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White House: Trump Unaware Flynn Worked as Foreign Agent; Trump Tackles Health Care, Ducks Wiretap Questions; WikiLeaks Warns It Has 'A Lot More' on CIA Hacking. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 10, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, failure to disclose. Growing controversy over former national security advisor retired General Michael Flynn who only disclosed this week that he was a foreign agent paid to represent Turkish interests, even as he advised President Trump. The White House says the president didn't know about it. So, why now?
[17:00:17] No evidence. Congressional leaders who met with the FBI director say they've still seen no evidence to back the president's claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama. Is the FBI chief ready to go public?
Willing to deal. As conservatives dig in against an Obamacare replacement plan, the president may be willing to meet them halfway. But would that be far enough? And would it be too far for moderates who worry how the voters will react?
And "burrowed" in government. The White House spokesman refuses to reject what's called the deep state conspiracy theory, saying there are people burrowed into the government still promoting the Obama agenda.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The White House says President Trump was not aware that his former national security advisor, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, was a paid foreign agent. Flynn's pre-election activities on behalf of Turkish interests came to light when he retroactively filed paperwork just this week.
President Trump removed Flynn in February for not coming clean about his contacts with Russia. Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee say they still see no evidence to back President Trump's claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama. That just a day after FBI director James Comey met secretly with the Gang of Eight congressional leaders who have top security access.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi says the FBI chief needs to publicly dispel any mythology, her word, mythology about the wiretap claim. There are suggestions Comey may be willing to address the matter in an open hearing this month.
President Trump today met with committee chairmen responsible for healthcare legislation, telling them now is the time to get it done. But the president is caught in the middle between the House GOP leadership pushing the Obamacare replacement and conservatives who oppose the plan. The wild card: moderates who worry about facing voters if they approve a plan which could leave millions of Americans without health insurance.
I'll speak with former National Security Council and CIA official Ned Price. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they're standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
But first the president's former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was fired last month for concealing contacts with Russia. And now the White House claims surprise in learning this this week, that he was a paid foreign agent working with another country.
Let's go to CNN's Jessica Schneider. Jessica, what are you learning?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, we're learning that General Michael Flynn met with Turkish officials at the exact same time he was at rallies with then-candidate Trump and advising the campaign.
The White House, though, taking a hands-off approach, saying they never knew Flynn was a foreign agent, even though the documents show they should have.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight the White House saying President Trump had no idea when he chose his first national security advisor that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn had been a paid lobbyist for Turkish concerns at the height of the campaign and through election day.
But a source tells CNN White House counsel was well aware, both before the inauguration and after General Flynn was named national security advisor, that his company was planning to file a foreign agent disclosure form.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He didn't file until two days ago, so therefore, nobody would have known that, because he hadn't filed as a foreign agent until two days ago.
SCHNEIDER: A senior administration official confirming that Flynn's lawyer contacted the transition counsel and said there were business dealings that needed to be addressed.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What advice -- if the transition was aware of that advice, why wasn't, then, the president made aware that that recommendation was--
SPICER: Wait a minute, Sara. There are tons of individuals that consult with -- with the lawyers and with ethics experts and say, "I own this stock. Will I have to sell it? I own a business. I own this house." And for the most part, they're given guidance as to "Go seek professional help." SCHNEIDER: Vice President Pence telling FOX News he had no knowledge
of Flynn's involvement with Turkey until a story was published this week.
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, let me say, hearing that story today was the first I heard of it. And I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for General Flynn's resignation.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You're disappointed by the story?
PENCE: The first I heard of it, and I think it is -- it is an affirmation of the president's decision to ask General Flynn to resign.
SCHNEIDER: But last November, Congressman Elijah Cummings sent this letter to then-vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence, raising conflict of interest concerns and pointing out that Michael Flynn wrote this op-ed titled, "Our Ally Turkey is in Crisis and Needs Our Support."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please welcome to the stage General Mike Flynn.
SCHNEIDER: General Michael Flynn a staple on the campaign trail. At the same time, his company was hosting meetings with a group of government officials from Turkey, including the foreign minister of foreign affairs, and minister of energy on September 16.
Flynn's tenure at the White House was a short one. He resigned after he withheld information about discussions he had with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Even then, President Trump continued to defend him.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media. As I call it, the fake media in many cases. And I think it's really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.
SCHNEIDER: I reached out to General Flynn's attorneys. No comment from them tonight. But his company did secure that $530,000 contract to lobby for the Turkish government in September. Operations now, though, for Flynn's firm have shut down. They shut down in November -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica, thank you very much. Jessica Schneider reporting.
President Trump, meanwhile, is trying to broker a seemingly impossible deal on health care, even as he's caught up in another big problem of his own making.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Athena Jones. Athena, the president's wiretap charge seems to be coming back to bite him.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, it certainly is continuing to raise questions, and the president
and the vice president are continuing to avoid answering those questions in any sort of direct way.
The president spent part of today meeting, as he has many days this week, meeting with people and talking about repealing and replacing Obamacare, but more than once, officials have been asked about these wiretapping claims and have not -- have not provided any evidence, have instead pointed to the call made on Sunday by the White House to have the congressional Intelligence Committees look into this, look into whether there's evidence.
But my colleague on Capitol Hill spoke today with the chair -- sorry, the Democratic, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, who said he has seen no evidence. This is Congressman Adam Schiff, who's seen no evidence that has been presented that shows that -- that President Obama did any sort of wiretapping or tapping of any sort of Trump's phones and communications in Trump Tower. This, of course, is something that the president, in a statement over the weekend, vigorously denied. Also something that former intelligence officials have said did not happen.
So, that has been part of the focus today. But again, the White House continues this push to get -- to make sure that this top campaign promise of the president's, to have Obamacare repealed and replaced, is able to happen. The president continues to promise that it will be done quickly. He tweeted yesterday that it would end up in a beautiful picture. But it doesn't appear that it's going to happen quickly because of this consternation among conservatives, who want to see -- who believe it doesn't go far enough in dismantling Obamacare, the former president's signature domestic achievement.
There had been some talk that the White House, that the president was open to one of the conservative provisions or a provision backed by conservatives that would end the Medicaid expansion, the expansion of the Medicaid program under Obamacare. Conservatives want to see it end this year. That is not what is in the House GOP's bill, the bill that the president announced his support for earlier this week.
And, so, the White House made clear today that the bill that has been presented is the one that the president supports, which means he supports that 2020 sunset date for Medicaid -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Athena, thank you very much. Athena Jones over at the White House.
Joining us now Ned Price. He's a former CIA employee who also served during the Obama administration as the National Security Council spokesman. Full disclosure: last year he did make some political contributions to Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic Party.
Ned, thanks very much for joining us.
NED PRICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: Good to be here. BLITZER: All right. So the ranking member of the House Oversight
Committee, Elijah Cummings, Democrat from Baltimore, Maryland, he wrote this letter back in November. It's dated November 18 to the honorable Mike Pence, vice-president-elect of the United States, in which he raised questions about General Flynn and his lobbying activities on behalf of Turkish government interests. He was being paid, the letter says, to lobby the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign government's interests.
But only now that he has formally filed his paperwork with the Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Unit, are they expressing surprise that he was doing it. You're sort of smirking and smiling. Why?
PRICE: Well, it's clear, Wolf, that they should have known. There are reams of paperwork that go into any job like this, especially the job of national security advisor. There is a form called the SF-86 that is dozens of pages long that Mr. Flynn and everyone else in the National Security Council staff had to file before they could take their positions.
[17:10:07] So, clearly, there is absolutely no excuse for them not knowing of this critical fact, especially when the contract involved about $500,000, which is not chump change.
BLITZER: Yes, $530,000, more than half a million dollars, to be precise.
Why do you think he waited until this week to go ahead and do the paperwork with the Justice Department? Because if you are lobbying on behalf of a foreign government and you don't register with the Justice Department, potentially, they could go after you as a felony.
PRICE: Well, Wolf, that's another question. Apparently, Mr. Flynn's lawyers had even approached the White House about this much earlier, which adds a bit more doubt to the White House's claims that they were unaware of this.
But still, it's clear that he was trying to do the job on behalf of his Turkish clients, even well after the nomination [SIC] process was over, when he should have been turning his focus to the -- to the chore of governance. We know on election day, in fact, that he wrote this op-ed criticizing a Pennsylvania-based Turkish cleric Fathullah Gulen and, in that, did not--
BLITZER: Actually criticized him, saying he should be deported.
PRICE: Absolutely. And that certainly did not disclose his ties with -- with this Turkish government's contract.
BLITZER: Yes, that letter, that op-ed was published in "The Hill" newspaper here in Washington; and it was a pretty serious, almost down the line expression of support for the Turkish government. But there was no disclosure that he was being paid by these Turkish interests.
All right. Well, he has been forced out, and you heard Mike Pence say, glad that happened.
Let's talk about something else. The Gang of Eight, the top leaders, Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate, with top-secret security clearances, they met with the FBI director yesterday to talk about President Trump's assertion, his claim that President Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower in the last months or so of the campaign.
Today, at least three of them have publicly said they still have not seen any evidence to back up President Trump's claim.
So, at some point, maybe on March 20 when he appears in open session before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey, he'll say what he has to say publicly. So far it looks like the president has no evidence to back up that claim.
PRICE: Well, Sean Spicer has repeatedly said that the White House has not asked Director Comey or anyone in the Department of Justice whether the president's claims had any truth. And the reason why is very simple. Because they know the answer. They want to have this plausible deniability, having not asked Director Comey or anyone else in the Department of Justice about the accuracy of these claims.
Until they do that, they can continue to say, "Well, we need to push this issue off. Congress needs to look into it. We don't want to get ahead of things." But they all know where this is going to end, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, what happens if Comey appears on March 20 before the House Intelligence Committee in open session. He's obviously going to be asked about president's -- the president's assertions, that President Obama wiretapped him and he disputes it. Is it just political embarrassment? What happens then?
PRICE: Well, Wolf, I think we've heard from Director Clapper and, at least privately, from Director Comey what they -- what they know to be the case, that there wasn't [SIC], in fact, no wiretapping.
We also know that a president of the United States, pursuant to a post-Watergate reform, can certainly not order the surveillance. So, we know the president's claims are false on their face on both counts.
But, you know, the question is will the president apologize? I believe Mr. Spicer was asked this today, and he didn't offer a firm answer. But I think an apology is in order if it is determined that his tweet was categorically false, as we know it to be.
BLITZER: What if there's something else, some surveillance not of Donald Trump specifically, but the Trump Organization, the business parts? And maybe there was some concern about dealings with Russia, for example. That's different obviously, but then he would have a little bit of wiggle room, presumably, the president.
PRICE: Well, Wolf, I wouldn't be in a position to know if there were such surveillance. Because as a cardinal rule, the Obama White House did not involve itself in any Department of Justice investigations. But if there were that type of surveillance of Trump Tower, it would
mean one of two things. One, that the Department of Justice had gone to a court and convinced a court that someone within the Trump network was acting as a foreign agent. A foreign agent on behalf of whom? Of course, we don't know. But there, of course, are some possibilities out there.
Or two, that the Department of Justice, again, relying on information from professionals from the FBI intelligence community and potentially elsewhere, would have convinced a court that someone in the Trump network was engaged in criminal activity.
So, if that is the case, which again we don't believe it to be true, based on what Director Clapper, Director Comey and others have said, the Trump team would still have some serious questions to answer.
BLITZER: Do you believe there has been -- there's any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia?
PRICE: Wolf, I believe there's a lot of smoke. There is a gathering plume of smoke tying this administration to Russians, to Russian government officials, to WikiLeaks, which is an arm of Russian intelligence, to other entities that raise profound questions.
[17:15:11] And, Wolf, throughout all of this, the Trump team -- first the Trump campaign and now the Trump White House -- they have been nothing but nontransparent with how they have dealt with this. We saw what happened to Mr. Pence. We've seen what's happened with Attorney General -- Attorney General Sessions and others. They have not come clean about the nature of these ties. And frankly, I think that just raises more questions.
BLITZER: Circumstantial, in your opinion, evidence, but no hard, actual evidence, at least not yet.
I want to pick up what you just said, the charge against WikiLeaks and Russia. We'll discuss that and much more right after a quick break.
[17:20:05] BLITZER: We're back with Ned Price, a former CIA official who served in the Obama administration as the National Security Council's spokesman.
WikiLeaks rocked the U.S. intelligence community this week by publishing what it claims are files revealing worldwide CIA cyber spying, including the ability to hack into smartphones and smart televisions.
Let's discuss this. How damaging are these leaks to the CIA and to U.S. national security, Ned?
PRICE: Well, Wolf, let me be clear up front that I can't vouch for the authenticity of these documents.
But let's also remember what this is and what this is not. This is the most recent attempt by, as I said before, a veritable arm of Russian intelligence to discredit the United States of America. We know from--
BLITZER: Let me interrupt. You say WikiLeaks--
BLITZER: -- is a veritable arm of Russian intelligence, you're saying?
PRICE: We know from the January 2017 intelligence community report into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, that WikiLeaks was acting as a cut-out for Russian intelligence, specifically for Russian military intelligence, in this very operation. So we know there are very close ties between these two organizations, and it's certainly reflected in their coverage.
So again, this is just the latest attempt on the part of WikiLeaks to discredit the United States.
But let's also remember what this is not. There is nothing in this tranche of documents that I have seen that speaks to anything that would be construed as illegal, improper, or anything that wreaks of mass surveillance. This is a can far cry from the documents that Edward Snowden, whatever you think of him, put out.
What these documents, I think, show or purport to show, I should say, is that the CIA is going to great lengths to target individual terrorists, individual spies, individual proliferators to gain access to their communications. Frankly, if the CIA weren't doing that, I think there's a case to be made that they were -- that they were derelict.
BLITZER: But is there hard evidence to confirm that WikiLeaks is working directly for the Russian government, other than circumstantial evidence that the information they often release is very negative to the U.S.?
PRICE: Well, not only is it almost uniformly negative to the U.S., but I certainly have never seen WikiLeaks publish anything that is all damaging towards the Russian federation.
Now, again, that is circumstantial. We know what was declassified or was put out publicly by the intelligence community in the January 2017 report. And I wouldn't want to speak to other intelligence. But I think there is a strong case to be made that the ties between WikiLeaks and Russian intelligence are strong.
BLITZER: Well, are they under the control of the Kremlin?
PRICE: Again, I wouldn't want to -- I wouldn't want to go too far here and get into potentially classified manners [SIC], but the relationship there is something that -- that should not be overlooked in assessing these leaks.
BLITZER: The information that was leaked by, you know, the WikiLeaks leak, very damaging to the CIA, from your experience -- you used to work at the CIA -- was this someone on the inside who provided this information to WikiLeaks, or was it the Russian government that got this information and provided it to WikiLeaks? Because we've heard both theories.
PRICE: Well, Wolf, I understand the FBI is looking into this very question, so I -- so there is an active law enforcement investigation into this.
Look, I think what is -- what is interesting are the public reports that the CIA, as of late last year, knew that something was missing, the sensitive data set was missing. And it wasn't until just this week that WikiLeaks came out with this latest tranche. So that raises the question, what accounted for the delay? Did WikiLeaks somehow acquire this and then provided it to the Russian government as a heads up? Or did the Russian government acquire it and then go through the information, assess it and then, as they did in the context of the 2016 election, provide it to WikiLeaks to publish?
These are all questions we don't yet know, but I think there's certainly a possibility that investigators will look into.
BLITZER: Ned Price, thanks very much for joining us.
PRICE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, new concerns about instability on the Korean Peninsula after historic impeachment and violent protests on the streets. Will North Korea's Kim Jong-un try to take advantage of the political crisis in South Korea right now? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: -- to finally acknowledge that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And he barely admitted it at that when he finally came out in that press conference at his new hotel here in D.C. But if there is no evidence and it -- and it shows that he was not wiretapped, it basically leaves him essentially on an island all alone here. There's no one else that's making these claims, so, I think what will be interesting to see what he does next, .he could either back off the claims, like you said, just ignore it, let it go. He could apologize with Sean Spicer today indicated probably not going to happen. We'll see. But interesting, Sean Spicer also said we're not going to necessarily accept the findings if we have a problem with the conclusions. We'll let it be known. That's giving us a big clue about how he could react.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's interesting. He is on -- he could be on an island of his own right here in Washington, D.C., but he doesn't necessarily care, right? So he's the outsider and he has his supporters that will believe him no matter what. So, I do agree with Sunlen that he may be standing by himself here in Washington, but he doesn't care.
BLITZER: But won't it be embarrassing for congressional republicans who want to move on and get past these kinds of issues?
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's the thing. I think Trump is -- President Trump is not the only actor in all of this. There's a lot of other people who don't enjoy the President Trump force field that allows him to get past things that aren't true. There are some members of Congress, members of the administration, senators, governors that want him to do things that helped him that actually advance his agenda, they're going to be bogged down in this and they're going to find that the time was wasted, he spent -- spinning everybody up about this.
BLITZER: You think we're going to wake up tomorrow morning to what we woke up last Saturday morning at 6:35, that first e-mail, "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower, just before the victory. Nothing to be found. This is McCarthyism." And then, he went on, the second one at 6:49, then at 6:52, 7:02. He was relentless last Saturday morning. The question is, are we going to experience something like that tomorrow morning?
PRESTON: Now, you know, I'm going to go out on a limb and say I don't think so, because I think that those who have surrounded him have told him he needs to reign that back in which we'll see if Las Vegas would start putting odds on when he would tweet and what he would tweet about, because as you said, we were all caught off guard by that. It was, I think, all of Washington, his staff, everybody was caught off guard by that. But I do think that given everything that's on his plate right now, I'm going to say no.
BLITZER: Do you think it makes a difference that -- he's in Washington at the White House this weekend, and last weekend, he was in Palm Beach at Mar-a-Lago, his estate there. Does it make a difference where he is, when he starts tweeting, stuff like this?
SERFATY: It's an interesting question. It could make a difference. When he's down in Mar-a-Lago, the pattern we've seen is really he's largely been a little unshackled from the constraints of potentially the White House, maybe feeling a little embolden to just speak his mind. And we know going into that Saturday tweet storm he did, he was very angry at his White House aides. So, he really -- freelance essentially on Saturday morning. So it will be interesting to use this weekend, as an example, a test case to see if he kind of goes off the rail.
BLITZER: I suspect he's more disciplined in Washington, at the White House, than down in Palm Beach. You know, as the Russia-related investigation, David, continues, pressure is coming from members of the House and the Senate to actually go out, and as part of the investigation, subpoena the White House for the president's tax returns. Is that going anywhere?
FAHRENTHOLD: I think you've seen a lot of interest among democrats of doing that. I don't see any movement among the people of the republicans who actually run Congress, run these committees, that actually indicates we're getting close to doing that. That would be an amazing impressive thing if they got that. I don't think it's going to get that far.
BLITZER: What do you think, Mark?
PRESTON: You know, I'm with David. I mean, and David is somebody who has been following this really all last year and did unbelievable reporting on it. I think you're absolutely right. It is where it is right now. Democrats want to see it but they have no power to get those tax returns.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
PRESTON: It's showing that he wants to keep those tax returns private no matter what.
BLITZER: But what about the lawsuits that are underway involving potential conflicts of interest? Could the tax returns be subpoenaed in connection with those lawsuits?
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, they certainly could. I think that's sort of the unstated purpose of those lawsuits is maybe not to win, but to get Trump's tax returns. The problem is that the people who are suing President Trump, they have hard hills to climb in terms of their standing. Do they have enough legal standing to get far enough down the road to actually subpoena, ask for his tax returns?
BLITZER: Let's talk about Michael Flynn. He was fired for not disclosing honestly to the vice president, to others, that he had in fact met with the Russian Ambassador during the campaign. Now, if word comes that he -- this week, was forced into registering as a foreign agent with the Justice Department because he was lobbying during the course of the campaign on behalf of Turkish interests, was paid more than a half a million dollar. This is a huge embarrassment for this administration.
SERFATY: It certainly is. And it raises major questions about how Mike Flynn was vetted by the transition team. The fact that he not only was advising the campaign and the transition, but went on to become National Security Advisor for about 34 days, I think the total was. And we saw some interesting reaction from Mike Pence about this. He basically said, you know, this is one of the many reasons essentially he got fired in the end. But it was interesting to go back and look at what President Trump's statement about Mike Flynn was, when he basically tried to phrase it as he resigned and he's a good man. The time line is so important here. What did the White House know? When did they find out about it? All of that is so important, those details (INAUDIBLE)
[17:35:19] BLITZER: OK. Read this letter from Elijah Cummings, the Congressman from Maryland, dated November 18th 2016. He goes into a lot of specific details, not only the Turkish connection, but the Russian connection to Mike Flynn. At one point in December 2015, he went to Moscow. He was paid to go there by a lecture agency to speak at a dinner honoring the Kremlim-backed media network, R.T. According to this network, "The United States can't sit there and say, 'Russia, you're bad,'" he said in that speech. "We don't know how much -- how much he was paid." He have -- he has not disclosed how much he was paid for that trip to Moscow. But there's a lot of other stuff that came there. We're going to continue to follow all of this. Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with our political experts. Let's talk a little bit, Sunlen, about health care reform. Can the president close the deal, because he's got plenty of republicans who are adamantly opposed in the House and the Senate? He's got some republicans who are moderates adamantly opposed from other issues. He's the great deal maker. Can he close the deal and get this passed?
SERFATY: That is the big question in Washington this week, and will continue into next week when health care really hits a critical impasse on Capitol Hill. It's been interesting to watch President Trump as he's, "tried to sell this deal." There's been a lot of hurdles, and a lot of that created by some floating of ideas coming from the White House, indicating that they might be open to parts of the Medicaid expansion, when they signed onto this deal with House Speaker Paul Ryan before.
So, they're creating a few hurdles in the path, but President Trump has largely been behind closed doors meeting with lawmakers, not necessarily the public salesmanship that we expected, when the White House said they'd be making this big push, and interesting that Mike Pence is really largely been filling in on that role for this weekend.
BLITZER: My own sense is that he might be able to squeeze something through the House of Representatives, but he got very little margin in the senates. 52 republicans, 48 democrats, he loses three republicans, moderate republicans who, for example, might not like the elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood. It's over, they lose, because all the democrats are going to oppose it.
FAHRENTHOLD: Yes, but what I think we see right now is not what we're going to see next week or the following week, or the following after that. His biggest strength right now, in all this, is that he's not an ideologue. So he wants to deal, he wants to get something done, and he's going to stick with Paul Ryan in this plan until he needs to, then course correct to try to get something done. He always talks about how he can make a deal. And Sunlen is right in this. I think that in the end, he's going to try to go for the deal and get something done as opposed to letting something die in idealogy.
BLITZER: You studied him for a long time. Can he make a deal?
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I think the interesting thing here is that I don't know if Trump knows what he wants, right. How does he go into these deals if he's the one doing the negotiating and there's no core to him of what he thinks health care reform has to happen. Does it just have to be something called "health care reform", or is there some particular policy he thinks has to be in and has to be out? If he doesn't have that, I don't know how he makes any sort of deal with anybody.
BLITZER: I think he wants something so he'll be able to say, "I promised we would repeal and replace Obamacare." "We have repealed and replaced Obamacare." I think that's what he wants.
FAHRENTHOLD: But maybe if this passed the bill, it changes the name.
BLITZER: Let's talk about jobs for a moment. Mark, I want you -- very good jobs number has come out, once again today, 235,000 jobs created in February, 4.7 percent unemployment, very good. The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly, they may have been phony in the past but it's very real now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know, and a lot of people were laughing because remember, when he used to say the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are phony numbers, 5 percent unemployment. It's really 20 or 30 or 40 percent when you really add it up.
PRESTON: Right. And I don't know how else to react to that, other than to laugh as well, because clearly, Sean is gritting his teeth with a smile when he's saying that. But the best part about these job numbers today, is that you had democrats saying that it was Barack Obama that did it. You had republicans saying that it was Donald Trump that did it. But in the end, who really cares who did it? The fact that we have seen so many jobs come into the market place is really the most important thing.
BLITZER: David, this whole issue of deep state, it's a theory out there, there are a lot of Obama supporters planted in the government bureaucracy here, they're still staying there, they're working to promote Obama agenda items and sabotage, if you will, what the president wants to do right now. Sean Spicer was also asked about this so-called "deep state conspiracy," whether it exists in the federal government. Listen to his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I think that there's no question when you have eight years of one party in office, that there are people who stay in government, affiliated with, you know, joined and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration. So, I don't think it should come at any surprise that there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and, you know, may have believed in that agenda and can -- want to continue to seek it. I don't think that should come as a surprise to anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Keyword, "burrowed into the government", all these deep state Obama supporters.
[17:45:00] FAHRENTHOLD: Well, the cool thing about the government is it gives you an option. If you're the new administration, for putting your stamp on the agency which is to put your people in the agencies, to appoint a secretary, an under-secretary, deputy under-secretary, the president -- President Trump's administration largely has not done that. They've appointed the top people out of these agencies but not the political appointees under them who'd carry out the agenda. So I think you can't really blame these agencies for resisting you or blame a deep state if you haven't put your own people in to actually run the agencies yet.
BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) about 2000 jobs that have still not -- political appointees that have still not been fill.
SERFATY: That's right. And that seems to be one chief problem that the White House is having. I mean, there are 50 -- now 50 days into this administration. These are jobs that desperately need to be filled and it's interesting in that comment, that is such like an "us versus them" comment coming from Sean Spicer, not really, you know, completely rejecting this notion that it's "deep state exists."
PRESTON: At least he was honest. I'll have to give him that, right? You have to give him that he was honest in his response.
BLITZER: Very quickly.
FAHRENTHOLD: The interesting thing is that President Trump wants the government to do big things, to (INAUDIBLE) a whole bunch of people. Build the wall, create new trade deals. You know, build a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. He needs the government to do that. And if you're going to start out by alienating the people in the government, I don't know how that helps you.
BLITZER: That, potentially, is a problem. Good point. All right guys. Stand by.
An important note to all of our viewers, next Wednesday, Dana Bash and I, will moderate a town hall on health care reform. Our special guest will be Dr. Tom Price, he's the Health and Human Services Secretary. Be sure to join us, Wednesday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Up next, South Korea's impeached president is ordered out of office. Protests in the streets are turning deadly. Will North Korea's Kim Jong-un try to take advantage of the political chaos?
BLITZER: There is growing concern tonight that North Korea may try to take advantage of the turmoil in South Korea right now, after the impeachment of that country's president. Brian Todd is tracking the story for us. What are the latest developments, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, from Seoul to Washington, huge concern over security on the Korean peninsula. And we're told officials are watching this carefully. This comes just days after another missile test by Kim Jong-un's regime and the arrival of U.S. defense missiles in South Korea. So, tonight, what the U.S. at South Korean militaries are guarding against is, a possible move by Kim to strike during this political chaos in South Korea.
TODD: Violent protests in the streets of Seoul. The impeachment of President Park Geun-hye creates political instability in South Korea. While across the border tonight, Park's arch enemy, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who the Malaysians now say ordered the murder of his own half-brother, is already taking advantage of South Korea's troubles. North Korea's news agency, which once labeled Park Geun- hye, a "tail-less dog" and a quote, "ugly bat disgrace" is gloating over her demise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She will be investigated as a common criminal.
TODD: And tonight, the acting South Korean President has an ominous warning.
HWANG KYO-AHN, SOUTH KOREA'S PRIME MINISTER AND ACTING PRESIDENT (through translator): The north could further aggravate the vision and public opinion, and worse than our confusion, by staging military provocations.
TODD: How will Kim Jong-un try to take advantage of this moment of regional instability, to sew more chaos and threaten a vulnerable South Korea?
PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY SENIOR ADVISOR AND DIRECTOR: We could see more of the missile launches. We could see another nuclear test. We could certainly see provocations in the maritime space. Commando raids are part and parcel of the special forces of North Korea. They're always ready to conduct small operations from abductions to assassinations.
TODD: But some believe Kim may not have to do anything to get what he wants from South Korea and weaken America's position there.
JONATHAN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION INTERIM SK-KOREA FOUNDATION CHAIR: This is to the advantage of Kim Jong-un. He hasn't had to intervene to make this happen. She -- these were self-inflicted wounds.
TODD: When South Korea holds elections in two months, a left winning candidate, Moon Jae-in, could well win the presidency. Analysts say Moon could be much softer on Kim Jong-un than Park Geun-hye was.
POLLACK: A left-wing president (INAUDIBLE) what they call a progressive candidate would be significantly more prepared to engage with North Korea. To make gestures to North Korea would very likely try to revisit some of the critical decisions that made -- were made under President Park, including the decision to deploy the "Sad" anti- missile system on Korean soil. TODD: President Trump's team is worried enough about security on the Korean peninsula. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is headed to South Korea, Japan and China in the coming days. Is America ready for this upheaval?
CRONIN: The Trump administration is making the right statements about the alliance with Korea, but they don't have a full team on board. And so we are also vulnerable to not being successfully engaged with our South Korean ally.
TODD: Analysts say a more left leaning South Korean President might also go against America's wishes by helping Kim Jong-un financially, by possibly reopening an economic zone between North and South Korea that's been shut down, by helping with North Korean infrastructure projects, by infusing Kim with the cash he so desperately needs. One left leaning South Korean President, once even bartered a deal for hundreds of millions of dollars to North Korea just to hold a summit in Pyongyang. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, is there concern though that South Korea might not be able to respond adequately if Kim Jong-un were to launch and attack during this unstable period?
TODD: Wolf, analysts are telling us that Kim Jong-un may certainly want to test and see if South Korea is ready to respond to him. But one expert says, the acting South Korean President, Hwang Kyo-ahn, is very forceful, very vigilant, very much behind the U.S.-South Korean alliance, that he and the South Korean military are ready for any provocation and, Wolf, they've got to be. It's very, very dangerous there right now.
[17:55:10] BLITZER: Tense situation indeed. Brian, thank you.
Coming up, former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, only disclosed this week, that it was a foreign lobbyist paid to represent Turkish interests even as he advised President Trump. But did the president know about it?
BLITZER: Happening now. Red flags: the White House tries to downplay revelations that ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. He was acting as a registered foreign agent while he was advising Mr. Trump during the campaign. Did Flynn disclosed that information while the security clearance was being vetted.