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Major Conflict; Can't Stop Running; Not That Easy; Blasting The CIA; Trump: Flynn "Was Already Approved" By Obama Admin"; Trump Survives Campaign Rhetoric In NRA Speech; North Korea: Imminent Threat Of All-Out War; South Korean Military: North Korea Tests Ballistic Missile. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 28, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, major conflict. President Trump warns of possible war with North Korea while the secretary of state opens the door to direct talks with the Kim Jong-Un regime with both sides ratcheting up rhetoric. Can anyone negotiate a peaceful solution? Can't stop running. 99 days into his administration. President Trump appears to be back in campaign mode.

He's boasting about his electoral victory, taking potshots of critics and once again calling for a border wall. Is he already gearing up for a reelection campaign? Not that easy. The president concedes his new job is tougher than he thought it would be and admits he misses before the White House. And now, in a new interview, he blames the Obama administration for the debacle that force him to fire National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Did the Trump team vet them at all?

And blasting the CIA, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lashes out at the agency saying he's been deeply humiliated by his organization's leaks. Now the justice department is preparing to go after Assange over document theft that were praised by Candidate Donald Trump. Why is the attorney general of the United States defending the president's words? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. President Trump shifting blame the Obama administration for the failure to properly vet ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in a new interview. The president says Flynn had already been cleared by the Obama team and "the highest level placing fault for insufficient vetting with his predecessor." Mr. Trump failed to note that Flynn was also acquired by President Obama.

Product sounded remarkably like Candidate Trump in a speech before the National Rifle Association just a little while ago. He once again touted the need for a wall with Mexico, mocked old adversaries, including Senators Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren. And he painted and grim picture of the U.S. saying, and I'm quoting now, "these are horrible times." We're also following the heated standoff between the Trump administration and North Korea amid new warnings that war may be imminent.

In just a few minutes, we'll get an exclusive live update from inside North Korea. We're covering all of that much more this hour with our guest, including Senator Mark Warner, he's the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by. Let's begin with the president's new remarks about fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us with the latest. Jim the president is now shifting blame.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. First it was the White House Press Secretary. Now it's the president who is blaming the Obama administration for the vetting of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The president told Fox News in an interview, and we can put this up on screen. He was approved by the Obama administration at the highest levels. So when he came into our administration, for a sure period of time, he came in, he was already approved by the Obama Administration.

Now, one day before President Trump hits 100 days in office, he is ticking off what he considers to be his biggest achievements but he just can't seem to jump out of campaign mode as he revived his tough talk on the need for a wall on the border with Mexico, not to mention of the most vicious insults for one of his biggest rivals. Just as President Trump is about to hit 100 days in office, he sounds as if he's gearing up for four more years.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll build a wall. Don't even think about it.

ACOSTA: In a speech to the National Rifle Association, the president return some of his signature divisive rhetoric in the campaign. Vowing to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and track down on illegal immigration, warning repeat border crossers will be locked up in prison.

TRUMP: You'll be caught and you'll be returned to your home. You're not staying any longer. And if you keep coming back illegally after deportation, you will be arrested, prosecuted, and you will be put behind bars.

ACOSTA: The president could not resist taking swipes at some of his old adversaries from his former GOP rival Ted Cruz --

TRUMP: Like, dislike, like.

ACOSTA: To one of his favorite targets where he cindery insults Elizabeth Warren, suggesting the Massachusetts senator may run for president.

TRUMP: It may be Pocahontas. Remember that. And she is not big for the NRA, that I can tell you.

ACOSTA: The president also touted his selection for the Supreme Court as one of his biggest accomplishments today.

TRUMP: Neil Gorsuch sits on the bench of the United States Supreme Court. For the first time in the modern political era, we have confirmed a new justice in the first 100 days. [17:05:16] ACOSTA: Even as he painted a dark picture of American


TRUMP: These are horrible times for certain obvious reasons, but we're going to make them great times again.

ACOSTYA: At the 100-day mark, the White House is celebrating what it sees as wins on executive orders, striking down regulations from the Obama administration, but the president has seen serious setbacks, with his travel ban frozen in court and attempts to repeal Obamacare, a signature campaign promise, stymied in congress.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It is our duty to serve with character and integrity and to support President Trump.

ACOSTA: Something sources say White House Chief Of Staff Reince Priebus was aggressively chasing before the 100-day mark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The joint resolution has passed without objection.

ACOSTA: Even as republican leaders in congress were simply trying to avoid a government shutdown. The president admitted to Reuters the job is tougher than he thought.

TRUMP: This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a -- I'm a details-oriented person, I think you would say that. But I do miss my old life. This -- I like to work, so that's not a problem but this is actually more work.

ACOSTA: Sensing the mounting public frustration with Mr. Trump's first 100 days in office, democrats drew up their own report card for the president.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: It's an F. He has not kept his promises, he has not accomplished much and then he compares it to like Franklin d. Roosevelt. It's astounding.

ACOSTA: Which is why the president spent part of this trip on this day talking up Karen Handel, a GOP candidate locked in a tight race for congress in Georgia, a potential bellwether special election that could spell trouble for the upcoming midterms if the democrats win.

TRUMP: She's totally for the NRA, and she's totally for the second amendment so get out and vote.

ACOSTA: Now, as for the wall, the president said it will be easy to complete that project but it should be noted he was unable to secure funding for the wall and the spending bill that was passed today in the house and as for the 100th day for this administration as in tomorrow, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reiterated the president will not be attending the White House Correspondents dinner tomorrow night.

President has made clear his feelings about how he has been treated by the press, so he will have a rally in Pennsylvania tomorrow. Something the White House says will serve as a "contrast with the dinner that the president is skipping and will - I think we can expect more and cindery campaign rhetoric as we heard today when he went after Elizabeth Warren, it was a reminder we live in unusual times, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Thanks very much. Jim Acosta at the White House. And now a CNN exclusive, we're live in North Korea where officials tell our correspondent Will Ripley the threat of war with the United States is imminent. Will is on his 12th visit to North Korea right now. He's joining us live from Pyongyang, the capital. Will, the president, President Trump also says a major conflict is possible. Update us on the latest information you're getting there.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, North Korea certainly responding to those comments from President Trump with their own rhetoric. Everything really for the last several weeks, from the military parade to the - to the military exercise that we saw this week, these new propaganda videos. And of course, Wolf, we know that North Korea has the capability to roll out a solid fuel missile just about any time in launching with very little notice. So we are on the ground here watching very closely with North Korea's next will be.

North Korea Putting it's fire power on full display facing mounting international pressure. It's clear this is a regime with something to prove. The Korean People's Army calling Tuesday's live fire drill their largest ever, long range artillery by the hundreds, submarines, bombers. Earlier this month, staging this massive military parade, unveiling what North Korea says are new missiles, trying and failing to launch one the very next day.

On the ground it's clear to us this is an attempt to look tough, all of it choreographed for the world and regular North Koreans. State T.V. defiantly threatening to strike back against the U.S. with force. North Korea furious about ongoing joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea just miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries. Exercises always infuriate the regime but tensions are at their highest level in years. North Korea uncertain about the Trump administration's next move.

Government officials in Pyongyang telling CNN there's an imminent and growing threats of an all-out war with the United States. State mouthpiece KCNA warning in case a war breaks out on the peninsula, the U.S. will be held wholly accountable for it no matter who made the preemptive attack.

[17:10:16] TRUMP: There's a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.

RIPLEY: The president telling Reuters the U.S. won't rule out the military option but, "we'd love to solve thing diplomatically." Also expressing a degree of empathy for North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-Un.

TRUMP: He's 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want, but that's not easy, especially at that age. RIPLEY: The president later clarifying he's not praising the North

Korea leader. Kim has ramped up North Korea's nuclear and missile programs launching more missiles than the two previous leaders combine. The growing threat of a nuclear North Korea the focus of a special meeting of the United Nations security cancel. Chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.

RIPLEY: North Korea says it's only a matter of time before they test more nuclear weapons and launch more missiles, also insisting they're more than ready for whatever happens next.

RIPLEY: And Wolf, I have some breaking news that has just come in seconds ago. This is flashing from South Korean news agency Yonhap. They say that North Korea has just launched another ballistic missile a very short time ago within the last few minutes. They say this was a ballistic missile. They are sighting the South Korean military. So once again, details just coming in, breaking right now. North Korea has launched, according to Yonhap citing the South Korean military, another ballistic missile. We'll have to see what happens next.

BLITZER: We will stay in very close touch with you, Will Ripley in Pyongyang, North Korea for us with the breaking news. Thanks very much. Let's get some more on all of this Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia is joining us. He is the vice chairman of the senate intelligence committee. Senator, thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: So, you just heard the breaking news that the South Korean media reporting that the North Koreans have just launched another ballistic missile. I don't know if you've been informed about that but what's your reaction?

WARNER: Well, I've not been informed yet. I think it just happened in the last few minutes. But this is where we've got two bellicose, belligerent leaders, both ratcheting up the rhetoric. And I absolutely believe America and our allies South Korea and Japan have to stand strong against North Korea but as Admiral Harris said who runs pacific com, we ought to bring Kim Jong-Un to the table, not to his knees because if we take a preemptive strike and if they get the capacity to launch long-range intercontinental ballistic, we ought to keep right on the table but you not only put in jeopardy are American lives but literally hundreds of thousands of folks who live right across DMV and South Korea and Seoul. So, this comes about when you've got this kind of escalating rhetoric where I've not seen at least from President Trump any kind of plan.

BLITZER: Well, the president say that -- let me quote him from his Reuters interview once again. He says there is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea, absolutely. Is that the kind of rhetoric that you consider irresponsible? WARNER: What I would consider responsible is the president said he

built a good relationship with President Xi when President Xi taught him about North Korea. He ought to be using that influence to cut down the purchase of coal from North Korea by China, to put additional economic sanctions to ratchet up the pressure. But to get in a - kind of a tit for tat with somebody who's 27 and not very responsible and a president who has been used to -- look at some of those comments he made just with the RNA I believe today that were outrageous even as a candidate and even more outrageous now as a president a hundred days into his tenure and you've got a recipe potentially for a conflict that could have ramifications for our country and for that matter through all of East Asia.

BLITZER: The Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson says the United States is open to direct talks with the North Koreans in order to work toward removing the regimes nuclear weapons. Do you believe the U.S. should be engaged in direct talks with Kim Jong-Un's regime? Because the critics say that would be rewarding him with this kind of face-to-face diplomacy.

WARNER: I believe that whether director talks with Korea, Japan, and China, regional powers, we need to ratchet up the pressure.

[17:15:04] But what you don't want to get into, Kim Jong-Un is 27, he's very erratic, but we also unfortunately now has a president that is making comments that don't seem to follow any plan and when you've got both sides having this verbal escalation, you could end up with a mistake being made, that mistake being made that would launch then American action, which would then result and we've seen intelligence and analysts that have said, you know, the North Koreans showed their artillery process in just the last week. You've got 25 million people that are in greater soul that live within artillery range of the north. So I would - I would tread carefully here. I wish I would see a little more organized effort, rather than this kind of tit for tat between Trump and Kim Jong-Un.

BLITZER: But the president does make a point that he's been working closely with the president of China to get China to lean on North Korea to make the kinds of concessions the U.S. wants. He's always said that China is key to dealing with the North Korean problem. Is that -


BLITZER: I assume you agree with that strategy.

WARNER: I do agree with that, although again we saw that in 10 minutes, President Xi actually educated President Trump about the history of the Korean peninsula. And he says now that China doesn't have as much influence it, would be great if President Trump actually got briefed by American experts about both the history of the peninsula and China's ability to influence North Korea, cutting off the purchase of coal, seeing if we can do other things to ratchet down. I wish President Trump was getting his advice from American experts and not from having -- simply having dinner with President Xi. BLITZER: We're checking with our sources, Senator, we're getting more

information, it looks like in the last few minutes. North Korea did launch a ballistic missile, this according to South Korean media reports. We'll continue on that much more on the breaking news right after a quick break.


[17:21:28] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. South Korea's Yonhap News Agency citing, the South Korean military has just reported that North Korea has test fired a ballistic missile. That occurred just a little while ago, only in the past several minutes. We're back with democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator, we're going to continue to follow this latest development out of North Korea but let me get your thoughts on the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian election meddling. Your committee has come under fire, as you know, for the slow pace -- seemingly slow pace of the investigation. Is your committee devoting appropriate resources in this investigation to get the job done?

WARNER: We added additional staff this week, Wolf. We're now over 30 interviews. We are going back now and making sure that as we get into some of the bigger names that have been mentioned, you do the preliminary work first. I've always expected to have incoming from both sides on this interview into the day. It's not who does it the quickest, it's who does it the most methodically that follows the intel and keeps this investigation bipartisan, at a time when we've got a president with his 100-day mark coming up where he's got a wall that even the republicans wouldn't support, he had a health care plan that couldn't even get the republican's support and a tax plan that would blow up the debt and deficit in a way that's unprecedented. And now, you've seen some of his recent comments where he is - he's again, back in campaign mode lashing out.

It's more important than ever with this kind of behavior that this investigation stays true to its course, which is bipartisan, follow the facts, and do it right, and there will be a series of witnesses we're going to have shortly, but before I get those witnesses, I want to make sure I've got the right questions to ask them.

BLITZER: That's fair enough. Senator, the senate's top democrat, the minority leader Chuck Schumer says the Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions, should testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. You'll remember that Sessions failed to disclose contacts he had with the Russian Ambassador during his confirmation hearing. Do you have any plans to call the Attorney General before your committee?

WARNER: It's too early to make that determination. Clearly, there was a case where the Attorney General did not reveal all his contacts with Russians. We're continuing to go through additional information and intelligence. But if it's appropriate, I will bring him forward, but I want to do this again when we've got the facts, when we've got the information. Literally, it was only within the last 10 days that our committee - I know (INAUDIBLE) the other committees haven't even started looking at this information, had this unprecedented access to intelligence that no committee has ever had before. So, we got to do this right, Wolf. We got to do this right, Wolf, and we got to keep it bipartisan.

With the way the country split, if we go off and one -- either side gets too erratic in terms of their claims about who should be brought before or who shouldn't be brought before the committee, then we're going to lose the trust of the American people.

BLITZER: On another very, very important issue that has now come up, as you know, President Trump released a rough outline, very rough outline of his plan for tax reform this past week. He didn't offer a lot of specifics but some of the highlights did include reducing the number of tax brackets from seven currently to three, slashing the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent right now. What do you think of the President's framework for tax reform?

[17:25:00] WARNER: Well, Wolf, I would agree, we've got the world's most complicated, inefficient tax code. We've got not only the highest rates on business taxes yet of the 34 industrial nations in the world, America is 31st in terms of total tax revenue because our tax code is so riddled with exemptions and deductions and loopholes. So, yes, we ought to bring our rates down, we ought to do it in a way that actually helps more middle-class Americans than frankly folks like you and me and the tax proposal that Mr. Trump put out would have allowed some of the biggest scams I could ever imagine. Anybody who makes any kind of money would simply incorporate themselves as what's called a pass-through entity, and they cut their taxes in half.

That would add close to $7 trillion or $8 trillion to a $20-trillion debt that we've got right now. That would be a disaster, maybe not in the short term but it would be a disaster for our kids and our grand kids. And what I hope is if those republican members who are really strict on debt and deficit against Obama will keep those same principles in terms of this, I think, nonstarter plan that came out of Mr. Trump.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Warner, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

WARNER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Word out of South Korea right now, according to the South Korean military, North Korea has just test fired another ballistic missile. We'll have details right after this.


[17:30:47] WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: We're following breaking news. A U.S. official now confirming to CNN that North Korea test fired a ballistic missile just a little while ago. Let's go to our Global Affairs Correspondent, Elise Labott. She's over at the United Nations. She's got more details. Elise, what else are you learning? ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Well, a U.S. official telling CNN's Ryan Browne that about 4 p.m. Eastern Time, just a little over an hour ago, North Korea test launched a ballistic missile. It landed in the Sea of Japan. We don't know the range of the missile but clearly this is a provocation by North Korea coming on the heels of a very big meeting today by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who essentially put the world on notice that if North Korea is going to continue with these missile launches with perhaps another nuclear test that the U.S. wanted to see much more action from the international community and he did not rule out the need for the U.S. to take military action if North Korea continued its behavior. Take a listen to Secretary Tillerson to the U.N. Security Council earlier today.


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: All options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table. Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action if necessary. We much prefer a negotiated solution to this problem but we are committed to defending ourselves and our allies against North Korean aggression.


LABOTT: Now, Secretary Tillerson laid out a whole series of steps that the U.S. wants member states to take to not only strengthen existing sanctions, but to impose new ones, cut off diplomatic ties with North Korea, and then again, not ruling out that military action if necessary. And clearly, Wolf, North Korea pushing this to the brink with this big meeting today and this morning you heard President Trump saying that he could see a possibility of a very major, major conflict with North Korea. Again, we have to see the range of that missile but if that's one of those long range missiles, where in the worst case scenario an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. mainland, we don't think that's what it is but the U.S. is looking for North Korea to test a missile of that range, that is certainly going to get the United States very up in arms and really could escalate things even further with this already tense situation, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very tense and it just got a bit more tense. Elise, stand by. I want to go to Pyongyang, North Korea right now where Will Ripley is on the scene for us. You broke the news a little while ago that North Korea launched this ballistic missile. What else are you learning, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you may have just heard the tail end of a song that plays on loud speakers here in Pyongyang, almost hourly, it's a song reminding North Koreans about the sacrifices of their late leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il who dreamed of North Korea being a nuclear power, a dream that Kim Jong- il's son, Kim Jong-un, the current supreme leader is trying to make happen, and this latest ballistic missile launch moves him one step closer to that goal. This is the eighth missile launch attempt here in North Korea since President Trump took office. We were going over it back on February 12th, ahead of President Trump's Shinzo Abe meeting at Mar-a-Lago. Actually, while that meeting was happening in Florida, they launched a KN-15 solid fuel ballistic missile. It was a successful launch.

Then on March 6th, they launched four Scud missiles simultaneously. Three of them landing within 200 nautical miles of the Sea of Japan, causing one coastal village in Japan to start North Korean missile drills as a result. The first time they've had drills like that since World War II. March 21st, there was a mobile missile launch attempt that failed here in North Korea. On April 4th, another attempted mobile launch that was a successful launch, that was the KN-17 missile they launched on April 4th. And then, on April 16th, just ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's trip to visit with President Trump and the U.S., they attempted to launch another ballistic missile. That was a failure. We know that this ballistic missile traveled relatively far because it landed in the waters off the Japanese coast.

[17:35:13] So again, you now have not surprisingly eight attempted missile launches by Kim Jong-un during the Trump administration. This is something that we've been waiting for given the fact that we've seen the rhetoric from Washington, President Trump saying a major, major confrontation with North Korea is possible. North Korea responding in turn with its own provocative rhetoric in their state media. We saw that massive military parade. And by the way, I need to clarify, the April 4th launch was ahead of the Xi Jinping visit. The April 16th launch was actually the day after that military parade. So, there were two launches in April, one a success, one a failure.

And so, we've been waiting for North - we've been waiting for North Korea to do this. Our intelligence indicates that this missile is probably another KN-17, so again, this would be a land-based ballistic missile launched from a mobile launcher. I was inside the country when this type of missile was first unveiled. We saw the images of this mobile launcher on state T.V. There was a triumph and announcement. Those announcements come here in North Korea much later than the rest of the world finds out. So, at this moment, aside from the North Korean leader and his military inner circle, nobody knows about this missile launch yet. In fact, we haven't even called our government contacts yet.

But I can guarantee you, they have not heard about it. We will probably be the first ones to tell about it. North Korea doesn't have social media. People don't have access to the internet or outside television so everything comes through state-controlled media. But what we can expect at some point either today or tomorrow is a triumphant announcement on the state media talking about this, talking about the strength of their country in defiance of what they feel is intimidation and bullying by the United States. And again, this is not a surprise given the U.N. Security Council meeting chaired by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, giving the - given the provocative rhetoric on the U.S. side.

And also, it's important to note the United States launched a minuteman missile in the last few days. India also has launched a missile in the last few days, but what North Korea is doing by launching these missiles, this is in direct defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. So, lots to monitor on the ground here, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to keep checking back, Will Ripley. He's the only western television correspondent in the North Korean capital right now. Will, we'll get back to you as we get more information. Let's bring in our political and military experts. And John Kirby, you're a retired U.S. Navy, a Rear Admiral. This ballistic missile test, everybody has been bracing for it. So, what does it mean?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: This is Kim giving us the finger, and giving the U.N. a finger more broadly. That's exactly what this is. Will is exactly right, this is all timed and done, I think, with the - with the U.N. Security Council meeting in mind. But it does underscore the sense of urgency that I think everybody needs to have here, about the threat, and the fact that he's going to continue to try to develop these capabilities. Now, I thought Security Tillerson was very strong today. However, I didn't hear a whole lot of different things than what the Obama administration tried to do. In fact, everything he laid out, these little three-point plan was pretty much what President Obama wants to do. What is different, Wolf, is the clock. And the clock is ticking a lot faster right now. And you see that with today's launch.

BLITZER: So, when we hear that this missile was launched about an hour and a half or so ago from a land-based missile and it landed in the Sea of Japan, east sea, according to U.S. official tells our Pentagon, our reporter, Ryan Browne. Does that sound like it was a successful launch?

KIRBY: It's too early - it's too soon to tell. Well, that is a big chunk of water out there, and so, without knowing where in the Sea of Japan it landed, it's difficult to be able to determine the telemetry.

BLITZER: So, it's a lot more successful than a missile that exploded within a few seconds after being launched.

KIRBY: Clearly. But it's still - until we know more about the missile that was launched, the trajectory and what the military was tracking, it's a little too soon to say how successful it was. Regardless, as I said before, there's no such - no such thing as failure for this guy. Every time he does one of these things, whether it goes far or doesn't go far, he learns, and he adapts, and he then builds that into the next launch.

BLITZER: And Gloria, you know, this launching of this ballistic missile follows the words of the President of the United States in this extraordinary interview with Reuters, and which he says, "There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea, absolutely." Those are strong words.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not comforting, honestly.

BLITZER: Yes, of the president.

BORGER: It is not comforting. You know, one thing about Donald Trump is he tells you exactly what he's thinking very often. I'm not sure a president should always do that but he did in this - in this - in this time. And I'm wondering what China's response is going to be now to this because, you know, the administration has less so in recent days but they've been talking about how the Chinese are going to be our allies in this, and how they're going to get tougher and I'd like to see their response.

KIRBY: Do not think for a moment that part of the messaging here by Kim is to message Beijing on this.

[17:40:02] BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: Message Beijing and Washington.

KIRBY: Absolutely.


BLITZER: And of course, Seoul, South Korea. He's sending a message all over the place.

KIRBY: Yes. But - and look, with China in just recent days were saying that they're going to toughen up, they might enact some unilateral sanctions. They've been saying publicly that they're going to, you know, come to the table internationally. So, don't think for a minute that he isn't also trying to message Beijing.

BLITZER: Nia, listen to the President in this Reuters interview suggesting once again, that he didn't think this was necessarily going to be as hard as it turned out to be.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Well, I loved - I loved my previous life. I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. I actually -- this is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a -- I'm a details- oriented person, I think you would say that, but I do miss my old life. This -- I like to work so that's not a problem but this is actually more work.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITCAL REPORTER: I mean, really stunning in some ways to hear him say that. He, of course, as a candidate did talk about how easy it would be to do any number of things. He talked about how stupid the people were who were in office and they weren't able to get things done. I mean, it really is a stunning admission for him to say this is a lot more work. And the idea that he in some ways seemed to like his previous life more, he doesn't sound very happy at this point in the White House. And in some ways he sort of sound like a second-term president, right, who's already sort of frustrated by the job, already in kind of lame duck status, and not sure that he's going to be able to get anything done. But this is a president we know is going to have to learn on the job and he's certainly telling everybody how difficult that learning is.

BORGER: I mean, is he saying he's not prepared for the job? That he wasn't prepared for the job? That sure what it sounds like to me.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Although most presidents are not prepared for the job because it is such a unique job. There's nothing like it.


BERG: No one would think it was easy except maybe Donald Trump because he has this very - he's very self-assured. I think anyone could say that about Donald Trump and, you know, it's possible he didn't contemplate the scope. I mean, you think of the presidency maybe in broad brushstrokes, you don't think that in addition to issues like North Korea, you're going to have to be dealing with lumber trade issues with Canada. And so, for someone who wasn't necessarily in politics, who wasn't in government who is just looking at this from an outsider's perspective, you could see how it could be a much bigger, much broader job than you ever expected.

BLITZER: You served in the U.S. Navy for a long time, you're retired now, you were the Pentagon spokesman, the States Department spokesman, the people hear what the President is saying, what the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his regime are saying, the reaction from China, the reaction from South Korea, from Japan, and there's understandable nervousness.

KIRBY: There should be, quite frankly. Look, I fully agree with Admiral Harris in testimony the other day said that this is - the situation is as tense - the most tense he's ever seen. And there is man with a lot of experience in the region as well. This is a serious problem. And it's nice, I think it's good to see that everybody is taking it that way, that there is a sense of urgency at the White House and on the national security team. It has not helped and I agree with Gloria, it's not helped by bellicose rhetoric by the commander in chief. There is a -- I understand the need to try to be ambiguous and to try to put people off their - off their balance but when you're doing that with Kim Jong-un, you know, it's significant. And I think they - I think he has - he has won a very deliberate measure national security process on North Korea. They have a lot to be proud of the way they've approached this as a team. It's not helped by him going out there and making these comments.

HENDERSON: And it's almost as if he's kind of drawing his own red line here, by talking in such a saber rattling way. And we, of course, saw how that worked out with President Obama when he - when he drew the red line with Syria. So, it's not the most helpful thing because now there's sort of this expectation that they follow through, and they've also said the era of strategic patience is over, even though we seems to be so be in the era of strategic patience. So, there's a lot of this mixed messaging that's not helpful.

BORGER: This is how being a real estate mogul does not prepare you to be President of the United States, which is when you do a real estate deal as Donald Trump did many, many times, he would walk out of the negotiations and say, "Done, this is it, I'm going to move on to the next thing." And he did that an awful lot. And he threw tantrums and he said OK. And he threw grenades and if it didn't work, it didn't work, and he walked away. Well, you can't do that as President of the United States. Yes, this job is tougher, particularly when you're dealing with issues like North Korea. You can't always sound as bellicose as you might like or you did in that real estate deal, threatening to walk away because you can never walk away. You just can't when you're President of the United States. And I think that's a - it's an adjustment -

BLITZER: But he can go back - he can go back to his campaign mode, Rebecca. Listen to how he kicked off his speech today before the National Rifle Association Convention in Atlanta. Listen to this.


[17:45:01] TRUMP: November 8th, wasn't that a great evening? Do you remember that evening? Remember that? Remember they were saying we have breaking news, Donald Trump has won the State of Michigan. They go Michigan? How did that -- Donald Trump has won the State of Wisconsin. Whoa. But earlier in the evening, remember Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, all the way up, we ran up the east coast.


BLITZER: He's very comfortable talking about election night.

BERG: This is very much his comfort zone, Wolf, but he is on the edge of sounding like a formerly great high school quarterback who has now graduated and gone on to college or his career. The problem is Donald Trump hasn't had any major victories really as president that he can point to and so he returns to the latest touchstone of a victory, which is the campaign. At some point in your presidency, you need to move on and look to what is next.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stay with us, don't go too far away. We're going to have much more on the breaking news in just a minute. The latest ballistic missile launch by North Korea, we're getting new information.


[17:50:50] BLITZER: We're following breaking news, a U.S. official now confirming to CNN that North Korea has just test fired a ballistic missile. This occurred just a little while ago. My correspondents are working their sources. We're going to get new details shortly. Stand by for that.

Also tonight, the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is blasting the U.S. government and the CIA even as we're getting word the U.S. soon may try to have him arrested. Brian Todd has go details for us. So, what else does Assange have to say, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Julian Assange says the Trump administration is targeting him to deflect attention from the investigation into their alleged ties with Russia. A short time ago, I spoke with Assange's attorney Barry Pollack who told me that he and Assange are prepared to fight the U.S. government in court. Assange is under intense pressure tonight. We're told U.S. authorities have prepared charges against him but now, the WikiLeaks founder is firing back.


TODD: From his confinement inside the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange lashes out at the CIA.

JULAIN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: The CIA has been deeply humiliated as a result of the ongoing publications.

TODD: The WikiLeaks founder in an interview with former U.S. presidential candidate Ron Paul is responding to a recent barrage from CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: Assange is a narcissist who has created nothing of value. He relies on the dirty work of others to make himself famous. He's a fraud, a coward hiding behind the screen.

TODD: Pompeo responding to WikiLeaks publishing a report it called Vault-7, thousands of files unravelling the CIA's massive hacking operation.

POMPEO: It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is, a non- state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.

TODD: U.S. intelligence officials say Russian intelligence used WikiLeaks to publish stolen damaging e-mails from Hillary Clinton's campaign. Assange denied it to Fox News.

ASSANGE: Our source is not the Russian government.

TODD: Tonight, the Trump administration is going after Assange. Sources telling CNN, U.S. authorities have prepared charges to seek his arrest. This, despite President Trump's crowing about WikiLeaks during the campaign after the group published the damaging information about Clinton.

TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.

Well, I love reading those WikiLeaks.

This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.

TODD: Trump's praise of the stolen material was defended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on NBC.

JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: They were putting out information that -- political information that I'm sure he valued.

TODD: Tonight, Assange claims the administration has turned on him to deflect from Trump's own Russia problem.

ASSANGE: Because of the rhetorical assaults about them being approximate to Russia, have now decided that it benefits them politically to talk up the conflict with WikiLeaks and the DOJ.

TODD: Assange is hold up and protected inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. U.S. officials believe Assange helped Chelsea Manning leaked military secrets and that Assange played an active role in helping Edward Snowden leak classified documents about U.S. surveillance techniques.

ASSANGE: This is a victory.

TODD: The case against Assange may be an uphill battle.

MICHAEL VATIS, FORMER ASSOCIATE DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think the government is going to have to prove that Assange somehow aided and abetting Manning in illegally acquiring the information or aided and abetted somebody else in illegally acquiring information that WikiLeaks then published. They can't base the prosecution just on the publication of the information.


TODD: During Chelsea Manning's trial, the government did present chat logs documenting alleged conversations between Assange and Manning in which they discussed how to crack a password foe an army database. Assange allegedly told Manning he had the tools for doing that. Now, some believe that could serve as the basis for a conspiracy charge against Assange. Today, Assange's lawyer told me the government has no evidence of that. Wolf?

[17:54:46] BLITZER: Brian Todd with his latest reporting. Thank you very, very much. There is breaking news next, a U.S. official now confirms to CNN a defiant new missile launch by North Korea as the Kim Jong-un regime and President Trump ratcheted up talk of war.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Missile fired. We're told North Korea's Kim Jong-un just unleashed a new military provocation, a new ballistic missile test. This, as President Trump warns of a major, major conflict with the regime. Is this very dangerous situation, coming to ahead right now?

I won. President Trump takes another election victory lap speaking to some of his most ardent supporters at the National Rifle Association Convention. This, as he nears the 100-day mark with health care while funding another key item still on hold.

Thanks Obama. Tonight, the president is accusing his predecessor of failing to vet Michael Flynn, seizing on a stunning line of defense for the criminal investigation of this fired National Security Adviser. Barack Obama is returning the favor, taking -