plan remain rather scarce. and this just in. new trouble for the president's embattled epa president scott pruitt. the president is not pleased with pruitt's latest tv appearance in which he was hammered with a number of ethical scandals, including huge pay raises for eight. here is how it played out. >> i did not know about the pay raises until yesterday. >> one got 3,000, the other one is $6,000. one of your friends in oklahoma got a pay raise that's -- >> they did not get a pay raise. they did not. i stopped that yesterday. >> you stopped it. are you embarrassed?
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>> it should not have happened. and the officials involved in that process should not have done what they did. >> let's bring in senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny. jeff, there's been many reports that pruitt right now is on very thin ice. what are you hearing? what's the latest? >> reporter: there is no question that epa leader scott pruitt is on thin ice. as we were playing that interview, we got word from andrews air force base who asked the president a question as he was flying to west virginia this afternoon if he still had conference in his epa administrator. he answered, i do. so he does have confidence in his epa administrator, but this comes after a backdrop of what i was told earlier today that the president was not pleased with the outcome of that interview. he was watching the interview on fox news and was not pleased with the fact he was doing it, for one, and how poorly he seemed to be doing in that interview. all signs so far have been
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pointing to the fact that scott pruitt's days might be numbered here as more nfrinformation is coming out. one of his top advisers resigned this morning from the agency -- excuse me, wolf -- >> that is something we're watching as well. right now the president says he has confidence in him. but wolf, we have seen time and time again the president has said he has confidence and then a couple days later, sometimes hours later, sometimes weeks after the fact, that cabinet secretary is out. so this is the president's decision, his alone. he controls the timing on all of this. but the latest word from him just a few moments ago, he says he does have confidence in his epa administrator. >> we'll see how long that confidence lasts. jeff zeleny at the white house, thank you very much. let's bring in senior writer wanda summers and political panelist ryan lizza.
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you just heard the latest word from the president that he still has confidence in pruitt. >> scott pruitt at epa is seen as one of the president's most reliable cabinet secretaries. the president campaigned on cutting a number of these regulations at epa and scott pruitt has helped him carry out exactly that. i have to say this reminds me of a situation we heard around now former secretary david shulkin. the secretary not happy that david shulkin was speaking out there long before he was fired. he was speaking to cnn and other news outlets. he was told not to but he ultimately still lost his job. does he continue to push out more of this narrative, and is there more to any of these stories? i think that will tell us, really, whether or not he stays or goes. >> there's been several scandals. let me put a few of them up on this screen. the pay raises for some of his
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aides, then there was news he was renting a room in d.c. for just $50 a night from the wife of an energy lobbyist. plus the reports that he took dozens of first-class flights on taxpayers' dime, and he took clean water act decisions away from regional environment protection agency offices. with all those questions, why does he still have a job? >> that's my question. other people can cut regulations at the epa for donald trump and enact that kind of an agenda. there is no reason to hang on. you listed you wiall of the infractions that scott pruitt is responsible for. he's an ethic mess. ben carson, david shulkin, tom price. i'm going to forget the rest of the names because there have been so many people who have overstepped, not followed the rules, thought it was their playground. this is a narrative that is so outrageous that the president
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would allow this to continue. basically the president's word is meaningless. he has given a pat on the back to the kiss of death. i don't think he will make it to another tv interview. >> let me play a clip from what he said on fox. listen to this. >> president trump said he would drain the swamp. is draining the swamp renting an apartment from the wife of a washington lobbyist? >> i don't think that's even remotely fair to ask that question. >> you think it's a fair question? >> it's certainly a fair question. good, tough interview there from fox. look, he had to have known going into this job that he was going to be under a microscope, right? democrats, liberals who cared a lot about the epa, found this to be one of the better picks from
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donald trump. he had to have known he would be under u.s. scrutiny. the fact that he went ahead with this unusual arrangement with a lobbyist, getting pay raises, knowing that there was so much attention on his position because he had been so controversial at the epa, is just sort of mind-boggling. and i think one tea leaf that a lot of people in washington is looking at today is that one of his senior deputies, who he is very close to and has worked with him in a number of previous jobs -- i apologize, i'm forgetting her first name -- she has resigned. that tells us something, that someone that close to him who has been with him through his career has decided to leave the epa and she was very important there. >> he didn't just do an interview with fox news, he did an interview with the examiner. he said he's dumbfounded over the controversy. he also said this. do i think that because we're
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leading on this agenda there are some who want to keep that from happening? absolutely. do i think they will resort to anything to achieve that? yes. so he's really blaming what he's trying to do at the environmental protection agency, he's blaming those who are opposed to deregulation and other steps for the current problems he's having. >> i find that really interesting, and it makes me wonder if he knows what happened at the va, david shulkin saying the same thing. there is infighting at the department, they want to oust me, so i can't do certain things. it's interesting the way i took it that perhaps he is disagreeing on what the president campaigned of. they didn't sign a lees wiase w lobbyist that you or i couldn't necessarily have gotten. at least he's taking responsibility with the examiner that this is someone else's problem. >> maybe the president watched that interview he did with fox,
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was not very happy, and we all know fox is the president's favorite news network. and we all know that spokesmen go there and come out with a good interview. >> the fact that he was defiant rkdefiant, the white house telling him not to do any media, and he went there, anyway. ed was saying, who is responsible if you just found out about it yesterday? he said, i found out about it yesterday but he couldn't come up with a person who was responsible. it really seemed like he wasn't telling the whole truth in that interview, and that's why i believe if the white house doesn't trust him on pate raise thing, he'll be done shortly. >> now a new epa chief would require senate confirmation. that's going to drag on and on
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and on. i don't know if he wants to bother with that right now. >> right, he's got two problems. already the people in line -- a lot of conservatives in the administration, and for logical reasons many want him to stay. the president is trying to keep him in place to weather the storm. i don't think donald trump really cares that scott pruitt is cutting all these regulations with the epa. he doesn't keep people for idealogical reasons. if they embarrass him personally, he's happy to cut ties. >> bottom line, what do you think? >> i think we're in wait and see mode, but oftentimes that president giving the pat of the jack saying, he's got my full support, it means the exact opposite. >> we'll continue to assess
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what's going on and if there's any tweets coming from the white house any time soon. still ahead, the tpresident sends u.s. military troops to assad to stand guard at mexico as the details still very unknown. new details emerging with top security guards over in syria. thank y we have exclusive cnn reporting. that's next. it takes a lot of work to run this business.
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on life insurance. call the number on your screen. or go to discover what over a million families know. we shop. you save. . did wealthy russians funnel money to the trump campaign and inauguration? that's what the mueller team is trying to figure out with exclusive reporting. and did they have ties to
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vladimir putin? cnn reporter shimon prokupecz has more on this. shimon, tell us about the tactics that investigators are now employing. >> over the course of the last several weeks or so, fbi agents have been tracking some russian oligarchs that have been traveling to the u.s., and what we learned, at least in one case, they stopped one of them at a new york area airport and questioned the person, even searched his phones. they gave him a search warrant and they went through his phones, through his electronic devices, and essentially wanted to question him about what we've learned is perhaps straw donors that russians were using. there was some suspicion on the mueller team by investigators that the russians were using straw donors here in the u.s., u.s. citizens who would then in turn take that money and donate it to the campaign and perhaps maybe the inauguration. >> because it's illegal for
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american political campaigns to accept money for americans from foreign nationals. so you're saying they're vef investigating whether russians funneled money to american citizens who then gave money to the trump campaign. >> that's exactly right. >> but that's illegal if someone was getting money directly from the russians to do that. that would be conspiracy. >> it goes to the illegal conspiracy, it goes to k colluding. we know that colluding isn't in itself a crime, but they're looking to see if the russians interfered with the election. and if there was russians funneling this money to american citizens to hide that they are the ones doing these donations, that would essentially be a crime. >> what can you tell us about sanctions that the trump administration is now considering imposing on russian oligarchs, wealthy russians?
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>> we're told by administration officials that russians in connection to the russian interference of oligarchs and others will likely be sanctioned perhaps maybe today, could happen tomorrow. we were told by week's end, and we were specifically told that these were people connected, obviously, to president vladimir putin and also that had some connection to the 2016 interference by the russians in the election. >> very interesting. i want you to stick around. i want to bring in our panel also to discuss these late-breaking russia developments. we have cnn contributor and former u.s. attorney kim leighton. what do you make of these russian oligarchs stopping people in the u.s., stopping them at an international airport in the u.s., seizing documents and cell phones, other issues like that? >> the tactics make sense because there is something to the element of surprise when people aren't prepared to answer questions, they might be more
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candid. the idea of an oligarch, and an oligarch is a rich business person in russia that has close ties to the political process. the idea that these oligarchs are being sbiwept into this investigation really isn't a surprise. we had a sentencing hearing this week with someone who pled guilty to lying to the fbi about a relationship with rick gates. rick gates had connections with russian oligarchs, potentially. this person was the son-in-law of russians. we've seen robert mueller look into these investigations, and we don't want foreigners making decisions on our political aspects. people coming in, protecting our borders. we have had a situation where a foreign country has come in and mucked with our election, and i think it's an important development that the mueller
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team is getting as deeply as possible into it. >> adam, you're doing a lot of reporting on this as well. give us your big picture. >> i think it's complicated because you don't know if the oligarchs are taking orders from putin. are they do it independently? are they trying to impress putin by having connections with the administration? just for the sake of your own business interests, you might curry favor with the administration. i'm sure we could find israeli businessmen who might be doing the same thing. it's not always clear if russian oligarchy is doing things because president putin is encouraging them. or go to him afterwards and show the value in having created these relationships. so i'm sure mueller's team is realizing how murky this could be. >> we know he did indict 13
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russians. none of these russians are here. don't hold your breath waiting for russians to extradite them to the united states. >> i think down the line we may see other connections to this. we're still waiting to see if mueller indicts anybody on the hacking of the dnc and the don podesta e-mails. there is every suspicion that is going to happen, and we may see a bigger connection to all of that at that time when that happens, but certainly everyone we talk to here at cnn, there is expectation that more russians will be indicted. whether they'll be brought here, probably not, but there is still a lot of interest on the mueller team to bring out who in russia was part of this conspiracy. >> for everything the u.s. does to the russians, there will be an equal rebuttal.
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putin isn't going to say, let them do what they want. he'll start treating u.s. citizens visiting russia differently and vice versa. >> i'm glad to see we're actually taking actions from the executive branch to sanction russia in ways that hit their pocketbooks and might make an impact prior to the fall election. that being said, as you mentioned, he's not going to stand down very easily, and we're in a situation where our congress is not making many strides in terms of fighting back with this kind of attack on our democracy. so it ve's very, very important and i think trump deserves some credit for taking steps in this direction. >> trump can maybe get some credit for some of the actions he's taken against russia such as closing facilities and some expulsions. in this particular case, sanctions of the oligarchs, this
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is something he did not initially support. he really didn't have a choice so he's begrudgingly signed it. so he's doing it because he was mandated to do it and not because he thinks it's something he should do. i think he believes a personal connection between him and putin would solve all these problems. he's more realistic today about where the relationship may be heading than he had in the past. >> a couple weeks ago, he spoke to putin on the phone in the white house. did not raise in that conversation some of the most sensitive issues, and continuing, according to the u.s. intelligence committee, trying to meddle in the upcoming midterm elections. he supposedly also invited putin to come to the white house for a meeting. >> he doesn't use the talking
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points he was supposed to use. clearly, i think this is the act of a person who rlt is still clinging to the notion that he can somehow save this relationship from a race to zero, as they call it, where we'll end up with no russian diplomats in the united states and no american diplomats in russia. since that call, my understanding is there hasn't been any follow-up on that, and there is a realization in the administration that such an optics of such a meekting, even if trump really wants it, would sort of reinforce the notion of why isn't trump more tough on putin, at least rhetorically, even though he is taking some actions. why is he not as tough in his rhetoric when he deals with him? i personally think it has a lot to do with his hope that he can somehow create this bond, but we really don't know the truth to that. >> let me play this clip because
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we're almost out of time. this is what the president said about a possible improvement in relations with putin and russia. listen to this. >> getting along with russia is a good thing. getting along with china is a good thing. i think i could have a very good relationship with russia and with president putin, and if i did, that would be a great thing, and there is also a great possibility that that won't happen. who knows. >> at that note "who knows," we'll leave this there. guys, thank you very much for that conversation. we'll continue it down the road. coming up, president trump gets testy. new details about a tense meeting between the president and his national security team on syria. plus, more fallout after the poisoning of an ex-russian spy. has the u.k. just traced a dangerous nerve agent back to a secret russian lab? we'll have a live report. we're voya. we stay with you to and through retirement. so you'll still be here to help me make smart choices?
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rather than trump expressing support for his embattled environmental protection agency, behind the scenes the president is not happy with scott pruitt's combative interview with fox news. the president was pressed about pruitt as he departed for west virginia moments ago and was asked whether he still has confidence in pruitt. >> you could barely hear him but he said, i do, i do. pruitt is under fire for a few ethical scandals for two aides for $100,000 and renting a room from a washington lobbyist for just $50 a night. the order of national guard
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troops to the u.s.-mexico border. the president says he's responsible for u.s.-mexico border crossings being at a 16-year low, however, he says troops are still needed in mexico. the pentagon says it's working out how many troops are needed and what their needed for. >> again, we're working, that's what the cell is about, they will provide us with the requirements and then from that we'll determine how many and what's the mission and how many we'll deploy. >> meanwhile, the so-called caravan of central american migrants that appears to have sparked the president's tweet storm in recent days on immigration is making its way north as we speak. the migration event, as it's called, happens yearly. this year more than a thousand people are traveling north to mexichanicxico looking for a be life. some will stay in mexico to try to get refugee status there, but
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many are expected to come all the way to the u.s. border. leyla santiago is in mexico following these caravans. ed, do people want the national guard deployed to the area? do they see a need? >> reporter: it's interesting, it's a complicated question for many people here, wolf. by and large, when you talk to people on the street, residents here in border communities like laredo, texas where we are, this whole idea of militarizing the border is not something many people are fond of. having said that, there is still some support for it, and it's something, quite frankly, that many people here have become used to over the last 12 years or so. remember president bush deployed the national guard down here, as did president obama. they have played mostly support roles. it's not like they've been incredibly visible. it's not like you're seeing tanks or army teams deploying out and across the city. they have been in support roles.
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you don't see them out here on the banks of the rio grande where we are here this afternoon. we spoke with -- also spoke with the spokesperson for the border patrol union here in laredo. this is a group that isn't going to criticize president trump by any means, but they welcome the move. they say they are still understaffed by some 2,000 border patrol agents nationwide, and the national guard soldiers can come in and fill those gaps. they very much welcome that. but there is a sense that perhaps this money could be better spent elsewhere and in different ways, and that is one of the other large criticisms we're hearing of the move here as well from the president. wolf? >> let's go back to mexico right now. leyla, the president tweeted that there was a caravan headed toward the u.s. border with mexico is largely broken up. what is the case? what are you actually seeing, leyla, on the ground? >> reporter: well, listen, wolf, a part of this group, yes, has broken up quite a bit.
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but here's the thing. this is an annual event. it's actually a religious march, sort of a pilgrimage that people here use as a way to make a statement, and quite often it does break up at this point. typically they start on the southern part of mexico and they make their way up, people kind of drop off on the way. so organizers say, yes, that is happening, but to say that it's because of president trump, that's just not true. now, one of the folks that kind of broke off from the caravan, i have him right next to me. this is carlos diaz. he is one that was with the caravan -- he was with the caravan at some point -- i'm asking him where he's going. so he wants to get to the united states. [ speaking foreign language ] >> he's going to north carolina. he's on his way. so as you mentioned, wolf, while many are going to stay here in
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mexico, seek refugee status here, there are still some like carlos that are going to go to the u.s. now, carlos, he's from honduras. i'm asking him why he left. [ speaking foreign language ] >> he says there is a lot of economic problems in honduras, he doesn't have a job, there is little opportunity there. and he says that it is very much controlled by the violence and the gangs that are there. so carlos is just one example of people in this caravan that are still on their way. to your point, yes, they have broken up a bit, but still more expected to come here to puebla. this priest at this church still expects 20 more buses to arrive with a thousand more people today. carlos is one of the first, but they are expected to go from
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lajoca where they are now, to puebla, and then organizers say some 200 will head to the u.s.-mexico border to seek asylum. wolf? >> what happens when they get to the border -- i don't know if you want to ask carlos, leyla. are they confident they will be able to cross into the united states? will carlos then be able to make his way to north carolina? >> i'm going to specifically ask him what the national guard impact would be here. he says that he could keep going. so he says even if he's arrested or detained by the national guard or some sort of law enforcement on the border there, he's saying that he could either try to continue on to be deported back to honduras and then he would try to make the same trip again. because again, for carlos, this
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is about a better life. he's looking for a job. he's looking to flee the violence. he's got a family in honduras, so he's leaving behind children in honduras to try to reach the united states to be able to give his family a better life. i wanted you to meet a part of this caravan. [ speaking foreign language ] >> i'm asking him if it's a dangerous caravan as president trump says. he says he has a message for president trump. he says they are there to work and they want a better future for their family. to tap into his conscience and help the migrants that are struggling to just have a better life and a better future for their children. carlos, thank you so much. again, i wanted to just sort of put a face to this caravan.
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carlos is one of the first that has arrived here, but according to organizers, there are not only men, but women and children on their way right now to where we are. it's fortunate we are here and telling you how it stands for the annual sort of pilgrimage that always goes to the north, but it is breaking up a little bit, but you cannot necessarily say it is president trump doing that. >> leyla, thank you so much for that. taking us inside at least one individual's so-called caravan. ed lavandera and leyla santiago, we'll continue this story. when it comes to syria, u.s. troops are staying there for now and the president is not happy about that. we have new details of what is described as a heated national security meeting. termites.
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right now u.s. troops will remain in syria, but president trump isn't very happy about that. sources tell cnn that the president got irritated with his top military brass and national security team after they laid out the risks of an immediate withdrawal of some 2,000 u.s. troops from syria. joining us now, cnn military diplomatic analyst, retired rear admiral john kirby. and from damascus in syria, senior international correspondent fred pleitgen. fred, earlier this week president trump announced it was time to bring home those u.s. troops from syria. he said very soon. how are those mixed messages
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being received in damascus? >> reporter: it's really interesting to see because if you speak with folks within the syrian army, they are not even factoring the u.s. in the future of syria. i talked to some very senior soldiers and they were telling me they want to win back all of syria, they want to get back all of their territory. they didn't seem as though they were concerned about the u.s. being there for an extended period of time. it looks as though the syrian government, which is of course backed by the russians and the ukranians, it looks to them like syria wants to pull out sooner than later, anyway, and that is something we said in the past couple days and it really strengthens the hands of the russians and the ukranians in this part of syria and other parts of syria as well, wolf. >> what is the risk of pulling out those 2,000 u.s. troops?
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2,000 isn't 100,000 or 50,000. what is the risk of pulling them out quickly? >> hopefully we've averted this outcome of this latest decision, but if we pull them out of syria, you run them reconstituting. you run the risk of the country falling apart. and you give more oxygen to russia and iran, and frankly, turkey, who would like nothing better than the united states to lead so they can begin to pursue a syria that is in their interest and not necessarily the interest of the international community. >> listen to the director of the joint staff over at the pentagon. this is what he just said. listen to this. >> a lot of great work has been done in syria, very close to reaching an in-state against the caliphate. we think as we go forward one of the things we haven't been given is a timeline. that's actually very effective and that might have been a problem we saw before in afghanistan where we acted against the timeline that was known to the enemy.
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the president has actually been very good at not giving us a specific timeline. that's a tool we can use to our effect as we move forward. looking in the long term, obviously entities in the region, nations in the region -- >> he's making the case why the military thinks giving the adversaries advance warning about a timeline would be bad. >> it would be, and that was something the military bristled at with iraq and afghanistan under president obama, was we were telegraphing too much of our timeline. that said, wolf, and i agree with the general that it's good there hasn't been a specific timeline laid out yet. but the president has already telegraphed his intent. by doing that, he's given oxygen to partners on the ground, syrians in particular, who know they can't rely on the u.s. long term. they don't know exactly how long, but they know for not long. so they'll begin to partner with
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other allies they know they can count on, and certainly not all the allies they find will be sharing our interest in a stable syria. >> very quickly, fred, what are you hearing over there? you're on the ground, you're in syria. you're in damascus which is under control of the assad regime which is backed by the russians. what are you hearing from the kurds? >> especially the kurds -- i wouldn't say they are losing faith in the u.s. but they are getting there. keep in mind the kurds form a large part of syria. there are only 2,000 u.s. forces there, but as long as the u.s. force is there, it deters other nations from trying to infringe on their territory, and that's something obviously they think they'll lose if and when the united states pulls out. then you have to put yourself in the shoes of these folks who have been fighting alongside the
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u.s. what options do they have? certainly some of the moderate rebels that were on the ground here, they strive to cut a deal with the kurds. you know there is already some talks going on, so it certainly makes it difficult for them and you can see them losing faith in the united states, wolf. >> those kurds have certainly lost a lot of faith. fred pleitgen in damascus, john kirby in washington, thank you. they have pin pointed the source of a nerve agent attack on a former russian spy and his daughter, and it all leads back to russia. ♪ come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away. ♪ ♪ come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away. ♪
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for the first time since she and her father were poisoned by a nerve agent, the daughter of a former russian spy is now speaking out. yulia and sergei skripal were found slumped on a bench in london. investigators believe that russia is behind this attack. what did yulia, the daughter, say? >> reporter: wolf, this is the first remarks we've had from yulia skripal since she was poisoned weeks ago from that russian nerve agent. statement issued by the british metropolitan police, as they put it in a twitter feed, saying she woke up a week ago and is glad
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to say her strength is growing daily. she also expressed her thanks to the people of salisbury who came to her and her father's aid where they were, in her words, incapacitated. she is thanking the hospital for their professionalism. this statement comes after an audiotape was released on russian television of yulia skripal apparently having a conversation with her cousin, victoria skripal, here in moscow. rssian television has been playing this. take a listen.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> reporter: it's authenticated, as i say, but if it is, indeed, yulia skripal, she says that everybody is fine, saying that there is nothing that's wrong with him, basically, that is not fixable. if that is the case, this is the first indication, really, we've had about the condition of these two individuals, wolf. >> hopefully, they'll both be fine. very quickly, the u.s. diplomats, they're being kicked out as we speak right now from moscow? >> yeah. i think they've already been kicked out. today was the deadline earlier on this morning. there were buses that left the u.s. diplomatic compound here. they're already on the way back
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to the u.s. >> russian diplomats have been kicked out of washington as well. thank you very much for that, matthew chance, reporting for us from moscow. coming up, the president insists he still has confidence in his embattled epa chief. what is he saying behind the scenes? we'll have a live report.
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i'm brianna keilar in for brooke baldwin. trump is to address round table. while boarding air force one president trump was asked, point blank, do you have confidence in epa administrator scott pruitt. his resounding two words, i do. meanwhile, pruitt has been facing a steady stream of scandals and he did not please the president and other officials as he just appeared on