tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN October 23, 2017 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT
the community might command of you. a young 24-year-old widow would take those words in quite a different way. >> that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper. i turn you over now to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." thanks for watching. happening now. breaking news. fair questions. the chairman of the joint chiefs says the american people and the families of the fallen are owed an explanation for the ambush in niger that killed four american troops. why is the pentagon still unable to answer what he calls fair questions about the deadly clash? that hurt me. the widow of an american soldier killed in niger is now speaking out about the controversial condolence call she got from president trump. saying she was hurt by his tone and his words. why is the president now dodging questions about the widow's scathing remarks? retirement savings. president trump is promising the biggest tax cut in history, but he's also promising no changes in the tax -- to the
tax-advantaged retirement plan used by millions of americans. does congress even have a tax cut plan? and so prepared. as tensions grow with kim jong-un, president trump now says the u.s. is prepared for anything. could the administration's tough talk be leading towards a military conflict with north korea? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. breaking news. under growing pressure from congress, the pentagon goes public with an attempt to explain how four u.s. troops were killed in a secretive deployment in niger. joint chiefs chairman general joseph dunford says the families of the fallen and the american people are owed more information, but he's offering few details on the deadly ambush, saying the u.s. troops did not expect resistance, were attacked by a larger force and requested support an hour after coming under fire. still unanswered, why it took 48
hours to recover the body of sergeant la david johnson. the briefing comes as the president is caught up in a controversy over his phone call to johnson's grieving widow. myesha johnson says she was very upset, very hurt by the tone of the president's condolence call and his comment that her husband, quote, knew what he signed up for. president trump today insisted his conversation with the widow was respectful and he denied that he stumbled trying to recall her husband's name. a and amid growing tensions with north korea right now, president trump is escalating his war of words with kim jong-un, saying the u.s. is prepared for anything. amid deep concern that all the tough talk could lead to a military showdown, there are new questions tonight about whether the president will visit the korean demilitarized zone during his upcoming trip to the region. would that pour fuel on the fire? i'll speak with senator ben cardin, he's the ranking member of the foreign relations
committee, and our correspondents, specialists and guests, they're standing by with full coverage. president trump is now keeping quiet about the niger ambush and sharp criticism from the widow of one fallen soldier. let's begin with our senior white house correspondent jim acosta. jim, update us on the very latest. >> reporter: wolf, the white house appears to be putting the brakes on the comments on the death of the four soldiers in niger. president trump was asked repeatedly about his handling of the deaths and his treatment of a gold-star mother, unlike last week, there was near total silence from the president. it was an uncharacteristically silent president trump avoiding questions all day long on the widow of la david johnson. the army sergeant killed along with three other service members in niger earlier this month. >> do you roger goodell that myesha johnson -- >> reporter: but the questions are not going away, in part because the sergeant's widow myesha johnson shared with abc that the president said her late
husband knew what he was signing up for in a phone call. >> the president said that he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway. and i was -- it made me cry because i was very angry at the tone in his voice. the only way he remembered my husband's name because he told me he had my husband's report in front of him. that's when he actually said la david. i heard him stumbling on trying remember my husband's name, and that's what hurt me the most. if my husband is out here fighting for our country and risks his life for our country, why can't you remember his name? >> reporter: shortly after the interview, the president took the unusual step of correcting the widow, tweeting i had a very respectful conversation with the widow of sergeant la david johnson and spoke his name from the beginning without hesitation. the widow also attacked her congresswoman, frederica wilson, who was in the car when the call
from the president came in. >> whatever ms. wilson said was not fabricated. what she said was 100% correct. it was master sergeant neil, me, my aunt, my uncle and the driver and ms. wilson in the car. the phone was on speaker phone. why would we fabricate something like that? >> reporter: the president and congresswoman wilson are still at it on twitter, with mr. trump trying to capitalize politically on the exchange, tweeting whacky congresswoman wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the republican party. a disaster for dems. watch her in action and vote republican. niger is president trump's benghazi, he needs to own it. erroneously stated the congresswoman took credit during a 2015 speech for funding an fbi facility in florida, something she didn't do. tweeting, general kelly owes the nation an apology because when he lied about me, he lied to the american public.
now the president's near total silence on the controversy stands in strategic contrast with the scene in the rose garden one week ago, when he suggested he was more compassionate than past commanders in chief when it came to fallen soldiers. >> if you look at president obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls, a lot of them didn't make calls. >> reporter: add to that, "roll call" is reporting that the president -- to obtain contact information for fallen service members after the president told fox radio he always makes those calls. >> i have called i believe everybody, but certainly i'll use the word virtually everybody. >> reporter: it's another textbook example of the president throwing the white house off message. this week's agenda item overshadowed, tax reform. >> people want to see it, and i call it tax cuts. it is tax reform also, but i call it tax cuts. >> reporter: now, a white house official confirmed the west wick did attempt to expedite
condolence letters to fallen soldiers after the president's remarks in the rose garden last week. the official said during this process, a discovery was made that there were, quote, bureaucratic reasons for some of the reasons why some of the letters hadn't gone out to the families. letters and contacts were delayed because the service member killed in action had been involved in what they called multiple casualties incidents. this official said the white house directed the condolence letters be sent out. kwofl? >> all right, jim, thank you. jim acosta over at the white house. lawmakers certainly have plenty of questions on the niger ambush and the overall u.s. deployment there. let's go to our senior congressional correspondent manu raju. manu, members of congress, i assume they're going to get their own briefings. >> reporter: yeah, they certainly are, wolf. and also calling for more information from the trump administration. something we just started to see today when the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff for the first time laying out in detail the timeline of events that happened, explaining that these u.s. forces were on a reconnaissance mission and
trying to combat this attack from these forces in niger, but what the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff also made clear, wolf, a lot of questions remain unanswered. tonight, the pentagon revealing new details about the ambush in niger that killed four u.s. soldiers. >> there is a perception that the department of defense has not been forthcoming. >> reporter: the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff revealing that u.s. forces were on a reconnaissance mission and on their bway back to their operating base in niger when the fire fight began, but they waited one hour to call for support. >> important to note, when they didn't ask for support for that first hour, my judgement would be that that unit thought they could handle the situation without additional support. and so we'll find out in the investigation exactly why it took an hour for them to call. >> reporter: it took french fighter jets another hour to arrive on the scene, which was two hours after the ambush began. dunford making clear many questions still remain.
>> -- the mission of u.s. forces change during the operation? did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training? was there a pre-mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate? did u.s. -- how did u.s. forces become separated during the engagement? specifically sergeant johnson. and why did it take time to find and recover sergeant johnson? >> reporter: the comments come amid growing tension with capitol hill. top lawmakers from both parties accused the administration of failing to disclose how four service members were killed in niger. >> americans should know what's going on in niger, and one of the fights i'm having right now with the administration is the armed services committee is not getting enough information. they deserve it because we represent their families, too. >> reporter: questions have swirled since the october 3rd raid that left four american soldiers dead, killed in an ambush by up to 50 isis-aligned
affiliates near the niger/mali border. there has been conflicting information about what the american troops were doing at the time of the ambush and how they came under fire from the isis insurgency. >> obviously there is something that they even don't know at this moment. >> reporter: another key question, why was the body of sergeant la david johnson found nearly a mile away from the scene of the ambush? it's one of the many questions that sergeant johnson's widow still has today. >> i don't know how he got killed, where he got killed or anything. i don't know that part. they never told me. that's what i've been trying to find out since day one. since october 4th. >> reporter: according to the pentagon, there are approximately 800 u.s. troops in niger. most are helping construct a drone base. while others are supporting embassy operations in the capital. the military says a fraction of these truoops are special operations forces, advising and assisting the nigerian military.
the pentagon says it's kept congress regularly informed, pointing to a letter trump sent hill leaders in june, saying the were there 945 troops in niger and cameroon performing counterterrorism duties. >> i didn't know there were 1,000 troops in niger. john mccain is right to tell the military because this is an endless war without boundaries, no limitation on time and geography. you've got to tell us more. >> reporter: some say it's the responsibility of members of congress to know what is happening in the region. >> i recoiled a little bit at that, truthfully. they're conducting five named operations, which i'm sure the senate armed service committee should know about. >> reporter: now, on thursday, the senate armed service committee will get its own briefing. a closed briefing when members of the pentagon will come and explain what they know what happened. one question that dunford said he could not answer today is exactly how sergeant la david johnson's body apparently was a mile away from the central scene of that ambush, saying he didn't
want to get into that because it's still under investigation. wolf, dunford also saying if congress doesn't know what's happening here, then, quote, i need to double my efforts to get the information out. wolf? >> good point. all right, manu, thank you very much. joining us now, senator ben cardin of maryland. he's the senior democrat on the foreign relations committee. senator, thanks very much for joining us. lots of very disturbing questions on this niger ambush, but let me start with the president of the united states. why do you believe he simply couldn't let the widow of sergeant la david johnson have the last word on this today? she's grieving. she's only 24 years old. she has two little kids, a third one on the way. why did he need to get the last word and tweet about it this morning? >> wolf, first, it's good to be with you. secondly, it's hard to understand how the president handles these things. we saw the way he handled the khan family during the democratic convention. he seems to always want to get the last word, even when he's wrong, and it's very frustrating
and obviously it's a very difficult time for the family and it's time that the president understands that. >> when do you believe that myesha johnson, the gold-star widow, and the american people will learn why it took nearly 48 hours to find sergeant la david johnson's body? >> well, there are a lot of unanswered questions and i think it's appropriate that we'll have briefings in congress as to what -- what went wrongs. first of all, understanding why our troops are there. this is under a 2001 authorization, which many of us think does not apply to having soldiers in northern africa. so i think there is a question as to whether congress has authorized the use of force in northern africa, and, secondly, why we're not being kept readily informed. why it took so long to get help, why the body was left, these are all questions that need to be answered. >> did you know, senator, that there are almost 1,000 u.s.
troops deployed in niger? >> no, i did not. i'm not part of the group that would have been formally notified about u.s. troop presence, but i must tell you i do believe as the ranking democrat on senate foreign relations committee, the president of the united states should have come to congress to seek authorization for american troops that are put in a combat-type situation. >> let me switch gears while i have you for a moment. you're the top democrat on the foreign relations committee. the former president jimmy carter has now publicly offered to travel to north korea to negotiate directly with kim jong-un. should the white house take him up on that offer? >> well, we need a surge in diplomacy and we've talked about this before. i think we need to open up lines of communication. there is a path forward where we can achieve our objective of a non-nuclear korean peninsula and that the kim jong-un regime can get the type of assurances they
want that the united states will respect the current 38th parallel in korea. there are ways we can talk back and forth about the use of a military threat, and i hope the president would take advantage of every opportunity to do that. >> well, should he take advantage of jimmy carter's offer? >> i know that's one opportunity. i know that secretary tillerson has looked for other avenues of communication with north korea. i think using a former president who has i think a global reputation for pursuing peace would be a helpful step. >> he's been an earlier visitor to north korea, brought home americans who were there as well. another sensitive issue, u.s./russian relations, senator. we're told that president trump may sit down with the russian president vladimir putin on what's called the sidelines of the asian pacific economic conference, the economic summit that takes place next month in vietnam. do you believe that would be appropriate, the right thing to do? >> well, i hope he has a controlled agenda if he's -- if he talks to mr. putin. there are many issues that still
need to be answered, including russia's meddling in the u.s. elections and european elections, what their future intebts might be, what they're doing in syria, what they're doing in -- doing in ukraine. there are a lot of questions we have about russia activity, and i hope that the president uses that opportunity to make it clear to mr. putin if in fact they meet that we need to have progress made on these fronts. >> we've got to take a quick break, senator, but i have more questions for you. let's resume this conversation right after this. if you have medicare
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president trump is vowing the biggest tax cuts in u.s. history while warning gop lawmakers they'll pay a huge price in 2018 if they don't make it happen. we're talking with democratic senator ben cardin. senator, stand by. i want to go to our congressional correspondent sunlen serfaty first. sunlen, there is a lot of urgency from hill republicans to pass these tax cuts, but it's still not entirely clear what the plan even is. >> reporter: that's absolutely right, wolf, and there still is so much influx up here on capitol hill as they move to actually putting pen to paper and writing this tax bill. they're still within the republican party not a consensus on what cuts to make, where to make them. republican leaders are throwing out a lot of different ideas about how to raise revenue. trying to see essentially what sticks and what ideas are latched on to within their caucus. now one idea that has been floated in recent days from
republicans is putting a cap on contributions to 401(k)s. that's something that president trump essentially shot down over twitter this morning. trump tweeting, quote, there will be no change to your 401(k). this has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works and it stays. so certainly there is a lot of urgency right now on crafting the policy, but certainly urgency coming from the white house on the politics of all of this. president trump heads up here to the hill tomorrow to meet with senate republicans. expect a very similar message than the one he delivered over the weekend when he hopped on a conference call with house republicans, and that's we've got to get this tax bill past by the end of the year or else we'll face a bloodbath in the midterms, wolf? >> what's the timeline for all of this? >> reporter: well, first and foremost, the house, they've got to pass the senate budget. that has to happen potentially by thursday of this week is when they'll move to do that. then they've actually got to write the bill and produce the bill potentially as early as next week. the white house is being very
bullish on the timeline. president trump wants this passed by the end of this year, and he even said he wants a bill on his desk by thanksgiving. now, that is very, very optimistic no matter how you slice it, but leaders up here are certainly raising some expectations to try to scheme that momentum going. wolf. >> all right, sunlen, thank you. sunlen serfaty up on capitol hill. we're back with democratic congressman ben cardin. senator, lots of pressure on republicans to deliver and get this tax cut passed. what do you think their chances are? >> well, i don't think it's very good when you look at the blueprint first, it blows a hole in the deficit and i know a lot of us are very concerned about adding at least $1.5 trillion to the deficit. we also are concerned that the overwhelming amount of tax relief goes to high-income families, as compared to middle-income families. they also raised the issue of cutting medicare and medicaid by $1.5 trillion. these to me are issues that will
be very difficult for them to get the necessary votes to move a tax bill that is in that direction, and, quite frankly, they're using a process that is doomed to i think fail if they do not really make a bipartisan effort to have a broader coalition so that a tax bill can enjoy broader support and is one even if it were to become law, would be able to remain a law more than just one term of congress. >> all right. let me just point out that the president has told his budget director mick mulvaney exactly what he's told the american public, there will be absolutely no cuts to what are called entitlement programs, social security, medicare, and medicaid. mulvaney is fighting him on that, but the president so far is holding firm. why do you say the president will support cuts in medicare and medicaid? >> well, if you look at the budget resolution that passed the united states senate, also the resolution that passed the house of representatives, it very much provides for cuts in medicare and medicaid. so the implementing legislation
that provides for the consideration of the tax bill envisions that there would be cuts in these programs. i hear what the president said, but i must tell you we find over and over again what he said in order to protect some of the critical programs such as medicare and medicaid, we then look at his actions. look what he did on the affordable care act. he supported programs that cut medicaid dramatically, so the president's actions are inconsistent with his words. >> your colleague, republican senator orrin hatch, told the "washington post," i'll read it to you, quote, i think the democrats are crazy to not try and deal with him directly. seven years ago, he was a democrat. doesn't take any brains to realize that he'd be open. is tax reform something democrats should be working directly with the president on? >> we absolutely want to work with republicans. we want to work with this administration. we recognize that our tax code needs changes. our requirements are pretty
simple. let's make sure we don't finance it by borrowing more money and going greater into debt. let's make sure the focus is on middle-income families. they're the one who's need the tax relief and let's use a truly bipartisan process. if you do that, yes, absolutely, democrats want to be part of the process because we believe there is a need for change in our tax code. >> senator ben cardin, thanks very much. >> thank you. >> coming up, as tensions grow with kim jong-un, is the trump administration's tough talk on north korea making a military conflict all the more likely? stay with us. you're in "the situation room." [vo] quickbooks introduces rodney. he has a new business teaching lessons. rodney wanted to know how his business was doing... ...so he got quickbooks. it organizes all his accounts, so he can see his bottom line. ahhh...that's a profit. know where you stand instantly. visit quickbooks-dot-com. >> tech: don't wait for a chip like this to crack your whole windshield. with safelite's exclusive resin, you get a strong repair that you can trust. plus, with most insurance a safelite repair is no cost to you. >> customer: really?! >> singers: safelite repair, safelite replace.
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our breaking news. the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff this afternoon clarified the timeline, this month's ambush of u.s. troops in niger. admitting many fair questions remain unanswered and under serious investigation. president trump today ignored multiple questions about the ambush in his phone call to one of the widow of one of the four fallen soldiers. david axelrod, earlier this morning myesha johnson, the gold-star widow on on tv, on abc speaking very emotionally, very powerfully about her husband. constant digging t contradicting the president. and spoke his name from beginning without hesitation. what advice would you give the
president right now in dealing with this? this is such a sensitive issue, especially for those gold-star families. >> oh, 100%. look, wolf, i can see how -- now, we know sort of the contours of the conversation between the president and mrs. johns johnson in the first instance and you can understand how he might have said the words that might have been reported and she might have interpreted them completely differently than he meant them. let's just stipulate that. but now we know how she interpreted them, this 24-year-old widow, whose husband, a green beret, had just died in the service of his country under circumstances she still doesn't know and we still don't know. you would think that the president would cut her some slack. you would think that the president would say, you know, if my words in some way were received in ways i didn't mean them, i'm so sorry, i, you know,
i and the whole country grieve for you and with you. wouldn't that be the right thing to do? but that's not donald trump. for donald trump, it's always about him and he's never wrong and he can't admit mistakes, even if this case when it is so clearly the right thing to do. and i think it hurts him and obviously hurt her, but it hurts him as well. it diminishes him. it diminishes the office of the presidency. i think most people in the country would have wished that he handled it much differently. >> you know, chris, he said several opportunities today. there were cameras, photo-ops, in the rose garden he easily could have opened up. he had the visiting prime minister of singapore with them. before they got to that, he could have opened up with a statement. he didn't have to wait for reporters to shout questions at the end which he ignored, but he could have easily opened up. i'd like to begin, we'll get to this with a statement expressing his deep regret, his sorrow on
the fact that this widow, this gold-star widow apparently misunderstood what he was trying to convey. >> yeah, it's not that he couldn't do it, it's that he doesn't want to do it. we heard out of the white house today, you know, don't expect -- there is not going to be another call to myesha johnson. david axelrod's point, i think is the most important one, which calling a widow of an american soldier killed in action is extremely difficult. it's emotionally difficult. you know there is not a good way to do it. you can't practice for it. donald trump was never in politics before. he's never done anything like this. the politics of getting along, finding a good place to be with the widow of an american killed in action is way easier. if there was a misunderstanding, just call her. now there is too much water under the bridge now candidly, but just call her and say, you know what, this is hard for me. i know it's not nearly as hard
for me as it is for you. if i expressed myself inarticulately, i apologize. if what i said isn't what you heard. because guess what? the president of the united states is supposed to take the high road. it's not about whose right. this woman lost her husband. just say, you know what, i get it if there was a misunderstanding. i'm sorry for it and we honor his sacrifice. the end. >> look, it's one thing for the president to get in a tit for tat with a democratic congresswoman who is a politician and signed up to be in this arena, a down and dirty political arena. it's a whole other thing what we saw today. a commander in chief criticizing the widow of somebody who died in service to the country that the commander in chief is the head of, is the leader of, is just mind-boggling and it doesn't surprise me that the president didn't say anything.
i actually think that was not a -- not a bad thing, you know, for him to just try to stop talking about it. and they sent the chairman of the joint chiefs out, who had a very measured, very calm, very lengthy back and forth with reporters and answered as much as he said that he could knowing that there are a lot of unknowns about the mission. that is what matters. the mission. what happened? why did this man die in the first place and three others as well? >> the problem, though, is dana's exactly right. i thought general dunford is what you want to be the face of this if you're the trump administration. the problem, as always, is donald trump. and more specifically, donald trump's twitter feed. so, yeah, he didn't take questions that were shouted at him today. not a bad idea. if he hadn't sent a tweet out this morning effectively saying this person is not telling the truth. if he doesn't take to twitter tomorrow or the next day and say more about this, this is now day
eight of this back and forth. i would argue to dana's point he made it worse today with the -- engaging with the widow and essentially saying her version of events isn't how it happened. there is nothing -- if past is prolog, there is no reason to think that donald trump will suddenly become sort of quiet on this or anything else, and that's always his biggest problem. if you left it with general dunford, that would be one thick, but he doesn't ever leave well enough alone. >> it's one thing to get into this -- to react via twitter to this widow, this wonderful woman who just lost a husband and has two kids, another one on the way. another thing he did yesterday to go after the democratic congresswoman in a tweet. whacky congresswoman wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the republican party. disaster for dems. watch her in action and vote. he goes after her. that's one thing, as dana correctly points out, but it's another thing to dispute what this widow said. all right. stand by. much more coming up right after this. your insurance company
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we're back with our political specialists. and david axelrod, i want you to listen to a comment that senator john mccain made. it's getting a lot of attention about the vietnam war and he of course served during the vietnam war. listen to this. >> one aspect of the conflict, by the way, that i will never, ever -- is that we drafted the lowest income level of america
and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. that is wrong. that is wrong. >> a doctor who would say that they had a bone spur. now, that was significant. as you know, donald trump during the vietnam war had five deferments, including one after a doctor diagnosed that he had bone spurs in his foot. what was your reaction to that? >> my reaction was i don't think that the reference was coincidental. you know, look, i think there is no -- there is no -- there is no mystery that these guys don't get along. dating back to when donald trump denigrated senator mccain's military service, saying he prefers somebody who didn't get captured. we all know senator mccain spent five terrible years in the captivity of the north vietnamese. and now senator mccain has been
critical of the commander in chief. he made a speech in philly this week when he was accepting the liberty medal, really challenging the president's world view, but the president responded by saying, well, if he doesn't -- essentially if he doesn't stop criticizing me, i'm going to fight back. and what he learned i think in this interview or through this interview is, don't -- don't get into a taunting war with a guy who spent five years in the hanoi hilton and is facing a mortal illness because he's not scared of you. >> no. >> he's not worried about you, okay? and i think this was senator mccain's way of saying, you know what, i'm done with you. >> and, look, david mentioned that john mccain was a prisoner of war for 5 1/2 years in vietnam during the vietnam war. when he came back, part of what he did before he actually ended up leaving the navy was he went to the naval war college to
study exactly why and how america got into the vietnam war and how they went so wrong. so what he was talking about there i think was for a larger project on vietnam, but it was after a lot of scholarly intake that he has done, which i think the reason i'm bringing this up is because it's just another kind of data point on how different an experience john mccain has had and why his world view is the way it is, and there is no question that he chose that example as a dig to donald trump. >> don't forget, the president during the campaign said john mccain was not a hero because he was a p.o.w. and a prisoner. >> it took him almost two years to get back at him, but he found away. >> i remember july 2015 when it happened, i basically thought, well, that's it. you know, donald trump -- it was right after he announced his campaign. he was at a forum in aims, iowa, and said that. p.o.w.s tend not to be people that you should attack. >> right. >> whether it's john mccain or
anyone else. it was a first indicator that donald trump's appeal did not play by traditional rules. but, gentlemen, mccain -- the long arc of history got to that health care vote and now this. >> all right. guys, there is a lot more coming up, including the growing tensions between the united states and north korea. president trump says he's prepared right now for anything. is a military conflict looming? building a website in under an hour is easy with gocentral...
we're following new developments as tensions grow between the united states and north korea. president trump says the u.s. is, "prepared for anything." is a military conflict becoming more likely? cnn's brian todd is joining us with the latest. brian, what are you learning? >> wolf, tonight there's real concern among well-connected people here in washington that an armed conflict with north korea is becoming more likely. the talk from the trump administration in recent weeks has only grown tougher and neither they nor kim jong-un's regime seem able to back down from it. as tensions build with north korea's volatile leader, new concerns tonight about whether the trump administration is talking itself into a possible conflict with kim jong-un. president trump kept up the tough talk in an sbrinterview w the fox business network. >> we're prepared for anything. we have are so prepared like yo wouldn't believe. you would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be.
would it be nice not to do that? the answer is yes. will that happen? who knows. >> reporter: the president's comments follow other remarks from his national security team in recent weeks. indicating a tougher tone on north korea. cia director mike pompeo warning about pyongyang's rapidly advancing threat of a nuclear-tipped missile that could hit the u.s. >> it's now a matter of thinking about -- thinking about how do you stop the final step? >> reporter: and the latest warning from secretary of state rex tillerson that diplomatic efforts to solve this crisis might fail. >> those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops. >> reporter: the tough talk extends back at least to august, when trump spoke like no president ever has when addre addressing north korea's threats. >> they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. >> i do think it's pretty stunning that the u.s. president
speaks about openly going to war with north korea because as you know, conflict is unimaginable in the korean peninsula. >> reporter: some say trump's been placed in a position no other american president ever has by the aggression of his young adversary. >> some of this is also on kim jong-un, right? >> absolutely. we have seen multiple nuclear tests, tests of a hydrogen bomb. not just a fission bomb. icbm tests over japan. nobody has done this before certainly from north korea. >> reporter: tonight another key strategic question, will president trump visit the heavily fortified dmz as other american presidents have when he travels to asia next month? >> it could also really stoke the fires and kim jong-un is very unpredictable. if he doesn't go, on the other hand, it looks like either we're making a concession to north korea are making it look like president trump is somehow not your typical president. >> a senior white house official
tells cnn a trump visit to the dmz has not been ruled out but the timing for may not be quite right because the president is scheduled to visit a u.s. military installation at about the same time. white house officials say they're not concerned about any message the president might be sending, if he doesn't visit the dmz. wolf? >> all right, brian, thanks very much. we'll see what he does. coming up, there's breaking news. the chairman of the joints chief says the american people and the families of the fallen are owed an explanation for the ambush in niger that killed four u.s. soldiers. so why is the pentagon still offering few details about the deadly clash? sh money managers are pretty much the same. all but while some push high commission investment products, fisher investments avoids them. some advisers have hidden and layered fees. fisher investments never does. and while some advisers are happy to earn commissions from you whether you do well or not, fisher investments fees are structured so we do better when you do better.
fallout from president trump's co condolence call to a gold star wid widow, speaking out contradicting the president's portrayal of the conversation and keeping the white house on defense, after a week of controversy, will the president remain silent? spurring debate. senator and war hero john mccain takes a thinly-veiled swipe at president trump and the deferments he got from the vietnam draft because of bone spurs. but senator mccain also said he doesn't consider the president a draft dodger. how will the president respond? and who is being protected? cnn has learned that security is being dramatically increased for the head of the environmental protection agency at a cost of millions of dollars as he faces multiple death threats. at the same time, the trump administration plans to slash the epa's budget by 30%. how will all of it impact the epa's ability to do its job? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."