Return to Transcripts main page
Facebook Murder Manhunt; North Korea Tensions. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired April 17, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So, we're waiting for more information on that. We will get it momentarily, and we will take it live.
Meantime, the White House just responding to growing threat from North Korea and questions about whether the United States will draw a so- called red line on any aggression.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think what we talked about, the use of red lines in the past with respect to Syria, the president has made lines -- that drawing red lines hasn't really worked in the past.
He holds his cards close to the vest. And I think you're not going to see him telegraphing how he's going to respond to any military or other situation going forward. That's just something that he believes has not served us well in the past.
You get into a series of hypotheticals about what you will take on or off the table, will we do this or not that, at some point, you really start to narrow your options. And I think the president has long held a strategy that doing that begins to give the enemy, the opponent, whatever it is in any particular case, whoever it is, even if it's just a negotiation, the options of knowing where to go and where not to go.
And so the president has been very clear that not taking options off the table gives us a stronger hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: This is after more bluster from North Korea after another failed missile launch and the promise of new nuclear tests.
North Korea's U.N. representative unleashing a torrent of threats today, telling the U.N. that nuclear war may break out at any moment. Vice -- President Trump doubling down on his tough talk when asked two questions by our own Jim Acosta just a short while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Any message for North Korea, sir, and Kim Jong-un?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He better behave.
ACOSTA: Mr. President, do you think North Korea can be resolved peacefully, sir? What are your thoughts on Kim Jong-un?
TRUMP: Hopefully, it can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: President Trump also putting new pressure on China, tweeting this -- quote -- "Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem. We will see what happens!"
The backdrop of all of this, the optics of Vice President Mike Pence -- look at these pictures. He's standing just a few feet from North Korean soldiers while warning this White House may not show the restraint of past administrations and that all options are on the table.
With me now, retired Admiral John Kirby, CNN military and diplomatic analyst. He's also a former State Department spokesperson and former Pentagon press secretary.
Admiral, nice to see you, sir.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Let's begin just with some of the president's more bellicose rhetoric.
You have North Korea responding, as I just mentioned, responding directly to the tweets, saying the U.S. is threatening peace. If the president continues along this vein, how might you see this escalate?
KIRBY: Well, I don't think it's helpful to make flippant comments like they have got to behave and think that that is going to necessarily have a positive effect on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
That said, I do have to say that, unlike the situation in Syria, the White House thus far has taken a more rigorous, a more deliberate, more measured and more interagency approach to the North Korea problem than they have pretty much any other foreign policy challenge that I have seen them deal with.
It's very, very complicated. And the risks are extremely high. And you can't compare one situation such as the strike in Syria with the potential for military action in North Korea. The stakes are much, much higher.
But I think, in general, you look at Secretary Mattis' first trip was to the theater. Secretary of State Tillerson went in March. Now you have the vice president there. They are taking a pretty deliberate interagency approach, which I think is commendable. BALDWIN: But then there's the role of China, right?
BALDWIN: And one of the questions to Sean Spicer was about how much can they really help you?
I remember reading the interview in "The Wall Street Journal" in the last week with the president where he essentially said after his meeting with President Xi, quoting him, after listening for 10 minutes, this is the president: "I realize it's not so easy. I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power over North Korea, but it's not what you would think."
So, go ahead. Go ahead.
KIRBY: Yes, what do you expect President Xi to say at the dinner at Mar-a-Lago? He's not going to come out there and say, oh, yes, I can fix this in 10 minutes.
KIRBY: Of course, he's going to say it's harder than it looks. It is harder than it looks.
That said, the Chinese can do more. They do have more influence over Pyongyang than any other nation state in the world, period. And they can be doing more. They have not implemented the sanctions to the fullest degree that is expected by the U.N. and by the international community.
There's still a lot of trade with North Korea. They can put more pressure on Pyongyang than they have been. And I think it's a little disingenuous for the president to say that in 10 minutes at a dinner at Mar-a-Lago, now he realizes how hard it is.
I don't know that he gives his team as much credit as they deserve, because I know they have been thinking about this ever since -- well, since the inauguration at least. And they are putting a more deliberate approach to it.
BALDWIN: Well, there has been the theme of candor coming out of the president and saying this job is a whole lot harder than I thought.
BALDWIN: So, maybe file that under that heading.
BALDWIN: What about the moment, Admiral, on the DMZ, this incredible picture of the vice president? This is the demilitarized zone. This is the border between the North and the South. And here he is and he's standing there and he said this is to our own Dana Bash exclusively.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, as the president has made clear, that we're going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience.
But we're going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Can you talk to me, Admiral, just of course the significance of his words, but the symbolism of him basically knocking on the door of North Korea?
KIRBY: I think it's very powerful, quite frankly, for him to be there and to talk about the approach that they are going to take.
Now, I quibble with the implication that President Obama's administration just sat there and didn't do anything, which is kind of similar to what Spicer said today. That's absolutely not true.
But I do think it's a powerful visual for him to be there and to say those kinds of things right there at the DMZ. It's a tense area. I have been there myself. There's no question that that is where the rubber meets the road right there at the DMZ.
And for him to go and to see it for himself and to talk to our military and civilian leaders over there I think is really important. It's also yet another example of what I have been saying, that the administration has taken this threat very, very seriously. And they are trying to apply some sort of interagency rigor to the problem set.
BALDWIN: President Obama said this was the toughest, if not top of the toughest thing that you will be dealing with in your -- from the Oval Office.
Admiral Kirby, thank you so much.
KIRBY: My pleasure.
BALDWIN: And as we saw Dana Bash there at the DMZ, she was traveling with the vice president. And she actually just filed this behind-the- scenes look at her exclusive interview, one of the most tense places on Earth, the DMZ.
BASH: The vice president wasn't going to come out here outside. He was initially supposed to stay inside. But he said he wanted to come out and you can see what's happening.
If you look over there, not only are the U.S. and South Korean troops getting ready for it. You see right over there the man on the other side of the blue building, that is a North Korean military officer. Here comes the vice president now.
You see those soldiers on the other side of that concrete barrier taking pictures. Those are North Korean soldiers taking photos of the vice president, if you swing around right here, Dave, at the vice president getting a briefing.
They are taking a picture, many pictures of the vice president looking at them and looking into North Korea. You see the concrete barrier right on the ground there. That is the military demarcation line.
These blue buildings, this is called Conference Row. Generally, when a VIP, an official even as high-ranking as the vice president comes here, General Mattis and others who have come here, they go into these blue buildings. They go into Conference Row and they can and have stepped into North Korea.
They decided not to do that with the vice president for security reasons. He wasn't even going to come out here, but he wanted to. So he told his detail and told the military here this is something he wanted to see. So he did.
(voice-over): From there, the vice president moved to Observation Post Ouellette overlooking the rolling hills of North
Korea, where propaganda blares from speakers all day.
(on camera): I was just holding the microphone out, so that you can hear what we're hearing, which is music right now coming from that way. And that way is North Korea.
The music now is oftentimes propaganda that the North Korean regime is notoriously sending out to the people who are on their side of the DMZ in North Korea, might be thinking about coming over here or maybe at this point after all these years have gotten beyond that. But this is the iconic DMZ right here with North Korea right behind me.
BALDWIN: Dana Bash a long way from home. Good for you. Dana, thank you.
Now to this question. Is this the least transparent White House ever? That was the question asked at the today's press briefing at the White House, where moments ago Sean Spicer was questioned on the bucking of two traditions -- easy for me to say -- releasing the White House visitor logs is and president's taxes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: The visitor logs to all the White House components, OMB, the Council Of Economic Equality, U.S. Trade Representation, Office of Science and Technology...
What I'm saying is, all those that are subject to the FEDERAL RECORDS ACT, we are complying with all that and we are complying with the Presidential Records Act.
My point is that, look, this is the policy that's existed from the beginning of time since they were kept, through the last one. And the last one was a faux attempt at that.
Again, it's not really being transparent when you scrub out the names of the people that you don't want anyone to know were here.
And so I think that we made a decision to stay in line with the law and follow the same procedures that everyone else has maintained.
QUESTION: You have been asked about this obviously 1,000 times.
SPICER: Thank you.
QUESTION: You always talk about, well, under audit. The president says under audit.
Is it time to say once and for all the president is never going to release his tax returns?
SPICER: We will have to get back to you on that.
QUESTION: I mean, really?
SPICER: No, I said I would have to get back to you on that. I think that he's still under audit. The statement still stands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Before we get to Chris Cillizza here, who we will chat here, let me just remind you. Back in 2012, President Trump had this to say about his predecessor.
Quoting here: "Why is Barack Obama spending millions to try and hide his records? He's the least transparent president ever, and he ran on transparency."
Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor at large, I see your smirk. What's your take? Is the White House transparent enough? Do Americans care?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: OK, well, two different things.
First of all, no, they don't care. Most people honestly, Brooke, don't even know there is a visitor log at the White House that the Obama administration was releasing of who came in and who left.
So, no. And would people like Donald Trump to release his tax returns? Yes, most polling suggest they would. Was it an issue that led him to lose the election? Obviously not.
That is a fact. At the same time, I think people do themselves a disservice when they say, who cares? It matters. You pay these people's salaries. Right? This is your government at work, who they meet with, what they do, what business interests they have.
These are all things that the populace deserves to know about. I'm not saying you have to see every meeting that's ever taken place, but Sean's defense there, which is essentially we're following the law which is preserving these records, they are not going to release them publicly, but they will be preserved, he's answering a question that wasn't asked of him.
BALDWIN: What about his answer on the taxes? It was Jon Karl. I jotted this down. The question was, safe to say the president will never release his tax returns? And Sean's answer, I will get back to you.
Look, much to my apparent chagrin, I became a reporter and not an accountant. So I don't know. That's my long way of saying I don't know how long an audit can take.
BALDWIN: Does it matter if he's audited? We have gone over this during the campaign.
CILLIZZA: No, it doesn't matter. Richard Nixon released his taxes while he's under audit.
No, it does not. But if you grant that that's the real reason that he's not releasing them, then, theoretically, the audit will have to end at some point.
I am very skeptical, and have been on record as being very skeptical for a while now, that we will ever see Donald Trump's returns for what we talked about a minute ago. It tends not to be an issue that people who haven't made their mind up about Donald Trump vote on.
Yes, most Democrats think he should release his tax returns and think there's something nefarious in it. Most Republicans don't care, and too many -- for him to release them. Too many independents in the middle don't really care either
So there's not a huge political impetus either on the visitor logs or on his tax returns. And when there's not a big political impetus or pressure, they are not going to do anything.
BALDWIN: But just quickly, do you think each and every White House, it's getting worse and worse and worse?
BALDWIN: What stops the down slope of the lack of transparency?
CILLIZZA: I would say most White Houses get less and less transparent.
The Obama administration made a nod at transparency with releasing the visitor logs. I think Sean Spicer is overstating the amount that there were things redacted. At least they released some.
But, yes, broadly speaking, each administration gets more transparent. Why? Because they can. Because technology allows them to and because there's no political price to pay for not.
BALDWIN: I know. Thanks for that.
CILLIZZA: I know.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
CILLIZZA: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Thank you so much.
President Trump's lawyers, by the way, say he's not responsible for violence at his campaign rallies. But one of his supporters who was charged disagrees. The case is escalating. We will remind you of what's happened and what is to come.
Also, he's the angry conspiracy theorist who has had the ear of the president. But did Alex Jones just admit it's all a scam?
And a massive manhunt under way for a suspect who murdered someone, videotaped it and posted it on Facebook. He's now vowing to kill more. Police are getting ready to speak. We will take it live any moment.
BALDWIN: We're going to take you now to Cleveland, as police are getting ready to be set up.
Essentially, they're looking. The manhunt is on for a man by the name of Steve Stephens. The suspect, he is wanted in some four or five states for murdering at least one person and uploading the video to Facebook.
Should we listen? Let's listen. (JOINED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... Facebook shooting incident press conference.
Speaking today will be Chief Calvin Williams, Mayor Frank Jackson, and also available will be our members of our federal law enforcement partners.
FRANK JACKSON, MAYOR OF CLEVELAND, OHIO: Well, we want to announce that there will be -- there is an award of up to $50,000 for the arrest of Mr. Steve Stephens.
It comes -- the money comes from the FBI, ATF and Marshals Service. We also want to emphasize that we are still engaged in a very aggressive and very focused attempt to find Steve Stephens and bring him to justice.
We will emphasize again the need for the community to give us support. They have been very supportive during this incident. And we ask for them to continue to be supportive of it.
I will turn it over to the chief, who will give you some more detail.
CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND, OHIO, POLICE CHIEF: Thanks, Mayor.
As the mayor stated, the new developments are the reward that's being offered, thanks to our federal partners and Crime Stoppers. We appreciate that. But, also, we're still employing Steve to turn himself in, definitely to contact a relative or a friend, because there are a lot of folks out there that want to talk to him, want to get this resolved peacefully.
So, Steve, if you're out there listening, call someone, whether it's a friend or family member or pastor. Give them a call, because they are waiting on you to call them.
We are almost -- we're a little over 24 hours away from when this incident started. And we definitely want to get it resolved as fast as possible. The victim's family, They deserve that. And the community deserves it.
Our reach now is basically all over this country. Our federal partners, our local partners have reached out to their contacts all over the country. And this is what we would consider a national search for Steve.
So, we are not going to leave any stone unturned. The tips, we want them to continue to keep coming in, because we have received dozens and dozens of tips.
The FBI line, please call that line if you have a tip out of the area. If you have something locally, call 911. But keep those tips coming in. And we do follow up on every tip we receive.
The mayor has conversed with the family. This administration has talked to them. We know their hearts are heavy, and we're trying to get this resolved.
So, with that, if there are any questions, we will open that up.
QUESTION: Chief, is there any reason to believe he's still in the vehicle that you suspected him of driving?
WILLIAMS: Well, right now, we don't have any reason to believe that he's not in that vehicle.
When these things start to evolve and people maybe switch vehicles or things like that, he's not going to go out and buy a vehicle. So, usually, there's some kind of crime involved in securing a new vehicle.
And we haven't had any reports like that so far.
WILLIAMS: No, there's no truth to that. But, again, we're receiving dozens and dozens of tips. And we follow up on all tips that we receive.
WILLIAMS: Well, I think we're all standing here because of what unfortunately happened to one of our citizens here in the city minding his own business, going about his day on Easter. I mean, it is personal, definitely.
WILLIAMS: To be honest, we have interviewed several people involved in this.
And I don't think there's any rhyme or reason for it happening. I don't think there's anything that we can point to specifically to say that this is what sparked this. Only Steve knows that. Hopefully, we can find him. We will get to talk to him and find out exactly why he did this.
QUESTION: Have you been able to locate the people he was talking to?
WILLIAMS: We have located a lot of people that he's been talking to. And they have been cooperative in the investigation so far.
QUESTION: How long was the post up on Facebook before it was taken down?
WILLIAMS: I can't give you the exact time frame. But it was some time yesterday.
QUESTION: But was it up for minutes, hours? WILLIAMS: I couldn't tell you exactly.
QUESTION: Chief, do you believe Stephens is still in the Cleveland area or that he has gone to another state?
WILLIAMS: We don't know.
We don't know. When these things happen, there are a couple scenarios that play themselves out. I don't want to speculate on any of those scenarios. Of course, we in law enforcement kind of look to all of them and govern the investigation according to things that have happened in the past and things that we think may happen in the future.
But I can't tell you one way or another. We're trying to follow any investigative lead. We're trying to make sure that we in law enforcement kind of look in the past and really bring something to this case that's going to locate them. And all that's being done.
QUESTION: Is there any evidence, though, that he's outside of Ohio?
QUESTION: Chief, what about parents who are trying to deal with this, who have to talk to their children about this? What's the message you have for the parents who have to talk to their children about this?
WILLIAMS: Well, our message to the community at large is to be careful.
Unfortunately, we're in an era where things like this happen, maybe not to this degree, maybe not publicly, as was done, but we have to be careful. We have to be vigilant. And we have to watch over each other.
QUESTION: Are you doing anything different (OFF-MIKE)
WILLIAMS: Yes, just to further comment on your question, as the mayor says, it's traumatizing to our community, to everybody, not just our kids.
And the division of police, our law enforcement partners, we have counselors available. We have counselors now in contact with the family. And if there is a need out there, whether it be at a school or an institution, we can arrange for counselors to come out and talk to folks.
QUESTION: Can you comment on the search (OFF-MIKE) weapons that were removed? (OFF-MIKE)
WILLIAMS: I can't give you an exactly synopsis of all that.
But we have searched every available location where he's either resided, where he's had family members, and they have cooperated in those searches. And there have been items recovered, yes.
QUESTION: Were they weapons? Were they guns?
WILLIAMS: Some were weapons. Some were other things that are pertinent to the investigation.
QUESTION: And they were his? (OFF-MIKE)
WILLIAMS: I can't verify who they belong to.
QUESTION: Are you still assuming he's armed?
WILLIAMS: Yes. Yes. We definitely -- I think we can say without a doubt he's armed.
QUESTION: Do you know what the murder weapon was specifically?
WILLIAMS: It was a pistol. I can't give you the caliber and things like that. But, yes, he's armed.
QUESTION: Chief, did you all have any video or pictures of (OFF-MIKE)
WILLIAMS: We have been looking at video throughout the area. I don't know specifically. And our investigators would have to talk to that, if we specifically found that vehicle within a video, but, I mean, a white newer model vehicle, there are thousands out there.
QUESTION: How hard (OFF-MIKE)
WILLIAMS: It's very hard. It's difficult. Again, it's a white 2016 vehicle four-door. And there are thousands that travel throughout Northeast Ohio.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (OFF-MIKE)
WILLIAMS: Yes, we will get the tapes out. But we really want to concentrate on finding Steve and bringing closure to this family.
QUESTION: Chief, can you talk about (OFF-MIKE). Is there anything that you can talk about that led up? Did he have financial problems, anything in his past?
WILLIAMS: Again, There are a lot of things that go on in people's lives.
And we at this point cannot concentrate on one issue that may or may not have led to this. There are a lot of things going on in his life, I'm sure, as evident by what's happened. But we're not going to pinpoint a specific thing and say that's what triggered this, because we don't know. And when we talk to him, we will be able to find out more about that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for coming. We will provide more updates as it becomes appropriate to release information.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. QUESTION: Can you tell us about what gave rise to the activity in
WILLIAMS: Again, we're following up on every lead that comes into us, every single lead.
WILLIAMS: From that area, yes.
And continue to send those leads in.
BALDWIN: This is the chief of Cleveland police saying that this is personal and that this is traumatizing, the fact that there's this man by the name of Steve Stephens who has uploaded video to his Facebook page of him murdering a man by the name of Robert Godwin, 74 years of age.
This is someone on Easter Sunday who was just heading home after spending Easter with his family. And police say they believe he was just randomly targeted and killed. And the fact that they are looking for this man in multiple states now, and it sounds like they have traced his cell phone up to a point.
And people who he talked to, police are talking to and that they are being cooperative, but what now?
Bob Bianchi is with me, the former head prosecutor and chief law enforcement officer for Morris County, New Jersey. He's a criminal defense attorney.
You have been working in this sort of space for nearly, you were saying, three decades. There's the piece of it that no one can even begin to comprehend, why someone would murder someone and upload it onto Facebook, A, but, B, how far can he get?
ROBERT BIANCHI, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Let's go to the first piece.
I mean, in 28 years of doing homicide work in particular as an assistant prosecutor, as defense lawyer...
BIANCHI: ... we all comment in our world that the kind of murders and then the desire to put it forward on social media...
BALDWIN: To get the attention.
BIANCHI: ... which is actually good for us, to get the attention, is becoming very sick and twisted cultural thing that's happening.
And these people who are on the borderline, marginal there, the ones who feel that they don't have significance, they're not empowered, feel that this is their moment of glory.