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Bannon Dropped from National Security Council; U.S. Official: "All Options on Table" for North Korea; Backlash Against Latino Businesses Bidding to Construct Border Wall. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired April 5, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: -- but he was also someone who Donald Trump spoke very highly of, even after he was asked to resign because of his contact with Russian operatives that wasn't disclosed to the vice president and others in the White House. So what I think you have today is H.R. McMaster rising in the White House and Steve Bannon being diminished a little bit.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Dan, thank you.
I want to bring David Chalian for a little analysis on this.
David, all kinds of reasons as to why this has happened. If there was -- I remember the point where it was such huge news and there was permanent seat at the table. Why didn't the White House say that at the time if it was a temporary thing.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: Because it wasn't a temporary thing. What Bannon allies are spinning out of the White House doesn't hold water very much. To say that he's there to baby sit Michael Flynn because there were concerns, what do you mean there were concerns? You made him national security adviser. None of that adds up. What is clear here is that Steve Bannon has taken a hit here and that Henry McMaster, the national security adviser now in place, is starting to get his sea legs inside the organization and flex his muscles a little bit and make sure the team is the team that he wants there. Remember a couple things here. One, you point out it was a huge controversy at the time.
CHALIAN: Right. And there was reporting at the time, by the way, that President Trump wasn't properly briefed by his aides that this would be controversial, that the blow back on this was a surprise to the president. So if that reporting is true, then -- which was reported at the time, one has to think that perhaps President Trump himself was never fully comfortable with this, all the way along. Secondly, this administration almost never publicly retreats. A clear acknowledgeable that something they had put into place, that got a lot of blow back, was wrong.
CHALIAN: And finally, when Henry McMaster came on board -- and I remember this, Sean Spicer was asked, is he going to be able to dictate what is going on in the National Security Council and Trump said, no, no, no, he's got full authority to put this together. But remember, he wanted to get rid of aide that Bannon vouched for, that Bannon and Jared Kushner had vouched for, and that aide stayed in place. Well, now we're seeing the reverse of that power structure with McMaster starting to really be able to flex his muscles.
BALDWIN: For all of the Bannon critics out there, though he won't have a seat at this table, he's still very much close to the president?
CHALIAN: Of course. And he's not going to take some huge national security policy position without running it by, I am sure, the entire cadre of advisers in the West Wing. Steve Bannon would be part of that. But that is different than having a political strategist sit on the National Security Council. That clearly is not attenable.
BALDWIN: Got it.
David, thank you so much.
BALDWIN: Coming up next, quote, "all options on the table." Strong words from the Trump White House after another defiant move by North Korea. How will this change the tone of President Trump's meeting with his Chinese counterpart? That meeting begins tomorrow.
[14:37:33] BALDWIN: "All options are on the table." That's how the Trump administration is responding to another defiant missile launch by North Korea. Officials in South Korea say Pyongyang launched a missile that headed east before plunging into the sea.
Meantime, America's top diplomat issued a response that raises more questions than answers. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, quote, "North Korea launched yet another intermediate-range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comments."
CNN's senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, is in Seoul.
Tell me what you know, Ivan, about the nature of missile, and about the concerns about its detectability.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know that the missile was launched from the east coast of North Korea around dawn this morning local time. There's been contradictory statements coming out from the military as a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile with solid fuel that would have traveled about nine minutes before hitting the sea. In the last couple of hours, we've got a couple of Defense Department officials who have said that there appear to have been a major malfunction. They've also suggested it was a scud extended- range missile and one White House official telling Jim Acosta that it only flew for about 55 seconds before bursting into flames and failing miserably. We'll try to figure that out in the hours to come from the experts.
The important thing is the timing here, Brooke. It's that a missile was launched in violation of many united nation security council resolutions. The last missile launch took place in February when President Trump was meeting with the Japanese prime minister in Mar-a- Lago. This launch is on the eve of the first-ever meeting between President Trump and the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, and a lot of people are interpreting it's as a provocation against both of those leaders -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: How can it not be?
Ivan Watson, thank you so much from Seoul.
Let me bring in two more voices, Michael O'Hanlon and General Hertling.
General, first to you on Ivan's final point, the last ballistic missile set out, that was around Prime Minister Abe meeting with the president. This is the eve of Xi Jinping's meeting with President Trump, again down in Florida. Is this not provocative with a capital "P?"
[14:40:04] LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It is. I would go with Vegas odds that you'll see one when President Xi is here. I would bet on another missile launched or perhaps a nuclear test which would be much more significant. North Koreans have tested over 20 missile launches last year. That's the most they've ever done and they just keep on trying to be provocative. So for secretary Tillerson to say we've talked enough, that's never the case. As far as I'm concerned, as a military guy, I want those diplomats talking a lot more because fighting would be exceedingly hard in that terrain and devastating in terms of civilian casualties.
BALDWIN: If we take your Vegas odds and if that were to happen while President Xi is here, Michael, I mean, -- the stacks could be higher for this meeting. We know that the president talked to "F.T." a couple of days and said, if China isn't willing to help out, we'll go it alone, meaning the U.S., paraphrasing, and then you have the general heading the Strategic Command saying, yesterday, quote, "Any solution to the North Korean problem has to involve China." Are we on the same page?
MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I agree with the general of Strategic Command. And here is why. The military options that you could think of and it's been reported that they are still, quote/unquote, "on the table," they are not very good because of the reason that General Hertling underscored. You don't know where this is going to end. North Korea is armed with chemical and nuclear weapons and there could be millions of casualties in a future Korean War, even worse than the last Korean War. We're not going to start that war ourselves.
What we could consider is more specific strategic attacks, for example, against a long-range ICBM with liquid fuel if we can see it being fueled before launch. That's a big "if" because North Korea is working on a long-range of solid fuel missiles. We have to intercept this in the Sea of Japan. That may or may not work. The North Koreans may or may not see it as a challenge that they have to circumvent by launching in a different direction, for example, but it's got its own perils.
That means the real option is to clamp down economically on the North and to convince China to help us. There are two ways to convince China. One is through persuasion and the other is through threats to Chinese banks and companies that may be doing business with North Korea that have been letting them get away it, turning the blind eye up until now. Those are the more realistic options. They'll certainly work better if China helps.
BALDWIN: Of those two options, last question, General, what would be a sign of a positive meeting with President Xi to be reported out after this meeting at Mar-a-Lago?
HERTLING: First of all, some agreement on the economics and agreement on the diplomacy. And if they come out both speaking the same voice, as the president did with the king of Jordan today, that would be a very positive thing. I'm not sure you're going to get the same response out of the president of China that you got out of the king of Jordan. There's going to be less -- well, let's just say less flattery, more than likely. I think you're going to see some potential for future actions. And this has to be the case, Brook. As Michael so ably pointed out, using all of the forms of national power are critical with North Korea. You just can't use military power because it's too dangerous to get a reaction from them if there's some type of pre-emptive strike. They have too much artillery aimed at Seoul and you can't take out all of the tubes that would involve that amount of civilian casualties.
BALDWIN: Day number one of the meeting with President Xi starts tomorrow. We'll be reporting it out. Great point to make sure there are similar messaging coming out from both of these heads of state.
BALDWIN: Gentlemen, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.
[14:45:13] Straight ahead here, First Lady Melania Trump is in Washington today. She's visiting Washington, D.C., area schools as she hosts the queen of Jordan. This is the second appearance in a week of her. Might we see more of the first lady? What are their messages for the young girls there at this charter school in Washington? We'll take it live. Stay here.
BALDWIN: First Lady Melania Trump is back in Washington. She's making another rare public appearance today. She's hosting Queen Rania of Jordan. Earlier, both couples posed together in the Oval Office. And moments ago, the ladies visited XL Academy, a local public charter school in Washington. It's Washington's first public school for girls. And the queen of Jordan is very well known for her advocacy work for education and children and women's rights. It was one week ago today that the first lady gave her own keynote address about women empowerment. So let's talk to Kate Bennett. She's following this visit there in
D.C. She's a CNN White House reporter. And Michelle Kosinski is our CNN senior diplomatic correspondent.
Great to have you on.
And, Kate, first, the cameras have been following them around the school. To my knowledge, they haven't said anything publicly yet. Tell me more about the visit.
[14:49:57] KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's sort of -- I hate to put it a label of typical. It's somewhat typical for a first lady visit. It's often common to go visit a school, to have a little roundtable, talk about education, how the school functions. This is not Queen Rania's first rodeo. This is her fourth. She's been with Laura Bush and Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. She adept at these types of visits. And Melania is just learning. She's new at this. They went to the school, had lunch at the White House. They went to the joint press conference and now they just returned from the school visit.
BALDWIN: I know Queen Rania was over at the Trump Tower in early January meeting with Ivanka Trump. They were talking about women issues.
Michelle, I don't know if you were at the State Department or where that event was with Melania last week. How did that go? How comfortable is she with this kind of thing, and what more can you talk about with this visit with the queen?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORERSPONDENT: The last appearance, I think that there wasn't a person in the room afterward -- because there was a luncheon that many thought she would attend and mingle with the award winners, these extraordinary winners from around the world, and State Department attendees, but she didn't appear as that. And so the entire conversation in that room was about Melania Trump's appearance and, you know, how uncomfortable she seemed. It was very stiff. She was obviously reading, with some difficulty, which is not her fault, from the teleprompter. It was a hugely emotional ceremony but she was still kind of stiff throughout. So that's not a criticism. She's obviously uncomfortable in these situations. And you could not find a more different first lady and so savvy, she's everywhere, on social media, pages of magazines, she's doing interviews, she's on American morning shows, a background in marketing. She's worked for American companies. She knows how to get out there and get her point across.
That said, though, she took some criticism a couple of years ago for having a too glossy appearance, for being very luxurious and being too social in not necessarily most of the socially minded situations. The royal family wanted her to start toning it down a little and appear at more substantive events. Education is a big one. If Melania Trump could find an ally in this very small world that she's found herself in to help her out and give her friendly advice, Queen Rania would be the one to do that. BALDWIN: I don't envy either of them. I can't imagine the spotlight
that they feel but, you know, the world is watching. The world is watching.
So Michelle Kosinski and Kate Bennett, thank you so much.
Coming up, back to our break news, President Trump speaking today from the Rose Garden talking about Syria, saying lines have been crossed as he directly now is blaming the president of Syria for the chemical attack killing dozens of Syrians, including young children. This is a dramatic shift from the White House. But was it a signal for a policy shift? We'll discuss that.
Also, President Trump weighing in on this controversy surrounding FOX News host Bill O'Reilly as now 21, count them, 21 companies pulling their ads from the Bill O'Reilly show. What the president has now said, straight ahead.
[14:57:39] BALDWIN: Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly took his message of border security to Capitol Hill this morning, and at the top of his list, President Trump's great big border wall.
Right now, contractor bids to build that wall are pouring in, including some from Latino business owners, who are now facing a major backlash.
CNN's Boris Sanchez tells the story.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would build a great wall and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since day one of his campaign, then-Candidate Donald Trump's promise of building a wall along the border with Mexico has been a lightning rod, drawing chants from his supporters and scorn from his opponents. And now that the federal government is accepting design bids for the wall, that ire is now focused on those who want to construct it.
MORIAL BORGES (ph), CONTRACTOR: Every country in the world has borders. If you don't have borders, you don't have a country.
SANCHEZ: Morial Borges (ph) is one of many contractors who submitted bids to work on the wall. The son of Ecuadorian immigrants did not vote for Donald Trump and he rejects the president's rhetoric about Mexicans and other minorities.
BORGES (ph): It's absolutely mean-spirited.
SANCHEZ (on camera): But thousands of miles away from the divisive campaign trail, here in the desert of Mexico, on the border with Juarez, reality Trumps rhetoric.
BORGES (ph): The bottom line is Mexico has a high unemployment rate at this point, 7 percent. We have created these jobs and have 120 employees now working for us. Our employees have families that they need to feed just like we have families that we need to feed.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): The idea of Hispanics playing a role in the wall's construction has not been without controversy. This week, the archdiocese of Mexico City launched an attack on Mexican companies willing to work on the border wall, calling them immoral and traitors.
BORGES (ph): Traitor of what? I am an American. It goes back to, every country in the world has borders.
SANCHEZ: Borges (ph) says online trolls are already targeting his business.
BORGES (ph): Just calling me a bunch of names because I'm going to build a wall.
SANCHEZ: But Borges (ph) insists if a wall is going up in his backyard, he wants any economic windfall to stay in his backyard.
BORGES (ph): There is no changing the fact that Mexico's border is being built, so if there's going to be a border built in Mexico, I'd like to see Mexico companies, both us, as a general contractor, our subcontractors, the people who manufacture concrete, folks like --