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North Korean Missile Explodes after Launch; Reviewing Trump ahead of First Milestone; Trump's Unconventional Foreign Policy; Trump Blames Obama for Failing to Vet Flynn; Pope Francis to Celebrate Mass in Military Stadium. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


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LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Another provocation from Pyongyang just one day after the U.S. president warned of the possibility of a major conflict, another missile is launched.

Donald Trump marks 100 days in the White House Saturday, we'll look at what his supporters and critics have to say about his record to date.

And the significance of the pope's historic trip to Cairo after dozens of Coptic Christians were killed by ISIS.

Hello, everyone, I'm Lynda Kinkade, live from Atlanta. Thanks for joining us. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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KINKADE: Well, on the eve of Donald Trump's 100th day in office, a direct challenge to the U.S. president from North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

Early Saturday local time as a U.S. Navy strike group moved into the region, North Korea fired yet another ballistic missile. The South Korean military responded saying our military once again strongly warns North Korea against its continuous acts of provocation and seriously urges them not to commit such rash actions.

If North Korea ignores our warning and continues with the provocation, it will clearly pay a corresponding response.

Well, we get the latest now from CNN's Will Ripley, the only U.S. television correspondent currently in Pyongyang.

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WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can hear the music that plays almost hourly here in Pyongyang, reminding citizens of the sacrifices of their late leaders. The outside world may view this missile launch as a failure but here inside North Korea, most people will never hear about it and North Korea's rocket scientists may not see it as a failure because, with each launch, whether it's a success or not, they gain valuable intelligence.

This particular missile they were trying to launch is the kind that could someday be used to attack a U.S. aircraft carrier like the Carl Vinson, which is approaching the waters off the Korean Peninsula.

So perhaps overshadowing the launch itself is the strong message North Korea is sending to its enemies.

RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea attempting to launch another ballistic missile. Its ninth launch attempt since President Trump took office. A U.S. official tells CNN the land-based ballistic missile exploded over land shortly after launch. A defiant response to mounting international pressure.

It's clear this is a regime with something to prove. The Korean People's Army calling Tuesday's live fire drill their largest ever. Long range artillery by the hundreds, submarines, bombers.

Earlier this month staging this massive military parade, unveiling what North Korea says are new missiles, trying and failing to launch one the very next day.

On the ground, it's clear to us this is an attempt to look tough, all of it choreographed for the world and regular North Koreans. State TV defiantly threatening to strike back against the U.S. with force.

North Korea furious about ongoing joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, just miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries. Exercises always infuriate the regime but tensions are at their highest level in years. North Korea uncertain about the Trump administration's next move.

Government officials in Pyongyang telling CNN there is an imminent and growing threat of all-out war with the United States. State mouthpiece KCNA warning, in case a war breaks out on the peninsula, the U.S. will be held wholly accountable for it, no matter who made the preemptive attack.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The president telling Reuters the U.S. won't rule out the military option but, quote, "we'd love to solve things diplomatically."

Also expressing a degree of empathy for North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: He is 27 years old, his father dies, took over a regime. So, say what you want but that's not easy, especially at that age.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The president later clarifying he is not praising the North Korean leader. Kim has ramped up North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, launching more missiles than the two previous leaders combined. The growing threat of a nuclear North Korea, the focus of a special meeting of the -- [00:05:00]

RIPLEY (voice-over): -- United Nations Security Council, chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.

RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea says it's only a matter of time before they test more nuclear weapons and launch more missiles, also insisting they're more than ready for whatever happens next.

RIPLEY: There is always a lot of confusion in the early hours of these launches. Initially the U.S. thought the missile traveled 15 minutes, then they changed that and said that it exploded over North Korean territory. But in South Korea military analysts say it still reached of an altitude of 71 kilometers, around 44 miles, showing that North Korea was able to get this ballistic missile up and they will work to perfect the distance for the next go -- Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.

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KINKADE: Well, the U.S. president was briefed about the missile launch abroad on Air Force One. And he sent out a tweet, President Trump said North Korea disrespected the wishes of China and its highly respected president when it launched though unsuccessfully a missile today. Bad.

Joining us from Washington is Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Great to have you with us tonight. Thank you.

ADAM MOUNT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Good to be here.

KINKADE: Well, President Trump has said that North Korea is his biggest concern.

What do you think we should make of the timing of this missile test as President Trump enters his 100th day in office?

MOUNT: It's true that this administration has prioritized the North Korean issue to their credit. They have approached China and tried to make inroads with China to encourage coordination, to further restrict the regime's inflow of foreign currency and capital.

It's clear that they have sent military signals and made real efforts to try to change the regime's calculus. I'm less certain that they've made progress in doing so.

So for example, when the North Koreans did not do a nuclear test near their parade a couple of weeks ago, some administration officials said that that was because they were deterred from -- by U.S. military signals. I think if this administration believes that they can deter missile

and nuclear tests with military action, they're going to be sorely mistaken. And so for example, that's a signal that North Korea is sending now. They're saying that no matter how many aircraft carriers they send to the East Sea, these nuclear and missile tests will continue.

KINKADE: Absolutely. And I have to mention that North Korea's mission to the United Nations has released a statement essentially blaming the U.S. for pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war.

I think we've got a statement if we just bring it up.

They said the irony is that the U.S., which is wholly to blame for pushing the situation on the Korean Peninsula to brink of nuclear war by staging the largest-ever joint aggression military drills against the DPRK for the past two months.

What do you make of that accusation?

MOUNT: That's not uncommon. The North Korean regime has said this for years and even decades. The U.S. and South Korean military's regularly staged exercises, these are not aggressive in intent. They are intended to improve the interoperability of U.S. and South Korean forces so that we are prepared to resist an attack if and when it does come.

These are necessary for military effectiveness. But at the same time, the North Koreans may be working to isolate the Trump administration, to say to the rest of the world that the military signals we're receiving are pushing us closer to war and hoping to split the U.S.- Iraq alliance and the U.S.-Japanese alliance to try to increase friction between U.S. alliance partners so that it's more difficult for us to present a united front on North Korea.

So as the Trump administration keeps its military options on the table, it's also going to have to work to explain that we're not interested in regime change. And that's something you saw Secretary Tillerson tell the U.N. this afternoon.

KINKADE: All right, Adam Mount, we'd love to continue this conversation but we'll have to leave it there for now. Thanks so much for your time tonight, we appreciate it.

MOUNT: Thank you.

KINKADE: Well, the Trump administration will reach 100 days in office this Saturday. We'll talk about what he has and has not achieved coming up after the break. Stay with us.

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MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance in Moscow, where the view of President Trump has undergone a dramatic transformation. He entered the White House, promising to improve relations with Russia, even speaking of cooperating on international terrorism and joining forces in Syria.

But 100 days on, none of that has come to pass, Trump officials criticizing Russia for fueling conflicts in Ukraine, even ordering U.S. missile strikes on Russia's Syrian ally.

Part of the problem, lingering suspicions of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. There is also a sense that Russia and the U.S., even under President Trump, have very different priorities.

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KINKADE: Matthew Chance reporting there.

Well, the Trump White House has narrowly sidestepped a shutdown one day before the president's first big milestone. At the 11th hour, as Donald Trump approached his 100th days in office he had to sign a short-term spending bill to keep the government functioning.

The temperate (ph) bill keeps the government open until next Friday when lawmakers will have to vote on a long-term spending plan.

So Mr. Trump went one for three, missing out on a last-minute push for a vote on his revised health care bill as well as funding for his border wall with Mexico. But Washington will now stay up and running for now.

Well, you want to know if he ever missed out on anything by listening to his speech at the annual convention of the National Rifle Association. The president was back to his campaign ways, taking jabs at political opponents like Senator Elizabeth Warren. Take a listen.

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TRUMP: I have a feeling that in the next election you're going swamped with candidates. But you're not going to be wasting your time. You'll have plenty of those Democrats coming over and you're going to say, no, sir, no, thank you; no, ma'am -- perhaps ma'am. It may be Pocahontas, remember that. And she is not big for the NRA, that I can tell you.

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Let's bring in our political panel. Ben Ferguson is the radio host and a CNN political commentator and Jonathan Tasini is a Democratic strategist. He's joining us from New York.

Thank you both for being with us. We want to talk about President Trump's first 100 days. If we can start with foreign policy, North Korea tonight, we've seen them launch another missile, a failed test. They continue to defy warnings from the U.S. and the president has cautioned that there is a chance of having a major conflict.

Firstly to Ben, how do you think the administration is handling this?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they're doing a pretty good job with this. I think you see the State Department working well with the White House and also they're working well China and others to put pressure on North Korea.

The fact is, North Korea has been able to do pretty much whatever they want to do for the last several years and that can't happen moving forward. They've been testing far too many nuclear weapons. Their last blast they had last year was as large as the bomb that we dropped in Hiroshima, they say.

And so there also we found out from intelligence that every six or seven weeks they're able and capable of making another nuclear weapon. So they have to be dealt with in --

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FERGUSON: -- some capacity. When you look as if there is a possibility you might use military strength, it gives you a lot more leverage with China to put pressure on them and also when it comes to trade with North Korea.

So I think right now they're doing a pretty good job of putting everything on the table to try to get a diplomatic solution as the secretary of state Rex Tillerson said yesterday. Look, we want this to be a resolution that is not dealing with the military. But, ultimately, we have to protect our interests, our allies and others around the world.

KINKADE: Jonathan, we are hearing tough words from President Trump.

How do you think he is approaching this?

What needs to happen?

JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, in general I think the problem with Donald Trump is he knows very little about the world. And I think that I see among my circle and friends and frankly people around the world, I have many friends around the globe in Australia and Europe who write to me and say that they've never had a situation, even going back to Ronald Reagan, where they would wake up in the morning and wonder whether there would be something like a conflagration, a serious -- perhaps a World War III.

And I think that partly comes to -- comes from Donald Trump being unhinged and running foreign policy through Twitter, which I think no one has done before. And you've got in some way a little bit of a conflict or sometimes they're not on the same page.

You've got Rex Tillerson off saying one thing, let's talk diplomatically, where you have Donald Trump tweeting out threats against North Korea. And I think that is of grave concern to people, not just when it comes to North Korea but generally in the way that Donald Trump, frankly, comports himself.

FERGUSON: Let's be clear though about something. Donald Trump has not tweeted out any threats directly at North Korea. What he has said is you have to comply with the rules of engagement, with international -- with the international rules and the United Nations has also said the same thing.

And you talk about this idea of waking up to World War III. Let's be clear. North Korea and what has been said directly by this leader has been what you would refer to as the insane rhetoric, not what Donald Trump has been saying.

He said he is at war with America. He said he is willing to blow up his neighbors next to him. He has nuclear weapons so you have to deal with that reality.

TASINI: But the threat from North Korea is a threat to -- and that's one reason China is involved. I think China is far more a player in this and should be encouraged to take a leadership role.

But let's be clear and let's be honest, all around the world, Lynda -- and I think this is the concern that people have -- Donald Trump is unhinged. Donald Trump does not know really -- does not know much about the world. And we saw that in the way that he -- he threatened even allies. He calls people's names on Twitter.

And so generally people look at someone who has potentially this nuclear button, this powerful military, and they consider Donald Trump to be a dangerous, unhinged individual.

KINKADE: All right, well, we've got much more to get through apart from North Korea.

I want to look at the Russia investigation, the connections that are being made with the Trump campaign that continue to dog his administration and this new probe into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, that we found out about this week.

As you both know the White House, is blaming the Obama administration for not vetting him properly when he worked for them. The president again repeated that claim to FOX News, just take a listen to what he said.

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TRUMP: When they say we didn't vet. Well, Obama I guess didn't vet. Because he was approved at the highest level of security by the Obama administration.

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KINKADE: So we do know that Flynn started advising the Trump campaign back in 2015. First to Ben.

Does that argument work for you?

FERGUSON: Look, I blame General Flynn. I don't -- and I think you have to look obviously there are some vetting issues with the U.S. government. The fact is, in 2015, he made these speeches in Russia, took these Russian dollars and was at dinner with Vladimir Putin, which we've seen the video of and the pictures of.

This was out there in the world. This was literally broadcast in Russia and also broadcast in newspapers actually around that region. Yet he was able to fill out forms and get top security clearance in 2016 from the Obama administration.

Now do I think that President Obama should be held personally for this?

No. I also think Donald Trump shouldn't be held personally for this because the vetting system obviously did not work. And what you're going to see is I think General Flynn is going to be in some serious trouble. And it's pretty clear he lied about those payments. He was told not to take foreign money.

He was in a compromising situation there. That's why he is no longer working in the government, why he is under investigation. And I think ultimately there is a big problem with the vetting system, when there is pictures on Facebook and on Twitter of you in Russia speaking and sitting with the president of that country but somehow you get top security clearance from any administration, it's a failure of the vetting process in general.

KINKADE: Jonathan, who do you blame for this major oversight?

TASINI: Well, I agree with Ben to some extent. I think, Lynda, the reason --

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TASINI: -- this is a big issue is that there is a general sense, an unease in the public, about Donald Trump himself. And -- and the fact that he -- what are his business interests?

And the fact that, in my view, the Trump family, Ivanka, Jared Kushner and so on, they look at the government like the Saudi government looks at its kingdom for them to do what they want, to make money, to enrich themselves, to promote their brand. It's almost like another kleptocracy.

And so Michael Flynn fits into this little part. And I think frankly, if Donald Trump had been an honest, straightforward person, not someone who had cheated thousands of people when he was a businessman -- that's how he made his money, by the way, by defrauding people -- if Donald Trump had been a straightforward person who had been -- who people trusted, this Flynn thing would have, to me, be a minor thing. But it's gotten more blown up, it's become more of an issue because of

the perception of the public and, by the way, the recent polling shows that the majority of the American people think that Donald Trump is a dishonest person.

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KINKADE: We will have much more with our political panel a little later.

Still to come, Pope Francis is the second Vatican leader ever to visit Egypt. We'll tell you about day one when we come back.

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KINKADE: Welcome back.

Protesters in Brazil lit buses on fire, clashed with police and marched in solidarity during a nationwide strike on Friday. Unions initiated the protests, which brought parts of the country to a standstill.

Workers are angry at the president's efforts to push austerity measures that would weaken labor laws and force Brazilians to work longer before receiving a pension. The government argues the reforms are necessary to pull the country out of a deep recession.

Pope Francis spent the first day of two-day trip to Egypt meeting with the nation's government and spiritual leaders. He is urging both Christians and Muslims to stand against violence in the name of religion or God after recent attacks on Coptic Christians. Our Delia Gallagher is following this story.

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DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Security is tight, as you might imagine, for Pope Francis' first trip here to Cairo. He has been invited by the grand imam of al-Azhar (ph). Al-Azhar is one of the preeminent learning centers for Sunni Islam. It is like the Vatican of Sunni Islam and the Vatican considers it an important dialogue partner with an interpretation of the Quran and the fight against terrorism.

And Pope Francis spoke at a peace conference at Al-Azhar University today, in which he emphasized the importance of teaching future generations the path to peace and that all religions should be united in their condemnation of violence in the name of God.

Of course, Pope Francis is also here to support the minority Christian community they are about 10 percent in this mainly Muslim country. They are mainly Coptic orthodox Christians. And they have suffered a series of ISIS-inspired bombings in their churches at Christmas time and most recently too just before Easter on Palm Sunday.

And Pope Francis laid a wreath at one of those churches in memory of the victims and to show solidarity with the Christian community here. Tomorrow, he says an open air mass; he will go around in a golf cart.

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GALLAGHER: The Vatican says business as usual, despite the high concerns about security. He is traveling in a normal, unarmored car and will head back to Rome tomorrow night, wrapping up a quick two-day visit to Cairo -- Delia Gallagher, CNN Cairo.

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KINKADE: Europe is experiencing a never-ending winter with some of the heaviest know falling in the French Alps this week. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now with more on all of that. (WEATHER REPORT)

KINKADE: And thanks to everyone for joining us for this edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade; I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.

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