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Sources: Russia Tried to Use Trump Advisers to Infiltrate Campaign; North Korea Moving Parade Missiles Back to Bases; Trump Urging China to Put Economic Pressure on North Korea; Trump Vows Tax Plan Next Week. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 21, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Breaking news. Russian infiltration? CNN has learned the FBI has indications that Russian intelligence tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign. The alleged plan was to use a Trump adviser to monitor campaign operations. Was it successful?
[17:00:16] On alert. Around-the-clock surveillance of North Korea by U.S. spy planes and satellites watching for any sinister move, including a possible nuclear weapons test. Missiles paraded through the country's capital just days ago are now headed back to their bases. What will Kim Jong-un's next move be?
Missing the mark. The clock is ticking on President Trump's promises of multiple accomplishments during his first 100 days in office. Now he's dismissing the marker he touted on the campaign trail is, quote, "a ridiculous standard." How worried is the White House?
And Arctic ambitions. Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the site of a planned military base in the Arctic. The sprawling futuristic facility will House troops and warplanes in some of the world's harshest conditions. What is Putin's polar plan?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. New information about Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential campaign. U.S. officials now tell CNN the FBI has indications that Russian intelligence tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign with the intent of using then-Trump adviser Carter Page to monitor campaign operations. The sources emphasize that they don't know whether Page was aware he was being used.
We're also following developments in North Korea, under 24-hour surveillance by the U.S. military for indications of a missile launch or a nuclear test. One potentially ominous sign: missiles that were recently paraded through the streets of Pyongyang for a national holiday are now being moved back to their bases.
And over at the White House, mixed signals as President Trump's 100th day in office approaches. He dismissed the marker as ridiculous, despite repeated campaign vows of major accomplishments in his first 100 days, but now he's also promising to unveil his tax reform plan next week, and at the same time House Republicans are scrambling to try to come up with a new healthcare bill.
We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including a key Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Jim Himes. And our correspondents and our expert analysts are also standing by.
But first, the breaking news. CNN has learned that Russia tried to use people claiming to be advising Donald Trump to infiltrate his campaign. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is joining us with more -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have learned the FBI gathered intelligence last summer suggesting Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign. This is according to several U.S. officials.
Now, Carter Page's critical speech of U.S. policy against Russia in July 2016 at a prominent Moscow university is part of what raised concerns in the bureau that he may have been compromised by Russian intelligence, but this new information adds to this emerging picture of how the Russians tried to meddle and influenced the 2016 election, not only through e-mail hacks and through propaganda, sometimes referred to as fake news, but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit.
And the intelligence led to an FBI investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians, which the FBI has acknowledged publicly in a hearing on Capitol Hill. But the officials we spoke to made clear that they don't know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him as well as the other advisers because of the way that Russian spy services operate. Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents, Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela, what is Carter Page saying about this?
BROWN: Well, basically, Page disputes this idea that he has collected intelligence for the Russians, saying that at times he actually helped U.S. intelligence community. In fact, this is what he told CNN just today.
He said, quote, "My assumption throughout the last 26 years I've been going there has always" -- "there" as in Russia -- "has always been that any Russian person might share information with the Russian government as I have similarly done with the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies in the past."
But Wolf, U.S. officials say the intelligence suggests that Russia tried to infiltrate the inner workings of the Trump campaign by using backdoor ways to communication with people in the Trump orbit, people like Carter Page.
Now, important to note here: Page is one of several Trump advisors whom U.S. and European intelligence detected in contact with Russian officials and other Russians known to Russian intelligence during the campaign. The scope and the frequency of those contacts raised the interest of U.S. intelligence agencies.
But it's important to emphasize that within the Trump campaign, Carter Page is viewed as someone who had little or no influence, so there could be a situation here in this case where the Russians thought perhaps they were using someone that had a lot of influence but perhaps didn't in the end.
[17:05:08] BLITZER: So where do things stand now within this overall investigation?
BROWN: So intelligence analysts, FBI investigators, Wolf, have been analyzing various strands of intelligence from human sources, to electronic and financial records, and have found suggestions of possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials. But there's not enough evidence at this point to show that crimes were committed -- Wolf.
BROWN: Pamela Brown, thanks very much for that report. Pamela Brown with that new information, our justice correspondent.
Let's move on now. Other important news, including the latest on North Korea. The Jim Jong-un regime is believed to be poised to conduct another military test any time from a missile launch up to an underground nuclear detonation.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working the story for us Barbara, you're getting new reporting right now and growing concerns from U.S. officials about North Korea. What are you finding out?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think as everyone would expect, all U.S. military intelligence assets keeping their eyes on North Korea through the weekend, at least, military satellites, U-2 aircraft, looking for any signs that North Korea may be preparing, may be ready to do that nuclear test, may actually do one. Any signs of missile launches after the big parade in Pyongyang a few days ago, those missiles headed back to their bases. They could be ready for launch.
And there's a third element here that the U.S. aircraft carrier the Carl Vinson is expected to begin very visible flight operations in the coming days. That is something the North Koreans will see, will have to absorb and will have to decide if they want to react to.
As all of this is happening President Trump continuing his high-level pressure on Chinese President Xi. President Trump with a new tweet out earlier today, saying, "China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea, so while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will."
A very direct continuing message to the Chinese leadership.
And as that is happening, the defense secretary, James Mattis, also weighing in today on his, shall we say, annoyance with the North Korean regime. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: As far as North Korea's latest
words, I think we've all come to hear their words repeatedly. Their word has not proven honest. It's been provocative. They've not lived up to any statements they've made in the past years, decades actually, about stopping their ballistic missile and their nuclear programs. So I would just take their words at the same value we've always given them, as we've learned not to trust them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: And that is the bottom-line problem: total unpredictability about what, if anything, the North Koreans may do next -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You're also finding out more, Barbara, about those Russian military aircraft flying near the cost of Alaska. Explain the latest you're getting.
STARR: Well, we're now up to four Russian missions in four days. Not all of them are that close. One was 700 miles away, but that may not really be the point.
The Russians are, again, making themselves visible, flying their aircraft, albeit in international air space. They know that the U.S. sees them. They know about U.S. aircraft responding. They know about U.S. radars seeing them. So this is, according to some officials we're talking to, a very specific message also from the Russians, that they are out there, that they are also responding and that they are players in the region.
They haven't done this level of flying in this area since 2015. There may be some reasons that they haven't had aircraft availability. They are doing exercises in that eastern flank of Russia. But, again, what it really comes down to is everybody's putting their signals out there, and the Russians are right in the middle of it all, making sure the world knows they're out there, making sure the U.S. military knows to see them coming -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's an incredibly, incredibly tense time around the world. All right, Barbara, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut is joining us. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Hi, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's begin with the breaking news. You heard our Pamela Brown report, according to U.S. officials, the FBI now has indications that Russian intelligence tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign with the intent of using then-Trump advisor Carter Page to monitor the campaign's operations.
You're on the Intelligence Committee. You're investigating. Have you seen any investigation that Carter Page was knowingly cooperating with the Russians?
HIMES: Well, Wolf, Carter Page is certainly a person of interest for the investigation. I anticipate that he will be one of the people who will be called to testify in front of the Intelligence Committee on this topic.
As with so many people like Paul Manafort, like Roger Stone, like Michael Flynn and the list goes on, there are all sorts of questions about what Carter Page's interactions were with the Russians, what he may have told them, what he may have done.
And it's important to remember two things here, Wolf. One is the FBI is doing their own investigation, which we do not have access to at this point, and they will, of course, be looking for whether any crimes were committed.
On my side, in the Congress, we're obviously interested in that, and we need to know about that. But we also need to look into the fact that not all relationships like what the story may have occurred with Carter Page are witting. And so this is the language we use: unwitting or witting. You know, it's possible, and the Russians do it, and frankly, we do it, too, in international espionage. Quite often, you try to build relationships, because you think somebody may have some information. You have what you -- what somebody may think is a friendship, which actually turns out to be something other than a friendship.
So there's a lot of possibilities here and something that my committee will be working to get to the bottom of.
BLITZER: So based on what you know right now, Congressman, was he witting or unwitting?
HIMES: Well, it's way too early to say, Wolf. And you know, the guy hasn't even testified before the committee. You know, we're not a court, but no more than a court should arrive at a conclusion prior to a trial being undertaken. A committee that is doing an investigation should not be speculating on whether somebody may or may not have been witting or may have or may not have done something wrong.
BLITZER: The Intelligence Committee has invited some key figures to come before the hearing in upcoming hearings. You're taking a look at this: John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Admiral Rogers of the NSA, the National Security Agency; Sally Yates, the former acting deputy attorney general.
Comey and Rogers will testify behind closed doors, but the other three will be in open session on May 2. Tell us more about what your -- your committee is hoping to learn.
HIMES: Well, this is really -- the most important thing in all of those names, in both of those hearings, is that it indicates that we're back on track in the House Intelligence Committee.
You'll recall that four or five weeks ago, we were about to have Sally Yates and John Brennan and a few others in open hearing. And that was abruptly cancelled the day before, because according to Chairman Nunes, we had to do this closed hearing with -- with the FBI director and with Admiral Rogers at NSA.
So that was all abruptly canceled. We went through the whole experience that wound up with Devin Nunes recusing himself. And now those two hearings, which were supposed to have four weeks ago will go forward. So I do anticipate that we'll learn a lot in that open hearing, and I will be interested to see what happens in the closed hearing with Rogers and Comey, because Chairman Nunes, of course, said that was really, really urgent. We need to have that.
And so I'll certainly be interested, but the American public will have an opportunity to hear from the three individuals on May 2. And I think it will be an important moment for clarifying a lot of questions that are out there.
BLITZER: Yes, we'll look forward to covering that hearing, of course.
As you also know, Mary McCord, the Justice Department official overseeing this Russian probe, is stepping down next month. Do you have faith in the Justice Department to carry out an independent investigation, regardless of who's in charge?
HIMES: Well, you know, from the standpoint of those of us who are really spending a lot of time trying to get to the bottom of the Russia thing, the really important thing over there, of course, is the FBI investigation, the FBI being under the Department of Justice.
But of course, that investigation will proceed with or without Mary McCord.
I'm sorry to see her go, because she was really the key point person on overall cyber issues at the Department of Justice. And, of course, you know, as we learn every single day and as our networks become that much more penetrated into every aspect of our lives, having good people really focusing on the vulnerabilities and how we protect ourselves is important.
But it is important to know that the FBI investigation will proceed, regardless of who is -- who is at the Department of Justice. As you know, the attorney general has recused himself from any consideration there. So I have confidence the FBI will continue to do what they're doing.
BLITZER: Do you know why she's leaving?
HIMES: I don't, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor that, as well.
Congressman, there's more information we're getting we need to discuss, but I've also got to take a quick break. Let's go, and we'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:18:51] BLITZER: More now on North Korea and the growing pressure President Trump is putting on China to try to rein in the Kim Jong-un regime.
We're back with Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee.
The president says China is the economic lifeline, his words, to North Korea. The numbers back him up, Congressman. Eight-five percent of North Korean imports come from China. Eight-three percent of their exports go to China.
Do you agree with President Trump's strategy, which appears to hinge on Chinese cooperation in squeezing the North Koreans to step back on their nuclear threats?
HIMES: Yes. I really do, Wolf, and -- and I -- I sort of agree with about half of the president's policy; and I have concerns about the other half.
The idea that really pushing China hard to do what is very much in the Chinese government's self-interest, which is to keep things stable in North Korea, to not allow conflict to break out, to not have a situation where you've got a ton of U.S. military in the area. That's very much in the Chinese self-interest. And so really pushing China, which has North Korea on a very short leash, is the alternative to something which is a far uglier outcome which, of course, would be a military conflict.
[17:20:05] And, you know, we hear that there's, you know, air operations starting and everything else. And maybe the theory there is that the Chinese -- that goads the Chinese to squeeze the North Koreans.
But we've got to remember, Wolf, that there are 10 million South Koreans in Seoul, our ally, who are within artillery range of a madman; and there's 30,000 United States troops who are in the DMZ.
So I like that Trump is sort of saying the Chinese really have to step up here, but we've got to be very, very careful that the presence of our aircraft carrier or some of the more aggressive rhetoric doesn't force this unpredictable madman who runs North Korea to launch an attack on either Seoul or our troops.
BLITZER: Well, in your view, Congressman, has the tough rhetoric coming from the Trump administration in recent weeks escalated tensions with North Korea, or is that rhetoric part of a smart strategy?
HIMES: Well, you know, this is one of these situations where you're not going to know for a while. We could wake up tomorrow morning to find that there had been a major strike on South Korea and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people dead. And maybe the, you know, dictator of North Korea just got fed up with the notion of the rhetoric. So we're just -- we're just not going to know. The key, really, is
though, that -- the Chinese. And we need to step back and take a deep breath and remember that, while this regime is awful, and they are working on missiles that, over time, could deliver one of their nuclear devices to the United States, this is a profound national security threat.
We also need to remember that their testing missiles, and their testing nuclear weaponry, sadly, is part of the way that they do business. And we need to be very careful that we don't misinterpret what they're doing or overmilitarize the situation in a way that we find ourselves waking up at war on the Korean Peninsula.
BLITZER: Congressman Jim Himes, thanks very much for joining us.
HIMES: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, mixed messages from President Trump as he approaches 100 days in office. Will he make good on key campaign promises?
Plus, a massive military base plan for Russia's frozen north. What are Vladimir Putin's Arctic ambitions?
[17:26:45] BLITZER: President Trump now says that next week he will unveil a plan for what he calls massive tax cuts.
At the same time, House Republicans are scrambling to craft a new healthcare plan following the spectacular collapse of their last effort. All of this as President Trump approaches the 100-day mark of his administration.
Our White House correspondent Athena Jones is joining us with the latest.
Athena, candidate Trump promised he'd do a lot in his first 100 days, but with little accomplished legislatively so far, President Trump now calls the 100-day mark -- and I'm quoting him now -- "a ridiculous standard." What's the latest?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf, that's right.
The president's perspective has clearly shifted quite a bit in the last six months. White House press secretary Sean Spicer today insisted they're not trying to rush anything through, just because that 100-day mark is around the corner.
But White House officials also often talk about how this president is in the promise-keeping business. And with this latest announcement on tax reform and the renewed push to repeal and replace Obamacare, it's pretty clear that folks around here are looking to put some big wins on the board and soon.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JONES (voice-over): With the clock running out on his first 100 days, President Trump is now questioning the significance of the marker, tweeting tailed, "No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, and it has been a lot, including Supreme Court, media will kill."
That sentiment a far cry from the one he expressed in October when he embraced the standard and spelled out a long list of measures he hoped to achieve by the 100-day mark, which arrives next Saturday.
TRUMP: I am asking the American people to dream big once again. What follows is my 100-day action plan to make America great again. It's a contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter.
JONES: But the president's record of keeping his promises so far is mixed. He's followed through on his pledges to withdraw from the Transpacific Partnership, approve the Keystone XL Pipeline and put a new justice on the Supreme Court, but he's backed off his pledge to label China a currency manipulator on day one, seen his travel ban blocked in the courts, and in perhaps the biggest blow--
TRUMP: We had a great meeting and I think we'll get a winner vote.
JONES: -- he failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. That effort went down in flames just weeks ago, a huge embarrassment for the White House and for congressional Republicans who campaigned for years on rolling back Obamacare.
Outside of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, much of what the president has accomplished has come in the form of executive action rather than legislation. The president has signed dozens of executive orders and presidential memoranda on issues ranging from a lobbying ban to lifting regulations. He touted his achievements earlier this month.
TRUMP: I think we've had one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of presidents.
JONES: And expressed confidence that a new Obamacare repeal bill being negotiated by House Republicans will pass soon, although a vote by next week looks iffy.
And just today, the president teased some big news on tax reform next week.
TRUMP: We'll be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform.
JONES: And health care isn't the most pressing issue for Congress. Members must pass a funding bill by next Friday or face a government shut-down.
A major sticking point on that front: money for border wall, a top priority for the White House.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think the Congress will provide necessary funds, and there will be ways to fund this wall and I believe we've got to do it.
JONES: The problem, it's a non-starter for democrats.
JONES: Now, folks here at the White House are expressing confidence that Congress will be able to avoid a shutdown, but the budget office has directed agencies to make plans to prepare for any possible lapse which is standard procedure. And one more thing on the tax front, the White House is already tamping down expectations in terms of the timing of that announcement. You heard the President talk about a big announcement on Wednesday, but an official soon after the President made those remarks, said, "Well, it might not be Wednesday, it could be shortly thereafter." So, a little bit of a shift there. Wolf?
BLITZER: It certainly is. Athena Jones at the White House, thanks very much. Let's dig deeper with our experts and our analysts. And Gloria, you saw that right at the end of the campaign, they put out a 100-day legislative contract with the people of America and you have all this legislation, all these bills that he said that he was going to try to work on to get approved during the first 100 days. None of those bills were passed, at least not yet. So, the republicans are saying, "Give it some time" but the President is saying that 100-day marker is just artificial.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Now, he is saying that. Let's just -- let's just make that clear. I mean, you know, you could do the big Roseanne Roseannadanna from "Saturday Night Live", never mind. I mean, you know, this was a campaign pledge. He said this is what I'm going to do. Everybody else didn't know how to do it. So, I can repeal and replace and we're going to do tax reform, we're going to build the wall and all the other things that are on that list.
And I think the President's campaigning has suddenly come to governing. And what this president is discovering and I was talking to a historian who knows him well and was a biographer of his who said, you know, he's beginning to discover that governing is just a little bit different and that he cannot control this environment the way he controlled the Trump organization.
BLITZER: But Dana, I just want you -- you cover Capitol Hill for a long time, and welcome back from your trip to Asia with the vice president. There's a republican White House, a republican House of Representatives, a republican Senate and none of these proposed pieces of legislation were passed, at least, not yet.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, because the -- they like to say it's a big tent and, guess what, it is a big tent, especially when you're trying to find compromise within the party which is you're right. What they have been doing particularly on healthcare to get things pass, and it's not easy. I think just going back to that list, that contract, I remember at the time when the Trump campaign released that, thinking, wow, this is so unusual. It was the most conventional, traditional thing that the campaign did in the entirety of the campaign. I mean, that's what candidates did. Right. That's what candidates normally do, is they say, "Here's the list of things we're going to do." It was very un-Trumpian during the campaign.
Now, it's coming back to bite him a little bit. Having said that, you know, not to give him a pass at all, but we all -- those of us who have covered many of these contracts during campaigns also know that this is a campaign document and it is aspirational though maybe not realistic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not legally binding.
BLITZER: You take a look -- you take a look at some of the legislation in that contract with America. Middleclass tax relief, simplification act, that hasn't come forward yet. The replace and replace Obamacare act, they tried it, they had to withdraw it because they didn't have the votes and the illegal immigration act, restore national security act, clean up corruption in Washington act. A lot of legislate all sounded great but so far none of that legislation has been passed to the House, the Senate, and signed by the president.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I've been saying for months, too. His successes right now have been based upon executive orders. It hasn't based upon legislating, it hasn't been based on brokering deals as this great businessman that he is. It's the ability that the Constitution gives the President to do certain things. And that's what he has done, every President has done so. But if you look at that contract that he has, it is two pages long. And he said he's going to get everything done in the first 100 days.
His ideas of aspirational are outrageously ridiculous. I mean, he is somebody, who I think, needs to reign in a little bit, needs to start listening to the likes of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill and say, "Listen, this is our path forward, this is what we can get done and stop going on the campaign trail and saying things that are not realistic.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Which by the way he is not doing at it relates to health care, Mark. You know, I mean, this idea that Donald Trump says, "We're going to have a vote," and then, Paul Ryan, "Oh, OK. I'm going to get (INAUDIBLE). You know, I mean, that's not how this works. There's a separation of powers for a reason. You don't just get to dictate -- and this was President Obama's problem at some level. That he thought he could just sort of dictate the Congress what they would do.
Well, each of those members of Congress, particularly in the House, believe that they are bosses of their own fiefdom. They're not going to just capitulate particularly to a president who isn't at 80 percent approval. He's at 40 percent approval.
[17:34:57] BORGER: You know, but at this point, Trump supporters still support Donald Trump. They're not saying, "Oh, my god, you didn't keep your promise on tax reform and you didn't keep your promise yet on building the wall, and you didn't keep your promise on repeal and replace," because they believe, number one, that it's going to happen, and that it may take a little more than 100 days, they're more realistic about that. And they're not going to desert him until they feel it hurts them in the pocketbook. And that's not the case at this point. So, if they see jobs, if they see their income going up, then they're going to be just fine and forget the promise.
BASH: That's true. That's true except that there are desperate for a symbolic win. I was with the vice president in Asia, and even --
BORGER: He's desperate.
BASH: -- on that trip, he was making calls, working it hard to try to find some way, shape or form to get a win on health care.
BLITZER: Are they going to get on the house on healthcare next week?
BASH: We don't know.
CILLIZZA: I would -- I would be -- Are the -- OK. Are they going to get a vote and are they going to get a successful vote are two different things. I can't imagine --
BLITZER: So, why would they let a vote if they don't manage to --
CILLIZZA: I can't see how it's possible. Again, the most important thing in all the coverage of the healthcare legislation is five people are involved in the the writing of it, and no one else has even seen it. Literally, this is a replica of the problem they had before with the healthcare --
BLITZER: We've got -- we've got much more to discuss including a week from today, there potentially could be a government shutdown. We'll assess that and more right after this.
[17:40:58] BLITZER: A White House official is downplaying remarks by President Trump today, the President saying he's about to reveal his tax reform plan, might reveal it next Wednesday, Chris. Remember, in February, February 9th, the President said we're going to announce something I would say over the next two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax. That's (INAUDIBLE) more than two or three weeks.
CILLIZZA: I mean, this goes to -- this goes to the point Mark was making in the last segment, which is he says these thing, and I think Gloria is right, I don't think his supporters are like, well, on February 9th, you said this and you haven't made good on it. But at some point, people start saying you just keep saying the same things. It's great, it's phenomenal, but the core about health care bill, really, really good, people are really liking it. There has to be some meat here on Wednesday or Thursday or Friday of next week. He has -- there has to be something that's actually a policy that people can get behind or not. You just can't keep rhetorically dancing for four years. BLITZER: But the president has also said, before he could deal with
tax reform, major tax cuts for the middleclass or others, there's got to be healthcare from repealing and replacing Obamacare.
PRESTON: Right. Because there are legislative leverage that have to be put in place that actually allowed the tax cuts to come to fruition, right, and without getting to all the jargon. I mean, the bottom line is, though, is that his first 100 days, he's going to say it's a success, Sean Spicer said it was a success today. It hasn't been a success. They haven't followed a traditional map which would be helpful to them. In tax reform, I don't know how they're going to get it done on the level that they're talking about if they don't get healthcare (INAUDIBLE)
BORGER: You know, just remember, when we talk about the first 100 days and Donald Trump is saying it's a great success, it brings me back to thinking about when he was on "The Apprentice" and the ratings were dropping and dropping and dropping, and he'd call the people in the ratings division and say, "Well, we were number one for this 10 minutes during this particular time and then be able to say, "We were number one," or even if they weren't, he would still say, "Well, we're number one." And this is what he's doing with the 100 days. It almost doesn't matter to him. He feels the need to say, "I'm the best. We've had the best 100 days, ever." And he'll find some --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever. He's creating his own reality.
BORGER: But he'll find some yard stick by which he can -- he can say that, and then, you know, they can go out and talk about that.
BLITZER: But they got a bigger problem next week. The government could be shut down by the end of next week unless there's legislation passed. And the president wants legislation to include funding to start building the border wall with Mexico.
BASH: The irony that the government, the United States government has the potential to shut down because the United States doesn't want to pay for a wall that the President promised that would be built and paid for by Mexico. I mean, just sort of sit with that for a second, but aside from that, in terms of the realistic possibility and potential of the government shutting down, it is certainly possible, but we're already hearing from some of the most conservative republicans who would kind of make that happen, that they would probably go along with a stop-gap measure to make sure that it doesn't, but then, I mean, that can can only be kicked down the road for so long, and then you have to figure out how to answer that question, about the wall and other things as well.
CILLIZZA: This lines up being the problem. The can kicked down the road only for so long, winds up (INAUDIBLE) the problem on all of this stuff, Wolf, which is at some point, his supporters -- his detractors are going to be his detractors, but at some point, his supporters two years and four years are going to say, "What did you actually do?"
BORGER: But the last time the government got -- was shut down was over Obamacare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BORGER: We all remember that very well, and this time, if the government gets shut down, it's about saving Obamacare, not about killing Obamacare because the democrats want to make sure that those subsidies remain, and the democrats don't want to build the wall, so I could see Donald Trump turning this right around on the democrats and saying, "We're not shutting down the government, you're shutting down the government." and the democrats saying, "We're shutting down the government because we don't want to leave people without their health care." So ...
[17:45:01] PRESTON: You know, strategically, though, if they do kick the ball down the field, they punt, which means that all they're doing, you know, for our viewers is that they're waiting another day to make another tough decision. If you're democrats and you've seen the Trump budget, it's actually a smart idea for them to continue to keep punting down the road because by doing so you're keeping your funding at a better level than what it's probably going to end up when republicans finally get (INAUDIBLE)
BLITZER: Whatever happened to Mexico paying for the wall?
CILLIZZA: I mean, breaking news, Mexico -- Donald Trump was never going to be able to force a foreign country to pay -- to pay $15 billion for a wall. The change that Donald Trump has brought within the Republican Party is that you now have a party who some of the conservatives are going to be antsy about this, but you have a party who is willing to say, OK, $1.4 billion for a wall. This is a party that five years ago was saying, "OK. Well, we're not going to give out flood relief or disaster relief unless there is a way in which you can offset that cost." Now, we're talking about 1.4 billion for a wall that eventually someday will be paid for by Mexico.
BASH: (INAUDIBLE) that is bipartisan with regard to who is in the White House, the Congress -- look, their main job, when all is said and done, their main job is to fund the government and for year after year after year, they haven't done it well. They haven't done it at all. They have, you know, sort of said, "OK. We're just going to pass the stop-gap over and over again." At some point, the question is whether or not they're actually going to do it correctly. It's not because there isn't a will among many of them, it's just find a consensus.
BLITZER: It's going to take up a lot of time next week simply to keep the government operational. Everybody standby. An important note for all of our viewers. Much more of this will be coming up this Sunday when the Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will join Dana Bash, she's filling in for Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION" 9:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific. Only here on CNN.
Coming up, a massive Russian military base in the Arctic. We're learning new details of Vladimir Putin's polar plan. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[17:51:26] BLITZER: The next battle line in the resurgent Cold War between the U.S. and Russia may be in the Arctic where Russian President Vladimir Putin is now planning a massive military base.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, Putin apparently has some big plans for Russia's frozen North.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Putin has enormous plans for the Arctic. He has already built two sprawling military bases there, and he's not about to stop. Tonight, we've got new details and spectacular pictures of a massive new base called "Trefoil", where Putin is deploying troops and warplanes.
TODD: On a frozen wind swept expanse in the Arctic, Vladimir Putin's military ambition is on grand display. Painted like a Russian flag, it's called "Trefoil" for its three-cornered structure. A sprawling new military base that can house 150 troops and warplanes.
MICHAEL KOFMAN, RUSSIAN MILITARY ANALYST: This is a lot about the projection of Russia's status, right? Russia's status is a great power, first and foremost. Second, the fact that Russia is an Arctic power.
TODD: Sweeping in on a massive military transport, the Russian President recently visited the base. Putin made a show of traversing a glacier and hammering at the ice. Russian troops will be living under the harshest of conditions. 18-month deployments where the temperatures can dip well below zero.
KOFMAN: These are really bases set up and perhaps some of the most inhospitable, if not the most inhospitable places on earth. They're so cold that, you know, short of living on another planet with no oxygen this is one of the most dangerous and hazardous areas to operate.
TODD: But Russian forces pride themselves on being able to operate in the most bitter cold conditions, even training with reindeer. Much of the base is top secret but the Russian military does boast a virtual tour of some parts of the interior. This is part of Putin's plan to dominate the Arctic. The oil and gas reserves he has his eyes on in the Arctic are massive. Experts say worth possibly tens of trillions of dollars expected to become more accessible if global warming continues.
KOFMAN: And they, in some respects, believed in the future there'll be a contest between powers for who gets access to them. They're be a lot of economic, commercial competition and the Russian viewers, this is a very difficult area to operate. It's going to take a long time for them to establish themselves there. So, they want to get theirs first.
TODD: Putin is aggressively navigating the region. Even having a Russian flag planted on the Arctic Ocean floor. Russia has far more Arctic military bases than the U.S. and dozens more ice-breaking ships, perhaps as many as 40.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how many ice-breakers do we have available?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe it's one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One and a half if you count --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. 1.5.
TODD: Russia's race ahead of the U.S. in cornering the Arctic, analysts say, is a sobering illustration of Putin's broader ambitions.
HEATHER CONLEY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: For Vladimir Putin, the Arctic is a prestige project. It demonstrates Russian history and its greatness. Russia can conquer anything. It can plant a flag on the North Pole, it can build a military installation, it can overcome nature.
TODD: Now, the Trump administration is being pressured by members of Congress and outside analysts to close that gap with Vladimir Putin and beef up America's presence in the Arctic. Will they? We have pressed officials at the White House, the Pentagon, Northern Command, and the Coastguard on any specific plans to place more resources in the Arctic, we've gotten no response. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, you mentioned those ice-breaking ships. Why is the U.S. so far behind the Russians in deploying those?
TODD: Well, part of it, Wolf, is the massive cost and the commitment. One expert, Heather Connolly told us each of the ice-breakers takes about 10 years to construct, they cost about $1 billion each. She says the U.S. hasn't built an ice-breaker in over 30 years. This one, the Polar Star was built in 1976 and it spends most of its time in the Antarctic supporting research expeditions.
[17:55:09] BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting amazing stuff. Thank you very much.
Breaking news are coming up, CNN has learned the FBI now has indications that Russian intelligence tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign. The alleged plan was to use a Trump adviser to monitor campaign operations. Was it successful?
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Russian infiltration, CNN has learned exclusively that U.S. intelligence has raised concerns that Russian operatives tried to use Carter Page and other Trump advisers to influence the campaign. New reaction at this hour to our exclusive reporting on the Kremlin's efforts to meddle in the U.S. Presidential Election beyond e-mail hacks and propaganda.