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North Korea Threatens to Sink U.S. Ship; U.S. Detained in North Korea; Lawmakers Sprint to Fund Gov't as Shutdown Looms; Trump May Demand Border Wall Funding as Shutdown Looms; Exit Polls Show Macron, Le Pen Advancing To Runoff. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 23, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM.


JOHN KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND AND SECURITY SECRETARY: The minute North Korea gets a missile that can reach the United States and put a weapon on that missile, a nuclear weapon, the instant that happens, this country is at grave risk.


WHITFIELD: Tensions flare and an open threat from North Korea and a third American detained in Pyongyang.

Plus, countdown to the president's first 100 days as a government shutdown looms.


MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I don't think anybody is trying to get to a shutdown. Shutdown is not a desired end.


WHITFIELD: Unbelievable video of a 4-year-old girl falling out of a moving vehicle. We'll talk to the heroic volunteer firefighter who sprang into action to rescue her.

And breaking silence for the first time our very own Alisyn Camerota talks in detail about her experience inside Fox News.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Roger Ailes ever sexually harass you?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Yes. Roger Ailes did sexually harass me.

WHITFIELD: CNN Newsroom starts now.

Hello, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with North Korea which is escalating tensions with the U.S. with more hostile threats and actions. First, North Korea arrested a U.S. citizen as the man attempted to fly out of the country. And then today in a state-run newspaper editorial, North Korea threatens to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier and claims it has weapons that can reach the continental U.S.

The threat to strike a U.S. carrier comes as the "USS Vinson" carrier strike group begins joint drills with Japanese destroyers in the western pacific.

And on this morning's "State of the Union," CNN's Dana Bash asked Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly about North Korea's growing missile threats and the president's plans to deal with it.


KELLY: The minute, I would tell you, Dana, the minute North Korea gets a missile that can reach the United States and put a weapon on that missile, a nuclear weapon, the instant that happens, this country is at grave risk.

I think Mr. Trump will be dealing with this in real terms before he starts his second term.


WHITFIELD: CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is covering these breaking details. Elise, what more do we know about these threats from North Korea and how seriously U.S. officials are taking them?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, these kind of threats from North Korea are nothing new. They're famous for their fiery rhetoric. But given that the "USS Carl Vinson" is headed to the Korean peninsula, will be with those Japanese carriers, certainly those threats are concerned to the U.S., although you heard Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in general talking this week about how they don't take North Korea's threats of this nature all that seriously because they're not really good to their word when they make those threats.

But given the increased tensions right now, Fred, obviously everything North Korea says is very concerning, and this is really seen the missile and nuclear threat seen as one of the greatest threats facing this administration. The administration will be briefing senators next week on the U.S. military posture in the Korean peninsula.

Today, Korea also kind of added Australia to the list of threats because Australia has been saying that it considers North Korea's missile and nuclear capabilities a real threat. And they said if they blindly follow the United States, they would strike Australia as well. So a lot of rhetoric coming from North Korea but also I think they do know that if they were to strike a U.S. carrier, whether it will be successful or not, I don't think anybody thinks that they could sink it, but even if they were to attempt, I think that would spell the end of the regime and really regime survival is what Kim Jong-un, the leader there cares about the most. So a lot of rhetoric but not sure they would ever make good on those threats

WHITFIELD: And then, Elise, what more do we know about this American citizen, a professor who is arrested in North Korea while trying to exit the country?

LABOTT: A former Korean American professor. We only know his last name, which is very common in South Korea. His name is Kim. He's in his late 50s. He was working on aid and relief programs and in the area and detained at the airport while trying to leave the country.

Now, this is the third American in Korean custody. You have somebody named Otto Warmbier. He's a 21-year-old student who was in North Korea on this adventure tourism. Tried to take one of the signs, political signs on the hotel where he was staying and he was arrested last year in January. He was sentenced to about 10 years of hard labor. And then there is another American, his name is Kim Dong-chul and he is also in his 50s, a former businessman who was in Korea and he has been also there since 2015, sentenced to 15 years in hard labor camps.

So clearly North Korea uses these Americans as a bargaining chip and how they're going to get out is anybody's guess. The U.S. protective power in Sweden is looking after this new American that's been detained. But very little they can do, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Elise Labott, thanks so much. Keep us posted.

All right. Meantime, in the nation's capital. The president is up against a crucial deadline, and his recent tweets indicate that it may be an uphill climb. Lawmakers return from recess tomorrow where congress will work on getting a spending bill to President Trump's desk or face a government shutdown potentially. But will the president insist that bill include funding for his wall on the southern border?

Trump tweeting this morning, quote, "The democrats don't want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS-13 gang members." And quoting his tweet now, "Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early. Mexico will be paying in some form for the badly-need border wall," end quote.

All right. So the deadline falls right before the president's first 100-day mark. CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones joining me live now.

So, Athena, any indications that lawmakers will acquiesce and consider financing the wall?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, as of right now, the answer up here should be no. We know what the president's budget priorities are. We know the things that the White House would like to see included in this bill, this spending bill, this must-pass spending bill, we should stress. One is more money for the hiring of additional immigration agents and also the money for this border wall.

We've already heard from senate democrats like minority leader Chuck Schumer who called funding for the border wall a nonstarter. Democrats also don't want this money for additional immigration enforcement included in this bill. And we also heard similar thoughts from the number two senate democrat Dick Durbin. Let's play for you what Senator Durbin had to say about this and also what DHS secretary -- Homeland Security John Kelly had to say about this border wall issue.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: We have democrats and republicans all along the border opposing this idea. It's a political stunt. An obsession for the president that should not shut down our government.

KELLY: I think it goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall. So I would suspect he'll do the right thing for sure, but I will suspect he will be insistent on the funding.


JONES: So there you heard two very different opinions on this. Senator Durbin went on to say that he hopes that President Trump backs down on this idea of having -- of insisting on border wall funding. But I should tell you that we're getting a little of a mixed message from different officials in the administration, Fred. You heard Secretary Kelly saying that he expects the president will insist on this border wall funding but chief of staff Reince Priebus in an interview earlier today and the budget director Mick Mulvaney weren't so definitive. They did not say the president would necessarily veto a bill that doesn't have that border wall funding in it. And the president speaking to the associated press recently also wasn't so definitive. He was asked if he would sign a bill that doesn't have that funding. And he just said, "I don't know."

So a lot of big question marks as we head into this significant week, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. And this significant week, a very busy schedule for the president. Let's just take a look at the calendar, one in particular seems to be of real critical importance.

JONES: Well, certainly critical importance it would be passing this must pass spending bill by Friday. That is the deadline. Saturday we already know the president's going to mark his 100th day in office with a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. But as you mentioned, he has a jam packed week leading up to next weekend.

I frankly haven't seen this many items on a weekly schedule for the president on Monday one of the things he'll be doing is hosting a working lunch with ambassadors from the countries on the United Nations Security Council. On Tuesday, he's going to be delivering remarks at the national holocaust museum's national day of remembrance. He's going to be, of course, outlining the principles, the broad principles for tax reform, the kind of things that the president, the White House want to see as a part of tax reform including tax cuts for individuals and for businesses and a simplification of the tax code.

On Thursday, he welcomes the president of Argentina here to the White House. And then again he's going to be signing throughout the week several executive orders on issues ranging from veterans issues to energy. So a lot going on this week as we move up to that 100-day mark, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Indeed. And that 100-day mark falling on Saturday. Is this president expressing any real concern or even the White House's staff, any concern about a real surprise to some members of his own staff about this whole tax reform on Wednesday and at the same time trying to tackle ObamaCare, repeal and replace, by the end of the week?

JONES: Well, when it comes to the vote on that -- this latest effort, this second effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, it's not at all clear that's going to happen this week. There was a conference wide conference call among house republicans yesterday. It was a brief call, the focus was very much on this government funding bill, leadership saying that that is really the priority. They're still working on negotiations for this repeal effort. But it doesn't look as though that's going to happen this week, they've insisted they're not going to bring it to the floor unless they know they have the votes.

A White House official told me yesterday that they're not leaning into the idea of forcing a vote this week on healthcare. We've heard some different things from different officials. But as of right now, it doesn't appear that that vote is going to take place right away. The president has said a few thing on this too. He said it doesn't matter if it's next week. He also said he'd like to see that vote next week.

So we'll see what happens, but it doesn't appear at this point that that will happen this week.

WHITFIELD: All right. Athena Jones, thanks so much in the White House. Appreciate that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

WHITFIELD: All right. Now this breaking news. Overseas it looks like independent candidate Emmanuel Macron and National Front Marine Le Pen are headed to a second round of the French presidential elections. I want to bring in now CNN's Jim Bittermann in Paris. This is a potentially consequential election not just for France but Europe. And for potentially, Jim, real impact globally.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Fredricka. I'm actually in a stronghold for Marine Le Pen up in the northeast of France. Up here, she's very popular as you can tell from the background. A lot of people have gathered around to celebrate what is not a victory, she came in second place but it's as much as anyone here could have hoped in the sense that she's now be in the second round of the elections.

And that question about Europe is going to be center here because Emmanuel Macron was very much pro-European. He's the leader in this evening's elections and she is very much against Europe. The two I am sure are going to fight out the question of Europe during the second round of this French campaign.

The other thing that's interesting here -- and this is really the takeaway from tonight's elections, I think, is that the mainstream parties in France no longer have enough votes to conquer the presidency.

Both of the mainstream parties, the mainstream right and the mainstream left came in third and fourth in this election. Or actually, third and fifth in this election. So as a matter of fact, that's the real takeaway. The upstarts are the ones who have been elected to go into the second round of this election on May 7th. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: And these two candidates couldn't be any more different. Emmanuel Macron a 39-year-old centrist and Marine Le Pen really considered a nationalist extreme right. What does this say about the voting electorate there on how they were either torn or trying to make decisions about who would lead France?

BITTERMANN: Well, I think the thing for both of them and the electorate was looking for change, obviously. Because they didn't turn to the normal parties here, the traditional parties here. They went instead for people who are outsiders basically on the far right. And Macron who in fact has never held political office, he never got elected to a political office. He was a cabinet minister but he was named to that. He wasn't elected to it. So he's never been elected to political office and he has no party around him either. So the real question with Macron is how he will govern with no organization around him in the parliament. No members of parliament to help him out.

And Le Pen's about in the same situation because after -- if she were to be elected, afterwards she would have to govern with only two seats in the parliament, in the French parliament. So something that would make it very difficult for her to govern. It's really a total interesting and unimaginable result. If you said this six months ago, nobody would have believed you, but here it is tonight. And everybody is cheering here with the numbers that are going up on the board which show in fact they appear to be neck and neck, absolutely even with Emmanuel macron. That was something that was unexpected, too. We've had a correction on the numbers to make it look like, at least in this polling, exit polling to make it look like Marine Le Pen and Macron are absolutely at the same point in the campaign.

WHITFIELD: And when is that runoff?

BITTERMANN: May 7th. It will be May 7th. They'll have two weeks of campaigning. And these will be two of the most intense weeks of campaigning ever I think in French history.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Will it still be the case, that even though May 7th is right around the corner, that it would most likely be the smaller towns, similar to like in the United States, sometimes it's the smaller towns or provinces there in France that really could make the difference in terms of who wins this runoff, so potentially might you see those two candidates who are heading in the further outskirts, you know, smaller towns, provinces, to try to win favor?

BITTERMANN: Absolutely. I think that one of the things is if we're right now and what's the French Rustbelt, essentially, it's an area of played-out mines and steel plants and whatnot. And as a consequence, the voters here totally turned off by the left wing which they voted for a long -- for many, many years. They're now turning to extreme right.

So I think that a lot of the action will be played out, out here. Macron was viewed as a kind of Parisian, sophisticated, former banker and the kind of guy who among the people in this neck of the woods wouldn't get much support at all and Marine Le Pen would. So it's going to be a battle between cities and urban areas, I think just as you saw in the United States.

WHITFIELD: Jim, OK. I want you to stick around. I want to bring in our political panel and just have this one big conversation now. CNN White House reporter, Stephen Collinson, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, also a senior editor for The Atlantic. And CNN political analyst, Patrick Healy with The New York Times" as deputy culture editor. Good to see all of you. Glad you could all be with us.

So, Stephen, let me begin with you. What does this mean particularly for the U.S. in terms of its relationship with France potentially when you've got two outsiders now who are in this runoff?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think you could argue that what we saw in France, what we saw earlier with the Brexit vote is the rise of anti-establishment politicians, of course, Donald Trump is one of those. There were clear signs, however, I think that the White House especially members of the White House who like Steve Bannon, for example, the president's political adviser, who have been very critical of the European union in the past would like to see Marine Le Pen triumph in this election.

She has a similar cast of thought on issues like the European Union. Some of her rhetoric on Muslims has mirrored some of that that we've seen in the United States. So I think if Emmanuel Macron were to triumph in the second in this election, you'd likely to see a strengthened Europe. If Le Pen were able to come through and win the second round of this election, which would be a huge upset that would have huge implications for the European Union and that would continue this kind of populist wave of politics we've seen sort of moving across the western world in the last year or so.

WHITFIELD: And, Ron, as I mentioned earlier, this is potentially consequently not just for France but for Europe. But clearly there are potential ramifications or great influences as it pertains to U.S.-French relations. President Trump weighed in in part delicately via tweet talking about it being a really interesting election. What does this mean for this White House?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The president in his interview with the AP went further. He was very cautious for most of the election. But when he talked to the associated press, he basically he said that Marine Le Pen was the strongest on immigration, was the strongest on the things that had been happening in France. In American context, this is just a fascinating final two to be in the election. It's almost as if you have Gary Hart or Bill Bradley against Donald Trump.

I mean, you have in essence this modern coalition that is fiscally conservative, socially liberal, pro globalization and as Jim said fundamentally urban based against a kind of more blue collar older nonurban Le Pen coalition with the one difference between the U.S. and France is that Le Pen has been much stronger with millennial voters than either Donald Trump was or that the Brexit was.

But basically you are seeing the same divide politically across the western world which is the kind of urbanized diverse postindustrial pro-global coalition against a set of voters who feel left out if not actively disrespected by all of that. And this is an enormously consequential election because a Le Pen victory that somehow let France out of the EU unlike Britain many believe would be the end of the European Union itself.

So I do think this really matters and it is a starker choice +-- a starker choice than we produced in our election where Hillary Clinton did not motivate some of those same voters, but with Macron and Le Pen, you really have this framed as precisely and as starkly as you could.

WHITFIELD: And so, Patrick, again the runoff May 7th still a couple weeks away. These very two candidates here, one considered a centrist, the other considered more pro-nationalist. So, Patrick, in your view with the Le Pen win, potentially in that runoff, what do you see the potential ramifications for Europe to be?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A Le Pen win would be an earthquake for Europe. Until now, I think there's been a lot of assumption that while Marine Le Pen is a very strong voice for kind of a far right anti-establishment anti-immigrant wing of the French populous, she was not a majority candidate, she was not someone who would be able to assemble enough votes across the spectrum in France.

But what you saw was Donald Trump running against Hillary Clinton, Theresa May writing very much the strong kind of Brexit -- at least getting sort of support from that kind of Brexit energy. Now opening the door to Marine Le Pen, I think would be kind of the -- frankly, in some ways the most shocking event of them all.

As Ron said, right now, France and Germany are still really the two poles holding up the European Union. And If Marine Le Pen were to use a victory basically as a proxy to move France out of the European Union, you know, again it would really I think sort of -- a lot of people would feel like that would be the beginning of the end.

WHITFIELD: All right. So, Jim, back to you. Is there a way in which to gauge what Europe would be rooting for, a Macron or a Le Pen?

BITTERMANN: Well, Europe would be rooting for Macron because he's a pro-European but Le Pen has made it very clear, she wants to hold a referendum on Europe within six months of taking office if she's elected president. And I think one of the things, one of the dynamics here is that the far left here, which didn't do so well tonight, came in fourth place, the fact is the far left also was against Europe.

So if this turns on the issue of Europe, the next two weeks turn on the issue of Europe, then some of those far left voters could very well go to the far right and that would be enough to maybe perhaps to propel Le Pen into the presidency. But at this point, it's hard to imagine that happening, but you wonder where all the left wing voters are going to go because their candidates are now basically out of the race. We have a centrist and we have an extreme right candidate. So where is the far left going to go when they vote on May 7th? That's a good question. We don't know the answer just yet. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: I'd love to bring in CNN's Melissa Bell as well at Macron headquarters. Melisa, we saw you last week covering that tragedy on Champs-Elysees and the question then was how influential might that attack have been on this election. So there you are at Emmanuel Macron headquarters. What is the reaction? How stunned, shocked? What is the feeling there?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: This is a crowd that is ecstatic on one hand and almost in disbelief. Emmanuel Macron is something completely new on the French political landscape. Never before, for a start, have the two main parties who shared powers since 1958, been excluded from the second round.

France's political map is entirely redrawn tonight partly because this man who's hoping to achieve something that's never been done in France before that is make it to the Elysees with no established party behind him and having never been elected to anything before, looks closer tonight to achieving that goal.

As if, Fredricka, that sort of thirst for change that we've been following for many months from the United Kingdom at the vote for Brexit to the United States with Donald Trump's victory, had tonight in France expressed itself in a centrist way. It chose Emmanuel Macron over Melenchon the socialist candidate over marine Le Pen crucially in this first round of voting.

Now, of course, the whole thing starts again as Jim was just saying moments ago, with all these different considerations now going into the second round. But what's been achieved here by these people who got together around this unlikely candidate just in few months, it was somewhat of a laughing matter. No one thought Emmanuel Macron could do it. Tonight, he has. He's on tested -- electorate's been tested. And it's been shown to be the largest one. And that is something quite extraordinary. No one here can quite believe it.

WHITFIELD: And so far the outcome showing its neck and neck between Le Pen and Macron. I want to bring back Jim Bittermann now.

So, Jim, is there a way in which to gauge what are the real chances for Le Pen in this runoff May 7th?

BITTERMANN: Well, it's interesting. And you ask that question about what is the impact of the Champs-Elysees attack on this election, one could surmise that perhaps at least to one or two percentage points that the voters went to Le Pen this evening during the day to day when they were casting their ballots because of that attack because she's strong on security and those kinds of issues.

Whether or not -- and in fact, Macron's reaction after the attack was judged by a number of political commentators here as fairly weak. He just said that the French should not lose their courage and they should keep a stiff upper lip essentially.

But in fact, Le Pen came out with a plan right away and said, you know, we've got a plan for security. We're going to beef up security and terrorism is not going to happen on our watch and that sort of thing. And that might have had some appeal to voters today when they were in the voting booth.

So going forward, where does that leave everybody? I think that, you know, the Le Pen appeal is going to be more on Europe and more on the issues of unemployment, of immigration and those issues. I was talking to the mayor here in a little bit earlier and he said that it makes a very practical difference to him if Le Pen can get elected. The practical difference is that for example when he splits out bids for contracts on city projects, he can only go to the European Union. He can't specify that a French company can be hired.

And so in the same way that Donald Trump said buy America first and that sort of thing, the same issue is here where the Le Pen voters think that France should come first and France should be great again. And to do that, cutting France off from Europe is the way to go forward. So it's going -- I think Europe is going to be the center of this campaign over the next two weeks and whether we're in Europe or out of Europe in France is really going to make a big difference in voters' minds, I think. By the way one more thing, Fredricka.


BITTERMANN: Just one more thing. I just see that CNN has heard that Benoit Hamon who was the mainstream socialist candidate has urged his voters to swing to Macron. He's urging his voters to vote for Macron which answers a little bit that question I raised earlier, where is the left going to go.

WHITFIELD: How potentially influential is that?

BITTERMANN: Well, he came in fifth place this evening. So -- well, he came in fifth place and whether or not the voters -- the socialist party tends to vote as a block but there weren't many voting tonight. So the question is whether or not that block would be substantial enough to make it a sure thing for Macron. But he is urging his voters. Whether they'll follow him or not, that's another question. WHIFIELD: OK. So back to Melissa whose at Macron headquarters. So, has that kind of information resonated in that room to hear that kind of endorsement from a fellow competitor?

BELL: Well, you know, they do want, of course, to attract as widely as they can now heading into the second round but they don't want to be too closely associated with the socialist party either. When Manuel Valls, the former prime minister, said he was backing Macron, I thought that's great, that's one more vote, but he will not be in my government. He's going to have to play the next couple of weeks very early, very carefully. He wants to attract as much from the right, the mainstream right as from the mainstream left. That is the centrist ambition.

Now, the question facing the French over the next couple of weeks is going to be absolutely stark. A stark choice between on one hand the candidate for openness, further globalization, heading out towards a more federalist Europe because Macron is profoundly pro-European. And on the other hand, the candidate of closure of retreating within their borders, stopping immigration and seeking to withdraw from the European Union.

In a sense, this recasts the whole debate in entirely clear terms. And so the French will go to choose for one of those two visions in a way that it'll essentially be much clearer than it was going into the first round. People will back one vision of France, people will back the other. And I think that you'll find much of the mainstream, as we saw in 2002, the last time Le Pen made it to the second round of voting. It was, of course, Marine's father, in a very different era, it was a very different party which still had racist and anti-Semitic undertones, she has substantially cleaned it up.

But can she gather around during the way that Emmanuel Macron can? I think the answer to that at this stage is that some like.

WHITFIELD: Ron Brownstein, back with us as well here. I want to bring you into this.

So, Ron, you've got the UK Brexit vote. You've got now this runoff in what was already described as kind of an earthquake of an outcome for this election. How representative of a wave of change across Europe might this be?

BROWNSTEIN: Representative not only in Europe but in the U.S. As I said, I think you see very similar patterns. We have a new fault line in politics as Melissa described it as open versus closed. I call it transformation versus restoration. Essentially, you have one coalition that is largely comfortable with a demographic change, and inclusive diverse society and greater integration and cooperation in the global economy and international affairs. That was the pro EU side in the Brexit vote. That was to a large extent Clinton's vote and that certainly the macron vote. He has much more explicit than Clinton was in defending kind of global integration and cooperation.

[14:30:00] On the other side, you have a group of voters who feel left behind or actively disrespected or betrayed by that and those fundamental changes of more diverse societies and more global integration.

I think if you look at, for example, at this result and you compare it to where Donald Trump is after 100 days in the polling that's been coming out literally today, you see a lot of similarity.

Donald Trump like Le Pen has an intense visceral hold on those voters who feel as though they are being left behind. But he, like her, faces enormous resistance beyond that circle. He's someone in "The Washington Post" 96 percent of his voters said they would vote for him again.

His approval rating was the lowest that we've seen though for any president at the end of 100 days. Very hard for him I think to ever get, to sustain 50 percent approval.

She faces I think the same challenge that he does, which is that you have this group that feels intensity threatened by these underlying changes in the society and are viscerally thrilled to hear someone articulating their fears in a more explicit way than we've seen before.

But for other voters that closed vision of society is ultimately off- putting and puts a ceiling on their support. We'll see if she can get to 50 percent. I think most people in France would be dubious today.

WHITFIELD: Yes, you're talking about those polls, we are talking about, you know, Trump depending on the poll, there are at least two between 40 to 42 percent approval ratings, remarkably low, but amongst his base you're talking about more than 80 percent still support.

So Patrick, you know, what does this say especially since the equating of Macron to Hillary Clinton candidate, what does this say about the livelihood, the viability or the notion of the Democratic Party abroad and in the U.S.?

HEALY: I think you're going to see some real concerns within the Democratic Party here in the U.S. as they look toward these results in France. And here's why, France is one of the great liberal democracies of Europe, of the world, and yet you see tonight that voters in France really just rejecting the Socialist Party in France, the version of the Democratic Party going to essentially a centrist, independent outsider candidate who belongs to no party and Marine Le Pen, far right anti-immigrant candidate.

That's where so much of the energy is going in France. In Britain you're going to see Theresa May, the conservative prime minister has called for early elections. You're seeing the Labour Party in Britain on the ropes.

You're seeing basically the establishment left across Europe and basically in a lot of trouble. That's not where the energy is going. Here in America is Democratic Party is so leaderless and so torn right now. You are still seeing the Bernie Sanders' wing of the Democratic Party getting into in recent days into frankly on their unity tour, a little bit of disunity among the wings of the Democratic Party in this country and you're seeing voters saying, what do Democrats have to offer? Who is the standard bearer?

WHITFIELD: You have former President Barack Obama who is expected to or was scheduled to speak tomorrow from Chicago, A, unusual that a predecessor would sneak the midst of a sitting president, but back to the argument of who is the head of the Democratic Party might this be a reminder or some inference that it's still Barack Obama who is that?

HEALY: I think you're exactly right, Fred. At the very least if not Barack Obama as the head of the party a reminder of the vacuum that now exists going into the 2018 midterm elections eventually looking at 2020 who will take on Donald Trump when he runs for re-election.

You'll see some of the nostalgia around President Obama. I think you are not going to see him taking on Donald Trump in a full throated way. He says at this stage, you know, he doesn't want to do that. He doesn't see his role.

But I think you are still having a lot of Democrats looking toward France, looking toward Europe, looking inward who don't see a strong exciting message for millennials, for voters generally from an establishment party. That's really what's going on here.

WHITFIELD: And then Stephen, you know, is this in the long-term interests in the U.S. for Marine Le Pen to win?

COLLINSON: Well, I think you can ask the question or state the point that the Trump White House may perhaps be careful about what it's wishing for. There are clearly instinctive and philosophical similarities between the mode of politics pursued by Marine Le Pen and that pursued by Donald Trump in the election.

But at the same time she's very clearly anti-E.U. If she were to have a referendum that could take France out of the European Union and collapse the European Union that would cause chaos in the western world. Marine Le Pen has also been very critical of NATO. We've seen Donald Trump when he was --

WHITFIELD: As has Donald Trump.

COLLINSON: -- he was saying that NATO was obsolete, now he's changed his tune on that perhaps because he realizes the consequences of a weakening NATO in terms of the western world and U.S. security.

[14:35:10]So I think that in terms of the long-term multi-decade political and international interests of the United States and the stability of the western world, perhaps a Macron victory would be seen as preferable by many people in Washington.

You know, we've talked a lot about how Russia influenced the U.S. election. A weakened E.U., a weakened NATO that could possibly result from the prominence of Marine Le Pen and perhaps her being president despite the difficulties she would have in getting her platform through the French legislature.

And there's going to be French parliamentary elections after the presidential elections, a weakened NATO would play exactly into the arms of Russia and what Russia has been trying to do in influencing elections throughout the western world over the last few months.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. And so you know, Ron Brownstein, so this commonality of this sentiment of NATO between a Donald Trump and even Marine Le Pen, on a stage now where we're talking about strained relations particularly between Russia and the U.S., how do you see these parallels? I guess potentially rather precarious.

BROWNSTEIN: Stephen's point is exactly right. Vladimir Putin's goal has been to weaken western unity, to kind of pull apart at the bonds from both sides of the Atlantic and included in that is kind of undermining the E.U.

Now President Trump, you know, has said in interviews with the "Times" of London his exact phrase is he could care less whether the E.U. stays together or comes apart. But that is not the view of much of the mainstream foreign policy community, who has viewed it as kind of a bulwark of western unity and something that has reduced conflict in Europe.

I think that this -- again this election is just fascinating because Macron has gone further than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 in essentially embracing the idea of global cooperation and kind of economic and political integration and kind of made this a starker choice where I think this is -- this, by the way, this does reflect the big choice facing Democrats going forward.

Do you believe that a more populist and protectionist message a la Bernie Sanders in fact can win back a lot of these blue collar voters disaffected from globalization and growing diversity, who are fueling both Le Pen in France and Donald Trump here or do you think your future looks more like Macron?

Which is someone who is a fiscally right of center, culturally inclusive pro-global whose orientation is more toward a more white collar upper income coalition plus minority voters drawn to the diversity protection?

And I think that is the fundamental crossroads the Democrats face and you get one kind of -- through the mirror reflection of it here in a French election.

WHITFIELD: It's interesting, Jim Bittermann, if I could bring you back into this, that both of these candidates -- doesn't look like we have him right now, but Patrick maybe to you, it looks like both of these candidates, Macron and Le Pen are considered outsiders yet it's Macron who has spent time within the administration under President Hollande. He was a former finance minister so why is he still considered an outsider?

HEALY: Sure, because he's not a member of any major political party in France, and France very much even more than the U.S. has such a hierarchical political power structure where you pay so many dues along the way in terms of becoming a mayor of the town, a mayor of the city, sort of moving your way up through the party. He's very much an outsider.

He's a former banker who, you know, very much comes from kind of the finance world, kind of the pro global again world and who has only been in this government for a couple of years overseeing the economy and Fred, has not had a lot of successes really at all to point to on the economic --

WHITFIELD: How did he get to this point? He's a 39-year-old? How did he get to this point or at least get this kind of popularity to find himself in a runoff two weeks away?

HEALY: Look, Fred, you can't overstate the appeal of the outsider candidate. He's young. He's 39. He's good looking. He can be charismatic on the stump which they're coming off of a President Hollande, who, you know, a lot of people saw as like a stiff out there, you know, he embodies a certain kind of energy, a certain cultural savoir-faire that is very appealing.

But also again in a multicandidate field, you know, he was able to come up and sort of stand out. Now it's going to be head to head with Marine Le Pen and the question, one question is, is there enough white collar professional pro-global, pro-Europe support to counter act the real sort of frankly their hostility toward Europe.

[14:40:05]Hostility toward immigrants or just skepticism that, you know, that traditional politics, you know, can really help France, can lead it in the right way.

WHITFIELD: So Stephen, even with Macron having a little bit of that establishment experience, does he in essence end up redefining what establishment politics is?

COLLINSON: That's what he's trying to do in many ways. The next big question in western politics and the United States and Europe is if some kind of establishment politician can come up and answer the questions that Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen have been posing, it's clear that the traditional party structure, because those candidates have managed to rise up so spectacularly has failed, is there a politician out there that can sort of start asking these questions in a new way?

And Macron could be that person. After all, he is an outsider in terms of French politics, but he's clearly a member of the French elite. He went to the school in Paris where French politicians and civil servants try to go. He's not like he's some outsider from the provinces that's come in and shaken up French politics.

In some ways his campaign has been analogous to the Barack Obama campaign in 2008 in which he sort of established the structures of party politics, but he wasn't necessarily a complete outsider figure like Donald Trump. So it will be very interesting to see how that unfolds over the next two weeks. Now, of course, the French election is a two party -- two election system as we've been talking about, a first and a second round. It's entirely possible that Macron consolidates the support of almost all of the anti-National Front Le Pen voters.

The question being, as Jim said earlier, whether those far left voters, it's a similar situation that we saw in our election, we saw some Bernie Sanders voters had more in common with Donald Trump -- than they did with Hillary Clinton.

You can see some of that unfolding. I think that's going to be very interesting to see. But I think one question that we'll be asked now is what effect does this has on the German election and even more crucial election that's taking place in the fall.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is running for another term in office. There's a rise of populist anti-establishment politics in parts of Germany as well. In terms of the Deutschland Party, which does not seem likely to win, but will gain succor from the showing of Marine Le Pen.

And again raise questions about the whole unity of the European Union and the European Union's sort of capacity to keep this federalist superstate idea going which the British have already rejected.

WHITFIELD: Just finishing and completing your thought there, talking about the Bernie Sanders supporters, many of them refraining from throwing their support automatically to Hillary Clinton.

All right, thanks, everybody. We're going to have you stick around. We're going to take a short break and we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. There were five and now it's down to two heading to a runoff election for the French presidential race. And here are the two candidates, 39-year-old on the left centrist Emmanuel Macron up against far right, Marine Le Pen.

And at any moment, we expect that Le Pen just might be greeting her supporters there in France. We want to pick up where we left off with a great panel. Elise Labott has joined us now with Stephen Collinson, Ron Brownstein, and Patrick Healy.

Did I forgot anybody? No, we're all here. All right, so Elise, to you first. Potentially this runoff race which is now scheduled for May 7th. It's kind of a one-two punch with French elections there. But with these two how potentially influential might the outcome be for U.S. foreign policy?

LABOTT: Well, I think potentially it could be very influential. I mean, you saw how Marine Le Pen spoke against President Trump's decision to strike in Syria just a few weeks ago. I mean, Marine Le Pen really kind of trying to associate herself with President Trump. I mean, until this recent shooting in Paris President Trump hadn't really spoken very favorably of any candidate although there was an assumption that he would prefer Marine Le Pen. It wasn't until that shooting that he actually said that.

But in recent weeks, she's actually kind of been distancing herself a little from Trump particularly on the Syria question. So I think should she win the runoff election, I think a lot of U.S. foreign policies abroad would be, you know, called into question.

In recent months since he took office, President Trump has kind of walked back on his anti-E.U., anti-NATO stance. These are ideas that Marine Le Pen still sticks very firmly to.

So as she sees President Trump moving a little bit towards the center, I think it remains to be seen whether as a French president she would do the same or would that put the U.S. and France on odds of foreign policy. Given the fact that France is really one of the U.S. closest allies not just in Europe but around the world -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And Stephen, although at one moment there were some real parallels about, you know, Marine Le Pen's point of view in NATO and Donald Trump even though he has, you know, pivoted a little bit, is there a way in which to calculate of these two which would be the better ally in which to work with our president?

COLLINSON: I think the foreign policy establishment in the United States would clearly prefer Emmanuel Macron, a globalist who has spoken out very strongly in favor of the European Union.

[14:50:07]Whether some people in the administration would support that is another question. I think what's also really interesting about this is that even if Marine Le Pen does not win the second round, the influence of her populist politics is going to shape the policies of the winner.

There was an election back in 2002 in France when Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father, got to the second round and he ended up with only 18 percent of vote. That was a setback. Jean Chirac was president and he could almost disregard a lot of that sentiment.

If Marine Le Pen gets to 40 percent of the vote in the second round and still loses, that's a substantial part and a substantial voice for this sort of anti-globalist, anti-E.U., anti-big business sentiment in France.

That could shape the way not just Macron would rule if he was president, but also the legislative elections that are very important for dictating policy in France. You've seen a similar thing in the U.K. where Prime Minister Theresa May was pretty -- she was actually against Brexit.

But she kept herself out of the referendum, but she was thought to be against Brexit but as prime minister, she's had to go for a hard Brexit, which basically means cutting off immigration, pulling the U.K. out of the single market. She's reacting to the prevailing political conditions in the U.K. and the rise of populist feelings and anti-European feelings. That's a way in which you can see how even when populists don't win, they can shape the policies of those that do win.

WHITFIELD: And at any moment we do expect that Marine Le Pen just might go to the podium and address her supporters. When that happens we'll take you there live. Meantime, we'll take a short break. All of our guests, please stick around. We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. At any moment we understand that far right contender in the French presidential race, Marine Le Pen, will be addressing her supporters in Northern France.

Meantime, it's off to a runoff between two of the leading contenders, the far right Le Pen as well as centrist Emmanuel Macron. In this runoff that's scheduled now for May 7th.

Let me bring back my political panel, CNN White House reporter, Stephen Collinson, CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein and also a senior editor for "The Atlantic," and CNN political analyst, Patrick Healy, "New York Times" deputy culture editor. Glad you could all be back with us.

So Stephen, you first. Is it advantageous that any of the three remaining contenders would throw their support behind Macron when he is up against Le Pen? We know already one has thrown his endorsement behind Macron, but is that advantageous when we're looking at two who are considered outsiders, non-establishment candidates?

COLLINSON: I think what you would expect to see is the establishment center right and center left parties in France to throw their support behind Macron in a way trying to sort of amass forces against Le Pen.

I think Francois Fillon, another one of the candidates who was once seen as the frontrunner but got derailed by scandal has already done that. That's what you normally see in the second round of a French election.

That's what happened in 2002 when Chirac defeated Marine Le Pen's father, Jean Marie Le Pen, also of the National Front. Even if you added Le Pen's vote and the vote of the far left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon together. You probably couldn't get to 50 percent.

So she is going to have to try and broaden her support away from sort of anti-establishment voters and that is why a lot of people who are looking at this result believed that even though it's a very strong showing by Le Pen and the National Front, it still makes it very, very difficult for her to win the second round in two weeks.

And then you have got the question of whether the president of France is in many ways a symbolic figure, the commander-in-chief. They're seen as the head of the nation, but it's the prime minister in France that has a lot of domestic political power and that's rooted in the French legislature.

After the presidential elections there's going to be legislative elections and it's not at all clear that if Le Pen was president she could, you know, amass a significant governing force in the French parliament.

WHITFIELD: OK. Stick around. Stephen, thank you so much. Ron and Patrick as well. We're going to begin the next hour of the NEWSROOM right now.

Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with this breaking news out of France. Looks like independent candidate, Emmanuel Macron and National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen are headed to the second round of the French presidential election.

We're waiting for Le Pen to come out and speak to her supporters. When that happens we'll take those remarks live. I want to bring in now CNN's Jim Bittermann, who is there in Paris, and David Andelman, editor emeritus for "World Policy Journal" and a contributor, and CNN White House reporter, Stephen Collinson back with us.

So Jim, to you first, potentially consequential this race is for France and for Europe. To what degree do you see?

BITTERMANN: I just had a conversation with the foreign policy adviser for Marine Le Pen, he told me that in fact she is going to emphasize foreign policy in this two-week period here between this round of the elections and the second because they think that Macron is vulnerable on this issue particularly of Europe.