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Manhunt for Facebook Murderer; H.R. McMaster Arrives in Afghanistan; President Trump's Flip-Flop or Flexibility; Vice President Pence Visits Korean Border. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 16, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
[20:00:09] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I want to welcome our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. And we have some breaking news.
A suspected killed on the run in Cleveland, Ohio. Let's show you his picture. This is Steve Stephens. This picture was taken today from a Facebook video he posted. Now police say on that video Stephens broadcast the murder of 74-year-old Robert Godwin.
Here's Godwin's family's reacting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We put it on a truck. We were laughing. I mean, he's a good guy. Amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good hearted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would give the shirt off his back, I mean. And I don't -- I'm not just saying that for these cameras like people do knowing that they people really ain't right. But I'm telling the truth. This man right here was a good man. And I just hate -- I hate that he's gone, you know, what I mean? I don't know what I'm going to do. It's not real.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like my heart is going to stop. I feel like my heart is going to stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to be all right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like it's going to stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lisa, Lisa, that's enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Police believe Godwin was a random target. Stephens claimed he has also killed several other people today, but police have not found any sign of additional victims.
Now in a shocking turn we've learned the suspect works for a behavioral health facility that treats thousands of children, teens and families.
Local state and federal authorities are all part of the search now, searching the city, the surrounding area, and they're warning citizens this man is armed and dangerous. Here's Police Chief Calvin Williams.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND POLICE: We need Steve to turn himself in. Right now there's a -- you know, two families out there that are hurting, Mr. Godwin's family and, of course, there are people out there that care about Steve and want to see this not go any further. So we're asking him to turn himself in.
What happened today is senseless, and if Steve has an issue he needs to talk to some folks to get that resolved.
I know, Steve, that you have a relationship with some of our clergy out here in northeast Ohio. I encourage you to give them a call and talk to them, and then call us and turn yourself in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: We have this new photo right now. This is the vehicle that police believe Stephens was driving, a white Ford Fusion. Seen here, just tweeted by Cleveland Police.
Our team of reporters and analysts are covering every angle of the story. Joining me now, correspondent Polo Sandoval, our CNN law enforcement analyst, former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes, and former public safety director for DeKalb County Police in Georgia, Cedric Alexander. Also with us senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter.
Polo, to you first. What is the latest on the manhunt?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Ana, authorities there in Cleveland, they have been working for the last several hours to give the public there in Cleveland the information that they need to essentially help them track down this individual.
As that picture that you just showed of the Ford Fusion. And also some these -- this latest image is important to see as well that was taken. It's essentially a freeze frame of what is this terrible video that was spread on social media earlier today showing Steve Stephens, about 6'11", 244 pounds, also, again, driving that white Ford Fusion.
There was concern earlier this afternoon because of that video that was spreading that there were perhaps more victims out there. So as a result, authorities there in Cleveland fanning across -- fanning out across the region there, searching for more potential victims.
But again authorities making it very clear that they have not identified anybody else except for, sadly, that 74-year-old man, Robert Godwin. CNN speaking to Maggie Stephens, the mother of the suspect involved in this case, telling us that she last spoke to her son yesterday and that Stephens reportedly told her that that would be the last time that she would see him. Mrs. Stephens not going -- not elaborating any more information, they're not saying much more, only saying that that was the last time that she saw her son.
So again, that manhunt active right now in Cleveland for this individual that is considered armed and extremely dangerous. Authorities in the last few hours here asking him to turn himself in, essentially, Ana, since this is provoking fears, outrage as well, and also people there in the Cleveland area to take precautions.
CABRERA: No doubt about it.
Cedric, what do you make of how the mayor, the police chief are appealing directly to the suspect, urging him to speak to clergy, to turn himself in?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, certainly they are taking the leadership role in which any elected official and certainly Chief Williams, who's a chief there, a very fine chief and someone I know both personally and professionally, so they're doing the right things. They're taking the right measures, they're stepping out, they're connecting with the community. They're asking the community to be engaged in terms of helping to find this individual since he has been identified. So they are doing all the right things and taking the right type of leadership they should be taking at this moment.
[20:05:03] CABRERA: Tom, as night falls how does that change the search?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's just going to continue day or night, you know, possibly into tomorrow. I think it's just going to make it harder to see the vehicle, to look inside the vehicle and see who is driving.
You know, I will say start pulling over every white sedan, particularly Ford sedan. There's going to a lot of motorists being pulled over. Hopefully they'll be patient, the policemen will be tactful with them when that happens but it's very hard. As a vehicle drives down the street, if there's no license plate or something definitive like that to look at, the way streetlights are it's hard to look through the windows and see a description of the driver to even know the sex or race of the driver of a vehicle. It's not easy. So, yes, darkness will make it a little harder as far as trying to find the vehicle on the street.
But at some point, you know, the one thing that will be in the authorities' favor is if he continues to drive that car, no matter how far, and by now he could have driven to Chicago or almost to Washington, D.C., at some point he's going to probably need gasoline, food, other things. And almost any type of place that sells gas or a convenience store that sells food, they almost all have cameras.
So if an employee there or another motorist is suspicious, they'll be able to alert the authorities and they will be able to look at the cameras and get a better description of where he's at.
CABRERA: Polo, what more are you learning about this suspect, now identified as 37-year-old Steve Stephens?
SANDOVAL: Well, as we reported earlier that he apparently worked at a local organization there, Beach Brook, which is a behavioral agency that serves kids and families, as far as foster families there in and around the Cleveland area. Some of the employees there working, saying that -- they are shocked and horrified that their co-worker would be involved in this also, again, after that conversation with his mother, Maggie Green, saying that he last spoke to or last saw her son yesterday, her 37-year-old son, and said that this would be the last time that he would see her.
We do understand based on preliminary conversations with this woman, with the suspect's mother, that he was going through some sort of relationship trouble. Again, this is all information that's simply coming from his family, as you mentioned, and state very clearly that authorities have not gone into detail with respect to this possible motive or what could have set off an individual to do such a thing.
But again, this is all early information that's coming in about the moments leading up to this shooting. Obviously a very disturbed individual according to what we're hearing from his family, but authorities stopping short of confirming some of that information. Their focus right now is on tracking this individual down.
CABRERA: Brian, given the fact this suspect has been very active on social media, we know that the video was on there for some time. This video of this murder itself.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right.
CABRERA: How is Facebook responding?
STELTER: Yes, that's right. This video was live streamed. We sort of screen grabbed there of the gunman on the phone, the suspect was on the phone. You can see him talking to someone, and that was around 2:30 Eastern Time. He continued to be using his Facebook account for at least an hour or so after that point. About 3:30 he stopped using his Facebook account, perhaps, you know, his phone can still be tracked by police.
We don't know yes, it can or no, it can't. But he was on Facebook throughout the afternoon, and in the post this person, describing as an Easter Day slaughter, complaining as Polo was saying about a woman in his life, sharing a lot of details, essentially a lot of evidence for the police to be pouring over.
This video is posted and Facebook is saying about this matter. The company says this is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook. We work hard to keep a safe environment and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when they are directs to physical safety. You know, there's not much more Facebook can say.
CABRERA: So did Facebook take this down or do we know?
STELTER: The initial -- the initial live streaming video he posted. That has been taken down, but there are not lots of copies on the Internet. I was thinking on about 10 years ago today, the massacre at Virginia Tech, that was 10 years ago today. In that case the gunman sent a manifesto to NBC telling why he committed the crime. It took days for that package to arrive.
Two years ago, Roanoke, Virginia, a man approached a reporter on live television, shot her on live TV, he filmed it with this own body cam and then posted it on social media later in the day then he killed himself. And that video that was not live streamed. Here we are, 2017 Facebook live, periscope, there's lots of apps that allow you to live stream anything.
STELTER: Some of the best of life but also the worst.
CABRERA: I was in Chicago earlier covering a crime that had been streamed on Facebook, a beating of a man who had mental disabilities.
STELTER: And that video was partly evidence for the police, right? In order to be able to charge those four individuals with a hate crime. That that live stream happened, that was a live stream beating. This is the first time I can recall as someone who covers Facebook, we're seeing from the perspective of a killer posting a video and showing that killing in real time, live on Facebook.
[20:10:06] There are of course all sorts of other crimes that have been showed on Facebook, and we've seen perspectives from the victims of crimes on Facebook, but the kind of gory detail you see in this video, this apparent desire for publicity, for attention.
STELTER: From someone posting something like this, there's a lot to unpack here. But I think the one perhaps silver lining is that police have a lot of evidence. They have this video. Like I said, the original's been taken offline but there are copies out there, people trying to share them. I think that's a choice people can make, whether they want to watch it or not. Obviously news outlets choosing not to be showing a graphic video of that nature. But the one silver ling is that it provides the police with a lot of evidence in a situation like this.
CABRERA: And gives them a lot of information and it's quickly that it is coming in.
STELTER: Quickly. This person's Facebook page has been taken down, but the police have it.
CABRERA: Well, Cedric, the suspect has claimed to have killed multiple people. You heard from Brian. Obviously he was having this ongoing conversations on social media as he was continuing on what he said was a crime spree of some sort, but, again, police are only able to confirm one victim.
We heard at their press conference that they have followed several leads that have been coming in. They've received over 100 leads they said, but yet they do not believe at this time that there is anybody else who was shot and killed by this suspect at this time. That's the latest information that we have at least.
What does this tell you about who this individual is if you're starting to put all these pieces together?
ALEXANDER: Well, you know, here let me put on my mental health therapist hat for just a moment. We are talking about an individual, Ana, who is very disturbed and totally removed from reality. He is totally out of contact with reality. He has no emotions or concern for anyone else that is human.
If you look at that video, the gunned down live, an elderly man in such a shameful way, a cowardly way, it's just unspeakable. But that act in and of itself tells us a lot about this individual and where he is psychologically, and this individual is going to have to be found immediately and taken off of the street.
He is a true danger to that community and, quite frankly, a true danger to this country everywhere he may roam, too. So this is an appeal to everyone in that community to- -- if they see anything, as you have heard from the chief and from the mayor, is that please contact your authorities as soon as you can.
We are talking about a very disturbed individual who is totally irrational and totally removed from any sense of emotions towards anyone.
CABRERA: Tom, very quickly, if you are in the shoes of law enforcement and part of this investigation, we know it's local, state and federal authorities who are working on trying to contact this individual. If you make contact with him, what do you say?
FUENTES: Well, I think you don't try to say a lot to him. At this point if you make contact, it is because you know where he's at and it is time to close in on him. I think -- I think there's a very good chance that this thing could be over by tomorrow morning and he'll either have been found to have taken his own life or he'll decide to do a suicide by cop, again, another grandiose move to the keep his name famous, and you know, an example of his narcissism in this case.
He has no remorse and he wants everybody to know how great he is, that he could commit this murder tactically with no emotion and precision and efficiency, cold-blooded killing, and that's what he wanted to convey and he did.
CABRERA: And we certainly don't want to give him any more publicity, but we are continuing to show his picture because it is a public safety matter at this point. This man is still out there and law enforcement are actively looking for him and are asking for the public's help.
Polo, I understand you have some new information. What can you tell us?
SANDOVAL: And again, Ana, this is just a small detail that could amount to something significant for investigators. Cleveland Police now issuing information regarding this vehicle and the actual tag. It's an Ohio temporary tag that this Ford Fusion was sporting at least at some point. It was E 36-3630. Again this information we'll make available here shortly but this information just sent out by Cleveland Police, this Ford Fusion with temporary tags, E36-3630 at the time of this incident.
Of course that could have potentially changed. But what's important is to keep that in mind. And also stressing on Brian's point there and the importance of this video, that is essentially now evidence in this case, this means we're looking at now was one of the latest images of the suspect involved in this case. We've covered these kinds of senseless crimes before where they have to rely on older pictures, for example that other image that you're seeing on your screen, a driver's license perhaps.
This, though, the larger picture is the very latest image that authorities have to go on and what he may look like right now.
[20:15:05] CABRERA: Polo, Brian, David, thank you to all of you, Tom and Cedric.
Boy, we have a lot of people here, part of this discussion. We really do appreciate it.
Coming up, President Trump's National Security adviser has arrived in Afghanistan this weekend just a couple of days after the U.S. dropped the mother of all bombs there. His message about the war on terrorism almost 16 years after 9/11.
CABRERA: Nationality Security adviser H.R. McMaster is in Afghanistan this weekend. His visit comes just days after the U.S. military dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on ISIS fighters there, and they call it the mother of all bombs or MOAB.
We are learning more about this massive bomb strike on ISIS caves and tunnels in Afghanistan. U.S. military officials now say four ISIS commanders were among the 94 fighters killed on Thursday.
[20:20:03] Global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is joining us now from Washington.
And Elise, what is McMaster saying today about this ongoing fight against ISIS in Afghanistan?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, 16 years in, Ana, the fight -- you know, the Taliban are really controlling more territory than they have since 2001 when the war began.
And this morning on ABC News General H.R. McMaster, the National security adviser, really spoke about the fight that the U.S. is facing not just against the Taliban and al Qaeda but also about ISIS. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What's clear here in Afghanistan is the stakes are high. I mean this is -- this is really the modern-day frontier between barbarism and civilization, and so with those high stakes in mind, recognizing that the Taliban groups that we're fighting here, that the ISIS groups that we alongside really the Afghan forces are really fighting, and we're just enabling them in the eastern part of the country, are a threat to all civilized peoples. And so the president has asked for a range of options and we'll give him those options.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: So the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Nicholson, has asked for a couple of thousand troops and that could be U.S. troops or also NATO troops, but General H.R. McMaster has also talked about, you know, more diplomacy, more development. So that review ongoing. And you know, clearly President Trump is going to have to make a decision.
CABRERA: What does Thursday's MOAB strike, that powerful bomb dropped on ISIS fighters in Afghanistan, say about ISIS' presence in Afghanistan now and the fight on terror?
LABOTT: Well, you know, we've come to think of Afghanistan as the Taliban, as al Qaeda, but ISIS has really been trying to do recruiting and get like-minded groups to change their allegiance to ISIS, and so I think it kind of crept up on us, at least people -- you know, at least the public, about how much territory ISIS is really trying to gain, not just in Afghanistan but also on the border with Pakistan.
And I think this -- you know, this strike, this mother of all bombs really caught everybody by surprise because they didn't realize that ISIS was gaining such a foothold in the country. But the original really parent group of al Qaeda, the Khorasan, has looked to be changing allegiances. And the fact that they went after these commanders and these fighters and they got 95 of them about and four commanders shows, you know, in this complex of caves of tunnels that they're working on I think it's a lot larger of a presence than anyone thought -- Ana.
CABRERA: Elise Labott, thank you for that report.
Up next, politicians like to say their positions evolve, they hate to hear criticisms that they flip-flop. So what to make of President Trump this week when he proved beyond any doubt he is telling the truth when he says he is flexible?
[20:27:14] CABRERA: The White House won't reveal how it plans to respond to North Korea's failed missile attempt and it is difficult to speculate certainly, partly because we've seen this White House make a number of reversals on major issues in recent weeks, everything from military involvement in Syria to whether NATO is obsolete and now politicians flip-flopping is nothing new, of course. But President Trump's reversals are on pretty big campaign promises. So is that an asset or liability?
Let's talk about this with our panel. Joining me CNN political commentators Ben Ferguson and Nina Turner.
Nina, I'll start with you. President Trump has said he wants to be unpredictable? Is that an asset, especially when you're dealing with countries like North Korea and Syria?
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, not on foreign policy, Ana. I mean, we need some certainty here, and especially for a country that is tired of being in conflict after conflict after conflict. It is really time to really focus on domestic issues.
But I will say in terms of, you know, what President Teddy Roosevelt once said, which was to speak softly and carry a big stick, when it comes to dealing with North Korea we definitely need -- we need China in this. And so we cannot be out there going it alone. And this is not the atmosphere to be unpredictable.
CABRERA: And Ben, when you look at what has happened in the dynamics between the U.S. and North Korea, we do know just since February we've seen North Korea attempt at least five missile launches. So is it possible the president's previous tough talk on North Korea -- we have some examples that we can show, all these tweets that he has put out -- has done maybe little to dissuade their nuclear weapons program and might actually have the reverse effect?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it is going to have a reverse effect. I think what you're seeing here is each situation, whether it be, for example, Syria and Assad is going to be very different than Afghanistan and ISIS. And that's going to be very different from North Korea and what's going on there and the influence that China may be able to have.
Each situation is drastically different, and I think what you see the president doing here is saying, look, first off America is going to protect our national interests and we're not going to be afraid to protect those interests, but we're also willing to work with others. A great example of that is China and the meetings that they had at Mar-a-Lago. He has made it very clear he is willing to be flexible in certain ways to get to a resolution and it doesn't necessarily have to be military style resolution but that is definitely not going to be something he is willing to take off the table early on.
And I think most Americans appreciate this. And you have a president that's really looking at every different angle here and he is working through many different channels on these and willing to bring different people to the table, and I think that shows what you just heard there. You know what, you carry a big stick, you talk quietly, you don't let everybody know what you're going to do exactly, and you leave every option on the table while you can, and that keeps people protected and also safe in this country.
[20:30:08] CABRERA: Well, before Trump was elected, you'll recall he said he didn't want to be the policeman of the world, but he also said --
CABRERA: As you point out, he wants to be flexible when it comes to foreign policy. Let's just listen to his own words for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Megan, I have a very strong quote. I have a very strong quote. But I have never seen a successful person who wasn't flexible, who didn't have a certain degree of flexibility. You have to have a certain degree of flexibility. You have to show a degree of flexibility. If you are going to be one way and you think it is wrong, does that mean the rest of your life you have to go in the wrong direction because you don't want to change?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Nina, does the president have a point there?
TURNER: I mean, yes, he does have a point. I'm not going to say that he doesn't, but our geopolitical interests depend on this president and every other president listening to our experts, understanding our military history in the world and using that power judiciously. And so we cannot be in perpetual wars. We cannot go it alone, and so North Korea is just another example of that.
And I will say this that the American people, though, have been neglected for such a long time that we really do need to focus more in on --
CABRERA: Nina -- Nina, I apologize. I don't mean to interrupt you but we have some big breaking news we need to get to right now, guys.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
CABRERA: This breaking news just into CNN. We are learning right now Vice President Mike Pence is expected to travel to the DMZ. That's the border between South Korea and North Korea. It's just a day since Pyongyang's failed attempt to launch a ballistic missile and the White House says any and all options for any next move are still on the table.
Let's get right to CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash. She's traveling with the vice president. She is joining me now.
Dana, what can you tell us?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, I'm not sure if you can hear me. You can see the wind, this is the wind coming from a helicopter that is about to deliver the vice president of the United States here in South Korea. He is going to land, you see -- I think you can see behind me in order to go to the Demilitarized Zone.
This is going to be the first trip of anybody from this administration to the DMZ, and obviously it comes -- excuse me -- at a very, very tense time, but the vice president according to his aides wanted to come and get a firsthand look at what is going on here and get briefings from the top military brass who are here, both at the United Nations level and of course the U.S. forces who are here.
If you could stay with me, we're waiting to see the vice president of the United States come off of the helicopter. Excuse me. He got here to South Korea yesterday, Sunday, for Easter. The plan was on the down low, weather permitting and security permitting, for him to do exactly what he's doing now, and so we're waiting for the vice president to come out and to go to the first of several briefings and then to go up to the Demilitarized Zone to get a firsthand look at what is going on there and to be able to see North Korea with his own two eyes, which is something that you can do at the DMZ -- Ana.
CABRERA: Dana, I don't know if you can hear me, but if you can I'm curious how this came about. This wasn't on the agenda, right?
BASH: It wasn't on his official schedule, but we certainly got some strong hints that this is what they were hoping to do. They said he was going to take a cultural visit at this time in his schedule, and there was definitely a good sense that that cultural visit would be to come here to the Demilitarized Zone, for him to make this a pretty intense trip here.
And I can tell you as we're waiting for the vice president, and forgive me for turning around, I'm going to see if we see him. This is also an emotional trip for him because his father served in the U.S. Army in Korea, and he was served -- he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Bronze Star medal is framed in the vice president's office in the West Wing.
He has never been personally to South Korea, not as a congressman, not as governor of Indiana, this is the first time he's here. So obviously it is a very policy-oriented trip but it is also emotional for him given the fact that he has such history with his father being awarded such - such an award as the Bronze Star.
CABRERA: Again, we are seeing live pictures right now of the vice president who is visiting the Demilitarized Zone between South Korea and North Korea.
I want to bring in global affairs correspondent Elise Labott joining us now from Washington as we continue to watch these pictures and see what the next moves are by the vice president, Dana and Elise.
[20:35:01] Elise, tell us a little bit more about this area that the vice president is now visiting.
LABOTT: Well, there are several areas, and I have been there a few times, Ana.
BASH: I think he's going to come out.
LABOTT: It's really remarkable how close --
BASH: Here is the vice president, Ana, if you can see.
CABRERA: We are watching.
BASH: Forgive me, Elise, I'm sorry, but the vice president just came out.
LABOTT: It's a pretty amazing thing that the vice president will be seeing how close North and South Korea are. You know, there's an area he'll have a look out, where he'll be able to kind of look out over a mountain to see the North Korea below, but he'll also be on this one area that's called Panmunjom, which is basically a kind of building, a small building where North Korean and South Korean soldiers are standing just feet from each other.
And I have been there a few times. He';; be able to -- essentially you have these North Korean soldiers that are looking straight ahead and he can look them directly in the eye. He will just be, you know, less than a foot from them. And it's really a remarkable thing that the -- it will really bring home, I think, to Vice President Pence how close these two neighbors are in proximity and how much the North Korean threat is close to South Korea.
CABRERA: And Dana, what are we looking at right now? Are these those soldiers that Elise is just talking about, that he is shaking hands with?
BASH: No. No, Ana, not yet. We are not -- currently not at the DMZ right now. We are just south at the DMZ at a place called Camp Boniface. So this is basically the staging area where the vice president is going to come and get his initial briefings, and then he will be transported up to the DMZ.
What you are seeing now is him being greeted by South Korean military officials and U.N. military officials as well as U.S.
This particular camp here is mostly South Korean. We were told there are about 50 military officials that are stationed here at any given time from other countries, including the U.S. Overall in South Korea there are 28,500 troops, but here at Camp Boniface it is mostly South Korean troops, and that's what you see there, that's what the vice president being greeted there.
And I should say, this probably goes without saying, but this is a country at war. And back 67 years ago when the South Korean war began, it is still not over. There was an armistice which established the DMZ but there was no truce. And so it's something that is maybe easy to forget because it was so long ago, but the vice president is effectively entering one of the longest wars in history that is still going on, and he will be observing and getting information about that during this probably brief trip to the DMZ, Ana.
CABRERA: And Dana, when we were watching those pictures of the vice president getting off this helicopter with a number of other individuals, do you know who those people are that he's traveling with? BASH: Well, he's traveling with some of his senior staff, but the
briefings that he's going to get are from -- for the most part from a four-star general who is the head of the U.N. command here in South Korea and the U.S. command. He is somebody who is probably going to take -- we know is going to take the vice president around and give him most of the briefings, both here at Camp Boniface and then at the DMZ.
He is going to go to a place called the Freedom House. The Freedom House was a place that was established on the DMZ initially with the hope of it being where families could reunite, where North and South Korean families who were separated and have been separated now for 67 years and not able to see one another, where they could come together and have family reunions. It has never been used for that purpose.
The North Koreans would never allow that to happen. They have allowed a rare occasion to happen elsewhere in North Korea but never in the freedom house. So now it is just used for a place where there are meetings, where there are VIP visits and other operations for the joint command here.
CABRERA: Elise, what message is this now sending to North Korea, the fact that the United States' vice president is so close to their country?
LABOTT: I think it sends a very powerful message. This is a very powerful message of U.S. strength. You saw Secretary of State Rex Tillerson there just a few short weeks ago. And you know, when President Obama was briefing President Trump -- President-elect Trump about the threats that the U.S. was facing and they were having discussions, President Obama said to President Trump, the North Korean issue, the nuclear missile threat, is the number one threat you will be facing.
[20:40:02] And as the transition was progressing and as President Trump took office, he talked in great detail about how the North Korean threat was weighing on him and how he saw it as one of the most important issues. And you've seen this kind of increased rhetoric, these North Korean missile tests, one of them when President Trump was meeting with Japanese president -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a- Lago. You've seen these increased threats by North Korea and they are being met by a powerful message of U.S. resolve.
And you see this war -- warship carrier, the US Vinson traveling towards the region. It is a very powerful show of force. I mean you heard General H.R. McMaster, National Security adviser, saying while he was in Kabul, look, the U.S. does not want to take any military action. This is really the -- you know, the last resort, but that all options are on the table. And in the wake of these strikes by the U.S. in Syria and Afghanistan, the North Koreans cannot help but wonder what would be in store for them if they did something very powerful.
CABRERA: Dana, do we know has there been --
BASH: Guys, I have to -- CABRERA: -- strategizing with the vice president and the South
Koreans since he arrived there following that failed nuclear -- excuse me, missile -- ballistic missile test that happened last night?
BASH: Well, I think that's actually going to a point I was going to make, that Elise rightly is talking about the U.S. policy that is obviously evolving and not yet fully formed towards North Korea in terms of what actions the U.S. may or may not take beyond the diplomatic channels that they're using right now to really more than ever try to pressure China to help. But beyond that, this is a show of unity and a show of support, this visit that the vice president is taking right now to South Korea, for the South Koreans.
Remember, this is certainly rattling for the entire world to see the tensions spiking on this Korean peninsula, but no more than for the South Koreans. I mean they are really looking to the West, looking to the United States in particular to make sure that the United States still has its back, and that is a big part of the trip here.
It is not just to get briefings and to get a firsthand look at the ground, but also to show support and solidarity with the South Koreans as, of course, the U.S. has continued to do. As I said, for 67 years at this point when the South -- when the Korean War first began.
CABRERA: We're just looking at the video again. This is just moments ago that we saw the vice president. We showed it to you live as he stepped off that plane, as he shakes hand with some of the military members of South Korea who are at this area, Camp Boniface.
And then, Elise, you say they will go to the DMZ, which is not here, this is not that location. But give us a sense of how far that is.
LABOTT: It's very close. I mean, it's a short helicopter ride and he will be really in effect, just like -- you know, and he'll actually be in North Korean territory when you look at this kind of building that he'll be in. It is actually considered mostly North Korean territory. There is just a very small amount of South Korean territory.
But I just want to point out very quickly, emphasize what Dana said how important a show of unity this is now more than ever after President Park's impeachment. He is really not going to meet with any policy official to develop any strategy because there is the only an acting South Korean government right now.
This is all about a show of unity with the U.S. ally. Policy options will be discussed with the next government, which will go to elections in -- next month.
CABRERA: All right. We got to leave it there. I know, Dana, you need to move along with the vice president. We appreciate that report. Again, live from South Korea right now where the vice president is on his way to the DMZ, the border between South Korea and North Korea, as he continues his trip there in the Korean peninsula following this big parade, the show of force we saw there in North Korea on display yesterday with their special Day of the Sun. And apparently this is live coming to us now. Let's listen in. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- between our
people. It is particularly humbling for me to be here. My father served in the Korean War with the U.S. Army, and on the way here we actually saw some of the terrain my father fought alongside Korean forces to help earn your freedom. So we -- we are grateful to all of those who each and every day stand in the gap for freedom here at the DMZ and it is a great honor to be with all of our forces and with the leadership represented here.
[20:45:11] Thank you, gentlemen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the basic area we're in is called Panmunjom. Panmunjom has the historic significance of being the place where the United Nations command and --
CABRERA: Again, this is live video you're seeing right now. Cameras rushed in as the vice president showed up near the DMZ, and we just heard some comments that he made to the South Koreans who were greeting him there. He says it was a humbling moment for him to be able to visit this area, as we also heard from Dana earlier, the vice president reiterating that this is very personal for him. His father served with the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and we heard him tell the people in that room that his father fought for their freedom, and so this is not only a moment that's important to him as a leader of the United States and showing this unity with the South Koreans as they try to figure out exactly how to approach the North Korean nuclear development situation but also something that is personally meaningful to him.
We're going to take a quick break. Dana Bash traveling with the vice president in South Korea right now, and our thanks to Elise Labott as well joining us here on CNN.
You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. We're back after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
[20:50:38] CABRERA: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera. We are following breaking news.
Developments from the Korean peninsula where Vice President Mike Pence just arrived near the Demilitarized Zone, the DMZ, and he is in en route there. Again that's a very heavily fortified area between South Korea and North Korea.
I want to go back to our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott who has also visited this area in the past.
Elise, how significant is this?
LABOTT: Well, I think it's very significant, Ana. It's a real show of unity with the South Korean government, which is really in the midst of a lot of, you know, turmoil right now. In addition to this great North Korean threat and this missile threat, and this growing nuclear threat and the tension and increased rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea, you also have South Korea really in the throes of political chaos right now in the wake of President Park's impeachment and so Vice President Pence is really there for two reasons.
To show unity with the U.S. and South Korean ally. And also to show U.S. resolve. You know, this comes in the wake of strikes in Syria -- U.S. strikes in Syria and in Afghanistan and clearly this is a message to North Korea that the U.S. is taking this threat very seriously.
This is really seen as one of the gravest threats that President Trump assumed when he took office. And -- when he took office. And you can see in the last week and several months and weeks that this U.S. government is taking this threat very seriously.
CABRERA: Here's what we're learning about this planned visit now to the DMZ. I'm just reading these notes that are just in here to CNN. The vice president expected to get several briefings while he visits the DMZ. This is -- he's going to be talking with U.S. officials. He's going to also speak with General Vincent K. Brooks, the head of U.N. command in Korea, and the current commander of U.S. forces in Korea.
So this is a very much working visit. But we also heard him moments ago talk about how this is also something personal for him, his father served in the Korean War as part of the U.S. Army, Elise.
LABOTT: That's right. And so, you know, this is also as a U.S. leader taking it very seriously, but it's an awesome moment for him as he, you know, goes back in the footsteps of his father, who served in the war there. And I mean, he will be just about 20 meters, really, from the demarcation line where South Korean and North Korean troops are staring each other in the face. He will be just feet from North Korean soldiers when he goes into this area called Freedom House, which as Dana has said, was originally put up as an area for North Korea and South -- for families to be reunited.
But now really what it is, is a joint security area. The demarcation line where troops from both sides are staring heavily armed, I might add, are staring right in the face. So Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was there just a few weeks ago. You saw these pictures of the North Korean soldier just feet from him.
It is a really intense and very highly fortified area that he'll be visiting. And then he'll also go up to the observation lookout post, which you can see North Korea below. And it just kind of brings home how close these two neighbors are and it also brings home the missile threat and potential nuclear threat that South Korea has from the North.
CABRERA: And fill us in on what we know now about this latest missile launch that failed just last night.
LABOTT: Well, it exploded about five seconds after being launched and so it's a little bit hard to figure out U.S. officials say exactly what type of missile it was. But it seemed to be a medium range ballistic missile. Now it's not the intercontinental ballistic missile that ICBM that could reach the U.S. mainland, that the U.S. is very concerned about, but that doesn't mean that it's not concerning.
Clearly it could reach South Korea, it could reach Japan, and the U.S. has thousands of troops in the area. And, you know, even though it failed just five seconds after taking off, people might say oh well, it's not that concerning. It is very concerning, U.S. officials say, because every time that North Korea takes another test, it gets closer to perfecting that technology.
[20:55:07] So even though it failed, they got a little bit closer today and that's very concerning to U.S. commanders and the president.
CABRERA: And the next question is how does the U.S. and the international community respond to not just this one provocative movement in North Korea, but also the larger strategy in dealing with this nuclear program that North Korea continues to forge ahead with.
Elise Labott, our appreciation for your expertise and joining us to discuss the vice president now visiting the DMZ in between the North and South Korea. That highly fortified area. Again pictures just moments ago where he got off the plane nearby en route to the DMZ.
Up next here on CNN on this Easter Sunday, it's back to back episodes of "FINDING JESUS: FAITH, FACT, AND FORGERY."
Thanks for being with us tonight. I'm Ana Cabrera. Have a wonderful week and Happy Easter.