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White House Shakeup; Message to Pyongyang; Crisis in Venezuela; Baby Charlie's Battle Ends. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2017 - 00:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Another major shake-up at the White House. The chief of staff resigns, capping off a tumultuous week in Washington.

A message to Pyongyang. South Korea and the U.S. hold joint military exercises just hours after North Korea launches another ballistic missile.

Also the agonizing end of the story of a sick baby boy who captured the world's attention. We remember Charlie Gard.

These stories all ahead on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen and we begin right now.


ALLEN: Thank you again for joining us.

For the second week in a row, there has been a major shake-up in the White House. Chief of staff Reince Priebus is out. He says he submitted his resignation to president Donald Trump Thursday. Mr. Trump announced the change on Twitter late Friday, naming Homeland Security secretary John Kelly to the post.

Priebus' ouster came after six months of near constant turmoil inside the West Wing. It reached a fever pitch this week when new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci leveled a withering profanity laced broadside against Priebus.

For his part, Priebus bowed out gracefully. He had nothing but praise for his replacement calling Kelly, quote, "a brilliant pick. Priebus gave his first interview to CNN's Wolf Blitzer. He strongly defended the president's decision to replace him.


REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think the president wanted to go a different direction. I support him in that. And like I said a couple weeks ago, I said the president has a right to change directions. The president has a right to hit a reset button. I think it's a good time to hit the reset button. I think he was

right to hit the reset button and I think that it was something that I think the White House needs. I think it's healthy and I support him in it.


ALLEN: I spoke earlier with political analyst Michael Genovese. He's also the president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. I asked him about the latest White House shake-up with Priebus now out and General Kelly as his replacement.


MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Every day there's a new crisis. Today, this morning we woke up to the failure of the repeal and replace. And now we've got more drama. This is a president who loves drama and he likes to be disruptive.

So we know that he can tear things down but can he build them up?

Bringing in John Kelly is an effort to bring discipline to the staff.

But the real key is can he bring discipline to the president?

If he can't rein in the president, keep him from tweeting so much, discipline the president, make him focus, make him do job of the grunt work of calling members of Congress, really working Washington, if he can't do that, he'll fail.

ALLEN: That's a really, really good point because he is bringing in a general and he certainly wants loyalty. Perhaps that's why he's trying to toughen up the communications team.

But the bottom line is it's this president has to get things done and someone has got to be able to get his ear. And maybe it's the generals that could do it. He certainly seems to be surrounding himself with generals.

GENOVESE: You know, there are several people around him who are in the military and they should bring more discipline to the team. But this is a team that's run on chaos and chaos is not a governing strategy. You've got to have discipline. You've got to have focus. You've got to do the job and there's a lot of grunt work involved.

Going Washington is not an easy task. It takes time. And it takes political capital. This is a president who likes to just flit all over the place and that may make him feel like he's getting something done. But look at the results. The results have been very disappointing for these first six months.

ALLEN: Right, because he does focus on loyalty but, at the same time, he hasn't gotten things done regardless. So much, he's so focused on leaks and control but it's not -- you really can't control when you have, you know, a reporting team following you and it's supposed to be an independent team and to do their best work. But as you say, he's got to do the grunt work.

But is there anyone else on his team that could help support him in that?

Because a lot of people have been saying today this is a 70-year-old president. He's not going to change.

Geon Well, you know, too many people around Trump are supporting Trump's psyche. They need to support his presidency. There's a big difference. And while the two are interlinked -- because he's obviously president and what he says goes -- you have to have people there -


GENOVESE: -- who know Washington, who know politics.

And while John Kelly is a career military man, he's incredibly polished as a politician. You don't get to be a four-star general if you don't know how to walk the corridors of power. So he can do it. He knows the game. He is of a stature that maybe, just maybe the president will listen to him.

But the great Roman poet, Juvenal, said, when asked about how do you govern Rome?

His response was, well, you do it with bread and circuses. This is a president who is all circus all the time. So we went from no-drama Obama to all-drama-all-the-time Trump. We need less drama and more governing. And that's something that has to come right from the president. John Kelly might be able to help him do that.


ALLEN: Michael Genovese there.

The White House says President Trump plans to sign a bill that slaps new sanctions on Russia. The White House says the president negotiated parts of the bill and approves the final version.

Congress had overwhelmingly adopted the legislation, which also limits Mr. Trump's ability to ease sanctions against Moscow independently. Earlier Friday, Russia demanded the U.S. cut the number of diplomats it has in Moscow and it seized U.S. property there. Russia is expected to retaliate further.

North Korea says its latest missile test is a grave warning to the United States. This as the Pentagon confirms the Friday launch was an intercontinental ballistic missile. A U.S. official tells CNN North Korea may be just months away from being able to launch a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM.

Within hours of the launch, the U.S. and South Korea responded. They conducted this military exercise to send a message back to Pyongyang. North Korea's main ally, China, is condemning the latest missile launch and is calling on North Korea to stop these nuclear provocations. South Korea and Japan are also speaking against it.


MOON JAE-IN, PRESIDENT, SOUTH KOREA (through translator): The South Korean government strongly condemns the ballistic missile launch since it clearly violates U.N. Security Council resolution and it is a grave threat to international peace and security.

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): As long as North Korea continues these provocations, the U.S., South Korea, China and Russia and the whole international community must closely cooperate and apply additional pressure.


ALLEN: For more on North Korea's missile test, our Will Ripley, who has been to that country many times for CNN, joins me live from Beijing. You can certainly see the concern on these leaders' faces, Will, as

they speak again and condemn yet again this brazen move by North Korea.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And this ICBM really is different, Natalie, certainly according to the South Korean military analysts, who say this is the most advanced ICBM that North Korea has ever launched.

When you look at the altitude that it reached, more than 3,700 kilometers or 2,300 miles, the length of distance that it traveled, almost 1,000 kilometers, landing less than 100 nautical miles from the coast of Japan, look, had it gone a different trajectory -- the missile kind of went up and down like this -- but had it been fired in a more traditional trajectory, people are saying, analysts are saying that theoretically it could have hit not only the United States West coast but possibly cities as far to the east as Denver, maybe even Chicago and some analysts saying even further than that.

That is significantly farther than the missile that was tested on the 4th of July. So in the span of less than a month, you've seen that level of progress. That is why this estimate of when North Korea will have this reliable ICBM that could hit pretty much anywhere in the mainland U.S., that is just months away.

Six months ago nobody would have predicted that except for the North Korean officials, who I have spoken with repeatedly in the country just as recently as last month. We were traveling in the mountainous region where this latest missile launch happened.

One other thing I can tell you about the stakeholders here, yes, China is condemning the North Korean launch as they always do. But they are also pointing the finger at the United States and South Korea, saying that by conducting military exercises, like the one that was conducted in response overnight, that live fire drill you just showed, where they were launching missiles into the sea, China says that provokes North Korea. That's what makes North Korea develop these weapons. Yet what the United States would reply is that Chinese money is paying

for North Korean missiles. When you look at the fact that sanctions after round of sanctions have been levied on this country - it's the most heavily sanctioned country on Earth -- and yet their economy grew by an astounding almost 4 percent last year, that's because of their trade relationship with China.

And that is factoring in that China has suspended its purchases of coal from North Korea, which is the main source of cash for the regime. Yet the money still keeps flowing across that border and these missiles keep on launching into the air - Natalie.

ALLEN: A terrifying catch-22 as far as the White House drills and China financing -


ALLEN: -- this program.

What else perhaps are people saying in the region there that the world can do?

You've been to North Korea.

Is there any chance for dialogue with Kim Jong-un?

Because many have called for that at this point.

RIPLEY: We don't know how Kim Jong-un is going to respond to overtures from other world leaders, powerful leaders like President Trump or President Xi Jinping or President Putin because Kim Jong-un, North Korea's leader, has never met with any other heads of state.

He, for the most part, has focused during his time in power since 2011 on building his image up domestically and really growing the capability of his country's missile program and nuclear program.

Now we know that his father, Kim Jong-il, did meet with world leaders. He met with South Korean leaders. He met with South Korean leaders; he met with Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state of the United States. He came very close to meeting with President Clinton near the end of his second term. But for a lot of reasons, that meeting fell apart.

But it was then during the second Bush administration and the Obama administration that the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea went from on the brink of possible normalization to very toxic alienation, isolation.

And, of course, North Korea just started developing its arsenal really in force and the number of launches -- you're talking more than 80 launches under Kim Jong-un compared to 15 and 16 respectively for the two leaders before him.

So it's really striking. South Korea, we know, has tried to extend an olive branch to talk with North Korea. They offered peace talks. And so far that offer has been met with silence.

The sense I have gotten inside the country is that, at this point, North Korea wants to get their arsenal to the point where they feel like they have this workable weapon that gives them the leverage and the respect on the global stage and then perhaps they will be willing to talk on their own terms.

ALLEN: We will see. Will, as you've been speaking, we've been seeing new pictures from North Korea's central TV of the glee of the leaders there over this test. Thank you, Will. Appreciate your reporting for us.

The U.S. is again urging Russia and China to help stop North Korea's program.

U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson said in a statement -- and I quote - "The United States seeks the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the end to belligerent actions by North Korea.

"As we and others have made clear, we will never accept a nuclear- armed North Korea nor abandon our commitment to our allies and partners in the region."

David Schmerler is a research associate at the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies. He joins us from Monterey, California, via Skype to talk more about this.

David, thanks for being with us. First of all, I want to get your reaction to what we just heard from our Will Ripley about this being perhaps one of the most advanced missiles and tests that the world has seen from North Korea.

DAVID SCHMERLER, JAMES MARTIN CENTER FOR NON-PROLIFERATION STUDIES: So certainly this missile outperforms the missile test on July 4th. Pictures just came out and KCNA released a statement saying that name- wise, it was the same missile. So it is the Kn-14.

From analysis we did of the July 4th test, there were some speculations that the missile might have underperformed. They might have pulled back the test. However, the test that occurred today seems to have been a full-range test. That's why we're seeing a significant increase in its performance.

ALLEN: And how does this advance North Korea's capability, then?

They claim they can hit anywhere in the United States.

SCHMERLER: So we're not quite sure yet what the absolute maximum range is of the missile. We're going to need to study a lot of imagery and look at more data before we can come up with a rough estimate.

But the initial estimates that we have now put it at somewhere around 10,400 kilometers or a little bit more, bringing the range of large U.S. cities to Chicago.

ALLEN: Where does it go as far as world reaction?

We've seen the condemnation, the United States' response and South Korea's response with their military actions there to combat what North Korea is doing. China condemns that. And it just seems the world just continues to say they won't tolerate a nuclear North Korea but that is where that country is certainly headed.

SCHMERLER: Right. So North Korea already has nuclear weapons. Right now what they're doing is fine-tuning their ability to project those weapons to ranges that they consider acceptable in the United States.

Some other things that we're still waiting to hear back from our re- entry vehicle technology, which is something they will continue to work on. I highly doubt this will be their last large or long-range missile test.


SCHMERLER: As to what we can do, I'm not quite sure yet.

ALLEN: And what's stopping them at this point?

Certainly nothing has already.

SCHMERLER: Right. No, correct. They're very intent on developing the capability to hold the United States at bay with nuclear weapons.

ALLEN: We thank you so much, David, for us. Thanks, David.

ALLEN: We thank you so much, David Schmerler, for us. Thanks, David.

Still to come here, more clashes between Venezuela's opposition and security despite a government ban on protests before a critical election this Sunday by president Nicolas Maduro. We'll tell you about it next.




ALLEN: Welcome back.

A Venezuelan government ban on protests seemed to prevent large-scale demonstrations on Friday but smaller clashes erupted anyway in Caracas as protesters blocked streets ahead of Sunday's controversial election.

The opposition fears president Nicolas Maduro is trying to create a dictatorship through the vote for a new assembly. Months of protests in Venezuela have left at least 113 people dead. The country is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis triggered by its collapsing economy.

Earlier I spoke with Eric Farnsworth with Americas Society and Council of the Americas. He's considered a leading expert in Latin American affairs. I began by asking him whether the vote Sunday is considered a power grab by President Maduro.


ERIC FARNSWORTH, AMERICAS SOCIETY AND COUNCIL OF THE AMERICAS: The opposition clearly thinks that it will be. They think it will be the coup de grace for democracy in Venezuela.

The vote would allow the current government of Nicolas Maduro the opportunity to rewrite the constitution and turn Venezuela essentially into a one-party state, which would allow his party and perhaps himself to rule indefinitely.

This is a real problem for a country that is facing a severe economic crisis. Food in some ways and in some parts of the country is increasingly unavailable. The health care system is in collapse.

It's a country that is becoming a failing state and the opposition is clearly rejecting this move by the government to take it all the way toward an authoritarian dictatorship.

ALLEN: What of the opposition now, Eric?

He is basically writing a new constitution which goes around the opposition in every form of governance.

FARNSWORTH: Yes, that's exactly right. The opposition controls the legislature but the government has not only disregarded the prerogatives of the legislature, it's actually done everything possible to undermine the legislature and keep it away from any sort of governance or ability to influence the agenda at all.

Meanwhile, the government is moving forward without any reference to the existing constitution.


FARNSWORTH: For example, in order to rewrite the constitution, the government would need the public support as expressed in a public referendum. The government doesn't have that. And they're disregarding that process and they're moving forward.

So they're not just disregarding the opposition. They're actually also disregarding the institutions itself in Venezuela as they turn the country really into a one-party monopolistic state.

ALLEN: Who continues to support him?

How can he carry on like this?

FARNSWORTH: Well, that's a really good question. There are still some supporters among the traditional Chavistas, those who have seen or felt that the previous government of Hugo Chavez and now, to a lesser extent, Nicolas Maduro have improved their lot by direct government support and subsidies and some wealth distribution. But, you know, poverty today in Venezuela is higher than it was when

Hugo Chavez came into power in 1999. So that core group of supporters is increasingly less and less and is now down below 20 percent.

But the key supporters in Venezuela of the government really seem to be in the security forces. They're the ones that are keeping the government in power. The reason they're supporting the government is because many of them are engaged in some of the activities that the government itself is in terms of illegal drug trafficking, in terms of gross corruption and looting of the state and the national energy company.

Venezuela has the world's largest supply of oil and a lot of money comes with that. Well, that money is not going to the people. It's going to individuals and private bank accounts and the military is involved in some of that.

So there are implications for that but the government has allowed that to happen so that the military and the security forces maintain loyalty to the regime. And so that's where a lot of the core support continues to come.


ALLEN: Again, this controversial move by Nicolas Maduro, this occurs on Sunday to change the country's constitution.

Monsoon rains are flooding parts of Manila and that same storm system is picking up strength and expected to hit Taiwan in the coming hours. Allison Chinchar will have that story for us coming up.

Plus baby Charlie Gard dies after a medical battle that gained international attention. Ahead, the tributes pouring in, including one from the pope.




ALLEN: "The boy who touched the world has passed away today." Those words from the family of baby Charlie Gard. The 11-month old with a rare genetic condition died one week before his first birthday and one day after a judge's order to stop life support.

The legal case over his medical treatment garnered international attention.

Pope Francis tweeted, "I entrust little Charlie to the Father and pray for his parents and all those who loved him."

Certainly his parents will need those prayers.

Taiwan is bracing for a typhoon that is expected to hit in about 12 hours and there's another storm right behind it. (WEATHER REPORT)

ALLEN: And that is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. I'll be right back though with our top stories. Please stay with us. You're watching CNN.