Return to Transcripts main page
North Korean Missile Explodes after Launch; Pope Francis to Celebrate Mass in Military Stadium; Trump's Unconventional Foreign Policy; Trump Blames Obama for Failing to Vet Flynn; Past Presidential Learning Curves; Reviewing Trump Ahead of First Milestone; Pope Francis to Celebrate Mass in Military Stadium. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired April 29, 2017 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Undeterred, North Korea launches yet another ballistic missile, ignoring threats and pleas and proposals. We have the very latest here.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And also, 100 days as U.S. President Donald Trump reaches a traditional Oval Office benchmark, we will look at what he has achieved and what has not worked out so far.
HOWELL (voice-over): And forging understanding. Pope Francis, set to celebrate mass in Cairo this hour. Final day of his two-day trip in Egypt.
ALLEN (voice-over): We'll have a live report there.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOWELL: Good day to you, it's 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast.
Provocation from Pyongyang, the top story we are covering this house on Donald Trump's 100th day in office, North Korea, the big story, firing another ballistic missile, it was the ninth attempted missile launch since Mr. Trump became president in January.
ALLEN: The U.S. believes it was a medium range weapon like these seen on parade in Pyongyang earlier this month. South Korea said it exploded after reaching an altitude of 70 kilometer or 44 feet.
HOWELL: This latest act of defiance comes as a U.S. Navy strike group led by the U.S.S. Carl Vinson was finally spotted off the coast of Japan.
ALLEN: The White House reacted swiftly. U.S. President Trump slammed Pyongyang's missile launch.
HOWELL: He tweeted this, "North Korea disrespected the wishes of China and its highly respected president when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today," he added, "bad."
We get the latest from CNN's Will Ripley, the only U.S. television correspondent currently in Pyongyang.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can hear the music that plays almost hourly here in Pyongyang, reminding citizens of the sacrifices of their late leaders. The outside world may view this missile launch as a failure but here inside North Korea, most people will never hear about it and North Korea's rocket scientists may not see it as a failure because, with each launch, whether it's a success or not, they gain valuable intelligence.
This particular missile they were trying to launch is the kind that could someday be used to attack a U.S. aircraft carrier like the Carl Vinson, which is approaching the waters off the Korean Peninsula.
So perhaps overshadowing the launch itself is the strong message North Korea is sending to its enemies.
RIPLEY (voice-over): North Korea attempting to launch another ballistic missile. Its ninth launch attempt since President Trump took office. A U.S. official tells CNN the land-based ballistic missile exploded over land shortly after launch. A defiant response to 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 TV 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 is an imminent and growing threat of 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.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.
RIPLEY (voice-over): The president telling Reuters the U.S. won't rule out the military option but, quote, "we'd love to solve things diplomatically."
Also expressing a degree of empathy for North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.
TRUMP: He is 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 (voice-over): The president later clarifying he is not praising the North Korean leader. Kim has ramped up North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, launching more missiles than the two previous leaders combined. The growing threat of a nuclear North Korea, the focus of a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council, chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.
RIPLEY (voice-over): 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: There is always a lot of confusion in the early hours of these launches. Initially the U.S. thought the missile traveled 15 minutes, then they changed that and said that it exploded over North Korean territory. But in South Korea military analysts say it still reached of an altitude of 71 kilometers, around 44 miles, showing that North Korea was able to get this ballistic missile up and they will work to perfect the distance for the next go -- Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.
HOWELL: The only television journalist of the United States in Pyongyang, Will Ripley, thank you so much.
Let's get the latest reporting now live from Seoul, South Korea. CNN's Alexandra Field is standing by following this story.
Alexandra, so this is happening at a time when both North and South Korea are conducting military drills.
What has been the reaction to this missile launch in Seoul?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, George, don't expect anyone to stand down on those military training exercises. These are exercises that happen annually at this time of year and they do spark provocations. They do infuriate Pyongyang and you did see Pyongyang earlier this week responding in kind with their own large- scale military training exercise. But then they took it a step farther with this failed ballistic missile launch, which clearly flouts all U.N. Security Council resolutions that have been levied against North Korea.
So what's happening today in South Korea is what happens every time that this happens. And don't forget, George, this is the third ballistic missile launch that we have seen conducted from Pyongyang just this month. It's the third failure from them. But South Korean defense officials are being quick to condemn the launch and they are saying that further hostile action or further provocation from Pyongyang will be met with a response that would correlate.
Japanese officials also weighing in. Word of the missile launch reaching Japan this morning. That led to the meeting of a security council there, which is also objecting to this launch. Japan has been obviously very much concerned about their own security. It was earlier this year that Pyongyang test-fired four projectiles at once; three of them landed in the waters off of Japan.
That prompted officials there to actually organize and orchestrate an evacuation drill for its citizens in one coastal area of Japan, so that they can see what they would do in the event of an actual attack. These are the kinds of preparations that people in the region are making as they continue to watch Pyongyang and they see that these tests are not subsiding.
That despite these very strong warnings, that have come not just from other countries in the region but also as far as the U.S. As for provocative measures like this failed launch this morning, well, the tack that we have seen from Washington, seems to be remaining the same. This is somewhat how they responded to the last failed attempt, which was to give it little credence, to pay little attention.
The White House saying very little publically other than to acknowledge that it happened. But, as is his style, you did have U.S. President Donald Trump tweeting about this, saying that it was disrespectful to China and, George, certainly don't doubt that there was some diplomatic maneuvering behind that tweet. It has clearly been the position of the Trump administration that China can and should be using all of its leverage here, given its economic partnership with North Korea in order to force some kind of cooperation from the regime.
So he is again putting attention on the effort that the administration is conducting to work with China in order to reach some kind of cooperation through Pyongyang. Has not worked so far. They continue with these ballistic missile launches. This is the sixth time we have seen them conduct these ballistic missile launches this year. They have fired off at least nine projectiles -- George.
HOWELL: All right, and to protect itself from these missiles, you saw on the floor of the U.N. South Korea talking about the THAAD missile defense system, saying that it's there strictly for self-defense.
But again, let's talk about that because it has created a bit of a rift between China and South Korea. Even Russia not too pleased about THAAD being deployed there. How is this playing out into this new tense dynamic there on the
FIELD: Yes. And the added twist in this now, George, is the fact that there seems to be some pretty big differences of opinion when it comes to the THAAD deployment now between the U.S. and South Korea. So let's take it back a step.
You saw the first pieces of the THAAD system arriving in March.
FIELD: Earlier this week we were told that the system would be operational in a matter of days. That was word that came from the Pacific U.S. Command commander. He talked about the need to have THAAD ready to respond, ready to intercept a possible missile from North Korea at any time.
And that was a position that was reaffirmed by South Korean officials. They were talking about the necessity to get this system installed fully, as quickly as possible because of these security concerns posed by North Korea.
So the U.S. and South Korea were on the same page about deploying the system, despite objections, of course, from North Korea but also from China and Russia, who have said that the advanced radar on this system could be used to spy on other countries in the region.
There were allegations from South Korea that China was even retaliating economically against South Korea for agreeing to go ahead with the installation. But now, another economic twist: U.S. President Donald Trump saying South Korea should foot the billion- dollar bill for this system and South Korea's saying that was never the agreement. It's their understanding that the U.S. pays to operate its system and that they are just supposed to provide the site and the infrastructure for it.
We will see where that goes -- George.
HOWELL: And critics even question whether that questioning of South Korea having to pay for it, whether that questions the resolve of the United States in its commitment to defend South Korea.
CNN's Alexandra Field, live for us, following the reporting in Seoul. We appreciate it. Thank you.
ALLEN: Much to talk about this on front. Robert Kelly is an associate professor of international relations at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea, he joins me now live.
Professor Kelly, thanks as always for being with us. President Trump said late this week there could be a major, major conflict with North Korea and the secretary of state said maybe it's time to sit down and talk with this regime.
What do you make, first of all, of those messages, kind of mixed messages from the administration?
ROBERT KELLY, PUSAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Yes, I think that's (INAUDIBLE) real problem in this current war scare. There's been a lot of inconsistently from the U.S. government. This is third one of these in the last 4-5 -- or seven years; there was in 2010 and 2013.
The American position in those was pretty consistent. The U.S. is usually a pillar of stability in these sorts of things and now it's sort of been all over the place. Right?
We came into this hearing about how there was going to be a strike after the sixth nuclear test. But then Vice President Pence said we were going to have discussions and things like that.
Secretary Tillerson has also been all over the place on this. It's actually really hard to know what the Trump people are trying to do. I wonder if this is some of Trump's sort of strategic unpredictability that he has talked about or if you just have sort of groups inside the Trump administration who just haven't integrated their positions yet.
But it would help a great deal if we could be a little bit more consistent, yes.
ALLEN: Yes, absolutely, because you never know from one turn to the next. As you say, what they are putting out there and what is maybe Trump bluster and what isn't.
We heard our reporter, Alexandra Field, say that, in her estimation, that text was more calculated than Trump just being Trump, that perhaps that was kind of a signal to China, a nudge, that perhaps they could do more in this regard?
KELLY: Yes, I think there's a pretty broad consensus (INAUDIBLE) in the White House but I think in the Korean ambulance (ph) community in generally that China has a lot of leverage here.
It is correct the Chinese always (INAUDIBLE) know that we do not have some political vetoing in Pyongyang. That is correct. They do not. But they do have a lot of oblique economic leverage, which is to say that a lot of the resources that flow into the that go to regime elite such as the luxury goods or that go into the nuclear and the missile programs, those things come from abroad.
And basically that means they come through China. I know there's some shipping into North Korea but a lot of it comes through China. I have flown into North Korea from China, you can see people getting on the planes with luxury goods in their bags, which is -- that could be a violation of U.N. sanctions.
And so that's the kind of thing that I think that the Trump administration and many people now inside South Korea would like to see the Chinese take more seriously. Close the gate in North Korea more, which would reduce the number of sources that North Koreans have to put into these programs. ALLEN: And back to the mixture of messages from this administration. Where should they be right now, as we just heard the tension is the highest level in years?
You're there in Busan. That's where the U.S. has parked its submarine, the U.S.S. Michigan.
Where should it be right now?
KELLY: Well, I do think that the Trump administration should cease making war threats and war language. We are not going start a war here. We, the Americans, are not going to start a war here. The costs would be devastating. Trying to strike North Korea in the way we did Syria, (INAUDIBLE) strike, that would be extremely difficult.
North Korea has been hardening itself against that sort of thing for decades. A lot of stuff is underground, it would take a lot of strikes to find it, (INAUDIBLE) bomb (INAUDIBLE) days or even weeks or look at the war. North Korea would feel compelled to respond. China might also be pulled in to it (INAUDIBLE) alliance with China.
So I think the Trump administration should stop talking about threats that they do not plan to fulfill. Instead what they need to do is to work behind the scenes with China, which to be perfectly honest is what we did during the Obama administration.
I hate to say this, but I'm just not sure that Trump has added a whole lot from what we have seen before, other than the bluster. There's just really no choice except to go through China.
KELLY: We are not going start a war. That just would be catastrophic.
ALLEN: We appreciate you joining us as always. Thank you for your thoughts, Professor Robert Kelly. Thank you.
KELLY: Thank you for having me.
ALLEN: Well, President Trump is now 100 days in. I think we all know that as we are talking about it. But he was turning back the clock Friday, slipping back into campaign mode, here in Atlanta, we will have that for you coming up.
HOWELL: Plus, we get an international perspective on Mr. Trump's impact on the world stage so far. Live around the world and in the United States, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.
(MUSIC PLAYING) ALLEN: Ah, yes, the first 100 days and President Trump is touting his accomplishments as he marks 100 days in office. It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing but Mr. Trump insists that he is off to one of the best starts ever.
HOWELL: He said that because he says he's keeping his promises though, in reality, he hasn't crossed off all of those promises yet. He told the annual convention of the National Rifle Association here in Atlanta that he is not backing down on what is arguably his biggest promise: the border wall, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will build the wall. Don't even think about it. Don't even --
TRUMP: -- think about it. Don't even think about it. That's an easy one. We are going to build the wall. We need the wall.
I said to General Kelly, how important is it?
He said, very important. It's that final element, we need the wall. And it's a wall in certain areas, you obviously where you have these massive physical structures you don't need and we have certain big rivers and all. But we need a wall and we are going to get that wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Again, the president not able to get the votes, the spending bill to pay for that wall and, obviously, facing some infrastructure challenges when it comes to land and, actually, you know, securing the land to build that wall.
It's a long road ahead for him.
Every president faces a steep learning curve as they enter the office but Mr. Trump's lack of prior experience raised concerns about how he would adjust.
ALLEN: Now he seems to be admitting that he underestimated the challenge of being president. Here's Jeff Zeleny.
TRUMP: But I have to tell you, I don't think anybody has done what we have been able to do in 100 days. So we're very happy.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: President Trump may say he is happy as he crosses the symbolic threshold of his first 100 days in office.
TRUMP: I don't think there's ever been anything like this.
ZELENY (voice-over): But there's a lingering feeling at the White House that he is longing for the days of Trump Tower and surprised by the challenges of the Oval Office.
TRUMP: I do miss my old life, I have to -- this -- I like to work, so that's not a problem. But this is actually more work.
ZELENY (voice-over): He's hardly the first president frustrated by the ways of Washington. At the 100-day mark of a new presidential term, new leaders often offer a rare look into the growing pains of the most powerful position in the world.
President Obama put it like this:
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The typical president, I think, has two or three big problems; we have got seven or eight big problems.
ZELENY (voice-over): During his primetime news conference in 2009, when the president and White House correspondents looked younger, President Obama conceded that governing is harder than he thought.
OBAMA: I can't just press a button and suddenly have the bankers do exactly what I want or turn on a switch and suddenly Congress falls in line.
ZELENY (voice-over): But despite all of the attention paid to the first 100 days, the defining moments of most presidencies come far later.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can hear you.
ZELENY (voice-over): For President Bush, the terror attacks of September 11th and the Iraq War still months away.
BUSH: Oh, I know we always don't always. But we are beginning to get a spirit here in Washington where we are more agreeable, where we are setting a different tone.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Clinton may have been frustrated by gridlock...
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I learned that things are not going to change quite as fast as I want them to.
ZELENY (voice-over): -- but still intent on changing Washington.
CLINTON: It may be that we can only do one thing at a time in this town. That may be. But I'm not prepared to acknowledge that.
ZELENY (voice-over): For President Trump, serving his first time in elected office, his frustrations set him apart from recent predecessors. It's not clear he actually likes his new job which seems far more difficult than he so often described.
TRUMP: We are going to start winning again. We are going to win so much that you people are going be angry at me. ZELENY: Now there is anger at this president, probably not the kind he was think about back on the campaign trail. Now at this point of his presidency, he has the lowest approval ratings of any president dating back to Eisenhower when modern polling began.
But as for all those promises in winning, in his first term, he has more than 1,360 days left to deliver on those promises -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.
HOWELL: Well, it is a demanding job, it's a results driven job and it requires consensus.
ALLEN: Yes. There are a lot of people to please across the country and the world as well.
HOWELL: One of the most polarizing aspects of Mr. Trump's presidency so far is his approach to foreign policy.
ALLEN: He's had a slew of major reversals on some big campaign promises. But he is holding tight to some others. Our correspondents have the view from Beijing, Mexico City and Moscow.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm David McKenzie in Beijing. You know, many are saying that President Trump has done a 180-degree turn on China in 100 days. He said he would name China a currency manipulator on day one. He hasn't.
He questioned the One China policy and then reaffirmed the U.S. policy that Taiwan is a part of China. And he said that China was being weak on North Korea. Now he says China is helping him pressurize Pyongyang.
Trump says he's not a flip-flopper. He says he's trying to get the best deal for the American people.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Leyla Santiago in Mexico City, where tensions remain after a bit of a rocky start between Trump and Mexico. Since the election, President Trump has yet to meet face to face with Mexico's president, Enrique Pena Nieto. And a big part of that, the wall: President Trump --
SANTIAGO: -- promised to fully fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border within 100 days of his presidency. But that has not happened yet. Trump has asked Congress to fund a small portion of the wall and he maintains that Mexico will pay for it eventually.
Mexico has not paid for it and maintains it never will.
Now on to the next big topic, NAFTA, that free trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. President Trump says it's a one-sided deal, bad for the U.S. and Mexico said it's willing to renegotiate but if it's not a good deal for Mexico they will walk away and they'll take their business to another country.
I'm Matthew Chance in Moscow, where the view of President Trump has undergone a dramatic transformation. He entered the White House, promising to improve relations with Russia, even speaking of cooperating on international terrorism and joining forces in Syria.
But 100 days on, none of that has come to pass, Trump officials criticizing Russia for fueling conflicts in Ukraine, even ordering U.S. missile strikes on Russia's Syrian ally.
Part of the problem, lingering suspicions of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. There is also a sense that Russia and the U.S., even under President Trump, have very different priorities.
HOWELL: Matthew Chance there in Moscow, thank you so much for the reporting on Donald Trump's international reputation over the first 100 days.
Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, another provocation from North Korea, this one apparently timed for the president's 100th day in office.
ALLEN: Also we'll have more on Mr. Trump's first major milestone in the White House. Stay with us. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.
ALLEN (voice-over): And welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell with the headlines that we are following for you this hour.
HOWELL: More now on the story we are covering, the top story, North Korea's latest missile launch, the U.S. reaction to that.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper earlier.
ALLEN: And Kelly downplayed concerns that the launch was in response to Trump's remarks on Thursday, that there's a chance of a major conflict with North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I don't think they are fast enough to put a missile launch together based on what the president may or may not have said last night. This was probably something they had planned. They could certainly have slowed it down.
But they seem to be pretty intent on developing the capability, both missile technology as well as nuclear technology. And, you know, it's a real concern for anyone that knows about the possibilities of them linking a missile to a weaponized atomic device or a nuclear device.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: What is your response to critics who suggest that President Trump's language and rhetoric about the North Korean issue might actually be increasing tensions?
KELLY: Well, I don't think they're increasing tensions at all. This guy that is running or the dictator in North Korea is on his own program. You know, even China and others are trying influence him to stop his actions.
I think what Mr. Trump is doing, in my mind, is outlining the threat and the very real possibility that this guy, the dictator there, could have a nuclear weapon in the not -too-distant future that could be married to an ICBM.
I think any president that did not talk about it in stark terms would not be doing his job.
TAPPER: Do you think that Kim Jong-un is mentally unbalanced?
KELLY: Oh, heck, I don't know. You know, he seems like a -- he seems like someone who knows what he is doing. I mean, clearly, the number one thing in his mind is to remain in power. I think, in the dynamic of a dictatorship like that, he has got to do that by convincing everyone around him -- first of all, holding them all in stark terror and convincing everyone around him, that he is a strong man and he is willing to stand up and all of the rest of the rhetoric.
I think the only way to decide whether he is insane or not is to lay him on the couch and have a battalion's worth of psychiatrists talk to him and figure it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: President Trump will mark his 100th day in office with a big rally in Pennsylvania.
HOWELL: CNN's Dana Bash takes a closer look now at how being one of the most powerful leaders in the world has changed Mr. Trump and some of the ways that it has not changed him at all.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Candidate Trump's prediction about what President Trump would be like.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored.
BASH (voice-over): One hundred days in, no one is bored.
TRUMP: And I want to pray for Arnold if we can for those ratings, OK.
WHITFIELD: And if this former reality TV star was traditionally presidential, he would never say this about his U.N. ambassador.
TRUMP: Does everybody like Nikki? Otherwise, she can easily be replaced, right? We won't do that. I promise we won't do that.
BASH (voice-over): When it comes to personality, Donald Trump the president is the same guy he's always been and his supporters --
BASH (voice-over): -- wouldn't have it any other way.
KEN BLACKWELL, FORMER TRUMP TRANSITION ADVISER: What's refreshing about the president is that he is heart charging and I don't want to change that.
BASH (voice-over): Still, some Trumpian behavior is even more jarring coming from inside the White House. Going after judges as a candidate is one thing.
TRUMP: But I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater.
BASH (voice-over): It's another to do it as president repeatedly lashing out on Twitter against federal judges who rule against his executive orders even referring to one as a so-called judge.
Still, the magnitude of the office has changed Donald Trump in some ways. The vice president told us it was obvious from the first time he walked into the oval office.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He sat behind that desk. I could just tell from the look on his face how moved he was and the privilege that we feel, both of us, to serve our country at such a time as this.
BASH (voice-over): Which is probably why the political novice is changing some of his positions as he gets a high stakes on the job education especially on foreign policy. During the campaign --
TRUMP: NATO is obsolete.
BASH (voice-over): Now.
TRUMP: I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete.
BASH (voice-over): Candidate Trump.
TRUMP: China which has been ripping us off the greatest abuser in the history of this country.
BASH (voice-over): And Trump as president.
TRUMP: President Xi wants to do the right thing. We had a very good bonding.
BASH (voice-over): Trump changing positions should be no surprise to anyone. After all, before he ran as anti-abortion, anti-ObamaCare Republican, he had supported abortion rights and a universal health care system, which is why leading conservatives say they are relieved the president followed through on things like allowing states to deny funding to Planned Parenthood.
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CNS NEWS.COM: I wasn't sure, quite frankly, that Candidate Trump really believed things he was saying. I wasn't sure and particularly, for example, on pro-life issue but also other issues. I think when he came into office and he did the things that he did immediately, that he made it very clear he was serious about these things.
BASH (voice-over): But while he may have been serious about promising not to be the world's policeman, he changed his mind as commander-in- chief authorizing military strikes against Syria.
BASH (on camera): What do you say to voters back home to say wait a minute, this is not what I signed up for?
PENCE: I say to voters that President Trump is a man of his word. There are some that would like to see a greater American involvement in the Syrian conflict, but the president has made it clear. We had a response to that horrific attack that was measured. It was focused.
BASH (voice-over): So how much more change could we see and introspective Trump answered that himself.
TRUMP: I like to think of myself as a very flexible person. I don't have to have one specific way and if the world changes, I go the same way. I don't change. Well, I do change.
BASH (voice-over): Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.
HOWELL: To talk more about the president's flexibility, let's bring in Leslie Vinjamuri, who's professor of international relations at SOAS University in London.
It's good to have you with us, Leslie, to talk about the president's first 100 days in office. Let's take a look at this most recent poll, a CNN/ORC poll, that was conducted April 22nd through 25th, showing 44 percent of people approve of the president's time in office so far. And 54 percent disapprove. This poll certainly a snapshot of a divided nation.
You have some people that disapprove of him and those that say, let's give him time, it's just 100 days in office.
What are your thoughts here? LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS UNIVERSITY: Remember that the 44 percent, this is the lowest approval rating of any president in the post-war period. It's quite a remarkable number. Usually what would we see in the first 100 days is a relatively high approval rating. Remember, that Obama, who, at that point in America's history, the unemployment was 8.5 percent and yet, Obama hit 65 percent approval rating in the first 100 days.
So this is remarkably low and it suggests that Trump has been very effective at holding on to his base but he has lost a lot of people. Having said that, the polls are also showing if there was an election today, most people who voted for Donald Trump would still vote for him.
And that has a lot to do with the fact that there's no obvious alternative in town. Nonetheless, it's been a difficult period. He has not managed to push through any major proposals on the legislative front domestically, failed miserably on health care reform and I think there's a lot of dissatisfaction of what he is doing, which is not to say that people would vote him out of office.
HOWELL: Let's talk about the wins and losses. The president successfully put a --
HOWELL: -- new Supreme Court justice on the bench but again failed to pull enough support at the last minute to vote on Trumpcare.
VINJAMURI: That's right. I think that most people would say that his number one success so far has been the confirmation of the Supreme Court justice, Gorsuch, undoubtedly. A number of people, certainly his base, are probably strongly approving of some of the measures that he took to move to deregulate the economy.
And I think that we have seen some positive changes in terms of his appointments, his high-level appointments, getting rid of Flynn and appointing McMaster, very serious individual to be a national security adviser. Certainly gave many a degree of reassurance that foreign policy would be in much better hands.
But in terms of -- and then I guess the other notable dimension is that if you look at foreign policy, many of the things that he said that he would do, which would have been harmful to America's interests, he has not done and he has reversed course and we saw that just now, he supported NATO.
He's taken a very different line with respect to Japan, South Korea and China because he understands now how difficult the North Korea situation is. So a number of things that could have gone very wrong, have not gone wrong because he changed his position.
But not very many successes on -- in domestic politics. And I think that one of the most worrying things is that we now have 475 important appointments across the government that simply have not been made. So we have a government that can't really function on a daily level,
at the level of programs. We have 100 people who have not been appointed to very serious positions in the State Department. We have a president threatening to cut the State Department budget by 30 percent.
So even though at the grand level, some things seem more intact, at the level of making this government work, there's a lot of work left to be done and it does not look very good.
HOWELL: All right, well, let's touch on that, you talk about vacancies, cuts at the State Department, vacancies, positions that have not been filled yet. This is happening in a time of high tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea and South Korea, tensions there, both nations conducting military exercises and we saw this failed missile attempt. There's no U.S. ambassador there in South Korea at this point.
How important is it for the United States and the president to basically fill these vacancies and have a full infrastructure to deal with foreign policy?
VINJAMURI: It's tremendously important. It's always important but I would say it's even more important in this administration, where we have a secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who's had no government experience and who really needs to be able to draw on the deep expertise that exists across the foreign policy establishment.
Certainly on the question of North Korea, we have extraordinary expertise in Washington, waiting to serve. So not to have an ambassador in Japan, South Korea and China, not to have these key positions filled across this region but also in the State Department at the senior level, it's critical in terms of managing that day-to- day diplomacy, sending up the right analysis to the secretary of state, having those very considered and deliberative interagency discussions is crucial.
And that's the process, foreign policy making, at the level of process. I just simply -- we simply have not seen in this administration. Many of the measures that Donald Trump has taken. If we go back to the raid on Yemen, the attacks on Syria, they seem to be -- have been taken very quickly, very abruptly. The raid on Yemen was allegedly the decision was taken over dinner and without broad consultation.
The kind of consultation that is absolutely critical to thinking through the potential unintended consequences of the use of military force, of sanctions, of any number of things. And so that's really what we will be looking for in the next 100 days if this is going to be a successful foreign policy presidency.
HOWELL: Leslie Vinjamuri, live for us with context from London, thank you so much.
VINJAMURI: Thank you. ALLEN: Coming up here, Pope Francis, only the second pope to go to Egypt, is standing against violence in the name of religion as he makes his historic to that country.
HOWELL: We will head straight to mass for Christian worshippers as CNN NEWSROOM continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL (voice-over): Pope Francis, celebrating mass with worshippers in Egypt. This is the stadium in Cairo, where the mass is taking place.
ALLEN (voice-over): The pope's visit is an effort to build religious tolerance and promote peace. Coptic Christians have been targeted in Egypt; as you know, just recently in two deadly church bombing on Palm Sunday. CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher joins us now live from Cairo. She's following along on this trip.
And, Delia, thank you as always for bringing us the latest on the pope's travels and I want to ask, since the Palm Sunday bombings of people worshipping quietly in churches there, April 9th, happened recently, first of all, what is the security like for the pope as he arrives there and conducts this mass?
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can imagine, Natalie and George, security is very tight. From the Egyptian side, we have military police and policemen lining the streets; the streets are all blocked off. Helicopters surveying from above the pope's every move.
Of course, the Vatican said that, for them, it's business as usual. That they don't have any particular security concerns. The pope is traveling in a normal, unarmed car. He just went around the stadium where he's saying mass in a golf cart, to say hello to the people there.
And for the pope, it's more important than his own personal safety to come here, to be with the people, to give them a message of hope, of solidarity, from this Christian brother of theirs.
He is not the pope for most of the people here. You know, this is a 90 percent Muslim country. He is saying mass right now to about 30,000 Catholics. The Vatican said in the whole country there's only 150,000-200,000 Catholics. And then you have also got the Coptic Orthodox. And they are the Christians that you mentioned, suffered a series of ISIS bombings in their churches, resulting in numerous deaths.
So the pope wants to come in a brotherly way, in a solidarity way, as a Christian and as a brother as well, he said, to the Muslim community here -- Natalie.
ALLEN: All right, we thank you, Delia Gallagher, covering the pope's trip. Thank you very much, Delia.
HOWELL: Still ahead here it's almost May but parts of Western and Central U.S. are facing a winter storm warning.
While on the East Coast, Washington is facing projected record high temperatures, what is going on?
HOWELL: Our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, is all over this story and we will have the details for you, from the International Weather Center, as CNN NEWSROOM continues.
HOWELL: Some scary moments for people on board a plane that made an emergency landing. Aviation officials say this small plane you see lost a wheel after taking off in Belize and was forced to crash land in at its destination in Sarasota, Florida.
ALLEN: Fortunately, all four people inside got out, as you can see. No injuries. How fortunate they are. Aviation authorities of course are investigating how it lost its wheel.
HOWELL: My goodness.
ALLEN: That is this hour of CNN NEWSROOM, we are not going anywhere. We will be back, I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. More news right after the break.