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U.S. Drops Largest Non-Nuclear Bomb on ISIS; CIA Chief Calls WikiLeaks a 'Hostile Intelligence Service'; Sources: U.K., European Intel Intercepted Contacts Between Trump Associates & Russia; Interview with Rep. Jackie Speier. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 13, 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 ANCHOR: Happening now. Breaking news. Massive ordnance. The U.S. drops its biggest non-nuclear weapon on an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan, nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs. The devastating device weighs almost 22,000 pounds and could destroy underground targets. Is the Trump administration sending a message to North Korea?

[17:00:27] Total authorization. The thunderous attack on ISIS follows the U.S. missile strike on Syria. President Trump calls it, quote, "another successful job" and says he's given the military total authorization. What's the next target?

London calling. U.S. intelligence agencies weren't the only ones to uncover the contacts between the Trump camp and Russia. We're now learning British and European intelligence services also intercepted communications between Trump associates and Russian officials and passed the information to the U.S.

And secret celebration. Amid tight security, a CNN correspondent is taken to a rare public appearance by Kim Jong-un. This celebration comes as North Korea is stepping up its weapons programs. Is it about to stage another nuclear test?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news in a story reported first right here on CNN. The United States has dropped its largest non-nuclear weapon on ISIS. It's the first combat use of the nearly 22,000-pound device nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs. Officials say the target was an ISIS tunnel and cave complex in Afghanistan.

The weapon has been in the U.S. arsenal now for more than a decade. The president says he's given the U.S. military total authorization for such actions.

Dropping that huge bomb capable of collapsing underground bunkers may send a signal to North Korea, which has been stepping up its nuclear and missile programs. President Trump says he doesn't know if it's a message, but says North Korea is a problem, and that problem, in his words, will be taken care of. A monitoring group says satellite imagery suggests North Korea is

primed and ready to conduct a nuclear test. Saturday marks the birth of the communist regime's founder. There are now stepped-up military drills, and Kim Jong-un has made a rare public appearance. CNN's Will Ripley will take us inside North Korea.

And I'll talk to Democratic Congressman Jackie Speier of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they're standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.

The U.S. military has dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb, targeting an ISIS complex in Afghanistan. At more than 21,000 pounds the device is nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She broke the story earlier today.

Barbara, this is the first combat use of this weapon?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And that's an important point to make. It is the largest bomb dropped in combat ever, we are told, by the United States military. It was midday in Washington when this happened in Eastern Afghanistan, a very remote, mountainous area near the Pakistan border, dropped against a complex, we are told, of tunnels and caves being used by ISIS fighters in that area of Eastern Afghanistan.

The U.S. had been targeting this ISIS group for some time. They'd been moving through the area. We are told that this mission started being planned several days ago, that the commander in Afghanistan had had the authority for at least a couple of months to basically have the authority to use this weapon when he saw fit.

So that's a key -- that's really a key point here: 21,000, almost 22,000 pounds of TNT, nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs. It is something that the U.S. military feels was the right weapon for the target. Very disbursed target in a very remote area. They don't feel they ran the risk of civilian casualties, but we will have to see on that point, Wolf, when the bomb damage assessment comes in, whether or not any civilians were inadvertently killed. This is a massive, massive blast weapon.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Is this also, Barbara, an indication that President Trump is planning to escalate the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan?

STARR: Well, it comes at a very interesting time. Behind the scenes, the White House and the Pentagon talking right now about adding some additional forces to Afghanistan for training, advising and assisting the Afghan forces because of this very point. ISIS on the move, the Taliban resurgent in certain areas, especially in the south in Helmand Province. The Afghans still struggling in many areas to push back those terrorist and insurgent forces, so the Pentagon's looking at trying to ask for perhaps hundreds of additional troops: more trainers, more advisers in Afghanistan, and they may be there a very long time.

[17:05:17] BLITZER: Yes. The U.S. already has about 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, staying there at least for now. Barbara, thank you. Barbara Starr with excellent reporting for us.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Sara Murray. Sara, President Trump is making it clear this latest display of U.S. military might certainly has his blessing.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. But a striking posture from the White House today than, for instance, when the president decided to go into Syria. While they walked us step by step through that decision-making process, that is not what we heard today. Instead, we heard a president who didn't even say it was his call to sign off on this move, but certainly, threw his full blessing behind the U.S. military.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): For the second time in a week, the Trump administration leveraging the full force of the U.S. military.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are so proud of our military, and it was another successful event.

MURRAY: But the president doesn't appear to have personally signed off on the hit in Afghanistan, instead suggesting he's authorized the military to make such moves.

TRUMP: Everybody knows exactly what happened. So -- and what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world, and they've done a job as usual. So we have given them total authorization.

MURRAY: And Trump demurred on whether the move doubles as a warning shot to North Korea.

TRUMP: I don't know if this sends a message. It doesn't make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem.

MURRAY: The strike in Afghanistan a follow through on at least one of Trump's campaign trail promises, to aggressively target ISIS.

TRUMP: I would bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them.

MURRAY: It's a rare moment of follow through as of late. The president took to Twitter Wednesday night to claim, "One by one, we are keeping our promises." But Trump's recent proclamations sound a whole lot different from his campaign trail pledges.

Take Trump's view on NATO this week.

TRUMP: I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete.

MURRAY: A sharp departure from this campaign trail rhetoric.

TRUMP: No. 1, NATO is obsolete. No. 2, the countries in NATO are not paying their fair share.

MURRAY: On China, President Trump tells the "Wall Street Journal" they're not currency manipulators. But candidate Trump relentlessly vowed to label the country a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency.

TRUMP: We are going to label China a currency manipulator. We can't continue to allow China to rape our country.

MURRAY: And suddenly, the president has a positive view of Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, telling the "Wall Street Journal," "I like her. I respect her." An about face from this assessment during the campaign.

TRUMP: In my opinion Janet Yellen is highly political, and she's not raising rates for a specific reason, because Obama told her not to.

MURRAY: Trump even appears to be souring on Russia.

TRUMP: We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.

MURRAY: After lavishing praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin during the campaign.

TRUMP: I think I'd get along very well with Vladimir Putin. I just think so.

MURRAY: To be sure, Trump is still holding out a glimmer of hope on repairing ties with Moscow. Trump tweeting today, "Things will work out fine between the U.S. and Russia. At the right time, everyone will come to their senses and there will be lasting peace."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, after what has been, by all accounts, a very eventful week, the president is taking a little break. He is en route now to his resort at Mar-a-Lago down in Florida, where he'll be spending Easter weekend -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Murray at the White House. Thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California. She's a member of just the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees. Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So what's your reaction to the decision by the U.S. military to use this MOAB bomb, the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also known as the Mother of All Bombs?

SPEIER: Well, what concerns me most is the fact that what is driving foreign policy is actually our domestic policy. And I am very concerned that the president is basically taking little responsibility, offering it up to his military when he is the commander in chief.

And to suggest somehow that I have full authority and whatever they want to do, it is a little frightening to me and I think for most Americans, that he isn't necessarily front and center evaluating it, then speaking to the American people about what the strategy is and what his plans are. They seem to be driven more by what kind of impact it's going to have on domestic policy than on a cohesive foreign policy.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise, Congresswoman. If the head of the U.S. military operations in Afghanistan asked the U.S. military central commander for authorization to use this bomb to fight ISIS, is that a problem? Do you think these generals are looking at domestic politics?

[17:10:06] SPEIER: Well, no. I was referring to the president. Now, the extent to which CentCom has -- has made that request, that certainly would be something that should be something considered by the president. But there are lots of things that are said and asked for by generals that the commander in chief will demure on because it is going to send us into further war.

Our engagement in Afghanistan has been there for decades now. It's the longest war in our history. And if we're going to step it up again, I have reason to wonder if this is -- the effort is really worth our undertaking at this time.

BLITZER: Because this bomb has been ready to be used. This 22,000 - pound MOAB, this Mother of All Bombs, has been in the inventory since 2003. It was not used during the Bush administration in the Iraq War or in Afghanistan. It was not used during the eight years of the Obama administration.

All of a sudden, it's being used now against this ISIS target. And these tunnels, this cave complex along the Pakistan border. And I just want to be precise on this. Do you think that was a mistake; it should not have been used now?

SPEIER: Well, I am not in a position to evaluate what the generals have said to the president and how he weighed it. I would say, though, that we are escalating in an area that I think we should be deescalating in. And we have in the past said we are only going to have advisers in Afghanistan, and now it appears that we are going to be engaging in a much greater manner.

I mean, if you couple this with what happened in Yemen, what happened in Syria, these are efforts that are made to suggest that we are going to be engaging in wars in three different countries simultaneously.

BLITZER: All right. Let me move on, because there's another development -- and you're on the Intelligence Committee. I want to get your reaction to what we heard from the CIA director, former Congressman Mike Pompeo, describing WikiLeaks just a little while ago. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service. It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.

BLITZER: So what do you make of that characterization, congresswoman?

SPEIER: Well, if you recall during the election cycle, in the last month of the campaign, I believe that President Trump as a candidate hailed WikiLeaks as the new savior, had mentioned it over 160 times in speeches during that period of time.

So it was good for him then. It was to his benefit, and now he's changing his tune. I mean, there's an erratic nature to the president that -- presidency that is really concerning to me, and I worry that we are going to be engaging in many areas around the world without having a strategy in place and without the consultation with Congress.

BLITZER: Because he's now, in this speech that he gave today, CIA Director Pompeo, he is confirming that WikiLeaks was working with the Russians to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. He had very strong words, warning of this danger, basically suggesting it's -- and I'm paraphrasing, you know -- an arm of the Russian intelligence service.

SPEIER: Well, certainly, the unclassified document that was made available about the relationship of Russia with the election and the -- and D.C., and the way they hacked into so much of our electronics would suggest that WikiLeaks has been working hand in hand with Russia and, in fact, has been the platform that Russia has used to distribute the information that they gathered.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, there's much more we need to discuss. I've got to take a quick break. We'll resume our conversation right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're talking with Congresswoman Jackie Speier of the Intelligence Committee. But first, U.S. intelligence agencies weren't the only ones to uncover contacts between the Trump camp and Russia.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has been digging into this. Jim, what are you learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you'll remember that CNN was first to report of repeated intercepted communications between Trump associates and Russian officials during the campaign. We have now learned that British and European intelligence also captured such communications, this during routine surveillance of Russian nationals. They detected these communications over months and passed that intelligence on to their U.S. counterparts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight CNN has learned that British and European intelligence intercepted communications between Trump associates and Russian officials and other Russians known to western intelligence during the U.S. presidential campaign, and shared those communications with their U.S. counterparts, multiple U.S. and western officials tell CNN.

These sources stress that, at no point, did western intelligence, including Britain's GCHQ, which is responsible for communications surveillance, target these Trump associates. Instead, their communications were picked up as incidental collection during routine surveillance of known Russian targets.

The U.S. and Britain are part of the so-called Five Eyes agreement, along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which calls for open sharing among member nations of a broad range of intelligence.

[17:20:08] This new information comes as former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page provides a confusing, even conflicting story about his contacts with Russian intelligence. He has denied that he was a foreign agent.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: This is -- it's just such a joke that it's beyond words.

SCIUTTO: Page told CNN's Jake Tapper that when he visited Russia last July, he never discussed easing sanctions on Russia related to the seizing of Crimea.

JACK TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did you ever talk with anyone there about maybe President Trump, if he were elected, then candidate Trump, would be willing to get rid of the sanctions?

PAGE: Never any direct conversations such as that. I mean, look, it's...

TAPPER: What do you mean direct conversation? I don't know what that means, direct conversation.

PAGE: Well, I'm just saying no, that was never -- never said, no.

SCIUTTO: But interviewed on ABC News this morning, Page could not provide a clear answer.

PAGE: I don't recall every single word that I ever said, but I would never make any offer or intimate anything that...

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: But it sounds like, from what you're saying, it's possible that you may have discussed the easing of sanctions?

PAGE: Something may have come up in a conversation. I have no recollection, and there is nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you can't say without -- without equivocation that you didn't discuss the easing of sanctions?

PAGE: Someone may have brought it up. I have no recollection. And if it was, it was not something I was offering or someone with -- that someone was asking for.

SCIUTTO: These communications are certain to be scrutinized as part of the Senate and House Intelligence Committee's investigations and the FBI's investigation into Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. A source close to the Hill investigation tells me, quote, "If foreign intelligence agencies share information with U.S. intelligence, and it's relevant to the investigation, then of course the intelligence committees will look at it" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Jim Sciutto with his reporting.

We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a member of both the intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

First of all, does your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, have any evidence that this individual, a former foreign policy adviser to the then-candidate Donald Trump, Carter Page, acted as an agent of Russia?

SPEIER: Well, I wouldn't be able to speak to that, but if you recall during the very first hearing we had to discuss the Russian connection, Carter Page was actually brought up. I asked questions about Carter Page, which both the director of the FBI and the NSA director declined to comment on.

But we do know from open source that, in fact, Carter Page was in Russia in July to give a speech to a university there in which he was very critical of the United States and very supportive of Russia.

He was again in Russia in December of last year. Coincidentally, when the deal was cut where 19 percent of the Russian oil company was actually sold off, and there was speculation at the time that maybe Carter Page was one of the recipients of the resources that were generated from that sale.

I don't think that we have even begun to look at Carter Page specifically, but the open sources about him suggest that there is a relationship there, a longstanding relationship with Russia, and that he was a significant element of the Trump campaign.

BLITZER: Was your committee aware that these communications were flagged by British and other European intelligence agencies?

SPEIER: You know, I can't speak to that, Wolf, but I can say that we have a very open relationship with Five Eyes that includes the U.K. and Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and we do openly share information that we receive with each other. But I can't speak to that particular distribution.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, thanks very much for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you. BLITZER: Coming up, Kim Jong-un makes a rare public appearance as his

regime appears to prepare for another nuclear test. Stay tuned for a special report from inside North Korea.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The United States has dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in the history of combat. The target was an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, but the decision to use this particular weapon could have some serious global consequences.

Let's bring in our panel of experts.

And Phil Mudd, this is a significant development, but from your perspective how significant?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think there are two pieces that are significant. First, if you're Bashar al-Assad and you look those Tomahawk missiles last week you've got to be saying, I hope this one doesn't dropped on us. I think whether the message was meant to be sent or not, it had been to be received.

But I think the story here is more subtle, Wolf, but hugely significant. December of 2001, where does al Qaeda and bin Laden lead through? Eastern Afghanistan through a cave and tunnel complex called Tora Bora.

Fast forward to now, April of 2017. What are we using a bomb on after 16 years of warfare? A cave and tunnel complex in Eastern Afghanistan, now not against al Qaeda but against ISIS.

It gives you a message of the length of this war. And furthermore, it gives a message of how difficult it will be to win this war. The U.S. government says last year in 2016 the Afghans lost ground to the Taliban. We're going to be in this forever, and this is an indication of why.

BLITZER: And, Chris Cillizza, as you know, during the campaign, then candidate Donald Trump promised that if he were president, he would bomb the you know what out of ISIS. Is this consistent with that pledge?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS: Well, yes, on its face. I mean, it's hard to say it's not. It is fascinating to me because it comes -- and Dan and I were talking about this earlier -- it comes in a period of time in which Donald Trump has gone, particularly in foreign policy: China currency, Syria, he's gone against things, directly against things he said on the campaign trail. Now, it is important to note, this is not dropping a bomb on a tunnel complex. It is not a broad strategy necessarily, but I do think -- I saw Lindsey Graham tweet this -- and I think this was clearly the message meant to be sent. Lindsey Graham tweeted, "The world community knows there's a new sheriff in town." And I think some of it was meant to say, "Look, I said I was going to do this. We had an opportunity to do it and we did it." BLITZER: And it follows the 59 Tomahawk cruise missile attack against the target inside Syria. And it also comes, Dana Bash, at a time when he is pivoting on a host of sensitive issues, whether it's Syria, Russia, China, NATO, he's made some major changes.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Major changes. And look, anybody who covered Donald Trump for five minutes as he launched his presidential campaign will remember that this is -- he is consistent for being inconsistent.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

BASH: I mean --

CILLIZZA: That's exactly right.

BASH: On issues, on foreign policy and domestic, I just went back and looked at an interview I did with him in July of 2015, a month after he launched his presidential campaign, talking to him about the fact that I just read his book that advocated a single payer healthcare system and abortion rights. And this is a guy who went on to win the republican nomination for president and then the White House as a republican.

So, he was not elected as an ideologue. He wasn't elected because he's dogmatic. He was elected, and as he said in a very unusually introspective way in the Rose Garden last week because he likes to get involved and try to get things done and because he is flexible. And that is what he is showing on all of these issues. Now, for most mere mortal politicians, it would be a flip-flop and it would be game over, but so far it hasn't been for Donald Trump. We'll see.

CILLIZZA: And if you -- if you voted for him and if you like him, you prized that unorthodoxness, that flexibility, as he puts it. If you don't, you think this is someone who is just careening from event to event. But every politician is somewhat divisive in this environment. No politician is more polarizing than Donald Trump.

BLITZER: He was flexible enough (INAUDIBLE 32:36) to pick Nikki Haley as his ambassador to the United Nations even though she was very critical of him during the campaign. You sat down with her for an extensive interview. I know you're doing a profile for AC360 later tonight. But I want to play a little clip, and then we'll discuss. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Has he ever said to you, you shouldn't have said something?

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: No, he has not.

GANGEL: You're surprised? Are you surprised that he's never?

HALEY: I'm not surprised because he knew that when he hired me that I made it clear, I didn't want to be a wallflower or talking head. I'm very passionate by nature, and he's fine with it.

GANGEL: How much of it is you're going to the say what you think and you feel, and how much of it is coordinated with the White House and the State Department?

HALEY: Well, it's always coordinated with the White House. I mean, I'm very --

GANGEL: You're not going rogue?

HALEY: No, I would never go rogue because I'm very aware of who I work for. And -- but what I'll tell you is, it's a sign of how this president works. It's not uncommon for him to pick up the phone and tell me what he feels on an issue, it's not uncommon for him to say, make sure you say this, don't be afraid to say this. He has given me a lot of leeway to just say what I think and interpret what he thinks. I'm a strong voice by nature. I'm sometimes a bull in a China shop, and, you know, he allows me to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How surprising, is it, Jamie? She -- for all practical purposes has become the leading edge of the Trump administration's foreign policy?

GANGEL: She absolutely has. I mean, we've seen her out there over and over. She is not a wallflower. She has been very, very vocal. And look, if you go back and look at the timeline, you will see that she has been the bellwether or the leading edge of foreign policy. When she came out at the U.N. and talked about the chemical weapons strike and held up those pictures, she was a day ahead of the White House and the president on that. And I will tell you that while she says everything is coordinated, I think the second half of that answer was very important, too. The president has given her a lot of leeway. He trusts her instincts, and he has never called her up to say, that was wrong. They are letting her run, even though she really has been eclipsing her boss, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

[17:35:09] The last thing I just want to say is tonight in the rest of the profile we will ask her the question that a lot of people are speculating about, which is, does she want the job of Secretary of State? Does she want to run to be president some day? So, we'll have the rest of that tonight.

BLITZER: We certainly will. And everybody standby. I just want to remind our interviews Jamie's profile of Ambassador Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina Governor, will air later tonight AC360 during the 9:00 p.m. Eastern hour. Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:13] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The United States has dropped its largest ever non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan. From Syria to North Korea, President Trump is facing some very tough problems across the world. Let's get back to our panel. And Jamie, you know, he's changed his positions, he's now saying things are a lot more complex, difficult than he -- than he thought earlier as a private citizen. Is he coming to terms with reality as President of the United States?

GANGEL: I think part of it is that. Look, anybody who becomes president will tell you about the moment when it is their reality, their responsibility, that the hair stands up on the back of their neck when they get their first, you know, security briefing. So, some of it is that. I think the second thing is, as Dana said, flexibility. I went back and looked at that quote. He said three times, "I'm very flexible. I'm proud of being flexible." I believe -- so, you know, in D.C. we call that a flip-flop but, remember, he had so little experience coming into this. The last thing I would say is this, Donald Trump likes to win, and his 100 days are almost up and healthcare was not a win. So, I think some of these changes that we're seeing, five, six of these U-turns that we've seen in the last week have to do with his finding a way to win and have some success and positive press before he hits that 100-day mark.

BASH: And you know, can I just add to that in that quote when he was talking about being flexible, he also said the world has changed. Well, the world really hasn't changed that much. Syria is and was and unfortunately may do again, use chemical weapons and NATO hasn't changed very much, even though he said it was obsolete and now it is not. But one thing as I've been looking into this today that has changed is his inner circle has expanded. Jamie did that great interview with Nikki Haley. She's one example. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser, is now a confidante Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who have very different worldviews than what he surrounded himself with during the campaign, and what he needed to be -- to be elected.

And one other thing I will just tell you some reporting that I have, you know, there've been a lot of talk -- there's been a lot of talk about the president, just listening to the last person who talked to him. I just talked to a senior administration official who's with him a lot, who said it's not the person who talks to him last, it is about the best argument that he thinks is made to him. And he will listen to that and maybe change based on that.

BLITZER: You know, are we seeing the education of President Donald Trump in real-time?

CILLIZZA: I think we are. And I always say think because with Donald Trump, it's hard to -- you know, I got out of the hard and fast prediction business with Donald Trump sometime in the 2016 election. So, it's hard to say, for sure, but, you know, I think Jamie's point is really important, which is Donald Trump's background, first president ever with neither military nor political experience, was a huge asset on the campaign trail and he talked about it relentlessly. At the same time, that makes the learning curve -- which exists for every president, it existed for Barack Obama, George Bush, it would have existed for Hillary Clinton, it makes that learning curve that much harder. And I think we're now seeing around the 100-day period him saying, "Wait a minute, things I said in the campaign trail may not comport with reality." BLITZER: Phil Mudd, the CIA Director Mike Pompeo delivered an important speech today here in Washington, and he really went after WikiLeaks. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service. It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Given all of the current investigations, how significant is this?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think it is for two reasons. I think he's about 75 percent right. Look, what does a hostile intelligence service do? Forget about what happened in the fall election cycle. It collects information clandestinely from secret sources and sometimes it publishes that information to run influence operations. What happened to WikiLeaks last year? Collected clandestinely acquired information and published it to damage Hillary Clinton. Not my judgment, that's the Intelligence Community. The one piece I would challenge here is in the millennial generation, we live in a world where people want an open society, people want open information. They don't trust the CIA, they don't trust government and they are going to the transmit information publicly. If I'm the CIA Director, I'm saying, "After I'm done complaining, when am I going to try to own that movement to use it to U.S. advantage?" That's the next step.

[17:44:57] BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stay with us. Don't go too far away. Coming up in a show of propaganda, North Korea unveils a massive new construction project, an achievement the regime compares to dropping 100 nuclear bombs. CNN is on the ground with a behind- the-scenes inside report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: North Korea is touting a massive new construction project with a show of force typical reserved for parades. CNN's Will Ripley was there for all the pomp and circumstance and he brings us this special report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[17:49:52] WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We got the call before 5:00 a.m. We were told to dress up and leave our phones behind. We went through a couple of hours of security and now we're here on this street. It's completely closed off. Tens of thousands of people are moving in here. Soldiers, people dressed up with balloons, all signs that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will probably be here. The number of people is really astounding. In this city, people can

mobilize very quickly for these mass celebratory events. Tens of thousands just coming and coming. This is a tightly-controlled propaganda event for the North Koreans, and they have every detail taken care of including flower pots in everyone's windows. Those buildings appear to be empty. Perhaps everyone is out here on the streets ready to celebrate.

The North Koreans are showing the opening of a brand new street full of apartment buildings, the tallest 70 stories that they raced to complete in time for this important national holiday. They want to show the world, despite international sanctions, despite diplomatic isolation, they can still complete projects like this and they credit one person, their supreme leader.

The soldiers you see marching here are the ones who built this entire project. This is the closest we're allowed to get to the sometimes very young faces of the North Korean military. This country has a very large standing army and even though this is not an overt show of force, projects like this are just as important to the North Koreans they say, as their nuclear weapon program. In fact, the prime minister said completing this major construction project is just as important as if they dropped 100 nuclear bombs.

The message from the North Koreans seems to be that they want to move forward with their military programs but they also want to grow their economy peaceably. But they say, if they are provoked, they are not afraid to go to war.

The crowd is silent. There's very heavy security. You can see top workers party leadership lined up there, and when the military band plays one particular tune that signals the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is arriving.

During this ceremony, there was no mention of the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula between the United States and North Korea. No mention of the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group that has moved close to the waters offshore. Instead, it was the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un not saying a word, standing, relaxed, confident, appearing firmly in control.

Five years into his rule, it is clear that he holds absolute power over this country, they talked about their socialist system, as they have droves of cameras capturing this moment not just for the international press, but also for North Koreans all around the country. They want these people to believe that this is a socialist oasis that they are living in, and with that, Kim Jong-un cut the red ribbon, walked back to his black Mercedes limousine and drove away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Will Ripley is joining us now live from Pyongyang in North Korea. Will, you've reported now from North Korea on many occasions but it's rare to see Kim Jong-un in person. Did you have any advance notice he would appear at this event? RIPLEY: We didn't, Wolf. Kim Jong-un's movements are kept so secret here in North Korea. There's only a small group of people who know where he will be at any given time. So, we got a call from our miners just after 4:00 a.m. They didn't know where we were going; we didn't know where we were going until we're actually at the event, and even then, it wasn't clear that Kim Jong-un would show up until that music started playing and he arrived.

BLITZER: What did the North Korean soldiers you saw seem like?

RIPLEY: One thing that struck me was how young many of them are, also physically in stature a lot of them are a lot smaller physically than the people you seen in Pyongyang. We have reports that the diet of the people who live in the countryside is not as nutritiously diverse as the people who are fortunate enough to live in the North Korea capital. And so, you see a lot of people who were just more petite and they were just clearly in awe of what they were seeing, you know, in the capital of Pyongyang. All of the foreigners around, many of them just seemed almost overwhelmed.

But when I smiled at some of them and waved, they often responded back with a smile, with a friendly wave as well or a giggle or a laugh. There wasn't any anger or intensity towards western journalists.

BLITZER: What was security like, Will?

RIPLEY: Security around Kim Jong-un is getting heavier and heavier each time I come to the country. I'm working with the photographer David (INAUDIBLE) who was here a few years ago. He was able to get within a few feet of Kim Jong-un shortly after he came to power. But now, you're talking about minimum three to five hours of security, North Korea's equivalent of the Secret Service. Soldiers sweeping the streets looking for bombs, any devices. Even the streets where we were completely empty until these massive crowds came in. They just mobilized and came in in a matter of less than an hour, so very, very tight security around the North Korean leader and getting tighter.

[17:55:02] BLITZER: Will Ripley doing some excellent reporting for us from inside North Korea in Pyongyang. Will, thank you so much. Coming up, breaking news, the U.S. drops its biggest nonnuclear weapon on an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan, nicknamed "the mother of all bombs". The devastating device can destroy underground targets. Is the Trump administration sending a message to North Korea?

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BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. The biggest bomb: the U.S. military drops its largest nonnuclear explosive device for the first time targeting ISIS forces in Afghanistan. President Trump praises the mission. Did he personally authorize it?