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STATE OF THE UNION
World on Edge Over North Korea; U.S. Generals Running the Show?; Interview With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Interview With California Congressman Ed Royce; North Korea's Attempted Missile Launch Fails; Easter At the White House Trump Style. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 16, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): High alert, the world on edge, as North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un shows off new missiles and warns, his nation is ready for all-out war. How will President Trump respond?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea's a problem. The problem will be taken care of.
TAPPER: We have a correspondent live with Vice President Pence as he touches down inside South Korea.
And we will take you inside Pyongyang, as tensions ratchet up.
Plus, the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal. The Pentagon drops a massive bomb on ISIS fighters in Afghanistan just days after a surprise U.S. strike in Syria.
TRUMP: If you look at what's happened over the last eight weeks and compare that to really what's happened over the last eight years, you will see there's a tremendous difference.
TAPPER: Is the commander in chief letting his generals run the show? Senator Bernie Sanders will join us live.
And unfriendly skies, outrage as a United Airlines passenger is violently removed from a flight. What can Congress do to protect passengers' rights and prevent this from happening again?
Plus, the best political minds will be here with what happens next.
TAPPER: Happy Easter, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is on the brink.
North Korea fired off a missile last night. It failed. U.S. authorities are still determining what kind of missile it was, but defense officials tell CNN they do not believe that it could have reached the U.S. The news came as quite a relief to U.S. officials, after the North
Korean regime spent the weekend displaying its weapons with dictatorial pageantry and lauding it readiness for what it called -- quote -- "all-out war" with the U.S.
But the Pentagon remains wary and concerned about what Kim Jong-un might do next.
The launch comes as Vice President Mike Pence arrives in South Korea.
Our Dana Bash is traveling with the vice president, and we also have CNN's Will Ripley inside North Korea.
Let's go first to Pyongyang, North Korea.
Will, have the North Koreans acknowledged that their missile launch failed?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have not, Jake. And we will not have any public acknowledgment of this failed missile launch, because North Korean state-controlled media only talks about the successes of their leadership, not the failures.
I did have a conversation with a couple of North Korean officials this afternoon here in Pyongyang who said they were aware of the reports, but there would be no official comment, which isn't surprising. I have been in this country before where there have been failed missile launches. Everybody in the rest of the world is talking about it, and inside the country, it's as if it never happened.
However, we know, with North Korea that, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Kim Jong-un has made it clear that failures don't deter him or his rocket scientists from trying to test more missiles.
So, it's not really a matter of if, but when. Will it happen while Vice President Pence is here in the region? Could it happen closer to April 25, which is a major military anniversary here in North Korea? It could be neither of those dates. We just simply don't know.
But what we do know is that North Korea's nuclear test site at Punggye-ri is primed and ready for the nation's sixth nuclear test. This is according to analysts in the U.S. and South Korea who have been saying this for several weeks.
But given the fact that Kim Jong-un had a missile launch failure, Jake, some are concerned that this could mean that he's more motivated to do something bigger to show force, especially after unveiling all of those new missiles at the military parade over the weekend.
I have to say, it's quite a thing when you're standing there on the sidelines and the ground is vibrating as these massive missiles are rolling by, analysts think at least two types of ICBMs.
Of course, these were mockups likely on display in the parade, because they wouldn't put actual missiles. That would be a safety concern with hundreds of thousands of people in the crowd and all of the country's leadership in the stands, but, nonetheless, this could be a sign of things to come, Jake. We just have to watch and see what happens.
TAPPER: All right, Will Ripley for us in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Let's go now to Seoul, South Korea, where we find CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, the only television reporter traveling with Vice President Pence, who just visited a U.S. air base that the North Koreans have threatened to destroy if provoked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and in the defense of America in this part of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Dana, what are White House officials telling you about this failed missile launch and also their concerns about potential nuclear tests?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to set the scene for you, Jake. It was quite dramatic.
The vice president, on Air Force Two with reporters like myself in the back of the plane, was on route here to the Korean Peninsula when the White House and the world got world -- word of this failed missile test.
And, of course, we in the back of the plane didn't have communications, but, as you can imagine, at the front of the plane, where the vice president and his aides are, they have state-of-the-art communication.
So, he immediately was briefed, had a call with the president of the United States. And then some of his aides came to the back to tell us about this, and immediately it was very clear what the administration response would be, quite different, Jake, from what we have seen from the president himself over the past week or so, really with tough talk, provocative tweets vis-a-vis North Korea.
Instead, White House -- the White House policy adviser focusing on foreign policy made clear that this was just a matter of if, not when. They knew that this was going to happen, perhaps when the vice president would be on the Korean Peninsula. And they were just taking a deep breath, maybe a sigh of relief, that this wasn't what Will was talking about, and another thing that they were bracing for, which would possibly be the sixth nuclear missile test that North Korea would launch. Didn't happen, but it is really significant that the vice president is here right now, reassuring the South Koreans and again trying to take the temperature down a notch when it comes to the administration's rhetoric -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash in Seoul, South Korea, a tense situation under way.
Joining me now to talk about this and much more is former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator.
Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: My pleasure.
TAPPER: So, the North Koreans put out a statement denouncing what it called the Trump administration's -- quote -- "maniacal military provocations," including the deployment of the aircraft carrier.
During the campaign, you called North Korea the greatest threat to the U.S.
How do you think President Trump has dealt with the crisis so far?
SANDERS: Well, the important point is how we go forward.
It is a very complicated and difficult issue. You have a regime which, in North Korea, is isolated, which has put incredible resources into a nuclear and missile program, while millions of its people over the years have starved to death.
The key point here is that the United States must not act impulsively, and we must not act unilaterally. The key, I think, to this situation -- and I think President Trump understands this -- is dealing with China.
China now receives about 80 percent of the imports of North Korea. They are virtually the only ally that North Korea has. And what China has got to understand is that they have got to put incredible pressure, work with the entire Asian community, in telling North Korea that they have got to cease their efforts at developing intercontinental ballistic missiles and more nuclear weapons.
I think China has the capability of doing that. So, the partnership with China and other countries in that region is what we have got to focus on.
TAPPER: And, as you note, President Trump has seemed to follow that basic idea, that China is the key.
After he met with Chinese President Xi, an editorial in a semi- official Chinese newspaper warned that North Korea -- warned North Korea specifically that it must rein in its nuclear ambitions or risk losing vital Chinese trade.
It wrote -- quote -- "Chinese society will be willing to see the United Nations Security Council adopt severe restrictive measures that have never been seen before, such as restricting oil imports to the North."
It seems to be something of a policy shift for China. Do you agree? And, if so, do you think President Trump's policy of leading on China is the reason this is happening?
SANDERS: No, I think this policy shift on the part of China has been taking place for quite a while now.
As I understand it, for example, China did not have a representative at the military parade in North Korea the other day. That says something. Just the other day, the -- the -- a -- plane trips between Beijing and North Korea were suspended, not to mention that China is now cutting back on the importation of coal from North Korea, which is the major source of their foreign currency.
But China has got to do a lot more, a lot more. They have got to be working with the United States, with Japan, with South Korea to make it very clear to North Korea that these policies cannot continue, or else there is going to be significant economic sanctions destroying that economy.
TAPPER: You were one of the only members in Congress to come out opposed to the strike in Syria two Thursdays ago. You warned it could lead to a quagmire.
Now, since that time, there have been no further U.S. strikes against the Syrian regime. President Trump said this week -- quote -- "We're not going into Syria."
Is it possible that that airstrike by the U.S. was a one-off?
SANDERS: Well, here is the point.
Jake, when we talk about national disasters, what is happening in Syria is almost beyond belief. You have a dictator there who appears prepared to destroy his entire country in order to hold onto his power and his wealth.
Four hundred thousand Syrians are dead, 10 million people displaced. They have detainment camps, massive torture. They bomb hospitals. This is a -- an horrific regime.
What our job there has got to -- again, not act unilaterally. In this case, we have got to demand that Russia and Iran stop their efforts in supporting this horrific dictator. Assad has got to go. ISIS has got to be defeated.
But I do not want to see the United States get sucked into perpetual warfare in the Middle East, see our men and women get killed, trillions of dollars being spent. We have been in Afghanistan now for over 15 years. We have been in Iraq for a very long time. I don't want to see us dragged into another war in Syria, when kids in
this country cannot afford to go to college, when our infrastructure is collapsing, when 28 million Americans have no health insurance.
We have got to start paying attention to the needs back home, work with allies in the region. The war in Iraq was the worst blunder in the modern history of this country, precipitated mass instability. We cannot continue to make those mistakes.
Countries around the world have got to work with us to address those crises.
TAPPER: Senator, Arab leaders and former Obama administration officials applauded the strike by President Trump against Assad's forces.
They said it was exactly what you're talking about, a way to send a signal to him that what -- his behavior is unacceptable, while not getting the U.S. involved in a quagmire. So, I'm not exactly sure why you oppose the strike. Can you help clear it up for us?
SANDERS: Well, listen, it's not a question of one strike or one big bomb in Afghanistan.
What you need is a strategy, and that strategy has got to demand that Russia, which supplies an enormous amount of very sophisticated weaponry to Assad, stop what it's doing. This will require intensive negotiations to tell Russia that they cannot support a dictator who is destroying his entire country.
One strike is not going to do very much in that process.
TAPPER: All right, Senator Sanders, stay right there.
When we come back, we're going to talk about many more issues.
Airlines are making big changes as a result of the backlash to the United Airlines passenger's violent removal. Can Congress push the airlines even further? Should they?
More with Bernie Sanders next.
TAPPER: Welcome back.
Violent clashes between and over President Trump this weekend in Berkeley, California. Eleven people were injured and at least 21 people were arrested, as fights broke out between pro-Trump and anti- Trump protesters.
"The Los Angeles Times" is reporting that about 50 members of the far- right militia group called the Oath Keepers came from Montana to protect pro-Trump demonstrators. This was one of many rallies that took place yesterday, including many around the country to protest President Trump's refusal to release his tax returns.
We're back with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Senator, in addition to that Berkeley protest, Democrats across the country yesterday gathered for rallies all over, on Tax Day, calling for President Trump to release the last 10 years of his tax returns and disclose any foreign conflicts of interest.
Now, I have heard that many Democratic senators believe that the president's tax returns could be subpoenaed in the course of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Do you think his returns should be subpoenaed?
SANDERS: I think the American people need to understand what kind of involvement Trump's business dealings have abroad, and what kind of leverage those dealings may have on his policies as president of the United States.
They want a president who is going to represent the American people, not his own interests, business interests, which extend all over the world.
But, you know, Jake, when you talk about planes, as I think you know, tomorrow afternoon, Tom Perez, who is the chair of the Democratic Party, and I will be taking a nine-state tour all across this country to do what I think is absolutely necessary.
And that is to help revitalize American democracy. So many of our people are giving up on the political process. It is very frightening. In the last presidential election, when Trump won, we had the lowest voter turnout over -- in 20 years. And in the previous two years before that, in the midterm election, we had the lowest voter turnout in 70 years.
And I think what's happenings, as the middle class shrinks, as people perceive that the media and Congress is not hearing their pain about a declining standard of living, income and wealth inequality, not being able to afford to send their kids to college, they're giving up on the political process.
And we cannot allow that to happen. So, Tom and I are going to be going all over this country. We're going to be fighting to see that the Democratic Party becomes a 50-state party. You can't just be a West Coast party and an East Coast party.
SANDERS: And we need a bottom-up party, a grassroots party which is prepared to stand up to the big money interests, which have so much influence over the political and economic development of our country.
TAPPER: Right. Well, let's talk about that.
Kansas and Georgia are red states. You're on this red state tour that is going to kick off tomorrow. But just this week, a Democrat you supported lost an election for a special House seat election in Kansas. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is seeking to fill in Georgia a seat vacated by the now secretary of health and human services, Secretary Dr. Tom Price in Georgia.
Are you concerned that the DNC -- they're doing this big red state tour with you, but a lot of people criticized the DNC for not sending enough resources to Kansas. So, it's great that they're doing this display.
SANDERS: Well, let's -- let's be clear.
TAPPER: OK, go ahead.
SANDERS: Let's be clear.
I mean, the point here is that, I think, all over grassroots America, whether they're Democrats, independents or Republicans, people are perceiving that Trump did not tell the truth in his campaign in terms of what he would do as president of the United States.
He was going to drain the swamp. Well, he's, in fact, appointed more billionaires to his Cabinet than any president in history, et cetera, et cetera.
So, what I think has happened now, in Kansas, it is true that the Democratic candidate lost. It is true that the Democratic Party should have put more resources into that election. But it is also true that he ran 20 points better than the -- than the Democratic candidate for president did in Kansas.
So, what you're seeing in Kansas, what you're seeing in Georgia, I believe you're going to see it in Montana, I believe you're going to see it all over this country, is the many so-called red states, working people are going to wake up and say, wait a second. Republicans want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and education, and they want to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 1 percent.
No, that's not what we elected Trump to do. Yes, climate change is real. It's not a hoax. We got to move to sustainable energy. I think, all over this country, in red states and in blue states, people are beginning to stand up. They're beginning to fight back. They're demanding a government which does not just represent the billionaires, but represents the working class of this country.
TAPPER: Senator, I want to ask you about this horrific incident last week in which a passenger was dragged off a United flight after refusing to give up his seat voluntarily.
Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, she is planning to introduce legislation that would ban airlines from being able to involuntarily bump passengers from flights.
Airlines say that this kind of congressional meddling could -- meddling could result in much higher fares for consumers. What do you think Congress should do?
SANDERS: Well, I think anybody who flies a lot -- and, as a United States senator, I fly a lot -- knows how dysfunctional, in many respects, the airlines are.
They know that there are many, many delays that are caused not because of weather, but because of inappropriate practices on the part of the airlines.
This overbooking, which caused this particular problem, is not unique. I have been on airlines many, many times where people have been asked to leave.
And I think what we do need is to take a hard look at the airlines in this country and make them much more responsive to the consumers than they currently are.
In terms of pricing, I mean, you can have two people on an airline, one is spending twice as much as another person. So, the idea of taking a hard look at airline travel and, by the way, the consolidation of ownership in the airline industry is something that I think would be a very useful effort.
TAPPER: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, thank you so much.
Have fun, and good luck on your red state tour.
SANDERS: Thank you very much.
TAPPER: Coming up: failure to launch. Will Kim Jong-un's unsuccessful missile launch prompt him to try again or try a nuclear test?
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
The world is waiting to see how Kim Jong-un will react now that his overnight missile launch has failed. Vice President Pence has just landed in South Korea, apparently ready to back up President Trump's tough talk against North Korea's nuclear regime.
North Korea has made it clear it is to respond to any U.S. provocation. The country's state-run media read a statement from the army on Friday, saying the Trump administration's -- quote -- "serious military hysteria has reached a dangerous phase" -- unquote.
During its show of force on the country's most important holiday this weekend, North -- North Korean soldiers chanted they were ready to die for Kim Jong-un. Let's turn to the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee,
Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us on this Easter Sunday.
REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: So, "The New York Times" reports that President Obama started a secret program to sabotage, with electronic warfare, North Korea's missile program.
"The Times" writes that -- quote -- "The North -- the North's launch failure rate has been extraordinarily high since Mr. Obama first accelerated the program" -- unquote.
Do you think U.S. action here, covert action, is the reason why this missile launch failed?
ROYCE: You know, I think there's a couple of possibilities. That's one of them.
But I would say that we shouldn't take too much comfort, because, even in failure, this program continues to advance. And they will be closely, not too -- in the not-too-distant future, in a position where they could hit all 50 states in the United States -- in the United States with an ICBM.
So, I -- I do say don't take too much comfort in this, but it is a good development that it failed.
TAPPER: Dana Bash is reporting this morning from Seoul, South Korea, that the U.S. was concerned the North Koreans might try to test a nuclear device. That has not happened yet.
Do you think that the North Koreans still might try that, even with Vice President Pence on the peninsula?
ROYCE: Well, we do think that they may try that.
I mean, this would be the sixth test that they would do. And, of course, there's additional pressure now that we have put on China. I passed legislation last year through the House that was signed into law, which is a North Korean sanctions act, which now was actually taken up by the Security Council as well.
And that puts additional pressure on neighboring countries such as China not to transfer to North Korea. We have found that, unfortunately, China has continued to transfer some of the parts that North Korea has gotten their hands on now and continue to transfer the type of fuel that keeps the economy going.
What we're -- what we're urging this president to do at this point is what was done once before with Banco Delta Asia.
[09:30:00] And that is shut down any foreign banks doing any kind of business in hard currency with North Korea because when we last did that, we shut off the money for their program, and we shut it down tight as a drum. And I think that's the next step that has to be deployed.
TAPPER: President Trump was asked if the MOAB bomb that the U.S. dropped on Afghanistan a few days ago was intended to send a message to North Korea.
Take a listen to his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does this send a message 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. The problem will be taken care of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The North Koreans are calling President Trump reckless and warning of a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out any moment.
Do you think the military actions by the U.S. in Syria and in Afghanistan were in any way designed to send a message to Pyongyang about President Trump's willingness to use military force?
ROYCE: I don't presume that that was the reason for either of those attacks.
What I do presume is that it is the reason for the negotiations with China right now. Because there is the realization that if China does cut off all transactions with North Korea, we'll be in a position where once again the dictator will not be able to pay his generals. That's what happened the last time we had these kinds of sanctions imposed on Chinese banks, some 10 banks back during Banco Delta Asia.
So I think that's the negotiation right now. That's the leverage, and we need that kind of political leverage, because that's the way to get the attention of the regime in North Korea, and have them reconsider on their nuclear program.
TAPPER: Do you have any indication that the White House is considering the measure that you're talking about, sanctioning these 10 Chinese banks that do business with North Korea?
ROYCE: I do. And I also have additional legislation that I and Elliot Engel, our ranking Democratic member, are putting forward right now, in order to go with third party sanctions on some additional financial institutions worldwide, and cut off the ability of North Korea to use what's called slave labor. This is the indentured servitude where the money comes back in to North Korea for their workers that they send out to neighboring states. We are looking at shutting off every dime of money that goes in there, because it's very expensive to run a program like this, and if you cannot pay for the foreign parts and if you get the cooperation from China, you can shut it down and we must shut it down.
TAPPER: There are concerns of course, sir, as I don't need to tell you or anybody in California, that North Korea could build a nuclear weapon that could reach your home state of California.
The Pentagon spent more than $40 billion since the '90s trying to build a defense system but the "L.A. Times" recently wrote of the program called the GMD -- quote -- "In nine simulated attacks since GMD was deployed in 2004, interceptors have failed to take out their targets six times."
How worried are you about your home state of California being fully protected from a nuclear attack from North Korea?
ROYCE: Well, Jake, when you consider the fact that the missile that you saw in the parade was actually capable of being fired from a submarine, it's not just -- it's not just California.
Yes, I'm very worried about this program and that's why I say, when we have a strategy that worked in the past, and frankly, sanctions worked on South Africa, when you really deploy them with international support, you can get a regime like the South African regime to give up its atomic weapon and frankly that also ended apartheid there.
When we have something that has been that effective and we know how to do it, we must do it now because we have such little time left before they finally work out this capability of miniaturizing this weapon that they now have and they may have enough inventory for 100 of these, and then can put them in the ICBMs which they've been testing. This is the urgency.
TAPPER: Congressman Ed Royce, a Republican of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate it and happy Easter to you and your family.
ROYCE: Thank you, Jake. Happy Easter to you, too.
TAPPER: This site cannot be found, shutting down the website that reveals visitor logs along with financial disclosure forms for White House employees. Why so secret, President Trump?
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA BARTIROMO, FBN ANCHOR: What are we doing right now in terms of North Korea? TRUMP: You never know, do you? You never know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: "You never know." President Trump keeping his cards close to his vest on North Korea, but with tensions rising, what is the plan?
With me now to talk about all of this, Republican Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah; Jason Kander, former Missouri Democratic senate candidate; Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative "Weekly Standard;" and Bakari Sellers, former Democratic South Carolina state representative.
Thanks one and all for being here. Happy Easter to those who celebrate. Happy Passover, for those who celebrate that.
So let's start with this, Congresswoman Love, that President Trump talking tough. North Koreans responding that they're preparing for all-out war. Do you feel like you have an idea of what the strategy is here from the Trump administration when it comes to North Korea?
REP. MIA LOVE (R), UTAH: Well, first of all, no. And I think that we -- well, I think that we need to know.
I mean, I always have these rules that, you know, before I send my neighbors off to war, before we commit any act of war members of Congress need to know, we need to make sure that we have a clear mission and a plan. We need to have a way out and we need to make sure that the people that we're sending are equipped and they're trained well. And so, you know, I think that those are -- you know, the House of Representatives is a branch of government that's closest to people.
So we really need to have a dialogue to understand how serious the situation is with North Korea. That being said I know that there are times where he has to act quickly. And I'm fine with that. Because we have to make sure that North Korea doesn't advance. I mean, we -- it's scary to see what's happening. It's scary to know they want us gone.
And so I -- you know, I think that all of us on both sides of the aisle really want to be engaged in what's happening before we -- before we make any major steps.
TAPPER: Let me ask you, Jason Kander, you are in addition to being a former Missouri state official, a veteran of the army, and there's been a lot of talk this week about how much President Trump is deferring to the generals. Whether it comes to the Syria strike, most particularly with the bomb dropped in Afghanistan, it's not clear if President Trump knew about that ahead of time even and then when it comes to North Korea, general -- Secretary Mattis is the one who issued a statement yesterday.
Are you concerned about that at all or do you like the deference to the generals?
JASON KANDER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm deeply concerned about it. Because if you think back to when he was asked whether or not he approved the dropping of the MOAB in Afghanistan, his answer was something along the lines of, it started with "uh" and then it went from "uh" to "everybody knew exactly what was going on" which is of course the opposite of true.
I mean, he was giving the answer because he didn't want people to know exactly whether he approved it or not and what bothers me about that is that there are really only two acceptable answers to that question. The first was, I am the commander in chief, it was an important decision to make a change like that to step up to that level of using that weapon, and so I made the decision. And the second was, here's why that decision was made by a tactical commander on the ground and then defend it. But he doesn't do either of those things.
And I believe that the reason is is because he wants to take credit for good things when they happen and blame generals when bad things happen. And that's no way to lead a military, certainly the most powerful military in the world.
TAPPER: You have a son in the marines. Do you agree with that assessment?
BILL KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, in that case I think General Mickelson made a battlefield call, that's a part of our arsenal, that's not -- the fundamental -- dropping 10 bombs together add up to the explosive force.
KANDER: (INAUDIBLE). I mean, it's a big step.
KRISTOL: I don't know if it's that big a step. Anyway, whatever. The president should take responsibility for the strategic decisions. I don't think you want a president micromanaging the generals in certain respects.
Actually the generals who are civilians now, General Mattis, now Secretary of Defense -- or General McMaster is not a civilian but in a civilian role, he's national security adviser. I (INAUDIBLE) thought long and hard about civilian control of the military. They have a long record of understanding that. McMaster in Iraq, Jason knows this, was one of the key advocates of counter insurgency, making sure you have to win hearts and minds. You can't just bomb people into submission.
McMaster made his name in Tal Afar in 2005 by -- in a way doing the counter insurgency before Petraeus (INAUDIBLE) famous (ph). Mattis has written a lot about this and thought a lot about this. So I'm not worried about McMaster and Mattis.
KANDER: Yes. It's not just about whether or not he made that decision. It's the other things that the president has done. It's pushing responsibilities down of whether or not to conduct raids in countries like Yemen, down below that level and that coming after him saying about Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL who was killed that the generals lost him rather than saying, we lost him. We as a country lost him. That is a big difference and from a military leadership point of view, that concerns me a lot.
TAPPER: One of the things that's interesting is we've seen a lot of President Trump talking about how difficult issues are and he didn't realize it, he said that about health care a few weeks ago.
This week he said about North Korea, to "The Wall Street Journal," "You're talking about thousands of years and many wars and Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes to" -- to Chinese President Xi he's referring to -- "I realized that it's not so easy."
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we understood that we elected a president of the United States who had this knowledge deficit when he went into the office. We all understand that. We all agree, Democrats and Republicans alike.
But I think one of the biggest problems that many people including myself have is that when you're address North Korea or Syria or Afghanistan, the White House seems to be ill prepared, for a perfect example, not only was he ill prepared for the meeting with President Xi but you look at the fact that we don't have an ambassador to China, we don't have an ambassador to Japan, we don't have an ambassador to South Korea. We don't even have a deputy secretary of state to East Asia.
And so we're doing all of these things and the White House is fundamentally broken. We're not prepared to take on the challenges. And so whether or not it's the meeting or whether or not it's his staff or whatever, we are fundamentally unprepared on the world stage.
TAPPER: We should just point out that there are people acting in those roles just not formal.
LOVE: Can we at least give him credit for actually engaging with China especially when it comes to North Korea?
I mean, I know that there are so many things that, you know, people would prefer for him to do a little bit better about you that's why he got elected. I mean, he got elected because he wasn't the regular politician. They wanted somebody to feel --
SELLERS: I also think as a country though, I understand not being a regular politician but when we're expanding our military footprint, because right now we're on the verge of war in three different countries which with all due respect to President Trump or President Obama or anybody else, Democrat or Republican that fundamentally terrifies me.
KRISTOL: He has not fundamentally changed Obama's policies in any of those areas.
SELLERS: I'm not saying that.
KRISTOL: There were troops in Syria when President Obama left office. We were fighting in Afghanistan.
SELLERS: 500 -- 500 troops.
KRISTOL: They were fighting in Afghanistan, maybe you're not aware of that, throughout the Obama administration and North Korea --
KANDER (ph): We've been there for 16 years.
KRISTOL: And North Korea President Obama to his credit. Already had launched a cyber program to try to sabotage their nuclear program.
SELLERS: Are you saying over the last -- over the last two weeks are you saying that we haven't reached a point where we are escalating things in Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea?
KRISTOL: I think the main difference is Syria where President Trump to his credit came through when President Obama didn't.
KANDER: Here's what concerns me is --
KRISTOL (ph) : Incidentally most Democrats --
SELLERS: I agree with the strike in Syria so what are you talking about?
SELLERS: President Obama had a strategy. That's the difference.
SELLERS: The difference is that President Obama had a strategy.
KRISTOL: Which was what, to draw a red line and then not enforce it?
KANDER: He had an overall strategy.
The people in his administration understood commander's intent. In the military, the commander's intent is when there's a decision to be made and you don't exact guidance at that moment you know overall what the boss wants. Nobody has that in the Trump administration. There is not commander's intent because he is doing whatever comes to his mind from the last person he talked to.
So, yes, he is engaged with the president of China, he had a 10-minute conversation which has apparently shaped our policy toward North Korea. That is the problem.
SELLERS: Or pictures or how he goes from being a non-interventionist in Syria to having pictures shown to him that fundamentally change his foreign policy.
TAPPER: I just want to interrupt because President Trump just tweeted I don't know if he's watching the show right now but possibly, but it seems like he's -- a lot of his tweets are tracking with what we're talking about.
But he just tweeted "Our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before. Frankly, we have no choice!"
SELLERS: Maybe he was responding --
LOVE: You know, can I just say, I like the old adage, peace through strength and I think we need to do everything we can to make sure that we build up our military so that we are ready for situations like this.
KANDER: And that ain't strong. That's what he's (ph) doing that's not strong.
LOVE: Well I think that you know, making sure that we have people that are enlisting and not just bodies but trained bodies so that when we have situations like this, we know that when we are sending people, even as terrifying as war is, because it is incredibly terrifying, it is a lot better if we are much more prepared for it.
KRISTOL: There are already troops in South Korea and Afghanistan and some in Syria so this is not -- I mean, I would say if President Trump is serious about building up the military he should insist on the supplemental needed in the next month --
TAPPER: I guess...
TAPPER: ...much more about increasing the defense budget than he's done about it.
One of the issues I suppose is that you're right, there is U.S. presence in all the places but there has been an escalation in Yemen, in Syria.
TAPPER: In Africa, and then obviously the use of this new bomb in Afghanistan, and one of the things that I think is curious about it is that we don't necessarily know why. I mean, other than he wants to bomb the bleep out of ISIS, most of his talk on the campaign trail was about redirecting American attention to the United States. That's all.
KRISTOL: I agree with that and I think he's been marked by reality and stumbling his way towards a better foreign policy. We'll see how much he can sustain and how much he listens to McMaster and Mattis and people who have thought this through.
LOVE: And I still think he needs to engage Congress. Because at the end of the day --
SELLERS: I actually agree with you and Barbara Lee and others on this that he does need to come back and engage Congress because we're in a war-weary country.
As you stated earlier we've been in Afghanistan for 16 years. I mean, I've lost three classmates, high school classmates in wars. So when we -- when we're making these acts -- I mean, you served, you have a son that served, and when make -- when we're making these acts these are not just pieces on a chess board. These are human lives and I don't want somebody fundamentally watching STATE OF THE UNION and tweeting about it. I want somebody who has a sound policy because I do agree with the strikes in Syria (INAUDIBLE) the policy.
LOVE: And increase national defense.
TAPPER: One quick thing I want to turn to one other subject because this week it was announced that the White House is not going to release the visitor logs to the White House.
President Obama had to be dragged kicking and screaming, there was a lawsuit but ultimately he did release the visitor logs and that became White House policy. President Trump reversing that policy.
Take a listen to Sean Spicer talking in December.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: Conflicts of interest arise when you're not -- when you're sneaky about it, when you're shady about it, when you're not transparent about it.
BOLDUAN: No. They just exist.
SPICER: No, no. If you tell everyone, here is what's going on, here's the process, here are the people that are playing a role that's not -- that's being transparent. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That of course was December. We are now in April.
Isn't transparency important? Don't the people have a right to know who is visiting the people's house?
LOVE: Well I've always said, you know, whether it was former President Barack Obama or this current president that house doesn't belong to -- it belongs to the people. You know, I guess it's a game. I'm not really sure.
There are times where I believe that we need to be as transparent as possible and there are times where I don't know if you know, there's a reason why they want to keep those logs --
TAPPER: They claim security concerns.
LOVE: Well, there may be some security concerns like (ph) that (ph). I can't make --
LOVE: We can't just say that it's political.
SELLERS: I think this should be a nonpartisan issue though. I mean, I really do. I think that -- I think that President Clinton got it wrong. I think Barack Obama when he was fighting this issue got it wrong.
I think that this is the people's house and Democrat or Republican you should be able to see who's coming in and out of -- (INAUDIBLE) security concern evaluate those individuals --
LOVE: But if President Barack Obama had concerns about it and you've got President Trump --
KRISTOL: ... Donald Trump is (INAUDIBLE). He's very consistent. No visitors' logs or tax returns, no (INAUDIBLE) in Mar-a-Lago --
And you can find a tweet contradicting it no matter what.
KANDER (ph): Exactly.
TAPPER: Happy Easter, happy Passover, thanks one and all for being here. Great panel. Really, really appreciate it.
Coming up, Easter at the White House, Trump style. That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."
TAPPER: The White House will host the centuries old Easter egg roll but how will the Trumps put their stamp on it? That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."
TAPPER (voice-over): Tomorrow, president and first lady Trump will host the annual White House Easter egg roll.
TRUMP: I think it's going to be big.
TAPPER: And it will be on some ways First Lady Melania's big Washington debut.
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It is my honor and great pleasure to stand here before you, as the first lady of the United States.
TAPPER: The Trumps tend to put their unique stamp on everything. So we imagine their first Easter egg roll might be very different, commemorative wooden eggs might be too average for Mr. Trump's style.
TRUMP: I'm really rich.
TAPPER: Is it possible we'll see Faberge eggs scattered throughout the White House lawn?
While President Obama had his own Easter egg roll tradition.
OBAMA: Happy Easter. I always read the same book because it's one of my favorite books, "Where The Wild Things Are."
TAPPER: President Trump might read from his favorite book as well.
TRUMP: I wrote a book in the late 80's called "The Art of the Deal." And to this day, it's the biggest selling business book ever written. And not too many people can say that.
TAPPER: Of course, you can't have an Easter egg roll without the Easter bunny. And President Trump has the perfect guy for that role, his own press secretary, Sean Spicer played the lovable rabbit when he was an aide for George W. Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course, I want to thank the Easter bunny.
TAPPER: So today and tomorrow, let the good times, or in this case, the Easter eggs roll. Happy Easter. (END VIDEOTAPE)
TAPPER: Happy Easter, everyone. Thanks for watching.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next.