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Massive Manhunt For Murder Suspect; Are Trump's Military Strikes A Distraction From His Troubles?; Pence Warns North Korea Not To Test Trump's Resolve; Did U.S. Sabotage North Korea Missile Launch? Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 17, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:52] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So Turkey's president, President Erdogan, declaring victory after a historic referendum that granted him even more power including moving away from the parliamentary system to a purely presidential.

Now Turkey's main opposition party is demanding a recount this morning because he won by such a narrow margin. This change also resets his term limits. That could keep Erdogan in power until 2029.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we are following breaking news, the search for this killer who posted a video of this deadly shooting on Facebook. It is expanding beyond Ohio. Investigators now chasing a new lead as people in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan are all told to be on alert.

CNN's Sarah Ganim is live in Cleveland for us this morning. What is the latest on this?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, moments ago, police in Erie, Pennsylvania, be confirming they are investigating a ping detected from the cell phone of the suspect, 37-year-old Steve Stephens, now wanted for aggravated murder.

Police say he took a gun and randomly shot in the head of victim, 74- year-old Robert Godwin Sr., who was walking home from celebrating Easter with his family yesterday in Cleveland.

[06:35:14]Stephens posted a video of himself in his car driving up to Godwin on the street and pointing a gun at his head and killing him. As you can imagine people around the country saw this truly gut wrenching video on Facebook and began alerting police in Cleveland to what they saw.

As the manhunt here began, Stephens continued to post videos on Facebook ranting about gambling and how he lost everything in the year and he wanted an Easter massacre to get the attention of his mother and girlfriend. He claimed to have killed 15 people.

Now to be clear, police here in Cleveland say they have only confirmed one victim. That is Robert Godwin Sr. They have searched the area and have not confirmed any additional victims. But at this moment, police are asking people in those four states, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York to be on the lookout. This man, Steve Stephens is described as being 6'1", 244 pounds and last known to be driving a white Ford Fusion -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, Sara Ganim for us there, thank you very much. We will keep following the developments on that this morning.

Coming up for us, President Trump using military force in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea, could it be next? Would that be a smart foreign policy decision or a deliberate distraction? We will debate it next.



CUOMO: Vice President Mike Pence warning North Korea not to test President Trump days after the U.S. dropped the massive bomb in Afghanistan and launched missile strikes in Syria. So what is behind this new interventionist approach?

Let's discuss, we have retired brigadier general, A.J. Tata, a former deputy commanding general for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and bestselling author of "Besieged," and William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

He wrote a new CNN op-ed on this topic saying, quote, "Is there a new Trump doctrine in the making or has the president simply found a formula for distracting the public and the media from his troubles at home?"

Gentlemen, thank you for being with us this morning. The mother of all distractions, is that what you believe we are seeing with the bombing in Syria and Afghanistan and now what appears to be renewed brinkmanship in North Korea, Mr. Hartung?

WILLIAM HARTUNG, DIRECTOR, ARMS AND SECURITY PROJECT, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY: Yes, it's kind of a P.T. Barnum foreign policy. Look what I've done here, there, over here, but none of them had any kind of real military affect. In fact, in Syria, they were using the airbase the next day.

In Afghanistan, one bomb isn't going to change the problem. The preemptive threats against North Korea did not work in terms of this initial test of the missile. So I think he is trying to project toughness.

He is the new sheriff in town. He's different from Obama. But in fact, none of these things are dramatic unless of course he escalates in which case we could be in real trouble.

CUOMO: But why isn't the measure of their effectiveness, the tactic he did not want to destroy the Assad regime? He wanted to send a message. If you use chemical weapons, this is what happens. In Afghanistan, it was if you take one of ours, this is what happens. ISIS comes after you. In North Korea, don't push it any further, no more strategic patience. Why isn't that enough to measure them as a successful message?

HARTUNG: Well, I think the signals are mixed. First of all, if you attack Assad and make no difference in his military capabilities, he could look stronger domestically.

CUOMO: He hasn't used chemical weapons.

HARTUNG: That's true, although it is only been a short time and let's hope that happens. I mean, I hope your interpretation is right, but I fear that it's not.

CUOMO: Well, it's just questioning the premise. General, what is your take on that?

BRIG. GENERAL ANTHONY J. TATA, FORMER DEPUTY COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: I think the real distraction has been President Obama's lack of interest in foreign policy for the last eight years as if the lights have been off and we walked in and turned on the lights and there is cockroaches everywhere.

I'm sure where Mr. Hartung gets his information, but I can tell you I have been in the fox hole in Afghanistan. When you drop that bomb on that kind of rat line into Pakistan and you kill upwards of 90 enemy fighters that are not there to plant IEDs in the road, you have done something productive.

General McNicholson and I worked very closely together. He made that call. It was a tactical decision with strategic impact. Just to back up a little bit. President Obama's own national security strategy talks about U.S. vital interests and rules based international order and preventing the escalation and spread of weapons of mass destruction as Mr. Hartung should know.

Syria used weapons of mass destruction and President Obama drew a line in the sand and did nothing about it. In fact, he turned it over to the Russian was a wink and a nod. We had Assad still in power and we still have chemical weapons there for the Syrians to use.

So If Mr. Hartung is in support of chemical weapons and us doing nothing about our U.S. vital interest, I don't understand the point of the logic there. Now we have North Korea on the Korean peninsula threatening three of the world's largest economies, the republic of Korea, Japan, and China.

[06:45:03]And we have -- President Obama has put on the brink of geopolitical meltdown by bowing down to our enemies and apologizing and giving billions of dollars to Iran, for example, that is funding Hezbollah who has 160,000 new missiles. So I don't understand why we're saying that President Trump is not acting decisively here.

CUOMO: All right, point, counter point. What's your response?

HARTUNG: Well, let's look at North Korea. You know, to threaten preemptive strike has no impact on North Korea. If you don't have a diplomatic strategy to back it up, you are not going to get anywhere. Under Clinton, they were threats, but they also had reciprocal back and forth steps. They actually froze his program for the bulk of that administration.

As soon as the Bush administration stopped talking, that is when the buildup accelerated. So the notion that military threats are going to change the regime that cares only about survival, I think it is a pipe dream.

As for the larger picture, it is President Trump trying to put this larger message. Not that this is tactical, but this shows he is a different person, a different president. You know, President Obama dropped 12,000 bombs on Syria in the last year. That is not somebody not taking military action.

If Trump wants to double down on the bombing, I think we have seen in all of our conflicts that bombing doesn't solve these problems. Even major officers like General Zinny (ph) had pointed this out, you cannot solve these problems through military action.

So I'll grant you perhaps some tactical accomplishment in Afghanistan, but in terms of the overall policy, bombing alone will not get the job done.

CUOMO: All right, you should read the op-ed for yourself and draw your own conclusions. General, I appreciate your input. Mr. Hartung, good to have you here as the author this morning -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, young NBA superstar there for his team just hours after facing tragedy. The heartbreaking ordeal of Isaiah Thomas is next.


CUOMO: Boy, an emotional return to the court for Boston Celtics star, Isaiah Thomas, just a day after the tragic death of his sister. Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report." We have seen the pictures of him, the motion and consolation by his teammates. What do we know about what's going on in this young man's life?

[06:50:07]COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure how he did it and push through Chris, the smallest player in the court showing he has the biggest heart after his 22-year-old sister, Chyna, was killed in a one car accident on Saturday.

Thomas' teammates was there for him like Avery Bradley comfort him before the game on the bench. Thomas wrote RIP little sis and I love you and his sister's name on his shoes. Tears continuing to flow out during the national anthem.

But despite all the emotions, Thomas would go on not just to play, but play extremely well. Leading his team 33 points in all. In the end, points were not enough. Bulls would go on to win game one in Boston, 106-102.

Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and Houston's James Harden, the league's two leading MVP candidates in round one in game one of their playoff series. It will be Harden making heads spin in Houston. Westbrook had a solid 22 points on the night. Harden goes for 37 and up. The win column. The Rockets would crush Thunder 118-87. Poppy, I'll catch a flight. I'll join you and Mr. Chris Cuomo in studio tomorrow.

HARLOW: Good. We look forward to seeing you then. Thanks so much.

Coming up, Vice President Pence delivering a warning to North Korea, the era of strategic patience is over. So what's the next move for this administration? Will the Democrats get behind it? A closer look next.


[06:55:19] HARLOW: Vice President Mike Pence warning North Korea this morning that it should not test the resolve of President Trump after U.S. military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan. Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Nice to have you here, Congressman.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning, Poppy.

HARLOW: Good morning. The words from the vice president are you would do well not to, quote, "test the resolve and strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region." You tweeted over the weekend calling the president a malevolent buffoon after the MOAB bomb was dropped in Afghanistan. How would you assess this administration's stance thus far on the global stage?

HIMES: Well, you have a lot of symbolic gestures. The MOAB was a very big bomb. It is not like we have been dropping bombs on Afghanistan and on Iraq and Syria for a very, very long time. All of the saber rattling with North Korea.

You know, it is not like the previous three presidents, Obama, Clinton and George W. Bush and even before him, George H.W. Bush, it wasn't like those were stupid. It wasn't like the military was not powerful under their leadership.

The fact of the matter is, whatever the vice president says, the city of Seoul with 10 million South Koreans is within easy artillery range of North Korea. So Vice President Pence can say what he wants, but it doesn't change the underlying formula --

HARLOW: Although, Congressman, it does seem as though this administration may be having a bit more success or perhaps a lot of success to get China on board to really play ball this time around than his predecessors both Republican and Democrat. Would you not admit that?

HIMES: Well, that remains to be seen, right? You know, China did not stop them from trying to test a missile the other day. The missile blew up shortly after launch. It is not like the Chinese stopped that. Look, the American presidents have been working with China for a long time. China at the end of the day holds a leash on North Korea.

But again, it's not -- do you think the leadership of China looks at Donald Trump and says here is a guy that much smarter than the previous presidents and he will figure it out. Again, the strategic chess board in North Korea is still pretty ugly, right.

If the North Korean's decided to, they could obliterate the city of Seoul and that's -- that doesn't change just because Donald Trump is using different words than his predecessors.

HARLOW: You have tens of thousands of American troops stationed over there in South Korea.

HIMES: Some 30,000 plus troops. Exactly.

HARLOW: Congressman, the "New York Times" reporting that the Obama administration accelerated the secret program to be sabotage these missile launches including electronic warfare hacking. Is there anything that you can tell us about that? Do you believe that program and ramping up is responsible at all for this failed launch over the weekend?

HIMES: Poppy, like most people in the U.S. government, I can't confirm or deny anything along those lines. I can generally say it is not like Mike Pence and Donald Trump have just noticed North Korea and all of a sudden, the United States military is acting with great resolve.

Look, this idea that in the last eight years, there wasn't resolve. Tell that to Osama Bin Laden or some eight or nine countries in which Obama undertook military action. What you are seeing here is a political statement which is we're going to be different and more bellicose than the previous administration.

That may have tactical capability. It may certainly cause Assad to think twice. He now knows he will lose a whole lot of airplanes if he undertakes a chemical attack. But again, in the long run here, the strategic chess board has not changed.

HARLOW: So Congressman, let me get your take. You sit on the House Intel Committee. Obviously you guys are focused on a lot, but the one thing getting attention is the investigation into Russian interference in the election and any alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

I know you have this complete witness list. You guys have decided who you will call. When will the public start getting answers on that? And also what can you tell us about your fellow Democrat Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, his trip to Cyprus to conduct interviews and collect documents?

HIMES: Well, I think we are all happy on the committee. Things seem to be back on track. The appointment of Mike Conaway to step in while Chairman Nunes recused himself I think will take the scrutiny off the committee caused by Chairman Nunes and all his interactions with the White House and all that stuff. So I think we're back on track. Yes, we do have witness lists. Both parties have put together a witness list --

HARLOW: And Cyprus, what's Cyprus about? Is that about Paul Manafort, who we know had bank accounts there?