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Fallout Begins after Hawaii's False Missile Alert; U.S. Diplomats Summoned After Trump's Derogatory Comment; Sen. Flake Says White House Attack on Press "Has Real Damage"; White House Fights WSJ over Word in Interview. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 15, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is all changing now. They want to make sure this never happens again.

For those folks who don't live in Hawaii and don't realize it, the population here has been told by emergency managers that they will have, if North Korea were to fire off a ballistic missile, that they would only have about 20 minutes until impact here in Hawaii. That's why people got so worried, so upset, because they thought, this is it, that there was possibly a nuclear attack.

And here's how one state representative responded when he heard the message.


STATE REP. MATT LOPRESTI, (D), HAWAII: Just got down, got in the tub, waiting for a flash, and I was going to cover the kids with my body.

SIDNER: What are your children saying to you?

My 8-year-old is praying, she stopped, and she looked at me and said, daddy, are we at war? And I had to say, yes. And she just looked at me and said, why? And all I could do was hug her. The biggest problem now, Sara, is that are people going to believe the system next time?


SIDNER: And Matt LoPresti responded the way a lot of people responded. There was fear, there was panic. People were calling family members saying this may be the last time we speak. And then there was anger when they realized that this was a false alert. And it took so long to disseminate that to the public. That has been changed, as I mentioned. They have also disciplined the warning officer. He has been reassigned, or the person has been reassigned as they look into this further.

And certainly, we heard from President Trump as well who said he praised the emergency managers for responding and taking responsibility, but he is looking into this as well -- Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, boy, that gave me the chills, when I heard that interview with that man. Sara, thank you very much for that report.

Joining us now is CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd.

Sam, let's talk about the fallout. From a national security standpoint, did this false alarm reveal or expose any vulnerabilities?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALAYST: I think it definitely did. This was an unfortunate but timely reminder that the threat from North Korea is real. This is not a game. That's why we have warning systems, that's why we're doing military drills, that's why we are looking at allocation of resources like forces on the Korean peninsula. This isn't a game, we know that North Korea has both the will and the capability to strike Hawaii. Now, on the vulnerability question, yes, we have vulnerabilities, this warning system did not work properly, which is evident, and what the White House should be doing now is calling for a review of all warning systems around the country, not just in Hawaii, to make sure that this error has been remedied it doesn't happen again, and to make sure there are no other issues that are at play.

CABRERA: You talk about 38 minutes that lapsed between the time that first warning went out, and then the follow-up warning on the same platform, the same system, we were hearing from some of the federal officials here at CNN, trying to make phone calls to find out what was going on. And immediately they were able to tell us this is a false alarm. The problem is the population in Hawaii that got the message initially didn't receive that message timely enough. How could they have handled it differently?

VINOGRAD: I don't think they had the processes in place. This is something that several members of Congress have pointed to, whether with the FCC, the wireless carriers, or the emergency management agencies didn't have the processes in place to send that follow-up message. I imagine that something that they're going to be remedying right away. But is there any other gap in communication that they need to address. And, again, I think that the White House should establish a task force and look at this on a national level.

CABRERA: What do you think Kim Jong-Un is thinking after seeing this play out?

VINOGRAD: I think this plays to Kim Jong-Un's favor. I think he's stepping back and saying my global fear campaign through missile tests and nuclear tests and Twitter diplomacy with the president are able to instill widespread panic on the island of Hawaii. So I think he views that positively, by doing nothing this time around. People were cowering behind couches. It gives me chills just thinking about it. At the same time, I think the confusion that emerged and the confusion that emerged in not sending the follow-up notice, for example, shows that the United States is not really prepared despite decades of warning for a North Korean missile strike. We don't have the emergency management processes nailed down. We need to do that. And we haven't even talked about our ballistic missile defense posture.

CABRERA: I want to quick get your reaction to how the president did respond, because he was asked about North Korea, and this situation, and about the upcoming talks. The timing was interesting. Today, North Korea, South Korea are having talks. Here is what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have a couple of meetings scheduled, couple of additional meetings scheduled. We'll see what happens. Hopefully, it will all be worked out. We'll see.


CABRERA: Any thoughts on how the president is now addressing this North Korea threat knowing that that statement was made after this false alarm?

[11:35:04] VINOGRAD: Well, from a policy standpoint, I think it is unfortunate that the president didn't issue a statement right after this false alarm went out. I think part of his job is to reassure the American people, particularly in moments of panic.

In light of this round of talks between the North Koreans and the South Koreans, I think again we're seeing President Trump flip-flop between policy options, he's been very down on diplomacy, we now have a situation where we have bilateral talks, the United States is not involved between North Korea and South Korea, and now he says he's supporting them. I can't really keep track of how he feels about diplomacy and that doesn't really reassure me.

CABRERA: He has taken down the rhetoric, though.


CABRERA: I imagine it would feel good to you from your analysis.

VINOGRAD: Yes, I think it is positive to not have inflammatory rhetoric over Twitter, but I also think that it is a mistake to really think that these talks are going to lead anywhere. We have already given the North Koreans a concession. We have agreed to stop military exercises between North Korea and South Korea during the Olympic Games and in exchange for starting these talks supposedly. The North Koreans haven't given us anything, they haven't even said that they're going to stop tests during the Olympics. So I would like to see some kind of positive outcome.

CABRERA: Samantha, thank you, as always.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, President Trump's vulgar comments about Africa and Haiti having real consequences for U.S. officials abroad. American diplomats now being summoned by a growing list of nations. Details ahead.


[11:40:47] CABRERA: Governments in Haiti and across Africa are calling on representatives of the U.S. in their countries to explain President Trump's reported derogatory statement questioning why the U.S. lets in immigrants from their nations. South Africa is the latest to react. More nations are expected to join Senegal, Guiana, Botswana and Haiti in demanding meetings with top U.S. diplomats. South Africa's foreign minister is also a formal protest to the U.S. embassy in Pretoria.

CNN international correspondent, David McKenzie, is joining us from Johannesburg.

David, tell us more about the impact of these comments there in Africa.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, certainly, the impact has been widespread, and the outrage has been almost universal. At this hour, the head of the U.S. embassy in south Africa is meeting with south African officials which can only be seen as a dressing down of that diplomat. And it is extremely unusual to have this situation of governments, particularly in Africa, explicitly criticizing the president of the United States. And the South Africans case, they say they want to -- the representative to explain the statement that African countries, alongside with Haiti and El Salvador constitute shitholes where migrants are undesirable. It is largely symbolic, but it is a powerful symbol because the State Department, of course, is working across Africa and the U.S. military is also in key parts of the continent in the war against terror. So this outrage and this ongoing saga is not helpful to those American officials, I believe, who are trying to do work with the African counterparts.

And the debate, while still ongoing in the U.S., about the racism of the American president's comments, here in Africa, there isn't much of a debate at all. This is just the latest news event or comment attributed to the president that Africans at least have been outraged about. And so, you know, it will be a tough time ahead for U.S. diplomats on the continent -- Ana?

CABRERA: David McKenzie, thank you for that report.

Still ahead, Donald Trump is never one to shy away from attacking the media. But while Republicans stay silent, one Senator is going on the offensive. Why Jeff Flake is comparing the president to a Soviet dictator, next.


[11:47:34] CABRERA: A Republican is expected to go to the Senate floor this week to condemn President Trump's attacks on the media, making a comparison to rhetoric from the Soviet era dictator. On Wednesday, Republican Jeff Flake, of Arizona, plans to criticize the Trump White House for unleashing a daily assault on the press. In an excerpt, Senator Flake says, "Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies."

Let's discuss with CNN's senior political analyst, Mark Preston, and national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics," Caitlin Huey- Burns.

Mark, Senator Flake is one of the few Republicans we have seen speak out critical of the president's attacks on the media. That's an exact opposite of what we're seeing from many of his colleagues.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, no doubt about that. I think we need to really put this in perspective. This is an amazing moment right now. Not only are we going to see a sitting United States Senator go to the Senate floor to condemn the president of the United States, a member of his own party, but he also leaked it out several days beforehand, so there will be an incredible a participation leading into this speech on Wednesday.

But to your point, Ana, we're not seeing Republicans come out in masses and condemning the president and the reason being is that their cart is hitched to his horse, meaning they're heading into 2018 as Republicans with a Republican in the White House. So they have to be very careful not to be too critical of President Trump by and by doing so could alienate those in the base they need to try to win in November.

CABRERA: Caitlin, Jeff Flake is retiring, not running for re- election, has nothing to lose in that regard. He has made other speeches critical of the president before. So will this one move the needle in any way?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: I don't think so. As Mark laid out, Jeff Flake has the liberty to do this kind of thing, he's not running for re-election. It is very telling that Jeff Flake decided not to run for re-election, making the point that he couldn't win a Republican primary in this kind of environment. It is notable that Martha McSally, the Republican congresswoman from Arizona, who is vying as kind of the establishment pick to take over his seat, she's in a Republican primary and she is running very closely to the president, and her announcement speech kind of sounded Trumpian in a way. So I think what we'll hear on Wednesday will be a kind of direct contrast to where a lot of the rest of the party is, if they are still in the party, in public office.

[11:50:06] CABRERA: And yet, we saw Chuck Grassley at a town hall this weekend, in a district that voted 65 percent for President Trump, facing a barrage of president's mental fitness and questions and concerns about the comments he reportedly said in the Oval Office on Thursday regarding immigrants from certain countries and Africa. What kind of premonition could that be for the GOP in this election year?

HUEY-BURNS: Right. Well, Republicans are in this scenario where they have to figure out where Trump is going to be helpful to them and where he's going to be harmful to them. And Republicans are kind of under the microscope here in a lot of districts that Hillary Clinton won. Of course, we talk about those a lot. But also districts where more suburban area districts, districts where Democrats are hoping that Republicans feel in the more traditional sense and not aligned with this president. You're going to see a lot of Republicans try to distance themselves from Trump, but as mark mentioned, it's going to be very difficult for them to do that, and that's why you don't see a lot of them really speaking out here, because their fates are really intertwined with this president.

CABRERA: One guy who is speaking out, who we anticipate is going to be running is Mitt Romney. The "New York Times," Mark, reporting that he is planning to run in Utah. He just tweeted this this morning: "The poverty of an aspiring immigrant's nation of origin is as irrelevant as their race. The sentiment attributed to POTUS is inconsistent with America's history and antithetical to American values. May our memory of Dr. King buoy our hope for unity, greatness and charity for all."

If elected, will he be friend of foe of this president, Mark?

PRESTON: It remains to be seen. It depends on the issue. But I do think, assuming if Mitt Romney runs, he's a shoe-in to win. If he comes to Washington, he won't be a freshman. He'll be somebody who ran for president twice, somebody -- and legitimately ran for president twice, somebody who was the governor of a state, and somebody who might actually be able to bring some sanity to Washington in some respects. Because right now, it is so caustic right now on Capitol Hill, it is very acidic. And Democrats and Republicans can't seem to get along. If Mitt Romney does come here, could he be someone to help try to calm the waters a little bit? It would be interesting.

CABRERA: Mark Preston, Caitlin Huey-Burns, thank you, both.

Up next, who knew a dispute over a simple contraction could cause so much trouble. The White House firing back on a "Wall Street Journal" interview with the president. Both sides releasing recordings. You be the judge. Coming up.


[11:56:53] CABRERA: President Trump and the "Wall Street Journal" are now locked in a war over words. Actually, one word. All from an interview the president gave last week. In it, "The Journal" quotes the president as saying, "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-Un." President Trump is now calling that report fake news.


TRUMP: The "Wall Street Journal," you know, quoted totally wrong. But we're going to see what happens with North Korea. We have great talks going on. The Olympics you know about. A lot of things can happen.


CABRERA: The president insists he said, "I'd," as in I would, when talking about his relationship with North Korea. Both the "Wall Street Journal" and the White House released recordings of the interview now over the weekend. You decide.


TRUMP: And I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea.


CABRERA: Joining us with his take, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

What camera are we looking at?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: I heard the word "I." A lot of other people heard the word "I'd." But the "Wall Street Journal" is sticking with their transcripts which says "I."

CABRERA: And the White House is digging in their heels and pushing back hard over this quote.

STELTER: Yes. A few days ago, when the president brought the "Wall Street Journal" to the Oval Office for his first interview of the year, he was having fun with "The Journal." He said he loves the paper's editor, Gerard Baker. But then, by Saturday, his White House was calling the paper fake news, accusing it of miswriting what he said. It is a very curious development. And I think it goes once again to this idea that the president wants to deride any and all news outlets as fake.

CABRERA: But "Wall Street Journal," again, is a Murdoch-owned entity, which is interesting, because usually that is a little bit more favorable in Trump in terms of its coverage. Why even take on this fight for this one word?

STELTER: Specifically they're trying to continue -- they're trying to set the right tone when it comes to North Korea. President Trump sometimes has very loose lips and sometimes gets in his own way, whether on Twitter or in interviews. So in this case, he's been out there taking a very forceful approach to North Korea. All of a sudden, you have a quote saying, "I probably have a good relationship with Kim Jong-Un." That flies in the face with what he's been saying recently, so maybe they're trying to walk it back.

I think broadly what we've seen over the past year is an attempt to discredit all news outlets, any news outlet that dares to defy the president. In this case, it's the "Wall Street Journal" and Rupert Murdoch. But we've seen this on CNN and other outlets in the past year, all as a strategy to say you can really only trust Trump. You can really only trust Trump and his aides and what he says on his Twitter feed. For the most part, that's an effort that has not worked, but it's definitely worked among his base, among his most loyal supporters. So you see the White House putting out this fake news alert trying to trash the "Wall Street Journal." It's part of this overarching movement to try to discredit the news media.

CABRERA: For those curious about the recording piece, it's not that unusual for the White House to do tape record interviews with reporters, is it?

STELTER: Yes. It's normal for politicians these days to record an interview because they want to have their own version. It's unusual to release the audio.

CABRERA: Got it.

Brian Stelter, thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

CABRERA: And thank you for joining us.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts now.