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NEW DAY SUNDAY

Lawmakers Sprint To Fund Government As Shutdown Looms; Now: France Votes In Presidential Elections; President Trump Congratulates Wounded Vet; McCain Foods' Hash Brown Recall; Japan and U.S. Joint Tactical Training Drills; Putin's Arctic Grip; Happy Days' Erin Moran Dies At 56; Teen Hailed As Hero In North Carolina. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired April 23, 2017 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[06:00:07]

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall. He will be insistent on the funding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Asked whether he would sign a bill that doesn't include that funding, he said I just don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those are three big legislative packages that he would like to get done in one week and Washington just doesn't work that way.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Health care is coming along well. Government is coming along really well. A lot of good things are happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first round of the French presidential election is set for Sunday.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: So much at stake in this country. Eleven presidential candidates. Some pro-European and others euro skeptical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Early on a Sunday and glad that we are not alone that you are up and Adam this morning. Good morning. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

Declines and deal making, Congress is facing both this week as they return to Washington. The deadline avoiding a government shutdown is Monday -- midnight rather on Friday and that's when Congress needs to get a spending bill to President Trump's desk. But will the president insist that bill include funding for his wall on the southern border? PAUL: House Speaker Paul Ryan told members on a conference call yesterday, keeping the government running will be priority number one this week. But lawmakers on the call tell us the leadership was short on details. They say, so far, they are planning a Friday vote on the spending bill. That leaves little room, though, for error.

BLACKWELL: It's setting up what could be a dramatic 100th day in office for President Trump. The new polling on his approval rating in just a moment.

PAUL: CNN White House correspondent, Athena Jones, has more on this week's sprint to keep the government running.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Victor. A big week ahead here in Washington, House Republican leadership held a brief conference call with the entire GOP caucus on Saturday and made it clear that the primary focus of this next week is passing a funding bill to keep the government running. That is top priority.

Now we know a few of the things the White House wants to see as part of that fund bill. One is money for hiring more immigration agents. Another is money for the border wall, this big border wall the president has long promised.

But Senate Democrats are saying money for the border wall is a nonstarter. They are also opposed to adding money to hire more immigration agents to this particular bill.

So the big question is will the president sign legislation that doesn't include a border wall funding? My colleague, Dana Bash spoke with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly about this. Watch what he had to say.

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DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's start with the border wall with Mexico and how it relates to keeping the government open. If Congress doesn't send President Trump a government funding bill by midnight on Friday, the government will run out of money and a shutdown would begin. So will the president go to the mat and insist on funding his border wall as part of the stop-gap government funding measure?

JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Dana, I think it goes without saying 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 suspect he will be insistent on the funding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: So there you heard Secretary Kelly sounding pretty certain that the president would insist on border wall funding. But the president himself sounded a bit less definitive in an interview with the "Associated Press." He said I want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, but asked if he would sign a bill that didn't include that funding, he told the AP, I just don't know yet.

So to use one of the president's favorite terms of phrase, we will see what happens with this border wall issue next week. One more note on that. One source was on this conference call said Republicans are still in negotiations on the final points of the spending bill and the hope is to get it to the floor on Friday.

Keep in mind that Friday is the deadline, Friday is the day that government funding lapses. Back to you.

BLACKWELL: All right, Athena Jones at the White House, thanks so much. Let's bring in CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, and CNN politics reporter, Tom LoBianco.

Errol, let me start with you, where Athena left off, the funding for the president's plan for this border wall, where is this going is in the likelihood at the end of the week he'll sign some legislation with more than a billion dollars to start this wall project?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It seems extremely unlikely. He'll need Democratic votes to make something like that happen and the Democrats have already signaled that they are not going to take even a half step in that direction.

The real challenge here, Victor, is that he is trying to get all of this done before that 100-day deadline is somewhat artificial political construct.

[06:05:05]You know, it's possible that he could get the funding that he wants for the wall if he can arrive at some kind of a compromise with Democrats and members of the Republican conference.

But to put the additional pressure on that he has got to make some tangible movement on it before May 1st arrives puts more pressure on the Congress than they can really sort of handle.

There is no reason to think that they can get this done in the five short days that they are going to have once they come back to work next week.

BLACKWELL: The president put a lot on Congress' plate as they come back on Monday, Tom, including last week, pushing for some vote in the House on health care by the end of the week. We know that the Speaker Ryan has said they are going to focus on funding the government and that it's signaling at least that health care will have to wait. Did it ever really seem realistic that there was going to be a vote at the end of the week? We heard rumblings that they were getting closer to a deal.

TOM LOBIANCO, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: No. I don't think anyone inside the capitol at least seriously thought they would ever have those vote by end of the week. You know, building off of Errol's point here, you know, I think maybe, if you're the president and you're looking at what your options are here, maybe you need to treat this 100-day benchmark as an artificial construct.

I mean, look what happened the last time they rushed in on something, they rushed in on health care. There was a lot of criticism afterwards that they had not laid the proper groundwork for this. Maybe that's now what you want to do with the border wall.

I mean, Congress is a fickle beast, OK. You know, you can't rush things through there. You know, like I said, they have to keep the government funded, right? They have all of this to work on here. The last thing they want to do is deal with another hot button item like the border wall without having really thoroughly vetted that just yet.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's talk about as you talk about the 100 days, this new poll out from "The Washington Post" and ABC News showing that President Trump has the highest disapproval ratings of any president in modern times with approval of 42 and disapproval of 53. Your reaction to what these numbers show, Errol?

LOUIS: Well, you know, it's odd. You know, I have not looked at the so-called the cross tabs to see exactly why, but I have a very strong suspicion that much of this comes from the pure uncertainty that surrounded to attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Not because of the particulars of it, but because the uncertainty itself is a problem. You know, I mean, I have company-paid insurance. It's not a financial issue for me and my family fortunately, but it can make you nuts trying to figure out are with we supposed to get the braces this year or next year for our kid?

How much money do we put into health savings account? What has been dropped? What has been put in? Where is my pharmaceutical coverage? You know, it goes on and on and on, the prescription coverage.

People have indicated, in many polls and in many different ways, that they just don't want this stuff tampered with and kicked around like a political football. I think Congress and the White House, the sooner they sort of figure that out, the sooner their approval ratings, including for the president, will turn around.

BLACKWELL: All right, Errol Louis, Tom LoBianco, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

And you saw just a few moments ago in Athena's report, a portion of Dana Bash's interview with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. You can watch the full interview later this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on "STATE OF THE UNION."

PAUL: Breaking overnight, a U.S. citizen has arrested in North Korea. Sources tells a South Korean news agency the man was detained by North Korean authorities on Friday at Pyongyang International Airport as he was trying to leave the country.

Now the Korean-American, who was only identified by his surname of Kim is in his late 50s and a former professor and was reportedly in North Korea to discuss relief activities. The State Department tells CNN that they are looking into that report. BLACKWELL: It is a big day for France as voters cast their ballots for their next president. There are several candidates in the mix, some of them with some would call radical views. What could this mean though for the U.S.?

PAUL: Also the president awards a purple heart to a wounded veteran and now the president facing some criticism over what he told that soldier during the ceremony.

BLACKWELL: Also Russian President Vladimir Putin flexing some military muscle in the arctic with a new base there. Why the buildup is putting the U.S. on alert?

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Vladimir Putin, the arctic is a prestige project. It demonstrates Russian history in its greatness. Russia can conquer anything.

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WHITFIELD: This hour, people in France voting for their next president and this is a crowded field. There are 11 people on the ballot, but there are five major contenders considered. Only the top two after today's voting ends, will face off on May 7th for the final round of voting.

And this election is of particular interest to the U.S. because two of the candidates are on really opposite ends of the spectrum, far right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, is anti-immigration and pro- Russia.

And then you've got far-left wildcard, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who proposes withdrawing from NATO, and we can't forget Emmanuel Macron promising to boost the economy, improve security. But this is a bitter fight one that might have far reaching global repercussions.

BLACKWELL: We are covering all of the angles of this story from Paris. CNN's Melissa Bell, who is outside a polling station there and David Andelman, a contributor for CNN.com, opinion columnist for "USA Today" as well and author of "A Shattered Peace: Versailes 1991 and the Price We Pay Today."

First to Melissa. What is the mood there among voters? We know that there was this attack just a few days ago that could have some impact on what is happening there. Give us a picture.

[06:15:10]MELLISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fear was that people might choose to stay away from the polls both because of the security issues that you mentioned, but also because in France faced with that bewildering array of political choice. The 11 candidates you mentioned, many of whom have begun voting today, the far-right Marine Le Pen and the far-left, Jean Luc Melenchon who is voting even now the centrist, Emmanuel Macron.

There was a fear that people might not go and vote, that appears not to have happened. We have been standing outside this polling station for many hours now ever since the polls opened and we have seen a steady flow of people coming to vote who tell us that actually they couldn't wait to come and cast this vote because so much is at stake.

And really you can put the candidates in two categories, the populists who want to sort of close France and have a massive change (inaudible) before and the ones that represent the sort of continuity, more globalization, more openness and more European Union.

The French really have a sense that they are voting for the future direction of France. Perhaps in a way that they never did before. Now we just had one official figure which gives us an indication of that enthusiasm to go and vote. The mid-day turnout rate 28.5 percent that is slightly up on 2012.

BLACKWELL: So Melissa, it's clear that the terror attack has not really had an impact on turnout, but considering the rules in France about new polling, is there any indication that the terror attacks may have had some impact on the choice that some voters are making?

BELL: That's the point is that because it happened when it did, 9:00 p.m. local time on Thursday night, just a day ahead of the end of the campaign, the polls we had one Friday morning but that had been compiled, of course, before the evening (inaudible) attack.

So there has been no measure in the opinion polls of the affect it might have on the choices that people are making. We will have to wait until 8:00 p.m. local time tonight to work out what impact if any it's had.

But the fear here in France and we have been hearing from a lot of voters we have been speaking to since is that it could help the far- right Marine Le Pen, who of course has been put things like immigration, the fight against Islamist extremism at the very center of her campaign.

BLACKWELL: All right, the only poll that matters is the results later this evening your time there. Melissa Bell, thanks so much.

PAUL: We want to go to David Andelman now. David, thank you for being here. We know two candidates on either side of the spectrum hire were really taking a closer focus on. Do you believe that Marine Le Pen may try to capitalize on the recent terror attacks to boost her anti-immigration pitch?

DAVID ANDELMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CNN.COM OPINION: Well, she certainly already has. In fact, the final debate just after -- in fact, as the terror attack was being investigated Thursday night, there was a national debate. The final debate on French television and she was the one person who devote her entire five-minute final remarks to that very question.

But it's still very much an open question, who is among the top four, the polls are so tight you could put a postage stamp over them. A newspaper said the great suspense in France is what everybody is counting on. Nobody really has any understanding of just how that is going to work.

PAUL: I don't know how many people rely on polls any more after what we have seen in England with Brexit and here in the U.S. with the election here. I know that you've talked about reports of Russian meddling in French election as well. You did so in one of your articles. What is at stake for Russia in France's election?

ANDELMAN: There is a lot at stake for Russia. Russia really would like to see another country break out of the European Union as Britain did. If it's France and this is exactly what Marine Le Pen is promising if she wins, she wants to take France out of the European Union.

That could be the final straw that breaks apart the European Union and a lot of fear about that. Not only in France but in many other European countries. Germans are coming in for a major election in a few months so there is a major concern all over Europe about this election today.

But it's very interesting. The Russians did try in their own fashion to influence this election, but the way the French voters vote it's very hard to do. They still use paper ballots, believe it or not. I have them here.

You walk into a polling place and you hold up -- you take one of these ballots. You choose the candidates you want from this and you fold it into an envelope. You drop it in a ballot box that is glass. It's an all-glass ballot box so everybody can see exactly what is going on. This is an election unlike any other in Europe or in France's history and it's really quite extraordinary.

PAUL: My goodness. I want to stay on the topic of Russia, for a moment, Le Pen is pro Russia. In fact, she visited Moscow, had a one- on-one meeting, as I understand it, with Putin just last month.

[06:20:11]And in a meeting in Moscow, she said that a new world had emerged in these past years. Let's listen to what she said here.

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MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): It's the world of Vladimir Putin. It's the world of Donald Trump in the United States. It's the world of Mr. Motte in India and I think that I am probably the one who shares with all of these great nations a vision, again, of cooperation and not a vision of submission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: What is your reaction? What is the reaction of people in France to that assertion? ANDELMAN: I've talked with a lot of French people. I've lived here for many years. I have many friends among the French. The French don't really care very much for the Russians, to be perfectly honest.

I mean, there are some old-time communist party members who still have an affection for Russia for the Russian system. The French are really very independent breed and I think if there is one thing that could really hold down Le Pen's voting popularity among the broad French people is a sense she could in any sense sell out France.

They call it (inaudible), the patriotic nature of this country and as undemocratic as the Russia is. The French have a very deep concept of democracy. Democracy is so important to them. Hence, the nature of their elections and the fact that this is so tightly fought because so very much is at stake here.

PAUL: All right, David Andelman, we so appreciate your insight. Thanks for taking the time for us this morning.

ANDELMAN: You're welcome.

BLACKWELL: President Trump awards a purple heart on his first visit to Walter Reed Medical Center, but critics are taking issue with what the president said to that wounded soldier.

PAUL: Also the president snubbing the media by skipping the White House Correspondents Dinner next week and instead planning a big rally to celebrate his 100th day in office.

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[06:26:26]

PAUL: Good to see you this morning. It's 26 minutes past the hour. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

PAUL: All righty, countdown is on. The White House is racing to avoid marking the president's first 100 days in office with a government shutdown.

BLACKWELL: Now the deadline is midnight on Friday. That is when Congress needs to get a spending bill to President Trump's desk. But will the press insist that bill include funding for his wall on the southern border?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Will the president go to the mat and insist on funding his border wall as part of the stopgap government funding measure?

KELLY: Dana, I think it goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: House Speaker Paul Ryan told members on a conference call yesterday, keeping the government running will be priority number one this week.

BLACKWELL: But lawmakers on that call tell CNN the leadership was short on details. They say so far they are planning a Friday vote on the spending bill, leaving very little room for error.

PAUL: Meanwhile, on his first trip to Walter Reed Medical Center the president awarded a purple heart to a soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan. Take a look.

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TRUMP: I wanted to do it myself. So congratulations on behalf of Melania and myself and the entire nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: President Trump presenting the medal there to Sergeant First Class Avaro Barentos. He thanked him on behalf of himself and the first lady. Barentos' wife, Tammy was there for the short ceremony. We thank him as well for his service.

BLACKWELL: What you heard there that President Trump say at Walter Reed that is getting some criticism. The Purple Heart is awarded to American service members who are wounded or killed in combat and some have suggested it may not be appropriate to congratulate someone for receiving it.

Let's discuss, joining us now, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor at Spectrum News, and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona on the phone with us, a CNN military analyst and former military attache in Syria.

Errol, let me start with you, as soon as I saw this bit of footage, it reminded me of this moment from the campaign when a supporter gave then Candidate Trump his Purple Heart. Watch.

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TRUMP: Now I said to him, I said to him, is that like the real one or is that a copy? And Ed, that's my real Purple Heart. I have such confidence in you. And I said, man! That's like big stuff. I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: I always wanted to get the Purple Heart, this was much easier, given to service members who are wounded or killed. I almost hesitate to ask the question. Does the president not understand how service members are awarded a Purple Heart?

LOUIS: Well, no. Look. He understands the basics of it, but I see the point you're getting at which this is the first commander-in-chief in the history of the country who was never elected to any office and also never served in the military.

You know, everyone else, all 44 of his predecessors were either elected to some office or you have, you know, Washington, Eisenhower. You have Zachary Taylor and you have Ulysses Grant who were military leaders of high distinction.

[06:30:00]

So he doesn't know the military traditions. He doesn't know that, for example, or maybe he doesn't care that his predecessor, President Obama, never gave the Purple Heart in public. It was sort of a solemn and a private ceremony. It was about -- sort of the nation privately recognizing the sacrifice of someone who was wounded or killed.

You know, on the other hand, let's be real about this. First -- Sergeant 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos had the thrill of a lifetime. He and his family are going to be very, very proud. They will never remember what the particular words are. They will remember he was honored by the commander in chief and that is really what matters.

BLACKWELL: Colonel Francona, your reaction -- your response to what you saw yesterday there at Walter Reed?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST (on the phone): Well, I thought the choice of wording was a little inartful but, you know, as Errol says, I mean, this was a real honor for the sergeant and his family. That's something they will always remember.

And I think it's very important that people recognize the sacrifice, the service and the dedication of our troops. And the president presenting this award in public highlights the sacrifices being made even today. People tend to forget that we are still fighting several wars on several fronts particularly in Afghanistan.

I remember last week when we talked about the MOAB, a lot of people were surprised that we still had that level of confrontation going on in Afghanistan. So I think it serves to keep the sacrifice of our troops in the public eye and, of course, this sergeant's life has changed forever and I think it was important for the president to recognize that.

BLACKWELL: So to a great extent, we see and I've read the responses and some of the criticisms online, Errol, about what the president said there yesterday at Walter Reed.

What we see and hear from his supporters is that his heart was in the right place, that they have just been awkward in saying that. There is some allowance there for this being, as you said, a president who has never really engaged in this way and especially in this role?

LOUIS: Well, that is exactly right.

I mean, look, you know, a bit of local political history, 30 odd years ago it was Donald Trump who co-chaired the commission that created a Vietnam Veterans Memorial here in New York city at a time when the war was unpopular, largely forgotten that the 400,000 odd veterans that are in the New York metropolitan area had really never been recognized in a way and it was one of the few things that this very boastful, very public man never really took a lot of public credit for.

You know? I think to the extent that you've got something genuine at the core of Donald Trump's politics and personal philosophy, I think, respect for veterans is there. And I don't think any of the kind of awkwardness that you saw or will continue to see, if he continues to make these ceremonies public, is going to change that.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And moving beyond the words here, Colonel Francona, would you like to see more of these presentations of the Purple Heart publicly as Errol pointed out? President Obama did it privately during his terms.

FRANCONA: Yes. I think so. As I said before, I think it's important that we realize and, you know, I wrote an article sometime back about this and I called this the cost of our freedom and we need to recognize that there are young men and women paying these prices and some of these wounds are horrific.

I mean, this sergeant has lost his leg. He is going to go through years, years of trying to recover from this. So I think it's important that we, as a nation, recognize that and honor these young men and women and one way to do that is to have these Purple Heart ceremonies.

BLACKWELL: All right. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, Errol Louis, thank you both.

LOUIS: Thank you.

FRANCONA: You're welcome.

PAUL: Well, still to come, we now know what the president is going to be doing rather than attending the White House Correspondents' dinner. Yes, he has a plan. We're going to tell you what that is and what we could expect to hear from him.

BLACKWELL: Plus, Russia is boasting about the new military base in the arctic (INAUDIBLE) President Putin's grip (ph) on the region is (INAUDIBLE) to the U.S. to beef up military presence there as well.

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[06:38:20]

BLACKWELL: Well, in a snub apparently to the media, President Trump said that he will -- quote -- "Hold a big rally in Pennsylvania next Saturday to mark his 100th day in office instead of attending the White House Correspondents' dinner."

This decision comes just days after he tweeted how ridiculous the 100th day construct is for measuring presidential productivity. PAUL: To be clear that 100th day standard was first set by President Roosevelt who was proposing a series of bills to deal with after the great depression. But on the campaign trail, the first 100 days, it was something that President Trump talked about repeatedly and even seemed to champion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am asking the American people to dream big once again. What follows is my 100-day action plan to make America great again.

Just think about what we can accomplish in the first 100 days of a Trump administration. Ethics reform will be a crucial part of our 100-day plan as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Well, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" Brian Stelter is up early with us here. Good morning to you, Brian.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

PAUL: I have to say if it's so ridiculous, why commemorate it with a rally?

BLACKWELL: Mm-hmm.

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER: Two words or -- well, I don't know, maybe this is one word. Counterprogramming. Who got the hype in the middle there?

This is a counterprogramming move by President Trump, knowing that the White House Correspondents' dinner is on Saturday night. I mean, think about it like this. When is the last time the president held a public event on a Saturday night? Normally, he did it at Mar-a-Lago or in Washington or sometimes visiting one of his other resorts or retreats.

[06:40:07]

You know, for example, last night he was at one of his hotels in Washington having dinner. Normally, it's a private evening for the president but this Saturday choosing to have a public event. Why? Because he does want to counterprogram the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

And normally, every year, a president attend the dinner. It's one of the Hilton hotels in Washington. A grand affair, a red carpet affair, journalists and celebrities and politicians all mingling and sometimes it's criticized for being too cozy so Trump is going the other direction. Very much criticizing the press implicitly by deciding not to attend and telling his aides not to attend. There was speculation back when Trump said he wasn't going to this dinner that he might do something else. Sure enough, Victor and Christi, it is this rally in Pennsylvania instead.

BLACKWELL: So the White House Correspondents' Association, they have known a couple of weeks now that the president wouldn't be there when he tweeted that out sometime ago so that is not new. But this rally is.

STELTER: That's right.

BLACKWELL: Have they responded to now this concept of a competing event?

STELTER: No but I think the association sort of expected the president to pull off something, whether it be live tweeting the event or whether it will be holding a rally or some other sort of spectacle. This is something the president did -- the now president did during the campaign very effectively.

You think about that evening when there was primary debate when all of the other GOP contenders were on stage? Trump skipped that debate, held his own event instead and called it a fund-raiser. So he thinks about it in television terms as counterprogramming.

But I think it is also going to show the president's focus on his base. Perhaps the detriment of bringing in other Americans who are more skeptical. You know, brand-new poll from "The Washington Post" and ABC this morning shows the same thing other national polls have shown. The president is around 40 percent for his approval rating. "The Washington Post" number is 42 percent.

He has almost everyone who originally voted for him in November and very few others supporting his presidency right now. Approving of his presidency. In order to get those numbers up having a rally that appeals to your base in Pennsylvania may not be the way to move your numbers. It may be a way to fire up the base more and create an interesting split-screen moment when you've got a comedian maybe criticizing you on one side of the screen and a rally on the other side. But it may not be way to actually improve your ranking overall.

By the way, that was President Trump now President Trump showing up at the dinner six years ago. This is a famous video from six years ago, 2011. President Obama was withering in his criticism of then reality star Trump in the audience. President Trump never came back to the dinner since 2011. And some people wondered if maybe that was one of the reasons he decided to run for president. He didn't like how much he was criticized by the elites in that room.

Any way that is one that one theory for why he is skipping the dinner this year.

PAUL: All right. Brian Stelter, we appreciate it as always.

STELTER: Thanks.

PAUL: Thank you. And you know that he's not -- he's not done with you yet. Brian Stelter on "RELIABLE SOURCES" later this morning. Two big guests from "The New York Times" who will unveil details on the reporting that helped take down Bill O'Reilly essentially. That is at 11:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN. You don't want to miss it.

BLACKWELL: There was one thing we want to pass on to you. An important recall if you're having breakfast this morning. These are hash browns made by McCain Foods recalling these frozen hash brown products. Let's put them up on the screen.

Interesting reason here. Their words here -- quote -- "extraneous golf ball materials" might have inadvertently been harvested with the potato. So check the package. They were made on January 19th. Again, you know, if you're having breakfast -- although maybe a little bit early to start cooking at 6:40 Eastern?

PAUL: It depends. Maybe.

BLACKWELL: Well, for me. McCain Foods -- these hash browns -- maybe some golf ball bits in there? So watch out for those and take them back to the store.

PAUL: I have not heard of that one before for sure.

BLACKWELL: Right.

PAUL: Joint military drills on the way in the Western Pacific Ocean this morning as tensions rise between the U.S. and North Korea. We'll talk about that.

BLACKWELL: Plus, Russian President Vladimir Putin expands his influence. Why his new military base in the arctic is putting the U.S. on alert?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:48:16]

BLACKWELL: The U.S. and Japan are joining forces in the Western Pacific Ocean this morning for a series of tactical training drills.

Just as North Korea reportedly says it's ready to sink an aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military strength. The "USS Carl Vinson" carrier strike group begins drills with two Japanese destroyers. The exercises are expected to continue for several days and this comes as, you know, as the tensions grow there along the Korean peninsula with North Korea warning of nuclear war in response to what they call American aggression.

Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiling his plans to dominate the arctic with the visit to a new massive military base there. The Russian military showed off a virtual tour of this new interior of the huge facility.

PAUL: It's going to be a base for 150 troops and war planes.

Now CNN correspondent Brian Todd reports on Putin's future intention for that region and what it means for the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a frozen wind-swept expanse in the Arctic, Vladimir Putin 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, CNA: This is a lot about the projection of the Russia status, right? Russia 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: This is a base set in perhaps the most inhospitable, if not the most inhospitable places on Earth. They're so cold (ph) that, you know, sort (ph) of living on another planet with no oxygen, this is one of the most dangerous and hazardous areas to operate.

[06:50:03]

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 eye on in the Arctic are massive, experts say, worth possibly tens of trillions of dollars, expected to be become more accessible if global warming continues.

KOFMAN: And they, in some respects, believe in the future there will be a contest between powers for who gets access to them. There'll be a lot of economic, commercial competition. And the Russian view is, 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?

GEN. LORI ROBINSON, COMMANDER, U.S. NORTHERN COMMAND: I believe it's one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One and a half.

ROBINSON: 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 & INTL. 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 (on camera): 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 pressed officials here at the White House, at the Pentagon, Northern Command and the Coast Guard for any specific plans to place more resources in the Arctic. We've gotten no response.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: "Happy Days" star Erin Moran has died at age 56. We will tell you how her co-stars are remembering her this morning.

PAUL: Also we want to talk to you about the firefighters in Florida. They are really struggling to get more than 150 wildfires under control now but they are getting a little bit of help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:56:05]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN MORAN, ACTRESS: I am so tired of doing everything they tell me to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. I thought they outlawed slavery in this country.

MORAN: Not for teenagers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Actress Erin Moran there best known as Joanie from "Happy Days" has died. She was just 56 years old. Now we know that she was found unresponsive in an Indiana home yesterday. Her co-stars were sharing their sadness on Twitter.

BLACKWELL: Henry Winkler posted, "Oh Erin, now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on Earth. Rest in it serenely now, too soon."

And Ron Howard tweeted this, "Such sad, sad news. RIP Erin. I'll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up TV screens."

Moran was a fan favorite on "Happy Days" and later starred in the show's spin-off "Joanie Loves Chachi."

PAUL: Well, apparently there some recent rain that is helping firefighters in Florida though, they say this is a threat that is continuing this morning.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Roughly 75,000 acres are being scorched there as more than 150 wildfires burn statewide.

Joining us with more on these fueling fires here, and when the state could catch a break, we have got meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

Some of these fires are more than a hundred acres so we are talking about some big fires across the state.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Without a doubt, Victor and Christi.

Check this out. You asked, when are they going to get some relief? Well, the answer is right now. In fact, two of the largest fires that are burning across Collier County, that's where Naples, Florida is located in southwestern portions of the state, actually receiving rainfall as we speak. Definitely some good news. Not a lot of rain but we will take what we can get, right?

We've got 60 percent containment on the cow bell fire, 268 personnel assigned to this particular fire, over 20,000 acres already burned. As you mentioned, Victor, 35 active wildfires over 100 acres dotted across the state and it's all thanks to our severe drought that blankets much of the central and southern portions.

We have got the three ingredients necessary for fires to spread. We've the fuel, the dry timber brush across the central parts of the state. Certainly got the heat, we're talking about Florida here. And oxygen.

Think about this. The air that we breathe is about 21 percent oxygen. You only need 16 percent oxygen for fire to ignite and to spread. But big changes are on the way. We've got our warm and humid air mass ahead of a cold front that's sliding through bringing us the rainfall we saw now. Then behind the cold front we're going to see a wind shift change and then cooler and drier air settle in.

So not only do we have our rainfall now but the potential for drier to settle in means that fires could start to reignite as we head into the middle parts of next week, so something we will have to monitor.

Victor and Christi, back to you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Even a little bit of rain is helpful. Derek Van Dam, thanks so much.

VAN DAM: All right.

PAUL: He is just 17 years old but a lot of people say Jarraine Gray is a hero. He saved his cousin from a fire that (INAUDIBLE) the family's home. This was in Kinston, North Carolina but investigators say that the fire started in the kitchen and Demetria Gray, Jarraine's mother, says -- you know what? She is not all surprised by her son's action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEMETRIA GRAY, JARRAINE GRAY'S MOTHER: He has sickle cell anemia and it's something he don't really like to discuss, but for him to risk his self running in to get somebody else, that was amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: No one was injured in that fire, thankfully, because of him, of course. You can see, though, by these pictures, the Grays do not have a home, though.

[07:00:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall. He will be insistent on the funding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Asked whether he would sign a bill that doesn't include that funding he said, I just don't know.