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House Intel Committee Reaches Agreement on Witness List; Pence Warns North Korea 'Era of Strategic Patience is Over'; McMaster: 'All Our Options are on the Table'; North Korea Shows Off Missiles at Military Parade. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2017 - 07:00   ET


HIMES: So I think we're back on track. Yes, we do have witness lists. Both parties have -- have put together a witness list.

[07:00:08] HARLOW: And Cyprus? What's Cyprus about? Is that about Paul Manafort...

HIMES: Well...

HARLOW: ... who we know had bank accounts there?

HIMES: Well, the remarkable thing is that there are -- there are -- yes, it is partly about Paul Manafort. But it -- it goes beyond that. You know, I mean, Cyprus and Cypriot banks keep coming up in the context of this administration's people, including folks that aren't even sort of talked about within the Russia investigation like the commerce secretary, who is on the board of the bank of Cyprus for some period of time.

So again, I think Mike went over just because Cyprus keeps coming up as a nexus in this investigation.

HARLOW: All right. We're out of time. Congressman, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

HIMES: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: And thanks to all our international viewers for joining us. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our viewers here in the United States, NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow joining me. Thank you, as always.

HARLOW: My pleasure.

CUOMO: We do have breaking news.

Vice President Mike Pence warning North Korea not to test the U.S. In an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone, the vice president came face-to-face with North Korean soldiers who took pictures of him as he looked over the border. Dana Bash has an exclusive interview with the veep at the DMZ.

HARLOW: Mr. Pence's visit comes days after North Korea's missile test failed, but his show of force during an annual parade has military analysts trying to figure out what Kim Jong-un's next arsenal and next move may be. Are the U.S. and North Korea on a collision course on this, day 88 of the Trump presidency. We have it all covered this morning. Let's begin with Dana Bash, live in Seoul, South Korea, with a fascinating, new exclusive interview with the vice president -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, it is one thing for any policy maker or politician, world leader to talk about a threat or an ongoing issue that affects the U.S. and its allies. It is another thing to see it and feel it and hear it face-to-face; and that is exactly what the vice president did.

As you mentioned, he went to the DMZ. He went probably a little bit further than security wanted him to go in going outside and seeing for himself what the North Korean side of the DMZ looked like and the North Korean soldiers saw him and started taking pictures, which is apparently par for the course. They'd like to do that when they see VIPs, to try to throw them off their game, and document it and to talk to the vice president afterwards and get his thoughts and his new stance from the administration. Take a listen.


BASH: Mr. Vice president, I was watching you watch what is behind you earlier. What was going through your mind looking at North Korea?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a frontier of freedom. Now for more than six decades, U.S. forces and forces of South Korea have held the line for freedom here at the DMZ. And it's inspiring for me to see the resolve of these soldiers, to see the alliance that we have forged with the people of South Korea throughout the generations. And it gives me great confidence as we go into the future that we will achieve our objective: the secure and prosperous South Korea. But also, that we will -- that we will see a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

BASH: You said that the age -- excuse me, you 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 -- 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 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.

[07:05:12] BASH: And, you know, this is real for you. You know that the -- 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 are a longstanding commitment to the Asian Pacific; and ensuring the security of the continental United States will remain a 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 an armistice; still at war for 67 years.

PENCE: It's -- it's very meaningful for me and my family to be here so many years after my father's service. To be honest with you, my dad didn't talk about his combat experience much until we were all grown up. It was a lot of tough fighting here, and he spent time on Pork Chop Hill and Mount Baldy. And the general and his team were kind enough to share information about those battles with us.

But I think in some ways, my dad just might be smiling from heaven to see that the sacrifices that he and other American soldiers and South Korean soldiers made here now passed on to my generation has not changed our commitment to the security and prosperity to the people of South Korea. The sacrifices that -- that he made and that generation of Americans have made this an extraordinary success of South Korea possible.

And for me, it's -- it's deeply meaningful to be here and maybe, in some small way, to continue that generation's work and to make it clear to the world that America stands with South Korea to preserve freedom on the Korean Peninsula and to bring stability and security to the Asian Pacific.


BASH: Now there at the DMZ, the vice president was clearly trying to put more of an emphasis on a potential diplomatic solution. But just a few hours later, he was standing next to the acting president of South Korea with a prepared speech that was much more robust, much more muscular when it comes to potential -- potential military action.

He cited the fact that the president has acted militarily in Syria, in Afghanistan and said that the North Koreans should be careful, effectively, to not test the resolve of this president, given that, and also he said they've got to be careful not to test the strength of the armed forces of the United States -- Chris.

CUOMO: It seemed to be more about hard power than soft power. But an important interview at the right time. Dana Bash, thank you very much.

That's the vice president. President Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, also sounding like he was practicing brinkmanship, describing the North Korean issue as, quote, "coming to a head." Is a military option really on the table? Is China really the last diplomatic option? Sounds far-fetched but that is the talk out of the White House.

CNN's Athena Jones live from there this morning -- Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. That is one of the key questions. Will China do more? President Trump has been quite vocal on Twitter and otherwise about his desire for China to step up and put pressure on North Korea to rein in its nuclear ambition. China is the North's main trading partner after all.

But the president has acknowledged in recent days that, even China may not have the magic bullet here. What's clear from the perspective of the president's national security team is that some sort of action is going to be necessary. Here is national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Here's more of what he had to say about that.


H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think it is 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 is 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've heard McMaster talk about undertaking all actions short of the military option. So it was interesting to see the president take to Twitter on Sunday morning to talk about U.S. military prowess. He tweeted, "Our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before. Frankly, we have no choice."

So you have a lot of tough rhetoric on both sides here. You have North Korean officials talking about how the regime is ready for war. You have the president boasting about U.S. military strength. China calling on all sides to resolve this peacefully. So a lot of eyes are going to be on what comes from the vice president's trip to the region this week -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And we should note, Athena, that this president is dealing with and leading a military that is the same military that President Obama was leading under the same budget. No indication that any more funding has gone to this. I'm not sure exactly what that tweet is pointing to.

Thank you very much, Athena Jones at the White House.

U.S. military experts are now analyzing these images coming out of North Korea's missile arsenal on display for the world to see at this military parade over the weekend from North Korea. What does it suggest about Pyongyang's nuclear abilities? Our Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more.

And Barbara, experts are talking in particular about one specific image.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They are indeed, Poppy, good morning. Let's start by saying the Pentagon absolutely behind the notion of a diplomatic solution to this entire situation. even as they are behind diplomacy. They are looking at every frame of that parade in Pyongyang and especially focusing on a set of large, giant missile canisters that went rolling by.

Canisters large enough to hold, potentially, an intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike United States someday if North Korea really has such a missile. We don't really know at this point. It would be bigger than anything we've ever built. They would have huge challenges in guidance and targeting. But they are displaying this canister. Maybe their message back to the United States. A suggestion they could have a missile like that some day.

Also displaying more intermediate range missiles. Missiles that could strike South Korea. They could strike Japan. Missiles, if they did launch those, that the U.S. is committed to defend its allies against.

And as all of this is going on, of course, U.S. intelligence watching minute by minute to see if North Korea conducts yet another, a sixth, underground nuclear test -- Poppy, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much. Barbara, there's lots to discuss.

Let's bring in Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World." He's also a columnist for "The Daily Beast." Also joining us, Chris Cillizza, reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics and Dana Bash once again joining from us South Korea. She is the only television correspondent traveling with the vice president in Seoul.

Gordon, your observation had two bases. One was that missile matters. We don't know what's in it, but we haven't seen it before. It's a window into the mystery of capabilities.

The second one was you get the feeling that the White House is rolling the dice here, that this is more talk than tactic? Why?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": Right now, I don't think they've had the time to come up with an integrated strategy. Because to deal with North Korea, you're not dealing just with North Korea. You've got to deal with Iran, also Pakistan and, of course, China.

And when you have discussions with China about North Korea, you also have discussions that are related regarding predatory trade practices and South China Sea. It is a very comprehensive, very complicated issue. I don't think they've had the time to develop it yet. I think what they're probably trying to do is say, "Well, look, yes China is the key." And they're trying to put the pressure on China, which is what I think happened at Mar-a-Lago, especially with the missile strikes occurring on a Chinese frame (ph) while Xi Jinping, Chinese ruler, was standing right next to Trump. That was a message, and as we heard from Vice President Pence, it was intended for North Korea.

HARLOW: Dana, after that interview that you got with the vice president, he -- he spoke in even stronger language at this joint presser with the acting president of South Korea. Let's listen to that.


PENCE: Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.

HARLOW: And Dana, that moment in your interview when you said, look, they have these abilities and many believe that, by 2020, they could launch a missile that could reach the United States. The stare that he gave you in that moment of silence spoke volumes.

[07:15:07] BASH: I wasn't sure what that was about, whether he thought, "Does she know something that I should know? Or does she know something that she shouldn't know? Or -- or I'm not sure how to answer this, given maybe the politics that was going on in his head."

But the bottom line is that it was a pregnant pause and, I think, quite telling, regardless if any of those scenarios were true, because it is a very real -- and you just heard from, you know, from Gordon and Barbara. A very real concern that I've heard from senior members of the intelligence committee, for example, on Capitol Hill. That this is the place that the United States should be focusing on and trying to figure out, because it really is a strategic threat, a legitimate strategic threat to the United States.

And, you know, we understand that on his way out, one of the things that President Obama said to then incoming President Trump was, "You've got to focus on North Korea. You've got to find a way to do, basically, what he, President Obama couldn't do, what President Bush couldn't do and what President Clinton couldn't do before him.

And that was, during the Clinton administration, when we saw the North Koreans test its first nuclear -- nuclear missile. This is something that has been vexing administrations of the past quarter century of both parties. And time is up. And that was basically where I was going with that question.

CUOMO: Chris, as a naked political play, talking tough often works. It certainly has for Trump. There does seem to be a very definite shift to foreign matters from domestic matters. We know that there are a lot of different issues on the burners for the White House. But there does seem to be intentional emphasis on these.

So from the perspective of political playbook, is this talk tough? Hope China works? Hope nothing happens? Do you think that's the extent right now?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, I mean, I think that his belief, him being Donald Trump, his belief broadly speaking, Chris, is that what you do in these situations is -- in virtually every situation -- is you sort of put your chest out there. You say, "Here's what you do," and you beat your chest a little bit, and then we see what happens and then you react to that.

Remember, Donald Trump, I always come back to two things, because it's the things he always talks about. Flexibility and uncertainty. Two sides of a similar coin there. But those are the things that I think he prizes most. The uncertainty piece, I think, clearly is at work here. Pence sending a very strong signal.

Obviously, we saw in Afghanistan last week, the Syria response a week before. So you've had three things here where Donald Trump has done something that I'm not sure everyone thought he would do when he got elected into office. And I think he really values that.

So I actually think in his view, to Gordon's point, I don't think that there is a broad strategy here. I think the strategy is let's sort of talk tough and let's put our chest out and let's see what happens.

Let's see if we can shake some things up. If that -- if that shakes anything loose and then we'll react to that. And that seems to be how he operates in everything. And I would put foreign policy in that category.

HARLOW: Gordon, doesn't the president have more here with China than his predecessors have? He is -- you know, he is willing to hold these trade deals hostage in a sense. He's willing to dangle them over the Chinese. He did it on Twitter again this weekend. He's saying the U.S. will take a worse trade deal with China. We'll give a bit on that if you're going to help us big time, with North Korea. I mean, he's willing to do something with China and get them to play ball more than his predecessors, Republican and Democrat have been willing to, right?

CHANG: Yes. He suggested that. And also administration officials of the last couples weeks are talking about something else. And that is imposing secondary sanctions on Chinese financial institutions and banks. That would be enormous, because we have been finding out that China's role in, for instance, the theft from $81 million from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Account Bangladesh.

And if Trump wants to, he could actually unplug a Chinese financial institution for doing that. The Chinese certainly don't want that, because that can tank their economy. So Trump does have the leverage, but he has to have political will to use it. And so far, no American president has been willing to pull the trigger on China's involvement in North Korea's ballistic missile program, its nuclear weapons program and other illicit commerce.

CUOMO: You know, Dana, we were talking about that pause that Pence had with you. Who knows what it means or it didn't. I mean, you've been around him more than I have, to be sure.

But this is different than puffing out the chest, as Chris was referring to, on domestic issues. You puff out your chest with the Freedom Caucus here. They go with you or they don't. These are all kind of inconsequential ramifications in terms of existential outcome.

This is different. Did you get a read from the vice president that this is different than normal politics? That if this goes sideways, it can have really serious implications that go far beyond a midterm election?

[07:20:10] BASH: No question. And look, Mike Pence is not a chest puffer. I mean, I guess he is by extension, of the fact that he is Donald Trump's vice president. But it's not in his natural DNA, how he tends to operate.

And in this particular issue, on this foreign policy issue, because the Trump administration had this warning and understands North Korea has been such a threat, they actually did a two-month review of the policy and of the situation inside the National Security Council, which you know, shouldn't be that surprising if this was -- this was sort of a normal situation.

But given the fact that this administration is still trying to get its sea legs almost 100 days in, still missing a lot of personnel to State Department and elsewhere. The fact that they put so much focus on this one area and this one country tells you that they're really trying hard not to wing it when it comes to the nuclear threat.

CUOMO: All right. Appreciate it. Guys, thank you very much. So you got the vice president issuing what you can only call a stern warning to North Korea. You've got the White House national security adviser saying the same kind of thing. Is this brinkmanship pushing it to the edge in the hope that something positive will come as a result? Is this the right move? The GOP lawmaker makes the case to you next.


[07:25:43] CUOMO: Vice President Mike Pence in Asia today with a clear message. Diplomacy is preferred, but military force could be used against North Korea. The White House national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, saying basically the same thing. Is there a plan to back up this tough talk?

Joining us now is Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. I hope Easter was good to the family. Rebirth and renewal, my friend.

REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: That is right, my friend. Good to see you. Happy Easter.

CUOMO: So his brinkmanship, tough talk on North Korea, don't test us or else? Do you agree?

DUFFY: Well, first, I think I'd like to take a step back, Chris, and recognize, as you've reported, that you know, Obama and Bush and Clinton have been unsuccessful with deterring North Korea on their march for nuclear weapons and now their march on ballistic missiles, which could be intercontinental ballistic missiles.

So I think it's appropriate that the Trump administration take a second look at the past strategy, what hasn't worked and try to push the envelope. Because if North Korea does have intercontinental ballistic missile with nuclear warheads, that truly endangers the United States of America. You have a rogue radical regime.

And so I think to push China to engage, to push North Korea that they disassemble their arsenal, I think, is the appropriate strategy. And tough talk, again, talking about economics and diplomatic pressure is the right approach. And I think Trump sitting back and doing nothing would -- I think would be a mistake. And this kind of engagement, the change of course, I think, is the right approach.

CUOMO: I hear you. It's just -- it's a little bit of a mixed message just trying to understand the clarity of purpose. Soft power diplomacy. Use your leverage. China. Deal with Iran and Afghanistan. They're going to have a play in here, as well. Do something.

But this is something more than that, don't you think, congressman, saying, "If you test us, look at Syria. Look what we just did in Afghanistan. Don't do it."

McMaster saying it's coming to a head. That doesn't sound like soft power. It sounds like a potential promise of hard power. Military power. Would you be -- would agree with that move, a preemptive strike?

LIZZA: Well, I think what this is this is an all of the above strategy. We will try all -- all tools that we have at our disposal to make sure we -- we disassemble North Korea in the sense that it's not a threat to the United States of America. Y And you never want to limit yourself. I mean, if you look at what President Obama did. In essence, not engaging with the rest of the world of strategy of leading from behind. The strategy that you travel around the world and you bow to world leaders.

Trump was elected to not only be tough on economics here back at home but also to be tough globally to make sure that we don't have these rogue nations, whether it's North Korea or ISIS or Iran, walking over the rest of the world or the United States of America.

And so I think as one of your commentators earlier said, Trump is unpredictable. And that's a good thing when you're trying to navigate and negotiate a deal. And so I think this approach is right. And I guess time will tell.

But I would say, Chris, do we want to get into a nuclear -- not nuclear, but a military conflict with North Korea? Can those things unravel quickly? Absolutely. We should proceed with caution. But again, you don't take anything off the table.

CUOMO: The idea of why Trump was brought to power. You make a good point there. For most people, the pressure was domestic. Change the economy. Change the political culture. Do something for me and my family. This does seem to be an interesting pivot away from that, this recent spate of foreign involvement. Some see it as political distraction. How do you see it?

DUFFY: I think President Trump is trying to keep his promises. So one, he is looking at the economy back at home, whether he's meeting with business leaders or union leaders. He is working on securing the border. He's trying to keep America safe.

But he also told us that he's going to build up our military, that he was going to bomb the snot, if I use a different term, out of ISIS.

So listen, I think the way you look at what is happening military, or you're looking at what's happening domestically. I think President Trump is keeping his promises. And for the most part, this is a strategy of putting America first. Whether you have ISIS and a its threat to America or North Korea and nuclear weapons and its intercontinental potential ballistic missiles, all of those are risks to our country.

And -- and his engagement is keeping America, I think, more safe than sitting back and saying, "We're going to take what the world brings us, as opposed to, "No, no, we're going to actually engage."