tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN October 12, 2017 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
missile and worries that kim jong un's regime for nuclear weapons is reaching critical developments. and the wildfire in california is now the deadly yi deadliest of its kind. more fire is forecasted and flights are being as canceled as far away as san francisco. and giving up? president trump threatens puerto rico with a tweet warning that federal aid can't stay forever and blames the island for its bleak financial situation. his attack prompted a fierce backlash, including from san juan's mayor, who is now being called hater in chief. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
remarkably candid comments by chief of staff john kelly. the general made rare comments in the briefing room where he said despite reports of tension and turmoil inside the west wing, he's not quitting, he's not getting fired and he's not frustrated. he added that his job is not to control president trump. also breaking this hour, the death toll has climbed again in the wildfires blackening large swaths of northern california. officials say 27 people have been killed and hundreds are still reported missing. entire towns have been evacuated. and tonight, the weather forecast is ominous. strong winds expected to return to the area. white house chief of staff john kelly, meanwhile, is defending president trump's tweets on another disaster. the hurricane that devastated puerto rico. mr. trump is blaming the island for its own financial difficulties and he's adding, and i'm quoting him now, we
cannot keep fema and the first responders in puerto rico forever. kelly says the president's tweets are exactly accurate. kelly revealed that north korea is developing what he calls a pretty good re-entry vehicle. americans should be concerned about north korea's ability to reach the united states with a nuclear-tipped missile. we're covering all of that and much more at this hour with our guests including congressman jim himes and our correspondent and specialists are standing by. let's begin with the very blunt remarks by the president's chief of staff john kelly. sara murray has the latest. sara, kelly confronted reports of tension and turmoil head-on? >> reporter: that's right. in a rare appearance today in the briefing room, kelly made it clear that he is not going anywhere and despite what some may believe his performance should not be judged on whether he can block the president's twitter happy finger. >> i'm not quitting today.
>> reporter: john kelly making his debut in the white house briefing room as the chief of staff. >> i don't think i'm being fired today and i'm not so frustrated in this job that i'm thinking of leaving. >> reporter: and insisting that a white house that often looks chaotic from the outside is, in fact, running smoothly. >> i was not sent in or brought in to control him and you should not measure my effectiveness as a chief of staff by what you think i should be doing but simply the fact is, i can guarantee to you that he is now presented with options, well-thought out options. those options are discussed in detail with his team and then he comes up with the right decision. >> reporter: as kelly insisted, his primary role is not to block trump's twitter tirades and
pulled back the kurt contincurt frustrations. kelly channelling trump's exasperation as trump uses the power of presidency to overhaul obamacare after efforts to repeal the legislation hit a dead end on capitol hill. >> i will sign an executive order taking the first steps to providing millions of americans with obamacare relief. >> reporter: trump unveiling an executive order to expand short-term insurance plans, study ways to allow small businesses to buy insurance and broaden employer's abilities to buy their own health care. >> the competition will be staggering. insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up. and you will be hopefully negotiating, negotiating, negotiating and you'll get such low prices for such great care. >> reporter: while trump touted the expected upsides, some
experts worry about chipping away at protections for people with pre-existing conditions. in another shock, president trump is expected to move forward tomorrow with decertifying the iran nuclear deal. >> i think it was one of the most incompetently drawn plans i've ever seen. $150 billion given. we got nothing. >> reporter: while not pulling out of the deal completely, the white house says the president will lay out a strategy to more closely rally behind allies like saudi arabia and israel who oppose the deal. amid all of this, the white house is still confronting a humanitarian crisis in puerto rico. most of the island remains without power and many don't have access to water. still, trump took to twitter today to warn that aid to puerto rico will have an expiration date. "we cannot keep fema, the military and first responders who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances in p.r. forever."
leaving his chief of staff to explain what he meant. >> our country will stand with those american citizens in puerto rico until the job is done, but the tweet about fema and d.o.d. is exactly accurate. they are not going to be there forever and the whole point is to start the work yourself out of a job and transition to the rebuilding process. >> reporter: now, the white house is making clear that federal responders will not be in puerto rico for good but they are not saying what the timeline is to depart the storm-ravaged island and there's no explanation from the white house as to why the white house is adapting this kind of a tone when so many people are suffering. wolf? >> sara murray reporting from the white house, thank you. the president also provoked anger among puerto rican officials blaming the hurricane-ravaged island for its own financial problems and saying that the federal government can't help puerto rico forever. let's go to our senior white house correspondent jim acosta who is also working this part of the story for us.
jim, what led the president to publish those tweets? >> reporter: wolf, i talked to republican sources in touch with people here at the white house who said that essentially that tweet was posted by the president earlier this morning to go after the san juan mayor carmen cruz who has been seen here at the white house as a thorn in the side of the president in the last couple of days, the procession is that she is back in the headlines and that tweet sent out this morning basically to respond to her to say, listen, this aid to your island is not going to be going on forever. that struck a lot of people as being very incentive to people in puerto rico. i talked to republican sources on relief efforts there and i asked this source, wolf, whether or not the feeling is that the president just doesn't like the people of puerto rico, has some sort of bias against the people of puerto rico and this source said it's more serious than that. it really reflects in the opinion of this source that the president doesn't understand what his administration is doing because in the feelings of this
source, the administration is hard at work trying to get things going again in puerto rico. wolf, when you go back to the tweets this morning and even the president when he made that visit down in puerto rico, you remember that video of him throwing the paper towels to the people in puerto rico. i talked to another republican source who advises this white house on a routine basis who said the optics of that were just terrible and that the white house has to do something to get this image problem turned around. >> what about the chief of staff john kelly, what was he trying to accomplish over at the white house briefing room today making his debut in front of reporters? >> reporter: atalki talked to a plugged-in source that john kelly went out there to correct the stories that have been floating out there in recent days that suggest that he is thinking about leaving this white house, that he has run out of patience with this president. you heard john kelly going into the briefing room earlier today sort of -- he seemed to be enjoying himself with that dead
pan humor you c, telling report go back and get better sources. he said i'm not here to control what the president does. i'm here to control the information he receives. wolf, i hear that countless times from sources here inside the white house, that the feeling is that the president just needs to get a better information flow so he can essentially communicate better to the american people. whether or not that is actually panning out, that is going to be the judgment of a lot of americans out there. but wolf, i talked to a source earlier today who said, listen -- and this is a campaign source who worked on the campaign and administration, if you think john kelly is going to be able to control the president's tweeting habits, think again. there were thoughts throughout the campaign, throughout the transition, throughout the first months of this administration that the president is going to stop tweeting. this source told me donald trump is never going to stop tweeting. wolf? >> i suspect you're right. jim acosta at the white house, thank you. let's get more on all of this
from democratic senator jim himes, a key member of the house intelligence committee. let's start in north korea. you heard the white house chief of staff john kelly say, and i'm quoting him now, let's hope diplomacy works. president trump, you know, he told the secretary of state rex tillerson who was engaged in diplomacy with north korea, don't waste your time. he seems to have abandoned diplomacy. does that concern you? >> well, part of what concerns me is just the fact that we hear one thing from the president and in any number of tweets he has said that the time for diplomacy is up. he contradicted his secretary of state and after threatening the united nations to threaten the country entirely, you know, was making additional threats. he did that with iran, too. there's only one way to deal with this. so his people, and in this is ka, somebody who actually understands what it means to go into combat, what it means to actually lose troops, what it means for civilians to get killed. john kelly who has seen this up
close and personal is out there trying to resurrect the case for diplomacy. as we all know, would the united states prevail in a conflict with north korea? of course it would and it would do so rapidly. but the devastation to a lot of u.s. troops, to a lot of civilians, american civilians and people in seoul would be absolutely horrendous. so those of us who are not in the oval office can only keep our fingers crossed that harm and john kelly, only people who know what it is like can deal with this as sensitively as they can. >> when asked if the targeting of the russian-bought facebook ads match that of the trump campaign, she refused to answer that question actually three times earlier today. you've been briefed on all of those russian-paid ads and facebook and other social media.
do you have an answer? >> well, i'm not sure that facebook or google or twitter really know the extent to which the russians used those platforms to try to influence our election. you know, not only did they in some cases use russian entities to buy ads and that sort of thing but they will have used, you know, a puppet u.s. entities to do that as well. so we don't know the full extent and i'm sure they don't know the full extent. having looked at a lot of those ads that have been provided to my committee, i was just stunned by the sophistication of the effort that was made to really inflame some of the toughest fault lines and that was racial division. i looked at ad aftered ad afterd on both sides of the violence issue and police against unarmed
black men. this was hollywood level production and i thought if i was trying to inflame u.s. rash sh racial tensions, this is how i would do it. so it's important that people understand if a foreign adversary manipulated us by looking at that issue. >> what do you mean by puppet u.s. entities? >> well, we don't know the full extent of this but we know that they use the govern the -- the government uses a government sponsored media channel. with he know they have relationships with wikileaks and other groups and while i can't get into specifics, it's not hard to set up a corporation in the united states. it's not hard to set up a limited liability company. i would assume that they did that and there may be plenty of other entities out there that purchased ads and did things
behind which is the russian government. >> but is that your simple assumption or do you know that for a fact, that the russians had these puppet u.s. entities designed to foment political unrest here in the united states? >> so the ads that i've seen that i was talking about before, which were clearly designed to foment racial unrest, to split the divide, to increase the divide in this country and other ads that i saw that were about voter suppression, about getting people to vote on their iphones because you could do that now, was the premise of these ads, those were the ads that were provided to the committee by twitter, by facebook that they could identify as coming from the russians. i think there is a good chance that there were other purchases made by entities that were sponsored by the russians. i don't think this is -- what we have seen is the whole thing. >> your committee is now also
warning roger stone, a former adviser, a friend of the president, that he may face a subpoena on friday if he doesn't reveal the name of the intermediary with the wikileaks founder julian assange. do you think he'll cooperate? >> i don't know, wolf. but as was reported and we try to keep the substance of these interviews and of the investigation quiet. but as was reported, roger stone did tell the committee that he communicated with wikileaks through somebody and both sides, actually the democrats and republicans in the room, made the point that we really need to know who that is. of course, that would be an answer -- one answer to the question of whether there was russian involvement in that particular conversation. whether or not he chooses to provide that involuntarily and what he said is if he could get permission from that individual. i don't know how it's going to come out yet. >> we'll be watching closely.
congressman jim himes from connecticut, thank you. >> thank you, wolf. one of trump's oldest friends and closest confidants talks about the president's frame of mind. plus, new deaths in california's wildfire disaster. we'll get a live update. ♪ if you have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis,... ...isn't it time to let the real you shine through? maybe it's time for otezla (apremilast). otezla is not an injection or a cream. it's a pill that treats plaque psoriasis differently. with otezla, 75% clearer skin is achievable after just 4 months,... ...with reduced redness,... ...thickness, and scaliness of plaques. and the otezla prescribing information has... ...no requirement for routine lab monitoring. don't use if you're allergic to otezla. otezla may cause severe diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
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a cnn exclusive. a conversation with one of trump's oldest friends and closest con iffidants. gloria borger is joining me. what did he tell you about the president's frame of mind? >> according to tom barrick, efrgs everything is great. he's known as one of the president's whisperers. he offers advise regularly and from the outside. he said he had been shocked and stunned by some of the president's rhetoric saying, quote, he's better than this. needless to say, he heard from the white house and he spoke with us to try and clear up what he says he really meant. >> so when i say that sometimes things have shocked me, it's not unlike all of us right? the the president is
disintermediating the establishment. it's a revolutionary and warrior of sorts. he has a brilliant aptitude of being able to take severe positions which then allow him to drawback to a median -- >> do you think he undermines himself in a way with the tweets and off the cuff comments? >> well, he undermines himself to the extent that he look at these constituents and you say, why is he doing that? but actually, he's been the best communicator in history. his tweeting ability conveys the message to a much broader marketplace than institutional media. >> let me ask you about these reports that he is isolated, angry, frustrated and even at his own advisers and that he seems to be in a different place than say he was six months ago, feeling hemmed in, constrained.
do you sense any of that when you talk to him? >> no. quite honestly, zero. i think it's exactly the opposite. and he has a great team. what the president always did was cure points of view. he had bannon, reince, jared, a whole series of people who had different points of view. has time has gone on, they have matriculated into other places. >> or been fired. >> well, fired is a harsh word. you move from campaign to candidate to transition to governing. it's different tool kits. but today you have the best adults in the sandbox than you've ever had at the white house. >> i don't have to tell you about secretary tillerson calling the president a moron privately and how upset the president was about that and what friction that causes, of course, in their relationship. am i wrong about that?
>> look, i don't think it causes any friction. >> it doesn't? >> neither one of them take too seriously what the reports of those kinds of incidents are. i think secretary tillerson did a good job of saying that it's an ir relevancy -- >> there seems to be a disconnect because on background a lot of people at the white house are saying this is a president who is mad, frustrated, isolated, tweeting about senate leaders, getting in fights, you know, with the leaders of the nate and you're saying he's fine. >> absolutely. and look, he's not -- >> how do you reconcile -- >> here's how you reconcile it. he's not isolated. it's a president who has managed his whole life, the 40 years that i've known him, he's been successful at everything but manages by conflict. so he brings in various points of view, listens to them all and
then cure ratates a point of vi based on differing ideas. nothing has changed. but what's made it better is general kelly is creating a different menu for him to curate. so issues that used to come to him impromptu has stopped. general kelly organizes an agenda. i can tell you one thing, there's only one person, there's only one person who creates the agenda and who makes the final decisions. >> and there are reports that he kind of chafes at these restraints. >> now he's governing in a different way and even the congressional agenda. you know, he didn't take on senator corker just on his own. senator corker made a statement. and as we've talked about, the president is a fighter. so rather than taking the diplomatic way out, i'm not
going to engage in dialogue -- >> why wouldn't he do that, though? >> because he's a fighter. that's who he is. he looks at his base and says, you know what, everybody would like to see me not put up with a statement like that and i'm not going to put up with it because i don't need it. >> but when you saw that and he said corker begged me to endorse him and then corker came back and said that wasn't the way the conversation went, what was your reaction? >> look, my reaction always in instances is, i don't like to see the president get beat up. so my personal opinion would be, i'm always looking for a more conciliatory way, which was part of this "washington post" article. when i say sometimes i'm upset, i'm upset because he doesn't need to take a punch. he's doing a fantastic job. so for me, if it were senator corker, i would find a more conciliatory road. it's why i'm not president. it's why i have a day job. >> so do you think, gloria, chief of staff kelly and barrack
was part of a clean-up campaign? >> i think so. this has been buffeted by stories that portray the president as isolated, as i was asking tom barrack about today, frustrated, angry, and the fight with tillerson became pretty public and kelly's upset with the fight with tillerson which also became pretty public. and then you have tom barrack's comments to "the washington post" which did not please the white house and then you have general kelly going out there today. i don't think these things are a coincidence. i think that tom barrack is very loyal to the president. he's been a close friend of his for decades. he's done business with him back in the day, and they remain friends and i think that barrack felt that he wanted to do some cleanup here and you can see from this interview, from tom barrack, that that's exactly what he was trying to do.
>> gloria, good work. thanks very, very much. just ahead, more on the breaking news from the white house. the chief of staff john kelly surprised reporters by taking questions today. we'll hear more about what he had to say. plus, as the death toll rises and california's wildfires burn out of control, forecasters are warning right now that the flames could be pushed by 60-mile-an-hour winds. and the wolf huffed and puffed... like you do sometimes, grandpa? well, when you have copd, it can be hard to breathe.
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breaking news this hour, rare remarks by the white house chief of staff john kelly who's sources tell us wanted to confront reports of chaos and turmoil inside the west wing of the white house. wanted to confront those reports head-on. kelly told reporters he's not quitting, he's not getting fired and he's not frustrated. let's dig deeper with our contributors and specialists. not only do you see john kelly show up in a news conference like that. what stood out? >> he clearly, wolf, projected someone who was calm, cool, collected, in control of the situation at the white house at a time when the white house has been in great turmoil, when every day over the past few weeks we've seen something new unfold and they are having to back down these reports of chaos in the white house. and so he was there to try to bring some calm to the situation, tell everyone, you know, everything is going to be
fine. he did a good job of that today. also, really forthrightly answering questions from the press, which you could tell was appreciated, and even having a few moments of lightness, of humor, making fun of these pictures that we've seen of him, looking frustrated by some of the comments that he's made. he said that's not my frustrated face. you just catch me at some bad moments. it was a good public showing of the chief of staff in front of the press. >> it came on a day when the president started with this tweet about puerto rico that's getting a lot, a lot of reaction, suggesting the financial crisis there, largely of their own making, seemed to threaten full relief. not going to go on fema, first responders forever. listen to this reaction from this one u.s. congresswoman. >> those tweets are unpresidential. the most basic, fundamental responsibility of the president
of the united states, the president of the most powerful country in the world is to show up and make and provide the assistance and relief that american citizens need. they don't need this type of insult. so to kick fellow citizens when they are down is shameful. >> congressman velazquez is from new york and also is puerto rican. >> we shouldn't be surprised, donald trump has a lack of empathy at a time when it's needed and a lack of understanding about how to get things done. but just moving beyond that, what is more disturbing for me, when i looked at his tweet just about 30 minutes ago, 47,000, more than 47,000 people have
liked this tweet, thought it was good. it was a good message he was sending. let's assume that half of those people thought it was smart. it's very interesting to see tom barrack come out and then john kelly, two men who are respected and well liked by reporters trying to defend the president. >> it also does have the effect of someone inside a burning house saying everything is fine. and so you have to take everything you're saying right now. >> you have a good understanding of why he started this day, ron brownstein, with this tweet about puerto rico on a day he announced some major health care reforms, with an executive order, he announced a new secretary of homeland security. why deal with puerto rico on a time when he wanted to focus on other issues? >> we've seen this throughout. whatever policy is supposedly in
the headlines, it's almost always subsumed by the latest in the unending series. and i suspect we'll see it on the tax reform debate. the president can dominate the news cycle but doesn't mean he can drive a message. he was unable in the health care fight to build any public support for what republicans wanted to do, in part because he kept getting side tracked into the personal rotating series of targets. you wonder if on taxes we're going to see something of the same because this is the period where he's elevating tax reform and, instead again we have these conflicts, one after the other. the health care is kind of interesting. it plunges him back into the thicket as the health care repeal in which it will be older working americans and two-thirds
of everybody 45 to 64 in the country is white and most vote republican and they could be facing higher premiums and less access to care as a result of the executive order that he's put forth today. >> i spoke with the legislative affairs director and he wouldn't commit that they have the votes but the 50 votes that they need to pass the tax cuts and he also said they're not going to deal with the repeal and replace of the obamacare until at least the spring of next year. jeffrey toobin, senator ben sass, he responded to the president's threat to pull the license of news organizations that he doesn't like. mr. president sass wrote, are you recanting on the oath you took on january 20th to preserve, protect and defend the first amendment to the constitution? how significant is that? >> well, you know, the question now is sort of how outraged can
we be by another donald trump tweet? this is the kind of thing that happens in authoritarian countries. in russia, vladimir putin is decertifying media operations so there is almost no independent press. this is what happens in china and what is happening now in turkey. i don't think it's going to be happening here in the united states. we have an independent judiciary. there is no support for this, as far as i can tell, from anyone in congress, but he still said it and he's still the president and, you know, i finally -- you know, as a journalist, i don't know what the appropriate way to deal with this is. do we ignore it because it's not going anywhere, pretend he didn't say it or do we exercise the outrage that, frankly, i think it deserves. >> you can't ignore it. he's the president of the united states. that's a pretty specific threat. a bad one, but we'll continue to watch. stick around, more news we're following. the death toll rising as california's wildfires burn out of control and the latest weather forecast calls for
conditions to get even worse with 60-mile-an-hour winds. and president trump warns puerto ri puerto ricans that emergency responders cannot stay forever. what are the conditions on the island right now? we'll get a live update. verythig you just said? my livestream won't load. (blows whistle). technical foul. wrong sport. wrong network. see you need unlimited on verizon it's america's largest most reliable 4g lte network. it won't let you down in places like this. even in the strike zone. (laughs). it's the red zone. pretty sure it is the strike zone. here use mine. alright. see you on the court champ. heads up! when it really, really matters you need the best network and the best unlimited. plans now start at $40 per line for four lines.
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people reported missing. and there's fear that winds forecasted tonight will spread the flames farther. cnn's dan simon is joining us from calistoga, right in the heart of wine country. dan, that entire town, i understand, has now been ordered evacuated. >> reporter: that's exactly right, wolf. you can see some of the fire behind me. you can see firefighters off in the distance. they don't seem to be too worried about the flames going down this hillside. as you said, the entire community of calistoga has been evacuated. it's well known for its wineries and spas and firefighters are doing everything they can to prevent that community from burning. across california, more than 8,000 firefighters are, working around the clock to battle multiple blazing burning out of control. more than 190,000 acres have burned. at least 3500 structures destroyed as 22 wildfires burn across the state. some with little to know containment. >> this is one of the biggest,
most serious and it's not over. >> reporter: northern california is bearing the brunt of the damage. evacuations for several parts of the wine country, including napa and sonoma counties. mandatory evacuations were ordered for the entire city of calistoga. >> your presence in calistoga is not welcome if you are not a first responder. your choice to stay -- and there have been very few of them -- is a distraction to our first responders. if you're trying to visit calistoga, you are not welcome. >> reporter: together the fires span 200 square miles, four times the size of washington, d.c., and in the city of santa rosa, entire neighborhoods have been reduced to ashes. >> there's no words. it's a nightmare. it's a real-life nightmare. >> reporter: the fire swept through so quickly here, residents say they didn't have time to grab even the most basic
belongings. >> i didn't grab anything, really. stuff that is easy to grab, i just took off. seconds could have made a difference between life and death, so there was no waiting. >> reporter: many residents lost everything. >> that part of our life is gone. that's what hurts the most. >> reporter: it's been four days since the fires began. but officials warn that conditions could still worsen. low humidity and dry conditions in the area are further complicating the battle to contain the multiple blazing. but the biggest concern, winds. forecasters warn that winds could reach 30 miles per hour on thursday and could climb even higher on friday to 60 miles per hour. spreading the flames and making battling the fires even tougher for already fatigued firefighters. 27 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the fires and a lot of people are reported to be missing, the number at 285. hopefully that number will be
paired down as people report that their loved ones have been found. it's a scary number and officials anticipate that the death toll will rise. wolf? >> dan simon reporting for us from the scene, thank you. there's more breaking news. white house chief of staff john kelly is calling controversial tweets by president trump exactly accurate and warned that the government can't help with recovery efforts forever. cnn's ed lavandera is visiting us from the island. they are very much still in need of help? >> reporter: wolf, we spent the day in a little town which is on the southeast corner of this island. it is the area where hurricane maria made its landfall here, so you can imagine the devastation that we saw here on the water's edge. incredibly devastating and intense even here now three weeks afterwards. several people that we met along
the way today i asked about the tweets from president trump and, as you can imagine, the reaction was rather heartfelt and intense and disgusted in many ways. one man we spoke with, who i explained to him about -- remember, many people aren't getting these tweets as quickly as the rest of the world are getting them. it takes some time because of communications issues for this news to filter down. when you explain to people what was said, fema and first responders not being here forever and many people simply responding with a, but they haven't even gotten started yet. many people here faces possibly a year without electricity, a long, daunting task. one man we spoke to who i told about president trump's tweet said i wish i could talk to that guy. he needs to come here and walk in our shoes to see what we're dealing with. so that reaction very intense
and one of the things that we didn't really see a whole lot of today, wolf, as we drove from san juan down to the southeast corner of the island and back here this afternoon, one thing, for example, power crews, downed power lines wherever you see and no real sense that the power is coming back online. food and water, for example, the distribution. i know san juan is pretty good. but what about when you drive a few hours outside of the capital? >> reporter: once you get outside of the capital of san juan, life becomes very complicated. at least what i picked up on today is many people scrambling to try to figure out how to make ends work. one guy i spoeblg with says he has a job at a high-end resort in corner of the island. there was a resident there who has a multithousand dollar water purification system and because of that, he's able to get some clean water and bring it back to his house. so there are people who are just
kind of scrambling in trying to figure out ways of keeping themselves with the bare necessities here at this point. >> ed in san juan for us. thank you very much. there's more breaking news we're following. the white house chief of staff says americans should be concernconcern ed about north korea and he r reveals the kim jong-un regime has some new nuclear projects. ♪ can i kick it? ♪ yes you can ♪ can i kick it? ♪ yes you can ♪ can i kick it? ♪ yes you can ♪ well i'm gone
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breaking news tonight. the white house chief of staff john kelly says americans should be concerned about north korea's ability to reach the united states, revealing the kim jong-un regime is developing what kelly calls a pretty good nuclear reentry vehicle. brian todd is here with more. weapons are only part of north korea's strategy right now in dealing with the united states. >> that's right, wolf. another part of kim jong-un's strategy we're drilling down on tonight. at the same time kim has been test firing missiles and launching a cyber attack against the u.s., the regime has been generous with american journalists and has reached out to analysts from conservative think tanks in the u.s. experts say then dictator is probing for more intelligence on president trump. tonight, kim jong-un appears to be burning both ends of a dangerous candle with the united states. on one end, they ramp up their public threats.
north korea's foreign minister stelling a news agency that president trump quote lit the wick of war against us and kim is going beyond words. allegedly order iing a cyber attack on american infrastructure. the cybersecurity firm fire eye says it detected spear fishing attempts on electric companies. >> as the u.n. sanctioning come in, we can only see that they'll use more capable theties in order to prop up its economy. >> but as kim continues those attacks plus missile and nuclear test, he's also trying to learn more b about his adversaries thank y north korean officials have tried to set up experts from conservative leaning think tanks in the u.s. like former analyst bruce clinger of the heritage foundation. >> they perceive that we would have a greater entree to the trump administration. >> he turned down an invitation
to visit pyongyang. also, the regime's allowed americans to visit north korea, including reporters from cnn, "the new yorker," and los kristof of the "new york times" who came back and recounted even with the outreach, north korea is still on a war footing. >> there was much more military mobilization in ppyongyang. ever where you go, there are billboards showing north korean missiles striking the u.s. capitca capit capitol. students are parading with these military marches and there's an element of menace in the air frankly. >> north korea's recent missile tests are celebrated, xhem kate rated with collector's stamps like these. analysts say by alternately threatening and reaching out, he is p pursuing -- with america. >> i think we have to figure out the trump administration and what the policy is going to be b and because it's a little unpredictable, he has to be prepared. >> and specifically, clinger
believes kim's after a crucial piece of intelligence. >> is the trump administration going to do a military strike to prevent north korea from completing development of its icbm. we've seen statements from the president, the secretary of state, the national security adviser which would suggest that. >> beyond trying to get president trump's mind set and learn whether he might order a preefforttive attack, analysts say kim jong-un has a broader, long-term goal. to get the united states to negotiate with north korea, as an quul partner, to recognize it as a nuclear power. that goal kim jong-un will likely never reach. >> but at the same time, john kelly's comments today hint that the north koreans could be on the verge of a huge breakthrough right now with their missile capabilities. >> that's right. kelly said north korea is quote developing a good -- to be i believe to hit the continental
u.s., it has to be able to hit the earth's atmosphere without disintegrating. if what kelly says is true, that could be very alarming. >> brian, we'll watch this story very, very closely. thanks very much. and to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in this situation room. erin burnett "outfront" starts right now. next, the president goes it alone on health care even if it means breaking another campaign promise. this as his chief of staff is in full damage control mode. plus, how russia manipulated an online game used by companies. and the harvey weinstein sex scandal explodes. the nypd and scotland yard investigating. let's go "outfront." >> and good evening. hypocrite in chief. president trump today doing something he harshly criticized president obama for doing. trump s