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North Korea Vows "Merciless" Response if Provoked; Tensions Rise as WH Faces Complex Global Politics; Expanding Web of Contacts; More Questions About Carter Page's Russia Connection; What Trump Has Done So far; Reagan's First 100 Days. 9-10p ET

Aired April 14, 2017 - 21:00   ET



[21:01:06] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Topping this hour of "360", a question as we head into a weekend of foreign policy challenges. Does the Trump administration even have a foreign policy?

After a week that saw tensions rise with Russia over Syria, the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the arsenal fall on Afghanistan, and a nuclear threat from Kim Jong-un, it is quite a question to be asking. But there is a case to be made that it's the right one. That's just ahead. First with the president at Mar-a-Lago, CNN'S Jim Acosta sets the stage.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A critical moment may be at hand as U.S. foreign policy experts worry North Korea just might celebrate its 105th anniversary with a dangerous display of military might. A nuclear weapons test ordered by that country's leader Kim Jong-un designed to provoke President Trump.

MIKE MORRELL, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: We have a new president and Kim Jong-un is trying to challenge him. He's trying to get him back to the negotiating table.

ACOSTA (voice-over): U.S. flexed its own muscles last week with strikes in Syria and again earlier this week diverting an aircraft carrier toward North Korea as the Trump administration dropped a massive non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS target in Afghanistan. Add to that, the president is ratcheting up the rhetoric on North Korea.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know if this sends a message. It doesn't make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A high-ranking North Korean official told the Associated Press that Trump administration's posture toward the communist nation is becoming more vicious and aggressive.

MORELL: And we are also making it worse, right? With our bluster and by sending aircraft carriers in there, we're raising the crisis.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Earlier in the week, the president held out hope that Chinese president Xi Jinping could help contain North Korea.

TRUMP: President Xi wants to do the right thing. We had a very good bonding. I think we had a very good chemistry together. I think he wants to help us with North Korea.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president acknowledged to the Wall Street Journal he only recently learned that the Chinese may only be able to do so much saying, "After listening for 10 minutes I realized 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."

The president will be monitoring the potential crisis down at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago where he'll spend the holiday weekend without much of his senior staff. But Vice President Pence is headed to the region this weekend.

TRUMP: But they don't have nukes yet. They will have them unless I get to be president. If I get to the president, I promise you folks, they won't have them.

ACOSTA (voice-over): During the campaign, the president vowed he would keep nuclear weapons out of North Korea while offering some surprising praise for Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: But if you look at North Korea, this guy, this -- I mean, he's like a maniac, OK? And you've got to give him credit. He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one.


ACOSTA: And President Trump offering China a big incentive to help contain North Korea. Today the Trump administration formally announced, they will not label China a currency manipulator, that's a major reversal for the president who promised to do just that during the campaign. Instead China will be listed among countries that are being monitored for their trading practices. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Analysis now from CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen and Fareed Zakaria. He is host to Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Fareed, if I could begin with you, if you look at the variety of national security threats just in the last seven days, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan. I've been told frequently that the variety of threats facing the U.S. is something that we haven't seen for decades. Are we seeing a demonstration of that right now?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN GPS HOST: I think we're seeing a demonstration of the fact that we're living in a very complicated world. And that these challenges don't have easy answers. I think that's really the most important piece of this which is you can drop big bombs all you like. You're not going to achieve political stability in Syria or Afghanistan. In North Korea, you're not going to be able to just threaten the regime and suddenly find that one day they're in a cave.

[12:05:02] That I hope is the realization. Because he came to office claiming that all these problems were easy. That if you just gave the generals more of a leeway, if you just talk tough, you know, they were all going to fall and he alone would be able to fix it all. Well, he's in power now and, you know, he will discover none of this is easy.

SCIUTTO: David, to Fareed's point, in the moves that we've seen by President Trump in recent days, a cruise missile strike in Syria, a very big bomb in Afghanistan or even the reversal on Russia, really. Are you seeing real dramatic change in U.S. policies or are they really continuation to some degree, big picture, of policies for some time?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You're right. I think the big picture is that we're seeing reversals in President Trump in terms of what he thought he will be doing as president. He'd be very, you know, that he would be close to Russia and that China would wind up being a potentially a long-term enemy. But he is now -- in reversing his positions he's actually coming back to a lot of positions that President Obama and his predecessors held. They see much more in conventional places.

I think what is surprising, and we have not seen the degree we're now seeing, is the degree to which the military is out in front and not the State Department, not the diplomats.

SCIUTTO: Fareed, I will hear from officials in the administration or in other agencies that they're beginning to see a decision-making process come into play, a lot of credit you'll often hear going to H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser. From the folks you speak to and also just observing these decisions in recent days and weeks, do you see the development of a more sort of set process for making big-picture decisions like this?

ZAKARIA: I think the beginning is exactly the right way to describe it. And McMaster is a very seasoned, very smart guy, a very thoughtful. And so I'm sure he is, you know, what you're seeing is, in fact, his hand at work. But it really is the beginning. And really we're walking off the -- you know, we're walking back from the cliff.

So while, you know, while it's encouraging, there are still is the whiplash of the confusion of where exactly the United States stands on all these issues and what it says for the future. President Trump boldly and proudly says, I'm very flexible. But the flexibility is such that it's not, you know, he's not unpredictable at this point, he's incoherent, right?

I mean, one day he says NATO is obsolete, the next day he said it isn't. One day he says China will be labeled a currency manipulator on his first day in office, and then he says it isn't. You know, how many more of these reversals will happen?

SCIUTTO: David, I've spoken to a number of foreign diplomats who make the point that they don't know what the actual policy is. They don't even know sometimes who to speak with in the Trump administration or which public proclamation to believe. From your seat, at least in the last week and I don't want to exaggerate a short period of time, but as you begin to see some policy moves here, are you beginning to see the outlines at least of a Trump doctrine or if not a Trump doctrine, at least a Trump foreign policy?

GERGEN: If there is an emerging Trump doctrine, it's very well hidden. I think Fareed is absolutely right that there's a lot of confusion still. We don't know quite what directions they're really taking. We don't know how anchored these things are. But I just want to go to one other point about the decision-making process.

I do think Fareed is right. We're seeing the beginnings of a decision-making process. But what is notably different from other administrations is the predominance of military voices in that process. And the absence of a strong voice from the civilian side especially from the State Department.

At this point in time if you have a possible -- a real serious crisis brewing with North Korea, the secretary of state would be out in front. He would be calling people, he'd be trying to rally other nations to make sure that there's an international agreement upon next steps to try to get negotiations of some sort launched before there's any military action.

I think right now within the absence of a clear doctrine and with an administration that is showing it wants to send a message there's a new sheriff in town, we don't know, you know, whether we're making maximum effort to settle this peacefully or not.

SCIUTTO: Fareed Zakaria, David Gergen, thanks very much.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure.

GERGEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And just ahead, new developments in the Trump Russia investigation and the web of connections alleged and proven between Trump associates in Moscow. Later, at President Trump's 100th day in office fast approaching, we're going to look back at another president, Ronald Reagan's memorable first 100 days.


[21:13:26] SCIUTTO: New developments in the Russia investigation got somewhat buried in the many other headlines this week. We learned that foreign intelligence agencies also picked up evidence of communications between Trump associates and Russian officials and other Russians known to western intelligence.

Also, contradictory statements from former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page about his contacts with Russia. He has denied that he was a foreign agent. Page told CNN's Jake Tapper that when he visited Russia last July, he never discussed easing sanctions on Russia related to the seizing of Crime. But interviewed on ABC news, Page could not provide a clear answer.


CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I never offered that, no, nothing along those lines, absolutely not. I mean, it may -- topics -- I don't remember. We'll see what comes out in this FISA transcript. Something may have come up in a conversation -- I have no recollection and there is nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression.


SCIUTTO: Now Page denies any wrongdoing. In any case, he was hardly the only development. And he was hardly the only one with Russia connections.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): There is an expanding web of contacts between Trump advisers and Russia during the election and the transition. One of the latest revelations, a meeting in January on the island nation of the Seychelles, hundreds of miles off the east coast of Africa, a diplomatic source tells CNN. A little more than a week before President Trump took office, Blackwater founder and Trump donor Erik Prince met with the Russian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin to arrange a possible back channel of communications between Moscow and the incoming administration.

[21:15:09] AMB. NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: There was no reason to find some Russian businessperson or some contact with the Russian government when you could easily have asked the State Department of the Obama administration to help create contacts.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Prince claimed to have influence with then President-elect Trump, but both the White House and the foreign diplomat tell CNN the administration was not involved in arranging the meeting. Still, GOP lawmakers acknowledge growing questions.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is a centipede. A shoe will drop every few days. The latest, the meeting in the Seychelles. Look, this is a requirement in my view why we need to select committee in order to get through all this because there's a lot more shoes that are going to drop.

SCIUTTO: The connections however do not end there. Former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a key adviser during the Trump campaign, sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015 at a black tie gala for Russia's R.T. propaganda network. We now know the Kremlin paid Flynn more than $33,000 to attend. Income he did not initially report as required to the U.S. Army or to the White House.

Flynn was fired less than a month into the administration for lying to the vice president about discussing sanctions with Russia's ambassador Sergey Kislyak. TRUMP: When I looked at the information, I said, I don't think he did anything wrong. Anything he did something right. The thing is he didn't tell our vice president properly and then he said he didn't remember. So either way it wasn't very satisfactory to me.

SCIUTTO: The connections to Russia extend inside the Trump family. President Trump's son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner met with Russia's ambassador and with Sergey Gorkov, the president of Russia's state own bank Veb which is under U.S. sanctions.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared did a job during the transition in the campaign where he was a conduit and to leaders. And that's until we had a State Department to function place for people to go. He wants to make sure that he's very clear about the role that he played, who do we talked to and that's it.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): And the ties extend as well to the very highest levels of the Trump campaign. Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort worked for years in Ukraine for pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort also partnered with the Russian oligarch on business deals. And according to the Associated Press, he worked for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to benefit the Putin government. Manafort denies his work was representing Russian interests.

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: As far as the Yanukovych administration is concerned, you will see if you do any fact checking that I was the person that negotiated the framework which is based upon which Ukraine is now a part of Europe. That was my role. That's what I did. And when it was completed, I left.

SCIUTTO: And now Trump's own Attorney General Jeff Sessions has had to recuse himself from Russia investigations because he also met with Russia's ambassador twice, despite testifying that he never had contact with the Russians during the campaign.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TRUMP: With retrospect, I should have slowed down and said what I did meet one Russian official, a couple of times, that would be the ambassador.

SCIUTTO: Finally, among others, there is long-time Trump associate Roger Stone, who communicated with someone known as Guccifer 2.0 through private messages on twitter. The U.S. intelligence community says that the Guccifer 2.0 persona is actually a front for Russian intelligence and claimed responsibility for hacking the DNC before the election. It is Russia's election-related hacking that is at the center of FBI and House and Senate Intelligence Committee investigations that continue.


SCIUTTO: Perspective now from a pair of intelligence professionals, former FBI and CIA Senior Official Phil Mudd and Steve Hall. He ran Russia operations at the CIA as a member of the agency's senior intelligence service.

Steve, I want to start with you. As you look and I'm curious what you think Russia was up to here? Separate from trying to interfere in the election. Do you see evidence they were trying to recruit people who may end up inside the U.S. government?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Certainly Jim, what we've seen with guys like Carter Page and arguably others are what we typically associate with Russian trade craft when they are trying to identify people who might be close to incoming presidents and other, you know, people of power in the U.S. government. So this is simply standard operating procedure on the part of the Russian government.

You want to try to have people on the inside who are at the very least willing to talk to you off the record. Maybe they're willing to agree to even more than that. And in the best of all circumstances for Russia, you could have somebody who would be an agent of influence who could actually may be even influence somebody who was, you know, in positions of power in Washington.

[21:20:04] So that would be very typical for what the Russians would want to do. I think the surprising thing in this particular circumstance is the breadth as you were just outlining in your report in there, how many different data points that we have from the Trump campaign that sort of lead back to Russia. We just need to find out whether or not there's really anything there, whether this is all some big, convoluted, you know, just something that happens somehow. It will be interesting to see. But we've got to get to the bottom of it one way or the other.

SCIUTTO: Phil, as you look at it now, we're at a stage of the investigation, at least with what's public knowledge at this point, where as Steve said you've got smoke but no fire. You have connections, you have communications, et cetera but no proof that for instance there was a good pro quo discussed in those conversations. As you look at it, someone who's been analyzing intelligence for a long time, what do you see here?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, FBI AND CIA: I see a couple things. First, let's go back a bit, remember, the Director of the FBI was embarrassed last fall and last summer when he talked about an open investigation against Hillary Clinton. He then talked about closing the investigation, reopening -- a total embarrassment for an FBI that never, almost never, discussed as an open investigation.

What does he do in this case later, after that embarrassment? He again talks about an open investigation, in this case potentially related to Russian collusion with Americans. I cannot imagine the FBI Director after the Clinton embarrassment talking about this case without looking at information months ago saying, "I'm going to get out in front because this one is going down with indictments".

There's one other thing to watch about smoke in this case. And it's something nobody is talking about. There's a collusion piece, there's also what we call in the business a thousand one, lying to a federal officer. I can't figure out why Carter Page is talking. Because if he's saying something different, then the FBI is finding out in interviews, that guy's got a problem. SCIUTTO: Steve Hall, one issue that's come up in a number of Democratic members of the house sent a letter to the White House with a concern that Jared Kushner, very close adviser to the president, also happens to be his son-in-law, did not reveal on his security clearance form meetings as you're required to do, and in this case with Russians. How much of a concern is that for you? And how much does it expose him to legal repercussions?

HALL: It's certainly a concern. I mean, I can tell you that, you know, anybody who has amenable tone I have had security clearances. Anybody who's had a security clearance knows, you know, you just don't leave that kind of thing off of, you know, off of the paperwork.

There's language, you know, up fronts that says, you know, if you're signing this, first of all is complete, it's all the information, it's all true, and it's a felony if you lie about that. So that's serious. And it's of concern to me because, you know, it's yet again another thing that sort of -- again, trails back to Russia. And if it had been any one of these things, you know, if it was just to Manafort question or if it was just Kushner's, you know, omission on this. Then you say, OK, well, maybe that's just one-off. The problem is that this is beginning to be a little more than just coincidence. And from a counter intelligence perspective, I think that there's grave concern here. So, yeah, that's worrisome, one of many worries in pieces.

SCIUTTO: And that, Phil, is the focus of the FBI's investigation at this point, a counterintelligence investigation going forward.

MUDD: That's right. But again, it's not just the counterintelligence investigation. When you sit at the table for these investigations, and I have, there's a question about whether the people who are involved are truthful. Even if you can't prove whether the individual colluded with the Russian government, if you can prove they lied, that's a federal violation. They'll charge him with.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. Absolutely. You know, that's a -- you know, a lot of other investigations that's completely different topics, that's gotten ...

MUDD: Yeah.

SCIUTTO: ... people in trouble in the end. Phil Mudd, Steve Hall, thanks very much for joining us and explaining it all. We're almost at day 100 of the Trump presidency.

So, how's he doing so far? A report card from two people who have the White House on their resume that's when "360" continues.


[21:27:58] SCIUTTO: President Trump is now approaching a major milestone. His first 100 days in office will end on April 29th. This week alone has been very busy as we've mention tonight, there's the nuclear threat from North Korea. Cold War words from Russia, possible escalation in Syria and the dropping of that massive bomb on Afghanistan. But to some it's been a largely winless 100 days. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, of course, disagrees.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have done so many great things including nominate and confirm a Supreme Court Justice. Roll back more regulations than any president in modern times. Roll back the Obama-era war on coal, oil and natural gas. Restore confidence in the economy.

We're now seeing historic levels of consumer CEO home builder manufacture confidence. There's been a 12 percent gain in the stock market. We've even seen a real resurgence in the mining industry. We've reduced illegal border crossings by over 60 percent to the lowest level in nearly two decades and implemented historic ethics reforms including a five-year lobbying ban and a lifetime foreign ban.


SCIUTTO: Joining me now our two gentlemen who know a thing or two about the first 100 days of a presidency. They've seen it from the inside, Robert Reich, he serve in several administrations most recently as President Clinton's labor secretary. He's now a professor at U.C Berkeley and he's also a author of "Saving Capitalism For The Many, Not The Few". Also with us tonight our CNN Political Commentator Jeffrey Lord who worked in the Reagan White House.

To both of you, thanks for taking time tonight. Secretary, if I could ask you and I'm going to ask you to put on a different hat tonight. If you were working in this White House, imagine that, and compiling a list of the accomplishments for President Trump in his first 85 days or so. What would you highlight at this point? Robert, are you hearing me OK?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Yes, I'm trying to figure out what I'd highlight.


REICH: Really, I think this is -- I honestly, this is the worst 100 days of a president, certainly beginning I've ever seen.

[21:30:04] That the whole point of the 100-day metaphor comes out of Franklin D. Roosevelt. And it really is a metaphor about the fact that when a president begins, you know his more credibility and more public support than he's ever going to have again.

And also, when he has both Houses of Congress that is his party, I mean, you've got everything going for you. And I'm sorry, because I think that what Donald Trump has done is essentially squander these first 85 to 100 days. I mean, not only has he lost on every major battle, I mean, repealing ObamaCare, and he can't even afford the wall, and he can't -- and his Muslim ban is held up in court. But he's just filled the airwaves with lies. Lies about fraudulent votes, three million to five million, completely unsubstantiated. I mean, lies about Obama spying on him. I mean, ethics violations. This Russian connection where --

SCIUTTO: OK. Let's --

REICH: -- you know, any president -- I mean, I -- the problem is you asked the question that is almost -- I mean, what would I say? He got somebody through to the Supreme Court. Well, OK. Good.

SCIUTTO: Lifetime appointment of 49-year-old justice. Jeffrey Lord, you served in the Reagan White House. Reagan of course, his first 100 days were legendary for accomplishments. Let's try to give an honest opinion of not just the gains but the disappointments of the first 85 or so days of the Trump administration.

JEFFREY LORD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR: Well, let me just run through a few of the successes. The Gorsuch appointment is huge. I mean, I used to hear from people at rallies about how they wanted a Supreme Court Justice, a conservative Supreme Court Justice. He'll be there for generation. That is a very, very big accomplishment.

He withdrew from the TPP, The Transpacific Partnership. He got the -- he green lighted the keystone X.L Dakota access pipelines. He streamlined the budget and is going to have a Reagan style defense increase. And of course as Sean mentioned the enforcement of immigration laws, the illegal crossings have been reduced by 40 percent in the stock market is up.

Now on the other hand, let me just say this --

SCIUTTO: Well, to be fair, if I could just say, Jeffrey, a lot of the those things --

LORD: You know, we need to focus on some of the negative things that have happened to presidents. President Kennedy had the "Bay of Pigs." President Lincoln had states withdraw from the union. I mean there have been pretty good presidents who had some really bad things happen in their first 100 days. That is not what's going on here with Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: Well, Jeffrey to be fair --

REICH: Now these are really self-inflicted wounds, Jeffrey. And that really -- I don't think there's any doubt about it. I mean, why did he spend so much time lying with baseless lies and why didn't he call for -- I mean, if he's involved, and all of his aides seem to be somehow involved in this Russian connection. Why didn't he call for a commission, a bipartisan commission, to get to the bottom of it? If he really cared about clearing the air that's what he would have done. Instead it's all this kind trying to deflect attention from it, trying to wiggle out of it, creating more of a cover-up. And you know cover- ups just create more stories. I mean it's --


SCUITTO: I want to get back to the agenda. I want to get back legislative agenda if I can. And I want to ask this question to both of you because, you know, a lot of the stuff he's done so far, he didn't, well, he didn't require Congress really, a lot of these are executive orders, et cetera. We've talked a lot in this program tonight about how Donald Trump has moved towards the center in some of his foreign policy positions in elsewhere, even domestic positions. Do you see him, the potential of him, doing that on tax reform whether an infrastructure plan, even ObamaCare reform to bring in votes not only from other wings of his own party but perhaps Democrats. Do you see that coming, Jeffrey? And Robert I want to give you a chance as well after him.

LORD: I see him getting things done. This is the man, the art of the deal, and also the other book, never give up. He is going to be relentless just as he was in his business career. So, I see him doing that over and over and over again and he will keep coming back until he gets what he wants. Very much like Ronald Reagan saying that he'd settle for 80 percent and then come back for the other 20 percent later. That is very much what Donald Trump is doing here. Robert --

SCUITTO: Do you see the potential in that?

REICH: The what -- Ronald Reagan's -- the Ronald Reagan's great gift --

LORD: And will Democrats welcome it?

REICH: Look, if Donald Trump actually improves the well-being of the bottom 60 percent of Americans, that's wonderful. I mean, I'm 100 percent behind him. But he's so unfocused. He's so undisciplined.

I mean, all he cares about is what, winning, and getting even? And I don't know. I mean this is a man who seems to move from position to position effortlessly. There's kind of a vacuum at the center. Except for narcissism, I mean there is no -- Ronald Reagan was focused. Ronald Reagan knew what he wanted to do, he want to take on the economy, he want to cut taxes, he laid the predicate for all of that in the first 100 days. He was amazingly disciplined.

[21:35:02] This president is the most undisciplined and kind of egoistic president I've ever imagined in the White House.

SCIUTTO: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Robert Reich, Jeffrey Lord, we appreciate your experience as we look at this.

Coming up next, more on Ronald Reagan. We're going to have a closer look at his first 100 days, compare them to Trump's perhaps as we just mention, they were eventful right from day one, in fact, as you'll see.


SCIUTTO: Later this month, Donald Trump will hit a presidential mile stone. The end of his first 100 days in office. One of the most eventful first 100 days in the modern era belongs to Ronald Reagan. Whose presidency included a major development not just in the first days but in the very first hours.


[21:40:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear,


DAVID GERGEN, ADVISER TO PRES. REAGAN: It was the first inauguration planned on the west side of Capitol Hill. All the rest had been on the east side. Reagan was a man from the west, from California. And he thought that the west held a lot of the magic of the American story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): -- preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States --

REAGAN: -- preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): So help you God.

REAGAN: So help me, God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Now, congratulations, sir.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: What's interesting about Ronald Reagan's inauguration is that he really had a mandate. People were calling it the Reagan revolution. I mean, he had painted the entire country, you know, Republican Red.

REAGAN: In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: He was stating a very clear and different philosophy from the reigning philosophy. Yet couching it in a way that made the people listening feel like he still had belief in the people of America that even though liberals were upset by what he said, he reached out to the middle class. He reached out to people who wanted to believe in that sunny morning in America kind of spirit.

GERGEN: And we mapped out his plan for the first 100 days, and he blessed it during the transition. So he came shooting out of the box pretty fast. Everybody knew that he stood for cutting taxes, cutting spending, cutting regulation, building up defense, and balancing the budget. What he didn't have was the full confidence of the people that he could get it done and he was going to be a strong president.

REAGAN: We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.

GOODWIN: What Reagan was trying to portray was the sense that America was going to take a more active role in the Cold War struggle. There had been a sense during the Carter administration that America had fallen behind and that our power had not been exercised and especially because of the hostage crisis. And it looked like America was somewhat of a paralyzed giant abroad.

GERGEN (voice-over): The Iranian hostages were held for about 444 days.

BRINKLEY: At the exact time of Reagan's inauguration, these hostages were released. What a gift to Ronald Reagan. He is able to have a major foreign policy accomplishment on hour one. Not even day one of his administration.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The 52 American hostages are freed according to this flash.

GERGEN (voice-over): I remember it was a very cloudy day at first and the sun broke through at the very moment we learned about the hostages.

BRINKLEY: There was a lot of fear on the eve of Reagan's inaugural that Reagan might go to war in the Middle East over this. The patience had run out, the hourglass was empty.

GERGEN: There was a little ditty that went through the transition team before the inauguration. What is red, flat, and glows in the dark? The answer, Tehran after Reagan becomes president and that was a signal that had been sent during the transition. We want those people back, and we're willing to take action if you don't do it. And they did, they freed them.

BRINKLEY: Nobody still knows definitively why that exact moment the hostages got released. But it was Carter's people that were negotiating the last minute, all that December after he lost. Carter was working the circuit all day long to try to get them out.

BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: It can't be an accident that the Iranian hostage crisis ended with the release of the hostages at the moment Reagan became president. Clearly the Iranians knew what was going on in the United States.

GOODWIN: Whatever happened, the fact that it occurred and he was the president, he gets the benefit of that seemed to symbolize, here's this new president, this hostage crisis is over. The paralysis of America will be undone. A new America is being born. It was an extraordinary way to begin his presidency and it started it off on a very high note for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): God bless you and thank you. Thank you very much.

BOB CAIN, CNN ANCHOR: Moments ago there were shots fired just as President Reagan emerged from the Washington Hilton hotel today after delivering a speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I look back at the President, look back at the crowd. And at that point John Hinckley pushed himself forward and fired six rounds in about 1.4 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Shots fired. Shots fired. GERGEN: Bullet came within an inch of his heart.

BRINKLEY: Was he going to survive? People remembered John F. Kennedy's death.

GOODWIN: There was this terrible sense of; I've been through this before.

[21:45:02] BRINKLEY: there was great fear that Ronald Reagan had passed.


SCIUTTO: Just riveting stuff. Coming up in part two of the nightmare scenario, an assassination attempt. That's right after this.


SCIUTTO: We're looking at President Reagan's first 100 days. Right now, the assassination attempt.


REAGAN: Thank you very much.

MCCARTHY: We were going to the Washington Hilton Hotel where the president was going to give a speech. There was no unusual intelligence in regards to the president's security at that time.

GERGEN: March 30th was the turning point in the life of Ronald Reagan, especially in the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

MCCARTHY: I was part of the presidential detail protecting President Reagan. When he was at the Washington Hilton Hotel and we were talking back to the armored car. I looked back at the president, looked back at the crowd, and at that point, John Hinckley pushed himself forward and fired six rounds in about 1.4 seconds.


[21:50:08] MCCARTHY: The fifth round ricocheted off the car and hit the president under the left armpit. Four people were shot in the assassination attempt. Jim Brady was shot literally between the eyes. Tom Delahanty, a District of Columbia policeman was hit in the back of the neck.

I attempted to cover the president by making my body as large as I possibly could. I was shot in the right chest, but I clutched my abdomen because that's where the pain was. The president was shot under the left armpit.

GERGEN: A secret service guy threw him in the back of the car and jumped on top of him and Reagan was in real pain. Hi thought what had happened was if Reagan had not been badly shot but in fact when the secret service guy jumped on him he'd cracked a rib. MCCARTHY: Moments later, they saw that there some frothy blood coming out of the president's mouth. With that, he redirected the motorcade to George Washington Hospital.

BRINKLEY: Many people thought Reagan was going to die.

GOODWIN: There was this terrible sense that I've been through this before. I was in college when JFK was assassinated. And the idea that in this country it was happening yet again.

GERGEN: When he got to the hospital, he believed so much in the dignity of office. He got out of the car and the first thing he did was buttoned his coat and walked across the driveway. Then when he was out of sight of the cameras, he collapsed.

WOODWARD: There was that sense of, oh, my God, the country is in peril. What's going on? Who's our leader?

GERGEN: The best place to be is down the Situation Room. Information came in from the Defense Department, Treasury Department which asked the secret service, is Vice President George H.W. Bush was on a flight to Texas and we asked him to turn his plane around and come back.

BRINKLEY: There was kind of chaos throughout the administration and the land. Was he going to survive?

GERGEN: Secretary of state Al Haig, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger began arguing about what DEFCON we should be on. Why don't they raise a DEFCON? Maybe the Russians (inaudible). And Al Haig felt strongly we should not raise the DEFCON because he thought it would send a signal to the world that we were, you know, that we were in crisis mode.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have suspect in custody.

WOODWARD: I had a team of reporters working for me on John Hinckley. And we investigated everything in Hinckley's life, his obsessive connection to the actress Jodie Foster.

GERGEN: He had a real obsession with her. It was unclear in those early days why he'd shot Reagan. He had no particular animosity, just seemed like he want to shoot somebody important in Washington.

John Hinckley was strange, strange young man who was unbalanced, mentally unbalanced.

WOODWARD: It was clearly established he acted alone.

GERGEN: The president was shot once in the left side. His condition is stable. The decision is now being made whether or not to operate to remove the bullet.

We weren't really sure he was going to make it until for later at night.

MCCARTHY: Well, the president came very close to death because they couldn't find the bullet. It flattened out in the shape of a dime and went between his ribs and he was bleeding to death internally. And they couldn't find the round, where it was at, and what the damage was. And first of all, was he going to live?

And once he knew he was going to live, what impact is this going to have upon him? You know, this is a man of an age who suffered a grievous wound. And so we really were concerned about can he govern?

CAIN: President Reagan is back at the White House tonight after spending 12 days in the hospital recuperating from a bullet wound.

BRINKLEY: I got a chance to be the editor of Ronald Reagan's diaries. And one of the first entries he wrote after that assassination attempt, "Whatever happens now, I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can." He realized he was living on borrowed time.

GERGEN: It was best to keep him out of sight. He was a much weakened man. When he got out, he started the athletic regiment program. He put basically a gym on the third floor of the White House where he could work out. He put an inch and three quarters on his chest through workouts after he was shot.

BRINKLEY: There was still a question, was he a vigorous leader, was he so gravely wounded that he was going to be incapacitated? And this was a concern. I mean, the whole world was watching.

[21:55:02] GERGEN: But there have been no return of Ronald Reagan to full power. And so the issue became, well, how should he return? Well, the idea (inaudible) that this was actually an opportunity for him to re-ignite his presidency and get his economic plan throw the Congress. So planned intentionally, he planned it out that the first time people would ever see him was in a joint session of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.

GOODWIN: He goes to a joint session of Congress. Huge ovation, standing ovation for minutes and minutes. And then presents his plan again for what he wants the Congress to do.


REAGAN: I have come to speak to you tonight about our economic recovery program, and why I believe it's essential that Congress approve this package.


GOODWIN: And at that point, the relationship between Reagan and the country has already been bonded, and the Democrats then, they have no choice and the bill passes.

BRINKLEY: He soared up in approval ratings. Somebody that was, you know, at best, half the country didn't like him in some ways. Suddenly you had about a 75 percent approval rating throughout the nation. The very fact that he survived, he becomes something larger than a president. He became a folk hero. And so he ends his 100 days really oddly kind of on top of the political world.

GERGEN: After that, he was back. He was really back.

WOODWARD: It was not about politics or even about Reagan. It was about the presidency survives.


SCIUTTO: Just an incredible story. We'll be right back.