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North Korean Missile Explodes after Launch; Pope Francis to Celebrate Mass in Military Stadium; Trump's Unconventional Foreign Policy; Trump Blames Obama for Failing to Vet Flynn. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2017 - 03:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Provocation from Pyongyang, another missile launch just a day after the U.S. president warned of the possibility of a major conflict.

Donald Trump's 100 days in office. We will look at what his supporters and critics have to say about his record to date.

And we are live in Cairo, where Pope Francis will lead mass for Egypt's Christians after meeting with the country's Muslim leaders.

Hello, everyone. I'm Lynda Kinkade, live in Atlanta, thanks for joining us, CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


KINKADE: On Donald Trump's 100th day in office, a direct challenge to the U.S. president from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Early Saturday, North Korea fired another ballistic missile. South Korea says it exploded several minutes later. Let's get the latest now from CNN's Will Ripley, the only U.S. television correspondent currently in Pyongyang.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can hear the music that plays almost hourly here in Pyongyang, reminding citizens of the sacrifices of their late leaders. The outside world may view this missile launch as a failure but here inside North Korea, most people will never hear about it and North Korea's rocket scientists may not see it as a failure because, with each launch, whether it's a success or not, they gain valuable intelligence.

This particular missile they were trying to launch is the kind that could someday be used to attack a U.S. aircraft carrier like the Carl Vinson, which is approaching the waters off the Korean Peninsula.

So perhaps overshadowing the launch itself is the strong message North Korea is sending to its enemies.

RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea attempting to launch another ballistic missile. Its ninth launch attempt since President Trump took office. A U.S. official tells CNN the land-based ballistic missile exploded over land shortly after launch. A defiant response to mounting international pressure.

It's clear this is a regime with something to prove. The Korean People's Army calling Tuesday's live fire drill their largest ever. Long range artillery by the hundreds, submarines, bombers.

Earlier this month staging this massive military parade, unveiling what North Korea says are new missiles, trying and failing to launch one the very next day.

On the ground, it's clear to us this is an attempt to look tough, all of it choreographed for the world and regular North Koreans. State TV defiantly threatening to strike back against the U.S. with force.

North Korea furious about ongoing joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, just miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries. Exercises always infuriate the regime but tensions are at their highest level in years. North Korea uncertain about the Trump administration's next move.

Government officials in Pyongyang telling CNN there is an imminent and growing threat of all-out war with the United States. State mouthpiece KCNA warning, in case a war breaks out on the peninsula, the U.S. will be held wholly accountable for it, no matter who made the preemptive attack.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The president telling Reuters the U.S. won't rule out the military option but, quote, "we'd love to solve things diplomatically."

Also expressing a degree of empathy for North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: He is 27 years old, his father dies, took over a regime. So, say what you want but that's not easy, especially at that age.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The president later clarifying he is not praising the North Korean leader. Kim has ramped up North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, launching more missiles than the two previous leaders combined. The growing threat of a nuclear North Korea, the focus of a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council, chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.

RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea says it's only a matter of time before they test more nuclear weapons and launch more missiles, also insisting they're more than --


RIPLEY (voice-over): -- ready for whatever happens next.

RIPLEY: There is always a lot of confusion in the early hours of these launches. Initially the U.S. thought the missile traveled 15 minutes, then they changed that and said that it exploded over North Korean territory. But in South Korea military analysts say it still reached of an altitude of 71 kilometers, around 44 miles, showing that North Korea was able to get this ballistic missile up and they will work to perfect the distance for the next go -- Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


KINKADE: Well, a short time ago, I spoke with Adam Mount, he's a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington. I asked him about the timing of this missile, which coincides with the 100th day of the Trump administration.


ADAM MOUNT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: It's true that this administration has prioritized the North Korean issue to their credit. They have approached China and tried to make inroads with China to encourage coordination, to further restrict the regime's inflow of foreign currency and capital.

It's clear that they have sent military signals and made real efforts to try to change the regime's calculus. I'm less certain that they've made progress in doing so.

So for example, when the North Koreans did not do a nuclear test near their parade a couple of weeks ago, some administration officials said that that was because they were deterred from -- by U.S. military signals.

I think if this administration believes that they can deter missile and nuclear tests with military action, they're going to be sorely mistaken. And so for example, that's a signal that North Korea is sending now. They're saying that no matter how many aircraft carriers they send to the East Sea, these nuclear and missile tests will continue.


KINKADE: Well, weapons experts claim that North Korea's attempt at displaying military force has major flaws, saying that images that highlight some of Pyongyang's weapons appear either outdated or fake. Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a new North Korean propaganda video, the White House and an aircraft carrier are in the cross-hairs, a carrier and the U.S. Capitol are shown blowing up. It's the latest installment of intimidating images from the regime. Here, Kim Jong-un enters on the red carpet, flanked by officers. He beams with pride at the weaponry on display. But now a closer look reveals some of these weapons are far less deadly than they seem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the parade was based more on impressing their leader, Kim Jong-un, than impressing an adversary.

TODD (voice-over): This was the grand parade on April 15th, the Day of the Sun, North Korea's most important holiday of the year, held on the anniversary of Kim's grandfather's birth.

It was impressive. ICBMs and other missiles rolled by; soldiers and commandos goose-stepped, brandishing some imposing munitions. Weapons expert Michael Priejat (ph), a former U.S. military intelligence officer whose war games against North Korea saw some things amiss with the weapons displayed.

MICHAEL PRIEJAT (PH), WEAPONS EXPERT: These are type 88 rifles, AK- 74s, with a grenade projectile. And you're seeing that here. Now these rounds are dummies. These rounds are fake. This capability is so outdated -- I mean, this is a capability the North Koreans stole from the United States during the Korean War.

We stopped using this in 1961. The reason this is not a menacing weapon to an adversary is because it has a high failure rate.

TODD (voice-over): At first glance, these appear to be sophisticated grenade launchers. But experts say they're really outdated bullet magazines with a high failure are. We are told some missiles at the parade were likely mock-ups. Experts say it's too risky for them to display the real thing.

But the flaws may not have been just with the weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even the sunglasses have a problem.

PRIEJAT (PH): Right, you expect the commander to look like the soldiers he is commanding. In this case, you have a commander of this commando force wearing $5 sunglasses, flat-faced sunglasses, so they are not ballistic. They don't protect him from a blast.

TODD (voice-over): One analyst said, for the North Korean audience, the equipment does not have to be combat ready.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Staging a realistic image of North Korean military in society is not the point of these parades. These parades are supposed to show what North Korea should be, rather than what it is.

TODD: Neither North Korean nor U.S. officials we reached out to commented on the observation of fake or outdated weapons at that parade. Analysts say despite the flaws, this is not a military to be laughed at. The North Koreans are a million men strong, fit, well- trained, committed, with legitimate artillery backing them up, artillery pointed directly at Seoul and at 28,000 U.S. troops in the DMZ -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KINKADE: Well, in Brazil, the first general strike in more than two decades, has seen --


KINKADE: -- protesters set buses on fire and clash with police. Strikes hit all 26 states. In the capital, Rio de Janeiro, people marched on the president's residence. Unions initiated the protests which brought parts of the country to a standstill.

Workers angry at the president's efforts to push austerity measures that would weaken labor laws and force Brazilians to work longer before receiving a pension. The government argues reforms are needed to pull the country out of its worst recession in decades.

Well, no one would accuse Donald Trump's first 100 days as being uneventful. We will mark his first major milestone and talk about his big hits and misses.

Plus, Pope Francis is standing up for Egypt's religious minorities. The message he is sharing in Cairo coming up next, stay with us.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

Pope Francis is standing against violence in the name of religion as he makes his historic trip to Egypt. He visited a Coptic church, where dozens of people died in an ISIS attack last year. It's all part of an effort to fight religious intolerance and promote peace.

Our Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher, joins me now live from Cairo.

Delia, this trip comes as Egypt remains under a state of emergency after those recent ISIS attacks. Just give us a sense of the security detail with the pope right now.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can imagine, security is very tight. We have helicopters hovering overhead, police and military lining (INAUDIBLE) along the route that the pope will take.


KINKADE: All right, we are going to have to pull out, I'm afraid, Delia. We seem to be having a connection problem with you and the audio there. Hopefully, we can get back to you shortly, thank you.

(MUSIC PLAYING) KINKADE: Well, the Trump White House narrowly side-stepped a government shutdown on the eve of the president's first big milestone. At the 11th hour, as Donald Trump approached his 100th day in office, he had to sign a short-term spending bill just to keep the government functioning. That will give him and Congress another week to sort out a funding plan to run through to September.

Meanwhile the president was getting back to his campaign ways, hitting political opponents in a speech to the National Rifle Association.


TRUMP: I have a feeling that in the next election you're going swamped with candidates. But you're not going to be wasting your time. You'll have plenty of those Democrats coming over and you're going to say, no, sir, no, thank you; no, ma'am -- perhaps ma'am. It may be Pocahontas, remember that.


TRUMP: And she is not big for the NRA, that I can tell you.


KINKADE: Well, here's a look at President Trump's first 100 days in office by the numbers. He has signed 28 bills into law, more than each of the previous 10 presidents. But none of those were major legislative victories. Four are considered purely ceremonial.

Mr. Trump has signed 30 executive orders, on everything from border security to abortion. That's more than any president in the last 72 years, dating all the way back to Harry Truman.

President Trump's big win, the Senate confirmed judge, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court, that hasn't happened in the president's first 100 days since James Garfield did it 136 years ago.

Well, let's bring in our political panel, Ben Ferguson is a radio host and a CNN political commentator and Jonathan Tasini is a Democratic strategist. He joins us from New York.

Thank you both for being with us. We want to talk about President Trump's first 100 days. If we can start with foreign policy, North Korea tonight, we've seen them launch another missile, a failed test. They continue to defy warnings from the U.S. and the president has cautioned that there is a chance of having a major conflict.

Firstly to Ben, how do you think the administration is handling this?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they're doing a pretty good job with this. I think you see the State Department working well with the White House and also they're working well China and others to put pressure on North Korea.

The fact is, North Korea has been able to do pretty much whatever they want to do for the last several years and that can't happen moving forward. They've been testing far too many nuclear weapons. Their last blast they had last year was as large as the bomb that we dropped in Hiroshima, they say.

And so there also we found out from intelligence that every six or seven weeks they're able and capable of making another nuclear weapon. So they have to be dealt with in some capacity. When you look as if there is a possibility you might use military strength, it gives you a lot more leverage with China to put pressure on them and also when it comes to trade with North Korea.

So I think right now they're doing a pretty good job of putting everything on the table to try to get a diplomatic solution as the secretary of state Rex Tillerson said yesterday. Look, we want this to be a resolution that is not dealing with the military. But, ultimately, we have to protect our interests, our allies and others around the world.

KINKADE: Jonathan, we are hearing tough words from President Trump.

How do you think he is approaching this?

What needs to happen?

JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, in general I think the problem with Donald Trump is he knows very little about the world. And I think that I see among my circle and friends and frankly people around the world, I have many friends around the globe in Australia and Europe who write to me and say that they've never had a situation, even going back to Ronald Reagan, where they would wake up in the morning and wonder whether there would be something like a conflagration, a serious -- perhaps a World War III.

And I think that partly comes to -- comes from Donald Trump being unhinged and running foreign policy through Twitter, which I think no one has done before. And you've got in some way a little bit of a conflict or sometimes they're not on the same page.

You've got Rex Tillerson off saying one thing, let's talk diplomatically, where you have Donald Trump tweeting out threats against North Korea. And I think that is of grave concern to people, not just when it comes to North Korea but generally in the way that Donald Trump, frankly, comports himself.

FERGUSON: Let's be clear though about something. Donald Trump has not tweeted out any threats directly at North Korea. What he has said is you have to comply with the rules of engagement, with international -- with the international rules and the United Nations has also said the same thing.

And you talk about this idea of waking up to World War III. Let's be clear. North Korea and what has been said directly by this leader has been what you would refer to as the insane rhetoric, not what Donald Trump has been saying.

He said he is at war with America. He said he is willing to blow up his neighbors next to him. He has nuclear weapons so you have to deal with that reality.

TASINI: But the threat from North Korea is a threat to -- and that's one reason China is involved. I think China is far more a player in this and should be encouraged to take a leadership role.

But let's be clear and let's be honest, all around the world, Lynda -- and I think this is the concern that people have -- Donald Trump is unhinged. Donald Trump does not know really -- does not know much about the world. And we saw that in the way that he -- he threatened even allies. He calls people's names on Twitter.

And so generally people look at someone who has potentially this nuclear button, this powerful military, and they consider Donald Trump to be a dangerous, unhinged individual.

KINKADE: All right, well, we've got much more to get through apart from North Korea.

I want to look at the Russia investigation, the connections that are being made --


KINKADE: -- with the Trump campaign that continue to dog his administration and this new probe into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, that we found out about this week.

As you both know the White House, is blaming the Obama administration for not vetting him properly when he worked for them. The president again repeated that claim to FOX News, just take a listen to what he said.


TRUMP: When they say we didn't vet. Well, Obama I guess didn't vet. Because he was approved at the highest level of security by the Obama administration.


KINKADE: So we do know that Flynn started advising the Trump campaign back in 2015.

First to Ben.

Does that argument work for you?

FERGUSON: Look, I blame General Flynn. I don't -- and I think you have to look obviously there are some vetting issues with the U.S. government. The fact is, in 2015, he made these speeches in Russia, took these Russian dollars and was at dinner with Vladimir Putin, which we've seen the video of and the pictures of.

This was out there in the world. This was literally broadcast in Russia and also broadcast in newspapers actually around that region. Yet he was able to fill out forms and get top security clearance in 2016 from the Obama administration.

Now do I think that President Obama should be held personally for this?

No. I also think Donald Trump shouldn't be held personally for this because the vetting system obviously did not work. And what you're going to see is I think General Flynn is going to be in some serious trouble. And it's pretty clear he lied about those payments. He was told not to take foreign money.

He was in a compromising situation there. That's why he is no longer working in the government, why he is under investigation. And I think ultimately there is a big problem with the vetting system, when there is pictures on Facebook and on Twitter of you in Russia speaking and sitting with the president of that country but somehow you get top security clearance from any administration, it's a failure of the vetting process in general.

KINKADE: Jonathan, who do you blame for this major oversight?

TASINI: Well, I agree with Ben to some extent. I think, Lynda, the reason this is a big issue is that there is a general sense, an unease in the public, about Donald Trump himself. And -- and the fact that he -- what are his business interests?

And the fact that, in my view, the Trump family, Ivanka, Jared Kushner and so on, they look at the government like the Saudi government looks at its kingdom for them to do what they want, to make money, to enrich themselves, to promote their brand. It's almost like another kleptocracy.

And so Michael Flynn fits into this little part. And I think frankly, if Donald Trump had been an honest, straightforward person, not someone who had cheated thousands of people when he was a businessman -- that's how he made his money, by the way, by defrauding people -- if Donald Trump had been a straightforward person who had been -- who people trusted, this Flynn thing would have, to me, be a minor thing.

But it's gotten more blown up, it's become more of an issue because of the perception of the public and, by the way, the recent polling shows that the majority of the American people think that Donald Trump is a dishonest person.


KINKADE: Well, we want to go back now to Cairo for the pope's historic visit there. Our Delia Gallagher joins us again.

Delia Gallagher, the mass there about to get underway. Just give us a sense of the pope's message, what we can expect today.

GALLAGHER: Well, you know, Lynda, the pope's message on this trip has been twofold, one is to the Christian community here, particularly the Coptic orthodox community, which has suffered a series of ISIS- inspired attacks since Christmas time in their churches and he laid a wreath there yesterday a memorial of the victims and he wants to show solidarity for that community.

The other message, of course, most importantly, was to the Muslim community here. It's a 90 percent Muslim country. He was invited here by the grand imam of al-Azhar. That is their main center for Sunni Islam teaching. They set the curriculum for children; they provide an authoritative interpretation of the Quran.

So the pope had important words for them as well yesterday about teaching future generations a path for peace and about all religions, he said, coming together to condemn violence in the name of God.

This morning, just in a few moments, he will be going around in an open air golf cart at this mass. There's only about 150,000-200,000 Catholics in Egypt total, about 30,000 can fit into this stadium. So the pope importantly is also here of course to meet with his own Catholic flock -- Lynda.

KINKADE: No doubt, a great occasion for the Catholics there in Cairo. Delia Gallagher, thank you for joining us.


KINKADE: And thanks, everyone, for joining us for this edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade. I will be back in a moment with the headlines.