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Former "Apprentice" Contests Slams Donald Trump; Sanders and Clinton Move On From Fiery Debate; Sanders at Vatican Four Days Before New York Primary; Interview with Representative Tulsi Gabbard; North Korean Missile Test Ends in Catastrophic Failure; Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 15, 2016 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:01] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. Dishonest and disloyal. Former "Apprentice" contestants tell Donald Trump, you're fired, accusing him of racism, violence and hate. Trump accuses them of disloyalty saying, quote, "Nobody would know who they are if it weren't for me."

Fallout. The Democratic debate starts as a knife fight and goes nuclear. Did either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders score a victory? Will their bitter feud now cast a shadow over the convention?

Dangerous quake. A magnitude 7 earthquake rocks Japan in the middle of the night, 30 times more powerful than a tremor which hit just hours earlier. What kind of damage will daylight reveal?

And birthday blast. Kim Jong-Un celebrates his grandfather's birthday with a parade, fireworks and a failed missile launch. We're the only TV network live inside North Korea right now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news. Donald Trump firing back at former "Apprentice" contestants who accused him of sexism, racism and violence. Trump accuses them of, quote, "total dishonesty and disloyalty." And as Trump's lead grows in his home state, he rips Ted Cruz for slamming New York values and steps up his war with the GOP establishment.

Writing in the "Wall Street Journal," Trump calls the party's delegate system rigged, even as another newspaper, "The New York Post" bets that Trump can become, quote, "more presidential."

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they get out of town after last night's CNN Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn turned into a slugfest and a shouting match. If the early debates were relatively gentle, this time they went for the jugular, battling over Wall Street, the minimum wage, gun control and the Middle East.

And just days before the crucial New York primary, Sanders flew to the Vatican where today he talked about a moral economy. Clinton stopped at a Harlem Senior Center before flying to California for a high- priced fundraiser.

And Kim Jong-Un celebrates a dynasty of dictators on his grandfather's birthday, but the launch of a new missile ends in failure. We'll go live inside North Korea for a CNN exclusive.

And I'll speak with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they'll have full coverage of all the day's top stories. Let's begin with the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Our national correspondent Jason Carroll is following the contest from Plattsburgh, New York.

Jason, what's the latest?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, Trump wrapped up his rally here in Plattsburgh taking more than a few digs at the GOP and the system which he says robbed him of votes and delegates in Colorado. He says the people of Colorado are angry and have every right to be.


CARROLL (voice-over): Tonight Donald Trump is not letting up on his claim that the Republican nomination process is rigged.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Republican system is rigged, OK. It's a rigged system.

CARROLL: The GOP frontrunner also voicing his complaints in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed, writing, "The system is being rigged by party operatives with double agent delegates who reject the decision of voters."

The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, today telling Wolf Blitzer that Trump's criticism is off base.

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: No, I think the system is working. And all the delegates that are bound to the candidates will stay bound to the candidates.

CARROLL: The volleying over the rules comes as Republican primary voters in New York get set to weigh in on Tuesday. Trump picking up the endorsement of the "New York Post" editorial board which wrote, "Should he win the nomination, we expect Trump to pivot, not just on the issues but in his manner. The post-pivot Trump needs to be more presidential, better informed on policy, more self-disciplined and less thin-skinned."

Trump holds a big lead in New York polls but he's still keeping up the attacks on rival Ted Cruz over his remarks about New York values.

TRUMP: What do we see in New York values? We see really, really incredible when you look at September 11th especially, New York police and New York firefighters, incredible. CARROLL: Cruz appearing with "Tonight Show" host and Trump

impersonator Jimmy Fallon, using a bit of humor to deflect Trump's criticism of his values comments.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So when I said "New York values" I was merely trying to say that I value New York. Except I was saying it backwards, the way Yoda would say it.

CARROLL: Trump today also facing backlash from a group of former "Apprentice" contestants who blasted the way their former boss is running his presidential campaign.

TARA DOWDELL, "THE APPRENTICE" CONTESTANT: Donald Trump is validating people's hate and his bigotry in a way that I truly believe has the potential to tear this country apart.

CARROLL: All this as Trump looks to move beyond a recent controversy involving his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who will not face charges after he had been accused by a reporter of grabbing her arm.

[17:05:10] Lewandowski telling CNN's Chris Cuomo, he tried to contact the reporter to clear the air.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR DONALD TRUMP: That night news never reporter but I called Michelle Fields because I didn't know what happened honestly. And the interaction with Michelle Fields lasted a sum total of three seconds of my entire life. I never met her before and the only time I've ever interacted with her is on that videotape. So it's not that we didn't try and reach out to get to the bottom of it. It seems to be that she wanted to inject herself into making it a story.


CARROLL: And when it comes to those former "Apprentice" contestants, Trump wanting to have the last word, releasing a statement today, Wolf, calling them ungrateful, saying, quote, "They should be careful or I'll play hours of footage of them individually praising me. Ask how successful they've been since they left, six failing wannabes out of hundreds of contestants. So sad."

That type of language may not be presidential, Wolf, but it's the exact type of plain spoken language that Trump's supporters seem to respond to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jason Carroll.

A day after their big battle in Brooklyn, the Democratic candidates, they've moved on. Bernie Sanders to the Vatican, Hillary Clinton getting ready for a California fundraiser. But their stunning slugfest exposed some raw nerves and some very hard feelings.

Let's go to our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, who's got more on that -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bernie Sanders taking a quick trip to the Vatican for a speech at a critical time just before the New York primary. The campaign denies it was about politics of course and Sanders did not get an audience with the Pope, but it's very clear right now he may need something to change the dynamic of the race, aligning himself with the teaching of the church couldn't hurt.


JOHNS (voice-over): Tonight Bernie Sanders is taking a break from the New York campaign trail for a Conference on Social and Economic Justice at the Vatican, praising the Catholic Church's teachings on the market economy.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The top 1 percent of people on this planet now own more wealth than the bottom 99 percent. That to me is unacceptable.

JOHNS: While Hillary Clinton made a stop at a senior center in Harlem.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I now know where to come when I want a good game of dominos.

JOHNS: Before heading to California for a weekend fundraising blitz with George Clooney, the Democratic race heating up ahead of Tuesday's New York primary.

SANDERS: That's just not accurate.

CLINTON: Come on. I have stood on the debate stage with Senator Sanders eight prior times.

JOHNS: The divisions on full display during CNN's Thursday night Brooklyn debate.


CLINTON: Let's do it.

BLITZER: If you're both screaming at each other, the viewers won't be able to hear either of you.

JOHNS: The Democratic contenders sparring over judgment and preparedness.

CLINTON: Even his core issue, breaking up the banks, when asked, he could not explain how that would be done.

SANDERS: Do we really feel confident about a candidate saying that she's going to bring change in America when she is so dependent on big money interests?

JOHNS: The rivals also clashing over raising the minimum wage.

CLINTON: And I will work as hard as I can to raise the minimum wage. I always have. SANDERS: I am sure a lot of people are very surprised to learn that

you supported raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour.

JOHNS: Clinton expressing regret for the 1994 crime bill signed by her husband.

CLINTON: I'm sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people's lives.

JOHNS: After the debate, asked by CNN whether he regretted his vote for the crime bill, Sanders responded.

SANDERS: In retrospect, it was a vote that led to a lot of awful things. If I had voted the other way, I'd have Secretary Clinton saying, Bernie Sanders, you had an opportunity to vote against the ban assault weapons, you didn't do that.

JOHNS: Clinton again refused to release transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs.

CLINTON: Let's set the same standard for everybody. When everybody does it, OK, I will do it. But let's --

JOHNS: Instead she tried to turn the tables on Sanders, calling on her rival to release his tax returns.

CLINTON: And I've released 30 years of tax returns and I think every candidate, including Senator Sanders and Donald Trump, should do the same.

SANDERS: What we have always done in my family is Jane does them. And she's been out on the campaign trail. We will get them out.


JOHNS: So we're still waiting for word on when Bernie Sanders will release his taxes . Why he hasn't done so is an open question. While he calls himself one of the poorer members of the Senate, tax returns can still tell you what kind of deductions a politician takes and what kinds of charitable contributions he or she makes, if any -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Joe Johns reporting.

Let's bring in our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, Bernie Sanders, when is he going to get back on the campaign trail? He's still at the Vatican right now.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He is, Wolf, but he will be back here in New York City -- at least scheduled to be back here tomorrow, on Saturday, around 12:15 or so.

[17:10:08] And he will be back on the campaign trail with a big scheduled rally in Brooklyn again on Sunday. So definitely he is taking a bit of a detour here, no question about it. But some Sanders advisers still holding out a bit of hope that he could at least cross paths with the Pope.

At this hour Senator Sanders is staying the night or believed to be staying the night, his aides confirmed, in essentially the hotel inside the Vatican. Casa Asanta Maria. And he is staying there. That's where near where the Pope stays. Possible that they could cross paths. No meeting scheduled at all. But, Wolf, he will be back here campaigning. And Sanders aides say, look, yes, he took a detour but he will actually be gone out from New York -- out of New York, a shorter amount of time than Hillary Clinton will be because she's out on that West Coast fundraiser with a big event tomorrow night with George Clooney -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And still so far no release of the 2014 tax returns from Bernie Sanders. Right?

ZELENY: So far there is no sign of that, as Joe Johns was just saying. I mean, he said last night, he told you that he would. In fact they have been saying this for a few weeks now, Wolf. So we're just talking about one year, the 2014 return. Still at this hour there's no sign of it from the campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much Jeff Zeleny reporting.

Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, she's an Iraq war veteran, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee. She's also a very strong supporter of Bernie Sanders.

Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: As he did say last night, the tax returns would be released today, so I assume they will be released today. Do you have a word on that?

GABBARD: I assume they will be. I'm not in on those conversations, but if he says he'll do it, I imagine he will.

BLITZER: From your perspective as a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, why not get all of those tax returns out? He says he's going to just release right now 2014 and maybe later he'll release some others. What's the problem?

GABBARD: It seems like he intends to release more than just 2014. And like I said, he said he's going to do it, I expect that he will.

BLITZER: But you agree the public has a right to look at these tax returns?

GABBARD: Sure. If someone is running for president, you expect there to be transparency about who they are and where they have been.

BLITZER: Were you surprised he decided to make this trip to Rome, to the Vatican, only a few days before the New York primary? Because to some it suggests, you know what, he's so far behind in the polls in New York he's basically giving up on New York.

GABBARD: Hey, you know, Bernie is not your typical politician. If there's anything that everyone can agree on, I think that's probably a good point. And I think that his going there and accepting this invitation reflects his commitment to talking on a global platform about the need for a moral economy and fairness and that he'll be back in New York tomorrow and will be working hard all the way up through the election there coming up on Tuesday.

BLITZER: Take a look at this NBC for New York -- the "Wall Street Journal" poll in New York. The Marist poll. Hillary Clinton right now 57 percent, Bernie Sanders 40 percent. It's a "Wall Street Journal" poll, I should say. Does that -- obviously that worries you. Do you think he can come back from a significant poll deficit like that?

GABBARD: I think in states all across the country, Bernie has shown a great deficit in a lot of polls. And in many of them he has been able to come back and he has won eight of the last nine contests, I believe, so he' working hard. He's got a lot of supporters working hard. To be able to get his message out to the voters in New York in advance. And it's tough, there's no doubt about it, but we'll see what happens.

BLITZER: The New York primary is this Tuesday then a week later you've got states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, similar kinds of states. And the polls show that Hillary Clinton is ahead in those states as well. She could be on a swing right now.

GABBARD: There's a lot of could-bes that we could talk about, but I know that really the important thing is to really focus on what are the critical issues that the American people are caring about, making sure that they are informed clearly on the contrasts and differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton before they go in and cast that vote on who they think who should be our next president.

BLITZER: He's made a lot of noise lately, as has Donald Trump on the other side, over the delegate selection process. He says Democratic primary process, including the super delegates, he says it distorts reality, that there are so many southern states, for example, he lost almost all of those southern states, I think he lost them all to Hillary Clinton. He says that distorts the process.

Do you have a problem with the way the Democratic Party selects a presidential nominee?

GABBARD: I think that this whole primary process has been pretty enlightening. And I can tell you some of my friends at home, they call me because they are completely confused by this process, and saying well, if someone wins by such a big margin, how come they don't get that same kind of reflection in the super delegate or the delegate count? So I think the goal and the objective going forward, and I think this is something that Bernie Sanders has talked about, is how do we open the process, how do we make it so it's transparent and fair, make it so people have easy access to voting so we have that increased voter engagement so that our democracy actually can become more vibrant and a reflection of the people who are coming out and casting their votes.

[17:15:06] BLITZER: Congresswoman, we have more to discuss. I want you to stand by.

We'll take a quick break. There's other information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, she's a Bernie Sanders supporter, an Iraq war veteran and a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, do you agree with Senator Sanders that it's time right now potentially for the U.S. to reduce its involvement with NATO unless the European allies, the other countries, starts spending more money on NATO, let the U.S. off the hook, if you will, to a financial commitment?

[17:20:13] GABBARD: Well, I agree with Senator Sanders and I think Hillary Clinton took the same position last night in the debate that other countries within NATO need to step up. They need to pay their fair share rather than always relying completely on the United States to carry the lion's share of the costs and the burden. A position that NATO takes on.

BLITZER: But you still believe in NATO?

GABBARD: I think NATO does have a place, but we've got to look at every country's role in NATO, what the mission is, what the purpose is in today's world. And I think that's a relevant conversation to have.

BLITZER: And so what would you like to see emerge from that kind of conversation? What kind of U.S. role, what kind of NATO involvement? There are 28 countries that are allies in NATO.

GABBARD: Well, I think that's a conversation that needs to happen between the United States and the countries within NATO looking at the situation in the world that exists today. I think we can look back at the past and see how things have changed, but that's something that's going to have to be worked out really between these countries.

But there has to be a more equitable share of these countries who are now facing serious threats from groups like ISIS and al Qaeda to recognize that there needs to be more done there in their homeland.

BLITZER: It's interesting that Donald Trump wants to take another look at NATO. His position not very far away from Bernie Sanders' position on this. He says the U.S. is spending too much, let the other NATO allies pick it up.

GABBARD: Well, again, I think if you look at what the United States actually pays into NATO, which I think the vast majority of the American people are not aware of, they pay more single-handedly than the vast majority of these countries combined. So I think this is valid when we look at our own limited resources, our needs to invest here at home, we need to make sure that these other countries who have challenges and situations there on their homelands are stepping up to the plate and really investing in this themselves.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the terror threat from ISIS right now, a subject I know you have looked at closely. Mohamed Abrini was the man in the hat at the Brussels airport. We now know he's in custody with the Belgium authorities right now. Currently the word is he took -- made several trips to landmarks in the area, soccer stadiums in Birmingham, England, looking potentially for targets.

How worried should U.S. citizens be right now that the same terror threat that has developed in Europe potentially could come here?

GABBARD: I think it is a concern and this is why it's important for us to take these actions to be able to know strengthen our intelligence gathering to be able to identify where such potential attacks or vulnerable targets exist and to be able to make sure through every level that we try our best to prevent such an attack from happening here.

I think there's a lot of lessons that can be learned from what Europe is experiencing right now and some of these countries as they are going through this difficult period and make sure that we are doing our part here at home.

BLITZER: Tulsi Gabbard, thanks very much.

GABBARD: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: The congresswoman from Hawaii.

Coming up, former "Apprentice" contestants tell Donald Trump, you're fired, accusing him of racism, violence and hate. Trump accuses them of disloyalty and dishonesty.

Plus Kim Jong-Un celebrates the birthday of his grandfather, the first North Korean dictator, with fireworks and a failed missile launch. We'll take you live inside North Korea. This is a CNN exclusive.

Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:28:02] BLITZER: Donald Trump is widely expected to trounce his rivals in the upcoming New York primary. That's Tuesday. But that isn't stopping Trump from escalating his feud with the Republican Party right now over a delegate selection process that Trump calls rigged.

Let's bring in our political experts for some analysis. Joining us, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, CNN political commentator, Michael Smerconish and CNN political commentator Peter Beinart, also a contributing editor at the "Atlantic."

Gloria, the "New York Post," the newspaper, the tabloid in New York, endorsed Donald Trump today and they said they did so based on the assumption that there would be a pivot, that on issues, on substance, tone, if in case he's elected president, he would assume a different attitude, if you will, become more acceptable.


BLITZER: I assume that if a lot of people believe that, though, that could really help his race for the nomination.

BORGER: Sure. Sure. But what you just said, I mean, imagine that. We're endorsing him because we think actually he's going to change. We think that he'll change on the issues. We think that he's going to change in his manner, that he'll become more presidential and that's why we're endorsing him.

I think it does represent a point of view among some Republicans, including early on in this race some establishment Republicans who believe that Trump is more malleable than, say, Ted Cruz whom they disagree with and they consider more dangerous in a way than Donald Trump. So I think oddly enough, "The New York Post" in endorsing him is representing the point of view that we can change Donald Trump if he -- if he were to be elected.

BLITZER: Michael, you've studied Trump over the years. He has changed his attitude over the years on a lot of substantive issues, right?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR, SMERCONISH: Well, he's flip-flopped on a whole host of issues if that's what you're referring to. So is change possible within him? I think absolutely. But I think I'd also say to the "New York Post," what if you're wrong? What if he doesn't pivot and this is what you get as a nominee and a president? Do you still want to endorse him?

[17:30:04] BLITZER: Well, "The New York Post" certainly did endorse him.

Michael, very quickly also on this op-ed that he wrote. Again he's doubling down on this notion that the Republican delegate selection process is rigged. The Republican Party going back at him hard on this. Where do you stand on this?

SMERCONISH: I think it's absolutely stunning. Remember, he is the frontrunner and not by a little, by a lot. The frontrunner of the Republican Party is saying this process is now rigged against me. And what I think is really going on, I think this is the hand of Paul Manafort who's been brought in to manage the convention operation, recognizing that they are in jeopardy if it gets to ballot two, three, four through whatever, and therefore they want to hold in check those delegates who might otherwise flee Donald Trump on a second ballot or subsequent ballot and go to a different candidate by creating the perception that to do so would be unjust and illegitimate. That's what the real intent is.

BLITZER: Peter, as you know, there are a lot of Republicans out there now saying they're going to support Senator Cruz not because they like Senator Cruz so much but because they really don't like Donald Trump. Is that going to potentially hurt Cruz, let's say, if he were to get the nomination?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If Cruz gets the nomination, having had fewer votes than Donald Trump, he will be a crippled candidate. I mean, he's a bad candidate to begin with. He has zero crossover appeal to Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents but he will be further weaken by the fact that you will have a very nasty, ugly convention in which Trump supporters create all kinds of chaos that makes it very hard to have a unified party going into the fall.

BLITZER: Gloria, you've been doing some reporting on the Cruz campaign and what they're trying to do, the tactics they're to engage in, to try to get Cruz that nomination.

BORGER: Right. I had a long conversation with Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia attorney general, who has been brought in by the Cruz campaign to be their sort of chief delegate hunter. And he took great umbrage at the notion that this is a rigged system. And let me just show you what he said to me. He said, quote, "This is good old- fashioned running the ball up the middle. We're not the ones threatening people. It's offensive. And what he is of course referring to is the comment that Roger Stone, who does not work for the Trump campaign, I should add, but is a Trump ally, you know, he kind of made a threat on a program when he said that he would disclose the hotel locations of people who were once Trump supporters and were now disloyal to him.

You know, Cuccinelli says we are doing well at this because we are on the ground and we are organizing and we are a grassroots campaign. And by the way, you know, he's not running into a lot of Trump or Kasich interference on the ground -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's interesting, these -- the inside game that's unfolding right now.

Everyone, stand by. Let's take a quick break. We'll have more with our political experts right after this.


[17:37:44] BLITZER: We're back with our political experts. And let's turn to the Democrats right now.

Michael Smerconish, a lot of people were expecting Hillary Clinton to really go after Donald Trump in the debate last night but she really went after Senator Sanders. Is that a more immediate issue for her right now, especially with New York only a few days away?

SMERCONISH: Definitely. She struck me last night, and, Wolf, I thought you did a tremendous job and it's not just because this is your program. I really believe that you had a yeoman's task and separated the two of them and you did great.

She struck me last night as a prize fighter who has grown tired of sparring. She's been out of this game for eight years as a candidate. She needed a tune-up. He has given her more than she bargained for. Now she wants to dispense with him, and move on and pivot toward the general. She needs to win big in New York to make that happen. A close victory is in his best interest.

BLITZER: Good point. And thank you for the nice words.

Gloria, Senator Sanders certainly has changed his tone over these months. Listen to this exchange. This was, what, back in the fall.



SANDERS: I mean I cannot walk down the corridors in Capitol Hill without being really begged by the media to attack Hillary Clinton. They want to make this personal. It's easy to cover. I choose not to do that.


BLITZER: He chose to go after her last night.

BORGER: Well, and I'm just going to add to what Michael said. He -- it was a difficult task to control those two and I think you did it brilliantly, so congratulations to you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

BORGER: And our whole team there the other night. Yes, this is like I'm old enough to remember when Bernie Sanders didn't want to attack Hillary Clinton. That's like six months ago.


BORGER: So it's kind of -- it's kind of crazy that now he still says, by the way, that he's not attacking her, he's drawing contrasts with her, and yet he's questioned her qualifications, he's questioned her judgment, he questions her paid speeches, he questions her ties to Wall Street.

BLITZER: And the vote in favor of the war in Iraq.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: Keeps going after that.

BORGER: And this question of judgment, as the Clinton people point out, if that's not an attack on her character, then what is? I mean, he's sort of decided that in order to win, he's got to -- he's got to cross that line.

BLITZER: Michael, you wanted to say something?


[17:40:02] BEINART: No, I was going to say -- yes, I really disagree with this.

BLITZER: Peter, go ahead.

BEINART: I mean, there is a really important distinction between, you know, if you're talking about her judgment in supporting the Iraq war or the fact that because she takes -- she's gotten money from big banks, she's not have likely to be as tough a critic and -- of financial institutions, I think those are -- that's legitimate. I think that Bernie Sanders has always laid out ideological differences with Hillary Clinton. Where he hasn't wanted to go is on issues like the e-mail, I think that's a legitimate distinction.

BORGER: But, Peter, when Dana Bash asked him to name an example, and you know, of a moment in which she might have pulled back because of contributions from Wall Street, he sort of deflected that.


BORGER: I mean, Elizabeth Warren has named examples, but Bernie Sanders didn't do that.

BEINART: But that's a -- I agree, that was a failing but that doesn't mean he shouldn't criticize her. I mean, he could have been good answers. He could have said, well, she doesn't want to break up the banks like I do. That was a poor answer but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be critical of her.


BLITZER: Peter, what did you think of the exchange he had with Hillary Clinton on the whole issue of Israel and the Palestinians?

BEINART: I think what Bernie Sanders said was brave and important. Hillary Clinton has barely talked at all about Palestinian suffering and Palestinian dignity in this campaign. And to talk about it and talk about Palestinian humanity and the right for Palestinian self- determination does not make you anti-Israel in my book, it makes you pro-Israel because Israel will not ultimately be a successful country if it controls millions of people who lack basic rights.

BLITZER: It was unusual, Michael, though, coming only a few days before a Democratic primary in New York state.

SMERCONISH: No doubt. I mean, to walk into that room last night and to say to Secretary Clinton, I paid close attention to what you said to AIPAC and you paid no attention to Palestinian rights, I thought, Peter's word choice, it was a bold position. We'll see what happens on Tuesday.

BLITZER: There's no doubt, Gloria, he's a very blunt guy. He speaks his mind.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: And he's not necessarily overly concerned specifically on this issue about the potential political consequences. BORGER: Well -- and, you know, Wolf, he had fired his Jewish outreach

coordinator just a day or so before. And the campaign I know had had discussions on this particular issue and how he should frame it. I mean they understand they're in New York for heaven's sakes, and Bernie Sanders, to his credit, whether you agree with him or disagree with him, Bernie Sanders stood his ground.

I mean, he hasn't changed his position on the plight of the Palestinians at all. And I think, you know, this is one area where Donald Trump says he wants to be an honest broker, Bernie Sanders talks about the Palestinian predicament and their grievances, and I think it's one area and we saw many last night on NATO, for example, Bernie Sanders seemed to agree with Donald Trump on spending too much money on NATO, where those two seem to be flip sides of the same coin.

BLITZER: Do you want to just button this up, Peter?

BEINART: Yes, I think the unfortunate thing is that he did suspend Simone Zimmerman, his Jewish coordinator, who is a friend of mine who I think is actually going to be a great leader in the American-Jewish community. If he had held firm on that, he would have won even more respect from the very young Jews who are changing the Israel conversation in our community.

BLITZER: Peter Beinart, thanks very much. Gloria Borger, thanks to you. Michael Smerconish, thanks to you.

And an important note to all of our viewers, tune into to watch Michael Smerconish's program tomorrow morning, it's called "SMERCONISH," 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Very, very smart program on CNN.

Coming up, a North Korean missile test ends in disaster. The secretive regime is closely guarding news of the catastrophic developments involving its own citizens. Instead they're celebrating the birthday of the nation's founder. We'll have an exclusive live report. That's coming in from Pyongyang.


[17:43:24] BLITZER: There's breaking news. Japan now scrambling to recover from a devastating magnitude 7 earthquake that rocked the southern coast. One person has been killed. The region is already on edge following a magnitude 6.2 tremor that struck only yesterday killing nine people. The city closest to the epicenter of this latest quake is extremely densely populated. Experts are predicting devastating damage. We're going to stay on top of this story for you.

We're also following new developments in North Korea where several anxious days of preparation for a ballistic missile test ended with a spectacular failure on the launch pad. But security analysts tell CNN this isn't the time for the United States to let down its guard.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is tracking the latest developments for us. Barbara, what are you learning? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Wolf, Kim

Jong-Un did not get what he wanted out of this test and the crucial question for Washington is what might he do next.


STARR (voice-over): At a massive ceremony in Pyongyang, celebrating the birthday of North Korea's founder, no sign of a catastrophic military failure hours earlier. As U.S. spy satellites and aircraft watched and listened, North Korea's first attempt to launch a mobile ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam and Alaska blew up into a ball of flame before it even took flight, U.S. officials say. The White House quick to condemn.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that explicitly prohibit North Korea's use of ballistic missile technology.

[17:50:05] STARR: Concerned about the missile launch, the U.S. and Japan put aircraft and missile defenses on high alert. A U.S. official tells CNN. Behind the pomp, the U.S. calculating how North Korea's highly unpredictable leader Kim Jong-Un will deal with the failure.

PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: I expect Kim Jong- Un will keep testing missiles and have potentially a fifth nuclear test.

STARR: China remains a cautionary voice.

LU KANG, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (Through Translator): At present, the situation on the Peninsula is complex and sensitive.

STARR: But U.S. military tensions with China are rising over China's claim to clusters of manmade islands in the South China Sea that the U.S. believes could restrict maritime movement.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter sailing through the area on board the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis, sending a strong signal the U.S. military will maintain freedom of navigation.

ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: In the South China Sea, China's actions, in particular, are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.

STARR: This after a top Chinese military officer sent his own signal a few days ago visiting one of the islands known as Fiery Cross Reef.


STARR: And the U.S. counterpunch now, a new military agreement with the Philippines. There will be more joint patrols, more exercises in training and U.S. access potentially to five Philippine military bases. A signal to China and North Korea that the U.S. military is in Asia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, thanks very much.

Let's get an exclusive look right now at those celebrations taking place inside North Korea. Our correspondent Will Ripley is joining us now live from the capital of Pyongyang.

Will, most North Koreans have no indication that the missile test went horribly wrong, do they?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's correct. More than 24 hours after the U.S. and South Korea say this missile attempt failed, there has been no official announcement on state media or from the government even acknowledging that this failed launch took place. Instead, the country is focusing on the Day of the Sun. The birthday of North Korea's founder, the most important holiday, a very big day and a big disappointment for the regime that was hoping to make a military splash.


RIPLEY (voice-over): You won't find any mention of a failed missile launch here in Pyongyang. You will find tributes to a man North Koreans call their great leader.

More than 20 years after his death, North Korea's founder is a fixture of daily life. President Kim Il-Sung's portrait hangs in every home. Flower bearing his name has its own encyclopedia. State TV would have touted a successful mobile missile launch as a grand triumph, but the U.S. and South Korea say the early morning launch failed. Most North Koreans will never know what happened. Even those with smartphones don't have access to outside Internet.

Pyongyang often chooses public holidays for high-profile shows of force. In January, supreme leader Kim Jong-Un ordered an H-bomb test just days before his birthday. Observers say Kim is trying to project strength ahead of the crucial Workers Party Congress next month when the young leader could gain even more power.

In February, he ordered a satellite launch using a long-range rocket. Models of that rocket, the Kwangmyongsong-4, are on display in the North Korean capital. "Whenever I see these rockets I feel very proud. We are all happy," says Moon Un-Chul. Kim Sung Hui says, "This is a symbol of our national dignity." And the regime says the only way to protect North Korea from a looming threat in the South. 17,000 American service members engaged in military exercises with 300,000 South Korean troops.

North Korea's own military response has included firing projectiles, claims of miniaturizing nuclear warheads, promises of more nuclear and missile tests.

We don't get the full picture of life in North Korea. Just like the people here our view is limited to what the government allows us to see. On this Day of the Sun, the symbolism is clear. International pressure, even a disappointing apparent failure won't stop the regime from developing the most powerful weapons it can to guard against its number one enemy, the United States. (END VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY: The U.N. Security Council has implemented some of the toughest sanctions ever on the North Korean regime trying to stop the development of the nuclear and missile program. Of course enforcement of those sanctions relies heavily on China. And recently CNN visited the border in Dandong where we saw a number of cargo shipments still moving back and forth.

And I can tell you, Wolf, on the streets here in Pyongyang even in just the last two years I've been coming here, there are more cars than ever.

[17:55:03] There are construction projects everywhere. People have electronics. They are well-dressed. Well-fed. So at least at this point, the sanctions don't appear to be affecting daily life in the capital. Of course Chinese state media is saying it may take six months to a year to really feel the effects that you say that the sanctions will hurt and potentially stop the regime but you can see the determination of the country to continue developing these programs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Will, I noticed you were wearing an arm band. What was that?

RIPLEY: This is what we have to wear whenever we're reporting in North Korea. This is a press band to identify us as members of the media. We're told that we have to wear this because we are American journalists and the feelings here of hostility towards Americans are pretty clear. They say this is for our identification and also protection because we're always escorted by government minders everywhere we go.

BLITZER: Exclusive reporting by Will Ripley for us in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Will, thank you very much.

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