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Inauguration Preparations; Report: North Korea Readies Long- Range Missiles. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 19, 2017 - 18:00   ET




TOBY KEITH, MUSICIAN: Thank you. God bless America.


NARRATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome chairman of the presidential inaugural committee, Tom Barrack.


TOM BARRACK, CHAIR, PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the 58th inauguration of the president of the United States to welcome the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump.


BARRACK: I have to tell you, this is the most incredible setting of structures that I have ever seen, at least of those that president- elect Trump has not built.

But, you know, when this started, an inauguration is a typically American event, and it's the only time in the world that you have this passage of partisan power that transpires in the snap of a finger.

Tomorrow, at 11:27, when the president-elect, his wife and his family are sitting on the west end of the Mall looking at us...



BARRACK: ... and that power of the free world transcends with respect from what was a great man doing his best to do a great job to the anticipation of a new president as the global leader of the world.

In three minutes, you have reflection and you have expectation. And every president puts their own fingerprints on an inauguration. And this president-elect was very specific about what he wanted. And what he wanted was a you. He wanted it to be of the people. And when I say you, he meant the united you, and set in this setting of this reflection pond that sits between three unbelievable monuments of three of our profound leaders.

And what you see are these incredible stone, beautiful, incredible tributes that stand above us for the purpose of reflecting, of thinking of, what was it? What went before them?

But what really stands out, and you can hear it in the silence amongst you at the moment, is the mortar, not the stone, not the granite, not the marble. It is the thousands of lives, it's the millions of hopes, it's the 10,000 aspirations of all the people, of all the themes that went into these great men.

And along the road, we have had 45 men that have left their footprints and their fingerprints throughout the mortar and in the middle of this tidal basin.

So as you reflect on those who came before us and as you have expectations before you, I would like you to pay a tribute to the courage, to the stature, to the strength, to the commitment, to the loyalty of a man who is going to lead you with his footprints to diversity, to put the campaigns behind us, to unite behind one man as one America.


BARRACK: He will show the rest of the world that we can argue, we can fight, we can debate, and tomorrow at 11:30, we're one country, and he will be the 45th president of the United States of America, Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Thank you. Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.

And thank you, Tom.

I'd like to congratulate our incredible entertainers tonight. Toby and Lee Greenwood and all of the great talent, it was really very special.

I also have to thank our incredible military talent right here. Thank you. Stand up, please. You guys were great. Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Thank you.

So this journey began 18 months ago. I had something to do with it, but you had much more to do with it than I did. I'm the messenger. I'm just the messenger.

And we were tired. And I love you. Believe me, I love you. We all got tired of seeing what was happening. And we wanted change, but we wanted real change. And I look so forward to tomorrow. We're going to see something that is going to be so amazing. So many people have poured in to Washington, D.C.

This started out tonight being a small little concert, and then we had the idea maybe we will do it in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I don't know if it's ever been done before, but if it has, very seldom. And the people came by the thousands and thousands. And here we are tonight all the way back. All the way back.


TRUMP: So it's a movement that began. It's a movement that started and it's a movement like we have never seen anywhere in the world, they say. There's never been a movement like this. And it's something very, very special. And we're going to unify our country.


And our phrase, you all know it. Half of you are wearing the hat. Make America great again.


TRUMP: But we're going to make America great for all of our people, everybody, everybody throughout our country. That includes the inner cities. That includes everybody.

And we're going to do a special job. And I can only tell you that, 18 months ago, we never knew, a lot of people didn't know, some people had a feeling. A lot of people didn't give us much of a chance, but we understood what was happening.

And that last month of the campaign, when I traveled around to every place that you can imagine, state after state after state, speech after speech, and we had 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 people. There was never an empty seat, just like tonight. We didn't even know if anybody would come tonight. This hasn't been done before.

And you look. It was the same way. And we all knew that last month of the campaign. I think a lot of us knew the first week of the campaign. But that last month of the campaign, we knew that something special was happening.

And I can only tell you this. The polls started going up, up, up, but they didn't want to give us credit, because they forgot about a lot of us. On the campaign, I called it the forgotten man and the forgotten woman. Well, you're not forgotten anymore.

That, I can tell you. Not forgotten anymore.


TRUMP: So, I want to thank my great family, my incredible wife, Melania. They have been so supportive. And it wasn't easy for them. But they have been so supportive. I want to thank you, most importantly, and I promise you that I will

work so hard. We're going to get it turned around. We're going to bring our jobs back. We're not going to let other countries take our jobs any longer.


TRUMP: We're going to build up our great military. We're going to build it up. We're going to strengthen our borders. We're going to do things that haven't been done for our country for many, many decades. It's going to change. I promise you. It's going to change.

So, I will see you tomorrow.


TRUMP: And I don't care, frankly, if it's going to be beautiful or if it's going to rain like crazy. Makes no difference to me. I have a feeling it's going to be beautiful.

But I will see you tomorrow, and I'm going to be cheering you on. You're going to cheer me on, but I'm going to be cheering you on, because what we have done is so special. All over the world, they are talking about it. All over the world. And I love you folks and we're going to work together.

And we are going to make America great again, and I will add, greater than ever before.

Thank you very much. And enjoy the fireworks. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.





JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The new first family saying goodbye to the adoring crowd here at the Lincoln Memorial.

President-elect Donald Trump is someone who knows a little something about putting on a show. And that was something of a show, a spectacular show, ending with the U.S. Army Pershing's Own and Chorus singing glory, glory hallelujah, with a fireworks spectacular afterwards.

And now they are looking at the sculpture of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial, Donald and Melania Trump and their adult children, Ivanka. There's Jared Kushner, who will be a top aide at the White House.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is kind of remarkable for anybody to sit there and look at the giant, gorgeous statue of the 16th president, but to be standing there looking at that thinking, I'm about to be the 45th president. Must be absolutely mind-blowing.

TAPPER: It was not an official speech. He seemed to be speaking extemporaneously, president-elect Trump, talking about how he was just the messenger speaking to the crowd, and, then afterwards, a lot of cheers of USA, USA, USA from his supporters here at the Lincoln Memorial extending down all the way to the reflecting pond.

BASH: How about the fireworks?

TAPPER: After a spectacular fireworks...

BASH: Have you been down here for the Fourth of July?

TAPPER: I have, but those fireworks, I thought, were better.

BASH: So much better. They were.

We talked about maybe sometimes being a little bit jaded with fireworks. Even for the jaded, that was a firework presentation. It was remarkable.

TAPPER: And now we're hearing "Don't Stop Believin'," almost as if this is the last episode of "The Sopranos" -- Wolf Blitzer, back to you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A really spectacular set of fireworks, really, a very, very excellent program as well.

Gloria Borger, clearly, we're getting ready for a new first family here in the United States.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I have to think that it must be, as we saw them all looking at that statue, as Dana and Jake were talking about, how humbling an experience this whole day has been and tomorrow will be.

But when you go and you lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then you have a concert in your honor at the Lincoln Memorial and the fireworks are for you and your family welcoming you to the city, and tomorrow the president-elect will be sworn in, get a note in the Oval Office from the outgoing president wishing him well.

He will get the nuclear codes, which is a sobering experience. And you can imagine, even for Donald Trump, who is a large personality and well known and is the president-elect, that it is the most humbling experience I think anybody in this country can ever have when you become commander in chief.

There obviously is nothing like it, and I think you can sort of hear it in them a little bit.

BLITZER: David Axelrod, the tone of the president-elect tonight, what does it say about tomorrow?


I think, in the spirit of a concert where people play their oldies, he reached back and grabbed a couple of his own. Talked about his polls and talked about his crowds and talked about strengthening the border, strengthening the military and bringing jobs.

But the task tomorrow will be to lift that up and make a speech that really grabs the entire country and projects a vision that people can see themselves in.


And it will be the biggest challenge he's had. And he says he's written the speech himself. It's going to have to go beyond this.

BORGER: And Toby Keith was great, because he saluted the outgoing president and thanked the outgoing president for his service and welcomed the new president.

And I think that should be the spirit here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As did Tom Barrack.

BORGER: As did Tom Barrack, exactly.

AXELROD: Yes. Jon Voight was the only one guy was off-script here.


AXELROD: But you talk about this being a humbling experience, and, indeed, it is. I remember it very, very well.

And humility is going to be an important quality here. And, hopefully, the speech will reflect that as well.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Much more of our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We will take a quick break. We will be right back.


BLITZER: Live pictures from the Lincoln Memorial where we just saw the Make America Great Again welcome celebration concert. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

[18:30:36] BLITZER: We're counting down our special coverage of the Donald Trump inaugural concert. The president-elect just wrapped up brief remarks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial following the concert, thanking his supporters and vowing to take action on his campaign promises.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is with us right now. Jim, Trump has had a full day already, but he has a full night ahead of him.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And as we just heard, Donald Trump is sounding an inclusive tone, but as he is taking command of the most powerful office in the world, he is definitely doing things his way.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The moment few saw coming has arrived. Donald Trump and the nation's new first family touched down just outside Washington, not on his private jet but on U.S. military aircraft and climbed into his motorcade for a ride the world will never forget.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where is this? This is a gorgeous room. A total genius must have built that.

ACOSTA: Within minutes Trump arrived at, where else, but his glitzy new D.C. hotel where he praised his cabinet choices.

TRUMP: We have, by far, the highest I.Q. of any cabinet ever assembled.

ACOSTA: And appeared to assign his new ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, a task normally reserved for the secretary of state, a trip to China.

TRUMP: I'm going to send her over to speak to China. And when I send her over to speak to everybody, we're going to have -- I think we're going to do a lot of great things, Nikki, right?

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE-PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES; Our job is to be ready on day one. The American people can be confident that we will be.

ACOSTA: Earlier in the day across town, Vice-President-elect Mike Pence boasted the new administration is ready to launch, even as the incoming White House press secretary accused Democrats of holding up Trump's cabinet.

SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's so many issues facing this country that we need to get moving on. And the idea that Democrats would use these stall tactics is just -- it's not in the country's best interests.

ACOSTA: But Trump just finished filling out his cabinet, selecting former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue as agriculture secretary. That makes Trump the first president since Ronald Reagan to begin an administration without a Latino in the cabinet.

SPICER: The No. 1 thing that I think Americans should focus on is, is he hiring the best and the brightest?

ACOSTA: Democrats aren't buying it, questioning why former Texas governor Rick Perry was even named secretary of energy, a department he once said should be eliminated. At his hearing, the sometimes gaffe-prone Perry showed proved he can still provide some accidental humor.

RICK PERRY, ENERGY SECRETARY NOMINEE: I hope you are as much fun on that dais as you were on your couch.


PERRY: May I rephrase that, sir?

FRANKEN: Please, please, please. Oh, my lord. Oh, my lord.

PERRY: Well, I think we found our "Saturday Night Live" sound bite.

ACOSTA: Another sign Trump isn't quite ready? He's holding onto Obama administration officials in key roles, such as Bret McGuirk, President Obama's envoy in the battle against ISIS.

But the Trump team insists the incoming president, who laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, is approaching his biggest deal yet with the seriousness it deserves.

At a pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, Trump sang along to "Proud to Be an American."


ACOSTA: And offered a preview of his speech to the world tomorrow.

TRUMP: We're going to unify our country and our phrase, you all know it -- half of you are wearing the hat -- "Make America Great Again." But we're going to make America great for all of our people.

ACOSTA: Trump's children are making it clear their father will adhere to some presidential norms, with Ivanka declaring her stepmother Melania will indeed be first lady.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think it's an inappropriate observation. There's one first lady. And she'll do remarkable things.

ACOSTA: Even as Trump's team concedes this will be a presidency like we've never seen before.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Their first dance. What song?



ACOSTA; And there were other unusual moments today, like when Trump gave a shout-out to New York Jets owner Woody Johnson as the next ambassador to Britain. We didn't see that one coming, before his transition had announced it. But transition officials have confirmed that.

[18:35:10] And I'm told after tomorrow, Trump and his team will get right to work after the inauguration. Aides say they are all expected at the office, as in the White House, this weekend.

And Wolf, as for his inaugural speech tomorrow, they are saying look for Donald Trump to be, quote, "philosophical." That's not a side of Donald Trump that we've seen very often.

BLITZER: And he says he actually wrote his speech tomorrow, although I'm sure some of his aides helped him.

ACOSTA: That's right. He's had the help of his aides, Steven Miller, his domestic policy advisor, and main speechwriter has worked on this, as well as Steve Bannon, who is going to be a very influential adviser inside that White House.

BLITZER: That new team getting ready. The transition is concluded tomorrow. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

It was a spectacular set of fireworks, a very impressive concert. Earlier at Arlington National Cemetery, a very moving ceremony at the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

David Chalian, it's a whole new world right now here in Washington that we're about to see.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is. And I think what we saw, looking at Jim's piece, the images of today coming off the military aircraft, going to Arlington, being up there in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln. We saw for the first time Donald Trump start wearing the cloak of the presidency.

And for someone who has been such an unconventional candidate and didn't look like what we were used to seeing as a presidential candidate, necessarily, out on the campaign trail, there are certain sort of rituals and traditions and a conventional nature at times to the presidency as an institution. The person in it sort of carries that institution.

And I thought today we got a sneak preview of looking at Donald Trump starting to embody that institution, which is -- which is totally different from how I think we have seen him to date.

BLITZER: Ryan Lizza, I think David makes an excellent point. He was more subdued than he normally is out there on the campaign trail.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He was. I mean, all the pageantry of this is perhaps having an impact.

I'll be very curious to see what Steven Miller and the team of Steven Miller, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump come up with for their inaugural address tomorrow. Often, inaugural addresses are about a story about where America is at this moment in time and where the president wants to take the country.

For instance, in 2009, you may remember, Obama's inaugural address was about the crisis, the economic crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a call that we've been through tough things before, and we can come out of it together. There's always a grace note of unity.

Trump and the people around him have a very different view of where America is at this point. This populist, nationalist message that him and his aides have campaigned on. So it will be striking, Wolf, where he wants the country to go but also sort of what the story is he tells of America.

BLITZER: He has a unique opportunity, David Axelrod, tomorrow to start his presidency on the right foot.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He does. You know, I think he has a challenge that, for example, President Obama didn't have in 2009, in that he starts off with rather low standings in the polls. And this is an opportunity to really reach out and build support and speak to those who aren't with him now and who are concerned about him.

So I do think that this is a big moment for him. But I agree with David. I remember so well what it was like to see someone invested with the power of the presidency, and it changes everything.

BLITZER: Jackie, you wanted to weigh in.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. One of the things that they've said is that it's going to reiterate some of the themes of the campaign, his speech. Jobs, for example. And they've also been comparing it to Jackson's inaugural speech in its length.

But one of the things Jackson's inaugural speech had, it was very vague, so people listening could take it and make it apply to them. It wasn't that specific. And so I think you might hear a little bit of that, so everyone can take a piece of it and think he's speaking to them. And that's important as far as unifying the country.

BORGER: He looked at Reagan's inaugural speech, JFK and Richard Nixon. And if you -- if you think back to Richard Nixon, you know, he had a divided country. He won with 43 percent of the vote in a three- way race. And what he did was give, really, a unifying speech at his inauguration. And in the short term, it worked for him, and he said, "We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another." And that was Richard Nixon saying that. And so a lot of people thought Nixon would never do that.

Well, maybe -- maybe a lot of people think that Donald Trump can't do that. Let's see what he -- what he does tomorrow and what his overall message is. We remember when he won, he gave a real uniting kind of speech, and I think he might -- he might do that tomorrow.

BLITZER: I think he will do that tomorrow morning when he speaks and addresses not only the American people but the world to set the right tone.

[18:40:07] REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And whatever he does say on that stage, one of the biggest stages you can have in politics, it will have a major impact on setting the tone for his administration. But it's only the first step, really, Wolf. I mean, he is going to

need to follow up on that speech with actions that reflect those priorities.

And you mentioned his speech on election night, his victory speech, where he did profess to really focus on that unity, focus on bringing the country together and bringing a president for all Americans.

But in the transition, has taken a very different tone and has lashed out at his critics and has not, maybe, united the country as maybe some of his detractors had hoped he would. So we'll have to see what he does after this.

BLITZER: David Swerdlick, he says he's going to start taking action immediately, tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, signing executive orders, getting that process started.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I mean, the Trump administration, I think both from the point of view of wanting to get things done early on before, you know, the natural rhythm of Washington politics sets in, is one reason.

And then another reason is that they want to send a message that this is not like a typical politician's administration. They've branded themselves as businessmen, and the idea of, look, we have a ceremony and then let's get to work, right to work, goes along with the Trump -- the Trump brand and the Trump message.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. Our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM continues.

I want to show our viewers a spectacular set of fireworks at the end of the concert over at the Lincoln Memorial. Let's take a quick break. We'll resume our special coverage right after this.


[18:46:36] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You saw a spectacular set of fireworks at the end of the concert, the Make America Great Again welcome celebration concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

Lots of majesty, presidential majesty on this day, David Chalian. But they got to get down to a lot of work to do as well -- getting these cabinet secretaries confirmed is an enormous challenge.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is. And it hit an additional speed bump today. Initially, we thought maybe tomorrow at the very least, even though it would be less than what previous presidents have on day one, that after he was inaugurated, that at least three cabinet level positions would be immediately confirmed. We now learned one of those, the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, Ron Wyden, the Democratic senator from Oregon, is, you know, as every senator has the right to do, object and postpone this. He wants to be able to make vocal, you know, comments on the floor in opposition to Pompeo, perhaps, and that vote now will be pushed off until Monday. So, even what looked initially earlier in the week like the easy ones

that Donald Trump was going to be able to have in his pocket, immediately after taking the oath of office, even that's hitting a bump in the road.

BLITZER: It's going to be frustrating, Gloria, for the new team coming in, the process. Even though they do have eventually the votes in the United States Senate to get most of those nominees confirmed.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is where they have to recognize reality here. They are facing a Democratic opposition just as there was a Republican opposition to Barack Obama. And there are some cabinet appointments like General Mattis for defense, which I'm sure will be approved pretty easily.

But I think this is where the Democrats sort of put their stake in the ground here and they feel under Chuck Schumer who, by the way, is a new leader of the Democrats and he's kind of giving the Trump administration an idea of how he will be. They are saying, you know what, we're not going to roll over. We want to make our points.

Will most of these people get confirmed? Absolutely, they will. But I do think that there is going to be this to and fro, and the Democrats are going to raise the questions they feel need to be raised, whether it's about conflicts of interest, whether it's about policy, whether it's about Donald Trump. And that's their role.

BLITZER: Ryan Lizza, the secretary of homeland security nominee, General Kelly, he'll be confirmed tomorrow. General Mattis, the secretary of defense nominee, he'll be confirmed tomorrow. Others will follow in the days to come, but it's going to be a process.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's going to be a process. I think the Democrats would almost like to get the noncontroversial ones out of the way, through the system so that they can focus on the ones they think are more problematic. So, you have ones that are -- there's more ideological response to, like Rex Tillerson, the nominee for secretary of state. Republicans are more hawkish, on the fence, most notably, of course, Marco Rubio.

And then you have less ideological issues but more of the ethical issues coming up. I think partly because the Trump transition didn't do the sort of initial vetting that historically you do. You work with the Office of Government Ethics and do sort of a pre-vetting before you announced. They announced and then did vetting, so they didn't catch some of these issues early on.

And, look, the Democrats, from their perspective, they're looking at a president-elect who has historically low popularity, who didn't win the popular vote.

[18:50:01] And they have a base that is extremely agitated and wants Chuck Schumer and the Democrats on the Hill to be very aggressive in opposing Trump. So, Schumer's on safe political ground by going as hard as he can. BLITZER: David Axelrod, tomorrow morning, the outgoing president,

President Obama, he will invite the incoming president to the White House with their families. They will talk, and then President Obama, what, gets out of town as the new president is sworn in.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, which is the tradition. Look, there is something, there is some majesty to this whole process. We all know that there are big differences between these two men and they have different views about which way the country should go.

But they -- I think President Obama as he's expressed a sense of responsibility about how this should be done. And in fact, this is a consecration of our democratic processes tomorrow. It's not a celebration of one person. It is a celebration of the peaceful transfer of power. And so, there is -- it is a special moment when the one president rides down to the Capitol with the other and then fades from the scene.

BLITZER: It's a historic moment. This peaceful transfer of power that we will see tomorrow.

Just ahead, Donald Trump will also be facing many challenges as the new American commander in chief. Tonight, North Korea may be preparing to challenge the new Trump administration. We're going to bring you that breaking news and more when we come back.


[18:56:15] TRUMP: As Washington prepares for the inauguration, there are important developments unfolding right now. North Korea may be preparing to challenge the new Trump administration very quickly by testing new ballistic missiles.

Our Brian Todd is tracking the latest developments for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A few developments tonight, Wolf. There are ominous signs that Kim Jong-un is gearing up for a provocation possibly, as Wolf mentioned, to test Donald Trump sometime around this inauguration. There are signs of activity tonight at a North Korean facility which produces plutonium, the key element for nuclear bombs.

And U.S. officials believe Kim's regime could be preparing for a long- range missile test.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, two U.S. officials tell CNN U.S. intelligence satellites have picked up signs of activity at a North Korean missile factory, a signal they say that Kim Jong-un's regime is preparing some kind of ballistic missile test in the coming days, a possible provocation against the new administration. South Korean officials told to the Yonhap News Agency the missiles

being prepped could be intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs, which could at some point be capable of hitting the American mainland with a nuclear-tipped warhead.

THOMAS KARAKO, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Here we are now kind of on the cusp of them demonstrating an ICBM missile capability. It's no longer a hypothetical thing and really we need the kind of defenses to defeat these things.

TODD: At the same time, the monitoring group 38 North tonight has new satellite pictures showing the North Koreans could be resuming their efforts to produce plutonium for nuclear bombs. Pictures of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities show roofs with no snow indicating possible activity inside.

On the missile threat, experts say North Korea has never fully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile before, but earlier this month, Kim warned they were about to.

KIM JONG UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER (through translator): Intercontinental ballistic missile test launch preparation is in its last stage.

TODD: The South Korean news agency says the North Koreans have placed two missiles on mobile launchers for tests. An official from South Korea's joint chiefs of staff told CNN that report could not be confirmed but they're watching this closely. Experts say a mobile launch missile is even more dangerous.

KARAKO: It can really be launched from everywhere and you don't necessarily see it coming like you might with a missile on a launch pad.

TODD: U.S. officials and outside analysts say Kim's regime faces a big hurdle in perfecting a long-range missile that could hit the U.S. The missiles haven't yet been tested to withstand reentering the atmosphere. But experts say if the North Koreans continue to advance their technology, they could have the ability to fire those missiles at the U.S. during Donald Trump's administration.

If they get that capability, how could it change the calculus of North Korea's young, vicious ruler?

BRUCE KLINGNER, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: They may feel more emboldened in conducting not only provocations, but actual attacks, perhaps tactical level, against South Korea, feeling that they have immunity from any kind of U.S. response because North Korea has a nuclear deterrent to the U.S. nuclear umbrella.


TODD: A key question tonight, is America ready if North Korea gets the capability to fire a long-range nuclear-tipped missile at the U.S.? The U.S. does have missile interceptor batteries in Alaska and California, but by many accounts, those are dated. One missile expert tells us they rely on 1990s technology.

Pentagon officials, though, insist those batteries are able to shoot down North Korean missiles and they're confident in their ability to protect America -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, even when these North Korean missile tests fail, which they often do, the threat does not decrease, does it?

TODD: Absolutely, Wolf. Some argue that actually ratchets up the threat because the North Koreans learn from their mistakes. They learn about the speed of the missiles. They only get better at this.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thanks, Brian, very much.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.