Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Pence: North Korea "Getting The Message"; Trump: North Korea "Outplayed" Past U.S. Presidents; Trump Congratulates Erdogan After Controversial Vote; World Markets React To U.K. Election Announcement. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 18, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, a little nudge.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A little nudge, something over your heart. Good things.

CAMEROTA: Sometimes I have to do that to you during the show. Time for CNN NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow and John Berman. Hi, guys.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I feel you, Ali. I feel you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Everyone needs a wingman. All right, guys. Lots of news today. Let's get right to it.

A manhunt goes nationwide. The FBI joins the search for a man accused of a random murder and then posting the video of the killing on Facebook. New details this morning from investigators just minutes away.

Georgia on his mind and his Twitter feed. It is Election Day in America, at least part of it. The President goes all in in a congressional race that could tell us everything about where this presidency is headed.

HARLOW: And a CNN exclusive, Vice President Pence says North Korea is, quote, "getting the message" as tensions escalate. But what message is that exactly and have they changed their behavior at all?

And good morning to all of you. Welcome to tax day in America, or as this White House might call it, one more day where we are not going to release anything to you.

Today, the Trump administration is facing new concerns over its lack of transparency over tax returns, White House visitor logs, and even golfing partners.

BERMAN: So as the promise to drain the swamp seems plugged up, today the President is going on the road and shifting the focus. CNN's Joe Johns at the White House.

And, Joe, Donald Trump, the President, going to a county he won by 238 votes.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wow. I didn't know that was the number, John. But I do know he's going to Kenosha, Wisconsin today to visit the Snap-on Tools folks. He's expected to sign an executive order that keeps in line with his "Buy American, Hire American" initiative. "Buy American" refers to federal procurement laws. "Hire American" refers to working and changing the H-1B Visa program that brings in large numbers of skilled workers.

Now, the President's trip out to Wisconsin comes at a time when his approval ratings appear to be tanking. And we have a graphic here compared with some other presidents early in the administration. You see Donald Trump is at 39 percent; Barack Obama, 61; George W. Bush, 55; Bill Clinton, 49; and George H.W. Bush, 56. Reagan at 67, actually tops the list with the highest numbers.

While the President is in Wisconsin today, some of his top advisors will be meeting to discuss whether or not the United States should withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. And it's a hot topic here at the White House.

Another graphic. As you can see, among the people who oppose staying in the agreement, Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, Steve Bannon, the chief strategist. Those who support staying in it include Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. So they've got a lot to discuss there. The President has been quoted on the record as saying, he has an open mind. Back to you.

HARLOW: All right, Joe Johns at the White House for us. Of course, Berman knew the 238-vote count.

BERMAN: I counted them each myself.

HARLOW: Of course. Are you surprised? It is Election Day, at least in Georgia. The polls are open in a high stakes race in the state to fill a congressional seat that has been held by Republicans since the '70s.

BERMAN: That's right. The Democratic frontrunner Jon Ossoff facing a slew of Republicans. If the winner get 50 percent, that winner does avoid a runoff. Ossoff seems closest to that figure.

This morning, the President took aim. He wrote, "Democrat Jon Ossoff would be a disaster in Congress. Very weak on crime and illegal immigration. Bad for jobs and wants higher taxes. Say no!" And overnight, Republicans released this robocall.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Only you can stop the super liberal Democrats and Nancy Pelosi's group and in particular, Jon Ossoff.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: CNN's Jason Carroll covering this. The voting has begun in person in Georgia Sixth, Jason.

HARLOW: It has. JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you. You know,

you've the President tweeting about it. You've heard the robocall it raised as well. This is a race that the GOP is clearly very worried about, John. And in some respects, that would be an understatement and here is the reason why.

You've got this guy, Jon Ossoff, a political novice, an outsider. He is just 30 years old. And what he's managed to do is he's managed to get the Democratic Party to coalesce around him. He's managed to tap into some of that Democratic angst over the President and some of his policies.

The question is, can he do it in a district that's been reliably Republican for decades? And that's a big question mark at this point. Even though, as I said, he's gotten a number of Democrats to rally behind him, a number of GOP candidates say, look, this is a district that is still going to be reliably Republican.

[09:04:58] You look at the person who gave up his seat, Tom Price, to become the Health and Human Services Secretary, and you've got the President now weighing in, not just on Twitter yesterday but again today. Jon Ossoff, for his part, talked about what it's like to get all that attention from the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I appreciate the President's interest. It sounds like he's misinformed about my priorities.

CAMEROTA: What makes you think you have a chance to win?

OSSOFF: Well, the polling and the early vote numbers show that we're within striking distance. We are certainly going for an outright win here today, but a special election is special. It's notoriously difficult to predict. It's all going to come out to turnout.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: And when it comes to turnouts, I've spoken to a number of the GOP candidates. They all say that they're encouraged by the turnout so far. Again, a lot of that's just political spin.

Also, on a side note, John, there had been some concerns about one of the polling machines that was apparently taken out of an election manager's car over the weekend. But we've spoken to some election officials and they say that they have no worries going forward about at least how things are going to turn out officially in terms of any voting irregularities -- John.

BERMAN: All right, good to know. Jason Carroll for us in Marietta. Thanks so much, Jason.

Now, as for Republicans already in office, they are facing a contentious issue this morning. The President's tax returns, the ones he will not, has not, and has no plans, as far as we know, to release. Republican Senator Tom Cotton, he was asked about it at a town hall. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: As far as I'm aware, the President says he's still under audit. And it is an evaluation --

(CROWD BOOING)

COTTON: The President is also right that this was not a secondary or deciding of the campaign. This isn't essentially to the campaign. Hillary Clinton and her campaign repeatedly criticized President Trump's returns --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He released her returns.

(CROWD BOOING)

COTTON: -- and he won despite all of this. And as far as your points about his relationships overseas, I wish to make two replies. First, every federal office holder, every candidate for office, files financial disclosure statements that shows your assets and your liabilities.

(CROWD BOOING)

COTTON: And second, it doesn't take a lot of effort to find out where Donald Trump has connections overseas. He normally puts his names on buildings where he has them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right. Joining us now to discuss all of this -- that's like pretty raucous town hall -- CNN Political Reporter, Editor at Large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza; CNN Political Analyst and Washington Bureau Chief for "The Daily Beast" Jackie Kucinich; and CNN Political Commentator and Senior Columnist at "The Daily Beast" Matt Lewis.

Nice to have you all here. Let me begin with you, Matt, since you are on set and therefore, we'll give preference. Just kidding.

Look, Tom Cotton took it last night, big time. But is this Teflon Trump? I mean, there's really been no evidence that it has hurt him. It didn't hurt him in the election. Does it hurt him now, this total lack of transparency from this White House?

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it's not good. It's not a good story, but I don't think it's a defining issue. If you ask voters, do they think the President should be more transparent, everybody will say yes. It is not the kind of issue that galvanizes people and sends them to the polls to vote in midterms, I don't think, and certainly not in a re-election.

We journalists care about process, and I think rightly so. We want transparency. I just don't think average voters out there are going to care about process. What they care about is results. If Donald Trump is able to get, you know, Syria under control and

North Korea -- and they're big ifs, you know -- and get the economy going, I don't think my mom is going to care that we don't know who visited the White House on a particular day.

BERMAN: I will say, you know, maybe your mom wasn't in the audience with Tom Cotton yesterday. I was a little surprised by the volume of that response, Jackie.

And now "The New York Times" is reporting today that Democrats are trying to take advantage of this. They're going to use Donald Trump's tax returns as a wedge issue to sort of muck up the discussion on tax reform in general. Do you think that might actually bear fruit?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, that's when process bleeds into policy. And it is worth asking the question is, if this President does present a tax bill, does that benefit him? We just don't know the answer to that question, and we would have known the answer to that question for any other president in recent history because they've revealed their tax returns.

Well, Matt's right, I don't think people are going to rush to the ballot box on this issue. It does raise the issue of fairness, and American voters do care about getting a fair shake.

HARLOW: But on the issue of fairness, Chris Cillizza, the Obama administration wasn't exactly eager to hand these logs over either. I mean, there was a transparency issue there as well. But you write, at the bottom of your column today, that sort of the way that Spicer and this White House is positioning it as though no transparency is better than faulty transparency is really problematic.

BERMAN: Right. Right.

[09:10:08] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Right. I mean that's like saying, well, I only went one for four. I got a single in the game. That's not as good as going zero for four. You know, like, that doesn't really pass the smell test.

You are right, Poppy, that the Obama administration was not the fount of transparency. At the same time, the Obama administration was the first White House to even release any partial public records of White House visitor logs.

The one thing I would say about the debate over transparency and why Democrats are probably smart to seize on it, even though Matt is right, Trump doesn't lose because of this, their base cares about it. Their base views it as a window into the fact that Donald Trump is conflicted in ways he will not tell the American public.

When you see an event in Little Rock, you don't think of Arkansas necessarily as a Democratic bastion, right? But Little Rock has a significant liberal community. Democrats are very well organized. They are going to these town halls. They know these things will be captured on television. They know it is uncomfortable for a U.S. senator to stand up in front of them and be booed. So I think it can work to rally the Democratic base in a midterm

election. Things like this, anything related to Trump, secrecy, conflicts, what is he not telling us, it's not an issue that I think the average independent or low information voter is going to dial into and make a decision on.

BERMAN: All right. On the subject of elections, not even midterm, special election, you know, all eyes are on Georgia Sixth today. And I think people may be confused around the country, why are we paying so much attention to this one race in Georgia.

But, Matt Lewis, let me put a question to you that Chris Cillizza wrote about in his own column just yesterday. Look, if Jon Ossoff can get more than 50 percent today, it says what about the electorate?

LEWIS: It says that it's game on, that Donald Trump is in trouble and Republicans are in trouble. Look, I'll use a sports analogy, whether it's football or baseball.

There is a thing where you go into someone else's stadium. You want to take the crowd out of the game. And every once in a while, if the opposing team has an interception or something, now they're back in. The crowd is back in. You let the crowd back in the game.

Right now, Democrats are out of the game. They don't have a lot to be excited about. If this guy pulls it off in Georgia today, this gets people knocking on doors around the country. You know, success begets success.

If they smell blood, they have the sense that Donald Trump and Republicans are vulnerable in the midterms, that will excite people. Money will pour in. Volunteers will pour in. If this guy does not perform well, the opposite is true.

HARLOW: This is also, though, Jackie, in an area where the President didn't win overwhelmingly. This isn't like, you know, what we saw in Kansas, for example. Some interesting things about Ossoff. The "Atlanta Journal of Constitution" reported this week that 95 percent of his money came from out of state.

KUCINICH: Right.

HARLOW: He's got Hollywood celebrities coming in. Alyssa Milano going door to door with him. I mean, this guy has a gotten a lot of --

BERMAN: Who's the boss?

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: -- a lot of free earned media. If the President with this robocall and tweets can keep him under 50 percent, does this show the President has some real juice?

KUCINICH: Well, the President is weighing in rather late in this process. We should note that there are two candidates on the Republican side that were big Trump boosters, and he chose to sit this one out. They're worried. You don't have the President intervene if you're not worried about that turn out.

And as far as the celebrities, I don't know that they help anybody. I mean, look at Hillary Clinton. She had every celebrity in Hollywood basically going door to door for her, and it didn't make any difference. And the Democratic enthusiasm does matter, and that's what they're trying to take advantage of.

That said, you're right. This is a Republican district, and it has been for a very long time. And I wouldn't be surprised, if he does fall short of 50 percent, Jon Ossoff, if they don't still declare this as still a win in some ways. Because the fact that he is competitive at all is noteworthy in a district like the one he's running in.

BERMAN: Chris Cillizza, quick last word, give us tomorrow's results today.

CILLIZZA: I think Ossoff comes up a little bit short. I think Karen Handel, who's ran statewide a few times, winds up being the Republican who goes against someone in the June run off. And I just want to not let this opportunity to make a "who's the boss" Samantha reference because you guys mentioned Alyssa Milano and I'm old.

HARLOW: Wow. There you go.

BERMAN: There you go.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BERMAN: I respect that very, very much.

HARLOW: We got two old men on this panel.

CILLIZZA: Put it on the board. Put it on the board.

BERMAN: Next week, "Full House." Thank you, Chris Cillizza, Jackie Kucinich, Matt Lewis. Our appreciation.

All right. This morning, North Korea is warning that a thermonuclear war could break out any minute. But moments ago, the Vice President told CNN that North Korea is, quote, "getting the message." What message?

[09:15:05] HARLOW: And a nationwide manhunt for a suspected killer who posted a gruesome video of a murder on Facebook. We have new developments as law enforcement holds a news conference in just moments.

Also, it may be tax day, but the president's tax reform day, not happening any time soon, it appears.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, just in to CNN, the vice president speaking exclusively to us about the North Korean nuclear program. HARLOW: Calling on North Korea's continued defiance, calling it the, quote, "most ominous threat in the region." Vice President Pence saying North Korea is getting the message that the Trump White House will take action if necessary.

Now the North Korean's state the rhetoric is just pushing the region to the brink of war. Here's Dana Bash with an exclusive interview with the vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The North Koreans have noticed the things you have been saying while you have been here in Asia.

[09:20:02]In fact, the deputy ambassador to the U.N. from North Korea said that you and the administration but it was clearly responding to your words are creating a dangerous situation in which thermal nuclear war may break out at any moment. Would you like to respond to that?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope is that the wider world and that the leadership in North Korea is listening to what President Trump and the world community is saying. That the time has come for them to abandon and dismantle their nuclear and ballistic missile program.

My presence here, which the president strongly urged, even in this challenging time is really to deliver that message, that we have really moved beyond the area of strategic patience. We've moved beyond failed dialogues of the past.

And now we have moved into an area where President Trump is absolutely committed to marshaling the energy of the world community, of countries in the Asian Pacific to use economic and diplomatic power to isolate North Korea and achieve the goal of the denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

BASH: And they are listening and the deputy ambassador said it sounds like you and the administration are insisting on gangster like logic, that the idea of an invasion of the sovereign nation, he was talking about your remarks about Syria and Afghanistan is -- decreases the likelihood that this could end peacefully. Are you concerned that what you are saying is being taken to North Korea and saber rattling despite the fact you are also talking about diplomacy?

PENCE: I think what the president is concerned about, what countries that we've visited are concerned about are the reckless and irresponsible actions of the regime in Pyongyang. Another failed missile attempt, notwithstanding this weekend, an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests.

Testing nuclear weapons twice in the last year, the time has really come for North Korea to get the message as the president says, it is time for them to behave. To listen to the world community and to set aside their nuclear ambitions, their ballistic missile ambitions and be willing to join the family of nations. And for my part in some odd way, it is encouraging that they're getting the message. And my hope is that they will continue to get the message. Not just from the United States, here in Japan and in South Korea. But on an increasing basis from China and countries all over the world that long ago committed to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right, joining us now to discuss, CNN global affairs analysts, Aaron David Miller, who worked in six State Departments, and Kimberly Dozier, international reporter extraordinaire. Thanks so much for being with us.

Kimberly, first to you, the vice president just told Dana that North Korea is getting the message. What signs have you seen after this giant military parade Saturday by North Korea that they are getting any kind of message?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, so far the only message they seem to be receiving is that they are under threat and they are responding with threatening language of their own. There are reports that China has tried to send an envoy there and that has been rebuffed. That is kind of bad news.

The question is, is the U.S. playing such a bad cop in this good cop/bad cop scenario that they haven't left Pyongyang enough room to maneuver in terms of their pride and in terms of how they see themselves in a nation that needs to be negotiated with, rather than lectured.

Comments like behave don't really -- don't really pay homage to their existence as they see themselves as a sovereign nation. So the question will be going forward, after all of this public lecturing of Pyongyang, will China be able to do what the U.S. needs it to do, which is somehow get them to show some effort of good faith that they are willing to do some steps towards denuclearization and come back to internationally brokered talks.

HARLOW: So a senior North Korean official said to the BBC that it will conduct, quote, "more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis." Here is the president's counter to that. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or what I'm thinking. I am not like other administrations where they say we are going to do this in four weeks and that, it doesn't work that way. We'll see what happens.

I hope things work out well. I hope there is going to be peace. You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been outplayed by this gentleman and we'll see what happens, but I just don't telegraph my moves.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [09:25:05]HARLOW: Aaron David Miller, I mean, this president has used unpredictability as an asset. The question though is, has he really done anything unpredictable, different really so far on North Korea than its predecessors?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, they're clearly talking in a way that separates at least their public messaging, which is not coordinated at times from the Obama administration. This isn't a strategically patient policy at all. The administrations seemed to have injected a degree of urgency here.

And public messaging is fun. The problem is you can't tweet or tough talk your way into a real strategy and that's the key. By 2020, the North Koreans are going to have 100 nuclear weapons, half of Britain's arsenal, and they are likely to have a ballistic missile capacity to extend the range perhaps to the United States.

So the question is what do you do? That's the central question facing the Trump administration. Only two options, guys. Number one, launch a preventative strike to essentially eliminate North Korea's nuclear infrastructure and its ballistic missile capacity or create a strategy combined of vinegar and honey, designed to offer incentives and disincentives to create a freeze.

You are not going to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula as the president intends. Certainly not very quickly and that I think is what's missing, a fundamental strategy. Maybe Vice President Pence opened the door by his comments yesterday indicating the possibility of some kind of engagement, but they needed a coordinating effective strategy at least to begin the process.

BERMAN: Kimberly Dozier, overnight some other extraordinary diplomatic developments, there was this referendum in Turkey granting the president there, Erdogan, extraordinary powers basically a lot of critics think it is undemocratic. The results are not fully in yet. There was some disputes about the legacy of this election.

Overnight, President Trump called to congratulate the president. I want to know what you make of that phone call and what message it sends to the world.

DOZIER: I think it shows that President Trump has decided he needs Turkey in the battle against ISIS. He needs it as one country in the region that is an ally of the United States and cooperating with them. So he's going to look the other way at least publically about the questions about this referendum, the Turkish Bar Association today lodged a complaint.

One European election official observing the poll thinks as many as 2.5 million ballots might have been illegitimate. And yet President Trump is reaffirming this relationship, just like he did with the Egyptian strong man.

You just have to hope that behind closed doors they're still going to lecture him about the fact that 40,000 Turkish citizens have been arrested since the attempted coup against Erdogan and there have been no sign they have someone championing them within the country or in Washington, D.C.

HARLOW: Quickly, Aaron, how remarkable is it that this president and the White House read out of the call between the president and Erdogan did not make one mention of all of the concerns over the physical intimidation of those who oppose Erdogan, the jailing of those who oppose Erdogan, not one mention?

MILLER: Based on everything that the president said in the campaign trail, he's not going to intrude or involve himself in the affairs of other nations. Each nation has its own interest. This is in part a continuation of the Obama policy with respect to Turkey as well. In the absence of what you could call heroic response to the coup and the crackdown last July. I think this continues a trend, Poppy, sadly that American values, more often than not, are not American interests.

HARLOW: Aaron David Miller, Kimberly Dozier, thank you both very much. Also new this morning, world markets reacting to new news out of the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May calling a so-called snap election.

BERMAN: This is a gamble that could lead to volatile markets. CNN Money correspondent, Cristina Alesci, joins us just before the bell. What are you seeing, Cristina?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Well, investors are really absorbing a lot of information. First they were hit with a big surprise this morning when they fired up their computers and found out the U.K. is calling for those special elections. That is not something they were expecting until 2020. So big surprise there.

And to that, the fact that investors are also analyzing comments from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and he is walking back the timeframe for tax reforms, which was to some degree expected.

And on top of that, a large component of the Dow, Goldman Sachs had a big miss this morning and in its comments it cited political uncertainty. All those three things weighing on the market against the backdrop of a lot of geopolitical questions in North Korea, in Turkey, as you guys were just talking about and in the Middle East.

So really investors have got their eye on key domestic policies and also what is going on elsewhere in the world and how that might impact them here.