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AT THIS HOUR
New Video Of "Mother Of All Bombs" Hitting ISIS; Trump Won't Say If He Ordered Historic Use Of Bomb; U.K. Alerted U.S. To Trump Campaign Russia Communication; Trump Flexes U.S. Military Might Amid Global Tensions; World Braces For Possible North Korea Nuke Test. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired April 14, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. As President Trump flexes America's military muscle, the world braces for what North Korea may do over the next 24 hours. Soon it will be midnight there, which marks the day, Kim Jong-un may possibly order another nuclear test to honor his late grandfather's birthday, the country's founder.
White house sources tell CNN the president is being briefed while at his Florida resort on the North Korean activity, and Vice President Mike Pence is set to touch down in South Korea this weekend. We'll have much more on that in just a moment, but first, this.
New video this morning shows the moment of impact when that massive mother of all bombs exploded in Afghanistan. The most powerful nonnuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal. The target, ISIS terrorists and their underground tunnel system.
But was it also something more, something like a 21,000-pound message to the world from President Trump? This comes just after several other major military actions taken by the United States, the president ordering missile strikes against Syria's military, dispatching a Navy strike group to the Korean Peninsula and also sending dozens of troops to Somalia.
First, let's get the very latest from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He is in Iraq on all of this. So, Nick, you've been to this part of Afghanistan where this bomb hit. What more are you learning about the target, the casualties, and the fallout now?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The casualties so far, according to the initial count, Kate, aren't that many, 36 dead ISIS militants for a $16 million device. I mean, that's nearly $500,000 per dead terrorist.
We're also hearing that three tunnels were taken out as well. I think the key part of the message here, though, was that the United States is willing to use all force at its disposal to tackle ISIS in Afghanistan. Where this bomb hit, a remote mountainous region, very hard to insert troops there and effectively fight without getting a lot of casualties. And this is also the epicenter of ISIS, frankly in Afghanistan, too.
Now, we heard from the U.S. commander there that this was the right weapon for the right target, those his words. He calls ISIS animals and reminds people, frankly, that they were recently involved in an attack in Kabul, the capital, where they slaughtered doctors and patients in a military hospital there.
That's just across from the American Embassy. They've been really on the resurgence, ISIS, after getting a setback when the Afghan Army swooped in to action over a year ago now. They've been on their front foot gaining recruits. Their brand of ideology, as sick as it is, is attractive to many young fighters disillusioned with the Taliban insurgency.
This also comes at a very key time for Afghanistan. The war there is going very badly, indeed. At least half of the country is under Taliban control or contested by the Taliban, and the U.S. have a minimal presence there.
They're trying to do all it possibly can to keep the government together, but Afghan Security Forces and military are receiving record casualties right now. They're losing their grip on the country, and it's just going to get worse this year -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: And here's one other element about this bomb when it went off yesterday, Nick. It said a lot of folks, especially in the United States when they think of ISIS and where the United States is going after is, it's not in Afghanistan. All of the focus is in Iraq and Syria.
WALSH: Absolutely, and I think many people in the U.S. have tried to forget Afghanistan. You know, it is the United States' longest war. It was something Barack Obama tried to tackle with a passion, but his surge fell apart, frankly, because of changes in leadership in the military there.
And ISIS have stepped into that chaos, you know. The messaging from the U.S. has always been how well the war was going so they could let Afghan Security Forces take over the job and pull out themselves, but they just didn't do a particularly good job.
They've lost a lot of people fighting very bravely, but they haven't managed to hold key towns, off the radar much of the time. We're seeing key places that Americans have fought for going back into the hands of the Taliban. Cities at times briefly falling to the Taliban.
You know, this is going very badly, indeed. And it's that chaos -- remember Bin Laden? He exploited the chaos of the Taliban presence to hide out in the caves and launched 9/11. Well, ISIS have done a similar thing.
They've seen a lot of collapses in certain parts of the country. They have put that ideology in play there. They're even fighting the Taliban at times, and it's a real potential threat as a safe haven for them in the future -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: And of course, the question remains, what will the United States and what will Afghan Security Forces do in the aftermath of this massive bomb and any gains that they see there. Great to see you, Nick. Thanks so much.
So, big question here, did President Trump personally green-light the bombing mission we were just talking about? He was asked that very question very directly. Listen here to his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you authorize it, sir?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Everybody knows exactly what happened and what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world, and they've done a job, as usual. So, we have given them total authorization, and that's what they're doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:05:13]BOLDUAN: Joining me now, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann, a former Green Berets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of "Game Changers: Going Local To Defeat Violent Extremists."
And also joining us is Derek Cholet is former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under President Obama. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me.
Colonel, first to you. Why did it seem in that sound bite that we just heard from the president yesterday, why did it seem he had a bit of a hard time answering that question, if he authorized the strike?
LT. COLONEL SCOTT MANN, FORMER U.S. ARMY SPECIAL FORCES: Yes, I don't know exactly why it did seem like there was a little bit of stammering there, but frankly, Kate, you know, the president has been approving, and the National Security Council, has been approving at very high- level strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria.
So, it does sound to me like President Trump is going to decentralize command and control and authorization for these strikes, but that's a big bomb. And I do think that probably the president did have some say in that thing being dropped.
What concerns me, though, is that the fact that we're still talking about big bombs being dropped on Afghanistan 15 years after starting this war. It's an ineffective approach. It really is.
BOLDUAN: That's a really interesting perspective, Colonel. Derek, from your perspective -- of course, we know that both Bush and Obama had access to this very same bomb. They didn't use it. Was it under consideration when you were there? Was this part of the conversation? DEREK CHOLET, FORMER ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS UNDER OBAMA: Absolutely, it was, but what President Trump said yesterday is that he wasn't involved in the operational details of this mission. The Afghanistan commander said today that this was a tactical decision, which means it was a decision that he made.
I think President Trump has ceded a lot of authority to the military, a lot of decision-making power to the military, and he's quite happy to take credit for that when things go well. The question in my mind is whether he will be willing to share accountability when things go wrong, as, unfortunately, military affairs often do.
BOLDUAN: And that is an interesting point, Colonel, because the president has said that General Mattis, the secretary of defense and others have wanted that decentralized approach. He's handed more authority over to the Pentagon in order to authorize strikes like this. That is a big change from Obama. But to Derek's point, if something goes wrong, who's then to blame?
MANN: Well, I think the president and all of the commanders in Afghanistan all are -- I think they're willing to accept responsibility for their actions. I mean, I haven't seen anything from President Trump yet that tells me otherwise, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Here's what I think, though. I do think that we need to continue to decentralize and push down authority and rules of engagement to our commanders on the ground, Kate. I mean, Special Forces have been operating in that area, even since the drawdown has occurred. And frankly, their rules of engagement are far too constricted, and we need to empower them more to do more in these rural areas, not drop more bombs.
BOLDUAN: Colonel, I think that's one thing that maybe is -- that's part of the debate. But one thing that might be lost on folks. Why is it in your view a good thing to decentralize to hand that authority down to folks on the ground, if you will, for lack of a better term? Where you might see sensible, some folks might see dangers.
MANN: Well, see, we have this preferred western way of warfare, Kate, which is to drop big bombs and put large troop formations on the ground. But Afghanistan, the area being exploited by ISIS and al Qaeda, is an honor-based tribal culture.
And getting out in those rural areas where 80 percent of the population live and the bad guys live requires advisers like Green Berets and others to get out there and stay out there over a prolonged period of time and work from the bottom up.
I mean, that's what we're going to have to do. And dropping bombs on rural desert areas, I'm telling you, after 15 years, it's ineffective. And if that's where we are right now in this fight, I'm more concerned about that than anything else, because we haven't learned our lessons.
BOLDUAN: Derek, the president, when he was asked if this bomb was to send a message, a broader message, a message to North Korea, and when he was asked that, he said, I don't know, and it doesn't make any difference. Do you agree?
CHOLET: Well, I don't think it was intended to send a message. As I said, I don't think the president was involved in the operational decision to deploy this kind of capability. And moreover, this is not the kind of capability the U.S. military would use against a target like North Korea because it's not a bunker-buster.
CHOLET: This is not a weapon that burrows into the ground to try to take out --
BOLDUAN: Derek, I haven't asked you yet, do you think the president should have had to sign off on something like this?
CHOLET: I don't think so, actually. I think this is a tactical decision that it is appropriate for the commanders in the field to have this sort of authority. The difference, though, is I would like to see a president that is witting of these sorts of decisions. They may delegate the final authority to a commander in the field, but there's not much evidence to me to suggest that the president's actually focused at all on these kinds of operational details.
BOLDUAN: Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann, thank you so much. Derek, it's great to meet you. Thanks for coming on.
[11:10:08]BOLDUAN: Coming up, the world waits to see what North Korea's unpredictable dictator will do as concerns mount that Kim Jong-un will launch a nuclear test in the next 24 hours. I'm going to speak live with the former secretary of defense who's been on the brink before about the president's options now.
Plus, what is going on with Trump's former adviser, Carter Page after learning the FBI was able to get a warrant to monitor him as a possible Russian agent, he took to television to defend himself. But did he really defend himself? We'll discuss.
BOLDUAN: CNN is now learning British intelligence shared with the United States communications between associates of Donald Trump and Russian officials during the campaign. The intercepts were captured during routine surveillance of those Russian officials.
This, as, of course, Carter Page, one of Donald Trump's former foreign policy advisers during the campaign, has been trying to downplay his links to Russia and his role with the campaign. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In any of these conversations with Russians, either in Russia or back here in the United States, did you ever suggest to any of them that President Trump, Candidate Trump, would be open to easing sanctions on Russia?
[11:15:07]CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I never offered that, no, nothing along those lines, absolutely not. I mean, it may -- topics, I don't remember. We'll see what comes out in this FISA transcript. I don't recall every single word that I ever said, but I would never make any offer or intimate anything that -- something may have come up in a conversation.
I have no recollection and there is nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression. Someone may have brought it up. I have no recollection. And if it was, it was not something I was offering or that someone was asking for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Let me bring in right now Rick Santorum, a CNN political commentator, and of course, former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and presidential candidate, and Brian Fallon, a CNN political commentator and former press secretary for Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Senator, it took Michael Flynn a few weeks to twist himself into the various positions on his contacts with Russia. It took Carter Page about a minute in an interview with George Stephanopoulos. How bad is this for him? What does this mean for the president?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's certainly not a communications expert. I think we can all sign off on that. Look, from everything I'm reading, and I have not talked to anybody in the administration about this, but everything I'm reading, this guy came on and worked with the policy people there, Sam Clovis who I know very well. He's an Iowan.
He's someone who was very active in my campaign. He's an incredible American patriot and you know, was a jet fighter pilot. I mean, he just bleeds red, white and blue. And that he was sort of the contact person and the person that worked with Carter Page.
So, I just sort of find it hard to believe that someone in that relationship in a policy shop, which, let's just be honest, I mean, Donald Trump's policy shop from the standpoint of putting forth a lot of detailed proposals, that was not his strength.
That's not what he did. And what Sam was basically doing was usually just sort of taking people coming in, trying to get that information, put forth some ideas to the campaign. But again, it was not the highest level inner circle of the campaign.
So, I sort of see this as what happened in my presidential campaign -- you get lots of people that want to come in, they want to help, particularly if you're doing well. You say, yes, sure, come on, you're starving for people.
Come on in, we'll take your help, we'll listen to your ideas, and you know, we'll sort of put them in the mix. But that seems to me to be sort of the extent of what Carter Page was involved with. BOLDUAN: I also found it fascinating, Brian that Carter Page, he wouldn't answer the question about who brought him in to the campaign when asked a couple times. You're a former campaign official yourself. Why is that a difficult question to answer?
BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Beats me. And the producers at places like CNN and other networks can be very persuasive, but why this guy continues to accept invitations to come on and do television interviews is beyond me. I mean, he exudes so much nervous energy, is constantly contradicting himself.
You have a feeling that if he was conducting a lie detector test, the needle would be jumping all over the place. He's not doing himself any favors with the interviews and definitely is not helping the Trump administration, which has tried to use their increased steps in Syria in the last week to suggest they're taking a tougher, more adversarial approach to Vladimir Putin.
But Carter Page's constant TV appearances are just a reminder of the seriousness of the ongoing investigation by the FBI into Trump's possible collusion with Russia. So, if you're the Trump White House, you've got to be thinking they're on the line telling this guy to stay the hell off television.
BOLDUAN: We'll see how well that works, since how well it's worked so far. Brian, during the campaign, we talked often about how the foreign policy kind of paradigm had shifted. The Democrat had become the hawk, the Republican had become the dove. Are you surprised at what you're seeing right now with President Trump, especially just in the last week?
FALLON: Absolutely. And one of the organizations I do work with now, Priorities USA, has spent a lot of time in the last few months studying Trump voters, and in particular, studying Obama/Trump voters, people who voted Democrat in the past but switched to Trump this time to understand why they voted for him and what would make them potentially sour on him in the coming months and years.
And the number one thing people say that if Trump did that would cause them to re-examine their support, it's not whether Mexico builds the wall or withdrawing from NAFTA. It's that he would bog us down in a military misadventure in the Middle East like George Bush did in Iraq.
So to see him in the last ten days escalate things in Syria, escalate the situation with North Korea, saber rattling there, suggesting a preemptive strike, launching the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan.
And to the point of your guest in the last segment, if he is increasingly ceding more command and control to the generals, I think that he runs the real risk of pleasing a lot of neo cons in Washington, but really running afoul of his own base.
BOLDUAN: I mean, Senator, what do you make of it? Donald Trump very clearly ran as a noninterventionist, and now we're seeing Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia? How is this the same Donald Trump from the campaign? SANTORUM: Well, most of the things you just mentioned are things related to ISIS, and Donald Trump was very clear during the campaign.
[11:20:08]Yes, what he not going to get us involved in a lot of, you know, unnecessary wars, I think, whatever term he used, but he was very clear that he wanted to defeat ISIS, that he wanted to kill ISIS. And clearly, almost every one of these instances you're referring to was about ISIS.
Syria was not, obviously. Syria was about a whole different thing. I think it was really more about being sort of standing up for international norms and principles that the United States has signed off on.
North Korea, let's be honest, a lot of these issues that we're dealing with right now is because Barack Obama left the world in a pretty big mess and left us in a situation where our weakness has been exploited by a lot of folks, and they're --
BOLDUAN: Right, but no one's forcing the president to tweet out that we're going to take on North Korea alone if we have to.
SANTORUM: Look, I would agree that his policy on North Korea is different than what he talked about during the campaign, but I think North Korea's actions now, if you look at the fact that they have missile technology that can actually threaten the United States of America. I mean, these are issues of protecting our national security.
I don't think the president has suggested anything specifically he would do. I think a lot of it is just posturing, and I think it's important posturing. The fact that he brought that up to the Chinese has gotten the Chinese to start really changing their tune.
I mean, those are the things that I think the voters wanted to see. They wanted to see him really use all the other tools that are available to him to get the bad guys to back down from being threats to us.
BOLDUAN: I'm actually going to dig in a little deeper about what signals China really is sending here and what they've been doing of recent after the Chinese president met with President Trump, but let's talk about the CIA and Wikileaks, if we could.
We're hearing for the first time public remarks from CIA Director Mike Pompeo. He made a point to go directly after Wikileaks, Senator, the same Wikileaks that the president said he loved so much during the campaign. Here's a refresher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Now, this just came out. This just came out. Wikileaks! I love Wikileaks. By the way, did you see another one? Another one came in today. This Wikileaks is like a treasure trove. MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: It's time call out Wikileaks for what it really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Senator, who do you think the president agrees with now, Campaign Trump or Mike Pompeo?
SANTORUM: I don't know exactly where the president is right now on this. Obviously, Campaign Trump was pretty clear about that, and Mike Pompeo is equally clear on the other side of that issue. I happen to agree with Mike Pompeo, that Wikileaks is a very dangerous --
BOLDUAN: I think almost everyone --
SANTORUM: -- useful idiots.
BOLDUAN: -- agrees with you and Mike Pompeo on this.
SANTORUM: Hopefully -- look, when the president of the United States, when Donald Trump took this job, he was going to learn a lot of things that probably he did not know when he was campaigning as the president. And I think those things have, hopefully, begun to mold his opinion of certain things like Wikileaks into a more conventional point of view.
And so, I'm hopeful that he'll follow the line of Mike Pompeo and recognize that while it may be fun and it may be great for him to have Wikileaks put things out -- bad things about your opponent -- in the end, it's not good for the United States, it's not good for our democracy.
BOLDUAN: I will just make one point. Everyone was saying that also during the campaign. How can you be applauding Wikileaks when you know exactly what that points to? Brian --
FALLON: Mike Pompeo himself was tweeting out documents from Wikileaks during the campaign, so it's a 180 from him, too. I have to say, one person who deserves credit in the heart of the campaign, a Republican, Marco Rubio was the one saying, look, we have to take this issue of hacking and leaking seriously, because it could target Republicans the next time.
That's the lesson to take from this. Wikileaks was targeting Hillary Clinton in this campaign, but next time it could be against a Republican administration, so that's why we have to take this Russian investigation seriously and not treat it as a partisan thing.
BOLDUAN: I'm very interested to see what the president has to say about Wikileaks these days, especially following his CIA director making a point to say that publicly yesterday. Great to see you both. Thank you so much.
FALLON: Thanks, Kate. BOLDUAN: Coming up, primed and ready. That's the warning from North Korea as the world braces for another nuclear test from Kim Jong-Un. How they're responding to Donald Trump's rhetoric.
Plus, several Democrats now demanding the FBI yank the security credentials of the president's top adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Hear why when one of them joins me live.
BOLDUAN: In North Korea, it just hit midnight. The window has just opened for another possible nuclear test by the country's dictator. April 15th marks the birthday of North Korea's founder, Kim Jong-Un's grandfather.
President Trump, we're told, is being briefed while he's at his resort in Florida right now, and Vice President Pence, he, by the way, will be making his way to the region, to South Korea this weekend, as the world watches and waits.
Let me bring in right now, William Perry. He was defense secretary under President Clinton. Secretary, thank you so much for joining me.
WILLIAM PERRY, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY FOR BILL CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you this morning.
BOLDUAN: Thank you. When you were defense secretary, you came right up against a potential second Korean war over North Korea's nuclear program. With that in mind, what are you thinking as they head into this important holiday over there?
PERRY: Well, I recognize that North Korea's a -- the regime in Pyongyang is evil and it's reckless. And therefore, I think this nuclear program of theirs is very, very dangerous. We should have taken care of it decades ago, but we did not, and we are where we are today.
So, I see it as posing have I great danger to the peace and stability of the region, and ultimately, perhaps a danger to the United States.
BOLDUAN: The dangers and the risks are great and we are kind of at this moment where no one exactly knows what North Korea is going to do next --