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to mow faster, better. take a test drive and save up to 250 dollars on select john deere residential ztrak mowers. and a good saturday afternoon to you. i'm richard lui live in new york city. just in to us here at msnbc, a new letter to congress from president trump after the fact defense of his military moves in syria. the details of that letter coming up. plus, a new response from russia. we have the translation of a frank phone call between the u.s. and russia. plus, in the last hour president trump tweets, he explains the intended targets of those air strikes in syria, aircraft runways included. all righty. we'll start off with this, new round of condemnation this afternoon from moscow over the u.s. missile strike in syria. this as it claims bashar al assad's chemical attack on men, women and children which horrified the world may not have
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been a chemical attack after all. secretary of state rex tillerson heads to russia this coming week, but today he talked with his russian counterpart, foreign minister sergey lavrov. the russians say lavrov told tillerson that the u.s. strike plays into extremist hands. lavrov also suggesting the claims of syrian armed forces engaging in chemical warfare this week, quote, are not consistent with the reality. the white house vows it is not done with assad after the attack that triggered thursday night's missile strikes. but russian president vladimir putin warns the u.s. response dealt a significant blow to relations between the kremlin and washington. russia is now sending a warship to the mediterranean. nbc's chief white house correspondent hallie jackson is in palm beach, florida, with the president on this day. near the president's mar-a-lago estate. where do you want to start, the latest on the letter and perhaps the tweet? >> reporter: yeah, let's start there, richard. these are significant developments. the president, the white house has now sent a letter to the
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house speaker. i want to read you part of it if we can pull it up here. it is essentially his rationale for acting citing the war powers resolution. he says i acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the united states, referencing the syrian air strike, pursuant he says to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as commander in chief and chief executive. he also says that the united states will take additional action as necessary and appropriate to further its important national interests. it's significant in that this is something some members of congress had been calling for. but they want to see my sense is more than simply this letter, richard. they want to hear from the president in a more detailed way about his strategy for syria, even some who supported the strike would have liked to have seen consultation prior, although the president of course is acting in his role as commander in chief and would like to see more now about what the plan is going forward. that's still a question as far as the trump administration's policy on syria. you also referenced the tweet that he just sent out, i think within the last hour, where he
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talks about hitting runways and why runways, the runways at this air base were not targeted. he said because they're easily filled in. we will tell you that seems to be the consensus from military experts who've been assessing this strike over the last 48 hours since it happened that runways are generally targets that can be repaired more quickly as opposed to for example planes or other parts of the base, which these tomahawk missiles struck, richard. the president while he is just i think north of us in mar-a-lago, he spent the day at his golf course, at the resort. he is still obviously plugged in either on his phone or on his computer sending out some tweets as we often see his do on these saturdays. >> yes, made the weekends very busy. because things come in three we also have the translation between the discussion of the u.s. and the united states, the big headline from that, they're questioning whether this was sarin gas at all or chemical attack for that matter. >> right. and talking about, richard, in this phone call about the emphasis on getting to the
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bottom of the facts, if you will. and it is some tough talk here from moscow. and all of it is setting up this trip from the secretary of state next week to russia, this face-to-face meeting. to say tensions are going to be high is probably a bit of an understatement here. this is a cig kapt moment, not just on the policy front and not just on the international diplomacy front, but for rex tillerson too, right? for the first several months of the trump administration there were questions about what kind of role he would play, that he hadn't been stepping into the spotlight and asserting his authority as secretary of state. what we have seen over the last 48 hours is secretary tillerson stepping into the spotlight, talking with reporters, briefing them about this syrian air strike and the international fallout. we've also seen with national security advisor h.r. mcmaster too in what has been his first very significant moment publicly in this administration. so, yes, plenty of news on this weekend to keep us busy, richard. i imagine more will be coming out tonight and tomorrow here in palm beach. >> thank you so much, hallie,
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nbc's chief white house correspondent stopping by for us. thank you. the president praised the military for friday's missile strike but was not so clear on future strategy. question remaining did this strike signal a shift in syrian policy or a one-off act. cal joins us with more on that. what does this mean and what do we have to consider in that question? >> we have to consider the battle space here. the battle space is very complicated. in red we have areas controlled by the syrian government. that's a bit misleading. that really means areas controlled by the russian military. they're basing their operations really around two port cities in the north sort of western part of the country. that's where they're doing these sort of antiaircraft missile batteries. that's where we sent the tomahawk missiles instead of aircraft. raqqah is going to be the next big fight. this is where the chemical attack allegedly took place. what we're noticing about this chemical attack and let's be clear there have been dozens. this wasn't the first one, this
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wasn't the first time americans have struck inside syria. there have been 7,000 air strikes in syria. this was the first one directed at assad. but we noticed that these chemical weapons are being used in places where the syrian army is perhaps not as powerful as it wants to be on the ground. that's why we saw that chemical attack there, richard. >> all right. kal perry, thank you so much. we'll talk to you more in a second or two. let's bring in nbc news beth fouhey and co-host of beyond the bubble podcast and curtis lee, national reporter for "los angeles times." let's start with this on the latest piece of news here, beth. that is we've got three items that came in within the last hour. we have reaction from president trump about the targets of those missiles, number one. number two, we also have the letter that comes from president trump for congress. and then number three, we have the translation of a conversation that happened between the u.s. and the united states. what would you like to pick and what does this mean moving forward to this coming tuesday? >> well, what it all means is
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that we're learning more and more about how this all went down and why the president made the choices he did. it's still very unclear. i would say even as we get these little pieces of information to put it all together to see an overall strategy that makes sense. that's not clear here. we see some steps that were taken that make it sound like it was a very professionalized operation. on the other hand, we don't really see a tick tock to how this all came about and where it's going next. that's what we don't really know. we're still lacking a doctrine here from trump that kind of helps us understand what his thinking is in terms of how the strike fits into an overall approach it syria. >> and we see reaction coming from russia specifically, katie. i'll read directly from the translation that came from moscow. it reads the minister also noted the assertions about the syrian armed forces using chemical warfare on april 4th are not with the reality. are we going to see then an
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argument made this was not sarin? now, thursday early indications coming from turkey it probably could be sarin, fl might be more tests done. >> certainly. this is the latest pushback from the russians at sort of every level to the american actions that were taken over the last week. what i'm very interested to watch the extent to which that ends up shaping the conversations we see between secretary tillerson and russian officials this week. if that is one more element of what is become an increasingly complicated dynamic, i mean, of course it's interesting because just a couple weeks ago president trump's critics were saying perhaps going to be too soft on russia and now certainly this week is coming to a head. >> yeah. so there's all these layers to it, curtis. sergey lavrov not absent of the fact president trump being on his heels here domestically. on all of his early moves when it comes to policy. and this perhaps a small win for him as he moves forward.
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but this idea that sergey lavrov might say, united states, you got it wrong, this was not sarin, this could be the drum beat that we're going to be hearing coming from russia. >> this certainly could be something that we hear moving forward. and, i mean, this is a big meeting that's going to take place in the coming days between rex tillerson and russian officials. i mean, this is a time when here in the united states we're seeing a lot of, you know, coverage on capitol hill, the russian probes into the trump campaign's possible ties to russia during last year's campaign and now moving forward with this attack in syria. we're seeing a clear split in the way u.s. intelligence officials view it compared to russians. >> interesting note as we're looking at pictures of rex tillerson, secretary of state here, about who is rex tillerson has been sort of the question over the last bunch of weeks, since the beginning of this administration. we're seeing who rex tillerson is a smidgen at least. is this the coming out party
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basically the secretary of state? >> well, we knew when he was named secretary of state he was the former chief at exxon and had a very close relationship with russian officials and spent quite a bit of time there. that was seen as a real positive for some people assessing his qualifications for the job. it was seen as a bit of a detraction to others just because everybody's still wondering why trump has this very reverential apparently view of putin and we're learning more and more about the other relationships to russia that exist in his universe. so now this is going to be really a test. we know that russia is not happy with this move. we've heard complaints now from several russian officials that this is caused a breach in a relationship that was already sort of strained. can he step forward as his own person, as his own america's chief diplomat to either repair this or to reach some sort of understanding about how to go forward in syria. president trump has spoken in the past of wanting to work more closely with russia on solving the problem there, but there's no indication what that means.
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>> what does this mean here, katie, for the meeting coming up, rex tillerson, sergey lavrov? he's going to be in russia, obviously vladimir putin going to be in the mix there. what's the headline this administration needs coming out of next week's meeting? >> well, you know, in part the reason that the administration continued to talk about the importance of facilitating closer ties with russia was this idea that closer cooperation with russia could allow for a stronger pushback to isis. so certainly you can see a scenario where that is still discussed and certainly the u.s. does want to look for opportunities for partnerships there. but of course, you know, that dynamic has been completely turned on its head given the events of the last couple days and the very har pushback we're seeing from the russians. so that creates perhaps even bigger task for secretary tillerson in terms of resetting that relationship. >> cal perry still with us here, cal, you were based in iraq for another news organization and now currently here with us.
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tell us about the manics we've just been talking about within the last hour, the question of whether it was sarin gas or not. the meeting that is upcoming with rex tillerson, what's your thought? >> well, i would start by saying, you know, those kids were dying of something and it clearly wasn't brute force or wounds from an explosion. certainly there was a chemical agent there involved. another interesting thing is if the russians are now saying that chemical weapons were not used, that's going to raise the interesting question of, well, how closely are they working in concert with the syrian army? one of the big questions about this was if assad chose to use chemical weapons, wouldn't he need to perhaps run it past the russians? the big picture here is russia is interested in what is best for their self-interests. if that includes bashar al assad, great. if it doesn't, well, what they want is someone who's going to follow the orders of moscow in damascus. that's what they care about. there's no really longstanding friendship between vladimir putin and bashar al assad that
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we need to be mindful of. what we need to be mindful of is russia will continue to act in their self-interests. and bashar al assad will do anything, anything to survive. we saw his father use chemical weapons 50 years ago. now he's doing that when it looks like he's in trouble. that's what this is about. and it's possible, i think, and we been talking about it all day, it's possible that perhaps the u.s. secretary of state finds an opening here in talking to the russians, in sorting this out in some way, shape or form. america wants bashar al assad gone. russia i don't think really cares who runs syria as long as they have those ports and as long as they are able to continue to sort of dictate the battle space, which they have now for years. >> well, let's build on what you're saying there, cal. to you on this as we look at the conversation here, give me your thought on the very topic itself here, curtis, of is that a winning headline? what cal just brought up, is that a winning headline coming out of the meeting that rex tillerson will be having for this president, for this
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congress? >> i think that, you know, in these days ahead what the administration needs is, i mean, they just need to get there and get clarification -- not necessarily clarification but discuss the issues going on in syria because there's clearly a divide. whatever the headline is, i think they just want to show they're communicating and looking to resolve the issue that's been going on in syria since 2011. and obviously they're on two separate sides of the divide on this. >> all right, beth, cal, katie, kurtis, thank you all four. appreciate it. >> thank you. up next, more on russia's response to the u.s. air strikes on syria and how it will play into rex tillerson's trip to moscow next week. friends. i have a great fit with my dentures. i love kiwis. i've always had that issue with the seeds getting under my denture. super poligrip free. it creates a seal of the dentures in my mouth. even well fitting dentures let in food particles just a few dabs of super poligrip free is clinically proven to seal out more food particles so you're more
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[ [ screams ] ] [ shouting ] brace yourself! this is crazy! [ tires screeching ] whoo! boom baby! rated pg-13. [ screams ] secretary of state rex tillerson is going ahead with a
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planned visit to moscow next week even as tensions in the region escalate. today tillerson spoke on the phone with russia's foreign minister sergey lavrov. in addition to discussing the air strikes, lavrov emphasized russia's view that attacking a country like syria whose government is fighting against terrorism plays into the hands of extremists creating more threats in the region and around the world. nbc's bill neally joins us from moscow with the latest. bill. >> reporter: good afternoon, richard. there's no question this visit, the first by any senior trump cabinet official to moscow will be significant and will be a challenge for rex tillerson. he is known here, he was even honored at one point by vladimir putin. but the russians will want to signal their opposition to u.s. missile strikes. he is due to meet russia's foreign minister sergey lavrov, the question is will president putin personally signal his displeasure by refusing to meet rex tillerson?
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and for mr. tillerson himself, he treads a very fine line. he wants to be tough in showing exactly why america launched those missiles. but he also wants to accomplish the central plank of donald trump's foreign policy toward russia, and that is better relations with moscow. he's already been pretty tough. i mean, he did say a couple days ago that russia was either complicit in syria's chemical weapons attack, or it was incompetent because it knew nothing about the fact that chemical weapons were stored at that base. so he's already talking tough. one of his diplomats of course nikki haley at the u.n. talking very tough at that emergency session yesterday. now, mr. tillerson will come here off the back of the g7 gathering in italy. and he will want to bring a united message from the west to moscow. and interestingly today the british foreign secretary boris
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johnson canceled his visit here to moscow early next week. he said in order to send a clear and coordinated message to the russians, a message that will be delivered by rex tillerson. the russians have been sending their own message here this morning. the foreign ministry spokeswoman has been on state television commenting on the missile strike, which russia of course condemns. and also commenting on rex tillerson. and she said the missile strike is not part of washington's strategy because washington doesn't have a strategy. she said the only thing that's predictable about american policy at the minute is the unpredictability of the u.s. policy. and i do think that chimes with some things people are saying in the u.s. as well because one missile strike is a tactic, it sends a message to the russians, but it's not a strategy. it says nothing about what president trump wants to do in the long term. where is the strategy on
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president assad? where's the strategy to end this war? where is the diplomatic and political strategy in the months ahead? that's another question that rex tillerson may have to answer here in moscow. it's a question the russians too will want answered. richard. >> bill, thank you so much. nbc's bill neely for us in russia. joining us representative democrat from california also sits on the house committees on the armed services and budget. thank you for being here, representative. the president just issued a letter to congress. we were just mentioning at the top of the hour it reads in part here i acted in the vital national security foreign policy interests of the united states pursuant to my authority to conduct foreign relations and as commander in chief and chief executive. again, that's in part. representative, was this attack based on what the president is saying here? was it legal? >> it was not. and it's not just a sub substantiate process issue that
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he didn't come to congress. it's also a substantive issue. we should have learned from our attack in iraq which caused a lot of the problem in libya that these types of missile strikes are not effective. so there's obviously the constitutional issue that he needs to come to congress, but there's also the wisdom of the attacks themselves. >> supporters say, representative, this was done before by previous administrations alluding to the aumf and the aumf giving that ability to employ such attacks. do you accept that the aumf does give him that authority? if not, would you make some adjustments to it? >> i think the aumf in 2001 was overbroad. it had no time restriction or geographic restriction. and president obama recognized that he had to come to the congress in 2013 when the situation happened. president trump should have followed the same protocol. but i do want to get to the broader point, this was caused
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by attack in iraq. that's what led to so many folks fleeing into syria since 2001 when the terrorists were confined on the afghanistan/pakistan border, every time we have intervened in iraq, in libya, it has created more terrorism. and so we really need a justification for what the goal is here. and one would hope we've learned for the last 15 years of meddling that we've made matters that are bad worse. >> what do you make of the reaction as i move on to the other development of this hour and it is a translation of a discussion that happened with rex tillerson, the secretary of state as well as sergey lavrov, the foreign minister from russia, statement in part saying here and i was asking some of our guests earlier this hour the same question, it reads in part here, quote, the minister also noted that the assertions about the syrian armed forces using chemical warfare on april 4th are not consistent with the reality. basically saying this was not a chemical attack. your response to that?
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>> i don't think the russians are innocent here. i do think the evidence points to that this was a brutal chemical attack. and we need to work with the russians and put pressure on the russians to have an international tribunal for war crimes, to take this to the international court of justice and to investigate the war crimes and prosecute the war crimes. we ought to have the moral high ground here. and this is what the missile strikes undermine. we ought to be saying to the russians they have concerns with the sunni muslim population in their own country, and if they are so tied to assad with these type of chemical attacks, they're going to have a domestic problem. so i think what this provides us an opportunity to work with the russians to create an international tribunal for war crimes and we ought to keep that drum beat and put pressure on them to do that. >> under the umbrella of international affairs and military strategy here as we look at this young president, if you will in terms of his time in the administration, how do you see this evolving over time?
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the question of soft power versus hard power, his current budget showing he has an emphasis on hard power and a de-emphasis of soft power. >> well, i think you raise a great point. i mean, the one thing that came out of this is the president expressed sympathy for folks in syria who are facing horrific circumstances. and i would hope he'd act on that by changing the refugee policy, the united states should welcome some of these refugees and fund humanitarian aid for countries who are taking in syrian refugees. he ought to be funding the united nations and state department that are engaged in humanitarian affairs. those are the things that the president should do if he's really concerned with the plight of folks in syria. and we ought to be working for a diplomatic solution with all the parties for immediate cease-fires so that we can put some restrictions on the violence. i mean, look, the situation in
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syria is awful. and there's no magic bullet. and what assad allegedly did, and there's evidence, is appalling. but what we need to do is figure out a real solution that's going to reduce violence and not get entangled in another middle eastern war that the american people are wary of. >> would you before the missile strikes if he had done this after consulting congress? >> i would not have. and the reason is i don't think it achieves anything. we are -- there's a risk of mission creep that what are we going to do next time assad uses conventional weapons to massacre civilians? as it is i think there was a report today 50 civilians died, is the president going to intervene every time we have civilian casualties? there is only one way to resolve this and that is a diplomatic solution. we need to call for an international tribunal. we need to put pressure on russia, which has again a sunni muslim population in its own
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country to stand up for basic human rights. and we need to have all the actors involved to have cease-fires in that area. you know, syria went through this in world war i. they had colossal loss of life and they managed to recover, but the only way to solve the situation is diplomatic. and america should lead in that. the military strikes just one last time we tried this in iraq. syria, isis was kcreated becaus of the instability in iraq. then we went to libya and terrorism spread. my case is look at where the terrorism was in 2001. it was at the afghan/pakistan border. look at where terrorism is now. what have we gotten from intervention across the world? it has not been successful. >> democratic congressman ro kahana from california, thank you. >> thank you. a suspect in the deadly truck attack in sweden now in custody. up next, what investigators learned about him and what was found inside that truck. (vo) love.
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i'm richard lui in new york. here are the headlines we're watching here on msnbc this hour. president trump sending a letter to congress on the syrian air strikes. in it the president goes into detail on his objective to promote stability of the region and overt further humanitarian catastrophe. after the russians pointed out that there was very little damage at the base hit by u.s. tomahawk missiles, president trump tweeted this. runways are not targets because they are, quote, easy and inexpensive to quickly fix. secretary of state rex tillerson spoke on the phone with russian counterpart sergey lavrov today. lavrov reportedly telling tillerson that the u.s. air strikes plays into extremist hands. investigators say they have identified the suspect in friday's deadly truck attack in sweden. officials say the suspected driver is a 39-year-old man from uzbekistan. police say they also found a device in the driver's seat of the hijacked truck. today the country's crown princess and prince visited the
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location where four people were killed and 15 others were injured. sweden's prime minister called the attack a terrorist act there and declared monday to be a national day of mourning. so far no group has claimed responsibility for that attack. now for more nbc's keir simmons. keir. >> reporter: hey there, richard. good day to you. once again the newspapers in a major european country are filled with pictures of the aftermath of an attack in which a vehicle was used as a weapon. you can see just shocking images. and on this one, the truck that slammed into the department store. that truck hitting the department store behind me. the truck has now been removed. and police saying that they do believe that they have arrested the driver of that truck. reports here unconfirmed by nbc news say that the suspect is a 39-year-old from uzbekistan who had posted jihadist propaganda online. comparisons, richard, will be
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made, in particular with that attack in london. that taking place near the british parliament. this attack just five blocks away from the parliament here in stockholm. the truck had traveled five blocks along the pedestrian street behind me there. there are ten people still in hospital. one of them a child, four dead. richard. >> keir simmons, thank you so much. the aftermath of the chemical attack in syria, the u.s. its response and what it all means for the ongoing refugee crisis. s built with passion... but i keep it growing by making every dollar count. that's why i have the spark cash card from capital one. with it, i earn unlimited 2% cash back on all of my purchasing. and that unlimited 2% cash back from spark means thousands of dollars each year going back into my business... which adds fuel to my bottom line. what's in your wallet?
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the horror of a chemical attack against civilians in syria has prompted international outrage. and the u.s. to respond with air strikes. among those reacting to the military action, the president's former rival, hillary clinton. >> i also hope that they will recognize that we cannot in one breath speak of protecting syrian babies and in the next
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close america's doors to them. >> according to humanitarian aid groups, the war has claimed 470,000 lives. nearly 5 million syrians have been forced to flee. more than 6 million have been displaced. and more than half of the country's population needs humanitarian assistance. now, despite these grim statistics, the horrific images that we have seen, the pleas from children and civilians, the war continues nonstop. for more on this i'm joined by anwar khan, anwar, thanks for being with us. what are the pictures not showing us? >> it's been six years and the children have been crying for help. intermittently we see pictures coming, we respond and then we don't help until the next crisis comes. we were hearing about aleppo, aleppo fell. we knew that our officers in id
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lib would have to be busy with an attack we expected over there, and then we hear about the chemical attacks this week. this has been ongoing. it's brutal. it's been ongoing for six years this pain and misery for over six years. >> when you talk with your affiliates, those who work in the space, what are they telling you about what just happened this past week? >> they're telling us that there's a need, they were expecting attacks to happen. the chemical attack they've tried to send patients have gone to some of the nearby hospitals. they themselves were bombed this week. so at the same time as the chemical attack happened, the hospitals in the area that tried to help, they were damaged. much of the equipment, some of the medicine there has been destroyed. and local hospitals are trying to find other areas where they can relocate to help temporarily. at a time when they're needed
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more than ever before. >> anwar, if they are expecting these grim attacks, how do they react and defend themselves from this? looking at the pictures, it doesn't seem that they have any defense. >> they're praying. they're praying. and they are knowing when they leave their home they may not come back, every day. that's the situation right now. they don't know if they'll see their kids in the morning, if they're going to see them every time they leave the house, if they're going to be there when they come back. our offices in the area don't have local many humanitarian organizations don't use locals in this area out of fear of being attacked. >> one of the responses as you're alluding to here is their defense is we need to leave our home. and therefore brings in the refugee crisis that has been talked about. what are you hearing from your folks on the ground there in
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terms of where they're going and how that crisis is evolving now today? >> this is why people flee. i've seen -- i was in idlib earlier. refugees in jordan, turkey, lebanon, greece, germany, this is why people are leaving. this is why they come to america. they don't want their children to die in their arms. they're trying to find sanctuary. >> sanctuary in the united states, sanctuary in the west, sanctuary in countries all around the world. what other countries besides the united states are key to the syrian refugees? >> most of the syrian refugees aren't in america. very few have been allowed to come to america. most of the syrian refugees are in jordan, lebanon, turkey. that's where the bulk of them are. europe has taken some of them as well. we have taken very few here in america. we shouldn't just care about the kids over there.
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we should also care about them over here. that's our tradition in this country when we've helped refugees who have fled violence from around the world. >> anwar khan, thank you so much for sharing what's happening on the ground. something we can't forget as we talk at the headlines that have happened in the last week. appreciate your time. >> thank you. >> the national security council has presented the president with a list of options for handling north korea, that is if diplomacy does not work. it is an nbc news exclusive next. ♪
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briathe customer app willw if be live monday. can we at least analyze customer traffic? can we push the offer online? brian, i just had a quick question. brian? brian... legacy technology can handcuff any company. but "yes" is here. you're saying the new app will go live monday?! yeah. with help from hpe, we can finally work the way we want to. with the right mix of hybrid it, everything computes. while the focus has been on military action in syria, there's another looming threat. north korea was a central issue for president trump and chinese president xi jinping, this at their meeting in florida this week. nbc news has learned details about top secret military options presented to the president should diplomacy and sanctions fail with north korea. nbc news chief investigative
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correspondent cynthia mcfadden has more on that. >> reporter: multiple top ranking intelligence and military officials tell nbc news that if diplomacy fails with north korea, president trump's national security council has presented him with some highly controversial courses of action. first, placing u.s. nuclear weapons in south korea. an aggressive show of force. the u.s. withdrew all nuclear weapons from the korean peninsula 25 years ago at the end of the cold war. >> i don't think that's a good idea. i think that it will only inflame the view from pyongyang, the idea that we would use a nuclear weapon even against north korea is highly unlikely. >> reporter: the former u.s. ambassador to south korea also believes bringing back nukes to south korea is a bad idea. but that it is very much being discussed in seoul. >> it's an interesting debate in south korea. what i would say is that public
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support for reintroduction of tactical nuclear weapons is climbing. some polls put it well over 50%. >> reporter: a second option, target and kill north korea's leader, kim jong-un, and other senior leaders in charge of missiles and nuclear weapons. >> decapitation is always a tempting strategy when you're faced with a highly unpredictable and highly dangerous leader. the question you have to ask yourself is what happens the day after you decapitate. i think that in north korea it's an enormous unknown. >> reporter: pushing for regime change could also cause trouble with the chinese. >> discussions of regime change and decapitation tend to cause the chinese great pause or concern and tends to have them move in the opposite direction. >> reporter: a third option, covert action. infiltrating u.s. and south korean special forces into north korea to sabotage or take out key infrastructure. for instance, blowing up bridges to block the movement of mobile
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missiles. the cia, which would oversee such operations, told nbc news it could offer no guidance on this option. >> the best strategy we could undertake if we are forced to reach to a military operation would be some combination of special forces with south korea and cyber. >> reporter: should all of these options be under discussion? >> it's mandatory to present the widest possible array of options. that's what enables presidents to make the right decisions, when they see all the options on the table in front of them. >> nbc's cynthia mcfadden with that report. thank you so much. and whether any of these options are adopted hinges in large part here on what happens with china and whether they agree to put more pressure on north korea. senior officials tell nbc news that for now that issue has been upstaged by military action in syria, but soon enough they expect it to be back front and center. coming up for you, kushner's up, bannon's down. how the reported power struggle in the west wing might play out. hanging out in here.
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the white house under donald trump has been nothing, if not male dominated, yet things are getting pretty catty over at the executive mansion. big dog steve bannon is on the outs. so it's being reported. now that his seat on the nsa is lost. the chief strategist is also said to be at odds with the president's son-in-law. 36-year-old jared kushner, husband of ivanka, is said to be the rising star in the president's orbit. that's not endeared him to bannon, the former breitbart brawler. bannon is said to be calling kushner the democrat behind his back and all of this has led to action by the president. a fed up and frustrated president trump turned to his two top aides and told them he had enough of their incessant knife fights in the media. work this out, he reportedly said. the president keeps to his plan of playing top aides against
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each other. joining us is the aclu's political director and dave hoppy of hoppy strategies. let's start with this. which is better for the united states, whether bannon is on the ups or kushner is on the ups. i'll start with you on this. >> i think this debate reflects the fact that donald trump is a poor manager. he's responsible for creating this chaos around him. if he wants to try to blame steve bannon for his own problems, that's weakness. that's cowardliness. he's the one tweeting about crazy things that the former president was wiretapping his phones. he's the one making the decisions to repeal the affordable care act, to institute the muslim ban. at the end of the day, if he wants to put that on to somebody else in his administration, that feels like weakness and throwing somebody under the bus for his own failures. >> dave, which is better for america, which is better for this president, whether it's kushner on top or bannon on top?
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>> i don't think that's the key question. the key question is how do they resolve this because it's not unusual for new presidents, especially coming from outside of washington to have several people who they are working with in their senior group. somebody has to pull in front and be the one who handles all of this who is the top equal first among equals. if you look at the reagan administration, one of our most successful presidents, there were three individuals who were really taking leadership for the first eight or nine months before jim baker took the senior lead and became the first among equals. that's starting to happen here in the trump administration but it's not unusual for the first few months of a new administration to have several people, all of whom are trying to work for the president the best way possible. at some point, you have to come down and have a first among equals. that is necessary. that's the way a white house can work most efficiently. >> which is better for this president, which is better for america. speaking of jim baker. i have some sound. the reagan-era power player.
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this is what he said about the situation. >> there are any number of people in this white house who have broad and rather undefined responsibilities that cut across both domestic and foreign policy. it's very difficult under those circumstances to have a coordinated, single focused message and that's something that's very important to the success of an administration. >> vaz, too many folks here battling for power is what i believe dave was saying, too. >> and the lack of strategic knowledge and policy depth amongst that small crowd. so you look at ivanka, jared kushner. you even look at bannon. you look at steve miller, some of the people in the photo who the president trusts as being his inner voice and his inner conscience on policy. and they're not people who have a great depth of experience. so it's no surprise then that when you get into some of these situations that require some level of policy depth that he
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doesn't have anything interesting or intriguing or important to say. he doesn't have a plan to articulate and make it effectual. n then he wants to blame then because it's their fault. it's the president's fault. he is not taking the responsibility for his own incompetence and failures. >> dave, isn't this also a battle not only of two individuals but two doctrines. one very nationalist and one that may be a little more moderate coming from the kushner side? >> i think they have different views. once again, there's nothing wrong with having different views as long as you can put them together and present to the president the alternatives. and somebody needs to lead that team. that's the point we're at now. there are several people in the white house who could take that job and be that person, that first among equals but that decision has to be made. >> who do you think ends up on top here? >> i think reince priebus is sthe one who can do this job. he's the leader right now. he has to be given that authority by the president and has to take it himself. so the group has to understand
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that reince is the first among equals. at this point, reince is the most likely choice. >> vaz? >> it shouldn't be reince because he needs a bipartisan approach, donald trump does. reince is a republican party operative. i'd think about somebody willing to woirkt chuck schumer and nancy pelosi. if he doesn't have that person, he has to go find them. >> thank you both. >> thank you. that wraps up this hour for me, richard lui. you can find me on twitter, facebook and instagram. give us your story ideas and thoughts. my colleague yasmin vossoughian is up next on the fallouts from the air strikes in syria. also reaction from russia at the top of the hour. stick around for that. ♪ ♪
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syria. and an extraordinary claim by the kremlin. russia now suggesting the chemical attack that brought world outrage, the one that moved president trump to carry out air strikes after seeing images like thyseese was not rey a chemical attack. sergey lavrov told rex tillerson today the assertions about the syrian armed forces using chemical warfare are not consistent with the reality. nbc white house chief correspondent hallie jackson is in florida for us. so secretary of state tillerson heading to russia this coming week. any response during his phone call today? >> not at this point. it was very frank, tough talk to the secretary of state and it certainly sets the table for what you are talking about which is that very important now increasingly important meeting next week when secretary of state tillerson heads to moscow. we've seen him take on a more visible role before and since th