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North Korean Missile Test; Trump and Putin Hold Bilateral Meeting; Russia and China on North Korea Plan; State's won't Give Info to Commission; Dems Back Bill to Oust Trump. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 4, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:08] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Happy Fourth of July. Thank you for tuning in to CNN on your holiday.
We have to talk North Korea. The North Korea's claimed that it successfully launched its first ICBM, that's intercontinental ballistic missile. Something a U.S. official now says the probable. It would be a significant advancement in the regime's effort to build a nuclear weapon capable of actually reaching U.S. soil.
The launch triggering an emergency meeting of President Trump's national security team. You have Japanese officials saying the missile may have landed in their exclusive economic zone, some 200 miles from Japan's coast. After this launch, President Trump mocked Kim Jong-un, on Twitter, asking if he, quote, "has anything better to do with his life," and suggested it is time for China to increase pressure on North Korea.
This comes as the president of the United States is preparing for a crucial international trip to Germany to the G-20 Summit where his face to face meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has gone from a sidelines talk to a full-fledged bilateral meeting.
So let's begin the hour with Ryan Browne. He's standing by for us in the Pentagon.
Ryan, we know national security, military, diplomatic officials from the Trump administration, they're holding this unplanned July Fourth meeting talking option. What are the options?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, that's right, Brooke. In fact, one of the things this meeting was doing was actually assessing that North Korean missile launch that took place yesterday to determine exactly what kind of missile was indeed fired. Now the -- that they've revised their initial assessment, they first thought it was an intermediate range missile, something we've seen before. Now a U.S. official telling me that the new assessment is that with high confidence it's probable that it was an intercontinental ballistic missile. Something that they have not seen before. It actually fired in two stages. Another kind of technological signal that North Korea has been advancing their missile technology with all these tests. So, again, this is something that has kind of changed the calculation, if you will, in this fact that it's an ICBM.
So, again, the military is going to review -- and all the security diplomatic officials are reviewing options, including potential sanctions, trying to marshal other countries in the region to put pressure on Pyongyang and the North Korean regime, but also potential military options, including potentially stationing additional assets, ships, troops, airplanes in the region as kind of a show of support and solidarity to U.S. allies, Japan and South Korea. So, again, these are some of the things being -- people being discussed in the wake of this revelation that the U.S. now believes that it was indeed an ICBM that was fired yesterday.
BALDWIN: Ryan, thank you. We're going to loop back to this point in just a moment. But also just, let me tell you, the backdrop of this. We just learned President Trump and President Putin will no longer have a brief, on the go, sort of sidelines meeting. Instead, it will be a face-to-face sit-down.
So let's go to Kaitlan Collins. She's covering the White House for us today.
Kaitlan, the White House has said that President Trump and President Putin would focus on, they say, the U.S.'s priorities being Ukraine and Syria. But with this now ICBM, the North Korean threat, how is the White House perhaps preparing to change focus?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, the topic could definitely include that now. The White House has confirmed that they will have an official bilateral meeting. That's different than what we were hearing last week, which was sounding more like a casual pull- aside. But though they've clarified the format of the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, they have not clarified what the agenda will be. We're told that the administration will likely bring up Ukraine and Syria, but it also could include North Korea now.
Now this meeting is coming at the end of this week where the Chinese president will also attend the G-20 Summit in Germany. He was in Russia today where he had a meeting with Vladimir Putin and the two men held a joint press conference after and they also issued statements where they said that the North Korean missile test was unacceptable. They suggested talks for defusing talks in North Korea, which included North Korea putting a moratorium on all of its nuclear testing, but that also included the United States and South Korea refraining from any large-scale military exercises. They -- China and Russia both said that they oppose the deployment of the U.S. anti- missile defense system and they also said that they think the confronting parties should all sit down and talk about this.
Now, we're not sure if that's going to happen. We have not heard anything from that, from the United States, but that is something that could get brought up. Before he went to Russia today for his meeting with Vladimir Putin, the Chinese president said that there were some negative factors that were hurting the U.S./China relationship. Donald Trump has long said that he thinks China should be able to put pressure on North Korea and have them reign in their nuclear testing program and that will likely come up when the two men meet later this week at the G-20 Summit.
BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you.
Let's dive into all of this. Aaron David Miller is with us, CNN global affairs analyst. Also with us, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. He's a CNN military analyst.
So, gentlemen, Happy Fourth. Thanks for swinging by for us today. We have a lot to talk about, beginning, Aaron, with, you know, North Korea. They aimed high. This was the highest altitude ever reached by a North Korean missile. Apparently to limit the distance traveled outright to avoid a major international incident. But what does that in and of itself tell you?
[14:05:17] AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, whether it's intermediate or intercontinental, and I guess we've not yet weighed in on that, the reality is, if the situation continues the way it's been, they're going get there one way or another. It's only a matter of time before they'll be able to miniaturize the warhead, find a missile with the range and have the capacity to hit the continental United States. And that is the strategic problem. And there's no point dancing around it. The options are bad, but the Trump administration now has the con and it's going to have to figure out a way to deal with it because all of these things are likely to happen on its watch.
BALDWIN: Before we get to options, let me just hone in on your point, how the biggest fear is for their -- to mount this miniature nuclear warhead on this long range missile. And so, colonel, to you. We know just reading today, Kim Jong-un has tested more missiles than his father and grandfather combined. I found that noteworthy. What are the true capabilities of an ICBM?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, anything that goes longer than 5,500 kilometers, that's the benchmark. So you're talking like 3,500 miles constitutes an ICBM. Now, that won't get you even to Alaska. But as Aaron said, they're going to keep testing these missiles and this missile testing is accelerated, as you say, more than in the past. And they're going to keep going until they get the range they need to meet their goal. Their goal is to be able to put a nuclear warhead on the continent of the United States.
Now, they'll get there. The Koreans are good engineers and today's test just affirms that they've got a two-stage missile that can go the distance. Now they have to come up with the miniaturizing warhead. The problem is, we can watch what they're doing with testing the missiles. We don't know where their warhead design is. They could be almost there and we wouldn't know it.
BALDWIN: OK. As to the president of the United States' response, Aaron, we read the tweet, "does this guy," being Kim Jong-un, "have anything better to do with his life." We know that he urged North Korea's biggest ally, China, to, quote, "put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all." I mean, does this show you that the president is still coming to grips with the intentions of the North Koreans? Because, to me, it sounds like he has no idea what Japan, China, South Korea, may even be doing or not doing moving forward.
MILLER: I mean, look, whether or not the president has faced up to the ultimate conundrum that he faces and that we all face is unclear. And the reality is this, if -- we cannot bomb or won't because it's too risky. And the reality is, for all the reasons Colonel Francona knows far better than I, and if we won't negotiate, and right now it's clear, at least publicly, and I'll draw a distinction between the public dimension of this and perhaps what might be or I would argue what should be happening privately, if we won't negotiate, then, in fact, the default position is as Colonel Francona -- as Rick laid it out. Sooner or later, and probably sooner, they're going to get everything they need.
Now, do I believe that Kim Jong-un is going to launch preemptively an ICBM with a nuclear warhead against the United States? Probably not. But who in 2017 wants to live under the constant shadow and fear of such an eventuality?
MILLER: So that's the dilemma the president faces. And, in my judgment, there are no military options. You can't contract this out to China. They are not going to deliver. We're going to have to figure out some way to start talking to the North Koreans. And it's fraught to test the possibility that maybe over time you could have a phased process that would at least slow them down because if you can't do that, we're going to be facing a far greater problem a lot sooner than we think.
BALDWIN: Well, you know who is talking, apparently, about options with North Korea that doesn't include the United States is Russia and China. We know that Putin is meeting with Xi today and apparently they will try and solve the Korean crisis.
So, colonel, your thoughts on that meeting, a, and, b, I also find it noteworthy that this is, you know, just a couple of days before the highly touted Putin/Trump meeting. And what do you think Putin's play is here?
FRANCONA: Well, I'm encouraged. I know a lot of people think that nothing will come of this, but I'm encouraged that the Chinese and the Russians have actually said this is unacceptable because those are two countries that actually have influence in North Korea. So if everybody can agree where we want to go, then we just figure out, how do we get there? And I agree with Aaron, that there are no real viable military options.
Now, there are steps that we can take. We can move more anti-ballistic missile defenses into the area, the (INAUDIBLE) cruisers, complete the deployment of the THAAD system, things like that. But we are far, far away from any kind of preemptive military strike on North Korea and we should take good advantage of that time and work with the Chinese and work with the Russians. It's worth a try. I think right now, the situation's going to get so dire so fast that we should be taking advantage of any opportunity we have to keep this on a political, diplomatic level. [14:10:27] BALDWIN: Aaron, do you share the same optimism?
MILLER: You know, I wish I could. You can't --
BALDWIN: Yes, that sounds like a no.
MILLER: You cannot get from where we are now to denuclearization, which is apparently where Secretary Tillerson and the president want to go. And, clearly, that would be the optimum outcome to denuclearize, bring North Korea back into the international community, press them on human rights. But the reality is, once you acquire nuclear weapons, it's real -- particularly for a state that feels itself so profoundly insecure and so grandiose, it's just a real problem.
BALDWIN: Tough to get them to go back.
MILLER: It's tough to -- you know, the horse, the cow, the dog, whatever animal you want to use, is out of the barn on this one. It's not Iran, where, in fact, there was a transactional arrangement, an arms control agreement to delay. That's not what we're dealing with here. By 2020, it's estimated they'll have half the nuclear arsenal of the Brits.
So, again, I think the Russians and the Chinese are important. But let's be clear, Brooke, and I think Rick knows this too. Whatever they do for us, we're going to have to pay big time to the North Koreans, either in recognition or lifting of sanctions or some tempering of our military exercises. We're not going to get the Russians, and the Chinese are not (ph) clearly more important. You're not going to get President Xi to basically do this for us without a price. And that price right now is not acceptable to this administration.
On Russia, gentlemen, let's just look ahead briefly to this bilateral, full-fledged bilateral meeting, no longer this informal pull-aside in Hamburg, Germany, between President Trump and President Putin.
Colonel, to you. I mean this is unlike the quick pull-aside of President Obama and President Putin's two years ago. What sort of message, just the way in which the U.S. has agreed to hold this meeting, what message, what are the optics of this that this sends to Russia?
FRANCONA: Well, I think it's a realization that the situation in all these areas, Ukraine, Syria, and now North Korea, are at the point where we actually need to start talking seriously to each other instead of name calling and tweeting back and forth. I think it's time now we sit down and work out a viable plan for Syria, an anti-ISIS bent, something that we can both agree on. We need to start working with each other instead of constantly ratcheting up the pressure all around the world. You look at what the Russians are doing. They're harassing our aircraft. They're harassing our ships. You know, that has got to stop. We've got to start moving forward otherwise this is all going to spiral out of control. There are too many moving parts around the world where one little thing can set off a diplomatic incident, an international incident that neither of us need.
BALDWIN: OK. Colonel Francona, Aaron David Miller, thank you both so very much. Again, Happy holidays to both of you.
MILLER: Thank you. Happy Fourth.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
More than 40 states now defying President Trump's request for voter information in his controversial quest to investigate voter fraud. Is this whole thing over before it even begins? Let's look at that.
Also, from rising star to the beach, what happened to Chris Christie's once-promising career, the governor who's been called the Trump before Trump.
And a plus-size model confronts a man who body shamed her on a plane. See how graceful she was and how he responded.
[14:17:18] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN.
Now to a conflict some call partisan, others just say this is all about privacy. More than 40 states now are defying this request from the president's commission to study voter fraud. Remember this all stemmed from the president's declaring, without evidence, this tweet just weeks after his election victory. Here was the president then. "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."
And, yes, while some resistance is certainly from Democrats questioning why the government should pursue what they call just a waste of time, others who are balking from the president's own party. Here's a statement from Mississippi secretary of state, a Republican. Quote, "they," meaning the presidential commission on election integrity, "can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state's right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes."
So let's go to Jeremy Diamond at the White House for us on this.
And, Jeremy, this letter, the letter requesting this information specifically says it only wants details that's already out there and available to the public. So what's the issue?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, that is the question that many in this administration and on this election integrity commission are asking themselves right now. I spoke earlier today with the vice president's spokesman, the vice president, of course, is the chairman of this commission. And the spokesman essentially, Mark Lauter (ph), was saying, you know, this is all publicly available data that we're asking. The letter to these 50 states requests a range of information, but it says only provide that information which is publicly available under your state's laws. So that is certainly the administration's viewpoint. We saw Chris Kobach, the vice chairman on this commission, he wrote an op-ed this morning on Breitbart. And let me just read you a part of that. He says, quote, "the hyperventilating on the left about this request is particularly strange since the commission only requested information that is already publicly available. Any person on the street can walk into a county election office and obtain a publicly available copy of that state's voter rolls."
One issue, though, is that many -- much of this data, typically, you have to actually pay the state to actually obtain it and there's no word yet on whether this commission would be willing to actually pay for that information. But some of the concerns here are not just coming from Democrats, as you pointed out earlier. They're also coming from some Republicans who have states' rights concerns who are really worried about the federal government getting involved in overseeing election processes, which are typically held at the state level.
DIAMOND: And, of course, there is also the politics of all this. You know scoring -- some Democrats here trying to score some political points. But there are questions overall about this election oversight commission and whether or not it should have been created in the first place.
[14:20:03] Again, as you pointed out, this started all because of the president's claim of millions of people voting illegally without proper documentation in the 2016 election. A claim for which, of course, there is no evidence.
BALDWIN: Nothing. Right. Jeremy, thank you very much, at the White House. You set this up for me perfectly.
Let's have a bigger conversation now with Ambassador Norm Eisen. He used to serve as the White House ethics czar in the Obama administration. Also with us, CNN political commentator Paris Dennard with us as well. He is a Republican strategist.
So, gentlemen, thank you both for being on.
And, Paris, just starting with you. Now the tally is up to 44. Forty- four states are saying no. I mean is this effort really over even before it gets started?
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think -- I don't think it is, just because a lot of the overwhelming majority of those are, you know, we have Democrats who are playing politics with this. It's unfortunate because what we should want is the truth. What we should seek after is the data, the support, and the facts that support the president's claim. If Democrats are concerned that the president might have said something that was not true, they should be the first to line up and say, Mr. President, we want to put this issue to rest. We want to release the information that is already publicly available, and we want to show that in our state, our elections are above board. I don't know if they're afraid of the truth or if they're afraid of facts and data, but it seems to me if you want to get to the brass tacks, it's about having the data and the facts. And when they do this, it seems that they're playing politics and putting politics over good, sound judgement and policy.
BALDWIN: OK, so I want -- Ambassador Eisen, I want you to be able to respond to that. But also, secondly, you know, to Jeremy Diamond's reporting and his point from Mark Lauter, I mean they're only asking for information that's already out there publicly. You know, so what's really -- what's the problem with that?
NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Brooke, thanks for having me.
First of all, the whole premise of this commission is unfounded. There is not a shred of evidence that over 3 million voters fraudulently cast their ballot. Come on. That's absurd and it's offensive. Number two, contrary to my friend Paris, this is not a partisan issue. Both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state and others who are in charge of election administration are rejecting this because the premise is so absurd. And then to the third question about it only being public, the letter is self-contradictory because while it says only public, it also says give us things like Social Security Numbers. Put it on a web portal. They're not going through state legal procedures. So it's -- this is another occasion where the Trump administration has overreached and it is getting pushback from both parties, properly so.
BALDWIN: Paris, you want to respond?
DENNARD: Sure. I just want to say from personal experience, I'm from Arizona, and I was on the absentee ballot list, not this recent election but in elections past. I received two ballots mailed to me. Two. So the -- and I could have voted twice and had the Republican, who I was voting for, receiving two votes.
The issue is, that is one thing that happens when it comes to absentee ballots. The other thing that happens is people that are going to these ballot boxes and voting under the alias of somebody that is decease. So to my good friend, Norm, what are you afraid of? This is not overreach. The issue is that it's Donald Trump asking for this. Get to the bottom of it and the information that is private, that is not like Social Security Numbers, are normally not available on the publicly accessed information. It's already public. What are you afraid of? I think the Democrats and some of the people that are opposed to this are afraid of the truth and giving Donald J. Trump, our president, a win.
BALDWIN: OK, well Norm was saying that the entire, you know, the notion of the whole thing is unfounded. I know we can go back and forth and back and forth between you guys on that, but let -- if I may, just switch gears and talk about how -- and, ambassador, this is for you, these two dozen or so Democrats have now come forward, they've signed on to this bill that, you know, could oust President Trump if -- and here's the mega if -- if he is found to be mental unfit. This is all based on the 25th Amendment. You know, but when you talk to constitutional experts, they say this is totally unrealistic and premature. Would you agree with me?
EISEN: Well, Brooke, I wouldn't exactly agree with you. The bill is based on the constitutional principle, it's in the 25th Amendment --
EISEN: That Congress can set up a commission to look at capacity issues. And nobody thinks the bill is going to pass tomorrow, but there's a set of serious issues that the bill, which is sponsored by Congressman Jamie Raskin, himself a constitutional scholar, raises. Number one, I and others have looked at some of the president's inappropriate and bizarre behavior, like the famous CNN attack video tweet, and really wondered if he's operating at full capacity. So there are reasons to ask these questions, and then there's --
[14:25:15] BALDWIN: I understand that, but unless we are treating President Trump as MDs, I mean how are these members of Congress able to say, this man is mentally unfit?
EISEN: Well, and that's the second point, Brooke, they're not jumping to that conclusion. What they're saying is -- and it's important to have the conversation and the bill is out there to raise these issues. We ought to let professionals look at the question. I think it's a legitimate question.
And if I may answer Paris' question, that is something to be afraid of when you question a president's capacities. And, indeed, the president's claim that there were 3 million voters who fraudulently voted, nobody accepts that. That's an example of the kind of bizarre assertions that I think deserve a hard look. That's not saying the bill's going to pass tomorrow, but I think it's worth discussing under the 25th Amendment.
BALDWIN: OK. We heard you, Paris, lastly, just from you on what the Democrats are at least asking to do, looking to do.
DENNARD: Yes. It's sad and it's unfortunate. I remember during the campaign when people talked about Secretary Clinton's health, Democrats went in uproar. This is -- and so I think what we have to say is, if there are medical professionals that deem this president as somehow mentally unfit, let them be the judge. But the Congress, of all people, should not be talking about anybody's abilities or unfitness to serve. When you look at the things that he's done to make this country better in just these few months, it is clear that he is not only fit, he's qualified, experienced, and he's doing a great job for the American people. And there's no doubt about that.
BALDWIN: All right.
EISEN: The bill would let the medical professionals do it.
BALDWIN: We're going to leave it -- I know you disagree.
EISEN: That is what the bill calls for. So, Paris, we agree. We agree.
BALDWIN: (INAUDIBLE) medical professionals. Ok.
DENNARD: We don't agree. It should not even come to this. This is the point that we've gotten in our politics where we're trying to go after every single thing to undermine this president. Let him be the president. He was elected. Let him serve. Let him make American great again. This is embarrassing for the Congress.
BALDWIN: Mr. Ambassador, Paris Dennard, gentlemen, thank you very much.
DENNARD: Happy Fourth.
BALDWIN: (INAUDIBLE). Thank you. Same to y'all.
Coming up, body shaming on a plane. A woman confronts a man sitting right next to her for texting crude remarks about her body size. She saw the whole thing. How she responded to him.
And, CNN is live on the Fourth of July parade routes with lawmakers back in their districts. Senator Susan Collins marching right now in Eastport, Maine. Senator Dean Heller riding a horse, giddy up, in Nevada.
We're back in a moment.