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USS Vinson to North Korea; New England Patriots at the White House. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 19, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:20] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Let's begin with the White House today pushing back against claims that it misled the American people. Press Secretary Sean Spicer, just a while ago in that daily briefing, defending President Trump's comments last week when he said he was sending, and I quote, "an armada" to the Korean Peninsula, when actually the Carl Vinson Navy strike group was heading in the opposite direction.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact. It happened. It is happening, rather. The statements that was put out was that the Carl Vinson group was heading to the Korean Peninsula. It is headed to the Korean Peninsula. And it will arrive there -

QUESTION: It's headed there now though, Sean.

SPICER: What's that?

QUESTION: It's headed there now. It wasn't headed there last week.

SPICER: Sure. No, no, but that's not - but that's not what we ever said. We said that it was heading there, and it was heading there, it is heading there. So that - that remains -

QUESTION: Well, why did the administration never clarify? Because it definitely was the intent in the media reports is that it was headed there now and now it there a week (ph) later (ph)?

SPICER: But that wasn't - with all due respect, that's not my - we were asked a question -


SPICER: I know. No, no, no, no, that's not true. What I was asked was what - what signal did it send that it was going there. And I answered that question correctly at the time, that it signaled foreign presence, strength and a reassurance to our allies. That's a true statement. You're asking me why you didn't know better. I don't know. That's a question that should have been followed up with either PACOM or the Department of Defense. But the question - the only question that we were asked was what signal it sends, and I think we answered that very correctly at the time.


BALDWIN: So the question is, did the president and military misplace an aircraft carrier and other ships? This is how it unfolded last week.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you.

QUESTION: Putting that strike carrier group in the Sea of Japan, is that region, is that also a messaging circumstance or is that simply protective for our allies in Japan and Korea?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, when you - a carrier group is several things. The forward deployment is deterrence, presence, it's prudent. But it does a lot of things. It ensures our - we have the strategic capabilities and it gives the president options in the region. But I think when you see a carrier group steaming into an area like that, the forward presence of that is clearly through almost every instance a huge deterrence. So I think it serves multiple capabilities.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": And I'm running out of time. I'm going to have to ask you sort of lightning round quick questions, quick answers, why the carrier strike force to the Korean Peninsula?

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, it's prudent to do it, isn't it? I mean North Korea has been engaged with - in a pattern of provocative behavior.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: As far as the movement of the Vinson, she's stationed there in the western Pacific for a reason. She operates freely up and down the Pacific and she's just on her way up there because that's where we thought it was more prudent to have her at this time.


BALDWIN: Well, at the time, photos show the strike group was actually in Indonesia, about 3,500 miles away from North Korea. The administration is chalking this up to a quote/unquote miscommunication.

So I've got Barbara Starr standing by, our CNN Pentagon correspondent, and also with us a renowned expert on North Korea, Robert Litwak. He is a director of international security studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center and he is the author of "Preventing North Korea's Nuclear Breakout."

So great to have both of you on. And, Barbara, just to you first, how do you have this, you know,

carrier strike group going in one direction and the president and others within the administration saying, no, no, it's going in another direction? How does that happen?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Look, Brooke, I think I heard you ask a couple of minutes ago, did they misplace a carrier? That's a notion that would be significantly less than plausible. They always knew where their carrier was. This was the plan start to finish. Let me just go way out here and offer some military facts.

Some reporters asked about the exact plot of the carrier. Some reporters didn't. It was always known that it was going to go to Australia. It was Singapore. It was going to go conduct maritime exercises with the Australians and then make a turn north. That is the plan. That was the plan. That continues to be the plan. It is now north of Indonesia today headed towards the Korean Peninsula.

It will arrive in the coming days. It will operate between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, conducting air operations. It will be a visible signal to both North Korea and to the allies in the region. It will also be a visible signal to China, which the Trump administration is trying to encourage to apply its pressure to the North Koreans. The Chinese will not be happy about seeing an aircraft - U.S. aircraft carrier so close. They'd rather the U.S. stay away. The carrier is there, a sign of pressure.

[14:05:31] I don't know where to even, you know, begin or wrap this up. It's been a long tail of miscommunication, miscommunication in public affairs, media relations with the Pentagon, to the press corps. But the facts, the actual military facts simply have not changed since day one.


BALDWIN: OK. I hear you loud and clear.

Barbara Starr, thank you.

And to use Barbara's word, Robert, you know, this miscommunication here. What message does that then send to North Korea?

ROBERT LITWAK, DIRECTOR OF INTL. SECURITY STUDIES, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, this miscommunication highlights the risk of miscalculation in the current crisis with North Korea. You know, I referred to the current crisis as the Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion.


LITWAK: And like Cuba in 1962, North Korea is poised for a strategic breakout that would be a game changer. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the risk of war was exacerbated by the risk of miscalculation. So I think we have to be very careful in our statements and our general communications vis-a-vis North Korea to prevent a miscalculation and an accidental drift into war. BALDWIN: Because also, just quickly, following up on that, you know,

we talked about some of the rhetoric from President Trump going into the "Day of the Sun" and the weekend and, you know, he had said the quote/unquote "armada" was headed there. You know, heaven forbid North Korea decided to do something without that carrier strike group right there.

LITWAK: Yes, it's - and I really would highlight the risk of miscalculation in this crisis because what looks like deterrence from our perspective, reassuring South Korea and deterring North Korea, from a North Korean perspective can look like the prelude to a pre- emptive attack. You know, South Koreans and the U.S. forces practice, you know, so-called decapitation of the North Korean regime in their exercises. We - it's really - the situation is fraught with danger because if there is a miscommunication, it could lead the North Koreans to take their own pre-emptive action.

BALDWIN: OK. Let me move off of that and on to this exclusive interview between the vice president, who is in Asia now, sitting with our own Dana Bash. And the vice president actually broke with what candidate Trump has said on, you know, negotiating with North Korea, saying that then ultimately as president that Trump would be willing to speak with Kim - with the leader of North Korea. And I want you to just hear a piece from Dana's interview.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Could you see a direct negotiation with North Korea and the U.S.?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think not at this time. The policy that President Trump has articulated is to marshal the support of our allies in the region, here in Japan, in South Korea, and nations around the world, and China, who have taken the position now for decades of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.


BALDWIN: How is this - sir, how is this tactic different from what the Trump administration described as, you know, two decades of failed dialogue?

LITWAK: You know, the vice president said that the era of strategic patience is over.


LITWAK: Strategic patience has been essentially holding operation. But it - it essentially translated -

BALDWIN: Forgive me, Robert Litwak. Forgive me, I've got to go to the president of the United States welcoming the champions from this past Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, to the White House. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What a great day it is to be with all of our friends at the White House. We celebrate the Super Bowl, New England Patriots, world champions, Super Bowl champions, champions, period, and their historic win. And they are champions.

Before we get started, I want to acknowledge some special guests. We're proud to be joined by seven wounded warriors who have bravely served and sacrificed for our nation. Specialist Cameron Greenstreet (ph), Staff Sergeant Frederick Manning (ph), Specialist James Matthews (ph), Sergeant Christopher McGuinness (ph), Specialist Stephanie Morris (ph), Sergeant Major James Watson (ph), Staff Sergeant Sheldon Warner (ph). Special people. And America's very blessed to have you with us. Thank you.

[14:10:44] The New England Patriots are big supporters of our military and America's veterans. Joe Cardona - where is Joe? Where is Joe? There is he, in his beautiful Navy - thank you, Joe - serves in the Navy reserves and is a graduate of the Naval Academy. Coach Belichick is the son of a Navy veteran and Bob - that's Bob Kraft, he's becoming a pretty famous guy for winning, I'll tell you that, between him and Belichick, wow. You do so much to support our military. Bob's been my friend for a long time and he wants to support our military. So want a group of champions, all of them.

And, Bob, I want to commend you for building such an extraordinary organization. Five Super Bowl victories since 2002. Really unbelievable. And I'll say this right now, George Steinbrenner, as you know, is a very good friend of mine and George was a great champ, too, but there was a little more turmoil, right, a little more turmoil in his victories, and that's OK. He was another great one. Since Bob bought the Patriots in 1994, they've won more division titles, conference championships and Super Bowl wins than any other team. No team has been this good for this long. Amazing (ph). He's built a culture dedicated to winning.

And he started it with his coach. And I want to tell you, that is some special man. It's called the Patriot way, and that really starts with Coach Belichick. And I want to thank all of you for being with us.

The Patriots are an incredible organization and this Super Bowl victory was a complete team effort. That's the beauty of what they do. They win as a team.

With your backs against the wall, and the pundits, good old pundits, boy, they're wrong a lot, aren't they, saying you couldn't do it, the game was over, you pulled off the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time. One of the greatest comebacks of all time. But the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time. And that was just special. I think I looked at odds and they gave you less than one half of one percent of winning the game. And then the coach said, let's go for three. He's losing by so much, he said let's go for three. And I say, what is he doing? That was a great decision, coach. I tell him that all the time.

The fourth down conversion by Danny Amendola - where's Danny? Where is Danny? Way to go, Danny. The big sack by Trey Flowers. Big sack. Where is Trey? Come on, put your hand up, Trey. See, he's shy a little bit. You weren't shy when you hit that guy, were you? You weren't shy about - he didn't - he didn't mind hitting. Thank you, Trey. Great job.

The incredible catch by Julian Edelman. What a catch. We all said, no, that ball was dropped. Isn't it good. You know, in the old days, they might have said that was dropped. Those replays are good. You're starting to like the replay, right? Great going, Julian.

I think of guys like Marcus Cannon and the offensive line. Marcus? (INAUDIBLE). That's some line. Or Matt Slater, who was awarded the 2017 Bart Starr Award for the character and leadership he has shown both on and off the field.

Malcolm Mitchell - it's true. Malcolm Mitchell, who as a rookie handled the pressure of the Super Bowl like an absolute true veteran. Way to go, Malcolm. Good job.

[14:15:16] Or Nate Ebner, who played on our Olympic rugby team last summer. Pretty good athlete, right? And in Brazil - and he was in Brazil playing and doing really well, and is an all-pro special team guy and player. So, Nate, congratulations. Where is Nate? Which is a tougher sport, Nate, football or rugby? I had a feeling you might say that.

But everyone played a role and everybody played as champions. It was the first overtime game in Super Bowl history and it ended with a legendary victory for this proud franchise and for these absolutely terrific players and coaches. You had the best record in football with 14 wins and only two losses. And that doesn't happen by accident. It takes hard work, dedication and a commitment by every member of the team to work together in pursuit of the ultimate goal, a goal that very few achieve. And you've achieved it five times, many of you. And our coach and our owner have achieved it five times. Great, great talents, great, great people.

Whether you're trying to win a Super Bowl or rebuild our country, as Coach Belichick would say, there are no days off. And just a quick story about the coach. So I had won the primaries and I'm now in this rather heated election that a few of you have read about. And he wrote me this beautiful letter after the primaries, congratulations, he said all sorts of things that were really good. I mean it was really a beautiful letter. And it was very close to going before the election and I called up and I said, coach, do you mind if I read the letter tonight to a stadium full of people in a very, very big and important state? And he said, you know what, I'd rather not have you do that. Could you send it back to me? I'm going to give you another one. I said, no, that's OK. Nope, I want to give you another one.

Now, immediately to me that means he's going to tone it down because what he said was so nice. And you know what he did, he toned it way up. It was much better. It was much better. He made that the greatest letter and I did very well in that state. Thank you, coach. That was very good.

But, you know, he's just a very special guy and he's tough. Is he tough, fellas, or a nice guy? He's tough? (INAUDIBLE) a little tough, right? He's tough, he's smart and he's got a great heart. So the Patriot coaches and these great players have delivered iconic

American sports moments that will last forever. We're going to watch that game over and over and over. That game will last forever.

Five Super Bowl wins in the era of free agency, which is really, really tough. What an achievement. So again, congratulations to Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

And with that, I'd like to ask a very special and talented man and a great friend of mine for a long time, Bob Kraft, to say a few words.

Thank you all very much.


It's a true honor to be here for the fifth time celebrating a world championship. And every time that we have the privilege of coming here to the White House, I think about the long odds that were faced by our country's forefathers who fought for our freedom and independence. Overcoming long odds through hard work, perseverance and, most importantly, mental toughness is the foundation of everything that is great about this country.

I am proud that the first time we came here as a team after winning a championship as 14-point underdogs, but infinitely more important was, it was in a season of 9/11, 2001, at a time in which our nation showed its mental toughness to rally together and to rebound from an unthinkable tragedy.

[14:20:03] This year's championship was achieved after falling behind by 25 points. A deficit so great that in the 97-year history of the NFL, over 20,000 games, that deficit had only been overcome seven times. In that same year, a very good friend of mine for over 25 years, a man who is mentally tough and hardworking as anybody I know, launched a campaign for the presidency against 16 career politicians, facing odds almost as long as we faced in the fourth quarter. He persevered to become the 45th president of the United States.

It's a distinct honor for us to celebrate what was unequivocally our sweetest championship with a very good friend and somebody whose mental toughness and strength I greatly admire. And I would like to call upon our coach to say a few words. But before, we'd like to jointly present (INAUDIBLE) symbolic. Super Bowl 51 championship jersey.


On behalf of the team, the organization, I just want to thank the president and his great staff for just, you know, a wonderful day, a wonderful opportunity here. We've had the great privilege to be here several times, but this one, the way we were treated and the opportunities to be in the Oval Office, to meet with the president, to see the inside of the White House, it's just been fabulous.

So, you know, along with the parade, the ring ceremony, as a team, the opportunity and the privilege of coming to the White House is just one of the great things about winning the Super Bowl. And so we're very privileged to be here and we thank the president and his great staff for the hospitality that they've shown us.

Also, our great Patriot fans here and to our Patriot Nation, thank you for coming out today.

This - as Mr. Kraft said, this is really a special team. These guys work incredibly hard all year. They put all the work in, in advance, when we didn't have anything to show for it. And then, as the year went around, you know, a total of 17 victories. They were all tough. These guys are mentally tough. They're physically tough. They love to compete and they knew how to compete under pressure and that's probably when we played our best football as we saw in overtime in the Super Bowl.

So I'm incredibly proud and honored to coach this group with our coaching staff. Our coaching staff did a tremendous job this year. I'm so appreciative of them.

And then this day really is a great, you know, it's a great day for us. It's a thrill to be here. And we appreciate your support. And we appreciate the, again, the great treatment that we've received from the president and his staff. Thank you very much.

And we have one other presentation to make. A Super Bowl 51 helmet.

BALDWIN: Are they going to take a picture.

All right, so let's jump in. it look like they're not moving quite yet. Maybe they're about to take a big photo or many it looks like from the looks of all those phones. Listen, these are the fun moments at the White House for the presidents to welcome, you know, the winning teams and (INAUDIBLE) sports. This is especially special for President Trump as he has a long-standing friendship and relationship with the owner of the New England Patriots, Bob Kraft, who spoke there momentarily and handed him that number 45 Patriots jersey.

I've got a bunch of voices I want to bring in. Christine Brennan, let me just begin with you, as our CNN Sports analyst.

[14:25:01] You know, I almost didn't recognize Bill Belichick in a suit and tie. And just how special is this for President Trump, you know, especially with a nod from Bob Kraft on even his, you know, journey to the White House and the presence of so many players, minus a few?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Oh, yes, minus seven, including Tom Brady, who said he had family obligations, but the other six are pretty much all people who were not Trump fans or supporters and said so on Twitter or social media or what have you.

You know, the Patriots and Donald Trump have really been linked during the campaign, as Trump alluded to, the Belichick letter, Tom Brady. He said Tom Brady supported him and Tom Brady's wife, Gisele Bundchen, said no we did not. Who knows. Anyway, there's all of that, Kraft and his support financially. Also, this, of course, is the first time a team is coming to the White House to visit President Trump. And that by itself is a big deal. The sadness of it happening today, Aaron Hernandez being found hanged in his jail cell, of course, a Patriot, part of one of the Super Bowl teams that did not win but went to the Super Bowl.

So there's so much going on here, Brooke. And I was lucky enough to be at the White House with the Cubs when it was President Obama's last one. There was a sense of melancholy there. Clearly here you could see the sense of hope and optimism and the knowledge that probably both cases the Patriots think they'll be back and Donald Trump's certainly looking forward to having more sports teams come to the White House.

BALDWIN: Christine, stay with me. As we're looking and remembering back to that confetti. As an Atlanta native, teary for me, that game, but, you know, good for the Pats for pulling it through.

Chris Cillizza, you're a Giants fan. You don't have necessarily a dog in this fight. But let's talk about the fact that, you know, Tom Brady isn't there. By the way, Tom Brady, you know, didn't come to - when they were all invited to the Obama White House. You know, Bob Kraft says this is just being made a big deal by the media under this administration. That, you know, in pervious wins, in previous administrations, other players didn't show up then either. What do you make of that?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes, I mean, look, Tom Brady is obviously the brightest light of anyone on that team, outshining Belichick and even Kraft and I hesitated to say Trump but certainly up there with Trump. So it's going to be a big deal when he doesn't come. I - you know, what we know from Tom Brady, who doesn't like to say a lot about this subject, is he is someone who has known Trump for a while. I don't think he's as close as Bob Kraft or even Bill Belichick is to Trump, but he is - they are - he has a relationship, a previous relationship of some sort with Trump. Do I think it's a huge deal? Not really. But I would say, you're going to see more of this when other sports teams, other championship teams come to the White House.

BALDWIN: You think so?

CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean you saw a little bit of it with Obama. There were always some people who did not want to come, who disagreed with his politics. Sometimes high-profile people. I think you'll see a little bit more of that given the fact that Trump basically - no one - no one doesn't have an opinion about Donald Trump, professional athlete or not. So, yes, I think you will see a little bit more of it. But the Brady thing in particular, I know because he's such a big figure in our culture, it draws a lot of attention. But I don't make particularly all that much of it.

BALDWIN: Like I said, he didn't go when the Pats won under President Obama.


BALDWIN: And he's not there today.

Dave Zirin, what about you, sports editor of "The Nation"? You know, I'm just glancing down at this. The seven Patriot members who aren't attending, including Brady, some of their quotes, "I just don't feel welcome in that house," -


BALDWIN: "Been there, done that." "Basic reason for me is I just don't feel accepted in the White House."

ZIRIN: Yes, this is without precedent and it's very much connected to the Kaepernick protest this past year in the NFL, Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the National Football League. I mean just an hour ago, one of the player who is not at the White House today, Martellus Bennett, who was their tight end, he was doing a FaceBook Live event with Chelsea Handler explaining why he disagrees with this administration. So this is really without prescience.

I mean Chris is right, that players did take it off when Obama was in the White House, but the only player in Obama's eight years who did it explicitly and politically was a goalie for the Bostin Bruins named Tim Thomas. To have six players explicitly say for political reasons, this is new territory. Keep in mind, Brooke, that presidents have had athletes at the White House for these kinds of media events since the Johnson administration. No not Lyndon Johnson, Andrew Johnson. This goes back to the mid-19th century.

BALDWIN: Wow. Yes.

ZIRIN: And we've never seen anything like this.

BALDWIN: Forgive me, they were just in my ear reminding me - and we'll get to it. But, yes, I hear you agreeing with Chris that this will, and addition sports teams, other people may not show up.

But as I'm being reminded, yes, let's play the Gronk moment at the White House daily briefing, in case you missed it. Take a look.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We'll see what pans out in the negotiation. But I think there's an opportunity - can I just -

[14:30:04] ROB GRONKOWSKI, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: You need some help?

SPICER: I think I got this, but thank you.


SPICER: Maybe.


SPICER: All right. Thanks, man. I'll see you in a minute.