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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Florida Congressman Ted Yoho; Facebook Murder Manhunt; North Korea Tensions; Sen. Cotton Booed for Defending Trump on Tax Returns; $50,000 Reward in Manhunt for Facebook Murder Suspect. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 17, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is the president drawing a red line for the defiant dictator?
Facebook killing. There is a new reward tonight for information leading to the suspect accused of committing cold-blooded murder and then posting a video of it online. We are learning more about his state of mind as he eludes an urgent nationwide manhunt.
And the cruising Obamas. The former president and first lady enjoy a private photo-op on a yacht during their extended vacation. This hour, a new glimpse at their glamorous life after eight long years in the White House.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, North Korea's warning that nuclear war could break out at any moment just hours after Kim Jong-un paraded his military arsenal and presided over a failed, but still provocative missile test.
The regime's next move could be a nuclear test, as the defiant dictator appear unfazed by new warnings from the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence personally delivering a message to North Korea, staring down Kim's troops at the country's heavily-armed border.
Pence says the United States' strategic patience is now over and its military options are wide open.
Here in Washington, President Trump took time out from the White House Easter celebration to tell CNN that North Korea must behave. After the president ordered warships to the region, Press Secretary Sean Spicer says he doesn't expect Mr. Trump to draw any clear red lines telegraphing how he will respond to Kim Jong-un's threats.
We're also following breaking news in a nationwide manhunt for the suspected Facebook killer. Police in Ohio just issued a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Steve Stephens. He is accused of killing an elderly man apparently chosen at random, then posting a video of it on Facebook. Police believe he is armed, he's angry, and he's on the loose right now. We're covering those stories and much more with our guests, including
Congressman Ted Yoho. He's a Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
CNN's Dana Bash is with Vice President Pence on the Korean Peninsula. She is standing by.
But, first, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara Starr, Mike Pence, he is in the region as U.S. military officials say the North Korea situation is coming to a head.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you would expect, U.S. military officials certainly are hoping that diplomatic option will work. But make no mistake, every step in this crisis does bring it closer to U.S. shores.
STARR (voice-over): Vice President Mike Pence arrived at the DMZ for one reason, to be visible to North Korea, making the case to CNN's Dana Bash in an exclusive interview that the Trump administration is a new sheriff in town.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.
STARR: North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. ramping up the rhetoric.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been created dangerous situation in which the nuclear war might break out at any minute.
STARR: But is Trump's doctrine really new? National Security Adviser Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster says all options are on the table, but a peaceful solution is what the president wants, just like all other presidents.
H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: 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, and so we're going to rely on our allies, like we always do.
STARR: The military parade through Pyongyang being scrutinized by the U.S. intelligence community. These canisters could carry a missile capable of reaching the U.S., but are they real, or are they what one intelligence official called just big green tubes?
Spy satellites will be used to figure it out.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: There are certain infrared signatures, for example, that could reveal the contents of a canister like that.
STARR: Just hours after the parade, a medium-range ballistic missile being tested exploded, the second test failure in a row. It may be just mechanical failure, but experts say U.S. Navy submarines could secretly attack those missile launches, jamming their electronics.
LEIGHTON: Depends on some very specialized equipment, and it would have to be done probably covertly if they were actually going to do that.
STARR: But out in the open, the U.S. Air Force announcing a successful long-planned test of its improved B-61 aerial bomb, both nuclear and non-nuclear components, a bomb that could be vital in striking North Korea if it came to that.
STARR: Now, the non-military effort right now of course focuses to a large extent on pressuring China to exercise its influence with North Korea, but nobody really thinks at this point that Kim Jong-un is willing or ready to pull back on his nuclear weapons and missile program -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon., thanks very much.
Let's go live to the Korean Peninsula right now.
Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is on the scene for us.
She's the only network television reporter traveling with Vice President Pence.
Dana, tell us more about your exclusive interview with the vice president and his message for North Korea.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it certainly was a fascinating moment to be with the vice president of the United States at the Korean DMZ at this time.
It is obviously interesting to go any time, but to be with him as tensions are incredibly, incredibly intense, and the vice president was making very clear that he came here to the Korean Peninsula with a really specific and rather new message from the Trump administration for North Korea. Here's part of our interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: 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 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 has 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 have seen China begin to take some actions to bring pressure on North Korea, but there needs to be more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, you see there, Wolf, the era of strategic patience is over is the new kind of tag line for this administration and its policy towards North Korea.
But even though I was trying to get some specifics on what exactly that means, we didn't get it, aside from what we, frankly, already know, that the Trump administration is trying to use China, diplomatically, to use its relationship and its leverage that it has with North Korea more aggressively, and even that the United States is clearly threatening China with potential economic and other sanctions if they don't comply, and also what we saw when he came from the DMZ here to where we are now, in Seoul, South Korea, rattling the saber more than we've seen in the past certainly from the Obama administration, threatening -- it wasn't very veiled, that threat -- North Korea with the same kind of military might that the president already showed in Syria and in Afghanistan if they don't follow through.
Now, that is a big threat, but we're still not really clear what that would mean in real terms -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana, you're in Seoul South Korea, the capital, right now. It's only about 30 miles or so just south of the demilitarized zone. This is a huge city, about 15 million or so people.
What's the mood in South Korea right now as these tensions continue to escalate with the North?
BASH: Very nervous.
There's no question about it. It was not an accident, Wolf, that the vice president chose to make his more forward-leaning remarks vis-a- vis military action in Seoul standing next to the acting South Korean president.
I was told that he was very careful with the language that he used, worked very hard on the way that he would frame that language and language of what I just mentioned, the notion that the North Koreans need to remember what the Trump administration has already done in Syria and Afghanistan with military might.
The nerves are increasing. It obviously is not new. There has been a threat of a nuclear North Korea for the past two decades. But it certainly is even more so, given the fact that North Korea continues to test missiles.
And any day now they are waiting for what they think frankly here is inevitable, which is a sixth nuclear test any day. And that's why they are really concerned and focusing on and asking for the kind of help that we saw, even rhetorical help, from this new U.S. administration.
I can just tell you, by way, as I toss back to you, of color, we saw some protests for the vice president as he was making his way via motorcade around Seoul. And those protests were, for the most part, holding up signs saying, please, Mr. Trump, Mr. Vice President, engage in a preemptive strike against North Korea.
That just kind of gives you a sense of how nervous they are about their own safety and stability here on the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. That would be obviously a very dangerous move, given the conventional weapons. Forget about the nuclear weapons, the conventional weapons that the North Koreans have poised just north of the DMZ.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, good reporting.
Dana Bash is traveling with the vice president.
Also tonight, as the United States braces for the next move of an unpredictable dictator, President Trump is trying to stay unpredictable himself.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, caught up with the president earlier in the day.
And you had a chance to ask him about North Korea. Tell our viewers how it went.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is still talking tough on North Korea, telling me earlier today here at the White House the communist country needs to behave itself.
But aides to the president insist he is trying to use some diplomacy to resolve the potential crisis. But with his family by his side at the White House Easter egg roll earlier this morning, the president all but told North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to cut out these military provocations. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Any message for North Korea, sir, and Kim Jong-un?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Got to behave.
ACOSTA: Mr. President, do you think North Korea can be resolved peacefully, sir? What are your thoughts on Kim Jong-un?
TRUMP: Hopefully, it can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Not much from the president, but saying that the North Koreans have to behave themselves.
That is certainly ratcheting up the rhetoric. The president and his aides are holding out hope that China will be able to help contain North Korea, as you heard there from Dana Bash with the vice president.
They are also echoing that message over here at the White House. But White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was pretty clear, Wolf, that is very much a work in progress. Not altogether clear the Chinese will be able to make that happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: You had a chance, Jim, to ask White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer about the president's North Korea strategy. Tell us about that.
ACOSTA: That's right. Sean Spicer said the president will not be drawing any red lines for North Korea. Of course, that term about red lines, we have been hearing about that for the last several years, but they aren't going to be drawing any red lines over here at the White House to define just how far Kim Jong-un can go in his taunts and threats.
Spicer noted that did not work for the previous administration. Those red lines did not work for President Obama when he warned Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons. Here is what Spicer had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Does the president have a red line when it comes to North Korea that if they cross it they will bring about some kind of military response from the U.S.?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think what we talked about, the use of red lines in the past with respect to Syria, the president has made lines -- that drawing red lines hasn't really worked in the past.
He holds his cards close to the vest. And I think you're not going to see him telegraphing how he's going to respond to any military or other situation going forward. That's just something that he believes has not served us well in the past.
We did with this Mosul. We start to talk about what the action will be months in advance and it really gives the intended recipient of action a heads-up as to what is going on. I don't think you are going to the president drawing red lines in the sand, but I think that the action that he took in Syria shows that when appropriate the president will take decisive action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: It is interesting to note that while the White House is not drawing any red lines, Spicer repeatedly noted, and we have heard this over the last several days, the president's recent decisions to order military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan has proof of his resolve.
Spicer was careful to say -- I asked him a follow-up question about that, what does it mean when it comes to North Korea? He was careful to say at the briefing today those operations don't necessarily indicate what the president will do about North Korea.
But, Wolf, interesting to note they aren't talking about red lines, but they're certainly talking about what happened over the last couple of weeks, Wolf.
BLITZER: They certainly are. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, at the White House.
Let's talk a little bit more about North Korea and the threat.
Republican Congressman Ted Yoho is joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
You're also the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Region.
REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: That's right.
BLITZER: You spent a lot of time over there, Congressman. Thanks for joining us.
Under what conditions, Congressman, would you support a U.S. preemptive strike against North Korean nuclear facilities?
YOHO: Under what conditions?
I guess if they went ahead and attacks one of our bases, threatened our military down there, more so than they have, or they fired on them, or fired on the USS Carl Vinson fleet over there. The nuclear tests, let's hope he doesn't do that. If he does, I think there will be a response. We will just have to see what he does.
In fact, what we do is dependent on what Kim Jong-un does, not what we do. Kim Jong-un needs to travel very carefully here and let's hope we can get to diplomatic relationships and have that dialogue and bring regional partners in there, China, Japan, South Korea. And bring these partners together, because we all have a vested interest in this.
BLITZER: But, Congressman, they have already had five nuclear tests. This would be their sixth. Why do you think a sixth nuclear test would provoke a U.S. military response?
YOHO: Well, I'm not saying it would.
I think hopefully we can get to a point where Kim Jong-un doesn't do that. Again, I have talked about this before, where who's trying to attack or invade North Korea? There is no need for this guy to have nuclear weapons in the 21st century.
What he is doing destabilizing not just the Korean Peninsula, but he's destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for 85 percent of trade. And so all countries need to come together on this because this will upset the world economy, and that's why we went ahead and put them on -- recommendations to put them back on the state sponsor or terrorism, so that other countries will come here and help put sanctions with any country doing business with them, along with China and secondary sanctions against North Korea.
And if we hit them in the wallet, I'm hoping Kim Jong-un and our diplomatic corps will be able to negotiate, but not in the failed negotiations that we saw under Bill Clinton, where they allowed them to get the nuclear power stations started, and under George Bush, where they took them off the state sponsor of terrorism.
And North Korea never held firm to the word of their commitments. This is something that I think with what we have seen in Syria with Donald Trump, this president, that he is strong on resolve, and with the previous administration, using the patient strategery of drawing red lines and not backing those up, that won't happen under this president. I'm very sure of that.
BLITZER: When you look at -- you have spent a lot of time studying Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. He is pretty much unpredictable. How dangerous is the tough talk, given his unpredictability?
YOHO: Well, again, I think if he looks at the example of what President Trump did with Syria with the 59 Tomahawk missiles, and then floating the USS Carl Vinson, the armada over there to show the strength of the United States and the willingness to engage, I'm hoping again Kim Jong-un will look at the scenario in front of him.
Either he continues down a path that has no favorable outcome for him and the North Korean people or he does a pivot and says, all right, how can we stop this escalation and the provocations?
BLITZER: When President Trump was out on the campaign trail, and you heard him often say all sort of things, but he suggested on a few occasions that a nuclear South Korea or Japan for that matter could contain Kim Jong-un. He also said would he be open to sitting down with Kim Jong-un. Do
you think he should revisit those ideas now that he is in the White House?
YOHO: Yes, I think he should revisit those.
I don't know if that is the way to go. Every nation has a right to defend themselves. But to go nuclear is only going to cause a nuclear arms race in areas of the world we haven't had it. And I don't think we need that.
And that again is one of the reasons that we are so adamant about getting the THAAD system deployed in South Korea as a defensive mechanism only and to show that we are willing to work with our allies and protect and stand with our allies.
BLITZER: Do you have any special insight...
YOHO: And keep in mind we have 28,000 troops there.
BLITZER: Yes. And they're right along the demilitarized zone. They're right in harm's way, clearly.
Do you have any special insight, Congressman, into why this latest North Korean ballistic test over the weekend failed?
YOHO: No, I don't.
I have heard conjectures and speculations. But what we have to understand is that every failed test is also something that they use for the next test to be successful, because they will find out what didn't work, whether it was something that blocked out or interfered with the signal or if it was just something faulty in the electronics, when they go back and study that.
And what I understand is, we aren't sure if that wasn't an ICBM that has a range of approximately 7,500 miles where it could reach the mainland of the U.S.
And if you go back to what Kim Jong-un said, he is willing to attack not just South Korea or our bases, but also the mainland of the United States. And let's just hope he doesn't carry on. And like I said, our response is going to be -- it will be dependent on what Kim Jong- un does, not what he says, but his actions.
And so our response will I'm sure equal that.
BLITZER: President Trump in recent days has been praising China for cooperating on North Korea. How would you assess President Xi of China, his moves so far?
YOHO: I think President Xi Jinping has a very pivotal role. And with him placing roughly 150,000 troops on the eastern border or
the western border of China right there between China and North Korea shows a strong response from their president of China.
And I think that sends a strong signal to Kim Jong-un. The other thing is, his cooperation hopefully with allowing these companies in doing business with North Korea helping us put sanctions on the companies secondarily, to where they are excluded from the American or the world financial banks, this is something he can come and help us with.
If you look at what he has done previous to this, he was retaliating against South Korea for their acceptance of the THAAD system in South Korea. And he was really punishing the wrong Korea. He should be going after North Korea and helping us come together.
He has done a good thing by preventing any more of the exports of coal from North Korea to China. Let's hope he stays true to his word on that and that they help us bring this to a peaceful resolve.
BLITZER: Congressman, stand by. There is much more to discuss. We got to take a quick break.
YOHO: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: We will resume our conversation right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida, one of the Republican lawmakers who has faced some angry constituents at some town hall events.
Congressman, very quickly, I know you faced some criticism from some of your constituents for failing to deliver on your promise of repealing, replacing Obamacare, for opposing President Trump on the GOP health care bill.
But the president has said he would like to try again. Is there a scenario in which you would sign on to a new health care bill? Are you any closer to really working out a deal with him?
As far as signing on to a bill, absolutely. And I commend his leadership for asking for a delay of the American Health Care Act that Americans put forward and the courage of Paul Ryan to remove the bill at the time, because there was a lot of emotion behind that.
The best way forward, Wolf, is to do a 100 percent repeal, like we told the American people when we got elected on it. Everybody in the Republican House, in House and Senate said they were voting and running to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
This bill did not do this. And so if they come out with a clean bill to repeal, we can go on with replacing.
BLITZER: They say, Congressman, they have to could it simultaneously, repeal and replace, one piece of legislation.
YOHO: No, not at all. It doesn't have to be.
BLITZER: Doesn't have to be, but that's what they say they want.
YOHO: Well, to repeal it and have a future date, Mo Brooks out of Alabama has got a great bill that repeals this and it doesn't go into effect until January 1 of 2018. That would give us eight months to come together, Republicans and Democrats, to have a bipartisan effort, instead of doing a lopsided, like Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats did in 2009, or what we are doing with no Democratic input.
Let's do this, not for a party, but let's do what is best for Americans, so that they have great quality health care at an affordable price. But you can't do that unless you repeal the beast that is out there called the Affordable Care Act.
BLITZER: One final question, Congressman, before I let you go, different issue.
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, saying today that President Trump won't be releasing his tax returns, Tax Day tomorrow, as all of our viewers know for sure, because they say he is still under audit.
How concerned are you about the precedent he's setting to refuse to share his tax returns around this Election Day -- this Tax Day, I should say?
YOHO: Well, I'm not overly concerned with this.
But I did come out in a town hall stating that I would support legislation for him to release that. Every president has the ability to do that or they've done it in the past. It is not mandated by law. It's not a constitutional requirement.
But as some people that brought up by me, with the business dealings he has around the world, it might be more transparent, so that we see what businesses he has and make sure legislation is not interfering with that.
And I think it would be a good gesture on his part to release them, like all other presidents have, of the modern era.
And so we have signed on to some legislation to support that.
BLITZER: All right, Congressman, thank you very much, Ted Yoho of Florida joining us.
Appreciate it very much.
YOHO: Yes, sir. Have a great day.
BLITZER: Just ahead: U.S. military options for dealing with Kim Jong- un. How far would, should President Trump go? Our expert are standing by.
And how has the Facebook murder suspect managed to escape capture, as the manhunt goes nationwide and a new reward has now just been offered?
BLITZER: Tonight North Korea says the region and the world may be on the brink of nuclear war. The regime is blaming the Trump administration for the escalation, despite new military taunts by Kim Jong-un at a time when Mike Pence is in his backyard.
[18:34:56] We're joined by our political and national security experts.
And John Kirby when the vice president says, and I'm quoting him now, "The era of the strategic patience is over with North Korea." What might a new policy look like?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, everything I've heard so far sounds a lot like the policy we've been pursuing for the last eight even plus years. I'm not sure exactly what they mean by strategic patience.
But this idea, and Sean Spicer floated it out there, that by strategic patience, President Obama was just waiting and seeing what was happening. And that's just not true. There was a lot of energy put forth. Not only by the United States but by the international community, to try to stem...
BLITZER: But it didn't work.
KIRBY: Well, no. I think everybody would admit that -- that so far we have not met with success. But to say that it was just wait and see is just not accurate. We put more forces in the Pacific. We enacted the most stringent economic sanctions in the last 20 years on North Korea. So I don't -- I don't really know exactly where they're going, but to say that, you know -- that strategic patience was itself just wait and see is wrong.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, the vice president issued this warning to Kim Jong-un. Let me play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So realistically, what military options are there?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You look at what's happened over the past month or so. The president obviously authorized the strike in Syria. The consequences of that are about zero. The Syrians are not going to counterattack. They obviously don't have a nuclear capability.
The game has changed here. People in Washington are suggesting that the president turning on a dime in Syria somehow is a precedent for North Korea.
If you want to do this, and I don't think the vice president took much very much of step. He's talking about negotiations. He's not talking about military action. If you want to do this, you've got to get the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Chinese on board. You've got to get the Americans on board. You've got to talk to the military. You've got to talk to the U.S. intelligence community. They can't turn on a dime.
And I think the last thing you've got to think about is the law of unintended consequences. If you think you're going to go in there and preempt, my next question is what's next step, and are you prepared for it? This ain't Syria, be careful.
BLITZER: Because -- and John Kirby, you're a retired admiral. You know that region well. You were the spokesman at the Pentagon. Let's say the U.S. does launch some military action, a preemptive strike of sorts. The North Koreans, they have enormous an conventional -- forget about the nuclear capability; their conventional capability along the Demilitarized Zone, a million troops, thousands of artillery pieces. They could destroy Seoul, the capital of South Korea, 15 million people, and those nearly 30,000 U.S. troops very quickly.
KIRBY: Phil's right. This is not Syria. This is a radically different scenario. And to compare one to the other is dangerous.
The -- we have to take Kim Jong-un at his word. When he says he's going to do something, you have to take it seriously. And he has the capability, conventionally, to back it up, and he is rapidly trying to develop the nuclear capability, which would be disastrous not just for the peninsula, but perhaps to other allies and partners in the region. You have to take this seriously.
BLITZER: Does the U.S. -- and I want to move on in a second. But does the U.S. have the capability to make sure that ballistic missile test that the North Koreans launched over the weekend failed? Does the U.S. have the capability it make sure it failed?
MUDD: I don't think so. Look, you can -- you've got to think about the difference in the intelligence and military world between what you think can you do, whether you can block, for example, through electronic means and what you know can you do. If you're in the White House, at the CIA, at the Pentagon and you say, "I can guarantee you that I can stop a launch," I wouldn't bet on that for anything. Guarantees, you can't find those.
BLITZER: We heard from Barbara Starr that the U.S. does have some sophisticated jamming capabilities that potentially could have undermined that ballistic missile launch.
KIRBY: Well, without getting into sensitive intelligence issues like that, I -- there are a range of capabilities that -- that we have and keep trying to improve to deal with these launches throughout the entire trajectory of it.
But you know, to piggyback on something Phil said, this isn't -- this wasn't a failure. Every time he tests something, even if it doesn't work for whatever reason it doesn't work, whether it's internal or external, he learns and he keeps developing this capability, which again is..
BLITZER: Good point. That's an important point.
KIRBY: A race against the clock right now.
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Christopher Hill, he thinks this. He says President Trump is trying to out-North Korean the North Koreans with his rhetoric. What do you think he means by that?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think what Ambassador Hill means is that President Trump is trying to show, at least rhetorically, that the U.S. is not going to get rattled by anything that the North Koreans say or do.
The problem is -- and this is also something that Ambassador Hill said -- is that a super power can't afford to bluff. And that therein lies the challenge for President Trump. To Phil's point and to Admiral Kirby's point, you know, this is a situation where the safety of our allies, including South Korea, including Japan particularly, hangs in the balance. We can't afford to be as erratic as North Korea.
BLITZER: And this is so dangerous, Rebecca Berg, this whole situation. And President Obama said to incoming President Trump, this is the No. 1 national security threat facing the United States. The president, President Trump, is now being criticized for discussing it on Twitter, given the enormous stakes involved.
[18:40:13] REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, President Trump on Twitter tends to be more of a blunt instrument than a fine-toothed comb. Diplomatic situations like this, potentially a military situation like this, it's very delicate, and if you say the wrong thing at the wrong moment, it could be misinterpreted. It could be interpreted in the wrong way, and something terrible could happen.
So there's a fine line between the strong rhetoric that I think President Trump wants to hit, and being reckless. And he has to be very careful that he doesn't cross that line and cause an incident or cause a misunderstanding what it comes to North Korea. KIRBY: Totally agree. One thing I will say, and I'll give the
administration credit for it, is they have applied a sense of rigor and deliberate planning to this issue since they came into office. I didn't see that with Syria, but what I am -- what the people I'm talking to, they have -- they've got an NSC process. They're meeting on this. They have been -- there has been some measure of organized thought process going into the North Korean problem. You see that Madison's first trip into the region, Tillerson in March. Now you have the vice president there, I do believe they are really trying to think through this together.
BLITZER: But realistically, the key is China right now. Can China be brought in to squeeze the North Koreans effectively?
KIRBY: China's critical, Wolf, but they're not the only answer here. And I think too much reliance on them and what we think they can get done is a fool's mission. I think this really has to be more of an international consensus to put all kinds of pressure -- economic, military, diplomatic on the north.
BLITZER: And you believe the military threats to North Korea are wise?
KIRBY: I think -- I don't think military threats at this point get you anywhere. I thought the president's comment in the Rose Garden about, you know, they've got to behave is flippant. And you don't need to be flippant with a guy like this.
I do think it is important that the North continue to know we have a strong military presence on the peninsula and the region, and that they're ready.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There's much more coming up, including a very different note: life after the White House. The Obamas yachting, vacationing, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous.
[18:46:51] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with our team of analysts tonight.
Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas joins the growing list of Republican lawmakers facing very angry constituents at town halls. He was booed today for defending President Trump. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is, you in Congress and the Senate have the power to subpoena these tax returns. The president, the president said during the campaign that he would not release the tax returns while he was under audit. Now he says the election has happened and he doesn't need to release his tax returns.
I'm wondering if you will take the initiative to have him release those returns so we can see what kind of connections he has with different countries around the world and what -- (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And what tax proposals would personally benefit him and his business.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: As far as I'm aware, the president says he is still under audit.
The president is right, that this was not a secondary or side issue (ph) in the campaign. This was in the campaign. Hillary Clinton and her campaign repeatedly criticize President Trump (INAUDIBLE)
And as far as your point about his relationships overseas, I would make two replies. First, every federal office holder, every candidate for office files a financial disclosure statement that shows your assets and liabilities. And second, it doesn't take -- it doesn't take a lot of effort to find out that Donald Trump has networks overseas he puts his names on buildings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, this was in Arkansas, this town hall. And the crowd there was pretty angry.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And it is hard for any legislator to defend this, right? Because less about any specific issue, Wolf, is this idea that whether you're talking about White House laws, you're talking about tax returns, the dynamic here is one where President Trump and the Trump administration are sending this message that unlike that, that they want to operate like he did when he was in private business and not reflecting that he works for the American people. That's why I think you're seeing this reaction, not because people want to relitigate the campaign.
BLITZER: How problematic, Rebecca, is this potentially for Republicans looking ahead to 2018.
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: This could be a bad sign indeed, Wolf. I mean, in any election, historically, after a new president takes office, that midterm tends to be really challenging for whatever party is in control. But President Trump has even more after challenge in this upcoming midterm election to keep Republican control in the House and the Senate, because you have so few seats in terms of margin and the House for Republicans, only 24-seat margin for them.
And then you have a president who has a very low approval rating, not very popular at this moment, and he isn't getting things done that he can point and say, look, what Republicans have been able to accomplish.
[18:50:06] Health care wasn't able to get done. That means tax reform is going to be more difficult. So, they need something to show for this, something to distract from some of these controversies and they're not giving him any ammo. BLITZER: Do you think he'll be able to sustain that kind of position
over the next almost four years, maybe eight years and not release those tax returns?
JOHN KIRBY, FORMER PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I'm a little out of my league on this, Wolf, but I don't -- I hope not. I really hope not. I think it's a fundamental responsibility.
The American people put him in office. They have a right to know this information whether it's required or not. And I'd like -- I hope not. I hope he's not able to sustain that.
BERG: And, frankly, if Democrats were to win the House, they would be able to start subpoenaing these documents. They would have control over oversight. They would have power over the committees to demand these sorts of documents from the president. So, you can bet that Democrats, if they do take back the House, are going to be calling for investigations.
BLITZER: Do you want to weigh in?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, I don't understand this as a taxpayer. If you say he's under audit, my guess is the IRS has his tax return. What is going to be revealed during the IRS during audit by exposing his tax return? Are they going to learn something by the exposure?
This myth because he's under audit, people like me can't see what he earned doesn't make sense to me. If he releases it, what's the IRS going to learn that they don't know to do?
BLITZER: I'm going to show you a different picture. We'll show it to our viewers. Phil, I'm curious to get your reaction. The president, the former president, and the former first lady, the Obamas, aboard David Geffen's yacht, vacationing with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey in French Polynesia. It looks pretty nice from this vantage point.
What -- that's the president, by the way taking a picture of the first lady. You're smiling.
MUDD: You want it, you're going to get it, Wolf.
I've got two things to say. Number one, ex-presidents are like good whisky. Ten years in a bottle and then they come out for short sips. Get on on vacation. In a few years, find something to focus on, but meanwhile go on vacation.
Maybe Hillary Clinton can take a note. Stop talking about the election and find a job and figure out what to do.
I can say to David Geffen personally, I'm affronted. The president did eight years, I did 25. I rock a Speedo and Hawaiian shirt, where's my invite, Wolf? And I assume you agree. I want my invite.
BLITZER: Maybe they're watching right now. Maybe you'll get that invite and you deserve it. You worked hard over at the CIA and FBI.
All right, guys. We wish the former president and first lady only the best. Hopefully, they are enjoying their well-deserved vacation.
Just ahead, police believe he chose a victim at random to take out his rage and then posted video of the killing on Facebook for the world to see. We have the very latest on the possible motive and the nationwide manhunt unfolding right now.
[18:57:07] BLITZER: We're following breaking news tonight on a chilling murder captured on video and then posted on Facebook. The suspect remains on the loose right now, the target of an urgent manhunt that began in Ohio and has expanded across the country.
CNN's Brynn Gingras is live in Cleveland covering the story for us.
Brynn, police say they've gotten a lot of leads but, what, still no capture.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. More than 24 hours after this horrific crime and still no sign of Steve Stevens. Authorities are asking him to turn himself in or contact family or relatives. And now, a $50,000 reward is on the table. And they're hoping, though, that he turns himself in. At this point, they say there is no doubt, though, that he is armed and dangerous.
CHIEF CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND POLICE: This is what we would consider a national search. So, we are not going to leave any stone unturned.
GINGRAS (voice-over): A manhunt spanning several states tonight. Investigators looking for any information that could lead them to this man, 37-year-old Steve Stevens, suspected of gunning down 74-year-old grandfather Robert Godwin. Godwin was walking home from Easter lunch with his family and apparently picked off the street at random as a target of Stevens' rage.
ROBERT GODWIN, ROBERT GOODWIN'S SON: This man was a good man. He hate he's gone. I don't know what I'm gonna do. It's not real.
MALISA GOLDWIN, ROBERT GODWIN'S DAUGHTER: I feel like my heart is going to stop.
GINGRAS: Godwin's family coming to grips with the horror that struck Sunday afternoon. Adding to the shock, the fact that the suspect recorded the deadly shooting and posted it on Facebook.
In the video, Stevens calls himself a monster with built in frustration. He orders Godwin to speak his girlfriend's name and explains she is the reason for the crime. The girlfriend telling news outlets that Stevens was a good guy and she doesn't know why he would have killed in her name. Stevens also claims in the video to have snapped and killed 13 people, but authorities have found no evidence of any more than one victim.
WILLIAMS: Unfortunately, there's been one fatality, one homicide in this entire scenario and we want to keep it that way.
GINGRAS: Authorities say detectives did speak to Stevens directly via cell phone early on in the investigation with no success.
WILLIAMS: They tried to, of course, convince him to turn himself in and of course that hasn't happened to date. So, again, we're asking the public's help in finding this guy.
GINGRAS: And while the manhunt is ongoing across the country, the investigation continues on the ground here in Cleveland. Authorities say they have recovered weapons from some properties they have searched related to this investigation, although we do know Stevens did have a conceal carry permit.
The big question, Wolf, is why did he do this? This was a man that mentored children and the only person that can answer that question, Wolf, is Steven himself.
BLITZER: Brynn Gingras reporting for us -- thanks very much.
That's it for me.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.