Gen. Jack Keane reacts to US airstrikes in Syria; Rubio: President had legal, moral authority to attack

Retired general and Fox News military analyst provides insight on 'Hannity'


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 6, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: This is a Fox News Alert, President Trump moments ago reacting to (sic) the United States launching at least 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airbase in Syria, obviously in response to the apparent chemical weapons attack on the civilians carried out by the Syrian government. That was earlier this week.

Joining us now from the Pentagon tonight is Jennifer Griffin with the very latest -- Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Sean, I think what's notable from the president's statement tonight is that he pointed out that Shayat airbase, which was targeted by these 50 Tomahawk missiles, was the site where they believe that the chemical weapon was assembled, the sarin gas agents, the agents are put together before they are weaponized, put on board that Sukhoi 24 that took off and flew those 120 miles to the Khan Sheikhoun village where they bombed those families, those children, women and Chicago who were sleeping in their beds.

And it was those images of children suffering to breathe that seemed to have really particularly affected President Trump. And what I'm told here at the Pentagon, is that discussions, high-level discussions have taking place for the past 48 hours. The Joint Chiefs met in the Tank this evening to discuss the final military plan.

This was a limited military strike on that one base. But Sean, remember, this was 50 Tomahawk missiles, each of 1,000 pounds warhead, landing on this one base, runways, aircraft. It is an airbase that has been used by the Russians in the past. We saw, in fact, images from a year ago where there were Russian helicopters and warplanes at that base.

This was a message to President Bashar Assad that chemical weapons, the use of chemical weapons against one's own people would not be accepted by the United States of America.

We have received a statement from Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham praising the president's action tonight, saying that the American people should back him, and that, in fact, this was a sign of leadership, a tactic that should then be turned into a strategy, Senator John McCain saying repeatedly today that he believes that the U.S. military should take out Bashar Assad's air force so that he can no longer terrorize his own people -- Sean.

HANNITY: All right, Jennifer, I want to go to one issue here because the U.S. intelligence community said with high confidence they believe, of course, the attack was carried out by the Syrian government aircraft consistent A, with eyewitnesses that saw the winged aircraft launch the attacks and groups like al Nusra, the al Qaeda group in Syria, and ISIS don't have that fixed aircraft -- fixed-wing aircraft. So this was with very high confidence that, in fact, it was the Assad regime. And if we go back under the Obama administration, Assad and his government agreed to disband the chemical weapons and their capability in 2014, so that obviously didn't happen.

GRIFFIN: It's very clear, and we have been hearing from chemical weapons experts that, in fact, and Western intelligence sources, that, in fact, what is most clear in these recent days and weeks is that President Bashar Assad did not do what he said he was going to do and what the Obama ad administration said had happened, which is that he did not get rid of all of his chemical weapons.

It was largely assumed at the time that most of -- there were about 1,000 tons of chemical weapons that, remember, that were taken offshore. The U.S. And Russia actually cooperated at that time in 2013. The Cape Ray (ph), the USNS Cape Ray, was part of that removal of chemical agents. But it's very clear that Bashar Assad kept some chemical weapons, and those agents were stored, were told by the president tonight, at this Shayat airbase that was targeted about 120 miles from the site of the sarin nerve gas attack 72 hours ago, Sean.

HANNITY: All right, Jennifer Griffin, thank you.

And earlier this week, as the president had said with King Abdullah of Jordan, this crosses many, lines, beyond the red line, many, many lines, and of course, expressing his, well, thoughts about the loss of life and the use of this. Clearly, I think the president's goal to prevent any further mass casualty of civilians, sending a message to the rest of the world that this is not negotiable.

Joining us now live tonight from Jerusalem is John Huddy -- John.

JOHN HUDDY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sean, at this point, we're waiting to see what Israel's response is going to be. Obviously, Israel shares intelligence with the United States, and Israel has carried out almost on a daily basis or continually air strikes on Syrian targets, in particular Syrian convoys, armed convoys going to Hezbollah, and that's been a concern obviously here in Israel.

Also, the other concern is Iran's involvement in Syria. So you know, really, what we're waiting for is the Israeli response to this, the intelligence aspects, and you know, some kind of response from Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister.

But you know, all of this -- you know, in the Golan Heights, Israel borders Syria. You know, certainly, there's always cross-border fire, you know, going into Israel. So all of this is a concern. It is a factor that's being looked at. And obviously, Israel's military, the Israeli air force, the IDF, Israel Defense Forces are on high alert at this point, Sean.

HANNITY: All right, John Huddy in Israel tonight, thank you for joining us.

Joining us now live from Mar-a-Lago, Florida, where the president is tonight is our own John Roberts. John, if we go back to this press conference earlier this week, the president did say this crosses many lines beyond a red line, many, many lines.

And we saw tonight I guess with this first military action very much in keeping what he said, we would not telegraph these things will be happening. And also, a very effective president in his statement tonight going on about this deadly nerve agent that choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. And it was a slow and brutal death for so many

What's the latest from Mar-a-Lago?

ROBERTS: When you look at the way that that was written -- and I expect that Steve Miller, who writes most of his speeches, had a hand in turning (ph) that, as well, when he said, No child of God it should ever suffer such horror. I mean, it's difficult not to have the world on your side when you're responding to something like that. And you see that the suffering of these children -- and Sean, that's just a video that would bring tears to your eyes regardless of whether you're a parent and you have your own children, when you see young children suffering like that, babies as well -- and the president specifically brought up the fact that there were babies who were involved here, as well, you just -- you wonder how does something like that ever happen?

It was clear when he was speaking with King Abdullah of Jordan yesterday there in the Rose Garden that he had been deeply, deeply affected by the pictures that he had seen. Add to that the fact that he had been very critical of President Obama for drawing of red line, and then when Bashar al Assad crossed it doing nothing about it, that the president said yesterday, it's crossed a number of lines, including red lines for me. He must have felt compelled at that point to do something about it.

But keep in mind -- and former a military leader said this earlier tonight -- that punishment is not strategy. So you can punish Bashar al Assad for doing what he did on Tuesday and making those people suffer so horribly, but you've got to have a strategy to back it up.

We saw Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, articulate the beginning of that in suggesting that the United States needed to build a coalition to defeat ISIS, to establish some sort of political process, and then have Bashar Assad to step aside. Well, that has been said before, where we have to defeat the enemy, and then you have to stand up a political process to get rid of the person who's the cause of the problem in the first place.

It hasn't worked out so well in the past, so it could raise questions, Sean, as to how it will work any better this time around -- Sean.

HANNITY: Well, John, I would just add to what you're saying here -- number one, it was in keeping with his campaign promises, and that is not to telegraphed military action. Number two, there's no indication the president has any inclination at all to go in and be an occupying force.

But certainly, this is a red line in the sand, that if Syria continues to attack innocent men, women and children with these weapons of mass destruction and slaughter innocent people -- this has been a seven-year civil war with mass atrocities, and the world for the most part has not done anything, I think this certainly sends a message to the entire world tonight that America is back and war crimes like this will not be tolerated.

ROBERTS: Yes. And I think, Sean, you could say that the message to Bashar al Assad tonight was, If you want to lose everything that you've got and be left pretty effectively defenseless, just keep on going the way that you're going because if we can take out one of your airbases, we can take them all out. We'll just move more ships into the region and fire more cruise missiles at you.

Now, in terms of telegraphing, the president has said on many, many occasions he didn't like the way the previous administration said, We're going to attack X target at X time on whichever day, and we want to let you know about it long, long in advance, maybe even months in advance when it came to the fight against Mosul, which was an example that he cited again and again and again. He wasn't going to telegraph what he was going to do.

We should point out, though, that the turnaround time for this, Sean, was very quick. This happened on Tuesday, and Thursday night, we're firing missiles.

So the president also showing tonight, though, that he is ready to swiftly take decisive action. He made up his mind that something had to happen. He went to Jim Mattis and he went to H.R. McMaster and said, Give me your best plan, said, I like it, go with it.

HANNITY: Yes. It seems to me that it's very clear goal was to prevent any further mass casualties. In many ways now, I would say the ball is now in President Assad's court.

Interesting coming on the heels of the president meeting with General el- Sisi the president of Egypt, and meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan and recently with a crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and of course, a very close relationship with the prime minister of Israel. Seemingly a new coalition has emerged in the entire Middle East waiting for their response tonight.

John Roberts, stand by at Mar-a-Lago. We'll get back to you in a little bit.

Joining us now with new information is our own Jennifer Griffin once again -- Jennifer.

GRIFFIN: Sean, we've just gotten details from the Pentagon about those Tomahawk missiles that first landed at this Shayat airbase at 8:45 PM Eastern tonight. We understand the total number of Tomahawk' fired was 59 Tomahawks. Those two U.S. destroyers, the USS Porter and USS Ross, could carry up to 70 missiles, we were told. They have now fired 59 at this one airbase.

We're also told that should expect soon imagery, aftermath imagery from that airbase at Shayat. That is near the town of Ohms. It's about 120 miles from where the sarin gas attack occurred.

We also expect imagery released by the Pentagon of the flight path of the Russian -- sorry, excuse me -- the Syrian plane, the Sukhoi 24 that took off from the Shayat airbase and flew and dropped the sarin gas bomb on it that village 72 hours ago. The Pentagon to release that imagery soon.

We're told that this was -- the Pentagon is describing it as a proportional strike. We also are told that the Pentagon warned the Russians multiple times about this strike prior to the Tomahawk's landing at this airbase. They did so through a hotline that is established between the what is known as the CAOC (ph), the command center in the Middle East the U.S. -- that the U.S. uses, and Latakiya (ph), which is the base used by Russia inside Syria.

So there were multiple warnings to the Russians, commander to commander. Remember, General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has met with his Russian counterpart recently in Turkey to establish and reestablish that hotline in the event of this kind of incident.

We also are told, Sean, that there were Russian forces at this base of Shayat until recently. It's not clear whether they were still there tonight. But again, the U.S. military did warn through that hotline Russian forces that they were going to carry out this Tomahawk strike today -- Sean.

HANNITY: There were interesting comments by one Russian diplomat earlier this week saying that their support is not unconditional as it relates to Syria and Assad, said (ph) after the attack. You had a great description earlier of these 18-foot-long 2-feet-wide thousand-pound Tomahawk missiles and their slow path (ph) trajectory. Can you explain that again for those that are just joining us?

GRIFFIN: Yes, Sean. In fact, remember the Tomahawk missile, a cruise missile was introduced, was first introduced during the Gulf war, the first Gulf war. And these are essentially flying telephone poles, if you will. They are fired from Navy destroyers, and they fly at about 500 miles per hour. So you can see them with the naked eye when they're flying.

They're about 18 feet long, two feet wide, and you can imagine that if they were -- once they were fired from the USS Porter and USS Ross, which were in the eastern Mediterranean, it could take up to 30, 45 minutes before they actually landed because they can be fired from 1,000 miles away. So those destroyers could be quite some distance away.

We also understand, Sean, that, you know, they can -- those two destroyers can carry up to 70 missiles. They've now fired 59. To resupply, we're told those Tomahawk missiles are stored at Suda Bay, which is a U.S. base in Crete, Greece. So those destroyers would have to resupply at this point in order to continue if there were any follow-on attacks.

Now, we understand that this is a limited attack, a proportional attack as the Pentagon said. It is designed to send a message to Bashar Assad, but also to the Russians that the U.S. has said that they are willing to work with the Russians possibly to fight against ISIS, that, you know, we have 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Syria preparing to help forces, Kurdish forces and others, other Syrian forces that the U.S. has trained to take Raqqa, which is the ISIS capital.

So this was designed to send a message to Bashar Assad to stop using chemical weapons, to never use chemical weapons again. He was a signatory in 2013 to the chemical weapons treaty, suggesting he wouldn't.

But another point, Sean, is that tonight, there was a meeting at the U.N. Security Council that was indecisive. And in prior administrations, I believe it would be safe to say that while the U.N. Security Council debated issues, a resolution on Syria and the chemical weapons attack, that a White House or an administration would have waited for those debates to finish.

And tonight, we were told that the U.S. wanted a vote on the resolution. Russia was blocking it. They expected Russia to block the resolution in the end, as they have seven times in the past. And so this president did not wait. This president ordered a unilateral air strike against Syria to send...

HANNITY: Jennifer...

GRIFFIN: ... a stern message that chemical weapon attacks are not acceptable, Sean.

HANNITY: Obviously, there will be no -- this is to prevent further mass casualties and attacks. And a message has been sent.

Before before I go to General Jack Keane, I wouldn't doubt that there are politicals out -- politicos out there that would make hay over the fact, knowing that at this particular airbase in Syria, that Russian soldiers were there, that they were tipped off. Here we go. We've had eight months of this -- this Russian conspiracy, so I wouldn't be surprised if that happens. But that would be standard operating procedure, would it not?

GRIFFIN: I think in a civilized world, that is what one does, military to military. In fact, it's notable that the timing of the Tomahawk air strikes would be at a time when there would be the fewest amount of people at that airbase. So this is designed to send a signal, to send a message. It was not designed to inflict casualties per se.

There are likely casualties at the base, but we'll be getting more details about that. But again, in -- you know, from a military perspective, it was the right thing to do to use this hotline that's been established between the two militaries to explain that we are not at war with Russia.

HANNITY: Well, just to add...

GRIFFIN: We're not striking Russian soldiers, but we are, you know, defending the right of the free world to basically say that the use of chemical weapons is not acceptable.

HANNITY: And also to add to that, Rex Tillerson, the sectary of state, said, clearly, Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on their commitment to stop these kind of attacks. Either Russia has been complicit or simply incompetent on delivering its end of that agreement. So clearly, strong statement and actions against Russia in this strike tonight.

Jennifer Griffin, thank you. Stand by. We'll get back to you in just a few minutes.

Joining us now live from Washington is General Jack Keane. General, militarily, this is a very big message that should be heard well beyond Syria tonight. What's your reaction to that?

GEN. JACK KEANE, U.S. ARMY (RET.), FOX MILITARY ANALYST: Well, definitely, you know, particularly, it's a major setback for Russia. Listen, they've enabled this regime. They have used their penetrative bombs to bomb underground hospitals. That's a war crime. They have largely conducted air strikes against the Syrian people themselves, just like the Assad regime has been doing.

And the fact of the matter is that they've vetoed a seven U.N. resolutions where the U.N. has tried to assign accountability to the Assad regime for this kind of criminal behavior. Setback for Putin here for sure, and the Iranians, as well, but the Iranians don't care.

Putin cares a little bit more about his image than the Iranians did. Other factor is, we know based on the three visits from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan that President Trump has absolutely revitalized the historical and traditional relationship that the United States has had from President Roosevelt up until President Obama. He has revitalized that relationship.

And he -- I am convinced now that he will get incredible cooperation out of the Sunni Arabs. The other thing -- he sent a loud message to the Iranians in the first month of his administration that, I'm not going to tolerate your trampling on the interests of the Middle East and taking advantage of using your proxies to do that and also developing ballistic missiles. I'm going to stand in your way from accomplishing that.

This is an incredible message that should've been sent many years ago by the Obama administration. Cross the chemical red line in 2013 was not just about dealing with retribution for a heinous act. It was taking advantage, Sean, of the opportunity to destroy the entire Assad air power which would have shifted the momentum against the regime and likely would have brought it down. We don't know that for a fact, but it was a likely possibility.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: General, let's get your thoughts on the world reaction tonight. North Korea is watching tonight, the Iranians are watching tonight. The Russians, as Rex Tillerson said, have been so ineffective and maybe even complicit earlier today, they are watching tonight. What is the message? How is this going to be received, that America is back after seven years of war crimes and death and misery and the use of these weapons, that it will no longer be tolerated, that the goal of this is to prevent any further mass casualty of civilians, that that will now be nonnegotiable with United States of America?

KEANE: I think the president has been sending some messages since his inauguration. And I think the way the world reads him, there's all the campaign rhetoric to be sure, and some of it was not predictable in terms of what his actions would be as president. But I think when they look at him they see a strong, decisive leader who has had some success in leadership, and he sort of does what he says.

And now we see this act taking place where he said this is a heinous act and I'm not going to tolerate it. I'm good to act on behalf of humankind and do something about it. He's sending a message to the Chinese. He's telling the Chinese that, listen, the North Koreans are trying to weaponize intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the rhetoric is they will use them against my country and my people. Don't push me into a corner where I have to use a military option to deal with them. That would be horrific. That would mean a war on the Korean peninsula.

But at the same time, I cannot permit them to launch a missile against the United States. I think he'll get the Chinese attention for sure as a result of that. It's not rhetoric. We've had rhetoric for eight years with passivity and no action. Now he's taken a very limited action but it sends an incredible incredibly strong message to our adversaries in the world who are paying attention, believe me, Iran, China, Russia, paying attention.

HANNITY: North Korea, Russia --

KEANE: And the rogue state of North Korea, they are all paying attention to this. Listen, it's not a panacea for all of our problems to be sure. Not one military strike on one evening is going to change the world. But it is going to tell the world that we have a decisive president who is going to act on behalf of the U.S. national interests and the interests of our allies when he believes that's at stake. And that is an unequivocally loud, clear message.

HANNITY: All right, and thank you, general. We'll get back to you later in the hour. Thanks for being with us. Joining us now from Washington is Bret Baier, the host of "Special Report" here on the Fox News Channel.

Bret, you were making a point earlier with our own Shep Smith, Sunni Arab nations, the king of Jordan, the president, General el-Sisi of Egypt, the crown prince and of course the Israeli prime minister joining and creating a new coalition here. It seemed that because of all the news and this news cycle that the relationship has changed dramatically, especially with Jordan and Egypt now that we have a new president. What impact do you think this has based on their meetings earlier this week?

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Dramatically changed, Sean, I think you can say that without a doubt. I interviewed president el-Sisi just the other night from Egypt, and he talked extensively about feeling confident that he can work and Arab leaders can work with this president. And I asked him specifically about Russia and how they got involved in such a foothold inside this region. And I said, do you think the vacuum left by the Obama administration enabled Russia to take a greater foothold in your region? And he said, quote, "In fact many things over the last four years occurred and caused many, many problems. That's a fact. The region is paying a very heavy price for that, not just in Syria, the entire region is paying a price." And asked if he thought he could turn it around with or without the U.S., he said "It can't happen without the U.S." So I do think there is a different sense about the coalition, Sean.

But to the point that General Keane was just making, this does protect strength, it does project strength not only in the Middle East which answers to strength greatly as we've seen in the past, but also to China and North Korea in that issue.

HANNITY: And also Russia, right, Bret? I mean, a lot of people might go off on an issue that we have a relationship where they were given a heads- up, but on the broader side of this, they were also told by our secretary of state that they might, a, be complicit, b, be incompetent as it relates to resolving the issues involving Syria and especially the chemical weapons issue.

BAIER: That's right. And you had this off-camera briefing that's been going on down in Mar-a-Lago with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, just getting notes about it from the pool in which Tillerson says this was a very deliberate process and examination of options, that the president made the right choice. No conversations prior or since with Moscow, however continuing that there was a de-confliction, with military de-confliction they defer to the Pentagon, normal channels open for de-confliction as there a number of Russians at this base.

I do want to point out one thing, and that is to your point earlier about a candidate who campaigned against waging war who as president changes that 180 degrees. It seems like the events in Syria had changed how President Trump had looked at it. Obviously as civilian Trump he tweeted a number of things back in 2013 when President Obama announced the red line.

There is pushback within the party, Sean. Senator Rand Paul tweeting "While all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked. The president needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the constitution. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different." So there are a lot, as you know, Sean, of Trump supporters who could buy into what Senator Paul is saying tonight, but you have the president who was acting based on --

HANNITY: We saws in the last couple of days a president when he said this crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many lines. And then in his statement tonight, almost a very emotional statement by him about how Syrian president, dictator Assad launched a horrible weapons attack on innocent civilians using a deadly nerve agent, choking out the lives of helpless men, women, and children, and how it is in the vital national security interests of the U.S. to prevent and deter the spread of deadly chemical weapons. I don't think anybody could deny that, but it also is in keeping with his promise not to telegraph military action. There is no indication at all tonight of an idea of an invasion or occupation. It's to send a message. And I've got to believe that that message was probably received loud and clear in Syria and wherever Assad may be hiding out this evening.

BAIER: And in Moscow, definitely. But you have to concede that the message for President Trump is clearly different than civilian Trump in August of 2013 when he was tweeting President Obama, saying don't get involved in Syria, don't do it, don't get drawn in, focus on America, and that was after chemical weapons attack back then. So it was the same choking of kids and fathers and mothers in 2013. His thoughts about it have evolved, you have to concede that.

HANNITY: I do concede that. I see the tweet that you are referring to, and that is true. Also consistent, though, with his decisive action, but yes, you're right on the tweet. Bret Baier, "Special Report," thank you.

John Roberts, he just got of the briefing with Secretary of State Tillerson and the national security adviser, McMaster. John, what is latest there?

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I'm going through my notes here, Sean. First of all, H.R. McMaster, the national security advisor, said that this was aimed at Bashar al-Assad's capacity to commit murder with chemical weapons. This was taken in the middle the night in a way, and the targeting was done in such a way to minimize casualties, particularly third-party casualties which could be read as Russians because there are some Russian forces who were embedded here at these airfields. And he very specifically said that the missiles were targeted to avoid hitting the stockpiles of Sarin gas that were housed at that airbase. So this was to take out the ability to deliver this gas, probably to put a lot of holes in the runways there as well, but to take careful steps to avoid hitting those stockpiles of the chemical weapons.

Here is the deliberative process that they went through. There were initial consultations with the president about what happened in Syria, about the nature of the attack and what was used. The NSC then last night met to deliberate a number of options. They told the president about that this morning before he left. He had some more questions about that. That's when this afternoon the national security advisor and the secretary of state met with him at Mar-a-Lago to answer those questions. They went over a number of options. Some of the options, and they didn't get into the details, weren't quite as palatable as the one that they took tonight

So the president weighed those options and decided to act. According to both the secretary of state and the national security advisor, quote, "This demonstrates that this president will act when governments don't behave and clearly indicates," Sean, "that he is willing to take decisive action."

The secretary of state again said that seeing the scenes of what happened there in Syria after that apparent chemical weapons attack, and it was apparently Sarin gas that was used, which is particularly horrible, really kind of changed his views how horrible these weapons are.

Then asked Secretary Tillerson what the diplomatic calculation was about all of this, because there are so many different players involved. There's Russia, there's Syria, there's Turkey, there are the Kurds, there's Iran as well. He said that expected that every one of those players with the exception of Russia, Iran, and Syria would probably applaud what was happening, and then went into a lengthy explanation of what he hopes to do in the future. And that is to build a coalition to defeat ISIS, to bring regional groups together, to stabilize the area, and then try to set forward some sort of political process that could end up with the replacement of Bashar al-Assad as the leader of Syria. Sean?

HANNITY: Obviously the president did change his point of view, especially if you look at tweet from a number of years ago. But we've got to this morning, too, not every military action is a full-fledged war here. And I think the goal is very obvious to prevent any further mass casualty of civilians. And it was clear for the president giving his statement tonight, and we will replay that. This had an emotional impact on him because of the long suffering and the death of innocent men, women, and children that were targeting here.

We have reactions coming in, John. Syrian TV calling this an act of aggression. Senators McCain and Graham and Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton and Bill Nelson and Bob Corker all supporting the president's action. Then Democrat Dick Durbin, "Any further action would require scrutiny of Congress," similar statement by Senator Ben Cardin. But obviously this is a very different reaction and clearly a red line that actually means something. John, we'll get back to you in a few minutes, John Roberts down at Mar-a-Lago tonight, thank you.

Earlier tonight, after this news broke that the U.S. had in fact watch these airstrikes at this air base in Syria, the president did explain his decision to take this military action in retaliation to the government using chemical weapons against its own people, including men, women, and children. Here's what he said earlier.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: My fellow Americans, on Tuesday Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.

Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention, and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.

Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.

Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We ask for God's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for justice then peace and harmony will in the end prevail. Goodnight, and God bless America and the entire world.


HANNITY: "No child of God should suffer such horror." And the president goes on to say "Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking the end of the slaughter and the bloodshed in Syria."

Joining us now live from Washington is Senator Marco Rubio who put out a supportive statement earlier tonight. Senator, your reaction to the president's actions here?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: It was the right decision for a number of reasons. Number one, Assad had signed an agreement not to have chemical weapons. It was an agreement that the Russians and the United States were signatories to end and a part of. They also signed the convention not to have weapons, and then they had a U.N. Security Council resolution on them as well. They have violated that and therefore there needed to be a consequence for that. Someone needs to enforce it. Russia is not going to enforce it. They're helping them. And therefore, that was number one.

Number two, come I think it's important to remember there are hundreds of Americans stationed in that region very near to that place, and this guy is using Sarin gas. It could ultimately be used against our own troops. And that cannot be allowed to stand. So it is in our national security interests.

Number three, I hear a lot of talk, and I'm not saying you but others that this is a symbol or message. It certainly has a messaging component. But he struck a military base that was used not just for chemical attacks but potentially for future chemical attacks. And so it had a strategic objective that was very clear, and he dedicated significant resources, 59 Tomahawk missiles, to destroying a particular airbase. That is how you conduct military attacks. You have an objective and you dedicate the resources to achieve it, and the armed forces of the United States, as they always do, did so.

So the president had the legal authority to act, the moral authority to act, and, quite frankly, the military strategy to be successful at it. It was the right decision that he made.

HANNITY: I agree. The Pentagon just put a statement, senator, Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike, using the established de- confliction line, this is something you know a lot about. Can you explain it?

RUBIO: Obviously there are military to military contacts in the region with the Russians and others, and the reason why you do that is not some conspiracy. I've been as tough on all that as anybody else. It's simply because their objective was not to kill anybody. Their objective was to destroy a facility so that they couldn't fly the planes to conduct more attacks.

The way that they are using these chemical weapons is they are dropping them from the airplanes, and that is the airfield that they are flying those attacks from. They've conducted chlorine bombs attacks from that not airfield and that conducted the Sarin attack from that airfield. And so the objective of this mission was not to kill Russians. It was to destroy an airbase so Assad could not use it in the future. And so that is an appropriate thing to do. It has nothing to do with some sort of nefarious conspiracy theory that some might come up with --

HANNITY: Senator, we'll save the conspiracy theories for the mainstream media because they live and die by them, eight months of conspiracies with no evidence. But on a serious note, senator, whenever military action is taken, you have to prepare for potential consequences or the reaction of others. In anticipation of this, what would you say that our military is preparing for at this moment in terms of Syria's reaction and in terms of Russia's reaction?

RUBIO: First is the potential targeting of our troops in Iraq and in Syria, that's number one. That's the first thing I would anticipate. The other is some sort of Russian stepping up their air campaign against elements on the ground. Of course they have done a special forces amount already.

But I also think that the consequences of not acting would have been very severe. Not acting would've probably led to more chemical attacks. They could have inadvertently at some point even targeted American troops or American interests in the region with Sarin gas.

The other point that I would make with regards to all of this and what was going on there was at the end of the day what is the point of all these resolutions and all these agreements that the United States is signing onto, because people forget back in 2013, 2014 the Russians and the United States entered into this agreement that the Syrians were not going to have chemical weapons. They have chemical weapons. They've been using chlorine bombs and now they use Sarin again, and this is nothing but legally an effort to enforce, those requirements. The Russians aren't going to enforce it. They're helping them. This is important.

And can I say one more thing, Sean. I think it was evident yesterday anybody who saw the press conference, the president standing next to the king of Jordan, he was deeply moved by what he saw and was he was exposed to.

HANNITY: He was moved tonight as well.

RUBIO: Absolutely. And that's something that can't be ignored. I said that earlier today. He clearly was impacted by it. And I think that that's an important consideration here as well.

HANNITY: One last question on Russia which has been supporting and propping up and assisting Assad regime, Rex Tillerson, our secretary of state, called out Russia earlier saying they failed in their responsibility to deliver on their commitments especially as it relates to these weapons and either Russia has been complicit or incompetent in delivering that end of the agreement. That to me is a clear sign that this administration was willing to take on any consequences as it relates to both Syria and Russia.

And I also think the big message here tonight and the takeaway tonight is this is a message to the world that they want to prevent any further mass casualty of civilians, and I would say the message is that's nonnegotiable. Is that how you interpret that?

RUBIO: Obviously, look, I think the objective tonight was the destruction of that airbase. But if you want to know who's getting a message tonight in regards to all this, I think if you are in North Korea and you see this tonight and you start to wonder whether these are people you want to be messing with. I think if you are Iran, you're starting to think about whether these are people you want to be messing with. And obviously I think if you are Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin, you realize that things have changed. And in fact there are things that you are doing that are against the national security interest of the United States. We're not going to spend two weeks looking for some letter. We're going to be action to protect our interest. That's a big change from what we've had over the last eight years.

HANNITY: Senator, thank you for your time tonight, we appreciate it.

Joining us now is former speaker of the House, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, your reaction to the president's actions tonight?

NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think there are a couple of very big takeaways. First, Donald Trump really loves children, he really loves babies. You could hear it in his voice tonight. And contrary to what Bret Baier said, being president of the United States, feeling the weight of the world, the very fact at the very end he said "God bless the world," I've never heard a president say that. This guy was touched deeply, emotionally because he loves children. He sees it as his job as a parent to try to protect children, and I'm sure that he was just deeply troubled that as president he couldn't protect them.

Second, this is an amazing week. The president of Egypt comes in, the king of Jordan comes in, they have conversations. You don't think they were talking through what to do in Syria? And it is an amazing moment, the Chinese premier is here, and he is wondering how serious the country is, the United States is. So after dinner, Donald Trump proves how serious the United States is. So the Chinese tomorrow have a whole left to digest when they listen to Donald Trump talk.

Lastly, we had eight years of a very articulate community organizer who did not have a clue about how to be president of United States. We have now had three months of the guy who knows how to be president, and I think he just proved it in the Ronald Reagan tradition, decisive, surgical, effective use of American power to do something to begin to hurt the Syrians. And to say to them, if you do this again I'll take out two or three more airfields.

HANNITY: Mr. Speaker, maybe inadvertently, maybe Barack Obama in this horrific Iranian deal was able to create a coalition that nobody maybe even anticipated a decade ago, and that is that it brought Saudi Arabia, the Israelis, the Jordanians and the Egyptians into a new coalition. I think very few people have paid attention.

GINGRICH: I think it's more than that. I think what Barack Obama proved for eight years is when America is weak among the world is unmanageable and dangerous. And so virtually every rational leader on the planet is eager to have a strong, decisive American president because then, you heard it said by el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, you heard it said by King Abdullah, the head of Jordan, if the United States does not play a decisive leading role worldwide, then it can't be done. I think what you're seeing is Donald Trump rise to the occasion, being prepared to actually be president and lead the world on behalf of the United States, and putting America first but recognizing that having lots of allies in a good sound neighborhood is a lot better than being alone in a jungle.

HANNITY: Is one of the messages tonight that there's no longer America leading from behind, America's leading in front and the world is getting a message tonight that America is back?

GINGRICH: It's not a laughing matter, but probably if you were a Syrian or a Russian around that airfield right this minute, you wouldn't think we were leading behind. You would think that we had decisively responded, exactly what he had to do, don't give them a speech, don't create a red line, just hit them very hard. And then after you hit them explain to the world what they just saw.

HANNITY: That is really in keeping when you think about it. I thought one of the best things the president said during the campaign was you don't telegraph your military action all of the time. By the way, a military strike such as this is not a full-fledged war. I take issue with what Senator Rand Paul said. I don't think the president has any intention to invade or to occupy, but I do believe he had an intention of sending a message that if you are going to unleash these weapons of mass destruction against women and children, they are to be consequences. What is North Korea's reaction, Russia's reaction, what is China's reaction? What is the Iranian reaction tonight in your view?

GINGRICH: You know, the Russian reaction in 1981 when we shot down the Libyan aircraft was that there was a new sheriff in town. I don't think of Donald Trump of Manhattan is a sheriff, but maybe there's a new police chief in town. And he is prepared to do what it takes.

And I think this is a very important day, but the week is important. You're going to have a conservative Supreme Court justice, you're going to have a serious meeting with the Chinese. You had very successful meetings with Egypt and Jordan, and you just demonstrated to the world that you are serious about protecting people and you are serious about doing things that are decisive.

HANNITY: I want to go back to my earlier question because I don't think the media paid enough attention. It seems like King Abdullah of Jordan and the president just hit it off. I don't think I've ever seen the king give more praise to any other leader than he did to President Trump. The same thing with General, President el-Sisi of Egypt. He recently met with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and obviously said great words of praise for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

GINGRICH: By the way, he got exactly the same treatment from president of Afghanistan who said that Trump is so much more helpful than Obama that it's night and day, and he's thrilled to have Trump leading because he feels Afghanistan has a dramatically better future with Donald Trump.

Now, "The New York Times" doesn't want to put together as part of their first 100 days of story how many world leaders are now saying they like working with Donald Trump and they trust him and they believe he's a serious man. So it's a remarkable turnaround.

HANNITY: Mr. Speaker, how would you respond? I look at the Pentagon statement and I look a little bit on my Twitter account when I've got moments here, and I read the Russian conspiracy theorists that have had no evidence but keep advancing a phony narrative for eight months would say the Russians were notified because we have a de-confliction line.

GINGRICH: Of course the Russians were notified. People who are surprised that the Russians weren't notified are idiots.

HANNITY: I'm not the conspiracy theorist.

GINGRICH: I'm just saying blanket for our entire audience who are listening to you and me talk right now, if you run across a tweet from some guy who is shocked we told the Russian military we're coming in, get out of the way. We didn't call the Russian military and say, gee, could we come in. We called them and said -- we probably didn't call them. McMaster might have called his counterpart.

HANNITY: It was military to military.

GINGRICH: Right. And he might well have said we are coming in, get out of the way. Don't try to stop us, don't get in the middle of this thing, because we're going to roll over you if you do. I think that's a pretty healthy signal.

HANNITY: I think it's a great signal, and I think the secretary of state couldn't have been stronger in his wording that Russia has failed in their delivery on their commitment as it relates to the Assad regime which they have been propping up. And they say either Russia has been complicit or incompetence in delivering on their end of the agreement.

GINGRICH: So as people on this Thursday evening contemplate the first 100 days of Donald Trump, you have a very strong secretary of state, a very strong secretary of defense, a very strong set national security advisor, and a president who is stronger than all three of them. That's not a bad deal.

HANNITY: I think 50,000 pounds of Tomahawk missiles being dumped on one air base is going to say something. I don't see the Syrians reacting to this except to stand down.

GINGRICH: Unlike the Iranians, Assad does not have the capacity to wage war outside his own territory. He's losing ground steadily in his own territory. I would not be at all surprised in the near future to see a military coup take him out because he's much weaker than his father. He's lost over half the country, and they generally think he's an idiot. And I think there's a good chance Assad is going to be deposed.

HANNITY: Yes. All right, Mr. Speaker, we really appreciate it.

If you're just joining us, the U.S. has launched airstrikes in Syria from the very location where those planes had taken off and dropped these chemical weapons, Sarin gas and chlorine gas no innocent men, women, and children.

Now, we'll hope you'll stay with the Fox News Channel, continuing coverage all throughout the night of the U.S. military strike in Syria. Stay tuned. Shepard Smith is coming up next. We'll see you back here tomorrow night.

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