Return to Transcripts main page


Pence Visits DMZ as Tensions Spike with North Korea; Lawmakers Seeking "Use of Force" Vote; Police Urge Facebook Murder Suspect to Surrender; Trump Speaks at White House Easter Egg Roll. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2017 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He was speaking inside the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, standing just a few feet from North Korean soldiers at the time, just a few hours after the North Korean regime's failed missile launch. He warned that this White House may not show the restraint of past administrations.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience, but we're going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peacefully.


BERMAN: Our Dana Bash is traveling with the vice president. She is in Seoul in South Korea. Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, it is always tense when anybody visits the DMZ here on the Korean Peninsula, but especially now, especially when the Vice President of the United States goes amid all of this saber rattling.


BASH: He said that the era of patience, strategic patience, is over. What does that mean in real terms?

PENCE: It was the policy of the United States of America during prior administrations to practice what they called "strategic patience." And that was to hope to marshal international support to bring an end to the nuclear ambitions and the ballistic missile program of North Korea. That clearly has failed and the advent of nuclear weapons testing, the development of a nuclear program, even this weekend, to see another attempt at a ballistic missile launch. All confirms the fact that "strategic patience" has failed.

BASH: But what does it mean to end it in practical terms? It's either use military force or find a diplomatic solution that has eluded all of your predecessors. PENCE: Well, I think as the president's made clear, that we're going to abandon the failed policy of "strategic patience," but we're going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably. And I know that the president was heartened by his discussions with President Xi. We've seen China begin to take some actions to bring pressure on North Korea, but there needs to be more.

BASH: And you know, this is real for you, you know, that there are estimates that North Korea could have a missile ready that could hit the continental U.S., Seattle, by 2020, which is going to be on your watch.

I mean is that weighing on you and is that a deadline that you all have in mind?

PENCE: I know the President of the United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people. The presence of U.S. forces here in South Korea, our longstanding commitment to the Asian Pacific and ensuring the security of the continental United States will remain the priority of this administration.

But look, we want to be clear, our hope and frankly, our prayer, is that by marshalling the resources of nations across the Asian Pacific, not just South Korea and Japan, other allies and China, to bring renewed pressure to bear will achieve our goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. But the people in North Korea -- should make no mistake that the United States of America and our allies will see to the security of this region and see to the security of the people of our country.

BASH: I know we're running late. I just have to ask about your dad. I just heard you say that General Brooks gave you some information about his service here. He was awarded the Bronze Star. What did you learn and how does it feel to be here in an area that is still at war, effectively? I mean, only in armistice, still at war for 67 years.

PENCE: It's very meaningful for me and my family to be here, so many years after my father's service.


BASH: Now, right there, standing about 100 feet from North Korean soldiers inside the DMZ, the vice president sounded a little bit more focused on a diplomatic approach and solution to this crisis. But just a few hours later, he was standing next to the acting South Korean president and sounded far more robust in terms of a potential military solution.

He said, explicitly that the North Koreans should remember that this president in the early days of his administration used military action against Syria, against Afghanistan and that they should keep that in mind. The president's, quote, "resolve" in focusing on how much the president and this administration, really the world, wants North Korea to finally step down with regard to its nuclear process. John? BERMAN: All right, Dana Bash, fascinating interview from right there in the Demilitarized Zone in North Korea, between North Korea and South Korea.

[10:05:03] The vice president with a message that military action might be on the table, but a different message coming from inside the White House. CNN's Athena Jones is there. And Athena, we have heard from the national security advisor, maybe some different language than the vice president.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. That's right, H.R. McMaster, the national security advisor, putting the emphasis on nonmilitary options. But John, the central question in all of this, or a big central question in all of this is what China will do. Will China do more?

President Trump has made it clear, he wants to see China step up pressure on North Korea to rein in its nuclear ambitions and he believes that China can do so because China is the North's main trading partner. The North relies heavily on China when it comes to trade. But the president has acknowledged in recent days that even China may not have a magic bullet here.

What is clear from the perspective of the president's national security team is that some sort of action is going to be necessary. Watch what H.R. McMaster had to say about this.


LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: And I think it's really the consensus with the president, our key allies in the region, Japan and South Korea in particular, but also the Chinese leadership that this problem's coming to a head. And so, it's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.


JONES: So, there you heard H.R. McMaster talk about undertaking all actions short of a military option. That is the goal. The problem here, John, as you know, is that this problem, this North Korea foreign policy challenge is one that has vexed the past several administrations. You hear talk of military options, but you also, hear talk of diplomatic and economic pressure.

So far, diplomatic and economic sanctions have not achieved the desired result, which is forcing North Korea, or convincing North Korea, to halt its nuclear program and taking steps towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The real question is what can be done now to make that happen. What different approach will this new administration have that could prove successful. We have to wait and see what that approach is going to be. John?

BERMAN: All right, indeed. Athena Jones for us at the White House. Let's talk about this. Joining me now, Tony Blinken, CNN global affairs analyst, former Deputy Secretary of State. Tony, you know, it's interesting. We heard the vice president say the area of "strategic patience" is over, it didn't work. That was yours. That was the Obama administration that tried to exercise "strategic patience" with North Korea, you know. In the last few months, we've seen more nuclear tests from North Korea, more new missile launches. So, is the vice president right? Did "strategic patience" fail?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST AND FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, you know, successive administrations going back to the 1990s have not managed, unfortunately, to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions. But in fact, the "strategic patience" era really ended more than a year ago, when under the Obama administration. We began a sustained, comprehensive effort to put pressure across the board on North Korea. First, trying to get China to leverage its own influence. That's the most important factor, because virtually all of North Korea's trade is with China, but also, to get countries around the world to sever their economic, diplomatic and political relations with North Korea.

And we went systematically with South Korea and Japan to countries on virtually every continent to get them to remove North Korean guest workers who were sending back hundreds of millions of dollars in remittances to North Korea to fund the military nuclear program, to kick out diplomats, to prevent the North Korean airline from landing or its ships from docking. That was a systemic, comprehensive, quiet effort to deny North Korea the revenues that it needs to fund the program and for Kim Jong-un to continue to buy off elites. So, what I heard today from the vice president and I thought his words were on the mark, is actually a continuation of what we started more than a year ago.

BERMAN: So, while they're saying they're doing things differently, you're basically just saying, no, the Trump administration does not have a different policy when it comes to North Korea?

BLINKEN: I think that's right. There is no silver bullet. We can talk about a military preemptive strike, but that is fraught with peril and fraught with danger. First, we don't know where all of the nuclear program is. What we do know is buried under mountains and deep underground. They increasingly have mobile missiles that can be rolled out in a matter of minutes, propelled -- with solid fuel.

And as a result, it's very hard to take that program out preemptively. Even if we could, John, because North Korea has so much artillery poised just 30 miles from Seoul, even if we manage to take out the nuclear program preemptively, they could probably get off a salvo of conventional weapons against Seoul and decimate the population and by the way, our own soldiers who are there. So, this talk about a military solution sounds good, but in reality, it's very, very dangerous.

[10:10:00] BERMAN: How seriously did the Obama administration ever consider a military solution?

BLINKEN: Oh, like this administration, we looked at every single option. And of course, in extremist, you have to be prepared to do it and to use it and we have to be prepared. That's why I think the Trump administration was right, for example, to send the Vinson, that group to -- into the seas there. That makes very good sense. Continuing to put in missile defenses makes good sense, continuing, as necessary, to ratchet up sanctions, including, if necessary, against anyone from China, for example, who's engaged in business with North Korea. That may prove necessary. All of that makes good sense and what I heard the vice president say today is they are looking to ramp up pressure across the board against North Korea. And that's exactly what we were doing.

BERMAN: We saw North Korea with a failed missile launch over the weekend. "The New York Times" has done some astounding reporting that under the Obama administration, this idea of sabotage of the entire North Korean missile and nuclear program was undertaken. Can you shed any light on that? Is this failed missile launch perhaps an example of efforts that you started inside the Obama administration?

BLINKEN: I can't shed any light on that. Thanks.

BERMAN: Can't? Won't?

BLINKEN: Cannot.

BERMAN: Cannot. Will not. But certainly, it is safe to say that that is the type of thing that the United States might engage on around the world, correct? I mean, one of the ways that you can stop missile programs and prevent launches is by trying to make sure they never work in the first place.

BLINKEN: Look, we look at all means necessary to protect the country, to protect our partners and allies in the region. And again, as we heard from both Vice President Pence and the national security advisor, General McMaster, we want to do this short of using force, because the perils of using force, as I laid out, are quite, quite serious. So, we'll look at everything.

BERMAN: Tony Blinken, we respect your restraint. Thanks so much for being with us.

BLINKEN: Thanks, John. Good to be with you.

BERMAN: All right, police officers say he murdered a man and posted the video of the crime on Facebook. Now they want more information. There is a manhunt now in at least five states for this man considered armed and dangerous. We have new details just ahead.

And Neil Gorsuch with his first day hearing cases on the Supreme Court. What's that like? And what important cases did they just decide?

Plus, we are live from the south lawn of the White House. The Easter Egg Roll is underway. We expect to hear from the president any minute.


[10:16:19] BERMAN: All right, live pictures from the south lawn of the White House. It's now raining! It's raining on the Easter Egg Roll. Folks still thousands of people outside there, having fun. Right now, you could see they're waiting to hear from the President of the United States and the first lady. They will speak very shortly. We will bring you that live as soon as it happens.

In the meantime, the Vice President of the United States says the United States has run out of "strategic patience" when it comes to North Korea. So, what does that mean? Joining me now to discuss, Senator Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, he's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, Happy Patriots' Day.


BERMAN: Thank you very much.

MARKEY: Two Bostonians.

BERMAN: I appreciate it. Listen, "The New York Times" calls North Korea the Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion. So, my question to you is, do you trust the president to handle such a crisis?

MARKEY: I think because of the unevenness of his statements and positions which he has taken thus far, it is highly unclear as to whether or not he has the ability to be able to think this thing through in a way that avoids an actual military showdown between the United States and North Korea. President Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, they were able to figure it out and ultimately found a diplomatic resolution. But when Vice President Pence yesterday says in South Korea that the North Koreans should pay attention to the bombs which we just dropped in Syria and in Afghanistan, that's saber rattle, that is only going to enhance the paranoia in North Korea and intensify the likelihood that they are going to move towards more ballistic missile testing and towards more nuclear weapons testing.

So, that is not going to take us down the correct path. Instead, what we should be talking about are direct negotiations with the North Koreans in return for the Chinese dramatically imposing crippling sanctions on the North Koreans. That would be a far better way for us to get a peaceful resolution of this conflict.

BERMAN: You seem concerned with the words used. And yes, the vice president did say pay attention to what happened inside Syria and Afghanistan, but has anything this administration has done, vis-a-vis North Korea, given you any cause for concern? Yes, they send the Carl Vinson, the USS carrier, up there. But the Obama administration did -- just that type of thing. They seemed to be pressuring the Chinese. The Obama administration did just that type of thing.

MARKEY: Well, President Trump has made it very clear that if the Chinese do not help us, that he's intending on solving the problem unilaterally and there has been talk from Secretary Tillerson of the use of preemptive force against the North Koreans and all of this gets internalized by the North Korean leadership and it takes us further and further away from a diplomatic, rather than a military resolution of this issue. And again, we just can't ignore the fact that Vice President Pence did mention the bombing in Syria and in Afghanistan just yesterday on the anniversary of Kim Jong-un's grandfather's death.

BERMAN: But why shouldn't he? I mean, why shouldn't he make the case that the United States is in his mind projecting strength in other parts of the world? Wouldn't that be a message that might give Kim Jong-un pause?

MARKEY: There is no military resolution of the conflict in North Korea. They are already a nuclear power.

[10:20:00] We have to find a way to negotiate with the Chinese, a resolution of this issue. Otherwise, the consequences could be that like in the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the wrong steps that are taken, it could, in fact, wind up with a thermonuclear confrontation that would not be good for the Korean Peninsula and it definitely would not be good for the United States of America. That is why there has to be de-escalation, a partnership with China, direct negotiations by the United States with North Korea. That's a formula that could produce a diplomatic resolution.

BERMAN: If we can shift geographic focuses for our last question here on Syria right now. I know you would like Congress to decide whether or not it wants to authorize the use of force for future possible action inside Syria. If Congress does take a vote on that, which it did not do under the Obama administration and probably should have done under the Obama administration -- but if there was a vote on the authorization of use of force, would you vote yes? Would you give the president the power for further military action inside Syria?

MARKEY: I think we should debate the authorization for the use of military force on the floor of the House and Senate. If any such authorization included the ability for the president to be able to deploy American combat troops on the ground inside of Syria, then I would vote no on that resolution. This has to be a conflict that gets resolved with the forces of those who have a stake in the outcome ultimately towards the goal of driving the Russians towards pressuring Assad to the table to talk to opposition forces, but that should not include American combat forces. They are not necessary.

BERMAN: Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts, great to have you with us, sir.

MARKEY: Thank you. You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right, we do have breaking news this morning. New leads from investigators to a murder suspect who posted video of a shooting on Facebook. A manhunt for Steve Stephens, you're looking at pictures of him right there, now spans five states. Residents of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Michigan, they are being told there is every reason to assume that this man is armed and dangerous. Investigators have revealed now that they spoke to Stephens on the phone shortly after the murder once he was on the run. CNN's Sara Ganim, live in Cleveland with the latest developments. Sara?

SARA GANIM, CNN INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT: John, that's right, moments ago Cleveland Police telling us they did speak on the phone to 37-year-old suspect Steve Stephens in the early hours of the manhunt but have since lost touch. And they are now urging friends and family who may have been in contact with him to call police. Take a listen.


CHIEF CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND POLICE: If there is somebody that's helping Steve, or if you think you're helping Steve, you're really not. You're going to get yourself in trouble along with him. The only way for you to help him is to give us the information to bring him in safely, peacefully. So, if your friend or family member and you have contact with Steve and you think you're helping him, the only way to help him is to give us the information or to talk him, convince him into turning himself in.


GANIM: John, this is now a multistate manhunt involving the U.S. Marshals office. Police in Erie, Pennsylvania, also, confirming that they're investigating a ping that was tracked from the suspect's cell phone. Authorities are now looking into the possibility that he may be headed east.

And as they continue to investigate here in Cleveland, the investigation surrounding the victim here, 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr., he was simply walking home on the sidewalk after celebrating Easter Sunday with his family. And Steve Stephens drove up beside him. You can see in the video that he posted to Facebook. He walked right up to him and shot him in the head. He then posted that video to Facebook.

And as you can imagine people across the country saw those 30 seconds of absolutely gut wrenching, horrific video and began calling the Cleveland Police Department to report what they had seen. As the manhunt began here, he continued posting on Facebook, at one point claiming that he killed 15 people. Now, to be clear, police here say they have no evidence to support that claim, just the one victim, Robert Godwin Sr., John.

BERMAN: Awful for the family of Robert Godwin Sr. and our hearts go out to that family. Sara Ganim in Cleveland. Again, the word about Steve Stephens, he could be in a lot of places, just some alarming news this morning.

In the meantime, we are moments away from the president addressing the crowd. You can see it there on the south lawn of the White House. This is his first Easter Egg Roll as president. We are expected to hear from both the president and the first lady. That's coming up.


[10:25:45] BERMAN: All right, live pictures of the president from the south lawn of the White House. Also, a special guest right there, the Easter Bunny. Addressing the crowd in the Trump family's first Easter Egg Roll. Barron Trump there also, with Melania down from New York for this. Listen in.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What a great voice. Thank you very much. Great job.

I want to thank everybody. This is the 139th Easter Egg Roll. Think of it, 139. It began a long time ago, 1878. And we will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before. We're right on track. You see what's happening and we are right on track. So, thank you, everybody, for being here.

We're going to do cards for soldiers in a little bit. Melania and Baron and myself, are going downstairs. We're going to sign some cards to our great troops. The cards for troops and we look forward to that. And then we're going to come out and join you, enjoy your company for a roll, a great Easter Egg Roll. And I don't know if we're going to be successful, but I know a lot of people down there, they're going to be successful. I've seen those kids and they're highly, highly competitive, that I can tell you.

I just want to thank first lady Melania Trump. She's really worked hard on this. She has been working on this for a long time to make it perfect and we wanted to keep it just right. So, I want to just ask her to speak, but before she speaks, I want to congratulate her, this wonderful, wonderful day we're going to have. A lot of people, a lot of people and they're going to have a great time. So, Melania, thank you very much and Baron, thank you very much for being here. Thank you very much. First lady Melania Trump. Take care, everybody.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Welcome to the White House. This is the first time that my husband and I hosting this wonderful tradition. And it's great that you are all with us today. I hope you have a great time with many activities. I want to thank military band, all the staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly to ensure that you have memorable experience. I want to thank all the military with us today and -


-- all military in this great nation and servicemen and servicewomen all around the world who are keeping us safe.