Gorka on Syria strike: US is duty-bound to respond to Assad
This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 13, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: All right. Welcome to "Hannity." And this is a Fox News alert.
We are awaiting a statement from President Trump. We're looking at our clock in about 90 seconds from now. We have confirmed that the president has approved military strikes in Syria tonight. Now, this comes after the suspected chemical attack that killed over 40 people, including men, women and children.
Joining us now from Washington tonight is the host of "Special Report", our own Bret Baier.
We expect the president any minute. This is not unexpected. The president has been talking about an answer coming all week, Bret.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST, "SPECIAL REPORT": Sean, that's right. And two senior officials are saying that decision was made this evening with his national security team and that U.S. military strikes will go forward in Syria. What those look like we don't know.
The USS Donald Cook, a naval destroyer, navy destroyer, is in the Eastern Med. We believe that that destroyer will be part of this action tonight. It is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
We saw one year ago, April 17 2017, 59 cruise missiles striking Syria as a result of the chemical weapons attack then. This decision has been made, Sean, and we are told that the president has made the announcement. The vice president, by the way, rushed out of a dinner in Lima, Peru and he is now back at his hotel room, again, awaiting this word from the president of the United States, and the diplomatic room of the White House.
HANNITY: You know, I'll just put up on the screen before we get to this. I mean, you see these heart wrenching images, Bret, of men, women and children, like when President Trump, you know, struck about a year ago, when you look at these images and it literally takes your breath away that it has happened again.
Again, we're looking at -- here is the president.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, a short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway. We thank them both.
Tonight, I want to speak with you about why we have taken this action.
One year ago, Assad launched a savage chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people. The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian Air Force.
Last Saturday, the Assad regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians -- this time, in the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital of Damascus. This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.
The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.
Following the horrors of World War I a century ago, civilized nations joined together to ban chemical warfare. Chemical weapons are uniquely dangerous not only because they inflict gruesome suffering, but because even small amounts can unleash widespread devastation.
The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States. The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power -- military, economic, and diplomatic. We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.
I also have a message tonight for the two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing the criminal Assad regime. To Iran, and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?
The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.
In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons. Assad's recent attack -- and today's response -- are the direct result of Russia's failure to keep that promise.
Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path, or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, someday we'll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran -- but maybe not.
I will say this: The United States has a lot to offer, with the greatest and most powerful economy in the history of the world.
In Syria, the United States -- with but a small force being used to eliminate what is left of ISIS -- is doing what is necessary to protect the American people. Over the last year, nearly 100 percent of the territory once controlled by the so-called ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq has been liberated and eliminated.
The United States has also rebuilt our friendships across the Middle East. We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment, and all of the anti-ISIS effort. Increased engagement from our friends, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, and others can ensure that Iran does not profit from the eradication of ISIS.
America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances. As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home. And great warriors they are.
Looking around our very troubled world, Americans have no illusions. We cannot purge the world of evil, or act everywhere there is tyranny.
No amount of American blood or treasure can produce lasting peace and security in the Middle East. It's a troubled place. We will try to make it better, but it is a troubled place. The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.
In the last century, we looked straight into the darkest places of the human soul. We saw the anguish that can be unleashed and the evil that can take hold. By the end of the World War I, more than one million people had been killed or injured by chemical weapons. We never want to see that ghastly specter return.
So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.
Tonight, I ask all Americans to say a prayer for our noble warriors and our allies as they carry out their missions.
We pray that God will bring comfort to those suffering in Syria. We pray that God will guide the whole region toward a future of dignity and of peace.
And we pray that God will continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.
Thank you, and goodnight. Thank you.
HANNITY: All right, that was the president tonight announcing he has approved U.S. military strikes in Syria against the Assad regime in light of the chemical weapons attack against innocent men, women and children. The president had a strong direct message to Russia and Iran and the president also notifying the U.S. and the American people that it was a coalition of the willing, including Great Britain and France.
From the White House tonight, our John Roberts is standing by -- John.
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And we have not verified this, but a reporter from Agence France Presse is reporting that huge blasts are being heard in Syria's capital of Damascus tonight. And if that, in fact, is the case, Sean, then this would be a very different attack than the one from the 6th to the 7th of April of last year when the United States hit targets in an airfield from which the last big chemical weapon attack was launched with some 58 cruise missiles. This sounds like it is going after the government targets right in the heart of the city there.
The president has been deliberating all week about what to do and hearing from his advisors, grander plan and smaller plan and what the response will be. It appears as though the president has chosen something to send a message, Sean, to the Assad regime to say, we've got your number here, you better stop what you are doing or you're going to lose everything.
The problem is, though, is that you can't take away everything from Assad because then you leave a power vacuum in a place that cannot afford a power vacuum. So, the president has to act very not only tactically, but strategically as well here to really give him a smack up side the head but at the same time, make sure that he doesn't send the whole thing crumbling into the abyss.
But the president also with a very strong message to Russia and Iran tonight saying that you should not stand with this murderous dictator anymore. The president described as a monster a little while ago. He said, these are not the actions of a man, these are the action of a monster.
So, clearly, the message to Vladimir Putin is, if you want to be friends with United States, you have to end the friendship with Assad. Very early on in the going here, Sean, again, reports from Agence France Presse that there are large blasts that are being heard in the capital city of Damascus tonight. We don't know what they hit and clearly it's something designed to hit very close to home for Bashar al-Assad.
HANNITY: All right. John Roberts standing by at the White House. We'll be checking back in with him in a few moments.
Our own Bret Baier joins us.
I want to go that message that John referred to, directly to Russia and to Iran -- the regime of Iran, you know, what nation would want to be associated with. And the president ending remarks about the coalition that is formed between Great Britain and France and this attack against Syria tonight about it's a battle against barbarism and brutality, Bret. This was building throughout the week.
BAIER: Yes, I think those two lines, Sean, stuck out to me, too, when he talked about Assad and crimes of a monster, and then directly talking to Russia and Iran about what kind of nation wants to be associated with this mass murder. The linkage between France and Great Britain, the president speaking to the British prime minister numerous times, Theresa May. Also, the French President Macron, who is actually the first state visit here just coming days. Now, this coalition launching what we believe are Tomahawk missiles.
We are now being told that the Pentagon will have a briefing at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. We expect that will show us specifically what strikes, that the president called targeted strikes associated with Syria's chemical weapon's program. Last time the 59 missiles dealt with the ability of Syria to get their airfield, a specific airfield where those strikes last year, the chemical weapon's attacks had come from.
This sounds the potential -- if it is it near Damascus could be bigger as far as the number of targets hit. But we expect to get that at the top of the hour. And I think the president reiterated that he does not want a long- term presence in Syria, he wants to get the military when they can. But there was not a time line, Sean, in this message tonight. And it's clear that he is sending a signal directly after the April 4th chemical attacks.
HANNITY: It was also interesting how he talked about the weapons with great emotion when he talked about, you know, the crimes being used by monsters and after World War I, and just how they unleashed widespread devastation and how he said tonight, we must stop the production and use of all of these chemical weapons.
BAIER: Yes, and, remember that Russia had pledged as part of this deal with the Obama administration to get the chemical weapons out of Syria. That clearly did not happen. And when they have been used, we are told by several officials that there are dozens and dozens chlorine bombs but chemical weapons attacks of some kind and that the U.N. has been tracking all of this and the U.S. obviously on the ground of believing that they have evidence that they are going to lay out specifically, much of it classified, how they get it, that Syria's military and air forces behind it.
HANNITY: All right. Thank you, Bret Baier. We'll be checking in with you throughout the evening.
Joining us now is Jennifer Griffin. She's at the Pentagon tonight.
The president said precision target associated with chemical weapons capability of the Syrian dictator Assad and a combined operation of forces of France and Great Britain, Jennifer. It sounds like the precision attack sounds very strategic that perhaps maybe they know where these locations are, certainly, militarily, they are looking at the Syrian military?
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. They will be looking at Syrian military, as well as chemical weapon's capabilities. That's what the president said. I'm told from a senior military official who has briefed the president in the past, a year ago when he first saw those images of chemical weapons strike, those children and women who were writhing in pain from not being able to breathe in the nerve agents that were used or the chlorine that was used at the time.
And I'm told that the president was extremely emotional when he saw those initial videos. And that is -- you heard in his voice this time around the same time around the same kind of emotion as he laid out very calmly his case for why the U.S., Britain and France had to respond to this chemical attack.
We've been reporting in recent days about the U.S. assets that are in the region, that are in position, the USS Donald Cook, expected them to have been in play. They have 75 Tomahawk missiles on board that destroyer, which is in Eastern Mediterranean. It was joined by a French frigate. We had reported that they had 12 cruise missiles on board, as well some the surface to air missiles to protect those ships.
Remember in recent days, Sean, a Russian admiral said that Russia would strike back at any U.S. warship that -0 and named the Donald Cook by name if they struck Syria. We also have been reporting that there are two U.S. warships in the Red Sea, south of Israel, in the Red Sea, that are in play tonight, the USS Monterey and USS Laboon. We have been withholding their names at request of the Pentagon. But we do know that they are in position.
What we don't know at this point is whether any aircraft are involved in these strikes. The explosions that are being reported on Twitter in downtown Damascus suggest that the U.S. and its allies will be exacting a price from President Bashar Assad himself. And if you look at the strike a year ago when those 59 Tomahawk, 58 air strikes as the president mentioned, they had targeted just one base, the Shayrat base, where the chemical weapon's attack occurred a year ago.
But that only took out 20 percent of President Bashar Assad aircraft at the time. And within 24 hours, they were flying, his air force was flying again. And so, in order to provide a deterrent, this is going to have to be a stronger signal and at this point, we'll know more at the top of the hour when the pentagon briefs us on what some of those targets were.
HANNITY: And, Jennifer, Russia has been blocking U.N. condemnation, even accusing the U.K. of using chemical weapons. And I think the earliest indication we have this week that something was going down as Russia pulled out all of their vessels from the area and when you talked about and mentioned saber-rattling from Russia, really it was from Moscow, not from Putin himself, correct?
GRIFFIN: Well, we've been hearing it from very senior Russian officials whether it was Sergei Lavrov, his foreign minister, as well as the top general, Gerasimov. He made certain threat, as well as the Russian ambassador to the U.N., and the Russian ambassador here in the U.S.
So, very, very top officials who speak for Vladimir Putin were issuing those threats to the U.S. But again, the U.S. military has forced protection in place. And so, they did not take those threats seriously. And any threats to shoot down the tomahawks or incoming cruise missile. The Russians also have those S-400 air defense system and they can fire off missiles from inside Syria.
But again, the sheer number of Tomahawks that the U.S. and its allies have in position and cruise missiles, they would easily overwhelm that air system, Sean.
HANNITY: All right. Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon tonight.
The president obviously concerned about the spread of the chemical weapons if the United States doesn't act here. They are especially worrisome because they are so simple and easy to produce and the devastation is beyond comprehension as we were showing videos of earlier.
Let me check in with Mike Tobin tonight. He is in Jerusalem with the very latest. Mike, what's going on there?
MIKE TOBIN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sean, what we are getting really through the wire services, reports of loud explosions in the city of Damascus. I'm getting that from some third party information as well. The Associated Press is talking about bright flashes in the city of Damascus and smoke over the city.
Reuters is a little more specific, saying that the smoke is over the eastern part of the city there. We are hearing information that chemical weapon's facilities are being targeted. It would be very difficult at this stage for people on the ground to be able to tell what exactly is being targeted and facilities that are hit. It is quite possibly they are extrapolating what the president has said just a short time ago.
We do know really through local media and from our sources here in Israel that the Israeli intelligence service have been sharing information with the U.S. in terms of targets, in terms of helping them pick target and identify targets. The Israelis don't want part of this particular fight given all the complexities of the people who are on the ground in Syria and the different alliances, just what a tinderbox that could cause out here.
But the latest information that we have right now is these reports of loud explosions in the city of Damascus, more specifically according to Reuters over the eastern part of the city, there's a lot of smoke there -- Sean.
HANNITY: All right. Mike Tobin in Jerusalem tonight.
Joining us for reaction to this developing news, Fox News national security strategist, Sebastian Gorka, retired Brigadier General Tony Tata, former senior intelligence officer, Lieutenant General Tony Schaefer.
Dr. Gorka, I begin with you. You know, sometimes, I think countries act because it's the right thing to do. The world sees these horrific evil images of men, women and children, innocent people, and we know the ongoing civil war here that has been going on. I think the president is sending a clear message when he said tonight Dr. Gorka the evil despicable attack that left mothers, fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air, these aren't the actions of a man, their crimes of a monster. And then the challenge to Russia and the challenge to Iran directly.
SEBASTIAN GORKA, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGIST: The president is not an interventionist, and I know the left doesn't believe this -- he is a very, very compassionate man, whether he's meeting with victims from Parkland or whether he's looking at the footage of that chemical weapons attack in Syria. And we're not interested in a large footprint. That's not what the president believes in, but he believes in a simple saying, for evil to triumph, all you need is for good men to do nothing.
Tonight, we are standing up for the moral rectitude of this nation and what it's stands for. We can't fix everything. The president was clear. There is evil, there are atrocities around the world and we can't solve all of them.
But when we have a capacity to respond to a monster like Assad who has been responsible for a civil war that has caused the deaths in the last seven years of half a million people, if we have a capacity to respond, we are duty-bound to do so. And that is what is happening tonight and he sent a very clear message to Russia and to Iran, you have to draw your own internal red lines now. You have to decide if you are prepared to pay a further price for sponsoring a regime as evil as Bashar al-Assad's regime. That is how simple it is.
It was amazing -- it was also -- and then he held out the advantages of being friends with the United States, the economic advantages that he would prefer to have friendship, as he often does.
General Tata, let me bring you in here. The words of the president tonight following the horrors of World War I, a century ago, civilized nations joined together to ban chemical warfare and chemical weapons are uniquely dangerous not only because they inflict gruesome suffering, because even small amounts can unleash widespread devastation. And the purpose of these actions is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons and he went on about how these are specific precision strikes.
So I believe Dr. Gorka is right. This is not a long-term protracted conflict that the president is talking about. It is to stop the specific use of chemical weapons as we saw these images this week.
TONY TATA, BRIGADIER GENERAL (RETIRED): Yes, Sean. You know, absolutely, you know, the president was right on the money and talking about the devastation that chemical weapons can cause and, you know, it's part of our national security strategy. There are two underlying principles one is to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to include chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and the other is a international order that's based on the rule of law.
So, the president is very simply implementing our national security strategy and I don't remember in recent history maybe ever in history in administration that is so good at synchronizing the elements of national power that you heard the president mention when he mentioned diplomatic military and economic, and I would add in their information, his tweets in the way that his administration shapes information and targets -- you know, he laid out in one of his tweets and economic olive branch to Russia to try to pull them away from -- and you know, he has a tweet that sends the Russian navy into the Mediterranean. I mean, that's powerful and that's an element of national power.
And, you know, diplomatically, we submitted a U.N. resolution and Russia vetoed it, as they'd done other times with regard to protecting Syria and that murderous regime. And so, when you think about diplomacy, military, economic, this administration has gotten it right on ISIS. They've gotten it right on North Korea, and they're getting it right here in my opinion.
And I think that what we've got tonight is brave souls out there flying air cover and we're going to have cruise missiles going in and I would bet money that they're targeting the SA-2 air defense systems that are Russian built that are -- that can shoot down U.S. air breather airplanes, and then we're going to do some battle damage assessment when the sun comes up and then there will be another wave coming after this thing.
And, you know, initially we're coming in with cruise missiles, but it would not surprise me if we've got B-2 bombers and several other types of aircraft ready to attack targets very specifically in Syria.
Let me go back to Dr. Gorka if I may. Dr. Gorka, the president very specific that these are precision strikes a coalition of the willing, including France and Great Britain, and to your point what the president said what kind of nation wants to be associated at a direct appeal to both Russia and Tehran tonight, what nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men women and children and the nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep and no nation can succeed in the long run by promoting these rogue states these brutal tyrants these murderous murdering despot and dictators.
And remember, it was -- it was Barack Obama that drew the red line in the sand, Dr. Gorka, and it was John Kerry that said 100 percent of these weapons are gone, they're not.
GORKA: They're not, and it was Russia that was supposed to guarantee the withdrawal of those weapons and guess what? The Obama administration believed them. But the point is a completely valid point, and Brigadier Tata made it completely correctly. This isn't just about horrible pictures and some kind of visceral emotional response. This is illegal by all standards of humanity and by international law.
You can go to war, you can defend your nation's national interests, but you cannot use chemical weapons and there -- they are currently being used against women and children and what does it say to all the Fox viewers out there who may be worried, I'd set one question for you. What does it say about America if we do nothing after such an event where a monster uses these kinds of weapons against children?
GORKA: America must respond. And it is going to be very precise, surgical, targeting those capabilities and also some symbolic targets as well, that send a very clear message to Assad. We have saved Western civilization already, many times in the 20th century, whether it's fascists and Nazis or whether it's winning the Cold War or whether it's taking down ISIS and their caliphate. Once again, America the most powerful nation on God's earth is duty bound to respond to these horrors.
HANNITY: You know, stay right there, Dr. Gorka, we appreciate it. You know, the world had seen the devastation of chemical weapons in the last century alone. You know, World War I was horrific. World War II, the president knows this. You see these images, you know how easy it is to make these weapons.
And the president also, John Roberts at the White House tonight, he also very clearly, John, put out the olive branch tonight, saying that, listen, hopefully, one day, we'll get along with Russia, maybe even Iran, maybe not. I'd say this, we have a lot to offer, meaning the United States.
ROBERTS: Well, I would think, when it comes to Iran in particular, Sean, maybe not is probably the more likely course. But, you know, in terms of Russia, the United States has had fine relations with Russia. You know, remember, Reagan and Gorbachev, they got along quite well, and then when the Berlin wall and the Soviet empire came down. There were quite close relations between President Clinton and Boris Yeltsin.
So for there to be good relations between the United States and Russia certainly it is not beyond the realm of possibility. But at the moment, I think the president was correctly articulating in the tweet earlier this week when he said that relations between the United States are at lows that it may even surpass those of the Cold War.
There is no question that the United States, the United States and Russia are not seeing eye-to-eye here. But as he did with North Korea when he was speaking to the parliament in South Korea, the national assembly there, the president said look, you know, the United States has got a lot to offer. If you want to partner with us we'll be happy to do it but we've got to work together to reign in people like Assad.
The president holding that olive branch to Iran and Russia to say, what sort of nation wants to be associated with a mass murderer. And the president in his address to the nation saying that happened last week, last weekend in Douma, were not the actions of a man but the crimes of a monster.
And clearly, Sean, when you look at the reports, huge explosions being heard over the eastern part of Damascus. This is a much different attack in terms of its targeting than it was a year and a few days ago when we fired 58 tomahawk cruise missiles. Fired 59 actually but 58 of them hit that air field was at 58 missiles and all aimed at the same place.
This time around we seem to have missiles. We don't know how yet have been fired. We'll hear that from the Pentagon soon. But all aimed at much more sensitive targets designed to really send a message at Bashar al-Assad that we've got your number and you better stop what you are doing or it could be all over for you.
The president is mulling over this decision for the last five days. He went out a little bit of a limb early on last weekend, saying the banned chemical weapons had been used. But it seems though in the last few days that the president was correct about his assessment. Emmanuel Macron saying yesterday that France has proof that chemical weapons were used.
James Mattis a little more equivocal in his statements on that front but the president confident enough tonight, Sean, that he has launched this what appears to be a massive attack against Syria and some very, very sensitive targets right there in Damascus.
You know, just watching Twitter here tonight. The French press is talking about explosions, the A.P. now talking about explosions. I look at one Arabic Twitter channel that was saying that Syria is claiming to have shot down some tomahawk missiles.
And of course, all of this are merely going, not of it fully confirmed just yet. Things are happening very, very quickly but there's no question that something that I would say is on the scope of massive is happening right now in Syria. Sean?
HANNITY: All right. John Roberts, thank you. We'll get back to you in a minute. At the Pentagon tonight, Jennifer Griffin. You know, when the president said tonight that they have rebuilt these relationships with the countries in the Middle East, Jennifer.
This is really an important fact that we missed out of fear of Iranian hegemony in the region, and obviously the relationship or the Iranians with Russians. You see what might have been unthought-of of just a number of years ago. And that's a coalition that has emerge between Israel, the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Saudi, the Emirates unprecedented cooperation and a new alliance emerging.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Well, it's interesting that alliance really came together and coalesced around the fight against ISIS. But look at where the U.S. has air bases. The U.S. has a large air base that's in Qatar as well as UAE. There are, and then of course there is the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
We've just learned, Sean, from U.S. defense officials that B-1 bombers were used in this strike. That's the first we've heard that aircraft that the Air Force was involve. Those B-1 bombers typically fly out of Qatar and those B-1 bombers would be coming in, they are stealth and they would be coming in to those Damascus suburbs, if you will.
We are hearing that are explosions in Holmes, the larger Syrian city to the north. And it's not clear right now exactly what the targets are but those targets in the capital are designed to send a very clear message to Bashar Assad.
As John reported and we've been reporting, this was a different menu of options that the military presented to the president this time. It was a broader menu of options. Because last time they were trying to deter Bashar Assad with those 59 tomahawk and 58 strikes on that one air base. But it did not, he obviously did not get the message.
So it's really a bit of irony that we've been reporting, it was exactly one year to the day that he carried out a chemical strike on his own people. It was almost as though he was daring the U.S. to do something. He believed, so I believe that with the Russians at air bases across his country and Iranian forces on the ground, he thought the U.S. would not strike.
But you heard Mike Pompeo at his confirmation hearing to be the next secretary of state, actually taught the Russians and say, look, U.S. killed hundreds of Russians not long ago on the ground in Syria when they challenged a U.S. base out in the eastern part of the country.
So, it's clear that the U.S., French and British were not going to stand by and allow these chemical weapons to be used. We will get a bomb damage assessment at some point, it will probably taken till first light before the Pentagon can actually see with satellites and other imagery what they actually hit.
But it was notable, Sean, that the president said that this would be a sustained effort of military, economic, as well as diplomatic effort. A sustained effort to stop Bashar Assad from using chemical weapons ever again. Does that mean this goes on in the coming days? It's notable that the French president reached out to the Russian president today, offering that olive branch saying that they want to find a diplomatic situation to the Civil War in Syria.
Now in these recent days, we also have noted that as more time went on, the Syrian air force was moved to protection at the Russian air base at Latakia, so the Syrians have been trying to protect some of their key assets in the last few days after it was telegraphed that some sort of strike was coming. Sean?
HANNITY: All right. Jennifer Griffin, thank you. We're going to stay on those images, we've seen the first images of the British air force now literally taking off from their bases Cyprus, a coalition of the Great Britain, U.K., France, and of course, the United States tonight.
And as you look at some of the comments the president said, one of the things that you have to acknowledge. Nobody, not very many people are talking about a coalition here of the willing although of course, France and Great Britain had publicly defended -- publicly condemned what happened here.
But what you can see is the president's foreign policy, obviously it's been temperate, clear, and very resolute and purposeful and measured. I don't care if we're talking about North Korea, now we have Kim Jong-un talking about the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. In the case of the concessions that China made in the last week as it relates to trade and tariffs and intellectual property rights, and then of course, a direct message to Russia, Iran, and now Syria.
Obviously, the world is watching all of this as it unfolds here. And as the president said, "We can't purge the world of evil or evil acts everywhere because there is tyranny. No amount of American blood or treasure can produce the lasting peace and security in the Middle East. It's a troubled place. We'll try to make it better. But it is a troubled place."
And again, the president mentioned that this will be precision air strikes that are taking place with those coalition tonight as we are on the air.
Joining us now live from Washington is Chief Washington, D.C. bureau White House correspondent Ed Henry is with us. Ed, I hear you have some new news?
ED HENRY, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Yes, Sean, you're talking about the coalition, the U.S., the Brits, the French, we have just in the last moment or two got a statement in fact from President Macron in France talking about that coalition.
I won't read the long statement but part of it says, "The facts and the responsibility of the Syrian regime are beyond doubt. The red line set by France in May 2017 - harkening back to that last big chemical weapons attack - has been crossed."
And so, that's from President Macron tonight talking about this alliance between these key allies and in terms of that alliance you have all kinds of congressional reaction pouring in, in the last few moments. Most of it very supportive of the president's military action tonight.
Senator Orrin Hatch there, a very senior Republican obviously saying in part, quote, "The response, deliberated and meticulously with international partners and carried out with their backing and participation reflects the president's commitment to restoring America's leadership in bringing Assad and his backers to justice."
I should note there are some voices on the Hill tonight, Republicans and Democrats, saying they do not believe that President Trump should have moved forward without specific authorization from Congress. That coming from Republican Thomas Massie of Kentucky, as well as, Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California. She is long been out there as being against any U.S. military action.
Though, we should note, and what the Trump White House is going to say in the days ahead is, while there is not a specific authorization for this military action tonight, they will harken back to the authorization of the use of force post-9/11. That was passed on a bipartisan basis by Congress over the global war on terror.
That is something that was not just used by the Bush administration, but it was used by the Obama administration and now tonight being used by the Trump administration as well.
So you'll hear some of those voices of dissent. We should note that as well. But many top Republican, we haven't heard from Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi yet. We expect we will soon. But most senior Republicans on the Hill tonight saying they are very supportive of the president and very supportive that he put this coalition together, Sean.
HANNITY: All right. Ed Henry, I also had a private conversation with Senator Lindsay Graham, he'd been very, very encouraging to the president to go ahead and follow-up on this action.
Here now with more reaction is Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. Colonel North, the president making very clear tonight what this is about. This is about a precision strike to send a message and of deterrent to stop the use of chemical weapons as the brutality and the evil, and to use the president's own words here, when he talked frankly, passionately tonight about all of this that it is barbarism and brutality on display that we have been witnessed with men, women, and children.
OLIVER NORTH, HOST, "WAR STORIES": Sean, last night on your show I laid out the target list. It looks like, I guess strike. I haven't talked to anybody in the administration, but I said if there is going to be an attack that's going to deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrians it had to be something more than a one off like last April.
And it clearly looks like that's the case this is going to be in this that it's going to hit economic target, it's going to take out the command and control loads in Damascus. It's going to first takeout as they did the surface to air missiles defenses which the Russians put in.
And just further to the comment that Ed just made. Look, when Ronald Reagan, 32 years ago, did the same thing to Muammar Gaddafi, the strikes out of Great Britain and off the navy carriers. He didn't go to Congress for permission. He just did it. And then what the Congress said, here's why I did it.
And I hope that's what the president does tomorrow if that settles a little bit and if necessary continues to strike at those targets that are going to make sure that this Assad regime cannot do this again. That means going after the sea ports, that means going after (Inaudible) and all of those runways and the command and control.
I tell you, if Russians persist in this effort to deny us the use of our intelligence surveillance assets, meaning the so-called drones and satellites. We've got the capacity in our military that shut the communications down with the Assad regime and the Russian and the Iranian (Inaudible) that they'll have to communicate with carrier thing. If that's what they want and they keep going to interfere with our intelligence surveillance and recognizance.
HANNITY: Yes. Colonel, stand by. We'll get back to you in a minute.
Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May has just released a statement that, "This evening, I authorized British Armed Forces to conduct coordinated targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian regime's chemical weapons capability and to deter their use. We're acting together with our American and French allies." And then she went on about the chemical weapons attack that killed up to 75 people including young children in circumstances of pure horror. The fact that this attack should surprise no one.
Mike Tobin has some new information. He's in our Israeli bureau tonight. Mike?
MIKE TOBIN, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: And Sean, what we are hearing from Arab TV, a number of different sources coming out of Arab TV said this first wave of anyway lasted about 15 minutes and they are reporting that at least two structures were hit downtown Damascus. One of them has been identified as a scientific research center.
And as you get into the potential of propaganda you have to be really skeptical when you hear something called the scientific research center. Watch that and see how it develops as they are talking about attacking or targeting of facilities that could produce or support chemical weapons will something could very well be labeled the scientific research center.
So, I'm very skeptical with that bit of information but it's a bit of the identification of some of the targets that have been hit. And it also goes along with what we are hearing now from Elysee Palace as they say the coalition is now directed at the clandestine chemical arsenal. And more specifically they say the strikes will be limited to the capabilities of the Syrian regime for the production of chemical weapons.
So this is some of the first reporting that we are getting out of Damascus right now. A couple of targets that have been identified. A little skeptical on the identification. It could very well be a dual purpose type of facility or even a fabricated name. Sean?
HANNITY: All right. Mike Tobin in Israel tonight. As you can see on the screen those are -- those are British jets taking off from Cyprus just earlier before the strikes. We're getting reports from the A.P. of loud explosions and the skies at Syria around Damascus now being lit up tonight.
Here with more reaction to this breaking news, we have Fox News contributor Sara Carter. We do have other news to bring you tonight. Doctor Sebastian Gorka, and former brigadier general Tony Tata is with us.
General, if you look at it and you look at the statements from Great Britain and France tonight, and the president tonight, it seems like everybody is on the same page. This is a deterrence, these are precision strikes, this is to send a message, but also the president did send a larger message tonight, which was to Vladimir Putin and Russia.
On the one hand, an olive branch, on the other hand basically, who would ever want to be friends with people that treat women and children this way. Same message to Iran.
TONY TATA, RETIRED BRIGADIER GENERAL: Yes. Sean, I really think that the president's comment was right on the money, very concise where he talked very strategically trying to separate Russia, trying to separate Iran from this issue so that we could focus operationally and tactically on destroying the surface-to-air missiles, the command and control nodes, and then get out with our jets and bombers the very precise locations where the chemical weapon's depos are.
And when you hear terms such as degrade and defeat. Those are doctorial terms that our--
HANNITY: General, if I may -- if I may interrupt one second.
HANNITY: We are hearing again that in addition to the U.S. warships, we do know the B-1 bombers now took part of the strikes. There's a lot of chatter that in fact, the airport is completely destroyed in Damascus. I got a report from some friend of mine in the region that that may have happened too early to absolutely say 100 percent.
But obviously, this is it a well-coordinated tactical strike. The interesting thing is, there was not a lot of chatter, general, about the fact that we would have an alliance in the strike tonight.
TATA: Yes. And that's what took a few extra days, Sean, was pulling the alliance together. You've air space coordination issues that you give sectors to each country, you got to de-conflict air space and altitude and targets and so that you make sure you're doing this exactly right.
You got to destroy the air defense weaponry that Russia has put in there all throughout Syria, Damascus especially, and then you've got to get at their command and control so they can't communicate and coordinate response. And it looks like that, we're doing that.
And then finally, you know, you unleash the B-1 and B-2 bombers. You unleash the F35s and you get in there and attack and you unleash the French and British brave fighter pilots and anybody else who is involved in this thing and allow them to attack and do what they do best. And that's what is happening right now.
TATA: That it's a very carefully coordinated plan that has been worked out over the last several days. And people who were impatient have to understand that it took a few days to pull this together. And still been very rapidly pull together and it looks like--
HANNITY: Remember the lead up to the Iraq war.
HANNITY: And going back to the U.N. It just, you can't give that much lead time when we're dealing with something like this.
Let me go back to Dr. Gorka, we have other news that we're going to get to in a minute. Dr. Gorka, I mentioned this earlier to Jennifer Griffin. When you look, there's a new configuration in the world that I think was pretty much unimaginable just a short time. And that is this unprecedented alliance.
This is a moment in history where we may look back and see that Iran has literally brought together the Israelis, Jordanians, Egyptians, the Saudis, the Emirates. And I'm sure by the time all is said and done in what as an amazing new coalition which has all the prospects for peace aligned against Iranian hegemony with the help of the Soviet Union and Vladimir Putin.
SEBASTIAN GORKA, NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGIST, FOX NEWS: Right. But it's not just Iran that help create this coalition. It's a fact that we have a new commander in chief as of January 20th of last year. A global reset was pressed and it's not a cheap plastic button delivered to the Kremlin.
The president sent a very simple message. America is back, the world is dangerous without American leadership. And don't forget, Sea, he went into the heart of the Muslim world. He went to Riyadh and he gave a speech in front of more than 50 Arab and Muslim heads of state to say we are back and we are not going to allow the evil things that have gone on for the last 16 years to persist.
But you're very, very correct. Think about the fact that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia is comparing last week the regime of the mullahs in Iran to that of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. Think about the fact that countries like Saudi Arabia are now closer to Israel than they have ever been since Israel was created after World War II.
We have a completely new constellation and there are high hopes for the fact that evil doers like Assad can be dealt with in the way that we have never seen before, Sean.
HANNITY: We're going to keep these images on the screen. There is other breaking news tonight. The inspector general only what is the first of what will be many reports. This initial report on the firing of Andrew McCabe that has happened.
Also a stunning admission by James Comey today that he doesn't know if the dossier, that we know that the Grassley grand memo had actually said was the bulk of information that was used to obtain the FISA warrant in the FISA warrant application, the three subsequent applications, renewal applications that he still doesn't know whether or not was presented to those FISA court judges is true by law or FISA law. It's supposed to be verified.
HANNITY: It is supposed to be. It is supposed to be vetted in every way. So in the days to come, this is it obviously going to be a big issue.
With the latest on that, Sara Carter is standing by. Sara, what do you have on that?
SARA CARTER, CONTRIBUTOR, FOX NEWS: Well, certainly this scathing report by Inspector General Horowitz on McCabe I think was so telling and not only verifies the reasons why OPR, the Office of Professional Responsibility, Sean, with the FBI fired McCabe and that this wasn't a move by President Trump even if he wanted him fired. It was a move by the FBI.
Because what we saw was the detailed interviews even with Comey about McCabe and the reasons why he lied. I mean, look, he lied directly to the FBI director.
He lied to the inspector general and these investigators, he lied under oath, and then he tried to throw two of his own FBI executives under the bus, and basically tried to blame them for leaking, and even reprimanded them in a phone call apparently, even though he had originally authorized the leak.
CARTER: And now with Comey, we're seeing the same kind of issues coming up.
HANNITY: Yes. You know, we look at these image and I know we'll have a lot to say about James Comey and this whole dossier and the presentation of the FISA court. Those images on the right side of your screen literally, you know, showing the horrors of this chemical weapon's attack against innocent men, women, and children.
Hang on, Sara, we'll get back to you in a second. But we have new breaking information. Our own Jennifer Griffin is at the Pentagon. Jennifer?
GRIFFIN: Well, Sean, those images you see taking off from the British air base in Cyrus. Those are British tornado fighter jets, they are taking off as we speak where that's a live feed that we are getting from that base.
But as we just reported, the B-1 bombers, the U.S. Air Force B-1 bombers, those are supersonic bombers that fly from a base in Qatar. They were involved in the air strikes tonight over Syria. They likely would have been escorted by F-22 fighter jets. Because I misspoke earlier the B-1 is not stealth and so they would have had to have been escorted. The F-22 would have been the most likely escort in case they were challenged by any Syrian or Russian aircraft.
But those B-1 bombers are interesting because they can fire standoff missiles from up to 600 miles away. They are known as JASSM missiles. They are anywhere from 200 to 600 miles out. Those standoff missiles can strike a target, so B-1s are extremely lethal and they would be joining those tomahawk missiles being fired from the navy's USS Donald Cook that's in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Those tomahawks of course can fly up to 1500 miles. They fly at a rate -- the tomahawk flies at the rate of 550 miles per hour, they are low, they are radar evading and they -- its light if you were to look up, it would be like a flying telephone going past. But those tomahawks are now joined, we're told, by B-1 bombers from the U.S. Air Force, Sean.
HANNITY: All right. Jennifer Griffin, stand by. Your description by the way, the absolute might and power of our military is inspiring. These people are incredible. Mike Tobin has more information from Jerusalem just breaking now. Mike?
TOBIN: We got a lot of information that the Syrian air defense did engage as the strike was beginning. Specifically now we have from Syrian state TV reports are acclaimed by them that they shot down some 13 tomahawk missiles.
Again, now what we have heard from people on the ground there, at least a lot of it through Arab TV that I'm getting now, is that this first wave anyway was rather brief. But the development that I have right now is a claim through Syrian state TV that 13 tomahawk missiles were shut down and multiple reports that the Syrian air defense did engage at the beginning of this strike.
HANNITY: What about the capability that you know of, Mike. In other words--
TOBIN: You know-- go ahead. What's your question?
HANNITY: No, no, what would be -- do they have the capability to take this out of the air. And if so, is that Syria doing that or remember there was a threat from Moscow that they would try to take the missile out of the air.
TOBIN: You know, I can't really hazard a guess certainly about cooperation with Russia in terms of activating their air defense. I've been in and out of Syria and their stuff does look a dramatically antiquated, certainly compared to the modern resources at the United States military has.
So it can and you can kind of guess that it's a stretch and the precision that would be required to intercept an incoming tomahawk missile. But d all I can go give you right now is the report from state TV. They claim that they intercepted some 13 tomahawks.
HANNITY: Yes, OK. We'll find out more about that. We also have one thing to remind our viewers on this tonight as this -- that was underway even as we speak here. But John Kerry said 100 percent of these weapons are gone as did Russia. The assurances came often.
We'll hear from the White House right now. We check it with our own John Roberts. He has some news as well, John, what's going on there tonight?
ROBERTS: Good evening to you, Sean. We were told just a short time ago by a White House official that the president made the decision about whether to use military force against Syria a while ago. And that probably would have been toward the beginning of this week.
The question was not if we are going to take military action, it's what sort of military action we would take. The president met with his national security team several times over the course of the last few days to listen to the plans, the options varying degrees of response. And the president picked the one that he wanted to he thought would be the most effective and that's what we are seeing going on tonight.
But it wasn't a matter of the president delivering over whether we should or whether we shouldn't. I asked him in the cabinet room on Wednesday if it was inevitable, and he said, well, we're going to meet about it and we'll see.
But it looked like by that time, Sean, the president had already made up his mind that it was just a matter of hearing from the Pentagon about what targets they thought would be the most effective and then the order went down to put everything in to place.
I got to say the White House did a pretty good job of playing its cards very close to its vest. There was a lot of Kabuki theater that was going on all day today and into tonight with a lot of head picks going on. But when the pool got called, even when the pool got called into the diplomatic room we were being told that the president and the first lady were going to Trump international hotel for dinner.
But we kind of got the idea pretty quickly that that wasn't what was going to happen. But you know, we're in the clear light of day tomorrow, we'll find out what the bomb damage assessment was here. We're not expected to hear from the White House until sometime tomorrow morning, so we'll see what they have to say. But in the next few minutes, Sean, we will be hearing from briefers at the Pentagon about what the targets were and the assets that were used.
HANNITY: John, do you have any, obviously it was it deliberative or it was well thought ought. You're right. They didn't show their hand. That was a major campaign promise of the president but in the meantime too, while independently, Great Britain and France had said that they, too, had their own redline in the sand. This coalition was put together without a lot of fanfare.
ROBERTS: Yes, it was. And it was really interesting to see the degree of forcefulness with which both French President Macron and the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May came out here. Theresa May in her statement tonight saying that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
As you can see them getting ready for the briefing there at the Pentagon.
She went on to say, now this was deep into her statement. "This is not about intervening in the Civil War, it is not about regime change." So clearly they weren't trying to cut out the head of the Assad regime. She said, "It's about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and does everything it can -- everything possible to prevent civilian casualties."
So, limited and targeted strike. I think those are two key words that we should take a look at here, Sean, as we watch what's unfolding there with the jets taking off from Cyprus and when we begin to get those initial bomb damage assessments. Because it is just about daybreak there in Syria. The sun should be starting to breakthrough about an hour's time.
HANNITY: You know, all right, John Roberts at the White House tonight.
The president, if you're just joining us, has ordered air strikes against Syria tonight in the wake of the chemical weapon's attack against innocent men, women and children. It was a coalition of the willing, including the French and Brits.
The president saying that these are precision targeted attacks. President going through the heart wrenching videos that the world saw of men, women, children and infants victims of these vicious and horrible and terrible weapons.
I want to give a shout out. We wish our military forces much success there. They are in our prayer and in our thoughts tonight. We're waiting a Pentagon press briefing on the coalition attacks in Syria.
Stay with the Fox News Channel for continuing live breaking news coverage as we pick it up. The Pentagon now will have that press conference in mere moments. Thanks for being with us.
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