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U.S. Congress Investigation Russia; Trump's Wiretapping Claim; North Korea's Rocket Engine Test; FBI Director to Testify At Public Hearing; Timeline Of Moscow Meddling Allegations; Kremlin Denies Meddling In U.S. Election; U.K. Government Calls Trump Wiretap Claims "Ridiculous"; Probe Of Leaks Of Intelligence Information; Questions Expected On Trumps Wiretap Claim; North Korea Claims Successful Rocket Engine Test; NYPD, Palm Beach Ask for Reimbursement for Protecting President, Family. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 20, 2017 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:00] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: In a matter of hour, the Director of the FBI will testify before a Congressional Committee, as part of the U.S. investigation into claims that Russia interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And the FBI Director is also expected to talk about Donald Trump's claim of being wiretapped.

ALLEN: Also, North Korea tests a new rocket engine, putting the region even more on edge over Kim Jong-un's nuclear and missile programs. It's all ahead here. Thank you for joining us. We're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: And I'm Cyril Vanier. And your CNN NEWSROOM, starts right now. The White House is just hours away from a potentially pivotal moment, when the U.S. House Intelligence Committee convenes. The FBI Director is scheduled to testify at the committee's public hearing on Monday.

ALLEN: Here is what is on the agenda: President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama ordered a tap on his phones. Allegations of Russia involvement in the election, and of Russian ties to associates of Mr. Trump. Those allegations got their start with - back in June of last year, when the server at the Democratic National Committee was hacked.

VANIER: CNN's Ryan Nobles, takes it from there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The initial hack was soon connected to the Russian government, and wasting little time Hillary Clinton's Campaign Manager, linked the hack to then candidate Donald Trump.

ROBBY MOOK, POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST AND CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR HILLARY CLINTON: They possessed those e-mails at Russian state actors were feeding the e-mails to hackers for the purpose of helping Donald Trump. NOBLES: Then, just as the Democratic National Convention was about to

start, WikiLeaks unloaded a trove of DNC e-mails: among them, damaging private conversations. It did not take long for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, to embrace the hack and Russia's potential involvement.

DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

NOBLES: As the Clinton campaign worked to contain the political damage, Trump refused to back down from his kind words about Russia and its controversial leader Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: I've already said, he is really very much of a leader. Far more than our President has been a leader.

NOBLES: Days before the second Presidential debate in October, two major bomb shells. First, the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence issued a statement, blaming Russia for the hack. And second, WikiLeaks released another batch of stolen emails, unloading the inbox of Top Clinton Advisor John Podesta. At that debate, once again, Trump attempted to take the focus off Russia.

TRUMP: She doesn't know if it's the Russians, doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.

NOBLES: WikiLeaks wasn't done. More DNC e-mails were released on November 7th. The next night, a new President.

TRUMP: I pledge, to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all Americans.

NOBLES: As he started to build his new administration, Trump still resisted blaming Russia.

TRUMP: It could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. I mean, they have no idea.

NOBLES: President Obama ordered a full review of how Russia meddled in the election, which concluded it was working to help Trump.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Based on uniform, intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC.

NOBLES: Just 22 days before Trump took office, President Obama imposed new sanctions on the Russian government. On that same day, incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, spoke on the phone with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It was later revealed, he also texted the Ambassador and met with him in person at Trump Tower, an administration official has told CNN. Trump associates, including Vice-President Mike Pence, called the meetings introductory.

MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose a censure against Russia. NOBLES: But, that turned out not to be true. Flynn, specifically

spoke about the sanctions, but Flynn wasn't the only one. Some Trump associates also held meetings with the Ambassador at the Republican National Convention, but insist they were only introductory gatherings, attendee J.D. Gordon told CNN. Then Senator Jeff Sessions, was one of them. But appearing before Senate hearings on his confirmation, he said this, when asked about possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: And I did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it.

NOBLES: But after taking office, Sessions, now Attorney General, admitted that he, too, as a Senator, met with Kislyak twice during the campaign. But he said it was in his capacity as a Senator, not a member of the Trump campaign. Sessions decided to recuse himself from any investigation related to the campaign. Amidst all of this, the President himself took to Twitter, making this shocking claim: "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during this very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad or sick guy." The accusation was made without any evidence to back it up, but led the White House to ask Congress to add this wrinkle to their broad investigation into Russia's role in the election. But at this point, even Republicans contend the evidence just isn't there.

DEVIN NUNES, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I don't think there is an actual tap of Trump Tower.

[01:05:40] NOBLES: Monday, Congressional Leaders will attempt to unpack the many layers of this controversy with a goal of making the situation clear for the American people. The White House continues to insist there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, setting the stage for Monday's hearing where high- ranking officials such as FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, will testify. Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Well, it's kind of hard to believe, but as far as Moscow goes, the Kremlin is shrugging off all of these meddling allegations.

VANIER: Yes. The Russian government told CNN that they have better things to do than to watch the hearings. CNN's Nick Payton Walsh, joins us from Moscow. Let's get the view from there. Nick, as Natalie said, it's kind of hard to believe that they're just not interested.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think that they're trying rhetorically keep distance and poll score and upon the proceedings which they've always said, don't bear relation to the reality. The most colorful phrase we've heard recently from Kremlin Spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, is that these allegations are like, "like a broken record with a futuristic song." Now, obviously, yes, there will be somebody behind me in the offices of power with the T.V. on, keeping an eye on this. We're not entirely sure how high up the government the scrutiny will be leveled.

But obviously, James Comey, the FBI Director, under intense pressure to come up with some sort of granular detail to back up the idea that there was some sort of collusion between the Russian officials and the Trump campaign. Depending on who you listen to, Democratic or Republicans, there is circumstantial or is no evidence to that effect at all. But bear in mind, more broadly here Cyril, that you're talking about a policy problem, really, for the Kremlin. Now, of course, they may be relishing the idea that even though they dispute these allegations that they are somehow the global puppet masters who can tamper with the billions of dollars behind the American electoral campaign.

But at the same time, too, if they were perhaps hoping that Donald Trump might be a more pliant Commander in Chief of American Military Forces, who perhaps, they could persuade or find naturally headed towards policies that benefited Moscow. That's going to be very tough right now, given the intense scrutiny of Russia, Russia, Russia you're seeing right now inside the beltway in Washington, D.C. It's the only topic anyone seems to want to talk about, the heart of these hearings. And frankly, any policy the White House comes up with that seems to benefit Moscow, particularly in the Middle East, around Syria, or potentially Ukraine as well, will, of course, reignite all these accusations of collusion we've been hearing and we'll hear more of today during these hearings.

VANIER: Nick, how does all of this affect chances of a better relationship going forward between the U.S. and Russia?

WALSH: I can get pretty much candid, to be honest. I mean, if you look back, most administrations hope they can come into office and restart relations with Moscow, obviously on paper. You might think that Moscow and Washington could get more done if they were to try and sing off the same hymn sheet. But frankly, in the real world, they've been geopolitical rivals for decades and the inner core of their political security establishment view each other as intense rivals.

So, you saw Hillary Clinton try and press that big theatrical reset button. It backfired slightly with Sergey Lavrov, many years ago, now. And pursuing that bid for a fresh start, pretty much collapsed. It's very complicated, the relationship but it's basically steeped in broad suspicion. None of that is remotely eased by what we're hearing at the moment. In fact, possibly, I think we can say we're at the worst points in Moscow-Washington relationship we've seen frankly, ever since the cold war at this stage.

It is very messy. It will get messier today, if James Comey does come up with something serious, tangible to suggest, the Russians meddled or colluded. We'll have to wait and see where that goes. And if the Kremlin, frankly, wants to take that bait and responder tool, that's keep their distance. But, perhaps, I think deep down they're also relishing the idea that the very office, the President of the United States, seems to be undermined by this intense political drama in Washington, and in fact the benefits Vladimir Putin's standing globally. VANIER: All right. Nick, thank you very much. Nick Payton Walsh,

there. Reporting live from Moscow. Thanks. And the Intelligence Committee will also ask the FBI Director about President Trump's wiretap claim.

ALLEN: Yes. Just last week, the White House Press Secretary cited an unconfirmed media report that Barack Obama used British intelligence to spy on Mr. Trump. CNN's Max Foster, joins us now from London, and, well, the British spy agency didn't take that very well, did they, Max?

[01:10:14] MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: No, they called the claims ridiculous, then downing street also said, they're ridiculous. I have to say, there's a real energy behind the frustration here in London about these allegations, because they now want an apology. Sir Peter Westmacott was the British Ambassador to Washington until last year. We can assume that he's still very closely linked. And in fact, I know he's closely linked with the political establishment here, also with the Intelligence Community.

He's written in The Guardian, this is what he said, "this is a dangerous game, the intelligence relationship between Britain and America is unique and precious, is critical to our shared efforts to counter terrorism." He goes on to say that: "gratuitously damaging it by pedaling falsehoods and then doing nothing to set the record straight will be a gift to our enemies, one that they could only dream of." And what we've got here is Britain - America's biggest intelligence sharing partner, the U.K., worried that that relationship might be damaged because of these false allegations.

And it does matter to the United States because Britain shares intelligence with other countries as well. It's integral to America's intelligence sharing process. So, for example, anything that happens in Europe will often come through London, and then go on to Washington. So, there is a real concern here that that relationship is going to be damaged, and what they want from these hearings is effectively - they want from this week, is some sort of formal apology from Washington, or that relationship could be harmed, Natalie.

ALLEN: I wonder if they will get that. And certainly, they'll be listening to these hearings, even though Russia claims it will not. But the bottom line is, it's very unusual, isn't it, Max, that a spy agency is forced to make a public statement on something? They usually don't operate like that.

FOSTER: Yes. Well, there's three main spy agencies here in the U.K. And GCHQ, is probably the most open, they admit that they have a press office, but I can't remember a time where they've actually put a statement out particularly with this type of wording. So, certainly there's feeling that there's absolutely no truth to this whatsoever, which is why they're pushing as well for an apology. So, Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary is due in Washington later this week for a separate conference around ISIS. We do expect him to push somehow behind the scenes with the Trump team, we know that he's meeting them. Donald Trump, or rather the Foreign Secretary, would have to sign off

on any spying of a Head of State of a foreign country and is pretty - Sir Peter Westmacott says, it's unbelievable, they would actually do that. So, he's probably going to follow that up later on this week and be watching very closely any of these developments coming out of these hearings.

ALLEN: Right. It will be interesting to see what is - what Mr. Comey has planned to reveal, won't it? All right. Max Foster, in London, thank you very much. And of course, stay with CNN for live coverage of the House hearing on Russia, starting at 9:00 p.m. in Hong Kong, 1:00 p.m. in London, right here on CNN. And we'll wait and see what Mr. Comey might have to say about British involvement as well.

Coming up here, we will hear from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum, on what could come out of the Intelligence Committee's hearing.

VANIER: Plus, U.S. President Trump is reacting North Korea's test of a powerful rocket engine, ahead. How the North is also testing the relationship between the U.S. and China.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:15:00] PARTICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Patrick Snell with your CNN WORLD SPORT Headlines. Want to start off with Sunday's game of the weekend in English Premier League, the big block buster confrontation. The F.C. had a pep squad, Manchester City hosting Jurgen Klopps Liverpool a frenetic encounter between these two Northwest giants. Liverpool ahead 1-0, thanks to James Milner penalty, but back came the host Sergio Aguero the Argentine with a leveler that's how would it end, 1-1 the draw.

At long, long last Manchester United no longer in sixth place after their 3-1 away victory at Middleborough on Sunday. For over 100 days, you know, the Red Devils we're stuck in a Premier League rut. But after a marathon, five matches in just over two weeks they're finally up to fifth place. United had to dig deep though before they could celebrate their 600th Premier League success and they did it without their star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic who's serving a suspension but with goals from Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Linga, and Antonio Valencia, United cruising in the end to a 3-1 victory.

On to rugby now, the controversial club merger between two iconic Paris based clubs had been abandoned less than a week after it was first proposed. Racing 92 and Stade Francais were planning on joining forces to greater a Parisian super club. But both teams were plunged into crisis as soon as the plans revealed Stade Francais players going on strike claiming the merger was a takeover in disguise. That's a look at your Sports Headlines. I'm Patrick Snell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VANIER: OK, let's recap our top story on CNN. In a matter of hours, the FBI Director is scheduled to testify the public hearing of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. ALLEN: James Comey, that's him right there, is expected to face questions about President Trump's wiretapping accusation against Barack Obama and about allegations of Russian involvement in the Presidential election.

VANIER: Joining us now, Jeffrey Lord, CNN Political Commentator, Contributing Editor for the American Spectator and supporter of Donald Trump, also with us, Peter Binart, CNN Political Commentator Contributing Editor for the Atlantic. Let me go to you first, Jeffrey, as a supporter of Donald Trump, what constitutes a good day and a bad day on Monday?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, let me say that I've already seen a story out there that indicates that Director Comey is going to say that they did not tap the President- elect's telephone. My question is, there's a whole series of The New York Times stories that say that there was a broad investigation, those were the test to times phrase not mine into Trump associates and clearly this information was gleaned by electronic surveillance of some kind. I want to know who was doing it first, and who is saying it, these stories attributed to the FBI, the CIA, other intelligence agencies, the NSA, the Department of the Treasury, I would like to know, a, is that correct, and, b, who leaked this information? Because it's all, you know you, can't -- you're not supposed to be doing that.

VANIER: All Right. Well that squares with what Mr. Trump has said himself. He's more interested and some other Republicans and more interested knowing where some of the leaks have come from than the actual answers to what I humbly think Americans themselves are potentially more interested in, which is was there any collusion, what was the level, extent and nature of the contact between the Trump supporters, associates of Mr. Trump and the Russians. So, and just before I get to you, Peter, again, Jeffrey, don't you want the answers to those questions, too?

LORD: Sure, sure. I mean, this is just my personal belief. I believe that all of this was leaked to lend the illusion that there was, in fact, some sort of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign to steal the election which I think is absolutely bogus, there hasn't been a shred of evidence that happened. But I would like to see, I want to know and I want to emphasize one other thing. I want them to question people in the government, not people on the press. Leave the press alone.

VANIER: Peter?

PETER BINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there are two issues here. There are a lot of things that we need to know about what about the Trump campaign and Russia's involvement in the election, and also -- and I agree with Jeffrey here, we should know who leaked the information about General Flynn and, you know, consistent with things like sources and methods and limitations of knowing everything about what happens behind the veil of Nationals of the Intelligence.

We should also know as much as possible about what kind of surveillance was at the Trump campaign. I agree with all that, but there is a separate issue, and it's the one Jeffrey and the Trump supporters keeps aligning, which is that -- when the President of the United States speaks, it's important to establish whether he is saying -- speaking the truth or not. And the President made a very specific series of claims about Barack Obama ordering wiretapping. He put that in quotations, sometimes he didn't. And overwhelmingly, Comey will be just yet more evidence of the fact overwhelmingly that is not true. And the danger with Donald Trump is the man lies so promiscuously and frequently and never was willing to take -- be held to account. This is important for our government. If Donald Trump says something that is not true, he needs to admit it's not true. We can talk about all the other things that Jeffrey and I both think are important.

[01:21:20] VANIER: Jeffrey, I sense you're probably going to disagree. Honestly, I didn't hear anything there that there -- one should disagree with.

LORD: Well, number one, as somebody who worked for President Reagan and I certainly saw this with President Bush 43, any time anyone in either administration did something, the President didn't necessarily know about it. For example, President Reagan didn't know about Iran contra, his staff did this, but President Reagan was blamed for it. At the Abu Ghraib prison situation, President Bush had no knowledge whatsoever that the Iraqi prisoners were being abused by American soldiers, yet the New York Times and others blamed him for it and said he was responsible. My point is the President of the United States as President Kennedy once said, is the responsible officer of the government.

If there were members of the Obama Administration, as noted by the New York Times, who were spreading this information, receiving classified information and spreading this out to leave some sort of trail of bread crumbs, to other government agencies, that's illegal and that's President Obama's responsibility. Frankly, I'd like to hear President Obama testify in front of Congress about this.

BINART: The problem here, if I can just say, is that Jeffrey is doing what Trump supporters have been doing relentlessly for two weeks which is basically they're confronted with the reality on what Donald Trump said and then they say something else and say that something else might be true. Maybe it might be true, but it's important when we have a President that he is held to account when -- about his words and whether his words are true. and nobody, including I think Jeffrey, is willing to say with a straight face that they think what Donald Trump tweeted two weeks ago Saturday morning is true. And we need to acknowledge that, Trump needs to acknowledge that and then we can talk about lots of other things.

LORD: But Peter, I mean, this concern about this kind of thing, I mean, if you can -- if you like your doctor you can keep it. President Bush was responsible, supposedly according to President Obama, for the financial crash which was not true. I mean on and on and on with this kind of stuff for eight years, and there were no objections heard.

BINART: Jeffrey, if you want to say that Barack Obama also lied and that was also a bad thing, we can agree with that. It happens not to be the President right now. This is a game of hide the ball. There are lots of lies that have been told in the world, all of them are bad. But we happen to be talking about one that was uttered by the President of the United States in which he accused the former President of a very serious crime. That's our conversation here tonight.

VANIER: All right, gentlemen, I'm going to have to stop it here. Peter Binart, Jeffrey Lord, thank you very much. We'll continue talking about this and covering this here on CNN.

BINART: Thank you, Cyril.

ALLEN: Well, when we get all worked up over politics, it's time to talk the about weather, don't you think? That's what we're going to do next. Autumn is now officially underway in Australia. Did you know? But it will take a while before their past summer fades from memory.

VANIER: All right, let's speak with the meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, joining us now with more on that and a relief from politics. Pedram.

ALLEN: You are a relief, take it away, Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: It is a relief from politics. But we're starting off with what we are calling angry weather. We're actually not calling it as the Australian's climate council, that dubbed it the angry weather at least this past summer cross Australia. Because they said some 200 record temperatures there, temps even in place such as Melbourne were 27 degrees for the summer. That was the average temperature that was the hottest summer on record. 35 degrees, 12 straight days of that in Canberra, so yes that was an angry summer. Maybe a little politics connection there.

But you take a look here - here's what's going on across parts of Australia, with wet weather in store that allowed temperatures to cool off at least for some. And this wet weather has been pretty persistent. In fact, some of the image is pretty remarkable here, showing you some of the hillsides and what presumably is a flood that's occurred upstream there with a river bursting its banks where you have flooding take place downstream. But the water, we're talking upwards of almost half a meter in a few observation sites in New South Wales. And the forecast in Melbourne even though we have autumn underway, you notice it wants to warm up a little as we go towards the latter portion of the week after 28 degrees. That is 82 degrees Fahrenheit comes Saturday afternoon in Melbourne.

So with the wet weather we talk about, it's been a big-time concern in parts of South America as well. This is out of Lima, Peru. In fact towards your way into Northern portions of Peru, we know flooding there has taken over 70 lives at this point, 70,000 people are considered homeless, of the 1,800 districts in Peru, over 900 or 50 percent of them are under a State of Emergency. All of this because of the rainfall that's been so persistent in an area that in fact this is one of the driest spots on Earth. The rainfall potential up to about 80 percent over the next couple of days and you take a look, when you zoom into this region of Northern Peru, right on the immediate coast of Peru, typically extremely dry conditions.

One particular region in Northern Peru has seen over 14 times its monthly rainfall total for the month of March. And I want to show you what's going on across this region because it is rather curious what's happening when you look at the maps and you look at the sea surface temperatures across this region. In fact, water temperatures across the area, you work your way out toward a Southern portions of Peru, you see this area right here indicated in blue right there? That's where typically it's cool; it should extend all the way up, the coastal communities. Right on the Northern portion of Peru, officials there are calling it a localized El Nino type pattern where waters are the most anomalous as far as being above normal than any other place on earth, for over five degrees Celsius above normal.

Now, what does this is setting up here is essentially, you typically have the Easterly winds come out of parts of South America with it Thunderstorms migrate back out towards the west. Typically they run into the Andes Mountains, and cooler waters allow them to really fall apart before they reach the coast. Because the water temperatures are so far above average, that's sea surface temperatures, for getting these storms that are developing on the immediate coast producing so much rainfall, Natalie and Cyril. And this is the flooding concern, I could continue for several weeks across an area that should be extremely dry even this time of year, guys.

VANIER: All right, Pedram Javaheri from the CNN International Weather Center. Thank you so much.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

VANIER: And there are fears the simmering North Korean nuclear threat could soon boil over. How the Trump administration is responding to the latest provocation when we come back.

ALLEN: Also head here two cities want a refund for the money they've spent to protect the U.S. President and his family. We'll look at the hefty bills they're complaining about just ahead here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:31:00] CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: A warm welcome back to our viewers around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier.

NATALIE ALLEN CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Natalie Allen.

Here's what we're following.

(HEADLINES)

ALLEN: Sanctions, diplomacy and military threats against North Korea have done nothing to slow its nuclear ambitions. On Sunday, the North announced yet another provocation claiming it had successfully tested a powerful rocket engine. That technology could help the regime reach its goal of developing a long-range missile. North Korea says the world will soon witness that the test was a great victory.

VANIER: CNN has team coverage on this story.

Will Ripley is in Beijing.

ALLEN: Let's start with Alexandra Field. She joins us from Seoul, South Korea.

Alexandra, what is the word there of the reported success of the new missile technology?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: North Korea is saying this test represents historic significance here. It is clearly timed for maximum provocation. You've had response from the U.S. With President Donald Trump saying the North Korean leader is acting badly. We know he ordered and saw this test by the South Korean. They are still trying to understand the thrust that this engine is capable of and what it could be used for. Military analysts the world over weighed in and determining how these kinds of advancements to North Korean rocket program could be used to help with Kim Jong-Un's testing of inter-continental ballistic with a war head capable of reaching the U.S. He said it in his new year's address. We know that continues to be his ambition. U.S. Intelligence officials say they have seen signs that North Koreans could be preparing for another nuclear test. They have observed signs that could indicate additional missile launches. That, in the aftermath of a series of missile launches, some 24 ballistic missile tests in the last year alone.

This is clearly an acceleration of North Korea's nuclear program and it is why secretary of state Rex Tillerson was out here in Asia the last week making stops in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing with the purported mission of working with allies in the region here to craft a new approach to handling North Korea. - this is a secretary of state who has said the evidence of these recent testings shows that 20 years of diplomacy have failed.

The question now, Natalie, though, is what is this new approach that he is trying to craft with the help of the allies? I was able to ask the secretary of state at one point if there is an entirely new or different approach to North Korea that stops short of a military option, and he went so far as to say that option would remain on the table if North Korea did anything to threaten South Korean forces or U.S. Forces stationed in South Korea, or if their weapons program accelerated to the point that the U.S. Felt that there was no other recourse. Very strong words considering the context here -- Natalie?

ALLEN: Absolutely, Alexandra. Thank you.

VANIER: I want to bring in Will.

And, Will, I want to tap into your knowledge of North Korea as well. That is a country you know as well as anybody I know. You've been there multiple times including recently. Alexandra was just referring to the most recent words of Donald Trump regarding the North Korean leader. Listen to those.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[01:35:15] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had meetings on North Korea. He's acting very, very badly. I will tell you, he's acting badly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: All right. Based on the trip to the region by Rex Tillerson, based on those words by Donald Trump, based on the latest provocation by North Korea, you sort of take all that into consideration. Where do you think that relationship is going or rather how do you think this new administration is going to handle the North Korea threat?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, even though secretary Tillerson is saying the military response is on the table if North Korea provokes the U.S. and its allies to a certain level, it would seem to be very unlikely that that would actually happen. The reason for that is if there was a military conflict between the U.S. And North Korea, it would have an incredibly destabilizing effect on the entire Korean peninsula. And that is something that here in Beijing they absolutely do not want to see happen. It was the main focus of conversations between secretary Tillerson and China's diplomat. He met with the Chinese president 30 minutes. They didn't get into the specifics, but we know the State Department has their special North Korea representative on the ground here and he'll also be going to Seoul to try to hammer out what the approach should be. The U.S. wants China to exert economic pressure on pong I don't think and leader Kim Jong-Un. They feel it has leverage they're not using. China wants to discontinue military joint exercises which they say isn't going to happen. While there is uncertainty if the military option is on the table, that is something that all sides here do not want to see happen. That would be the absolute last resort because it could be a potentially very destructive and change the whole dynamic in this region which nobody wants to see happen -- Cyril?

VANIER: Will, you talk about regional dynamics. There is also an important part of that which is the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China. Based on that trip by Rex Tillerson, where do you think that's going now?

RIPLEY: It's interesting, because Donald Trump campaigned with such strong anti-China rhetoric and then he dialed it back. When they insisted the U.S. acknowledge the One-China policy, even though Donald Trump questioned it in the early days of his presidency, he quickly backed down when he realized that was a red line for the Chinese government. But then ahead of secretary Tillerson's trip to Beijing, there was the tweet about China not helping the situation with North Korea. The U.S. appears not to be backing down on the issue of the THAAD missile defense system, components to shoot down North Korean missiles continue to move into the Korean peninsula, those plans going forward. For the state run media, they treated secretary Tillerson well, it was no hostility, it was polite. The meeting between President Trump and President Xi will happen sometime next month in the United States. As of now it seems like both sides are still feeling each other out.

The important conversations that need to happen will be between the two presidents in the U.S. We'll have to watch that very closely to see what comes out of those discussions.

ALLEN: And back to Alexandra, just for a moment in Seoul, before we wrap up.

Alexandra, you know, we had japan doing drills with their children for a possible missile attack from North Korea. South Korea has traditionally the people, at least, out and about. Kind of ho-hum about what they saw as bluster from Kim Jong-Un. Is that changing what these latest developments?

FIELD: Look, some of it does, in fact, feel routine for people in South Korea when they see these ballistic missile tests. They happen so frequently. People regard them to some extent as business as usual. There are politics around this which people are becoming deeply engaged with. You have the deployment of this THAAD missile defensive system that will was just touching on, U.S.-designed system being installed here on the South Korean peninsula. It is intended by the U.S. to bring greater security to the region. It's not a system that is capable of protect being the city of Seoul if self with its 24 million people in the greater metropolitan area here. It's been a controversial system because some in South Korea see it as being too provocative at a time when they are arguing for more open communication and negotiation with North Korea. That has not been the policy of the government which has been a conservative party government for the last ten years. But you saw political crisis that's been unfolding here in South Korea over the past few months. It culminated with the impeachment of a conservative president and her ousting from office. You've got a new election scheduled to take place in some two months. And if you see rule of this country transfer over to the Democratic Party you could in fact see a different approach being taken toward North Korea. Some people here think that would be the safest approach, but certainly it is divisive -- Natalie?

[01:40:04:] ALLEN: All right. We thank you both. Alexandra Field for us in Seoul, and Will Ripley for us in Beijing. Thank you both.

Joining us now via skype from san Diego, California, is Dr. Chung-in Moon with the Yonsei University.

Thank you so much for joining us, Professor.

What do you think of President Trump's response to North Korea so far?

CHUNG-IN MOON, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, YONSEI UNIVERSITY: The U.S. and China have different views on how to solve the nuclear problem. They want to put pressure on sanctions in North Korea so that North Korea surrender to the international community. But Chinese perspective seems very different because pressures alone won't work. Negotiations are more accepted way of dismantling North Korea nuclear weapons. There is a philosophical difference between Washington and Beijing on how to deal with North Korea nuclear issue. ALLEN: Well, the difference aside there between China and the United

States, what at this point with North Korea celebrating its reported new missile technology, what might work with them right now? The Chinese way, United States way, or something else?

MOON: North Korea attitude has been the same way all the time. If they had pressure in North Korea, they have been revolting more, ok, that was the case. Right now, the U.S. and South Korea are conducting joint military exercise and training in South Korea by mobilizing strategic weapons. Therefore, North Korea want to show that we can retaliate in any moment that the United States makes a military strike against North Korea. North Korea tends to believe if they show signs of weakness, the U.S. will attack North Korea. That has been kind of military mentality which has been deeply embedded in North Korean society. It is a very difficult situation. It's like a game of chicken.

ALLEN: Right, you never know when it becomes -- when it goes beyond a game perhaps for the North Korean leader. Does the political disarray in South Korea affect the North Korean equation?

MOON: Not necessarily because, you know, North Korea will be -- first of all, South Korea is ready for any kind of military provocation by North Korea because our military is in good shape. And even though president was impeached, our national security establishment has been preparing for any kind of potential or actual military provocation from North Korea. But at the same time, North Korea knows that if they do, then the whole progressive candidate in South Korea may not win the presidential election. North Korea should be playing its own game of calculating what will be the political consequences of their provocative behavior. It is yet to be seen.

ALLEN: We thank you so much for joining us, professor.

Doctor Chung-in Moon, there from the university. Thank you.

VANIER: On another note, protecting the president of the United States and his family is a lot of work. When we come back after the break, why officials in two cities say they are tired of paying the bill alone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:46:30] ALLEN: Keeping U.S. President Donald Trump safe is not easy and it is not cheap either. Especially because he has several homes.

VANIER: Well, now some local governments are footing a bill -- security bill, a big security bill and they don't like it.

Here's CNN's Sara Ganim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "We want our money back" -- that's what the New York City Police Department and Palm Beach County officials are saying, asking to be reimbursed for millions of dollars, the cost of protecting the president, his family, and their homes.

In a letter to New York congressional members last month, NYPD commissioner, James O'Neal wrote, "funding will be critical to ensure New York City can allocate the personnel and resources that are necessary to keep the city and all its residents safe."

Mayor Bill de Blasio talked about this in December.

BILL DE BLASIO, (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: We have never had a situation where a president would be here on such a regular basis.

GANIM: During the transition period, from Election Day to Inauguration Day, O'Neal said the cost of securing Trump Tower and the area around it added up to $24 million.

Palm Beach county officials say they spend an estimated $60,000 in overtime every day Trump spends in Florida, protecting Trump while he's at Mar-a-Lago. That's a bill local taxpayers will have to pay if the government or President Trump himself doesn't reimburse.

Supporters of the president said he is often working during his trips to Mar-a-Lago, even calling it the winter White House.

But the president himself had harsh words for his predecessor's trips. Back in 2011, tweeting this, "The habitual vacationer, Barack Obama, is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 million."

During the election, Trump also told the publication "The Hill," quote, "I would rarely leave the White House because there is so much work to be done."

So far, Trump has spent more than a fourth of his time in office at Mar-a-Lago.

There are more moving parts for the Secret Service when it comes to the first family. Trump has multiple homes, his adult children frequently travel, and his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, live in New York City, a decision the NYPD says costs the department $146,000 a day.

Sara Ganim, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: And one of President Trump's top advisors claimed microwaves could spy on people. Well, the joke started flooding across the web and elsewhere. Some of the best spoofs on Kellyanne Conway's microwave camera. That's coming up next here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

[01:53:04] VANIER: Disney's new version of the classic fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" had a beauty of a debut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: They've come for my father.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: He's a thief.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Come into the light.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I will escape. I promise.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: How?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: How beautiful was the debut? To the tune of $350 million in its opening weekend, shattering a couple of records at the box office. It is among the ten biggest openings of all time. Might have to go see that.

All right. Well, microwave ovens were born from military radar technology, but we haven't seen one snap a photo yet.

VANIER: Not yet. But don't tell that to Donald Trump's top advisor, Kellyanne Conway. Comedians are having a field day with her claim that microwaves can be used a spy cameras.

Jeanne Moos reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Talk about a hot button issue, ever since Kellyanne Conway said this about surveillance.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR TRUMP ADVISOR: Microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera.

MOOS: Microwaves have been turning into jokes. Pizza, popcorn, espionage. One Twitter post featured a polaroid microwave.

Kellyanne Conway's camera phone on the Oval Office couch was swapped for a microwave cam. And introducing the microwave selfie.

(BEEPING)

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: Even when Kellyanne Conway clarified.

CONWAY: Chris, I'm not Inspector Gadget. I don't believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign.

MOOS: The tin-foil make America great again hat spoofs continue.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Microwaves that turn into cameras. How do you think we film the show?

(LAUGHTER)

Show them camera three over here.

MOOS (on camera): With all these memes and jokes, you never know who you're going to find in the microwave.

(voice-over): Former President Obama. Michelle, Barack and Hillary.

Colbert ready for his close up.

(LAUGHTER)

[01:55:11] MOOS: Agent Kellyanne Conway's entire body got stuffed in a microwave. The spinmeister was literally spinning again on a microwave turntable.

It's pretty amazing what can be spun into political mockery. Take that viral video of a Korea expert interrupted by his kids as he did in an interview with the BBC

UNIDENTIFIED KOREA EXPERT: Pardon me.

MOOS: His wife skidded in to drag them out.

UNIDENTIFIED KOREA EXPERT: My apologies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of the time you lock the door.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: "The Daily Show" called that scene a giant metaphor for the Trump administration and look who plays the kid. There's Kellyanne.

(LAUGHTER)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORRESPONDENT: It's not a question of delaying. It's a matter of --

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: If you can't take the heat, get out of the microwave.

(on camera): Ow. Ow.

(voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: I love seeing that last bit. That's pretty funny stuff.

All right. Thank you for watching this hour. CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. More news with Rosemary Church and George Howell after the break.

You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:00:11] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: In just hours, this man will take center stage as U.S. lawmakers ask --