tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN February 28, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
happening now, breaking news. the president's speech, president trump prepares to address congress tonight for the first time and he's expected to lay out what white house officials call an optimistic vision for america. we're learning new details this hour of what the president will say. the time is right. president trump, himself, tells me and other news anchors he wants to pass an immigration bill with compromise on both sides. is he changing his tune on one of his key campaign pledges? the opposition republican lawmakers are voicing concern about parts of the president's agenda. democrats with filibuster power in the senate. they're almost universally opposed to the president's plans. what will mr. trump be able to get through congress? and greatest threat. the president calls north korea and its nuclear arsenal the number-one menace to the united states as two women are charged
with killing the dictator, kim jong-un's half brother with a nerve agent. did kim, himself, order the murder? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> we're following breaking news. new details are emerging this hour of the speech president trump will be delivering before a joint session of congress in just a few hours. a source briefed on it tells cnn the president will talk about the economy, health care, education, law and order in a speech described as optimistic. he may also address immigration, a subject he spoke about with a group of journalists today including me. the president made a major statement and let me quote the president of the united states. "the time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both
sides." president also expected to tout his rollback of what he sees as overburdensome regulations which he believes will stimulate the economy even more than tax cuts. today mr. trump ordered a review of the obama administration's clean water rule to assess any economic harm. we're covering all of that this hour with our guests including the new head of the environmental protection agency, scott pruitt. he'll join us live. and former hillary clinton national security adviser, jake sullivan. our kcorrespondents and expert analysts are also standing by. let's begin with the president's speech tonight and his bombshell announcement on a comprehensive immigration bill. our senior white house correspondent, jim acosta, is joining us with the latest. jim, what are you hearing about whether the president will actually talk about this comprehensive immigration legislation tonight? >> reporter: wolf, we are told he will. we are told the president is expected to signal an openness to a compromise immigration bill in his speech to congress tonight, part of that bill, a
possible path to citizenship for the so-called dreamers. those are the kids who are brought to the u.s. illegally. the president is also talking about a bill where undocumented immigrants who are not committed to crime can stay in the u.s. legally, that is a big shift from where he has stood in the past. it's just one of a number of big-ticket items for president trump who will be delivering perhaps his most important speech since his inauguration. with polls showing a majority of americans disappointed in his first month in office, president trump will try to hit the reset button in a speech to a joint session of congress. in a rare moment of humility, the president is acknowledging he hasn't been perfect. >> i think in terms of effort, which means something, but i give myself an "a" plus, okay,est, bokay, e effort, but results are more important. in terms of messaging, i would give myself a "c" or "c" plus. >> reporter: the president will attempt to get that messaging rite tonight, laying out his plans to repeal and replace
obamacare, crack down on illegal immigration, tackle the budget, grow the economy and beef up national security. but the president is learning quickly health care may be the most doesnaunting task. >> all i can do is peek frspeak the what, say what i want to do. we have a really terrific, i believe, health care plan coming out. >> reporter: cnn learned paul ryan has received assurances the president is expected to e rice mu erase much -- working hand in glove with republicans. the speaker hopes a replacement proposal will calm tensions fla flaring up at congressional town halls. >> you're going to have churning on a legislative product like this. this is a plan we're working on together. >> reporter: on immigration, a senior administration official is signaling an important shift saying the president is interested in a compromise bill that could give the undocumented a path to legal status. but the white house is floating the proposal just as the president is expected to appoint
a guest sitting with first lady melania trump including jameel shaw. democrats are counters that with their own guests who are impacted by the president's travel ban on majority muslim countries. >> he talks like a populist but governs like a pro-corporate, pro pro-elite hard right ideologue. >> reporter: facing skepticism of his plan that ramps up defense spending while slashing domestic programs, a plan budget experts say will blow a hole in the budget. the improving economy, the president said, will make up any shortfall. >> i think the money's going to come from a revved up economy. i mean, you look at the kind of numbers we're doing, we were probably gdp of a little more than 1%. and if i can get that up to 3%, or maybe more, we have a whole different ball game. >> reporter: but there are looming questions hanging over the president's speech such as the multiple investigations into his campaign's contacts with russia during the election. in an interview with fox news,
the president blamed his predecessor without offering any evidence. >> i think president obama is behind it because there's people certainly behind it and some of the leaks possibly come from that group. you know, some of the leaks which are really very serious leaks because they're very bad in terms of national security. but i also understand that's politics and in terms of him being behind things, that's politics and it will probably continue. >> reporter: now, bullet points on the speech obtained by cnn, the president is expected to say the u.s. supports nato, that is an alliance that he has criticized in the past. he's also looking to make a pitch for what he's calling partners in peace, that sounds very much like his strategy for forging an alliance with russia to take on isis, something we heard so much about during the campaign. wolf, back to the subject of immigration, i'm told by one key congressional source that there may be some wiggle room for the president on this openness to a compromised immigration bill. basically signaling that unless that immigration bill is exactly
something that he would support, he may not in the end want to sign an immigration bill and the white house spokesperson here at the white house earlier this afternoon told reporters for now, the president's priority on immigration is border security and deporting criminals who are undocumented, wolf. >> yeah. all right. jim acosta, thank you very much. we're also learning that president trump may address the u.s. raid on al qaeda in yemen that left a u.s. navy s.e.a.l. dead. our pentagon correspondent barbara starr is working that part of the story for us. barbara, you're picking up new information. >> we are, indeed, at this hour, wolf. all pentagon eyes on capitol hill tonight to see if president trump, in fact, talks about this raid that occurred last month. what we know is that yesterday the white house came to pentagon officials and said what can be declassified, what could the president talk about to better explain to the american people how a navy s.e.a.l. died, was the raid really worth it? did they get the intelligence they were looking for about al qaeda in yemen? which is a group that has posted
direct threat to the u.s. in the past. has built bombs capable of getting on to airplanes. was responsible for that "charlie hebdo" attack against the cartoonists in paris. so we don't know if president trump will talk about it, but what we do now know is by all accounts, they did get a significant amount of intelligence. the analysis about what they got in the raid remains ongoing, but a senior official says they got intelligence broadly describing it involved in what al qaeda in yemen is targeting. what targets they may be plotting against. their explosive manufacturing techniques. remember, again, they have practiced building bombs that can get on airplanes and even who they're recruiting and training for future attacks. so the pentagon feels the raid very definitely yielded intelligence, but a final readout about how much intelligence, how valuable, still remains to be finalized. wolf? >> all right.
barbara working your sources at the pentagon. thanks very much. let's get some more on all of this with former state department official and hillary clinton national security adviser, jake sullivan. jake, thanks very much for coming in. >> good to be here. >> what do you think, the president said to a group of germis i journalists including me today, let me read specifically what he said. i'm quoting president trump. "the time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides." i assume you're encouraged by that. >> well, i'll believe it when i see it. this is somebody who during the campaign talked about a deportation force to round up millions of people who gave a speech in phoenix after he went to mexico and said 11 million people would be subject to deportation. and who has presided over in his first weeks in office the raids and roundups of mothers and grandparents and people who are just law-abiding and going about their lives so the words he said today are one thing, his actions so far and his pattern over the course of many months are quite
another. >> his aides say they're rounding up all the bad guys right now. the gang members. the drug dealers. that's what they're rounding up. the good people, they're not rounding up right now. what we're told by an administration -- senior administration official is that they want to make sure that the millions of good, undocumented immigrants in the united states have a path to legal status so they can work, get jobs, pay taxes, and don't have to worry about being deported. not necessarily a pathway to citizenship, but a pathway to legal status. you would be encourage ld d by that. >> i think a pass to citizenship is definitely the right way to go, not a path to legal status. we shouldn't have second-class citizens in america. this would still be a major shift for donald trump who has talked as i said about a deportation force that would literally go into homes and schools and work palace plaiswo.
this would be a dramatic change for him and frankly given his penchant for saying things just to distract the press from one story and move it to another, i think we should all just believe it when we see it. and when this is actually put forward and the republican base and republicans in congress are going to have to have a real reckoning if, in fact, the proposal on the table from the white house is to allow millions of law-abiding people to stay in this country. >> have legal status to stay in the united states. the dreamers might have a pathway to citizenship we're told. they will be just fine. these are the children raised in the united states, brought to the united states by their undocumented parents. that would be very encouraging to you, too, if this new legislation included that. >> this is a case that president obama and hillary clinton have both made passionately that these young people deserve a chance at the american dream. so in fact, in fact, the republicans come around to join us in that position, of course we will welcome it, but, again, right now, these are just words and suggestions and they could end up being nothing more than
that. i think we have to hold both the president and the republicans accountable to follow through on -- >> you heard jim acosta say the president has now decided he will mention this, he will address this issue, comprehensive immigration reform, in his address before congress later tonight. that in and of itself is significant. we're told earlier he was planning on doing a speech in a couple weeks on this issue. if he does it tonight before a joint session, that's important. >> it is important, although it's pretty astonishing. you have to admit. for somebody to have gone around the country looking millions of voters in the eye and telling them one thing and then coming out and doing something quite different. now, in the end, if he heads in the right direction on immigration, that's all to the good for my perspective. but it really raises some pretty fundamental questions about what lies at the core of donald trump. >> but, you know, all presidents, once they take office, they see things differently than candidates did. democratic candidates often say things, republican candidates often say things. they're elected president. they have to see the world a bit
differently. you studied history. you appreciate that. >> of course. there's a difference between making adjustments in the form of compromise and completely changing -- >> he said this would be compromise on both sides. >> i think that if in fact he followed through the with the comprehensive bill that passed senate in 2013, that would be the equivalent of barack obama having gotten elected and say the iraq war is a good thing, not a bad thing. that's now dramatic this would be. >> that compromise he's talking about, comprehensive immigration reform that got through the senate and not the house did have a pathway to citizenship. this would not necessarily have that pathway to citizenship. it would have a pathway to legal status. let's talk about north korea. for a moment. because a senior administration official told us today that north korea right now represents the greatest immediate national security threat to the united states. that president obama, himself, told this to president -- to then-president-elect trump.
you're on the inside. is north korea the greatest immediate national security threat to the u.s. right now? >> it's right at the top of the list. the possibility of weapons of mass destruction being used against american citizens is the biggest threat to the united states. north korea is gaining capacity to potentially be able to do that in the not too distant future. terrorists are going around right now trying to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. whether nuclear, chemical or biological. this is the number-one threat facing the united states and meanwhile, other big state actors like russia are modernizing and moving forward with changes to their nuclear arsenals and nuclear programs. so this entire issue is one that has to preoccupy the president and the military establishment. >> but the north korean leader kim jong-un, there's debate going on, is this guy just crazy or is he a brilliant, strategic thinker? >> well, i think he's crazy but a crazy man who has nuclear bombs and a growing missile capacity is someone who represents a clear and present
danger to the united states and somebody we have to take deadly seriously. >> i know that president trump believes china can be instrumental in convincing the north korean leader to stop this. the u.s. does not want to live with a nuclear-capable north korea with a delivery capability of a nuclear warhead, but china can get the job done. do you believe that? >> i believe china can bring a lot of pressure to bear on north korea but cannot outsource our entire north korea policy to china. >> what are the options for the u.s. to prevent north korea from having a nuclear capability, a missile that potentially could hit allies like south korea or japan or even the united states? >> first, mentioning south korea and japan is very important. we have to strengthen our alliances with the two countries. increase our force poszture tur. and work with the chinese. the chinese part of this has to be a piece of a broader strategy to stop north korea's march to a
missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. >> is there a realistic military option to destroy the potential nuclear capability, military capability, of north korea? >> i believe that all options have to be on the table and military options have to be part of the mix. they should be a last resort, not a first resort. but fundamentally, at the end of the day we cannot allow north korea to launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead at the united states and we have to take whatever means are necessary to stop them from doing so. >> do you have any doubt at all that the north koreans, kim jong-un, personally were sp responsible for the assassination of kim jong-un's half brother in malaysia? >> i don't have special inside information on it but i don't have any doubt. i am confident that north korea was behind it. and i think they were sen sending a message to the world, wolf. they didn't kill him in any ordinary way, they used vx nerve gas and were advertising to the world this is a capability that they have and we should not --
we should take that extremely seriously. >> i had heard they were advertising potentially not necessarily to the world, but to their own adversaries, to their own enemies that they have this capability and to their own people if you're even thinking about doing something against kim jong-un, look what's awaiting you. >> yes. i thchk thatink that's kmakexac sending a message to potential dissidents at home and plotters against the current leader but i think they were also sending a message to the world about the kinds of capabilities they possess and what they might do with them. >> we're now told that the president has received options, a plan from the military leadership over at the pentagon, to destroy isis within ten months in iraq and syria. do you accept that? is that realistic? >> i think we have made so much progress in the last years of the obama administration in shrinking isis' space it's certainly possible in the coming months forces cowell take wa s ,
capital of isis, in syria. that is not going to end the terrorist threat coming from syria or isis. it's going to take a sustained long-term effort to root out radical jihadists from that region and i think if we take our eye off the ball after ten months, we're going to end up facing threats in the future. >> because we're told that a lot of these ideas, if not all of these ideas, have been ideas that were given to president obama and his military commanders at the same time. >> right. the plan, or the framework that's been presented to the white house from the pentagon basically is a follow-on from what the administration was considering and what it was doing with the obama administration was considering and what it was doing. that's because at the end of the day there's only so many options to take out isis and i think that the current administration is going it have to think very seriously about how they make modifications to what has been an increasingly successful campaign at the end of the obama administration to shrink isis' territory. >> the president wants to increase defense spending, national security spending, by $
54 billion in the coming fiscal year. for the pentagon, that would be about a 10% increase in defense spending. good idea? >> i think it is really important that we increase defense spending because it has been artificially kept low by the sequester, by these artificial caps that reduce defense spending below what was necessary to keep the united states safe. but here's the problem. at the same time, the trump administration is proposing massive cuts to diplomacy and development, more than a third cut to the state department budget. that would be a huge mistake. >> tell us why because the argument is all this foreign aid going into these countries, u.s. taxpayers can't afford it. there's so much work that has to be done here in the united states, instead of building schools in pakistan, let's say, they should be building schools in new jersey. you've heard those arguments. >> of course. well, first of all, foreign aid represents 1% of the federal budget. 1%.
second, that plan that the pentagon gave to the president on isis, it didn't just involve military spending. it involved civilian spending because any general knows that they cannot successfully defeat terrorism without all three elements of american power. defense, diplomacy and development. and finally, if you strip away diplomacy and development, as tools in the arsenal of the united states all you're left with is the military and if all withdrew have is a hammer then every problem is going to look like a nail and we're going to end in a lot more wars and conflicts abroad. >> all right, jake, i want you to stand by. there's more to discuss. we're also looking at congress. what is congress looking for in the president's speech tonight? we'll talk about that. the new epa, environmental protection agency chief, is standing by. we'll talk about the president's plan to boost the economy by rolling back some environmental regulations. hey hon, we gotta go. come on.
all right. the breaking news this hour, new details of the speech president trump will be delivering before joint session of congress later tonight. we're told the president will tout his rollback of all sorts of federal regulations. let's get some more on all of this with the new head of the environmental protection agency, scott pruitt. administrator, thanks so much for joining us. >> good to be with you, wolf. >> all right. so senior administration officials tell me the president will address the importance of cutting lots of federal regulations to boost the economy. he believes maybe eliminating these regulations will do a better job boosting the economy than even cutting corporate and other taxes. cnn, by the way, is reporting this could include a 25% cut to your agency, the epa budget, which would be about $2 billion
of your $8 billion annual budget. would you be okay with that? >> well, wolf, first on the regulatory issues, i think the president is keeping his promises. when you look at the regulatory state in this country we for the last several years have seen washington, d.c., acting in a way to dictate the states across the country so you're exactly right, today the president signed an exec toutive order withdrawing the waters of the united states rule, good for farmers and ranchers, development across the country, and the regulatory overreach is in process to being taken back and given back to the american people. that's exciting. as far as the budget is concerned, that process is just beginning. obviously lots of discussions will take place between the executive branch and congress and we'll work through the process in the right way. >> but are you okay with the 25% cut in the epa budget? and if so, where will those cuts come from within the epa? >> wolf, half of the epa budget is grant-related and those grants go to states across country for water infrastructure and those types of issues. that's very important to protect. the dialogue is going to take
place between the white house and congress. we'll handle it the right way and make sure that priorities of the epa are protected as we go forward. >> the epa grants, the states, will they continue as is or will they be drastically cut? >> we're actually advancing an agenda with congress that the water infrastructure grants actually continue and are strengthened. those superfund sites across the country that need to be cleaned up from portland, oregon, to butte, montana, need to be a focus of how we spend money to improve the environment. so that's going to be a continued discussion as we go through the budget process. >> if that's 50% of the budget, where will the cuts come from if they want to eliminate 25% of the epa budget? >> i think, wolf, what we need to realize is this is the beginning of the process, not the end of the process. and so that process will continue. these priorities that i've talked about will be a focus of how we conduct ourselves at the epa. >> you're the administrator. what would you recommend? >> as i've indicated, thoue gras that goes to the states across the country are key to making
sure water infrastructure is advanced, best way we can improve partnerships with the states. the superfund sites as far as cleanup in key areas like the port of portland and butte, montana, will continue to be a focus and discuss that through the budgeting process. >> let me press you. should we expect layoffs of hundreds, if not thousands, full-time epa employees, cuts of enforcement of environmental protection regulations? >> i think, wolf, what could yo should expect, we're going to roll back the regulations that have been an overreach in the past. that's the focus in the near term and the budgeting process will play out. >> the majority of the epa budget goes to the states as you correctly point out. so if the budget is slashed, how are these states going to be able to enforce critically important regulations? >> wolf, the focus will be on making sure that the states are adequately funded with water infrastructure in these grant proposals that we've worked on for a number of years. as i indicated already this evening, that's going to be a continued focus of the agency, work for the budget ing process
to protect those dollars. >> you said the states aren't near what you call vessels of federal will that should carry out federal dictate from washington. your words. do you think the epa should be abolished and the states, themselves, should handle environmental regulations? >> there's a very important role for the epa to play. there are air quality issues and water quality issues that cross state lines. the epa has a very, very important role. i think what's happened over the last several years, wolf, is a disregard, a displacement of state authority, sometimes in direct contravention to the statute. congress has been very specific over the years to give specific authority to the states. and what's happened is you've had an attitude in washington, d.c., over the last several years that just wants to treat the states as mere vessels of federal will. that must change. we've got to create a partnership, not an adversarial relationship. the president is committed to that. those partners across the country to ensure clean air and clean water, they stand ready to be a partner with us and we're going to emphasize that as we lead at the epa. >> in some states as you well
know, for example, california, regulations are actually a lot stricter than federal laws require. if you return regulatory power to the states, which clearly you're recommending, does that mean you're willing to accept, for example, california's vehicle emissions standards? >> well, wolf, i think with respect to regulatory power, what we want to recognize is the authority given to the states through statute. what happened with the previous administration is a disregard of the statutory authorities given to the states so we're going to look at each of those situations on how to increase that, strengthen that and ensure there's an active, vibrant partnership to ensure clean air and clean water. >> will you give california its annual waiver to set its own vehicle emission standards? >> that's a process, wolf, that i don't want to prejudge. that's actually a rulemaking process or add min strministrai decision we've not yet begun. that will be reviewed in due course. >> president, as you know, spined an executive order to pave the way to eliminate an obama administration rule that expanded what waters can be regulated by the u.s.
what do you say to these people out there who say you're getting rid of critically important regulations that keep our drinking water clean and safe? >> what >> it's important for the epa to pass rules that are consistent with the congressional power given to that agency. no agency at the federal level has power that congress has not given it. look what the epa did with the waters of the united states rule, it was seeking to regulate waters that were dry creekbeds in certain parts of the country. puddles in some instances. that's not an overstatement. you had farmers and ranchers, those who build subdivisions across the country, oil and gas producers, the economy mad literally ground to a halt because the permitti inting requirements that went along with this redefinition, reimagining of what constitutes a water of the united states. what the president did today was provide clarity. what the president said today is we're going to make sure whatever definition is adopted be i t by the epa is consistent with the authority give b n to it bye
courts and congress. >> administrator, can you guarantee the water supply, the water people drink will be safe, if pollution isn't limited, why not limit pollution? >> well, states are, as you know, wolf, with respect to the clean water act, over half the office of waters' budget at the epa, about 8 o% of the budget goes to the states to help critical water infrastructure. and so there -- the states are an active partner in ensuring water quality. that's something we're going to continue and pursue with each of those respective states across the country. >> do you think coal-fired power plants should have regulations? >> there are air quality standards that irrespective of the source of the energy, whether it's natural gas or coal, or what have you, they have to meet air quality standards that we establish as far as national emissions standards. so it -- i think what's happened over the years, wolf, is you've had this attitude that regulations ought to be used to pick winners and losers in the energy mix. what we need to do is make sure we pass regulations that those that are regulated know what's expected of them so they can
allocate resources to comply. washington, d.c., should not be in the business of picking coal or natural gas or wind or renewables one over the other. it should be about setting rules that apply fairly across the board to make things regular for all those that are in the industry. that's not happened the last several years and that's ma we're committed to do at the epa. >> president trump, he told "the new york times," as you know, in that interview, not that long ago, a few months ago, that he does believe -- he does think there is, in his
words, some connectivity between human activity and climate change. do you agree with the president? >> i mean, as i indicated in my hearing, wolf, i mean, we know there is a warming or -- a warming of the planet, climate change is occurring and there's some human contribution to that or human activity that contributes to that. how to measure thatresizely is challenging but a very important question people leave out, what power has congress given the epa to respond? arizos you know, we have a supr court decision and endangerment finding the epa made in 2009. what we don't have is congress
giving the tools to the epa to respond accordingly. that's something thaed that needs to be talked about as we go forward on this issue. it's very important we don't disregard that very important component. >> do you believe climate change is a global emergency? >> i think the clean air act when you look at the structure of the clean air act, it was set up to dealpollutants. if anything, it's a global issue. i think there's a very fundamental question, in fact, it came up in several meetings that i have with with individual senators. has congress equipped the epa to deal with that issue, if it's a priority of this country. and they have not, wolf, so that's something that we're going to have to wrestle with and deal with as we go forward. that there's an issue about the endangerment in the supreme court case, but there's a very important process question that has to be addressed on whether congress has given authority, invested the epa to deal with it. >> the question is, is it a crisis right now? will you continue to allow epa scientists to study the human connectivity to climate change?
>> i mean, wolf, is that issue any more important than pefoa in the hudson river with gillibrand where people are facing health risks, is it any more important than the ozone issue we deal with in certain parts of the country? the answer is we have many priorities at the agency. we must focus on those, improve our air quality standards and should celebrate, actually, the progress we've made as a country. one thing i want to emphasize -- the paradigm that we've had -- this paradigm that we've had for years if you're pro-energy, you're anti-environment, if you're pro-energy, you're anti-environment. that paradigm is something we have to reject. we can do better than that as a country. >> i understand that. will you allow epa scientists to continue to study the human connection to climate change? >> our research at the epa should be devoted to rule making and rule making that we are adopting. that's the research and where it's been applied historically and where it's going to continue to be applied. >> is that a new then? >> is that indicated in our research? office of research development is devoted to doing what? supporting rulemaking we pass as
an agency in working with the states to improve air, water quality. that will continue. >> all right. let's talk about another issue that's now come up. i want to get your response. oklahoma attorney general's office released e-mails between your office and the energy industry. when you served as the state's attorney general. it shows you received some talking points from the energy industry. even sent letters drafted by energy companies' lobbyists. so first of all, can yukou confm that, will you as epa administrator allow energy companies to draft policieies o regulations? >> you're making assumptions, wolf, perhaps we don't have time to get into, other than to say the steps i took was to advance the state's interest in protecting the industries we regulate. all those issues you're referring to relate to hydraulic fracturing and the epa and federal government has very limited oversight in those areas and that was the state interest to protect the regulatory regime that's been established at the state level. in fact, we've been regulating
hydraulic fracturing in the state of oklahoma since the late 1940s so that was about the states' interest, not on behalf of any particular industry or any particular business. i will say to you, as we go forward at the epa, what's important is hearing all voices. as i share with the agency this week that my role is to listen, to learn from those folks that we have at the agency and to lead and make decisions but do so within the process and the rule of law that's been established by congress. >> i know you got to run. let me give you one final question. give you a chance to respond. the released e-mails suggest that at least on a couple occasions you used personal e-mail -- your personal e-mail address for business. that's not illegal. the concern is you may be withholding e-mails sent to energy companies. i want to get your reaction. >> you know, i know that there's been a very robust process that's been -- that's been implemented in providing those e-mails. i think there were over 7,000 e-mails that were provided. there's not a lack of information or willingness to provide what is necessary, wolf. we'll continue to make sure that happens.
thanks for the evening. >> administrator scott pruitt of the epa. congratulations on the new job. you have a tough one over there. we'll stay in close tough. thanks for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. the president's agenda. new information coming up on the president's speech tonight. more on the breaking news as we count down to the first address before a joint session of congress and the president. we'll be right back. ge... at t. rowe price... our disciplined approach remains. global markets may be uncertain... but you can feel confident in our investment experience around the world. call us or your advisor... t. rowe price. invest with confidence.
you won't have to worry about replacing your car because you'll get the full value back including depreciation. and if you have more than one liberty mutual policy, you qualify for a multi-policy discount, saving you money on your car and home coverage. call for a free quote today. liberty stands with you™. liberty mutual insurance.
we're following the breaking news learning new details of the president's first speech before a joint session of congress. only a little bit more than two hours away. let's dig deeper with our reporters and analysts. sara, what are you hearing about the president's speech tonight? >> well, i think what we're all looking for is how far he's going to delve into the details on some of these issues. if the briefings reporters have received in the briefings the white house has given prb republicans on the hill, they've been very sparing saying there will be broad contours of the president talking about how we need to do health care reform, do tax reform. what republicans on hill are really looking for is some kind of full-blown embrace of their plan on health care. remember, they are getting hammered on that every time they go home to their districts, they really want the republican to be sort of the salesman in chief for this. >> what does the president, gloria, need to do tonight? >> i think he needs to do that to give them a signal they're on the same page so they're not out there alone. i don't expect him to into detail. he has a lot of different
audiences tonight, wolf. the base of the republican party who voted for him enthusiastically, to reassure them. he's got the internal republicans sitting in front of him at the congress and also has independent voters because he has a 55% disapproval rating with independent voters. and those are people who voted for him in the last election. i believe it was 48%. something like that. so, you know, he's lost ground with them. and he needs to tell them that he is going to be the president of all of the people. >> yeah. he's going to have an optimistic tone, very different, we're told, than his inaugural address. >> that's right. the title of this speech is going to be, "renewal of the american spirit: an optimistic vision for all americans." the all americans part, i think people really want to see what that sounds like tonight. is he going it be inclusive, is he going to reach out to folks like independents and democrats and progressive who've been rallying at, in different cities across the country, rallying against his agenda.
so very much want to hear that and this optimism, we've heard some of that in his address in florida, for instance. he talked about an optimistic spirit. sort of pouring across the country. so i think we'll hear that for different from that very dark speech that he gave all about an american carnage for his inaugural. >> mark, the president told a group of reporters today including me, "the time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides." and he's going to speak about this later tonight. that would be a major development. >> it would be a major development, given his rhetoric and how he ran his campaign about how immigration reform and enforcement is really a -- was a key cornerstone to his platform. you know, i just spoke to a senior white house official, just got off the phone with this person who told me that donald trump isn't necessarily -- president trump's not necessarily willing to abdicate his position, specifically he will move forward with building a wall along the southern border but when it comes to the 11
million sbhiestimated undocumen immigrants who live in the country, those who are productive, nothose who are dreamers he's willing to discuss some kind of compromise where they could be legalized, not receive citizenship but legalized. wolf, as you know, everyone on the panel knows, republicans are very concerned about the 11 million becoming citizens because they become citizens and they have the right to vote and tend to be a constituency that supports democrats. >> you know, wolf, this leads to the question of what does donald trump really believe? >> right. >> where does he stand? i mean, this is somebody who talked about mass deportations during the election. he's got an immigration ban that is quite strict and quite restrictive. and is now tied up in the courts. and he's going to have to do anotherly he's talking to a grop of journalists today and talkss about wait a minute, maybe we could figure out a way to do
this, only the worst criminals aren't allowed to get citizenship, maybe there should be some kind of a pathway. i mean, that's going from "a" to "z." >> very off message, right? we're not talking about who he's going to talk about tonight, presumably this might not come up tonight but we're talking about this idea that he's for immigration -- comprehensive immigration reform. i mean, if you remember the gang of eight bill, the only reason that passed is because of democrats. only 14 republicans voted for that gang of eight bill. so this idea -- >> passed in the senate. didn't pass in the house. >> exactly. exactly. >> let's think about sort of the way this white house works for a second because this is a white house that looks to flood the zone. so if they have the president coming out tonight giving this major address, also saying, by the way, maybe i could get on board with comprehensive immigration reform, you know, maybe that means congress has to come up with something and i would just be willing to sign it if it came to my desk. he's saying that, you know, a day, maybe two days before he comes out with his -- another immigration ban. it sort of gives them an opportunity to play all different sides of this issue and say, well i'm only being
hardline on the criminals. i'm only securing the border. but look, i don't want to crack down on families. >> you know -- >> i was going to say, mark, i'm told the president really wants to talk about unity. working with democrats. republicans. democrats. working together to achieve something for the country. that's going to be one of the central messages tonight and maybe on this comprehensive immigration reform, this compromise that he wants, not a pathway to citizenship, but a pathway to legal status here in the united states. that's an example of what he has in mind. >> it certainly is an example, and it all depends on how he delivers the speech tonight. if he has a tone that is embracing, that's going to go a long way in him having an upper hand on democrats in congress who are going to be looked at as obstructionists if they choose not to work with him. now, when it comes to this one issue, i don't know if there can be common ground found with democrats, perhaps there is, perhaps there isn't. but we'll see what happens tonight, wolf. >> all right. everybody, stick around. we're getting closer and closer.
so what will the president say tonight about national security? the most pressing threats facing the country. plus, murder charges looming for the women accused of killing kim jong-un's half brother. i realize that ah, that $100k is not exactly a fortune. well, a 103 yeah, 103. well, let me ask you guys. how long did it take you two to save that? a long time. then it's a fortune. well, i'm sure you talk to people all the time who think $100k is just pocket change. right now we're just talking to you. i told you we had a fortune. yes, you did. getting closer to your investment goals starts with a conversation. schedule a complimentary goal planning session today. their leadership is instinctive. they're experts in things you haven't heard of - researchers of technologies that one day, you will. some call them the best of the best.
the united states. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto has more. jim, the president has some differences with his top appointees when it comes to such issues as nato, russia, the term radical islamic terror. will he clear up any of those issues tonight? >> it appears he's going to attempt to clear some of them up, or at least lessen the distance between him and his advisers on core issues, a message america first does not mean there will be robust engagement with the world. he's going to say a commitment to nato, but at the same time say that nato members have to pay. that's already movement for donald trump, because you'll remember he's called nato obsolete, questioned the usefulness of nato today. that's one issue. there's a line in the speech about forging new partnerships, where there are mutual interests. not clear he's going to mention russia specifically, but that's a country he said many times in public wouldn't be the worst thing if we got along. trouble is many of his closest
advisers list russia as the number one threat to the u.s. unclear how they resolve that. and on the issue of using the phrase radical islamic terrorism, he's taking great joy, to some degree, in saying that since he's been president and in the inauguration, we know general mcmaster thinks that is not a useful phrase, because he thinks it colors the whole religion, rather than those taking a path away from the religion of islam. it appears that the intention in this speech on these issues is to have some reassuring words, particularly on something like nato, but he's had a wealth of words before tonight with real stark differences on many of those issues with his closest advisers. can he bridge that gap in one speech, unlikely, but appears he wants to make some progress there. >> president believes ever since he spoke of nato being obsolete more than a year or so ago, there has been progress in terms of more expenditures from nato allies and getting involved in the fight against terrorism, as
well. jim sciutto, thank you very much. a senior white house official says the greatest immediate threat to the united states right now is north korea with its rapidly developing nuclear and missile programs. that come as murder charges loom for the alleged assassins of the north korean leader's half brother. brian todd is joining us. i understand you're getting new information. >> right, wolf, the two women accused of killing kim jong nam are facing the prospect of being hanged for this murder. tonight their families were saying they were duped in this operation and we have new information in the women's activities in the hours before the killing. extraordinary new video obtained by cnn. she celebrates her birthday at a restaurant in the malaysian capital. just hours later, police say, asha took part in killing kim jong-un's half brother. tonight malaysia officials say asha, a young mother of one from
indonesia and another woman from vietnam are being charged with murder. they could be hanged if they are found guilty. >> this is an extraordinary situation here. you have these women who are claiming that they were duped into this scenario. >> reporter: the families of both women claim they thought they were taking part in a tv show prank when they accosted kim jong nam at the airport. malaysia's police inspector isn't buying it. >> she knew very well that it is toxic and she needs to wash her hands. >> reporter: a friend of aisha's, who asked cnn not to show her face, says she was easily manipulated. >> translator: she's naive. whatever people said, she would believe. >> reporter: the vietnamese suspect once appeared on a vietnamese singing competition show, her brother told "new york times." and the brother said she posted
photos on facebook under the name "ruby ruby." >> they were clearly expendable and left that to be thrown under the bus and to fend for themselves. they are going to take the fall for this very likely, unless other individuals are apprehended, which seems unlikely. >> reporter: officials are looking for four suspects who they say were the women's handlers, but they say those men are in pyongyang. the north koreans deny it. tonight, a diplomatic showdown is unfolding. a high level delegation from north korea has arrived in malaysia and is pressing the malaysian government to hand kim jong nam's body to them. the malaysians refuse to release the body unless a member of the kim's family comes forward to claim the body. kim jong nam does have an adult son, but analysts say he may not show up in malaysia. >> there needs to be actions taken to ensure the security of the son, if he should appear,
because in my personal view, i think he would be in danger. >> and even if the body somehow were handed over to the north koreans, experts say, there's no guarantee the body would be treated properly, given the way kim jong nam was killed with a chemical weapon and given the way kim jong-un deals with perceived enemies nowadays. five north korean security officials have just been executed with antiaircraft guns. wolf? >> brian, the north koreans are also trying to do some damage control with the chinese over this assassination, right? >> that's right, wolf, a high level diplomatic delegation from north korea is now in beijing. analysts say the chinese are very likely furious with kim jong-un over the death of his half brother. the chinese are said to have supported kim jong nam and protected him. wolf? >> we'll stay on top of this story. thank you very much. that's it for me, thanks very much for watching. be sure to tune in for cnn for special coverage of president
trump's first address before congress. our coverage begins 8:00 p.m. eastern, one hour from now. right now our special coverage continues with "erin burnett outfront". "outfront" next, we are live in washington, d.c., with the breaking news tonight, president trump about to deliver a major address to congress and the american people, the biggest night of his presidency so far. plus, two arizona teens, their mother just deported on capitol hill tonight, they'll come face-to-face with trump what will their message be? and is trump passing the blame for the antiterror raid that killed a navy s.e.a.l.? let's go "outfront". good evening, i'm erin burnett. we are live in washington for a special edition of "outfront" tonight. the breaking news, president trump about to speak to the nation. it is a major moment for the president, the biggest night of his young presidency so