tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN April 4, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
breaking news, back challenges. congressional investigators dig deeper into trump advisors and russians during the transition. were u.s. sanctions on moscow discussed? we'll tell you what cnn is learning tonight. the president and his allies ramp up allegations about unm k unmasking, trying to shift attention to president obama's former national security advisor. susan rice is responding for the first time to the attacks. mike pence is reaching out trying for a health care
compromise. the problems that killed the first attempt to repeal obamacare haven't gone away. a suspected chemical weapons attack slaughters dozens of syrians including many children. the white house is blaming the brutal strong man assad even as mr. trump appeared to be softening his administratioadmi policy toward the syrian regime. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we're following breaking news in is trump vurussia investigation. they are pouncing on new information about meetings between trump advisors and russian officials during the transition. they are focusing on the timing of the talks, trying to determine if an easing of sanctions on moscow was discussed.
also, tonight, a new warning about the gravity of the russia investigation. democratic congressman castro. a member of the house intelligence committee telling me a little while ago that he expects some people will end up in jail when all is said and done. also breaking, former obama nshl security advisors susan rice is speaking out about reports that she sought to unmask the identities of trump associates caught up in the surveillance of foreigners. rice denies any wrong doing or attempt by the obama administration to use intelligence for political purposes. a chemical attack against innocent civilians in syria can't be ignored. sources indicate that gas was likely used. no word as to how the united states will respond. the white house blaming bashar assad are claiming it's a
weakness of president obama's weakness toward the syrian regime. let's go to cnn chief national security correspondent. jim, you've been working your sources on this russian investigation. what's the latest? >> a source tells me that the investigation committees are interested in looking at these meetings between trump associates and russians during the transition. sd did u.s. sanctions and a relaxing of u.s. sanctions come up in those talks? >> reporter: tonight the timing and proximity of meetings between trump advisors and russians are raising concerns. in particular, whether the loosening of u.s. sanctions on
russia was discussed. one meeting in question took place in january on the island nation hundreds of miles off the east coast of africa. a little more than a week before president trump took office, black water founder and trump donor, eric prince met with a russian businessman close to vladmir putin to arrange a possible back channel of communications between moscow and the incoming administration. >> there was no reason to find some russian business person or some contact with the russian government when you could have asked the state department or the obama administration to help create contacts. >> reporter: prince donated $250,000 to the trump campaign and his sister is the education secretary betsy devos. prince claimed to have influence. the administration was not involved in arranging the meeting. still gop lawmakers acknowledge
growing questions. >> this is a centipede. a shoe will drop every few days. the latest meeting. this is a requirement in my view why we need a select committee in order to get through all this because there's lots more shoes that will drop. >> thank you very much. >> reporter: ties between former trump campaign advisor carter page and russia are also under renewed scrutiny. court documents reveal a transcript of the russian spies account of a conversation he had with page who is referred to in the document as male number one. speaking about page, the russian said quote, i think he is an idiot and forgot who i am and quote, i will feed him empty
promises. page admits he was in contact with one russian spy in 2013 but claims he thought the russian was working for moscow's u.n. office and he did not release any sensitive information. page saying in a statement, quote, i shared basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents. in doing so i provided him nothing more than a few samples from the far more detailed lectures i was preparing for students in my spring 2013 semest semester. sources tell cnn he did meet with members of the trump national security team during the transition and he claimed there and elsewhere to have access to the trump administration. whether and to what degree he had access that remains an open question. >> thank you. also tonight, the senate intelligence committee chairman said he panel may talk to former national security advisor susan rice as part of its russia investigation.
susan rice now responding for the first time to questions about surveillance of trump associates and the unmasking of their identities. let's go to our senior congressional reporter. as you know, susan rice is denying any wrong doing say any unmask done was part of her job as the president's national security advisor. >> reporter: that's right. this came in the aftermath of how intelligence chairman devin nunes trip to the white house to review information that he said showed some incidental collection of trump campaign officials and the unmasking of the trump associates. reports emerged saying that susan rice was the official doing the unmasking and this prompted a fire storm of criticism from conservatives and republicans who say this need to be part of the ongoing russia probe. susan rice came on national television and pushed back. >> the allegation is that somehow obama administration
officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. that's false. let me explain how this works. i was a national security advisor. my job is to protect the american people and this country. every morning to enable us to do that, we receive from the intelligence community a compilation of intelligence reports that the intelligence community has selected for us on a daily basis to give us the best information as to what's going on around the world. i received those reports as did each of those other officials and there were occasions when i would receive a report in which a u.s. person was referred to. name not provided. just u.s. person. sometimes in that context in order to understand the importance of the report and assess the significance, it was necessary to find out or request
the information as to who that u.s. official was. >> reporter: now, the senate intelligence chairman said moments ago that if the intelligence leads to susan rice then they'll ask susan rice to come before the committee. this comes as the senate and house intelligence committee are finalizing their list of witnesses on the house side. a notable development that the republicans and democratics appear to be closer to consensus on exactly who to interview as part of a probe that have been stalled over chairman devin nunes role. that investigation continues to take shape as republicans and democrats are interviewing members of the intelligence community in a private setting including the first transcribed interview. the question is will susan rice be one of those people that come forward. >> thanks very mump for the reporting. let's get some more on all of
this with the democrat eric. thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> you heard the former national skur security advisor, do you believe she's done anything improper? >> i've seen no evidence that she has. we have seen this as a hurdle that's keeping us from getting to the finish line of this investigation. we're determined to get to the bottom of what happened. i think we are getting closer every day. a lot of times the behavior of people under investigation can tell you a lot about whether they are culpable of any wrong doing. >> this is how senator rand paul, a republican, described susan rice's behavior. listen to this. >> we used the term wiretapping to mean eavesdropping. now we know that someone in the obama administration was eavesdropping and specifically searching a data bank. >> do we know that? >> no. >> where did you get that? >> it's a huge deal we're collecting millions of americans phone calls and someone can go to a keyboard and put your name
in and search it without a warrant. this is an illegal warrantless search. >> you can order the specific listening device or you can say, we already have it. we have millions of people in a databa database. i can go down and type donald trump or general flynn into a database and boom, up comes that. >> do you know that happened? >> is that not the same as ordinary oring the surveillance? they know it exists. every international businessman or woman who talks overseas is in that database. do we want political officials to type in name of bill gates and find out they have a deal going on in europe. we do not want that to happen. >> that's the point. >> i believe susan rice abused the system and did it for political purposes. she needs to be brought in and questioned. >> all right, congressman, is the senator right? is that an accurate characterization?
>> he sound like a guy that spent his sunday golfing with a subject of this investigation, and he did. he's not correct. the white house is the only party that can declassify exactly what chairman nunes saw. i believe if there really is evidence of wrong doing, thaw will show us that but my prediction is they won't because there's nothing there. >> he did play golf last sunday with the president of the united states. are you saying he's just trying to defend the president? he's been a libertarian for a long time. >> he may have honest concerns about government surveillance. that's fine. he has not seen what the white house is referring to and the white house won't show the world what they are referring to. we should only assume based on the track record sh is only an effort to deceive and obstruct an investigation that needs to go forward. >> the senate intelligence chairman said it's possible susan rice could fall under his committee's investigation.
do you think the house intelligence committee will follow suit? >> i'll say this, we have agreed on our witness list. i'm excited that's showing the american people we're going forward. if they want to put a hurdle up like bringing susan rice in, that's fine. we're moving forward. there are more relevant witnesses that susan rice. our job is to get to the bot to of what happened. >> do you believe there's anything improper with the meeting? >> it's our job to find out. he's the brother of a pleb of trump administration and sounds like from the reports that he went to try to get a better policy towards russia. our concern is was this a quid pro quo. we can only find out if we continue our investigation. >> we also have learned that another trump campaign advisor carter page met with russian intelligence spy back in 2013.
gave him documents on the energy industry. at the time he didn't flow he was a russian spy. he thought he was a diplomat at the u.n. what steps will your committee will taking in response to these twomts on both carter page and eric prince? >> has to be part of our investigation fp if we look at what carter page did in 2013, meeting with a russian spy, people could say he may not have known. however, once he found out, it's inexcusable that in 2016, after the world learns that russia's interfering in our campaign with the permission of the donald trump campaign he goes over to russia and continues to meet with russians. at that point i think we need to learn a lot more about whether his meetings and the financial ties were converging with russia's interference. >> the documents have seen over at the white house. have you seen those documents as well? >> arrangements are being made right now for every member of
the committee to see them? >> have you seen them yet? >> no. we are expecting to see them before we leave town to go home this weekend. >> you'll see them at some point but you're confident that everything that the committee and ranking members saw, you'll see? >> yes. >> i spoke with one of your colleagues in the last hour. i want you to listen to what he said to me. >> have you seen any hard evidence of collusion yet? >> i guess i would say this. my impression is i wouldn't be surprised after all this is said and done that some people end up in jail. >> you agree, congressman? >> i think we need to let the investigation run its course. i don't want to pre-judge what the fbi and department of justice will do. there is evidence of collusion on the unclassified, what we have shown the world. i have a website that lays that out and there's also evidence on the classified side. right now we should follow the evidence.
if at the end of the day, these are just mere coincidences, it's in the president's interest for the world to know. if not, it's in our country's interest that people be held accountable. >> i need to take a quick break. stand by. we'll resume all of our coverage right after this. kbln and two in the reserves. our 18 year old was in an accident. when i call usaa it was that voice asking me, "is your daughter ok?" that's where i felt relief. it actually helped to know that somebody else cared and wanted make sure that i was okay. that was really great. we're the rivera family, and we will be with usaa for life. usaa. we know what it means to serve. call today to talk about your insurance needs.
thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you. >> what's your biggest concern as an expert on russia? >> well, i think there are two things that are general areas of concern. we know from the assessment of our intelligence community and other open source information that vladmir putin order add an interview into the u.s. 2016 election. the american voters deserve to know what worked, what didn't work so they can be educated and understand how vladmir putin tried to manipulate their votes and whether a spy sitting in moscow had more impact on the election than a woman voting in iowa. that's a fact finding issue to do with security. the second is the question of collusion and cooperation, criminal activity that might have been helping vladmir putin achieve his objectives in taking down hillary clinton and elevating donald trump. i think that's a separate, also significant set of questions. >> do you believe there was?
>> there's enough -- it's a centipede and every day another shoe drops. there's enough evidence to suggest a full investigation is needed. i believe that a special prosecutor is necessary for the criminal element. i think we need -- i respect the ongoing work done by the house and senate intel committees but we need have an independent commission that can fully investigation what russia did during our 2016 election and make recommendations about how to defend ourself in the future. >> the fbi has a criminal investigation. it's been underway since july. he believes when all is said and done, some people probably will wind up in jail. do you believe that? >> i think -- i wouldn't want to pre-judge the outcome of an investigation. i think it's very important that the fbi take this forward. i think there's a criminal question here and whether there was criminal collaboration with the russians. i think the fact finding mission which also needs to be done.
it really shouldn't be partisan issue. all of us have an issue in our democracy being defending. >> stand by. we're getting information about the unfolding horror in syria where a suspected chemical attack has killed dozens of people including lots of children, injured hundreds of others. warning to our viewers, the aim -- images are graphic and disturbing. let's go to barbara starr. what's the latest? >> reporter: a rust intelligence official said it's beginning to look like this has the attack of bashar assad, the syrian regime. this may be the largest attack since 2013 against his own people and maybe it is the deadly agent sarin. cnn will not blur out the horror. activists say dozens of civilians killed and hundreds injured, including children when air strike hits in northern syria province. victims were short of breath,
choking, foaming of the mouth. symptoms of a chemical attack. >> no. >> i saw children dead. i saw an entire family, a mother and three children all dead. >> reporter: secretary of state rex tillerson ignoring shouted questions about the attack from reporters. just days after he made clear the trump doctrine is to no longer a imto push syrian president to be removed from power. >> i think the status and the longer term status of president assad will be decided by the syrian people. >> reporter: this may be the new reality. >> there's no plausible way to get rid of him. we'll have to hold our collective nose and accept that and come up with a strategy that minimizes his ability to hurt syrians in future. >> reporter: white house press secretary sean spicer also blaming both the assad regime and president obama. >> these heinous actions by the
bashar regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and ir resolution. >> reporter: europe taking a much tougher public line. the british foreign minister focusing on asad's crimes. >> it would be another reason to think there's absolutely heinous outfit. it's war crime. >> reporter: an emergency meeting of the united security council scheduled for wednesday morning. the 8-year-old syrian girl who treat frded from aleppo for donald trump. hi, do you love this she says with a photo of the children of her country. images that are truly heartbreaking. tonight, it's worth remembering president obama came under years of criticism for his so-called red line, no chemical weapons use by bashar assad.
the u.s. did not take military action against him. tonight donald trump and secretary of state rex tillerson late in the day issued written statements condemning the attacks in syria but still at the end of the day no indication that the u.s. is going to do much, if anything about it. wolf. >> heartbreaking to see those images of those little kids. thank you very much. the former u.s. ambassador is still with us. it is heartbreaking. is it adequate? >> i think the reaction from the trump administration is very regrettable. secretary of state tillerson had nothing to say. when asked about a war crime you should be able to say it's horrible. >> he did issue a written statement. >> after he left the room without answering questions. for the white house to put out a statement blaming a policy for
several years ago for the actions of assad is just ridiculous. there's no reason why that needs to be a partisan issue or scoring political points. what the white house should be focused on is what we should all be focused on. this is an outrage. it appears to be a war crime. >> if it is the syrian regime that committed this war crime, the russians are deeply aligned with assad. you're an expert on russia. is that going to change at all? >> you make a very good point. we were told, there was a deal to remove sarin from syria. we were told it was out of syria. that was part of the deal that was struck several years ago was to remove the chemical weapons from syria. either stuff has been brought back or we were lied to. i think the russians have been working hand in glove to drop bombs on syrian people with the
assad regime and the russians bear some responsibility. they need to be held to account for that as well. i assume we will continue to do that at the u.n. and elsewhere. >> there will be a meeting at the u.n. security council. we can anticipate a russian v o veto. >> they have been defending assad for years. >> thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you. just ahead, congressional investigators looking into meetings between russians and donald trump advisors including his son-in-law. did they talk about easing u.s. sanctions. president trump's daughter a key advisor answers critics who say she is comply sit in what's happening over at the white house. [vo] quickbooks introduces rodney.
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we're back with breaking news on the trump-russia investigation. he expects some people, when all is said and done, will end up in jail, his words. this as former obama national security advisor, susan rice now responding to republican attempts to shift the focus to her. let's bring in our experts that we have. phil mud let me start with you. this whole notion, chairman burr suggesting maybe susan rice will fall under his committee's investigation. you heard what senator rand paul said. i want your reaction.
>> she should be in front of the committee but not for the reasons you think. i think some people believe she should be there to explain actions. what she did was appropriate. someone before president obama left office was trying to interfere with the president's ability to sanction rush sla. here is why she should be in front of the committee. the question should be if people were interfering with president obama's sanctions, what was the impact on your relationship with russia? how did you see that play out when you were seeing trump officials talking to russians, what were you thinking about the affect on the president's abilities to impose sanctions? finally, one specific question that i would have and pose to her, when president putin decided not to respond to american sanctions to president obama's sanctions, was her assessment that his failure to respond because he received assurances from the trump people that they would let him off the hook when they came to office?
that's the real story here. it's not unmasking. it's not her asking questions. it's about whether people who rr not in office yet impeded the president's authority to set sanctions against russia. >> we remember when the u.s. expelled 30 plus russian officials we anticipated equal action from the russians against the u.s. that never happened. that was mysterious. you make a fair point there. this whole conflation, is this by design? >> i think so. i think it's designed to muddy the waters. since march 4th when the president tweeted that he was being spied on by barack obama, the administration in some way shape or form has been looking for evidence to substantiate the claim. what they're talking about with unmasking is trying to muddy the waters here.
let me say this, unmasking is not leaking. unmasking is trying to understand the content of the surveillance that you are looking at. it's trying to understand the intelligence that's in front of you. as susan rice explained, again, i have no problem with her going before the committee, but this -- her unmasking was to understand things and not to leak things. she said if she asked for something to be unmasked, it was delivered to her and it wasn't distributed to a wide group of people who can then leak it all over the place. i think it's a diversion. >> david axelrod, how do you think the investigations will pursue the latest revelations about eric prince and the russian spy. >> they'll have to look at it. in the first instance they'll
have to look at it for the reason that phil mud mentioned. if general flynn in his discussions with ambassador made representations about what the u.s. was going to do relative to the sanctions and this was a follow on meeting to that, they're going to need to know that. they will want to know what was discussed in that meeting and did and who authorized this meeting between prince and a representative of putin and was it part of the same discussion. that seems to me central to what they are looking at as is carter page because he's been a central figure in this. donald trump identified him as a principal foreign policy advisor. we know he's had multiple contacts with the russians, visits with the russians and now this story comes. if there were intermediaries
between the russians and the trump campaign relative to what was to come this terms of leaks, he would be someone they would look at. i think both those stories are relevant to the investigations we know are ongoing. >> in the last hour i spoke to the congressman from texas, a member of the house intelligence committee and he said flatly, he believes some people will probably wind up in jail when this investigation is over. that's the first time i've heard a member of the house or senate intelligence committee make a bold statement like that. >> he is a democrat so we have to bear that in mind. it's easy to make these sorts of proclamations when we don't have the information out in public for us to assess. it's also classified. we don't fully know. we know this is potentially a criminal investigation ongoing. there's the potential for someone to wind up being prosecuted by the doj at the end of this. this is sort of equivalent to
republicans during the presidential campaign saying that hillary clinton would end up in jail, saying lock her up. obviously, that did not come to pass. for weeks and months they were saying it would or could. it's a little bit early to know. >> congressman castro said based on the information he's seen, the public information and the private, classified information, he thinks some people, not just one person, will wind up in jail. >> that doesn't help if you want to have a bipartisan investigation. he's entitled to his own opinion but people are trying to lower the decibel level and not increase it. to jump to these kind of conclusions at this point, i think is a bit of a tease and really is a little early. >> you wanted to weigh in david. >> i agree with that. he's a great friend of mine. i have a lot of respect for him. it's probably best for all involved in this investigation to keep speculation at a minimum
and let the investigation work. i would agree with gloria. >> phil, you agree? >> not only do i agree, but let's be clear. the democrats a week ago were saying the republicans should never have gone to the white house to talk to president trump. that shows bias. then we have a democrat coming out saying excuse me, before the investigation gets under way, i have determined that people will be in jail. these people ought to shut up and do the investigation. how clear can this be? >> everybody stand by. we'll continue this. critics now accusing president trump's daughter of being quote complicit. she has responded in an interview. you'll hear her response when we come back. ou retire? i'd really like to run with the bulls. wow. hope you're fast. i am. get a portfolio that works for you now and as your needs change with investment management services. on a perfect car,
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we're back with our experts. i want to play a clip. the daughter, ivanka trump, is now a senior advisor to the president. she gave an interview to gale king. listen to this exchange. >> we heard the phrase complicit. can you weigh in on how you feel about that? there's been articles, parodies. what do you think about that accusation? >> if being complicit is wanting to -- the wanting to be a force
for good and to make a positive impact then i'm complicit. i don't know that the critics who may say that of me, if they found themselves in this very unique and unprecedented situation that i am in would do any differently than i'm doing. >> i want your reaction. you've actually intervied her. >> she's very composed and what she's trying to say is, i'm going to do what i want to do. i'm trying to do, she's got her issues. she's got her women's issues and she's -- seems to me she's trying to say i'm in this unprecedented situation and i'm going to stay in my lane and do what i want to do. i'd like to see the entire interview because her portfolio, in many ways, is not unlike her husband's and that she seems to be the first among equals. has security clearance. can roam anywhere she wants.
has her father's ear. while she seemed to be sort of down playing her role, i think it's much broader in reality. >> there's no doubt about that. she is a player just like her husband. a major player in this new administration. >> i would argue they are the two most important players because if you look at the history of donald trump and gloria did a wonderful piece on him. if you look at the history of donald trump, he's reliant on his family and his children. they have been his advisors over the years. now as this administration goes on, they've had some early reverses, you see more and more responsibility heaped onto jarod, heaped onto ivanka. i think the concern is that no one in that white house and they certainly are among them actually has any experience in dealing on this scale with these kind of issues. none of them have experience in
government. the senior people around the president. i think that shows. that's one of the reasons why he has the reverses he's had. i'm not sure they can solve that problem for him. >> you've seen the report. they are moderating influences on the president. >> we haven't seenfully evidence of that. we've seen the reports come out that suggest they have a moderating influence on this or that. practically speaking, i have not seen any evidence of that. the portfolios are massive. they are sort of a master of none at this point. i think a lot of people on the outside are waiting to see what are they going to do to moderate this administration. the president has surrounded himself for people who are partisans, loyal republicans, conservatives. people like mike pence, reince
priebus, who are taking this administration in that direction. >> there's so many critically important issues unfolding right now. phil mud, i want to make the turn to syria. we have seen these horrific pictures of these people gas, sarin gas, we think was used by the assad regime including all these little kids who were killed. this administration has to come up with a new policy to deal with that. >> they do. what we saw today is not that helpful where we have the spokesman suggesting that president obama is responsible for this. in one respect sean spicer is correct. back years ago, five years ago, president obama set a red line. he said if he uses chemical weapons, we should respond. this is not just president obama. this is the authority of the white house and the united states. president assad used clem cal weapons going back to 2013 and we didn't respond.
i think this is one of the biggest shortcomings, maybe the biggest foreign policy shortcoming of the eight years of the obama administration. however, in less than three months in office, we have immigration reform. that's the responsibility, i guess of a federal judge who overturned it. we have health care reform. that's the freedom caucus. it's not our problem. we have russia. that's a media. that's not our problem. now we have syria. that's not us. that's the previous administration. i'm down here in miami visiting my 85-year-old dad. he's a monster pain in the [ expletive ] but he gave me great advice. stop whining and get on with your life. when you have responsibilities, at some point you have to get out of rear view mirror and say i'm responsible for setting security policy. some blaming people and figure out how to move forward.
available for white house chief of staff. sounds like he may be a great addition to the team. >> no. not leaving miami. loves miami. gloria? >> now you have donald trump who tweeted in 2013, what i am saying is stay out of syria, so he's blaming the former administration when he tweeted that at the time. now the new policy seems to be hands-off with regard to assad. and lets his foote be decided by the. john mccain has stepped up and is calling this a disgraceful chapter in american history because he thinks more ought to be done and he is going to meet with rex tillerson over this issue. there is disagreement in the republican party about what to do.
. ivanka trump is opening up about her relationship and conversations with her father, the president of the united states. listen to this exchange she just had with gayle king of cbs. >> you talk about the critics and you have a couple who say why isn't ivanka speaking out? where is she on rights of women
and climate change. what do you say to your critics? >> i would say not to conflate lack of public denoumt with silence -- denouncement with silence. in some cases you can be on protests or going on tv and denouncing every issue you disagree with. sometimes it is quietly and directly and candidly. where i disagree with my father, he knows it. i express myself with full candor. where i agree, i fully lean in and support the agenda and hope that i can be an asset to him and make a positive impact, but i respect that he always listens. it's how he was in business. it's how he is as president. >> rebecca bird, what did you think of that answer?
>> tries like she's trying to have it both ways, to apiece the critics and say i'm standing up to my father but at the same time saying i'm a part of this. and it's difficult to see in that answer whether she really supports the direction that this administration has been going or whether she doesn't. it's -- it really doesn't say a lot to me at all. >> very quickly, david, what do you think? >> i'm not sure. she's in a very difficult position. i don't know what presidential aide is called upon to say where they agree with their principal. >> usually if you're an aide you would say i agree with the direction. >> or you'd say i'm here to serve him and i will give him my advice. the point is i think the bigger problem is one i mentioned before which is so much responsibility is falling now on her and jared to handle major issues, china relationships, the middle east, the reorganization
of the american government and it just seems very, very risky and in the end of the day, i don't think the president's doing them a favor by loading them up that way. >> we're going to continue listening to this and a lot more. that's it for me. thanks for kwampg. er >> north korea firing off a projectile. we have if latest on this. plus a top democrat warning trump on russia "some people end up in jail. "this as we learn about two more meetings with trump associates and russians tonight. 18 companies and counting dropping bill o'reilly. can he survive? let's go out front. good evening. i'm erin burnett. north korea