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Police: Nine Dead after Van Plows Into Pedestrians; Trump Welcomes French President for State Visit; Trump Lawyers Not Worried about Cohen Flipping; Rand Paul Switches Vote to Yes for Pompeo. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 23, 2018 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Van attack. A dramatic confrontation between police and the suspected driver of a van that plowed into pedestrians in downtown Toronto, causing at least nine deaths and multiple injuries. Was it an act of terror?

[17:00:30] No intention. The White House says President Trump is not planning on firing Robert Mueller after President Trump tweets that he believes the special counsel was appointed based on, quote, "an illegal act." What did the president mean?

On his cell phone. President Trump is increasingly relying on his cell phone. Sources say because he doesn't want Chief of Staff John Kelly to know who he's talking to. Security experts, though, warn that's making his calls more vulnerable, potentially, to eavesdropping from foreign governments.

And denuclearize? President Trump claims the North Koreans agreed to denuclearization, but the White House can't seem to back that up -- back up that claim. As the president prepares to meet with Kim Jong- un, are the two sides really on the same page?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

We're following breaking news. Nine people are now confirmed dead in what's believed to be a deliberate attack on pedestrians in downtown Toronto. A rental van driving onto the sidewalk and plowing down people in its path, possibly for as long as a mile.

Also, a senior White House official is now telling CNN that President Trump is increasingly using his personal cell phone, in part to keep the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, from knowing who he's talking to.

We'll talk about all the breaking news and much more with Congressman Ruben Gallego of the Armed Services Committee. And our reports and experts are also standing by.

First, let's get the very latest on the unfolding story in Toronto. Our national correspondent, Jason Carroll, is working the story for us.

Jason, this driver apparently drove down the street, mowing down people?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, many of the terrifying details of what happened now are coming to us from eyewitnesses who were there on the ground. They watched as it happened.

At about 1:30 this afternoon, when that white van, that rental van jumped the curb and started mowing down pedestrians. One pedestrian described what he says, it was pandemonium, he says, on the sidewalk as he mowed down one person after another after another.

Listen to one eyewitness, Ali, who was there, who describes what he saw.


ALI, WITNESSED TORONTO INCIDENT: Everybody, all these people on the street getting hit one by one. Post office box getting crumbled up on people, and one person got dragged on and their blood is all over -- it's really bad out there, man. I'm still shaky; I'm still dying from this. I can't believe this is happening. This is, like, unbelievable. This is so unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he swerving towards people?

ALI: He just went on the sidewalk. He just started hitting everybody, man. He hit every single person on the sidewalk. Anybody in his way, he would hit. The bus stop, everything got shattered. There was a lady in there that I saw -- I just stopped and I looked; and I went after it again and all I see is just crumbling up, one by one, one by one. Holy God, I've never seen anything like this in my life, I swear.


CARROLL: And Wolf, another witness says he saw two cars apparently trying to stop the van as it was moving down the sidewalk. But the van was able to get around them.

Again, nine dead, 16 injured. One local hospital there, Sunnybrook Hospital, says that they have five people in critical condition, two people in serious condition, one in fair condition -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nine dead, 16 injured, according to the police. The suspect was located and taken into custody. Tell us about that.

CARROLL: Well it was a -- really a dramatic ending. And again much of this was caught on tape, on video tape after the van had careened down the sidewalk for about a mile.

Let's watch and listen to what happened next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down! Police.

Get down. Get down. Get down. Get down.

Get down. Get down or get shot.


CARROLL: Incredible moment there, Wolf. As you can see, the driver, wearing all black, taunts the officer, repeatedly seeming to simulate drawing from his waist over and over again. The officer using incredible restraint, able to take the suspect in custody. That suspect is being questioned now as we speak.

[17:05:13] We should also say that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offered his condolences. The mayor offering his condolences, as well. Prime Minister Trudeau saying more to learn, more to say in the coming hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We know the Toronto mayor and the Toronto police chief, they just had a news conference and they didn't answer reporters' questions. They didn't take questions. They just made their respective statements. What are you hearing about whether or not this was an intentional act of terror?

CARROLL: Well, a couple of things. First of all, we do have our law enforcement source that tells CNN this appears to be an intentional act and then couple that with the eyewitness testimony that you're getting from the ground. The cars that tried to stop the van, the van that then moved around these cars and continued to mow down people.

One eyewitness on the ground saying that he saw the van intentionally, from his point of view, mow down a man who was just walking through the intersection.

We do know that the van, the white van was a rental truck from Ryder. Ryder releasing a statement which says, in fact, "Ryder they are aware of an incident involving a Ryder rental van striking pedestrians in Toronto on Monday in the early afternoon. We are saddened by this tragic event."

Again, the suspect is being questioned right now; awaiting more information. We're expecting to hear from investigators from law enforcement early this evening, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of the story. Jason, thank you so much for that report.

Let's go to the White House right now, where the president of France will be arriving momentarily with his wife for the start of a state visit with critical issues clearly on the agenda.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us.

Jim, the president is going out of his way to court the French leader.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is, Wolf. President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, they're due to meet here at the White House and then head over to George Washington's home down in Virginia, Mt. Vernon, in the next few moments. The two leaders have much to discuss, as you said, from North Korea to the fate of the Iran nuclear deal. But the American president still has pressing domestic issues on his mind from the inflammatory comments he keeps making on immigration to whether Mr. Trump would actually pardon his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House claims it's not worried the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, will turn against Mr. Trump and start working with federal prosecutors. The president even tweeted about it, saying, "Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that despite the horrible witch hunt and the dishonest media."

But the White House won't close the door on a presidential pardon for Cohen. Press secretary Sarah Sanders wouldn't rule it out.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's hard to close the door on something that hasn't taken place. I don't like to discuss or comment on hypothetical situations that may or may not ever happen.

ACOSTA: A source familiar with discussions inside the president's legal team says Mr. Trump's lawyers aren't worried yet about Cohen flipping but adds they're preparing for all possibilities. Another possibility the White House can't seem to rule out is firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

SANDERS: We have no intention of firing the special counsel. We've been beyond cooperative with them. We're continuing to cooperate with them.

ACOSTA: That's despite this tweet from the president asking, "James Comey illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a special counsel. Therefore, the special counsel counsel was established based on an illegal act?"

Mr. Trump will have a chance to turn his attention elsewhere this week with the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: This is a great honor and I think a very important state visit, given the moment of our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) environments.

ACOSTA: Upon arriving at the Blair House across from the White House, Macron and his wife decided to go for a stroll down to the National Mall before sitting down with the president to discuss the fate of the Iran nuclear deal. Mr. Trump's plan to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Asked whether the president would insist on fully denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, the White House was evasive on that subject, too. SANDERS: Certainly, the goal is denuclearization of the peninsula.

ACOSTA: Back at home, the president is still fixated on so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that decline to share information with federal authorities in the removal of some undocumented immigrants.

The president has fired off a number of tweets, including this one from last week. "There is a revolution going on in California. So many sanctuary areas want out of this ridiculous, crime infested and breeding concept." The White House was asked about the use of the word "breeding."

(on camera): When he used the word "breeding," was he making a derogatory term about Latinos in California that they breed a lot or that they're prone to breeding?

SANDERS: He's talking about the problem itself growing and getting bigger.

APRIL RYAN, JOURNALIST: What does "breeding" mean to this president, because when you think of breeding, you think of animals breeding and populating.

[17:10:04] SANDERS: I'm not going to begin to think what you think. Certainly, I think that it could mean a lot of things to a lot of people.


ACOSTA: Now the White House continues to insist that the president has nothing to worry about when it comes to Michael Cohen, because officials say the president hasn't done anything wrong. As to whether the president's loyal personal attorney could ever turn against the president, one source close to the White House put it in one word, quote, "Never."

And Wolf, there are other contacts that the president is having that is becoming a concern over here at the White House. We're learning that the president is upping his use of his personal cell phone. That has apparently -- our sources are telling us to go around the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, who used to have a pretty tight control on who the president talks to. Apparently, that's not the case anymore, Wolf.

BLITZER: Potentially significant, indeed. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta at the White House.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona is joining us. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Several issues I want to get to. First on the president's choice for secretary of state. Democrats are sending a pretty strong message with this unfavorable vote for Mike Pompeo. At least three Democrats say they will support him. It looks pretty good for him on the Senate floor.

Do you worry that that might damage his ability to serve as an effective secretary of state once he's confirmed, if the vote is very, very close?

GALLEGO: Now, what's going to stop him from being an effective secretary of state is that he is known for believing and saying anti- Muslim rhetoric, for being homophobic and traveling the world, when it comes to going to very liberal countries such as western Europe, where we have to meet some openly gay heads of state, or going to the Middle East and other Muslim parts of the world where he is known for again being anti-Muslim. That is what will impact him and make him a weaker secretary of state.

BLITZER: The secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo, he laid the ground work, though, for this highly anticipated meeting between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He actually went to Pyongyang about three weeks ago for that secret one-on-one meeting with Kim Jong-un. Over the weekend, the president tweeted that the North -- North Korea has agreed to denuclearization, agreed to denuclearization. Those were his words. That doesn't appear to be the case, at least not yet. Is that -- well, let me get your reaction to all of this.

GALLEGO: Well, first of all, it would be great if we had success and North Korea denuclearized and it doesn't matter whether it's under this president or any other president. And I hope that we actually end up, you know, along those -- somewhere along that path. You know, I think everybody wants to see a stable Korea and, in general, a stable world. So I'm all cheering for this to happen.

I unfortunately don't believe it's going to happen. Not just because I don't think the president -- I don't think the president has the right people in place to make it happen, but also North Korea just has not been a good actor. They do these type of overtures in order to buy themselves some time and some good will across the world, and then they take it back.

Right now, they stopped missile testing, which is good, but they actually don't need to do missile testing. They've done the missile testing. What they need to do is start down the path of denuclearization, which I just don't think they're going to do. And again, I wish I was wrong, and I wish the president success in this regard, but I don't see it happening.

BLITZER: But it's worth trying, right? Do you give the president and his now outgoing CIA director at least some credit for trying to have a face-to-face dialogue with Kim Jong-un?

GALLEGO: One hundred percent. And I've said this, whether it was President Obama, President Bush or President Trump. We should be trying. We should be trying to have a dialogue. It never hurts to have a dialogue. I just think we also have to be very realistic about where this takes us, making sure we have the right people in place to make sure it's actually a good deal. But at the end, it doesn't hurt us -- it doesn't hurt at all for us to try.

BLITZER: Why should Kim Jong-un trust President Trump as a negotiating partner when, at the same time, the president seriously considering withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal?

GALLEGO: Well, I don't know. I can't get into -- into that dictator's head, but I think, at least from our perspective in Congress, this is one of the main reasons why we want to stay within the Iran nuclear deal, because it does endanger a lot of other treaties around the world and makes the United States seem like an unreliable partner and will make it more difficult to de-escalate situations like this.

At the end of the day, you know, it's hard to trust North Koreans, and it's also very important for us to actually have the right people negotiating with them. The fact that we're going to try to negotiate, by the way, with the North Koreans without a South Korean ambassador, I think should be very troublesome for us. We've been -- you know, we need a certain level of expertise that's not existent right now on the peninsula and the president should move forward and actually nominate somebody that could do that job.

BLITZER: The French president, Emmanuel Macron, he's here in Washington right now. He's making the case directly to President Trump during his state visit to stay in the Iran deal. What are your fears if the U.S. were to withdraw?

GALLEGO: Well, actually, what I fear that the U.S. would withdraw, that Iran would actually stay within the deal and our E.U. partners and the other countries that sign onto the deal would basically comply with Iran. It would actually isolate us in terms of keeping Iran in check. We would find ourselves trying to, basically, work outside of, you know, our world partners in terms of sanctions in terms of military diplomatic actions alone. And I think that's another situation when we find ourselves in the

Middle East. We are stronger when we fight our enemies or, at least, work together against -- or for a common goal. If we exit this deal, we will find ourselves essentially isolated -- alone trying to keep and pen in Iran. And I think that's going to give us a very -- put us in a very weak position.

BLITZER: And we're looking at live pictures over there at the White House. The president and the first lady getting ready to welcome President Macron and his wife, Bridget Macron. They're arriving at the White House. Then they'll be helicoptering to Mt. Vernon for dinner.

Congressman, thanks as usual, for joining us.

GALLEGO: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. President Trump's pick for secretary of state facing a critical vote this hour. Will it also make history? And President Trump also possibly preparing to take a very tough line

with Kim Jong-un when they meet. How will the North Korean dictator respond?


[17:20:42] BLITZER: All right. There's breaking news up on Capitol Hill. Ahead the key vote on President Trump's pick to become the nation's top diplomat, Senator Rand Paul has just announced he will vote in favor of Mike Pompeo, who is facing the possibility of becoming the first secretary of state nominee not to get a favorable recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but that has dramatically changed with Rand Paul's decision.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is working the story for us.

Manu, Rand Paul had been saying for weeks he was going to vote against Pompeo. All of a sudden he has now flipped. Tell our viewers why.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a significant reversal. We'd expected going into this hearing that Republicans would not get the votes to recommend -- make a favorable recommendation of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state. The first time that that would happen in history. The secretary of state nominee not getting a favorable recommendation.

Well, behind the scenes there has been a significant amount of lobbying work by Mike Pompeo and others in the White House to get Rand Paul on board. Rand Paul, going into the confirmation hearing, actually raised concerns that Mike Pompeo may have had two hawkish of views, particularly on the Iraq war and other issues. More hawkish views than the president himself. And Rand Paul is libertarian minded, advocates a smaller footprint around the world and not -- is not in line with what Pompeo -- what he believed Mike Pompeo was saying.

Well, behind the scenes, Mike Pompeo reassured Rand Paul, and this is what he just said in a series of tweets. He said, "After calling continuously for weeks of Director Pompeo to support President Trump's belief that the Iraq War was a mistake and that it is time to leave Afghanistan, today I received confirmation that Director Pompeo agrees with President Trump. President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region, and we must end our involvement with Afghanistan. Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the president on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination to be our next secretary of state.

Now, this did catch members of this committee by surprise. They were expecting this negative vote. Just heading into this vote that is happening right now. But it may not have caught President Trump by surprise. President Trump last week in Mar-a-Lago saying that he was pretty optimistic that Rand Paul would flip and ultimately support the nominee.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will say this about Rand Paul. He's never let me down. Rand Paul is a very special guy as far as I'm concerned. He's never let me down. And I don't think he'll let us down again. So let's see what happens.


RAJU: So he's clearly not letting him down there. We will -- we do expect Pompeo, after he gets -- his nomination approved by the committee in just moments, that the full Senate will confirm his nomination later this week. With the support of a handful of red- state Democrats who are up for re-election in difficult races, up in 2018, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, joining Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, all saying they will support Pompeo in addition to probably expecting at least one more Democrat to break ranks.

So not a comfortable margin for Pompeo to get confirmed for this post, but at least he will get confirmed. Still open question, Wolf, though, whether the White House will get two other nominees that are awaiting action, Gina Haspel to be the CIA director, Ronny Jackson to head the Veterans' Affairs Department. We'll see if those get confirmed, too, in a matter of weeks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu. Thanks very much. So it looks like Pompeo will be confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There we see a live picture from the West Wing of the White House. The president and the first lady welcoming President Emmanuel Macron to Washington, giving each other a little hug there as you can see. They have a very good relationship. A personal relationship.

There is Bridget Macron, the first lady of France, is there, as well. They're going to go inside the West Wing for a while. After posing presumably for a picture. The president knows how to do that. They'll pose for a picture. They'll go inside, and then they'll all head by helicopter head over to Mt. Vernon outside of Washington and Virginia for dinner tonight before they have formal meetings tomorrow and a joint news conference tomorrow. A formal state dinner tomorrow night at the White House. Tuesday President Macron will be addressing a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. Much more on all the breaking news right after this.


[17:29:51] BLITZER: Breaking news this hour. A source familiar with the discussions on President Trump's legal team says the president's lawyers are still not worried about Michael Cohen, the president's long-time personal attorney and friend, flipping against the president, but the source says the team is preparing for all possibilities.

And Rebecca Berg, it's good to have you back.

Saturday the president tweeted this about "The New York Times" story, saying, "'The New York Times' is going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will flip." The president went on to say, "Most people will flip if the government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories."

How worried is the president about Michael Cohen right now?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, clearly, Wolf, this has struck a nerve with the president. All you need to do is look at his tweets to get a sense of how nervous or unnerved he is by this.

But there's some key unanswered questions, obviously. We do not know what the president knows in regards to Michael Cohen. So what does Michael Cohen know about Trump's business dealings, about his campaign operation, that might be damaging to Donald Trump down the line?

And then, of course, we don't know fully about the relationship and how that might come to bear on Michael Cohen's decision-making. Maggie Haberman has had some amazing reporting on this, suggesting that Donald Trump has treated Michael Cohen very poorly. So how does that factor in, and how is that making Donald Trump nervous in this moment?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Can I just add, you don't tweet about the perils of flipping if you're not worried about flipping. I mean, it's sort of self-evident.

The other point I make is just to add to Rebecca, because what we don't know is whether Donald Trump has sort of a general angst about -- "Well, Michael Cohen is someone who's been close to me for a long time, and he knows a lot of things," or is it something specific, whether it's about the Russia investigation or something else, something specific that Donald Trump is worried about? We obviously don't have access to that. But that's a key difference.

BERG: And of course, Sarah Sanders saying that the president from the podium at the White House today, the president has done nothing wrong, and of course, there is nothing to be worried about --

CILLIZZA: No collusion.

BERG: That's the official line.

BLITZER: And on top of this, Joey Jackson, the president tweeted that he may actually pardon, posthumously, the great boxing champion, Jack Johnson. But is that a message? All of a sudden, he's talking about pardons. He did a full pardon for Scooter Libby the other day. Is that a message to Michael Cohen?

JACKSON: You know, it's interesting, Wolf, because it really makes you wonder whether it is. And here's my concern.

Listen, on the merits of the pardon, I don't question. First African- American boxer, a conviction predicated upon his association of having a white girlfriend. I mean, nonsense. Really, is that what someone should be convicted over. And as a result, I think the merits are strong. We should also note that -- you know, look, members from both sides of the aisle have spoken about this pardon. You have, you know, certainly, Cory Booker has been on board with this. You have John McCain that's been on board with this. And so I think it has merit.

Now in terms of why he's doing it, I question the timing. You mentioned, Wolf, Scooter Libby. Why are we talking about pardons now?

And the second aspect of the time is, generally, presidents do this in the latter part of the term. Why are you discussing issues of pardons now? And so it raises the specter of reminding everyone who's involved, whether it's Michael Cohen or all the president's men, so to speak, right, that I have your back. I'm the president. I have this pardon power in my pocket. You stick with me, and I'll stick with you. It's all good. And so it raises concerns for sure.

BLITZER: I'm sure it does. You know, Bianna, the president repeated his line over the weekend in a tweet about this being a complete witch hunt, his words -- complete witch hunt. The White House today said the president -- they have no intention of firing the special counsel, Robert Mueller. How do you square all of this?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm not sure the president gives the White House a heads up before he issues a tweet. First of all, they seem to be playing catch-up and clean-up every time he tweets something and, obviously, they go before reporters, asking them questions about that specific tweet.

There's not much that the president can control here, other than the narrative, which you have to say he's done a pretty good job of doing when it comes to household words, "witch hunt" and fake news are right there at the top.

So why he can't control, necessarily, the outcome of the investigation, how it's portrayed, how it's portrayed with his base, it's something that he feels that he can't control. And I don't know whether it's reading articles or watching news segments. There's something that irks him when he hears about these stories, obviously. And thus, he issues these tweets.

If I could just address the pardons, when it comes to Joe Arpaio, that was a name we heard throughout the campaign trail. Right? We sort of anticipated that that pardon would come. With all due respect, I don't think I'd ever heard the president mention Scooter Libby's name or this boxer up until now.

So when it comes to timing, I would have to second what we just heard from the other panelists, that the timing is a bit suspicious.

BLITZER: Yes, a lot of people believe that. You know, and on top of all of this, we're now learning, Chris, that the president is increasingly using his cell phone to make calls to whoever he wants to sort of skirt around his White House chief of staff, who had been monitoring all of his calls. CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, this is the most predictable thing possible

in the Donald Trump presidency, which is it doesn't really matter who the chief of staff is or who the communications director is or who any of these people are, because Donald Trump is not going to be happy with Reince Priebus. Then he brings in John Kelly. He's not going to be happy with John Kelly, and he's ultimately going to do -- breaking news -- what he wants to do.

Take a look at this. We've got some live pictures coming in. They're walking out of the Oval Office, the president and the first lady and President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte. They are walking -- let's see if we could hear if -- if we could pick up any of the things they're saying. I'm going to pause for a moment, and let's listen in.

All right. We clearly can't hear any of the audio. The presidents, two presidents are speaking. The two first ladies are walking right behind them. They're having a little conversation, as well. They're actually going out to plant a tree. It's a tree that the French president brought over to the White House, a European Sessile Oak, a tree from France. The tree comes from the Belleau Wood in France, a site of a World War I battle in June of 1918 where nearly 10,000 U.S. Marines and Army soldiers were killed or wounded.

So they're going to plant this tree there on the South Lawn of the White House as they are walking out. We'll watch them plant the tree, as well.

This is the first state visit by a foreign leader to the United States, Chris Cillizza. And clearly, despite differences over how long the U.S. should stay in Syria, despite other differences over trade and tariffs, sensitive issues like that, despite differences over the Paris climate agreement, on a personal level, they seem to have a good relationship.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I would say what you've seen over the last, let's say, week is the two foreign leaders that Donald Trump has developed the most personal rapport with, Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago who Donald Trump -- America and Japan, Donald Trump has not been overwhelmingly positive, necessarily good for Japan. But Abe clearly has a good relationship with him.

Macron, I think, is the -- the leader -- we know about Donald Trump's love of that Bastille Day parade. He wants to recreate a military parade in the United States. The person he has the most natural rapport with and a contrast, by the way, to later in the week when Angela Merkel will be in town. And that is someone that the -- the German chancellor who has not had that relationship.

BLITZER: They're moving that along, some dirt over there to plant that little tree over there. I guess the two presidents have done what they're going to do as far as planting the tree. A nice gesture. Certainly underscoring the very close U.S.-French relationship.

They're going to be boarding, by the way, Rebecca, Marine One shortly to make a quick little helicopter trip to Mt. Vernon. Now that's where they're going to be touring Mt. Vernon, and they're going to have dinner at Mt. Vernon, as well. Tomorrow night they have a formal state dinner at the White House.

So you see them standing with the shovels. They've moved some dirt around. I can't say they actually planted a tree. But they at least made a gesture.

BERG: It was more like one of Donald Trump's ground-breaking ceremonies for one of his buildings, Wolf. They're not actually planting a tree, but really, obviously, a symbolic gesture of their friendship. And Donald Trump not someone who has been known for making these very deep friendships with foreign leaders, with the exception, really, of Abe and Macron. And Macron knows how to push the president's buttons.

BLITZER: All right. Let's listen in.


BLITZER: He was asked a question by a pool reporter out there about Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state nominee, who's confirmation now looking pretty good. It will be a tight vote but looking pretty good.

But you just -- we saw the president say something. We're going to try to figure out exactly what he said. But I assume he's pretty pleased, especially by the decision by Senator Rand Paul to switch from opposing Pompeo's confirmation to now supporting it, following conversations with the president and the secretary of state nominee.

We're going to have much more on all the breaking news right after this.


[17:44:04] BLITZER: We're back with our specialists, our analysts, our reporters.

And Rebecca Berg, the president tweeted that North Korea, quote, "agreed to denuclearization." Maybe they will one of the days. Maybe they won't, as the president later tweeted, but that's certainly not the case right now. But he's still pretty upbeat about the possibility of this meeting with the North Korean leader.

BERG: That's right. So one of the concerns, obviously, with the president tweeting this, is that maybe he is entering into this with some sort of misunderstanding about where Kim Jong-un is or might be going in with expectations too high and then could become angered when things are not as he believed them to be.

But clearly, the president feels that he's in a strong position. He, again, views himself as a negotiator. This is something he's said dozens of times over the course of his presidency and his campaign. And so he's projecting, at this moment, strength and confidence, but we'll see how it goes.

BLITZER: You know, Bianna, the president clearly wants to reach a nuclear deal with North Korea. Even at a time when he seems to be very anxious to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal that the previous administration worked out with the European allies and others, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

This is an area where there is a significant difference between President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, indeed. And if we've learned anything, it's that Kim Jong-un is very astute and watches global events closely. And we can be sure that he is going to be following the latest developments when it comes to whether or not the U.S. will recertify the Iran deal on May 12th.

And when you look at the two deals or the issues at hand, you could argue that the North Korea negotiations would be much loftier and much more ambitious for this administration than even Iran.

North Korea, remember, has about 60 nuclear weapons at this point. Iran is reported to have zero, and few if that. So they're at different stages. When you have Kim Jong-un saying that he will suspend testing, the President viewed that as a positive. Many others would say, well, there is no reason for him to rush because he already has the nuclear weapons at hand.

So when it comes to the two of them actually meeting, what's going to be important is the minutia and the details. What the President does not like right now about the Iran deal is that Iran still has short- range missiles and is still funding terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.

So what will be interesting to see is how focused the President will be on small details and important details when it comes to his meeting with Kim Jong-un. If that does happen.

BLITZER: If it does happen, as you just said.

All right, everybody, stick around. There is more breaking news. Nine people killed, 16 injured, when a van plows into pedestrians in Toronto. We're getting new details and chilling eyewitness accounts.

Plus, what signals will President Trump send to Kim Jong-un ahead of their historic meeting?


[17:51:38] BLITZER: There's more breaking news. The White House is insisting the U.S. is not naive when it comes to North Korea, that the Trump administration is not taking North Korea at its word when it comes to freezing its nuclear program.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, the White House is taking a hard line, at least for now, when it comes to North Korea.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, on one hand, Wolf. But on the other hand, some in the administration are also sounding a more conciliatory tone. Just a short time ago, Defense Secretary James Mattis said there are a

lot of reasons for optimism that the negotiations with North Korea will be fruitful. One North Korean source also told CNN Kim Jong-un has committed himself to the path of denuclearization.

But, tonight, we're getting strong indications that President Trump and his team are prepared to bring serious pressure on Kim to prove that he's really going to start to take apart his nuclear arsenal.


TODD (voice-over): President Trump, tonight, could be preparing to take a very tough approach if and when he comes face-to-face with Kim Jong-un. Trump administration officials now say the goal of a summit with Kim is to get the North Korean dictator to start taking apart the nuclear arsenal that he spent years building up.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: And what does that mean to this administration? What is full denuclearization?

SHORT: It means dismantling their nuclear arsenal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And no concessions or benefits from the United States until that occurs?

SHORT: Correct.


COLLINS: Until full --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that -- can you state as --

SHORT: I think that should be something the NSC states for you, Major. But that is my understanding, yes.

TODD (voice-over): "The Wall Street Journal" reports the President will ask Kim to act quickly to dismantle his nuclear weapons if and when they meet. At the same time, administration officials say tonight, Kim's new promise to freeze his nuclear and missile test isn't enough to get the U.S. to lift economic sanctions on the regime.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly, no sanctions lifted until we see concrete actions taken by North Korea to denuclearize.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say President Trump is likely trying to send a strong signal to Kim Jong-un ahead of a summit just what he expects.

MARCUS NOLAND, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF STUDIES, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: We're signaling that there is a high level of distrust. We don't want to buy the same horse twice.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say Trump could be signaling that if Kim shows he is really sincere about taking apart the arsenal he already has, the U.S. could accept that being done in phases. And with each phase, if it's verified that Kim has destroyed part of his arsenal, the U.S. could ease sanctions and give Kim other economic benefits.

But experts warn Kim, his father, and grandfather have broken similar promises in the past.

NOLAND: The North Koreans agreed to quite a package of moving towards disarmament back in 2005. It didn't go anywhere.

More recently in 2012, we agreed to provide them economic assistance. They agreed to stop testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons and violated it within weeks.

TODD (voice-over): And another warning from analysts tonight. Expecting Kim to destroy his entire nuclear arsenal may simply be unrealistic.

MAX BOOT, JEANE J. KIRKPATRICK SENIOR FELLOW IN NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: That's essentially asking Kim Jong-un, from his standpoint, to commit suicide. I mean, why would he want to do that? He sees nuclear weapons as being a guarantee of regime survival and his personal survival.


TODD: What analysts are concerned about tonight is some kind of a grand deal being struck between President Trump and Kim Jong-un for Kim to denuclearize, for him to really take apart his arsenal, and then that deal somehow falling apart down the line.

And they believe that if that happens, then the U.S. and North Korea could go back to a military posture toward each other, and the U.S. could, again, consider some kind of a preemptive first strike on North Korea. That's a real concern tonight, Wolf.

[17:55:10] BLITZER: It certainly is. All right, Brian, good report. Thank you.

Breaking news. We're getting new information about that deadly incident in Toronto. Dozens of pedestrians plowed down by a van. At least nine people are dead.

Plus, my interview with Stormy Daniels' lawyer. What will it mean for her if President Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, flips and cooperates with federal prosecutors?


[17:59:57] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Mowed down. A van plows into a crowd of pedestrians on a busy street, killing at least nine people. Toronto police now have the driver in custody as we await details about the motive. Was this an act of terror? Flipping out?