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Clinton Meets with Bipartisan National Security Advisors; North Korea Launches Fifrh Nuclear Test; Discussing Trump Foreign Policy. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 9, 2016 - 17:00   ET


TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer will bring you Hillary Clinton's comments live in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Nuclear fallout. New details are emerging about North Korea's shocking test of its most powerful nuclear bomb today. The dictator, Kim Jong-un, now believed to be pushing for quick development of a nuclear weapon that can be bonded on a rocket. Will he target the U.S.?

American impact. President Obama is joining world leaders in condemning North Korea's nuclear detonation as unlawful and dangerous, and he's warning of consequences. Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are also denouncing the test. What impact will it have on the campaign?

Putin network. Russian government television airs an interview with Donald Trump, who defends Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian president probably is not interfering in the U.S. presidential race.

The Trump campaign says it was blind-sided, never knew the interview would air on Russian TV. With criticism growing, will Trump stand by his praise of Putin?

And Russian infiltration. Sources are telling CNN the FBI and Justice Department now believe there's enough evidence to publicly name Russia responsible for the cyber-attacks on American political organizations. But there's pushback from U.S. intelligence agencies and some White House officials. Why are they reluctant to call out the Kremlin?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER; We're following the breaking news. The nuclear threat from North Korea suddenly surging with the testing of its largest weapon to date. The device is said to be double the strength of the last nuclear bomb tested by North Korea. A source tells CNN the latest detonation indicates the dictator, Kim Jong-un, is pushing his nuclear program very rapidly, and its capability is, quote, very troubling.

Also breaking this hour, law enforcement and intelligence sources are telling CNN that officials at the FBI and the Justice Department now believe there's enough evidence to publicly blame Russia for cyber- attacks on U.S. groups, including the Democratic Party, but the sources are also saying some officials are reluctant to publicly call out Russia for fear of exposing U.S. intelligence operations, as well as possible retaliation.

We're covering all of that and more this hour with our guests, including one of Donald Trump's key national security advisors, former Republican congressman Pete Hoekstra. And our correspondents and our expert analysts are also standing by.

Our senior Washington correspondent, first, is in New York. He's covering Hillary Clinton. She's expected to speak momentarily.

Jeff, what are you hearing about what is taking place there? She's conducted this national security briefing.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: She has indeed, Wolf. It was a bipartisan meeting of about 16 advisors or so, some joining by video conference. Others meeting for about 90 minutes with Hillary Clinton.

She listened to a range of perspectives here. But the list of participants so interesting, Wolf. David Petraeus, of course the architect of the Iraq War surge in 2007, on that list, as well as officials from the Bush administration and the Obama administration and others.

But Secretary Clinton trying to make a bipartisan show here that she is ready to be commander in chief and reach across the aisle, drawing a contrast to Donald Trump.

Now, she took questions and listened to all of these points of views and perspectives. And Wolf, this comes at the end of a really long audition week, if you will, for commander in chief. She's been going back and forth with Donald Trump here. And this was a very presidential style optically type of meeting.

If you look behind me here, Wolf, you can see the set up. She's going to be speaking here just momentarily. We're at the New York Historical Society building. And really wants to draw the distinction and the differences here that she believes in terms of judgment with Donald Trump.

So Wolf, a different phase of the campaign here as we are 60 days out now from election day, as she tries to win over some skeptical Republicans still by making the argument that Donald Trump simply is not acceptable to have his finger on the nuclear codes and to be the commander in chief.

BLITZER: Do we know, Jeff, at least some initial indications what happened during that briefing, that briefly clearly behind closed doors?

ZELENY: It was behind closed doors, Wolf, but we do have a sense of she really talked, we're told, about the -- you know, certainly the fight against ISIS, specific proposals and policies in the fight against ISIS. Also, Donald Trump's proposals. There was sort of going through them point by point, why they are not the right policies, in her view.

And it's important to point out: all of these participants are not necessarily supporters of her. In fact, David Petraeus was joining by video conference. He has not endorsed anyone in this contest. But these people, I'm told, are advisors to her campaign. So it was this type of discussion, Wolf, that we'll be hearing shortly from the secretary.

[17:05:03] BLITZER: So what you're saying is that those national security experts who were briefing, participating in this meeting, not necessarily all of them have formally, publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton for election?

ZELENY: Indeed, Wolf, it was a group of bipartisan policy advisors. David Petraeus certainly one person who didn't -- who has not endorsed; other people on the list also have not endorsed her candidacy.

And that is exactly her point here, Wolf, trying to make the case that she is a leader who will reach out to both sides. She's running an add right now in battleground states that she is a leader who will work with Republicans and Democrats. Convening this type of meeting, trying to draw a distinction, again, in leadership styles, leadership approaches here.

Wolf, also, many of the people around this table in the room, she has disagreed with. The Iraq surge in 2007 a key example hear. But trying to show that she, you know, will go above and beyond specific policy disagreements here to present herself as really a president in waiting.

Now the question here, we saw Donald Trump's speech earlier this afternoon in Washington, really hammering her hard on e-mails, on other things. That is the challenge facing the Clinton campaign: can they get beyond those controversies, and can they win over some of these skeptical voters in the middle here? That's what this meeting and other meetings are designed exactly to do: try and make people feel more comfortable. They may not like her. They may not -- she may not be their first choice, but she's trying to make people realize that she is the best prepared for this job through meetings like this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we see that door over there. Hillary Clinton's going to be walking through that door, going to the podium. We anticipate, Jeff, she'll be making a statement on the results of this meeting? Do we anticipate she'll also take questions from reporters?

ZELENY: I do, Wolf. I think -- this room, you know, as you can see, is set up in a press conference like forum, so I do expect she may take a few questions. And really, that is a marked change this week. This would be the fourth time this week, if she takes questions here, that she's done that. So certainly a different moment in the campaign, wanting to, you know, really stay on offense with Donald Trump. Wolf, also presidential campaigns, as we know, are a reflection of what is happening in real time. In North Korea, the nuclear test overnight suddenly also is an issue in this presidential campaign. That is something that she issued a statement on earlier. She said it was an -- outrageous, she called it. And she also said it's an example of why America, the United States, needs to elect a steady leader.

So at every turn here, Wolf, trying to draw a distinction between her leadership style and Donald Trump's leadership style. But again, this is something that will be playing out over the next 60 days in battleground states across the country.

And as we know, this race is tighter than many of her supporters would have expected, but still, this is a moment in this campaign where she is trying to draw a distinction. And of course, Wolf, we're on the cusp of the 15-year anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday here. This really heightens the moment here of terrorism around the world and the role, of course, she's played when she was a senator here in New York -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Jeff, momentarily. The former secretary of state, the Democratic presidential nominee, will walk through that door, go up to the microphone and speak, speak on this meeting she's been having with top national security advisors, also presumably answering some questions from reporters.

Gloria Borger, David Chalian, as we await the arrival of the Democratic nominee at that microphone, the stagecraft, David, is pretty interesting. It looks almost presidential.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It looks like the White House. In fact, this is the New York Historical Society. The Clinton campaign, the advance team, clearly was trying to create a presidential image, both with the meeting itself, and with the flag display and the columns. There's no doubt what they're trying to convey, is that this is a person who you can envision being commander in chief.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So they literally put her in front of the flags and the columns and...

BLITZER: All right. I think she's coming out right now...


BLITZER: ... walking up to the podium. Here she comes, the Democratic presidential nominee. There she almost is. There's some of her aides. Here she comes. Let's listen in to Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Good afternoon. I just finished meeting with a distinguished group of national security experts. Some served under a Republican president, some under a Democrat, some under both, and some in uniform. They don't agree on everything, but together they represent a great deal of expertise, experiences, and lessons learned. I asked them to join me for a candid conversation about some of the

most challenging issues facing our country, because I believe that America's national security must be the top priority for our next president.

[17:10:10] To do that job, you need to constantly seek new information and new perspectives, test your assumptions, ask and answer hard questions. That's what today was about. And I'm grateful to these men and women for sharing their insights with me. I hope and intend that our conversations will continue, because as I've said many times I believe in a bipartisan foreign policy. We won't always see eye to eye, but when it comes to questions of war, peace, and the safety of our country, we can't let party affiliations stand between us. We need to put partisanship aside and work for the good of all of us. And I know we can do it. I've seen it happen under both Republican and Democratic presidents. So that will be my goal if I'm elected this fall.

Today, our main conversation was, as you might expect, ISIS and other terrorist threats. We discussed how ISIS is finding ways to convince young men around the world and some young women, including in our own country, to get assault weapons or strap on bombs and kill large numbers of people. And we talked specifically about a strategy to protect us from that threat here at home.

We went into detail on what it will take to surge our intelligence, to help us detect and prevent attacks before they happen. We also discussed methods to disrupt online recruitment so they stop reaching and radicalizing young people on the Internet.

And one of the points that many of the participants emphasized, which deserves a higher priority in a counterterrorism strategy, is the role of local governments and community leaders here at home who truly do act as our first line of defense.

While we protect the homeland, though, we need to take the fight to ISIS. That means smashing their strongholds, denying them safe havens, dismantling the global network of fighters, financing and arms that supply these terrorists, which requires working closely with our allies.

It does not mean sending contingents of American combat troops to take and hold territory. That's neither wise nor in the interest of the United States. And it is exactly what ISIS wants.

Instead, we have to hit them from the air and intensify support for local Arab and Kurdish partners on the ground. I support deploying more Special Forces, enablers, and trainers as needed, increased surveillance and intelligence gathering and reconnaissance.

And as I said earlier this week, I also believe it should be a top priority to take the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, off the battlefield, just like we did with Osama bin Laden. That will help us focus our efforts and make it very clear that no one attacks the United States, or inspires attacks, without being brought to justice. Here today, we talked about what we need to do. I would stand up a mission team to bring focus and priority to this effort. We will devote the intelligence assets necessary, combined with the capabilities of our allies and partners on the ground and the precise application of military force. We know how to do this. We have models to draw from. It will be a paramount priority for me as president. And it will send exactly right message.

History tells us that we need an approach that's comprehensive and deals with multiple overlapping conflicts in the region and along the entire arc of instability from North Africa, through the Middle East, into central Asia and beyond. As we've been reminded in just the last 24 hours with reports of another nuclear test in North Korea, we face threats from many parts of the world. Indeed, ISIS and North Korea's quest for a nuclear weapon are not entirely unconnected. Because the greatest threat of all would be terrorists getting their hands on loose nuclear material. So it's vital we bring the world together to stop North Korea's dangerous game.

In discussions of national security, it can be easy to get mired in the tactics or overly focused on the threats. But let's not lose sight of what this, this larger project of American leadership is all about. It is about creating more peace in our world, more prosperity, more human dignity. And that's what we have to also be focused on every day.

[17:15:09] There were a number of very excellent suggestions about what we can and should be doing here at home to try to bring our American Muslim community much more closely and welcomed into the struggle against radicalization and recruitment. And I am anxious to follow up on the ideas and even some of the model programs that are currently under way.

I'm humbled to be supported in this race by a growing number of retired military leaders. Earlier this week, 95 retired generals and admirals endorsed me for president. And in the past 48 hours, another 15 have joined them. So have people on both sides of the debates that have defined our foreign policy for the last 30 years. Their support is an honor. I'm grateful for it. But it's also a signal that this election is different.

I don't want to rehash everything my opponent has said in this campaign, but no conversation about our national security would be complete unless we acknowledge that the nominee on the other side promises to do things that will make us less safe. National security experts on both sides of the aisle are chilled by what they're hearing from the Republican nominee. That may be the No. 1 reason why this election is the most important in our lifetimes.

So I'm not waiting until November. I'm bringing Democrats and Republicans together now, because I plan to get right down to work on day one. The stakes are too high, and the issues too serious for anything less than that level of preparedness. Americans should be about to count on their president and commander in chief to provide rational, confident and even-keeled leadership, especially in tumultuous times like these. So I'm very grateful to the men and women I met with today, experts

with a broad range of understanding and willingness to share their insights, and I look forward to continuing to receive their advice in the days and weeks ahead.

We'll take just one or two questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Clinton -- I'm sorry.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you employ the same strategy with North Korea as the Obama administration: repeated patience (ph) and rapidly escalating tensions. That's clearly failed. Tell us how you would approach this problem, if elected, and how will your plan differ from the one you and President Obama have pursued for four years when you were in office and he has pursued since (ph)?

CLINTON: Well, Amy, I think it's clear that the increasing threat posed by North Korea requires not only a rethinking of the strategy, but an urgent effort to convince the neighbors, most particularly China, that this is not just a U.S. issue. And I think we have an opening here that we haven't had for the last several years, that I intend to do everything I can to take advantage of.

But we're also going to support and equip our allies in the region with the missile defense systems they require to protect themselves. That is not something that either the North Koreans, or the Chinese, or the Russians in the region are particularly pleased about, but what is the alternative? We are not going to let anyone who is a treaty ally and partner of ours be threatened, and we are not going to let North Korea pursue a nuclear weapon with the ballistic missile capacity to deliver it to the United States territory. That is absolutely a bottom line, and if other countries want to assist us in this effort, we welcome that, and we will engage in intensive discussions as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Clinton, you put out a statement earlier today, saying that you support President Obama's call for additional sanctions on North Korea, but they've faced sanctions for years and clearly, it hasn't stopped them from moving forward on their nuclear program. So how will a few more sanctions help? And would you consider the kinds of negotiations that you pushed for with Iran?

CLINTON: Well, the answer to the second question is yes, because we faced a similar problem in 2009. As a senator, I voted for every sanction that was put before the Senate against Iran in our effort to try to prevent Iran from moving forward on a nuclear program.

[17:20:12] It didn't stop them. They built covert facilities. They mastered the nuclear fuel cycle. They were able to acquire and put into operation a significant number of centrifuges. So our sanctions, despite our best efforts, were not enough.

And although we have international sanctions against North Korea, some of which I helped to negotiate when I was there, they aren't enough either, and they aren't enough for the very same reason I was responding to Amy about. They're not enough because China has not yet made the decision that it needs to make, that North Korea poses a threat to the region and poses a threat to the kind of stable border relationship that China has always valued with North Korea.

So we are going to continue to look at how we tighten sanctions, because I do think there is a role for sanctions. The regime in North Korea lives off of goods and material that can be smuggled in to keep their lifestyle and their love of luxury going. So I think there's a lot more we can do, and it will be on the top of my list in dealing with China on how we're going to prevent what could very well be a serious conflict with North Korea.


CLINTON: Well, Jennifer, you know, you don't talk about leverage until you actually produce leverage. And I believe that we do have leverage with China, and I believe, based on my extensive discussions when I was secretary of state, that there's even a conversation starting within China about how to handle the changes in the North Korean regime.

China has no interest in seeing the kind of build-up which we are going to be doing. And I will stress this and underline it: we will not leave our friends and allies unprotected. And we will do everything we can to put in the most effective missile defense system against anything that North Korea does. Chinese are not happy about that. We have a lot of leverage.

And we're going to exercise that leverage, and we're going to put together the kind of negotiations that I think can lead to a beginning of containing and controlling the behavior of the North Korean government, which has the danger of affecting everyone, including China.

Thank you all. Thank you all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Clinton, do you have a response to Donald Trump's appearance on Russian-funded television?

CLINTON: You know, every day that goes by, this just becomes more and of a reality television show. It's not -- it's not a serious presidential campaign.

And it is beyond one's imagination to have a candidate for president praising a Russian autocrat like Vladimir Putin, and throwing his lot in with him, in the way that he approved of his wish list, and not even really understanding what Putin has already done, like invading and occupying Crimea.

We are living in challenging times, and that certainly was reinforced by the excellent discussion we had today. No one who wants to assume the responsibility of being president and commander in chief should be making the kind of reckless and dangerous statements and identifying with a regime that has some aggressive tendencies toward our interests, our values, our friends and allies. So can I say I was surprised? I'm not sure anything surprises us

anymore. But I was certainly disappointed that someone running for president of the United States would continue this unseemly identification with and praise of the Russian president, including on Russian television.


[17:25:01] BLITZER: All right, there you have it, the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, couldn't resist answering that last question. She started to walk away from the microphone, but when asked about Donald Trump's interview with Russian TV, she really went after him.

Earlier she said this election is different. Trump will do things that will make the American people, make the United States less safe.

David Chalian, Gloria Borger are here.

David, she wanted to show her foreign policy, national security credentials following this meeting with these former national security advisors. That was the message she wanted to convey.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about that. She wants to convey that, in this campaign, there is one person you can see as commander in chief behind the desk in the Oval Office with the nuclear codes, and one person you cannot. And she did that throughout the whole of taking questions, from starting in this very sober tone about ISIS and terrorist threats being the big part of the discussion. Then getting to the news of the day with North Korea. But then ending with the contrast and saying it's not a serious presidential campaign when she's referring to Donald Trump and then throwing in the words that she has in the past, like reckless and dangerous.

So she had both the sobriety that she wanted to portray and the contrast.

BORGER: No, I think she was dismissive of Donald Trump on foreign policy. Look, this is -- this is terra firma for her. She'd rather be talking about this than about her e-mails.

And this -- she said it's a reality TV show, and she talked about Donald Trump praising an autocrat like Vladimir Putin, and she reminded us of the invasion in Crimea. She is -- she was kind of, I would have to say -- I mean, "dismissive" is the word that I would use. And said, "Look, if you want a serious candidate, who is," as she said, "willing to test her assumptions on bipartisan foreign policy, then I'm the person you want to be voting for."

And the appeal she is making is to people who already know why they don't like Donald Trump. They already know that. But it's to voters who have to figure out a reason to affirmatively vote for her, and they believe in the campaign that this is one area where she can make a lot of headway with suburban voters, women in particular.

BLITZER: Yes, she's really going after Trump on his statements that he's made about Putin. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton called Putin a strong man. Today, she's calling him an autocrat. Let's see what she calls him tomorrow.

Stand by. I want to get some more on all of this.

One of Donald Trump's key national security advisors, former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, is joining us. He was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

PETE HOEKSTRA, TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Yes, good to be with you, Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: All right. So what's your reaction to what we just heard from Hillary Clinton?

HOEKSTRA: This is a total reset, what we saw today, from Secretary of State Clinton, is a total repudiation of the last seven and a half years of the Clinton/Obama foreign policy. And basically, saying, "I want a do-over. I recognize that our policies with ISIS and radical jihadism have not worked. The level of threat from these radical jihadists has increased. Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan. They all became -- became failed states on my watch. And so I need to start over and bring in a bipartisan group of experts, because the strategy that I advocated and implemented hasn't worked. The strategy with North Kore hasn't worked. Please give me a do-over."

This is Hillary Clinton not only breaking with President Obama; it is breaking with Secretary of State Clinton and her foreign policy. It -- it's a major reset of the campaign.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what -- the man you want to be the next president of the United States, Donald Trump, what he wants to do. He said this week the situation in North Korea is China's problem. Do you agree?

HOEKSTRA: It is -- it is America's problem. It's China's problem, of course. The neighbors of North Korea are most vulnerable and at greatest risk. So yes, the neighborhood and the countries in the neighborhood are the ones that we need to work with. So it is China's problem. It is South Korea's problem. It's Japan's problem. Of course it's America's problem, as well.

Because one of the key things that we don't know about the test that happened today, this is the fourth test on the Obama watch. And the key here is have they developed the capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and put it on a ballistic missile? That's the big question that in the coming weeks we may get an answer to.

But you know, it's a region-wide program, but it's also an America problem. But we also need to take a look at Iran. Because when we signed the deal with Iran...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a second, Congressman.


BLITZER: Because Donald Trump was very specific. He said he would leave it to China to get the job done as far as North Korea is concerned.


He said China has the leverage, China can do it, I'll defer to China. He wants China to do it. Do you agree with him that China can do it?

PETER HOEKSTRA, TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: China has the leverage and has -- China and Iran were the two countries that have the most leverage with North Korea. We gave up any opportunity to influence Iran, in exercising leverage through Iran and North Korea when we signed the deal. Today, really we need to work with China, and we need to put the pressure on China so that China can influence behavior. Washington will not influence behavior at this point in time.

You know the President's response today, Secretary of State, Clinton's response was, you know, well hey, we're really going to get tough now. They've heard that for seven and a half years. The world has heard this President, the former Secretary of State, make these kinds of threats. And America has never been -- these threats have never been followed through on. People no longer respect the United States of America.

So yes, we do need to use proxies and in that part of the world the proxy right now until America re-establishes its influence and credibility around the world, the leverage point is China.

BLITZER: Trump said, you know he's obviously criticized President Obama very severely for the negotiations with Iran over the Iranians nuclear program. But earlier this year he said he would have no problem speaking with the North Koreans, suggesting he might even be willing to sit down with Kim Jong-Un, bring -- maybe even bring him here to the United States.

Is it hypocritical of Donald Trump to so say he would sit down with the North Korean dictator at a time when he goes after the Obama administration for its negotiations with Iran on its nuclear deal?

HOEKSTRA: Wolf, it's one thing to sit down and talk with someone. I still remember in 2003 I was asked to go visit with Moammar Gadhafi. I said I don't want to go and they said, no, we want you to go because we think he may actually be flipping sides. And 18 months later he'd gotten rid of his nuclear weapons program, he had paid reparations, and was killing Jihadists, working with us. So that opening that was provided we took advantage of it and moved it forward.

Talking with these folks, and maybe through back channels or whatever, that's okay. But getting into negotiations and signing a bad deal that's not okay.

BLITZER: Because he says, he'd be willing to negotiate with Kim Jong- Un. Is that a good idea? HOEKSTRA: Negotiations, if you're coming from a business world, you

know, it's kind of like I'm open to seeing whether the other side is there and we can structure an agreement, and we can structure a deal that is good for us and puts America first, or in his case you know put his business interests first. But, so, the key here again is it's okay to negotiate, but it doesn't mean at the end of the negotiations you're actually going to have a deal. Sometimes you just stand up and you walk away from the table and say I'm sorry, there's nothing here to work with it. And that's what we should have done with Iran.

BLITZER: As far as Russia is concerned congressman, Donald Trump's Vice Presidential running mate, Mike Pence, says it is inarguable that Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama. Do you agree?

HOEKSTRA: All you need to do is take a look at the Middle East. When President Obama came into office the United States, we had strong allies in the region. We were the people that the Middle East looked to for leadership and guidance and they wanted to partner with the United States.

Today the Kurds are negotiating with the Russians. The Egyptians are negotiating with the Russians and forming stronger relationships with the Russians. The Middle East is in chaos, people -- you know we use the term -- or the President used the term lead from behind. We created and allowed a vacuum to develop in the Middle East, and President Putin moved into that vacuum and is reasserting Russian influence into a region that when President Obama came into office, they were blocked out of and now they are again a player in the Middle East creating this shift.

BLITZER: So, I just want to confirm, you agree with Pence that Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama?

HOEKSTRA: I believe that Putin is a stronger leader. It doesn't mean that I agree with how he leads or what he's trying to accomplish. But he has been much more effective in moving Russians -- Russia's agenda forward in the world than what the United States -- than what President Obama has been able to do in moving America's agenda forward in the world. Yes, Putin has been much more effective than what President Obama has been.

BLITZER: But you're critical of him for what, invading a neighboring country, Ukraine, in that specific case, doing what he's doing in Syria right now backing Bashar Al Assad. Undermining Democratic rule within Russia itself. You oppose all of those things?


HOEKSTRA: Oh, yes. I'm opposed to what he's doing, but when you're taking a look at where he's taking Russia's interest in Europe in the Middle East, in Northern Africa, and those types of things. He is being very effective. I don't like anything of what he's doing. No, we're opposed to that totally. But he's effectively implementing a Russian agenda of expanding their influence.

BLITZER: Let me -- let me just -- so when Donald Trump speaks nicely about Putin, does that bother you?

HOEKSTRA: No, because what he's recognizing is that, you know, Putin -- he recognizes the leadership skills. He doesn't recognize or appreciate the content. He just is looking at another foreign leader and saying this guy's pretty good at doing what he's supposed to do in advancing Russia's agenda. I'm opposed to it, but this guy's pretty good at doing what he's doing.

BLITZER: Do you think a President Donald Trump, would embrace -- would try to emulate those leadership qualities of Putin?

HOEKSTRA: I think that what Donald Trump, and he's been very, very clear about this. Yes, he will put America's agenda, as he says he will put America first in our negotiations around the world. Whether it's on trade, whether it's national security and those types of things. Whether it's the style of Putin, no. I think Donald Trump is -- I've met with him, he's going to be very collaborative. He's going to bring in experts. He's going to bring in professionals. He's going to, you know, demonstrate the values that representative government, freedom and those types of things. He will move America's agenda forward using America's values and our strengths, which are very, very different than the values and the levers that Putin uses to move Russia's agenda forward.

You know, we are all about collaboration, participation and providing respect and listening to the people that we want to work with rather than intimidating them and using fear to move your agenda forward.

BLITZER: Peter Hoekstra, is the former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Now a National Security Advisor to Donald Trump. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

HOEKSTRA: Good, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We have a lot more information coming up. And the breaking news we're following. Stay with us, we'll resume our special coverage right after this.



BLITZER: We're following breaking news. North Korea's test of its most powerful nuclear weapon to date said to be double the strength of the last nuclear bomb tested by the Kim Jong-Un regime.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, the latest nuclear test is raising a lot of concern.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Much concern all over the world tonight, Wolf. This is North Korea's fifth nuclear bomb test. The most powerful one they have ever conducted. A U.S. official who follows this in detail telling CNN tonight, Jim Jong-Un's regime is on a "no kidding, very rapid program for producing a deliverable nuclear weapon that can threaten the U.S."


TODD: The equivalent of at least 10,000 tons of TNT detonated deep underground. That's the explosive power of Kim Jong-Un's latest nuclear bomb test according to South Korean officials.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The North Korean detonation is similar in size to the bomb detonated over Hiroshima.

TODD: The South Korean's say this is twice as powerful as North Korea's last nuclear test in January.

Tonight in Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo, officials are calling this a new level of threat from Kim. One U.S. official telling CNN the North Korean's capability is "very troubling."

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD:" This is an inherently dangerous situation. The White House is so concerned that they're talking about extended deterrents which means that if they launch against us or our allies, we will launch against them.

TODD: The North Korean's claim they were testing a nuclear warhead that can be mounted on ballistic missiles or rockets. A key question tonight, who is under the most eminent threat.

ALBRIGHT: We assess that North Korea has the ability to put nuclear warheads on its sort of shorter range Nodong missiles, that could -- that could hit Japan and South Korea.

TODD: Weapons experts say the North Koreans likely can fit a warhead onto an intercontinental ballistic missile which could hit the U.S. But they say they haven't yet tested the capability of those missiles to re-enter the atmosphere from space, so it's not clear if they'd work.

The fear of one analyst, that Kim's regime will do a live test of a nuclear weapon on one of their missiles. The U.S. and its allies might not know it's a test and it could trigger a war.

Is that a possibility?

ALBRIGHT: They could in a more realistic scenario use it as a way to fire a warning shot if they felt they were going to be invaded.

TODD: Experts say North Korea's likely got between 13 and 20 nuclear bombs and they're on their way to having 50 or more by 2020. With this threat another frightening assessment tonight of the man who has those weapons at his disposal. It comes from his main rival in the south.

PRES, PARK GEUN-HYE, SOUTH KOREA: (As translated) I think the mental condition of Kim Jong-Un is out of control.

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: What makes Kim Jong-Un really threatening is that he may have a weak grip on power. Recently there have been a number of high level defections. There's also been a restarting of the executions of senior officials. That means that there's turmoil in Pyongyang.


TODD: But tonight, the White House is promising "serious consequences" for Kim because of this test. But, the President's options are limited. Sanctions have had no effect on Kim's behavior. A first military strike, very unlikely. A cyber-attack, possibly. But North Korea is not well connected to the internet and many of its cyber- warriors are actually in China. Wolf?


BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting, thank you.

Well we're following the breaking news, North Korea once again facing international condemnation for that surprise test of its most powerful nuclear weapon so far.

Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, this underscores the importance of national security for both the Clinton and Trump campaigns.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And Donald Trump seized on that issue here at the Values Voters Summit. He fired up this crowd of Christian conservatives with some fresh attacks on Hillary Clinton. He did talk about that latest nuclear test conducted by North Korea and described it as the latest failure for Hillary Clinton.


ACOSTA: Looking to expand his flock at the Values Voters Summit, Donald Trump energized the Christian conservative crowd with more fierce attacks on Hillary Clinton.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton is unfit to be our President for many reasons. The biggest of which is her judgment. It's just so bad.

ACOSTA: The Clinton campaign argues it's Trump's values as a potential Commander in Chief that should raise questions pointing to the GOP nominee's appearance on Russian T.V. On a program hosted by former CNN anchor, Larry King, Trump said he doubted Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is meddling in U.S. elections.

TRUMP: I think it's probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out, who knows. If they are doing something I hope that somebody is going to be able to find out so they can end it because that would not be appropriate at all.

ACOSTA: Democrats say it is another example of Trump's odd bromance with Putin. A man, the Republican ticket claims is a more effective leader than President Obama.

SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What about invading other countries is leadership? What about running your economy into the ground is leadership?

ACOSTA: Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway says the GOP nominee somehow had no idea the interview was for a Kremlin propaganda outlet.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, first of all, as you know, former CNN's superstar Larry King has a podcast, and Mr. Trump went on his podcast. Nobody said it was going to be on Russian T.V.

ACOSTA: The Trump campaign is firing right back at Clinton's leadership pointing to North Korea's latest nuclear test.

TRUMP: It was announced that North Korea performed it's fifth nuclear test. It's fourth since Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State. It's just one more massive failure from a failed Secretary of State.

ACOSTA: Still, it was Trump who once marveled over North Korea Kim Jong-Un's strong armed tactics.

TRUMP: If you look at North Korea, this guy -- this --- I mean he's like a maniac. Okay, he was like 26 or 25 when his father died. Take over these tough generals, he goes in he takes over, he's the boss, it's incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one, I mean this guy doesn't play games.

ACOSTA: But that's not the only remark that is haunting Trump. He has yet to disavow his believe that President Obama is not a U.S. Citizen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you regret bringing it up back then?

TRUMP: I told, you I don't talk about it anymore.

ACOSTA: Conway maintains Trump has changed his mind.

CONWAY: No, he believes President Obama was born here. No question to me he was born in the United States. But he's not been a particularly successful President.

ACOSTA: But, Trump has yet to say so himself. He's even questioned the authenticity of Mr. Obama's birth certificate posted by the White House to prove the President's citizenship once and for all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, what does your gut tell you because you are a smart guy?

TRUMP: My gut tells me a couple things. Number one, you know, it took a long time to produce the certificate, and when it came out as you know, you check out the internet, many people say it is not real. Okay, that it's a forgery.


ACOSTA: And Donald Trump did not take the opportunity to talk about the birth certificate here at the Values Voters Summit. He also did not talk about that interview that aired on Russian television. Although we should point out Wolf, Larry King, did put out a statement on his Facebook page pointing out that his program is actually owned by Ora T.V., which is owned by a Mexican billionaire, not owned by Russian television, though the show does appear on our T.V. Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Jim Acosta, reporting for us. Appreciate it. He's in Washington.

David Chalian, let's talk about North Korea first. Trump says it's China's problem right now, does he have a point?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, he has a point in the way that Hillary Clinton also kind of said it was China's problem today in her news conference. She said we don't discuss the leverage that we have until we use the leverage that we have. She was referring to China. She said during in her time as Secretary of State, that she heard of discussions inside China and she threatened about a buildup.

So actually I don't think Hillary Clinton sounded radically different from Donald Trump on that issue, of that China has to step up to the plate here.

RON BROWNSTEIN, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Although she envisions China and the U.S. standing together.


BROWNSTEIN: He was more, he was more, outsourcing.


BLITZER: The whole point though is how would he deal, Donald Trump, based on everything he said with a guy like Kim Jong-Un.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well we don't know. I mean you know, the comments that Jim Acosta showed in his -- in his piece about kind of admiring the toughness, the tenacity, the ruthlessness of it, and Donald Trump's basic argument, you know from -- the out parties as Time Immemorial says, I will be tougher than the current President and the rest of the world will, you know, respond. And Bill Clinton said that about Tiananmen Square in 1992. It is the perpetual argument. You become President and you see the world is a lot more complex.

I thought this argument today between Clinton and Trump is the election in a box though. I mean as the (quasi-commune) Hillary Clinton, you're on the hook for everything that happens in the world. On the other hand, her argument that, look, I am the steadier presence backed up by these 50 Republican National Security officials that Donald Trump is not temperamentally fit to be President. That is the argument. Change verse kind of experience, solidity, stability.

BLITZER: He says he's got plans Olivia Nuzzi to deal with North Korea, to deal with ISIS. He doesn't want to tip off NEVILLE: e enemy though and really spell out that plan. Is that going to sell out there as we go forward in these final weeks?

OLIVIA NUZZI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: I don't think so. I think that we need specifics. And, right now Donald Trump in all areas of his campaign lacks specifics. He says, well, I'll tell you later. You'll find out my plan once I get in office. And I just don't think that's going to fly right now. We've seen it on immigration. We've seen it on foreign policy more broadly. And, I just don't think that's really going to encourage voters who are on the fence right now.

BLITZER: Manu Raju, he keeps saying that Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama. You're up on the hill all the time. How is that playing -- forget about the Democrats, with Republicans up there?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLTIICAL REPORTER: Not particularly well. I spent the day yesterday talking to a wide range of members and virtually all of them were critical of Vladimir Putin. Not all of them are critical of Donald Trump, including the house speaker who went after Putin and said that he's not -- he's an adversary to this country. And I pushed -- Paul Ryan said well are you concerned with what Donald Trump's saying? He said well, I don't want to talk about Donald Trump, I'm going to leave it to my criticism of Vladimir Putin. It shows that fine line that the party continues to walk as they try to, you know, distance themselves from things that Trump is saying but also not directly criticize their nominee.

CHALIAN: When Donald Trump finds himself -- when he has said something and finds himself on an island from the rest of the Republican Party, those are the moments where he has tended to falter more. And so if he finds himself as the only Republican speaking this way about Vladimir Putin, he should beware of that. If you look at his history, it's one of the things, not all of those controversial comments hurt him, but usually if it divides the Republican Party, and puts the rest of the party there and Donald Trump here on an island, it's a bit of a troublesome for him.

BROWNSTEIN: Manu's excellent reporting yesterday, just a reminder though of how tumultuous this could be if he actually wins. If he wins and tried to govern on the principles and specifics that he has laid out, how much of the Republican Party and congress would be uneasy with the idea of, you know, a much warmer relationship with Putin, withdrawing from NAFTA, some of the immigration proposal. It's just extraordinary to think about what the Republicans in congress would be, and whether they could survive a Donald Trump term without dividing into a, in essence, a pro and anti-Trump faction.

BLITZER: Olivia, do you think the attacks and counter-attacks between Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump -- this is just sort of modest right now, it's going to escalate as we go forward?

NUZZI: It's certainly going to escalate. But, it's interesting that she's taking sort of a very measured tone. You notice when she speaks publicly lately, she did it during her alt-right speech. She did it again today. Even when she criticizes him, she's very calm, very measured, she's speaking more quietly than usual. So, I think it's going to continue but I think she's going to take sort of a presidential tact when she does it.

BLITZER: How is all this playing, the attacks, the counter-attacks up on capitol hill? RAJU: Well, I think actually Republicans at large are feeling a little

bit better with Donald Trump the way his message has been more disciplined over the last few weeks. His speeches have been more focused. Polls of course are showing things looking better for him not just in the battlegrounds but also nationally. And, they believe that a rising tide helps all ships, right.

So the senate Republicans who are down ticket could do better with Donald Trump doing nationally. That's one thing that Republicans are saying. If he could keep it a three, five point margin, perhaps they can win -- keep control of the senate, keep control of the house.

BROWNSTEIN: In fact, the senate polls that came out today were better for them in a number of the battleground states.

BLITZER: You saw the editorial in The Washington Post suggesting all this uproar over Hillary Clinton's e-mails, you know, it's out of control right now. Move on. Here's the question. Are we going to move on from all of this or is this going to continue to dog her going into the debates?

CHALIAN: Well, we know that we're going to see some more of her appointments and some more e-mails related to that coming out through the Judicial Watch Case and what have you.

So, every time there's a new release, there will be a new moment of this. To me the question is, is Hillary Clinton done talking about this or is she going to every time -- because she's not done getting questions about it. And she will continue to get questions about it. But how she frames her answer.

If she's trying to explain it away, I think there's one fallout from that. If she does as she did with Anderson Cooper a couple of weeks ago and said every time I try to explain it, it sounds like I am making an excuse, there are no excuses and leaves it at that. I think she might find herself with more political success.


BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue this analysis. I want everyone to stand by. But there's other breaking news we're following.


BLITZER: New details coming in of that powerful nuclear test by North Korea and Kim Jong-Un's rapid push for missile ready bombs. We're going to go live to our Pentagon correspondent who has the latest.


BLITZER: Happening now: Breaking news: Seismic blast. North Korea launches its fifth nuclear test, and it may be the most powerful --