tv CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield CNN March 19, 2017 11:00am-12:01pm PDT
of islamic fundamentalism and medical edens. -- and militancy. i wonder if an economic crisis would reawaken some of those forces. thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. i'll see you next week. hello, everyone. thank you very much for joining me on this sunday. i'm fredricka whitfield. president trump entering a pivotal week and facing questions on several fronts. it starts tomorrow on capitol hill. the fbi chief james comey testifies before congress. the focus -- the trump campaign's possible ties with russia during the election. and the president's unfounded claims that he was wiretapped by president obama. this morning, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are rejecting those claims. >> was there a physical wiretap of trump tower, no, there never
was? >> no evidence of the president's claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor. >> we've not seen of any evidence -- >> do you know of any evidence to support that allegation? >> jake, than i've seen, and not that i'm aware of. also happening this week, the president's supreme court pick faces his first test tomorrow. neil gorsuch steps into the spotlight as his confirmation hearing gets underway. thursday, house lawmakers will vote on the republican plan to repeal and replace obamacare. the question remains -- can trump win over health care holdouts inside his own party? just in to cnn, three of those holdouts were spotted meeting with the white house senior staff yesterday in mar-a-lago, florida. house speaker paul ryan insisted this morning he's not worried about the bill passing. >> the president is being -- bringing people to his table, and i'm impressed with how the president is helping us close this bill, making the improvements we've been making, getting the votes.
we feel very good where we are. >> we're covering all of these angles. let's begin with washington correspondent ryan noble. ryan, a huge amount on tap. >> reporter: no doubt about that. and you know, keep in mind the fbi has an ongoing investigation into the russian meddling in the investigation to understand and see if there's anything criminal to pursue. the investigation includes examining interactions with people connected to president trump, and this all started back in june as the primary campaign was wrapping up and a report that the server of the democratic national committee had been hacked. the initial hack was soon connected to the russian government. and wasting little time, hillary clinton's campaign manager linked the hack to then-candidate donald trump. >> they possessed those emails that russian state actors were feeding the emails to -- to hackers for the purpose of -- of helping donald trump. >> reporter: then, just as the democratic national convention was about to start, wikileaks unloaded a trove of dnc emails.
among them, damaging private conversations. it did not take long for the republican nominee, donald trump, to embrace the hack and russia's potential involvement. >> russia, if you're listening, i hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. >> reporter: as the clinton campaign worked to contain the political damage, trump refused to back down from his kind words about russia and its controversial leader, vladimir putin. >> i've already said he is really very much of a leader. far more than our president has been a leader. >> reporter: days before the second presidential debate in october, two major bombshells -- first, the department of homeland security and director of national intelligence issued a statement blaming russia for the hack. and second, wikileaks released another batch of stolen emails, unloading the inbox of top clinton adviser john podesta. at that debate, once again trump attempted to take the focus off russia. >> she doesn't know if it's the russians doing the hacking. maybe there is no hacking.
>> reporter: wikileaks wasn't done. more dnc emails were released on november 7th. the next night, a new president. >> i pledge to every citizen of our land that i will be president for all americans. >> reporter: as he started to build his new administration, trump still resisted blaming russia. >> it could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. i mean, they have no idea. >> reporter: president obama ordered a full review of how russia meddled in the election which concluded it was working to help trump. >> based on uniform intelligence assessments, the russians were responsible for hacking the dnc. >> reporter: just 22 days before trump took office, president obama imposed new sanctions on the russian government. on that same day, incoming national security adviser michael flynn spoke on the phone with russian ambassadorer is guy kysliak. he later texted the ambassador and met with him in person at trump tower, an official told
cnn. trump associates including vice president mike pence called the meetings introductory. >> they did not discuss anything having to do with the united states' decision to expel diplomats or -- or impose a sense sure against russia. >> reporter: but that turned out not to be true. flynn specifically spoke about the sanctions. but flynn wasn't the only one. some trump associates also held meetings with the ambassador at the republican national convention but insist there were only introductory gatherings. attendee j.d. gordon told cnn. senator jeff sessions was one of them. appearing before a senate hearing on his confirmation, he said this when asked about possible contacts between the trump campaign and russian officials -- >> i didn't -- did not have communications with the russians. and i'm unable to comment on it. >> reporter: after taking office, sessions, now attorney general, admitted that he, too, as a senator met with kisliak twice during the campaign. he said it was in his capacity
as a senator, not a member of the trump campaign. sessions decided to recuse himself from any investigation related to the campaign. amidst all of this, the president himself took to twitter, making this shocking claim -- "how low has president obama gone to tap my phones during this very sacred election process? this is nixon/watergate. bad or sick guy!" the accusation was made without any evidence to back it up but led the white house to ask congress to add this wrinkle to their broad investigation into russia's role in the election. at this point, even republicans contend the evidence just isn't there. >> i don't think there was an actual tap of trump tower. >> reporter: monday, congressional leaders will attempt to unpack the many layers of this controversy. with a goal of making the situation clear for the american people. the white house continues to insist there was no collusion between the trump campaign and the russian government, setting the stage for monday's hearing
where high-ranking officials such as fbi director james comey and national security agency director mike rogers will testify. >> thank you very much for that. let's talk more about thismethis. ron brownstein, analyst and with "the atlantic "with us, and david gergen, analyst and former adviser to presidents nixon, ford, reagan, and nixon. welcome to both of you. so this chorus of no evidence is getting louder on the eve of pivotal testimony from the fbi direct director james comey. take a listen. >> a president doesn't go and physically wiretap something. if you take the president literally, it didn't happen. >> no evidence of any wiretapping of trump tower? >> no -- there was no fiza warrant that i'm aware to have tap trump tower. >> i hope we can end this wild goose chase. what the president said was patently false, and the wrecking ball it created now has banged into our british allies and our germanal lights. it's continuing -- german allies.
it's continuing to grow in terms of damage. he needs to put an end to this. >> wild goose chase, a wrecking ball. ron, is there anything bigger than the president's credibility that is at stake sneer. >> and david can probably attest to this even more than i can which is what the president -- the words of the president matter. i mean, the cliche is it sends armies on the march. it sends markets rising and falling. you have a president who ran for election making a series of wild and unfounded allegations on a regular basis, who felt that he did not suffer any consequence for that, and has carried that with him into the presidency. i would just point out that on election day, one quarter of the people who vote for donald trump said they weren't sure that he was qualified or he had the temperament to succeed as president. they want to change, they didn't trust hillary clinton. and they were willing to give him a chance. when you look at the approval ratings that he's facing today, under 40% in gallup today, far below any new president at this point, i mean, his biggest enemy
at this point is himself. the agenda is polarizing. he is facing much more concern about those core questions that were there all the way through and were not fully resolved on election day about his personal fitness to be president. and as consequences compound, i think the doubts do, as well. >> so david, you know, the president remains defiant that he was wiretapped. he's sticking to that. and that president obama is to blame. this is trump on fox just last night. >> you know, he's been very nice to me personally. but his people haven't been nice. and there's great animosity out there. there's great anger. leaking is just one example of it. in some cases, a serious example of it. but leaking and the -- the level of anger is hard to believe. so while he's nice personally, there doesn't seem to be a lot of nice things happening behind the scenes. >> david, two weeks ago he called them sick, bad guy in his tweet. this seems -- this is very personal. what is behind president trump's
now-history of dislike or disdain of president obama? i think that they started politically. taking trying to take down the obama regime and elections. president obama treated him with respect, and it was returned by the incoming president trump. but since then it's fallen apart. and it's been very bitter. i think the first question, most immediate question in the hearings tomorrow -- and james comey is the -- this is the first time he will take the stand. he's the most able to clear this up. we've had a variety of people stepping forward saying there is no evidence. comey can say there is or isn't evidence. he can settle it once and for all. hanging over this is the larger question -- whether there was collusion between the trump forces and the russian forces to swing the election in trump's favor. that's the big question because that would be -- that's a very,
very serious issue. you know, that's -- that's a -- violates all sorts of lines, and what we've heard from the leading democrat on the house committee today is that there is circumstantial evidence, circumstantial evidence of collusion, and he thinks there is -- in his opinion, direct evidence of deception. so that takes us into new territory. and we'll have to see whether the fbi director tomorrow is willing to go that far. >> right. so ron, there are several investigations on the hill, something like five committees that are tackling all of these different areas as it pertains to russia and the trump administration. so is it your belief that comey will be able to answer to collusion? we know there's classified reports. how much will he be able to say? >> it's open session. my only expectations are limited about what we're going to learn on the underlying, and as david correctly points out, larger question looming over all of this is whether there was collusion during the campaign. my guess is that we're not going
to learn too much tomorrow. there's an interesting aspect of all of this which is that all of the -- the claim of wiretapping, all of the indications are so far that it did not happen. if it did happen, if there was, in fact, a surveillance order granted by a fizer court, what president trump would have done was to expose and thus undermine an ongoing, existing investigation. this is a strange allegations. it is true in some ways, it was more damaging for him than if it was false. >> right. so if -- go ahead, david. >> i think ron is absolutely right. i think comey can be definitive on whether there was any wiretapping. >> yes. >> i think you're right, he may be limited in what he can say or wants to say about ongoing investigations. if he gave us a sense that the investigations are wrapping up quickly or alternatively that they're going to go on for some
time, that will also give us a better sense of how grave are the allegations, how complicated is this. if it's a long investigation it may have more impact over time. it may be bigger than we think right now. >> we'll see if it will be put to rest. we'll see starting tomorrow. ron brownstein, david gergen, appreciate it so much. tomorrow's all important hearing tomorrow of capitol hill, cnn brings you a special preview tonight at 11:00 p.m. eastern time hosted by our john berman. you don't want to miss that. now coming up, how a baseless claim about the uk's spying on president trump leveled on russian tv made its way straight to the president's lips. to truly feel healthy on the outside you have to feel healthy... ...at your core. trubiotics a probiotic from one a day naturally helps support both your digestive and immune health by combining... ... two types of good bacteria. trubiotics. be true to your health.
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international incident. it reached another level on thursday when white house press secretary sean spicer cited false claims that a british spying agency through the orders of president barack obama was behind the wiretaps. spicer quoted fox news analyst judge andrew napolitano. >> on fox news, he said, "three intelligence sources informed fox news that president obama went outside the chain of command. he didn't use the nsa. he didn't use the cia. he didn't use the fbi. and he didn't use the department of justice. he used gchq. the initials for the british intelligence spying agency." >> a day later alongside german chancellor angela merkel, president trump said this -- >> we said nothing. all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. i didn't make an opinion on it. that was a statement made by a
very talented lawyer on fox, and so you shouldn't be talking to me. you should be talking to fox. >> and new today, we've learned former cia officer and former state department counterterrorism official larry johnson had a hand in the british intelligence agency rumor. brian stelzer sat down with johnson. >> reporter: let me ask you about this claim. >> sure. >> reporter: my sense is that on monday, napolitano says this on tv, says he has intel sources who believe this is true. you're saying you were one of those sources, but you didn't know that napolitano would use you like that. >> apparently what happened is i communicated -- when donald trump tweeted what he did on saturday, two weeks ago. the next day i was interviewed on "russia today." i had known that the british through ghcq were passing information back channel -- this was not done at the direction of barack obama. let's be clear about that. it was done with the full knowledge of people like john
brennan and jim clapper. and i had been told this by two different people i know within the intelligence community -- you know, in january, they were very concerned about this because they saw it as an unfair meddling of -- in politics, but it was a way to get around the issue of american intelligence agencies not collecting. >> you had this secondhand -- you didn't get this information directly, you were hearing it from others? >> i'm hearing it from people who are in a position to know. that's correct. now, i spoke on "russia today" two weeks ago. this thing didn't surface until judge napolitano brought it out. now if "russia today" was influential -- >> you're saying he's not that influential -- >> i'm telling that's the truth. who watches it? the fact that i spoke about it two weeks ago and it didn't even surface -- it wasn't even a blip anywhere in the u.s. news media. >> do you think it's appropriate for judge andrew napolitano to go fox and say this stuff based
on this kind of third or fourth-hand sourcing? >> i think the judge should have had a different approach to it. you know, what's ironic is, you know, i was a fox news analyst through most of -- through 2002, end of january, 2003. i never spoke to judge napolitano then and really had never spoken to him -- i hadn't spoken to him until he actually called me on saturday. so you know, the -- there's i guess a -- i supposed a little irony here. but the substance of what he's saying -- again, he didn't get it right, accurate either. i'm not saying that the british ghcq was wiretapping trump's tower. >> all right. media analyst bill carter joins me now. bill, good to see you. this is a real mess, isn't it? there's a lot of secondhand kind of information floating about here. and it really can be very confusing to various audiences of various types of media.
>> it sure can. i think you really see sort of layers here of fox news and a source to fox news and a source to fox news that believes this -- none of it really amounts to credible evidence. napolitano seemed to say at the beginning that it was -- he made the charge formally and said it was fox news -- not that he had learned. and fox news comes out and says, no, we never learned that at all. it completely undermined whatever credibility there was. and interestingly, this gentleman who, you know, had some basis to apparently float this rumor -- according to him he had his own sources -- he has his own background that's questionable. he's most famous for attacking michelle obama saying it was the video in the 2008 kmcampaign. he's a guy who hasn't built up a long distance lot of credibility to be the main source on a story like this.
>> what does there say about the credibility that perhaps the president is giving to some people who are disseminating information that doesn't really check out? >> the president has never been one to really be aligned closely to the facts. he doesn't have a very close relationship with that. so you know, he tends to go with what he thinks serves his interests best. and in this case, you know, he's looking for some way to get out of this box he put himself in with this, you know, charge that has no credibility, no base to it. so he's now seeing, well, maybe this fox story could help me out. we'll have -- we'll have sean spicer float that one. and maybe that will give me some wiggle room. i think he's looking for wiggle room at this point. he doesn't have to come out and apologize, which he'll never do anyway. there may be calls for him to apologize for being wrong and calling obama a sick guy. i think now he wants wiggle room. and maybe any of these little strands he's going to grab for. >> bill carter, thank you very much for you and your team bringing us that information and
that interview. appreciate it. new developments in the push to repeal and replace obamacare. we've learned three leading conservatives who previously opposed the gop health care bill met with senior white house staff at mar-a-lago in florida yesterday. that's coming up next. an unlimited data plan is only as good as the network it's on. and verizon has been ranked number one for the 7th time in a row by rootmetrics. (man) hey, uh, what's rootmetrics? it's the nation's largest independent study and it ranked verizon #1 in call, text, data, speed and reliability. (woman) do they get a trophy? not that i know of. but you get unlimited done right. (man 2) why don't they get a trophy? (man 3) they should get something. (woman 2) how about a plaque? i have to drop this. my arm's getting really tired. unlimited on verizon. 4 lines, just $45 per line.
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the gop from the president to the speaker of the house to get the american health care act passed. the vice president addressed krveg critics of the plan saturday in florida. he said lawmakers are adding a number of amendments to the bill that include ending state medication expansion immediately for those that didn't expand under obamacare. giving states the option of medicaid block grant funding that's designed to allow states to reform the program as they see fit. a state-imposed work requirement for able-bodied adults on medicaid, and there's also the possibility of premiums and co-pays. the clock is ticking and a number of republicans are undecided or voting no. house speaker paul ryan says he is confident he has the votes. >> i feel good about it. it's exactly where we want to be. the president is a great coalition forces. he's the one that's helped -- a
great closer. he's the one that's helped get us to the sweet spot. you've got to get 218 republicans who come from all different walks of life to come together to agree on the best possible plan to repeal and replace obamacare. and the reason i feel very good where we are, we all, all of us, all republicans in the house, senate, and the president made a promise to the american people that we would repeal and replace this faulty collapsing law, and we're going to make good on that promise. >> cnn white house correspondent athena jones is in palm beach for us. athena, we're learning now that three leading conservatives who have opposed the republican health care bill in the past were at mar-a-lago yesterday. and what do we know about what was discussed or if anyone changed their mind?
>> reporter: that's right. you have house conservatives saying it doesn't go far enough. senate conservative, many have similar concerns. that's why you're seeing this process of a package of amendments. and you've seen senator ted cruz, martin meadows, and mike lee, have come down yesterday, met with the president's key strategist, steve bannon, and with chief of staff reince priebus and others for a meeting that lasted three hours to talk about their concerns about the repeal effort. we know the meeting was described by a republican aide who told my colleague lauren fox that the meeting was intense and productive. they described steve bannon as receptive to the concerns of the house conservatives, and they describe reince priebus as one who was pushing the plan that has been championed by speaker ryan. we know some of the things that were brought up. they want to see medicaid expansion phased out sooner. that is -- that is an idea that
house conservatives also back. they want to repeal more regulations including the idea that insurance programs should offer essential -- certain essential health benefits. they also want to repeal the 26-year-old -- that children can stay on their parents' plan until age 26. we already know that's a provision that the president supports. he's been vocal about his support of that. it was an extended meeting, and the white house is open to working with members of congress to make sure that they can win enough votes for passage since this is a major campaign promise. fred? >> all right. athena jones, thank you very much. the issue of coverage versus access was a hot topic for human health and services secretary dr. tom price. this morning on cnn's "state of the union," he seemed to back the president's claim that everyone can get health care coverage. >> everyone -- every american will have access to the kind of coverage that they want.
remember what the president talked about in his joint session? he said we've got to make sure that those with pre-existing condition and injury are covered. we've got to provide the states the flexibility that they need to fashion their medicaid program for their population in a way that works for patients. to make certain that we had tax credits for folks so that every single american has the financial feasibility to purchase coverage, to address the purchase across state lines, to make certain that we're driving down drug costs. to make certain that we addressed the lawsuit abuse that exists in our country in the area of health care that drives up the costs for so many individuals. the plan in its entirety is one that we believe will be -- will be strong, will be efficient, will make it so that every single american has access to the kind of coverage that they want, not that the government forces them to buy. >> joining me now is david gergen, back with us, cnn political analyst and former presidential adviser to four presidents. and ron brownstein, back with us, cnn senior political an lid -- analyst and editor at "the
atlantic." ron, you first. the issue of affordability versus access. tom price is saying that everyone has access, but that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone could get it, does it in that plan? >> like the old saying that the rich and poor are equally free to sleep under the bridge. afford ability is the key to access. what they're saying is it doesn't withdraw the expansion of coverage fast enough. the context is the congressional budget office, you know, last week calculated that the republican repeal plan would increase the number of uninsured by 24 million by 2026, doubling the share of americans without insurance and essentially wiping out all of the gains of the aca and leaving us back where we were before. i think david lived through this in the clinton white house. my experience has been cover in, since the republicans took over in 1994, the gingrich era,
boehner era, they've found a way to get whatever bill through the house usually by moving it to the right. i will be surprised if they're unable to do that this week. and then that will focus the issue exactly where it should be, on the handful of senate moderates, particularly from states that expanded medicaid, that would suffer big losses of coverage even among the core older blue collar and lower white income voters at the center of the republican coalition, whether they are willing to stand against what will be changes that will make i think the bill even more difficult for their states as the price of getting it out of the house. >> david, when paul ryan says we're exactly where i want to be, does he mean that, that it's going to be an easy sell for the 25 republicans who are saying no, or flat-out leaning no? >> no. i think he's guilty a little bit -- to come back to ron's point, there's a widespread assumption in the community that paul ryan would not be bringing this to a vote on thursday unless he -- unless he thought he was safe in getting a vote.
i think we will have a favorable vote coming out of the house. donald trump has weighed in in the final weeks in a fashion that seems to be fairly effective. you know, we often talked about president obama didn't -- was a reluctant warrior sometimes when it came to negotiating with the politicians. but trump has thrown himself into this. one thing ron could address -- once they get a bill through the house, if that happens thursday, a bill that goes to the right, that becomes the republican proposal. signed off by the president and house leadership. that proposal is by tightening up on medicaid even more rapidly, making other changes to the right, the numbers of people who will be without insurance are going to go up, not down. they're going to defend the bill in a public that is beginning to
have a lot of second thoughts about whether they want this particular replacement. >> fred, i think this clarifies one key dynamic here. you've had almost all of the interest groups in the health care space say they oppose the bill. the american medical association representing the doctors, the american hospital -- >> aarp -- >> aarp. and -- but very few are doing much of anything. in fact -- particularly the hospitals which have the most at stake, you know, parts of what the affordable care act did was reduce the uncompensated care that hospitals provided. the millions they provide in care for people who lack insurance. the expansion of medicaid has been extremely helpful to them on that front -- >> is it unusual that they would not will to put their fingerprints on it? >> it is unusual. i think they are -- >> they think it's a gamble, too? >> there's reluctance to cross the republican leadership and president trump. they were heavily involved in the 1993 fight over the clinton proposal and the 2009 over
obamacare. if these groups are indeed opposed to what's happening, once it gets out of the house, there's a thin line between that and it becoming law. secretary generally there's a landsful of -- essentially there's a handful of governors, as well, opposed the repeal. as david said, what they have to do on medicaid is take it away from more people more quickly, which adds more pressure, particularly in blue-collar states. if you look at states like states that tip the election, ohio, michigan, iowa, pennsylvania -- >> the states -- >> all of the states, the majority of people getting coverage were the non-college whites at the core of his coalition. >> quickly, david, button it up? >> absolutely. the face will get much tougher after the house vote. if it passes the house, the fight is going to get really, really tough. there are a lot of interests that would hate the bill that would come out. there's going to be serious sharp division in the country about it. >> yeah. many are saying even if it passes the house, it's likely dead on arrival in the senate. anything can happen. these days, anything does
happen. all right. ron brownstein, david gergen, thank you very much. appreciate it. >> thank you. senate democrats are getting ready to grill president trump's supreme court pick. coming up, how much opposition judge neil gorsuch will face at his confirmation hearing tomorrow. presents, how to win at business. step one: ask the presenter to "go back a slide." well played. you just tossed a mind grenade into into your colleagues' dulled senses. look at them, "what did i miss?" he one-upped me once again. step two: choose la quinta. and your la quinta reward points can be redeemed for everyday purchases on the go so you can win at business. learn more at lq.com today.
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the north and the south are mine. all seems beautiful to me. to take advantage of this offer on a volvo s90, visit your local dealer. tomorrow president trump's pick for supreme court justice, neil gorsuch, will be on capitol hill for start of his confirmation hearing. he could be in for several days of intense questioning. trump tapped the colorado appellate judge to replace the late antonin scalia. gorsuch's confirmation would be a big win for the white house after multiple frustrations and setbacks on confirmations and challenges on trump's travel ban. democrats are skeptical of gorsuch and may try to block him with a filibuster while republicans are confident he will be confirmed. >> i think it's 50/50 whether the democrats filibuster.
they don't have any good arguments against gorsuch, but they're furious that we're going to have a conservative nominated and confirmed. i'll tell you this, judge gorsuch will be confirmed. he will either get 60 votes and be confirmed, or otherwise what other procedural steps are necessary, i believe within a month or two, neil gorsuch will be an associate justice of the supreme court. >> all right. joining me now to discuss this is cnn supreme court reporter aryan devogue. will it be easy confirmation for gorsuch? >> it's interesting because the supreme court confirmation hearings really represent the first and the last chance for congress to grill a potential nominee. you know, if gorsuch is confirmed, he gets life tenure. he's almost untouch animal. so tomorrow we'll see -- untouchable. so tomorrow we'll see the senators use their opening statements to really look at his records. that's going to last for about three hours. and then we'll hear from gorsuch. he's really eloquent. he's likely to talk about the limited role of a judge. and then on tuesday, that's when
the tough questions start. the republicans, they're going to examine his paper trail, and the democrats are really in a tough position here. they're furious that obama's nominee, merit garland, didn't get in. they also know they're replacing a conservative with a conservative. they're returning the court really to the status quo before scalia's death. they may choose here to save some firepower. just in case trump down the road gets another nominee, maybe somebody who is, you know, more liberal. so we'll see what happens tomorrow. >> all right. you mentioned the monday and a tuesday. but you know, it wasn't that long ago that a hearing for a supreme court justice might be 90 minutes long. you know, in today's political climate. they go days long. so what's the expectation as to how long it could go this week or into a following week? >> well, you're absolutely right. they used to be much shorter. right now we're looking at monday and then tuesday and wednesday for the questions, and then probably it will come to a close on thursday.
that's the goal right now for the republicans. >> all right. arianna devogue, thank you very much. >> thank you. schoolkids practicing a missile drill, an entire town bracing for an attack. we'll tell you why this city in japan is preparing for the worst. (announcer vo) when you have type 2 diabetes
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u.s. secretary of state rex tillerson is on his way home after a meeting with chinese president xi jinping this morning. xi urged more coordination on what he called regional hot spots. it's being called a friendly meeti meeting, but cnn has learned that away from the cameras the conversations between the two turned very candid.
hours before the meeting took place, north korea claimed success in testing a new type of rocket engine. the u.s. has repeatedly called on beijing to use its leverage to rein in north korea. tillerson said on his trip that the u.s. is prepared to consider military options if provoked by north korea. as a threat from a north korean attack grows, one town in japan is actually preparing for that threat becoming a reality. ivan watson has the story of how people in a coastal town are getting ready for a missile strike. >> reporter: japanese schoolchildren at play joined by teachers who sometimes join in the fun until they're interrupted. ♪ >> reporter: at the sounds of the siren, children hit the deck and wait for further instructions. this is a drill, a loud speaker announces.
a missile has been launched. this is japan's first missile evacuation exercise, a simulation preparing people for the threat of a possible north korean missile strike against this country. >> the japanese government is trying to demonstrate that as north korea's missile program grows more sophisticated communities like this could become a target. when it's all over, a government official thanks the volunteers and promises the japanese armed forces will do all they can to shoot down north korean missiles. earlier this month, neither japan nor its u.s. and south korean allies could stop north korea from successfully firing at least four missiles in a single day. three of them landed in the sea less than 200 nautical miles from the small coastal town.
in this sleepy fishing port, locals are waking up to a growing threat. "it's scary," says this fisherman who's just hauled in freshly caught octopus. "you never know what they'll do next." for some the missile exercise brings back painful memories. "during world war ii, we performed evacuation drills," this 89-year-old tells me. we put on gas masks and dug tunnels to hide in and, in the future, we might have to do that again. the principal of the main elementary school here says his students need to be prepared for a manmade disaster. "usually we perform drills for natural disasters," he says. but the potential threat from a missile is beyond imagination. in addition to its fresh air and seafood, this remote corner of japan is famous for a fairytale
monster that kept kids awake at night. now there's a very real threat that may leave everyone here losing sleep. ivan watson, cnn, japan. >> we have so much more straight ahead in the newsroom. stay with us. ♪ everyone wants to be irish on st. patrick's day - because the irish have all the fun. ancestrydna can reveal your true irish roots, even if you never knew they were there. with a simple dna test, you can discover if you're irish, or one of 25 other ethnicities. so save 10% on ancestrydna right now - and find out just how much fun you'll have. save on ancestrydna through sunday.
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critical week and fbi chief james comey testifies before congress. the focus, the trump campaign's possible ties with russia during the election, and the president's unfounded claims that he was wiretapped by president obama. this morning, lawmakers are both sides of the aisle are rejecting those claims. >> was there a physical wiretap of trump tower? no, but there never was. >> no evidence to support the president's claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor. >> we have not seen evidence of any of the like that you've described. >> did you know of any evidence to support that allegation? >> jake, not that i've seen, and not that i'm aware of. >> also happening this week, the president's supreme court pick faces his first test. tomorrow, neil gorsuch steps in to the spotlight as his confirmation hearing gets underway. then on thursday, house lawmakers will vote on the republican plan to repeal and replace obamacare. the question remains, can trump win over health care holdouts inside his own party?
just in to cnn, three of those holdouts were spotted meeting with white house senior staff yesterday at mar-a-lago in florida. house speaker paul ryan insisted this morning he's not worried about the bill passing. >> the president is being -- bringing people to his table, and i'm impressed with how the president is helping us close this bill, making the improvements that we've been making, getting the votes. we feel very good where we are. >> we're covering all the angles with our team of reporters and political experts. let's begin with cnn washington correspondent ryan nobles. so ryan, what are lawmakers saying about alleged ties between the trump campaign and russia leading into tomorrow's hearing? >> reporter: yeah, these hearings are really going to mark a flash point in the ongoing controversy about russia as they tend to influence the american election. and while there's been a lot of attention paid to the president's claim that president obama tapped him at trump tower, the bigger reveal may be if investigators have found any evidence of the russians working directly w