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North Korea Willing to Talk to U.S. About Giving Up Nukes; Top Intel Chief: No Policy on Russia Election Interference; Former Russian Spy Poisoned in U.K. Park; Key Republicans Push for End to House Intelligence Russia Investigation. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 6, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I want you to listen to what the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said about North Korea. Listen to this.


LT. GEN. ROBERT P. ASHLEY JR, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: The biggest change we've seen in Kim Jong-Un from his father is the rigor in training. Prior, with his father, he did not have the level of discipline. He did not have the level of rigor that we would normally associate to what you do to get a force ready to go to war. Kim Jong-Un has taken that readiness aspect very, very seriously. They do not have the capability that could reunite the peninsula, but there is a significant capability it's over the 38th Parallel in terms of the amount of damage they could do with their conventional forces in a conflict.


BLITZER: People aren't necessarily fully aware of how much damage would be done. Forget about nuclear capabilities, forget about intercontinental ballistic missiles, the conventional warfare that's positioned by the North Koreans along the DMZ is enormous and could extraordinary casualties.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS & FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: That's right, Wolf. You're talking about 25 million South Koreans that are directly vulnerable. You're talking about 32,000 American troops that are right there, plus the 50,000 in Japan. You're right, the artillery of the North Korean, the capability is very strong. They've got almost two million individuals in arms, men in arms. Training has been accelerated. You're absolutely right. This man is different than his father. With the father, as you recall, we were there, you can kind of make a deal with him, but with this young man, I think he has a plan. I think he's unpredictable, but he's somebody that we're going to have to contend with. And he's somebody that seems to be getting his act together in terms of saying, this is what I want. And western countries, six- party talks, countries, U.S., South Korea and Japan, now you have to come to me, and I think that's what's happening right now.

BLITZER: We'll see if the North Koreans launch another intercontinental ballistic missile or have another nuclear test. They haven't had anything since November. And we'll see how they react to next month's scheduled U.S./South Korean military exercises, which they always, as you know, always hate.

Governor Bill Richardson, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: One of the top intelligence chief says the Russians are targeting the midterm elections, but the U.S. still doesn't have a policy on interference. We have new information. Stick around.


[13:36:38] BLITZER: "No policy to combat Russian acts of war in cyberspace," at least not yet - that's the assessment of Dan Coats, the U.S. director of National Intelligence. He made the comment during a hearing on worldwide threats before the Senate. Listen to this.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: This is an ongoing process in terms of how we put together a strategy and a policy to deal with this and to counter this.


COATS: Each agency is well aware of the need that has impacted, is well aware of the need to do this. But as I did say, you know, one coherent strategy between the executive branch and the congressional branch has not been put into place yet.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, (D), HAWAII: The 2017 elections are right around the corner. Why do we not have a whole of government strategy already in place?

COATS: Well, as I said, it is in process. The White House is actively engaged. There has not yet been a formulation of a lead agency that would work with the Congress on legislative action and putting a policy in place.


BLITZER: Let's discuss that and more. Joining us from Capitol Hill, South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds. He's a Republican. He's a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, is that trouble to you that there hasn't been a lead agency tasked with dealing with this very, very real Russian threat?

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: It is troubling to us. We have recognized the challenge. We started several years ago with the National Defense Authorization Act trying to lay out a directive to define an active war in cyberspace and then to define other activities that might lead to a war in cyberspace. We understand it's not an easy thing to do, but we think that to have a cohesive policy and one that lays out not just our defensive plans, but our offensive capabilities would be very helpful. We've received word from the Science Board for the Department of Defense that for the next 10 years, our defensive capabilities will not be capable of stopping offensive capabilities of our near-peer competitors. And the only way we're going to get results is going to be to have an offensive capability that makes them think twice about interfering. Not just in financial activities or in trying to get into the transportation systems, but also into the elections process as well.

BLITZER: The DNI, the director of National Intelligence, Director Coats, he also spoke about his desire for what he described as an offensive plan for cyber security. But do you agree with him, Senator, that the Trump administration, it needs to go on the offensive right now against Russia on cyberattacks? As you know, they still haven't implemented the sanctions that the Senate and House overwhelmingly passed. The State Department received all the millions and millions of dollars to do something. They haven't spent a penny of it yet. What's going on here, basically?

ROUNDS: Well, to begin with, there does have to be the capability, the offensive capability shown to Russia, as well as some other peer competitors, that if they're going to mess around in cyberspace, there will be consequences. That has not been occurring to this point, and that's one of the reasons why they continue to do so.


[13:40:06] BLITZER: The question, Senator -- excuse me for interrupting -- why? What's the delay? Why is there such a thunderous silence coming out from the administration?

ROUNDS: I don't know. What I do know is that when you start looking at a comprehensive strategy, it's not just responses in cyberspace that you're talking about. You could be talking about trade sanctions. You could be talking about offensive activities with regard to some military activity. But clearly, it's -- you know, when we talk about the domains of war, you have air, land, sea, space and cyberspace. They're messing around in cyberspace more than anything else. When they mess around in cyberspace, and they're coming in and testing our will, then until such time as they get feedback, strong, positive feedback, they're going to keep on doing it.

Now, let me just explain a little bit about the challenge we've got here. Right now, we've got entities that like to be in cyberspace that have really good capabilities here in the United States. These are the entities that listen to what the other guys are doing. This is where we get our intelligence information, our signals information. We are very, very good at collecting that information. But that also means we've got to be silent in those areas. And since we're into their systems, and they know we're in there, they just can't find us, if we start messing with their systems, we give up that capability. So on one side, we've got the desire to stay silent and gather as much data as we can. On the other side, we want to be offensively minded. But when you use a cyber tool, then it's easy for them to figure out where it comes from, and then they can begin blocking it for later use. BLITZER: So what's your bottom line message to the president right

now? What would you like to hear from him?

ROUNDS: Well, first of all, that clearly offensive capabilities are at his disposal, and that he's not afraid to use them. And that at the right time and the right place, he's going to slap somebody's hands hard, and that that message should be very clear to our near- peer competitors, that when they mess around in cyberspace, there will be a penalty to be paid.

BLITZER: Senator Mike Rounds, thanks so much for joining us.

ROUNDS: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: Coming up, a former Russian spy clinging to life after being found poisoned in a public park. Who did it? And why doctors still can't figure out what's killing him.


[13:46:44] BLITZER: A former Russian double agent is in critical condition after being exposed to what authorities are describing only as an unknown substance. Russia is denying any involvement.

Let's go to our international correspondent Phil Black. He's in Salisbury, England.

Phil, have police discussed a motive for the attack?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, not specifically yet. But today, the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, walked a very delicate line between almost threatening Russia and, at the same time, not yet accusing Russia of being directly involved in this just yet. But the shadow of Russia hangs all over this because of an incident that was very similar in many ways, the targeted assassination of a former Russian agent back in 2006 in London. Back then, the substance was a highly radioactive substance, Polonium-210. Now, this time, the authorities say they're still working to find out precisely what the unknown substance was. But it's had this very grave effect on the former Russian agent.

The involvement of anti-terror police, they're leading the investigation not because they believe this is a terror incident, but because it's been determined that this case needs their specialty, their capabilities, their resources to get to the bottom of what precisely has caused this.

The former agent we're talking about, Sergei Skripal, he was a former officer in the Russian military intelligence. In 2006, arrested and accused of selling secrets to British intelligence. Then in 2010, he was part of a spy swap between Russia and the West, and he came to settle here in a part of southern England that is really known for being quite beautiful and pleasant and quiet. It seems he has tried to carve out a life for himself in the years since. That all dramatically fell apart on Sunday afternoon when he was found collapsed on a bench just in the park behind me, along with his 33- year-old daughter, Yulia. The authorities are now scrambling to find out why and how this happened. And it's possible that the facts, once they're revealed, could really violently shake up relations between Russia and the United Kingdom -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Let's see what happens.

Phil, thank you very much for that very disturbing report of Phil Black, from England.

Other news we're following here in Washington, are Republicans on Capitol Hill getting ready to shut down the House Russia investigation? The House Intelligence Committee investigation. There is new information. We'll be right back.


[13:53:34] BLITZER: Happening right now, on Capitol Hill, key Republicans are pushing for an end to the Russian investigation being conducted by the House Intelligence Committees.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, joining us from Capitol Hill.

Manu, you have a chance to speak with committee members. What are they telling you?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, Wolf, are saying this investigation is hitting the end of the road and they want to issue a report soon and make this conclusion: that this was no collusion between Russian and Trump associates. But there is one issue, if they go that route, which they expect to do pretty soon, is Democrats do not agree. They believe there are a number of areas that have not been sufficiently investigated and they believe there are a lot of concerning signs about Russian efforts to coordinate with the Trump campaign that has not been fully probed.

Still Republicans, including Pete King and Mike Conaway, who I spoke with earlier today, made it clear that the investigation could be soon hitting the end of the road.


REP. PETER KING, (R), NEW YORK: I think it's done as far as we can. But it's not for me to decide. I would say, to me, I don't see anybody else out there. And I believe the Senator is on the same page.

RAJU: Do you feel it has run this investigation has run its course at this point?

REP. MIKE CONAWAY, (R), TEXAS: All the investigations have a natural conclusion. It seems everybody we interviewed, we will have to get the report finalized and roll it out from there.

(CROSSTALK) CONAWAY: Every investigation ought to have a conclusion, including this one. So we're coming towards the end of it.


[13:55:02] RAJU: And, Wolf, on Thursday, the House committee will interview former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowsky, who initially came before the committee and would not answer questions about topics after he left the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016. But after Lewandowsky comes, Wolf, a lot of questions of whether there will be significant witnesses coming forward. That can mean this investigation was, full of partisan infighting, could very soon be hitting the end -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Even though the Democrats, they want to bring back and invite many, many other witnesses to come before the committee. The Republicans say enough, as far as they're concerned, is enough.

Manu, thank you very much. Manu Raju, with that last report up on Capitol Hill.

President Trump denying chaos inside the White House despite lots of evidence to the contrary.

The president, by the way, getting ready. He'll be holding a joint news conference later this afternoon with the visiting prime minister of Sweden. He will be taking questions from reporters. We will, of course, have live coverage of that. All that and a lot more, coming up.