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Tillerson: Military Action "An Option" Against N. Korea; White House Angrily Defends Trump's Wiretap Claim; March Madness Light on Upsets. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 17, 2017 - 06:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:31:57] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We are following breaking news this morning.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying the U.S. is prepared to take military action against North Korea, saying that during his visit to the region.

Our Alexandra Field is live in Seoul with the breaking details.

Very clear in his word choice there.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is really a major development, Poppy. It came just as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson returned from the DMZ, the heavily fortified border between South Korea and North Korea, arriving in Seoul, where he spoke to reporters, declaring that the policy of strategic patience had come to an end.

He has said that 20 years of diplomacy has failed when it comes to dealing with North Korea. And he has been saying it is time for a new and different approach. I had the opportunity to ask the secretary of state what a different approach could really entail, because for people that have watched North Korea for years, they know that it appears so many of the U.S. allies have tried it all when it comes to North Korea.

That's when he said that a military option would be on the table, would remain on the table. He made it very clear nobody wants to see any kind of military conflict with North Korea, but that if North Korea threatened South Korean forces or the U.S. forces who are stationed right here on the peninsula, that the military option would be on the table. He also made it clear a military option would remain on the table if the North Koreans escalated their nuclear program to a point where the U.S. felt it was time and necessary to act -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Alexandra, this has been a point that the U.S. has been slow to go, what will be the implications. Appreciate the report.

Another fiery White House briefing. Sean Spicer against everyone. The press secretary angry, defiant, defending the president's wiretap claims still. The question is: does he have any proof to back up his passion?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:37:39] HARLOW: A combative and extraordinary White House press briefing, Sean Spicer defending the president's unsubstantiated wiretapping claims and then tangling with our own Jim Acosta. Just watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You are mischaracterizing what happened today. Where was your compassion and where was your concern when they all said that there was no connection to Russia? Where was it then?

Crickets from you guys. Hold on, hold on, let me -- I'm trying to answer your question, Jonathan, if you can calm down. Jonathan, you can ask and you can follow-up.

I know you want to cherry pick it. No, no, but you do. Where was your concern about the "New York Times" report? You didn't seem to have a concern with that.

How do you know it has been looked at? Hold on, hold on. Jim, I think that's cute. But at the end of the day, we talked about this for three or four days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right. Let's discuss with CNN media analyst and author of "The War for Late Night," Bill Carter is here. And Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, and former CNN Washington bureau chief.

Gentlemen, nice to have you both here and let's begin with that extraordinary press briefing. And let's move onto the questions that the president will take today, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

To you, Bill, first, it's just extraordinary how Sean Spicer is using media reports --

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yes.

HARLOW: -- including the "New York Times", to try to make this case, none of which, none of which corroborate in any way --

CARTER: Anyway, no.

HARLOW: -- the president's claim that he was wiretapped.

CARTER: Well, he's in the position now of throwing things up to cover the tracks -- he doesn't have any real answers, so he came there prepared -- I think he came prepared for battle, because he threw things out. He's telling people to calm down. They're calm. He's exorcised.

CUOMO: He came prepared to battle or he came to battle? Because he didn't seem like he had a lot of ammo.

CARTER: He doesn't have any. There's no ammo to have. So, he threw out a lot of things of citing reports by Sean Hannity and Andrew Napolitano, you know, that's like --

CUOMO: I'm fine with him using Hannity as a source. But, you know, have you to have the there, there behind it.

HARLOW: It's also extraordinary, there are unnamed sources in these reports which the White House keeps knocking, and now, they're using that.

CARTER: Yes, and that was brought up.

Look, he's in the position, he's the guy cleaning up after the elephant. That's his job as a press secretary. When you have a president who throws something out impulsively with no evidence, and then he won't back off it. It would be relatively easy I think for Trump to say, I was misinformed here, I didn't have the information.

[06:40:07] He's like taken a blood oath never to do that, he won't back off and he puts his people in the position they can't back off. And all the evidence comes in from intelligence committees, et cetera, and they still won't back off. And it just -- at some point, I think the public looks at this and says, this is ludicrous. He obviously should say, "I was wrong." He never says that.

CUOMO: Frank Sesno, there is a -- still, a broad margin of forgiveness for Sean Spicer among our brothers and sisters in the media. I hear it all the time.

I don't share it. I believe you took this job, you're doing public service, yes, he represents the president. This is on you how you do your job. Sean has been in this business a long time. He knows that the way you spin is going to be tracked over time. He's making these decisions about fighting back on a weak basis. Nobody c force him to do that.

FRANK SESNO, DIRECTOR, SCHOOL OF MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, GWU: He clearly had the memo yesterday to go out there and fight and hold your ground. In the end, Sean Spicer, like every press secretary before him, will be judged on his performance, which is his credibility. And he is stretching his credibility big time here.

To throw reports around -- this is very important for people to understand. It's fine to cite reports. Congressional hearings are done around reports. But there is a difference between a report by a columnist or an opinion leader or a commentator, and a carefully reported piece of journalism by a news organization where there are quotes, where there are statistics, where there are documents that have been cited that actually provide the evidence for the report to be cited back to the public or to the congressional members.

So, right now, the White House is paddling upstream very hard against a current that's pushing it further down stream by the day.

CUOMO: I got a gift of St. Patty's Day for Sean Spicer, too, he had a case to make that I don't know what got in the way of it, but he blew it.

Bill, judge this.

CARTER: Yes?

CUOMO: This is all Sean Spicer had to say. Here's what's going on right now, yes, I've we heard all these people say there hasn't been proof yet. But they're still looking. Why is that unacceptable for you media on this about whether or not there was wiretapping, but not on the Russian questions. Time and again, people have said there has been no collusion proof. He said connection. That was a mistake, words matter. Collusion is different than connection o contact.

But on that one, there is no proof. But you're letting them look. You're giving them time. Everybody comes out and says what you are hearing from people about the wiretapping.

We haven't seen the proof. All the same people. There you are patient. Here you are impatient. We want to know right now where's the proof of the wiretap, if he had done that --

CARTER: It could have been more effective. He tried to. He kept bringing that up, why don't you report on that --

CUOMO: But he was doing it in terms of bias.

CARTER: He was.

CUOMO: And he was making it equally false and that's a mistake.

CARTER: Yes.

CUOMO: Because at least we have proof of connections on the Russian questions, we have proof of the hacking. Here we have proof of absolutely nothing.

CARTER: Yes. No, exactly. I don't think Sean is particularly gifted at this. I don't think he's done this very much before. He's not particularly -- he's a journalist, for example. I don't think he understands all the sort of ins and outs of that.

But I do think, yes, if he was prepared, he could maybe make that argument. But he doesn't have evidence. At some point, it's just you throwing up more smoke.

CUOMO: Right.

CARTER: It doesn't look good for him. He still looks like the puppet for the president. He refuses to ever cut the string.

HARLOW: Gentleman, thank you very much. Frank Sesno, we owe you more time next time. SESNO: OK.

CUOMO: We'll talk to him about the brackets. That's the big news, that's the real battle, the one on the hardwood.

The NCAA college basketball tournament in full swing. It's always about the upsets and Cinderellas. Who emerged? Who went home? "Bleacher Report", next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:47:42] HARLOW: All right. I'm reading your line.

CUOMO: Please, go ahead. You're certainly do a better job.

If you live in the southern U.S., break out the sweaters. There is a late season cold snap going on, it's going to bring more record lows, not just unseasonably cold. All the way down to Florida.

CNN meteorologist Chad Everett Myers has it all.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. It's the same cold air that ran through the northeast and made the snowstorm or snow event for New York City, snow storm for upstate. But it's cold all the way to Canada. But the wind chills are near zero in some spots across the Northeast today.

Now, it warms up in the plains, a warm front is coming. So, it does get to the Northwest for the end of next week. We will warm back up, but there is a snow -- small snow event coming in for Saturday and Sunday for New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and all the way up to Boston. There it is.

This is not a nor'easter. At least, it doesn't like one right now. It moves of shore quick enough. But still quick enough. Up the four or five across parts of upstate and even into parts of down east Maine could see snow as well.

But that's it. No way big weather stories today, just filling you in on the cold.

HARLOW: Everett, that's the middle name?

MYERS: It is. I was named after Dr. Joe Gannon Chad Everett from medical center. Because I was supposed to be Kimberly Anne, but that didn't work out.

HARLOW: Oh, you don't like Kimberly Anne to me.

CUOMO: It's not over yet. Be who you want to be, Chad. Be who you want to be.

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: See how they run the graphic?

CUOMO: Yes, that's the Chris cut off graphic.

HARLOW: All right. Day one of March Madness is in the books, and if you didn't take care, upset my loss last night, by the way, Minnesota.

CUOMO: What?

HARLOW: You know I had them going all the way, clearly horrible. You are doing better than I am doing.

Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, guys. You know, the 16 games yesterday, but they went according to plan, only two lower seeds pulled off upsets, one of them was Minnesota. Sorry, Poppy.

But Northwestern, they waited 78 years to be in the big ban, Wildcats fans making trips to Salt Lake City for their game, including actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, her son on the team.

Now, poor Vanderbilt gave this game away. They took the lead with this layup with 17 seconds left. But Matthew Fisher Davis thought they were still losing, so he fouled and look at him when he realized what he just did.

Northwest made both free throws and when the game, 68-66.

[06:50:02] Proud parents in the stands. Louis-Dreyfus thrilled. NBA commentator Doug Collins fighting back tears as he watched his son who coached Northwest into their first ever tournament win.

Of course, 16 more games on the schedule day. The early action starts 12:15 Eastern. You can watch it all on our sister network, TBS, TNT & truTV.

And, Chris, I'm going to go out on a limb and say, we're going to see more upsets than two today as opposed to yesterday.

CUOMO: Strong. Strong choice. I appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

CUOMO: All right. Former national security adviser Mike Flynn paid tens of thousands of dollars by firms linked to Russia, including one company with tries to the Kremlin's intelligence service. But it's not about the speech he gave. It's not about to whom. It's about whether or not it was reported.

What are the facts? We have new information on NEW DAY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: We have some more news for you here. The Trump administration planning to appeal court rulings that have prevented their revised travel ban from taking effect. This as we're learning more about payments from Russian firms to former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Let's bring back our panel. We got Jason Johnson, Abby Phillip, David Gregory.

Abby, from a reporting perspective what is the issue with Flynn? It's not so much where he was, what he was doing, it's about disclosure, right?

[06:55:00] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and it's about a pattern of not entirely being forthcoming about his activities both during the campaign and in the transition. There are a lot of questions about whether he communicated to the campaign.

I think we learned a couple of days ago that he did tell the campaign that he was lobbying for example on behalf of the Turkish government during the campaign, despite the sort of plausible deniability from the White House on this. Michael Flynn has been, it seems, one of the few Trump aides to have the most sort of unexplained connections to either Russian officials, Russian companies, and so on, and so forth.

The White House is having a little hard time explaining why that didn't become more of a part of the vetting process for him, becoming a national security adviser, that's one of the most senior positions in our government. He had access to a lot of classified information throughout that process, and it's still unclear why they didn't take more of that information into consideration throughout this entire campaign and transition process.

HARLOW: All right. So, moving forward a little bit, David Gregory, a top House Democrat on the oversight committee has said, all right. This is the amount Flynn was paid over $33,000, by RT, which is basically a propaganda tool for the Kremlin to do this. We know he went there. We know he gave the speech in 2015. We know he sat next to Vladimir Putin because there is that picture of them both in tuxes, right?

Now, the guy doesn't work for the administration, because the vetting could have been better? Yes. So, the question is, what does this money for the administration now? Does this really matter in final analysis of, you know, the broader Russia cloud hanging over this administration?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the question investigators will delve into -- and you talk about under surveillance -- clearly, his contacts with the Russian ambassador were wiretapped. There was a transcript provided. That's how his falsehoods were unearthed to the vice president.

But these ties -- you know, Flynn who was a reputable person in the Defense Department in the area of intelligence was being relied upon by the Trump team as a campaign, and by Trump himself. So, he wasn't just a surrogate. He was an advisor and then he became a very important foreign policy adviser and ultimately national security adviser. So, what are all those connections about and to what extent did his

contacts with Russia cloud President Trump's thinking or how are they indicative of the approach to Russia? If and maybe there is something even worse in terms of contact? So, I think it's the tip of the iceberg potentially that investigators are looking for in understanding that relationship between Trump world and Russia. There is not everyday that they actually colluded in anyway, but I think Flynn becomes an interesting piece in that puzzle.

CUOMO: David Gregory, staying with you, set the table quickly for us on how important these appeals on the executive order, the travel ban are in terms of getting a win?

GREGORY: Well, I think the Supreme Court is going to have to decide it. I think the law is, according to experts, really on the president's side on this. And, ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to get involved. So, now, despite attacks on the judiciary, which is certainly not hurting -- helping the administration, despite the facts they're undercutting their own legal argument by saying this is just a watered down version, ultimately, I think -- you know, we had legal experts on the program who say that on the law, the president should prevail. So, we'll have to wait for that.

HARLOW: Jason Johnson, to you, if you just look at the week in summation and the full week, 2.0 travel ban, 2.0 not in effect because of the courts now. By our count, 21 House Republicans don't like this bill and very well may not vote for it on health care.

This isn't quite the week for the administration.

JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT: You know, it's a typical week. I mean, you could say, wow, this has been a bad week. But think about it, Donald Trump gets caught lying, Republicans aren't happy with something he did, and the policy he introduced has been dead on arrival. We've been seeing that since he got into office.

It would be a surprising week if something he proposed did go through as an executive order. If he didn't have problems in the administration, I think the change will be maybe six to ten months from now when he can actually get through a week an these problems don't happen.

But this is typical. It's not a bad week. It's unfortunately --

HARLOW: For the guy who said he will get more done than anyone right away.

JOHNSON: Exactly. Look, this guy elected to bring back jobs. I don't see jobs popping up this week, all I see are tax cuts and people who are going to weaken --

CUOMO: He had a good jobs number in February.

JOHNSON: He had a good jobs number in February. But are people going to feel that after this budget goes through? That's the problem. He's not doing what he got elected to do. HARLOW: All right. Guys, thank you. Have a good weekend.

CUOMO: And thanks to you our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, it's Friday. NEW DAY continues. Let's get after it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow is with me.