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Trump's First Solo Press Conference; Trump's Choice for NSA Declined Offer; ISIS Strikes Again; Trump's Wall or Fence in Mexico. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired February 17, 2017 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: The president of the United States holds his first solo news conference. The news media, the main target. As for Americans who watched it, some are left scratching their heads on it. Some loved it. We'll take a look at that as well.

And it was one of President Trump's biggest campaign promises, to build a border wall to Mexico. But some supporters may now be disappointed to find out what is happening with that plan.

From CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts right now.

It is 3.01 on the U.S. East Coast. The President of the United States held a major news conference today some 80 minutes in length. We will have more on that in just a moment.

But first the big headlines of the day. The person that Mr. Trump wanted to serve as his new national security adviser has declined the job. Retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward would have replaced Michael Flynn, who was asked to resign Monday. He cited family concerns, turning down that opportunity.

A republican source says Harward wanted to bring along his own team but didn't feel that would be allowed.

The president says that he lost confidence in Michael Flynn after finding out that he misled the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, about contacts with Russian officials.

A law enforcement source tells CNN the FBI is not expected to pursue charges against Michael Flynn.

In the meantime, the president nominated Alexander Acosta to be his labor secretary. Mr. Trump's previous pick withdrew on Wednesday.

This again, on the day that the president held a combative news conference. The news media - his main focus.

CNN's Sara Murray reports from the White House.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Today an embattled president is dismissing the notion that his administration is in turmoil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I turn on the TV, open the newspapers, and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine despite the fact that I can't get my cabinet approved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: But controversy continues to haunt the west wing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The whole Russian thing, that's a ruse. That's a ruse. By the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: The administration is still facing scrutiny of its Russian connections. But Trump kept up a rosy outlook saying he'd love to have better diplomatic relations with Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They're a very powerful nuclear country, and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that's a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: That's in spite of recent provocations from Moscow. Russia has buzzed a U.S. warship, placed a spy ship 30 miles off the Coast of Connecticut, and deployed a cruise missile in an apparent treaty violation. For now the White House appears unlikely to respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But hopefully I won't have to do anything, but I'm not going to tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: In a winding and wild press conference that stretched for over an hour, the president aired a list of grievances.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Insisted he would take a compassionate approach to children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We're going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me.

MURRAY: And left to the defense of his travel which is currently being blocked by the court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban, but we had a big court. I think that circuit is -- that circuit is in chaos, and that circuit is frankly in turmoil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now Trump said the administration is crafting a new executive order based on the court's decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways more, but we're tailoring it now to the decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: But while the administration faces pressing priorities, Trump, who once professed his love of WikiLeaks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This just came out. WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Is now pre-occupied with cracking down on them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[03:05:01] MURRAY: Trump also spent much of his time criticizing his favorite foil, the press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The reporting is fake.

(CROSSTALK) ACOSTA: And if I may ask, I just want to ask...

TRUMP: Look, you know what it is. Here's the thing. The public isn't -- you know, they read newspapers. They see television. They watch. They don't know if it's true or false because they're not involved. I'm involved. And I'll tell you what else I see. I see tone, you know the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person by the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Let's now get some context and perspective from Peter Trubowitz, professor of international relations and the director of the U.S. Centre at the London School of Economics, live from our London studios.

Good to have you with us, Peter. Let's first talk about the news headlines that came out of what has been a very busy day at the White House. The president's pick for national security adviser, who declined that job, he has been described by some as a heavyweight in his field. What does that say that he has apparently decided that he didn't feel comfortable taking on that role?

PETER TRUBOWITZ, DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES CENTRE AT THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: I think it tells us two things. First, not everybody thinks that the White House is the well-oiled machine that the president described yesterday.

And I suspect secondly, that there's still some ambiguity or confusion about who's calling the shots when it comes to foreign policy, who's setting the agenda. Is it the White House and Steve Bannon and other American firsters, or is it, you know, General Mattis, Secretary Mattis at Defense and Rex Tillerson at State?

HOWELL: The president also talked about the outgoing National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. I want you to take a listen to what he had to say about Mr. Flynn.

TRUBOWITZ: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn't doing it. I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him because that's his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: But, again, the president is saying there was an erosion of trust. Is he trying to have it both ways here, saying that he lost trust in Flynn, but at the same time saying that he did do his job?

TRUBOWITZ: Well, it's pretty hard to square the comments in that sound bite. I don't think that that particular defense of Flynn is going to stop the questions that keep on coming about the administration's connections and outreach to Moscow.

You know, you've just got -- it's like a drumbeat right now, and it's just hard to believe that the press conference yesterday and those comments in particular are really going to change that dynamic.

HOWELL: The president was also pressed about his campaign and any possible ties to Russia, also how he is planning to handle a resurgent Russia.

Given that there have been several incidents, Peter, as of late that have raised concerns among security officials, here's what the President of the United States had to say about one of those during news conference -- the news conference. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone in this country is going to say, oh, it's so great. That's not great. That's not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: This is a time, again, where we are seeing a resurgent Russia that is flexing its muscles. In this one instance that the president pointed out, but at the same time, President Trump saying that he would not tell people, you know, what he plans to do, if anything. Rather, in this news conference, reiterating that he is hoping for closer ties with Russia, Peter.

TRUBOWITZ: Yes. Well, I think right now there's two messages that are coming out of the administration. You know, if you were flying at 30,000 feet, the pattern kind of looks like good cop/bad cop.

You know, you've got the president on the one hand talking about how he wants to improve relations with Moscow, and at the same time you have both General Mattis -- and Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson laying down markers with respect to Moscow in Europe.

So the administration is -- I don't know -- trying to have its cake and eat it too is probably the most generous interpretation.

HOWELL: Peter Trubowitz, fair to say there are several contradictory messages that we are all sifting through here. The full transcript of the president's news conference is online at cnn.com.

[03:10:04] I urge viewers, yourself, anyone to go check that out to try to kind of understand the president's remarks and some contradictory statements that were made. Peter, thank you so much.

TRUBOWITZ: Delighted to be with you.

HOWELL: Now let's bring in CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, joining us from New York. Brian, where do we start here? First of all, fair to give the president credit for holding a news

conference, taking on questions, but several questions. The first, was this a news conference to answer the people's questions posed by reporters there? Was this more of an opportunity, rather, for the president to serve himself, or was this just a distraction to get away from topics like Russia and other big stories?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The president was playing his greatest hits, right? He was going back to some of his favorite lines, favorite messages, favorite tactics, thinking back to the primary campaign when he would hold press conferences all the time using those -- in order to set the news agenda and to spar with reporters.

Now he's back to that style. And what are we going to see this weekend? A campaign-style rally from the president this Saturday. So, I think what we're seeing him do four weeks into the presidency is try to find some of the formats that served him well while he was campaigning.

And it's hard to see where the campaigning has stopped and the governing has started because he was very much in campaign mode at this press conference, challenging reporters, in some cases bullying reporters. I think he was, to your point, trying to distract, but I don't think it was successful.

HOWELL: There was an instance where the president told a reporter of a Jewish magazine to sit down. Another moment where speaking to an African-American reporter, asking her if she would set up a meeting with him with the Congressional Black Caucus, the CBC, also asking are they your friends?

Some may understand the problem with these things. Some may not. But the question, how does the president's style serve him when dealing with the media and speaking to the people?

STELTER: Both of those instances were uncomfortable, and it's not just my own impression. We've seen the Anti-Defamation League come out and say the president needs to more fully answer these questions about the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States, instances of hate that we've seen across the country.

The president did not address that when he was asked about it, and he missed an opportunity. We've seen groups of the ADL call on him to speak about it.

I also noticed top democrat Elijah Cummings speaking about the incident you were describing where April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks asked the president about his plans for inner city revitalization and asked about the Congressional Black Caucus.

When Trump said, do you know them? Are they your friends? Can you set up a meeting for me? She was -- tried to be above it all and tried not to react, but Elijah Cummings came out and said, hey, there are a lot of people who think all black people know every other black person. That everyone is friends. That was the subject that some people came away hearing in the

president's statements. It is part of a theme we have seen of people criticizing the president in the way he communicates with various minority groups whether it's African-Americans or other minority groups.

So, yes, he deserves credit. He was calling on a wide variety of reporters, including big networks and smaller news outlets, including that Jewish magazine you mentioned. But some of the exchanges were certainly eyebrow-raising.

HOWELL: The president in this news conference said several things, saying that the leaks are real. A lot of the news, he says, is fake news. Also saying that there is a lot of hatred coming from the press.

Brian, I think you would agree for record, there is no hatred. This president is no different than any other president before him that has been under the media microscope. This is nothing personal. Rather, it's about fact versus fiction and an earnest pursuit of the facts, and it will not stop. Even a colleague from another network had a very sharp response about the president's approach to the media. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: It's absolutely crazy. He keeps repeating ridiculous throw-away lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we're some kind of fools for asking the question. Really?

No, sir, we are not fools for asking these questions, and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Shep Smith making the point. And Brian, just sharing the same question with you, does this president understand that reporters ask questions for the people, and the people that he works for are due those answers?

STELTER: He seeks out and desires positive coverage and tries to punish negative coverage. And we had seen that in his career as a businessman. We're now seeing it on the world's biggest stage.

And I was glad to see our colleague Jim Acosta say, do you understand that by challenging the press and calling real news outlets fake news that you are delegitimizing and trying to undermine the work the press does.

[03:15:06] Trump side stepped that question, but you know, George we're seeing lots of journalists from lots of outlets including Fox as just showed, trying to describe what's going on here, trying to come up with the right language.

I saw CBS's Scott Pelley on the Nightly News on Thursday night talking about the president going on offense using bravado, bluster, exaggeration, and a few loose facts.

An anchor on the BBC on Thursday night said, is the president on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And our colleague Jake Tapper described the president as being unhinged during the press conference.

So, I see journalists using basically the tools that we have at our disposal, language, in order to accurately characterize the unusual behavior we're seeing.

HOWELL: I think no journalist really wants to be put front and center as the story, or rather.

STELTER: Right.

HOWELL: We would rather people think about the story and then forget about us, the story is what matters. But when we are put on stage, we will defend the facts all day long.

One republican lawmaker said that the people who love the president, people who love him will love him more. The people who hate him will hate him more from this news conference.

And Brian, I want to show you this tweet coming from our own CNN commentator Salena Zito. She says "Listening to Donald J. Trump press conference in middle of Pennsylvania and watching press on my Twitter is like parallel universe. People think he is doing well."

It is important to point out, Brian, that this is what the president ran on. This war against the media is something even Steve Bannon suggested will be the case during this presidency. And this really is red meat for Donald Trump's base. At the same time people who did not vote for the president, this may not be a way to bring them into the tent.

STELTER: It's hard to imagine the divide getting any deeper than it already is. But we've seen a number of moments in the past month that I think do cause that divide to become more and more serious.

Whether it's about the travel ban that was very polarizing, whether it's Donald Trump side stepping questions about issues like anti- Semitism or hate, these are situations. These are stories that become very polarizing. They get people arguing all over their social media feeds.

But I do think it's crucial what you just said there about the campaign. We saw this during the campaign. This is what the president -- this is what works for the president when he was just a candidate, when he was vying to become president. And we're seeing much more of the same from him.

HOWELL: CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter in New York with us. Brian, thank you so much for the insight.

STELTER: Thanks.

HOWELL: The White House is expected to name a new communications director Friday. Two administration officials tell us Mike Dubke will take over the job from Sean Spicer. Spicer has been doing double duty, communications director and Press Secretary. Dubke is the founder of a republican media services firm and a veteran republican operative who opposed the Trump movement.

Still ahead here on CNN newsroom, we'll have more on President Trump's impromptu news conference including the moment he snapped at a Jewish magazine reporter, asking about the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States.

Plus, some people are left scratching their heads about that news conference, though some loved it. Why Donald Trump's die hard backers say they still believe in what he's doing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's still people in Donald Trump's administration that are left over from Obama, and I feel they're sabotaging Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN World Sport headlines.

It was a family affair when Manchester United hosted Saint Etienne in Europa League on Thursday. The Pogba brothers went head to head in the last 32 first leg of this fixture, but it wasn't about them in the end.

The opening goal went to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He would double their lead in the second half after the youngster Marcus Rashford found the sweet. A penalty in the last five minutes would see him get a hat trick on the night. Three-nil, it ends.

Tottenham meanwhile, lost on the road this time again to Belgium. Spurs feel it's a strong team after Mauricio Pochettino would came to his bounce back from losing to Liverpool in the lead.

Only one goal in this one. Jeremy Perbet on the target for the Belgians to give them a somewhat surprising win in their last 32 first leg match.

And we've heard a lot about the 2026 World Cup hosting 48 teams instead of the normal 32. But another big change is likely to occur as well.

The FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he'll encourage bidding countries to co-host the world's biggest double tournament together. The only time a FIFA World Cup was being jointly held was back in 2002 when South Korea and Japan were involved and it was regarded as a success.

And that's a look at all your sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley. HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. We are following reaction to

Donald Trump's press conference. He was highly critical of the news media. At one point, the president of the United States asked a question from a friendly reporter, but that exchange didn't go so well. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Are you a friendly reporter? Watch how friendly he is. Wait, wait. Watch out friendly he is. Go ahead.

JAKE TURX, REPORTER, AMI MAGAZINE: So, first of all, I'm from Ami magazine. And despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven't seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or any -- anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic.

We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their saint (Ph).

TRUMP: I am.

TURX: However, we are concerned about it and what we haven't heard being addressed is an optic on anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There has been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti- Semitic acts to...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: You see, he said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question, and it's not. It's not. Not a simple question. Not a fair question. OK. Sit down. I understand the rest of your question.

So, here's the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a republican.

Quiet, quiet, quiet. So, he lied about he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question. So, you know, welcome to the world of the media.

But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me -- and you heard the prime minister. You heard Netanyahu yesterday. Did you hear him, Bibi? He said, I've known Donald Trump for a long time, and then he said forget it. So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The style of the news conference not one that has been seen before quite frankly. Mr. Trump may have faced some tough questions, but for the people who voted for him in office, they think that he is doing a great job. Our Gary Tuchman found out the president's diehard supporters are put off by anything that his administration has done thus far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yuma County, Arizona, is Trump country. It was before the election, still is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's done fantastic compared to what we had before.

TUCHMAN: what do Trump supporters here make of the controversy swirling around the White House? Many believe it's pure conspiracy.

[03:25:04] Who do you think is behind all this bad news about Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think part of it is the democrats, but I also think a part of it is the media.

TUCHMAN: Do you think any part of it is Donald Trump? Is he responsible for any of this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point in time, I don't have a feeling that he is.

TUCHMAN: Many people in Yuma County who voted for Trump agree but are far angrier about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's still people in Donald Trump's administration that are left over from Obama, and I feel they're sabotaging Donald Trump.

TUCHMAN: But Ken Mani does believe that General Michael Flynn had to go for the sake of the boss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He stepped away so Donald Trump can continue with his administration.

TUCHMAN: A similar sentiment about General Flynn from this man, visiting from Michigan, also a red state in this election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe the guy was in over his head to start out with. I think he's a good man. He was a general in the army. He had to know what he was doing. But he made some political mistakes and paid the price for it.

TUCHMAN: We go inside Loots Casino, which is said to have the state's oldest pool hall and definitely has a lively restaurant and bar with lively opinions about the Trump administration and its Russian connections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be a good ally to have on our side.

TUCHMAN: You have no problem with that relationship?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

TUCHMAN: And what may have been done during the campaign?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

TUCHMAN: However, this Trump supporter feels a bit differently.

You think his people could have been talking to Russian operatives? Does it bother you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And it does. It does.

TUCHMAN: Does it affect the feelings about the man you voted for, Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's going to be something wrong with everybody that I -- that's in that office.

TUCHMAN: But as for the turmoil at large, many say they have no worries at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love it. I'm elated every day.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Yuma, Arizona.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The topic, Mr. Trump and Russia. Still ahead, what the U.S. president has to say about his ties with that country. Three twenty- six a.m. in Atlanta, Georgia. We are live across the United States and around the world this hour. You're watching CNN Newsroom.

[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

Following the story this day of president Donald Trump answering questions about his administration's possible ties to Russia. In what can be described as a combative news conference Thursday, the president said he has nothing to do with Russia, and he doesn't know who does.

Our Jim Sciutto has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's all fake news. It's all fake news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN'S CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It was the first time the president answered questions on CNN's reporting during his presidential campaign senior advisers were in constant communication with Russia. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's a joke, and the people mentioned the story, I notice they were on television today saying they never even spoke to Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Trump said he was not aware of any campaign advisers or staffers speaking with Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No, nobody that I know of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: But CNN is told by a U.S. official that then president-elect Trump and then President Obama were briefed on extensive communications between Russian officials and other Russians known to U.S. intelligence and people associated with the Trump campaign. When pressed, the president said only that he, himself, had nothing to do with it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I had nothing to do with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Mr. Trump also denied any commercial ties to Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And when Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn spoke to Russia about sanctions, Trump said that he did not instruct him to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him because that's his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Despite his blanket denials, Trump still vowed to find and potentially prosecute those in the intelligence community who he accuses of leaking information to reporters behind stories that he claims are fake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks. They're put out by people either in agencies. I think you'll see it stopping because now we have our people in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: At the same time President Trump plans a review of all the intelligence agencies. CNN has learned the White House is considering tapping billionaire Stephen Feinberg, founder of a New York investment firm and longtime friend of the president to lead the review.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The gentleman you mentioned is a very talented, very successful man. And he has offered his services, and you know, it's something we may take advantage of. But I don't think we'll need that at all because of the fact that, you know, I think we're going to be able to straighten it out very easily on its own.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: That was CNN's Jim Sciutto reporting for us. Now at that news conference, reporters asked the U.S. president about a Russian ship off the U.S. East Coast. He said that he wouldn't say whether he'd do anything about any Russian provocations but also doesn't think that the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is testing him.

Our Fareed Zakaria said this is pretty much par for the course. Business as usual for the Russian leader. He spoke to our Anderson Cooper earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I think that Putin has always had this view that Russia needs to be the other great power in the world, that it was denied that role by the United States starting with the Clinton administration. You know, then the Bush administration, then Obama.

And he has been trying to reassert that role. And every time he's tried, he's gotten a lot of pushback from the United States, from NATO, from Japan. So Russia's efforts here are not unusual. What's unusual is, you know, frankly the petulant way that Donald Trump is responding to it.

When Russia does all the things you're describing, what is Donald Trump's response? It's to say to the media it's all your fault. We need a serious policy, a serious strategy to deal with precisely this challenge that Russia is presenting both at the geopolitical level, discrediting democracy and the geostrategic level.

(CROSSTALK)

[03:35:04] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: One of the things lump, another though, as Secretary Panetta brought up in the last hour is that the national security infrastructure is not in place yet. ZAKARIA: Well, again, that's part of the problem. That's part of the

turmoil. You don't have a national security adviser. The key work of government is done by a committee called the deputies committee. Deputy national security adviser, deputy secretary of state, deputy secretary of defense.

And they in a sense make the government run, and then they push up the big decisions to the cabinet officers.

Guess what, there's no deputy secretary of state. There's no deputy secretary of defense. You know, I think the Washington Post calculated there are 700 key positions that require Senate confirmation. Donald Trump has not named 660 of those posts. So forget about the Senate delaying. He hasn't named the vast majority of the people who need to come up before the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And CNN bringing you reaction from around the world this hour. Our Clare Sebastian, live in Moscow, and from the G-20 Summit in Germany, CNN's Atika Shubert.

Clare, first to you, Mr. Trump says that he'd love to get along with Russia, but there have been recent incidents like the military ship that's been creeping up the U.S. East Coast. What sort of reactions are you hearing from Russia?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, George. Well, Russia isn't giving any credibility to the accusations coming out of the U.S. that's it's been, you know, saber rattling. It's not just the ship, though.

There was an accusation from the senior military official that they've deployed a cruise missile in violation of a 1987 treaty. Russian -- the Kremlin saying that they are in full compliance with that treaty and that they haven't been formally accused of this.

There was another incident last week where the U.S. military says Russian planes buzzed a U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea. They actually released pictures of that to show the proximity of those planes.

The Russian defense ministry saying those incidents didn't take place. They're frankly surprised at the concern of the Pentagon. So, you know, Russia is essentially sticking to its line. It's not doing anything out of the ordinary.

But as for, you know, how this relationship will progress, well, you know, they're basically saying we are still open to dialogue. The Russian president, in fact, saying yesterday while addressing the FSB, that, you know, it is time he says to restore dialogue with the U.S. intelligence services. That this would be in Russia's interest. But I think there's certainly some confusion with all the mixed messages coming out of Washington, George.

HOWELL: Atika, this question to you. The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with the Russian foreign minister. What came out of that meeting?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Tillerson has kept a very low profile until the G-20 summit, meeting, so it's really sort of his diplomatic debut. It may not have been the first time he's met Tillerson before, but it's the first time he met Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, but this is the first time since he's been appointed secretary of state.

So, it was at the beginning they had a very cordial few minutes where we were able to see them. But then they were quickly ushered in for the meeting. Afterwards, Tillerson had some pretty harsh words on Ukraine, saying specifically that the United States expects Russia to help to deescalate the violation in Ukraine.

So that's a much more measured tone, and that's specifically, I think, to reassure U.S. allies in Europe that the United States is going to keep with its policy. On the other hand, Tillerson also said that he is looking to work with Russia on areas where they can coordinate. But where they can't, he said he will act in U.S. interest.

For the most part, however, Tillerson has been quite low profile at the G-20 meeting here. He hasn't had any press conferences. Only a brief statement. And this is really sort of a wait-and-see approach by many of the ministers here. It's really their first time meeting Tillerson, so it really depends when he goes back to Washington what happens next.

HOWELL: Atika Shubert, live for us in Germany. Also Clare Sebastian, live in Moscow. We appreciate the reporting today from both of you. We'll stay in touch with you.

Other news stories we're following this hour, top members of the president's national security team will attend the Munich security conference starting in just a few hours.

The vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will take part in the talks. They will discuss threats facing Europe and the rest of the world.

The head of Samsung is under arrest on corruption charges in connection with the scandal that brought down the president of South Korea. Jay Y. Lee is accused of bringing President Park Geun-hye to gain support for a merger which would have given Lee a tighter grip on Samsung, South Korea's biggest conglomerate.

A suicide attack at a shrine in southern Pakistan has killed at least 75 worshippers. It's wounded more than 200 other people.

[03:40:01] The ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan is claiming responsibility for the attack. A Pakistani military spokesman says the border with Afghanistan is now closed for security reasons.

Build the wall. That has been a rallying cry for President Trump and his supporters. But the real thing, well, it could look entirely different. We'll explain as Newsroom continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to have their back because these are the people that support us and allow us to be so successful in what we do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want people to see us as equal people. We're not here to take away people's jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: The topic of illegal immigration, a big beautiful wall between the U.S. and Mexico as the president has described it. It's been the top of his to do list for well over a year now. He campaigned on it and wasted very little time officially ordering its construction. But what will that wall actually look like?

Our Drew Griffin went in search of the answers.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: It is 18 feet tall, made of steel with a comment base. Call it what you want, but the government planners, security experts, and homeland security officials who will be in charge of building it call this a fence.

This is the most recently built barrier between the United States and Mexico near Brownsville, Texas, and CNN has been told by multiple sources within the agencies involved in building, paying for, and enforcing this barrier that this is what President Trump's wall may look like.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is planning to present the plan for border security to its bosses possibly this week, and CNN has learn ted new details. First, they say the wall should not be a wall. It should be a fence, and that could become a sticky situation for a president who insists otherwise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: On the fence. It's not a fence. It's a wall. You just misreported it. We're going to build a wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Sources tell CNN the biggest job in moving forward is convincing the president that the fence is more secure, and it will be up to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, sources say, who must find a way to allow the White House to spin the promise of a wall into a fence.

Secretary Kelly seems to have already begun. In testimony to Congress, repeatedly referring to the border fortification as a barrier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KELLY, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes, there

are many, many places that we need some type of physical barrier right now backed up by men and women of border protection.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Why would President Trump agree to a fence instead of a beautiful wall as he says? Security and common sense. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials on the ground and in charge of actually securing the border tell CNN a fence actually offers more security than a solid wall.

One source telling CNN, you never want to have a barrier in place that will obstruct your vision. That prevents you from seeing the other side of the border. Another saying, I'm not calling it a wall because we are talking about a fence that we can look through. That's what we need.

It's more secure for border agents. It eliminates many environmental factors like drainage, and its costs will be significantly lower. If the current plan is approved, it will look like this bollard-style fencing with steel slats secured six feet below ground and standing 18 feet above. The slats reinforced with rebar and cement.

Another part of the proposal according to sources, it will not go coast to coast. This is the current fence from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico with large gaps in between for a total of 654 miles. The latest plans involve adding 177 new miles of fencing and replacing 272 miles of already built fence, according to one high- level source with knowledge of the project.

That means the total barrier between the United States and Mexico would cover 831 total miles of a nearly 2,000-mile border. Still not even half according to these sources.

HOWELL: Our thanks to Drew Griffin for filing that report. And we should note a recent government study did not say how effective the border fence is, but it did say the barrier was breached more than 9,000 times from most of 2010 to 2015.

Newsroom will be right back after this.

[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Check out this astounding photograph coming from the Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevadas of California. This is known as a fire fall at horse tail falls in the park. It's an annual event, occurs this time of year. The sun hits that waterfall just perfectly and creates this beautiful, almost fire-like image that you see behind me. What a sight.

Now, we are shaping up for an active weather pattern across the West Coast of the United States, specifically into California. So certainly no sunshine expected across this state over the next 24 to 48 hours.

In fact, an atmospheric river of moisture will bombard this region with rain, wind, and heavy mountain snowfall. In fact, so much rainfall that we could experience localized flooding, especially into the greater Los Angeles region.

In fact, we have flash flood watches in effect from Los Angeles County into San Diego, even towards the central parts of the state where we anticipate anywhere between 100 to 200 millimeters of rainfall through the course of the weekend. And we will be measuring snowfall in the higher elevations in feet.

Look at this. We have clear conditions across much of the eastern half of the United States, and this is all associated with the high pressure that's going to warm our temperatures up. Six degrees today in New York City, but look at the warm-up into the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: First of all, you're all fake news. I hate you all very much, and thank you for being here. First question, no. Next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Mr. President, no one has even asked a question yet.

FALLON: Doesn't matter. No, next.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, you've been in office for just four weeks.

BALDWIN: And yet, we've made so much progress. In fact, if you ask any American, they'll say I've managed to make the last four weeks feel like four years. Four more weeks, four more weeks, four more weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The Tonight show Jimmy Fallon there. He is not the only TV comedian poking fun at the Trump administration. Saturday Night Live has been giving Mr. Trump's press secretary and the news media a pretty rough go.

Jeanne Moos has this report.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When President Trump stood behind a podium and asked a reporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Are you okay?

MOOS: It reminded us of another reporter asking the same question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just mentally, though, are you OK?

MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: Are you kidding me? (END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Melissa McCarthy as Press Secretary Sean Spicer drove her SNL podium into immortality. The world's most famous motorized podium.

So did you have to teach Melissa McCarthy how to drive a podium?

MARC PETROSINO, CO-FOUNDER, MONKEY BOYS PRODUCTIONS: We did. It was a lot of fun.

MOOS: SNL gave this small Pennsylvania company, Monkey Boys productions, less than 48 hours to create the podium. SNL first suggested rigging a segue but that was deemed dangerous, so they took a motorized wheelchair, removed the seat and built a podium on it out of foam and wood. McCarthy controlled it with a joystick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTHY: You don't have a chair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: In her first rehearsal McCarthy's driving was a little bit tentative.

PETROSINO: It's nothing you've ever done before. But once she got the hang of it, she was flying around having a great time, trying to run people over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Of course even non-motorized podiums have mishaps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Boom.

MOOS: Hillary's collapsed, and Obama's?

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot sustain -- woops. Was that my...

[03:55:00] MOOS: Yes, your presidential seal.

OBAMA: All of you know who I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Podiums are always getting abused by coaches. It makes McCarthy seems almost gentle. But when you take the podium, try not to take it with you.

The then-prime minister of Italy tripped on a mic cord at the White House. Silvio Berlusconi decapitated the podium but kept talking. When your podium acts like a bully... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been calling it the bully pulpit.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

MCCARTHY: Live from New York it's Saturday night!

HOWELL: All right. We leave you this hour with a story about tennis star Genie Bouchard. She's kept her word after losing a very public bet. She gambled with a random fan online, tweeting that "Our Atlanta Falcons would win the Super Bowl after they grabbed the first half lead."

You know that didn't happen. As we all know, the New England Patriots won that game. So Genie took the fan John Goehrke to see a basketball game in New York Wednesday. Bouchard described the date as awesome. John even kissed her, and the smitten student called it the best date ever.

Good for him. Good for her. Thanks for being with us. The news continues here on CNN. Stay with us.

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