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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Syria

Interview

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BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us.

Let's bring in the two chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees right now.

We're joined by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Congressman Mike Rogers, the Republican of Michigan.

Let's talk about Syria first, Senator Feinstein.

How serious do you take these reports that chemical weapons were used either by the rebels or the Syrian regime?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The Senate this afternoon was briefed. And this is one of continuing briefs.

I think any public response should come from the White House. Let me just say, it is serious. And it may well take some action.

BLITZER: Because when you say may well take some action, Congressman, you know that the president, not that long ago, said if chemical weapons were used by Bashar al-Assad's regime, that's a game changer as far as the U.S. is concerned. Are you with him on that?

ROGERS: Absolutely. I think the president is exactly right.

I argued before -- we had reports, if you recall last summer, that they had at least public reports where they moved munitions in a place where they could be used on a short notice. And there's some configuration they have to go through to be used on a short notice. That was alarming and concerning.

Now, they need to make sure. We need to verify that in fact this was a chemical weapons usage. But I argue, given the last summer's reports and what at least appears today to be some sort of some level of chemical weapons used, that we're obligated to stop the use of a weapon of mass destruction. And we have limited capabilities.

This is not big military we're talking about. I think Dianne would agree with me on that, very limited efforts, very small special capabilities that could render their nuclear weapon delivery systems not for use.

BLITZER: Well, you don't mean nuclear weapons. You mean chemical or biological weapons.

ROGERS: Chemical. Chemical. But those are considered under treaties as weapons of mass destruction.

BLITZER: Weapons of mass destruction. Well, let me be precise and pin you down, try to pin you down, Congressman. Do you believe chemical weapons were used by the Syrian military?

ROGERS: I have a high probability to believe that chemical weapons were used.

We need that final verification. But given everything we know over the last year-and-a-half, I, Mike Rogers, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, would come to the conclusion that they are either positioned for use, and ready to do that, or in fact have been used. Both of those scenarios, I think we need to step up in the world community to prevent a humanitarian disaster that we haven't seen since Halabja 25 years ago in Iraq where they killed 30,000 people with chemical weapons.

BLITZER: The Iraqis did, yes.

Let me get -- ask if you agree, Senator Feinstein, with what we just heard from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He suspects, he believes that the Syrian military did in fact use chemical weapons.

FEINSTEIN: I believe with the -- I agree with the comments that Chairman Rogers has made.

I think we hear all this in a classified session. This is highly classified. We have been advised to be very careful what we say. I am told that the White House has been briefed the same thing that we have been briefed. What I said earlier is that the White House has to make some decisions in this.

I think the days are becoming more desperate. The regime is more desperate. We know where the chemical weapons are. It's not a secret that they're there. And I think the probabilities are very high that we're going into some very dark times. And I think the White House needs to be prepared. Both committees now have been fully briefed.

BLITZER: Are we on the verge of U.S. military action to destroy those chemical weapons stockpiles, Senator?

FEINSTEIN: I can't say. All I can say is this is a decision that the White House has to make.

BLITZER: Would you support that, Congressman?

ROGERS: If in fact we prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they have used these chemical weapons, I wrote in an op-ed over the weekend that I think we are morally obligated to do something about their ability to deliver these weapons.

And if that was a very limited military strike to do that, again, I think we're morally obligated to do that, if in fact they have crossed the president's red line of chemical weapons use. I argued in my op-ed maybe we should have even looked at something earlier. I think there's a new day. Again, we have to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, but I think many people believe who have been studying this issue for some time that they are committed to their use. They have configured them for their use. And now we just need a little more forensic evidence to prove their use.

And we should be -- as I said, I think the international community should be morally motivated to stop their use, because we see what a horrible way to die, number one, and the huge humanitarian crisis that it causes on any scale of chemical weapons, the psychological terror, the real threat, the horrific way that people die. It's pretty bad and ugly stuff. And I think, if we have the capability, we should use it.

BLITZER: Senator, Congressman, if both of you can stand by, I want to take a quick break. I want to discuss other important issues with both of you, including what's going on in North Korea right now and what's going on, or maybe what's not going on with any ban on assault-type weapons.

We have much more coming up on that, also more on the breaking news. We're getting ominous reports coming out of Syria right now. You just heard what the two chairs of the Intelligence Committees had to say. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Congressman Mike Rogers, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

And I just want to clarify the breaking news, because I don't want our viewers to be confused right now. So, very concise, and very precisely, Senator, first to you, are we on the verge potentially of a U.S. military strike to knock out Syria's chemical weapons capabilities?

FEINSTEIN: Well, let me put it this way, because I have to be very careful.

I think it's fair to say that -- I will speak for the Senate Intelligence Committee -- we have been fully briefed. I think every member that was at the briefing is very concerned. I think it is a very serious situation. I think the president of Syria ought to know this. And I think that the White House needs to complete an assessment and make some statement as to what action the United States will take.

BLITZER: What's your assessment, Congressman, right now? What are the chances of a U.S. military strike to knock out Syria's weapons of mass destruction capabilities?

ROGERS: I want to clarify something.

I did not confirm the fact that we know there was a chemical attack. I said it is something we have to confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt, to take that next step. That's important. Do I believe that they have configured weapons and may have used them? Yes.

However, we don't know for sure and for certain. I think that will happen within hours, if not days, that we will get some kind of confirmation on those chemical weapon uses. But we have to prove that point. Secondly, after that, I do think we are morally obligated to take some action to make sure that they cannot use their -- they lose their capability to use their chemical weapons. I think that's incredibly important.

What that looks like is subject for discussion outside of the public view. However, I think, again, we're talking about chemical use on civilian populations. That is a use of a weapon of mass destruction. That is a serious event, of which I think would require serious action.

KEILAR: And, Senator Feinstein, this is Brianna.

Before we let you go, I want to get your reaction to the -- obviously the issue of gun violence, a cause very important to you, the assault weapons ban. It appears that your effort is all by dead. Listen to what Harry Reid said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not going to try to put something on the floor that won't succeed. I want something that will succeed. I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, Senator Reid, Senator Feinstein, had said before that you deserved a vote. But it's appearing now that it's going to be an amendment that could ultimately just be a symbolic vote. What's your response to this new...

FEINSTEIN: No, no, if it's an amendment, that is not a symbolic vote.

I did the bill in 1994 on the floor as an amendment. It enacted a law. It went on to the House. It was enacted. What Senator Reid told me is that I would have an opportunity for a vote. I take him at his word. I told him also that it would be my intention to separate out the prohibition on the future manufacture, transfer, sales, possession of large-ammunition feeding devices of more than 10 bullets.

I asked him if this could be part of a package. He said no. And I took away from that meeting the belief that we would have a vote on the full bill and a vote on ammunition-feeding devices of more than 10 bullets. This is very important to me. And I'm not going to lay down and play dead.

I think the American people have said in every single public poll that they support this kind of legislation. It's aimed to protect children, to protect schools and malls. It's aimed to dry up the supply of these over time. And it came out on a 10-8 vote of the Judiciary Committee. Not to give me a vote on this would be a major betrayal of trust, in my -- as I would see it.

KEILAR: And we know that you will fight that fight until the end.

FEINSTEIN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

KEILAR: Senator Feinstein, thank you.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And let's thank Congressman Mike Rogers as well.

Important news, both of you bringing to us, obviously a lot of tension right now as far as chemicals weapons in Syria are concerned. We will stay in close touch with both of you.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

ROGERS: Thanks.

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