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North Korea Missile Flew Within Miles of Passenger Jet Flight Path; Trump Faces Growing GOP Dissent Over Policy Stumbles; Mexico's President Denies Trump's Claims Of Phone Call; CNN: McCaul Has Concerns About Possible DHS Job. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired August 2, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
[09:00:41] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have some breaking news on North Korea. A dangerous new twist to an already combustible situation.
CNN is learning that new flight data reveals that the North Korean missile that was fired off on Friday, it flew within miles of the flight path of an Air France passenger jet.
This is what we know. Air Flight 293 was just seven minutes of flight time away from where the missile splashed down in the Sea of Japan.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So this clearly dangerous launch sounded off alarms, forcing Japan to issue warnings to nearby vessels and aircrafts. Officials now warning North Korea's missile tests which often take place with no notice could pose a serious risk to commercial airliners.
Let's get straight to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with more.
What else are we hearing about this?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks like this Air France flight was about 50 to 60 or so miles away when the missile splashed down. In aviation terms we are told that is not a near miss but it is a concern. And the reason is because North Koreans, as they continue their very aggressive missile testing program, they're firing into areas where it is very heavily trafficked with both commercial air traffic and commercial shipping.
And of course that's the coast of Japan, off that northern coast of Japan, that is a very busy, busy area. And the North Koreans, as you just pointed out, do not follow international protocols many times. They don't issue a notice to mariners or notice to airmen that there's a restricted area that they're going to be conducting their activities in. And that is what the big concern is there right now.
This latest case actually leading Air France to take a very unusual step and issue a public statement about what happened to reassure people Air France saying, and let me quote, "North Korea's missile test zones do not interfere in any way with Air France flight paths. We constantly analyze potentially dangerous fly over zones and adapt our flight plans accordingly."
So they're indicating that they certainly did not see a problem. But this is something of increasing awareness to both commercial air and shipping traffic and we want to give a hat tip to our colleagues at ABC News who first uncovered this story.
BERMAN: Indeed. You know, adding potentially new problems to an already delicate situation there.
Barbara Starr, thank you very much.
You know, also this morning we're learning of a successful intercontinental ballistic missile test, only this time not launched by North Korea. It was the United States. The Air Force launching an ICBM from Vanderburgh Air Force base in California, the fourth time this year.
In a statement the Air Force says, "While not a response to recent North Korean actions the test demonstrates the United States nuclear enterprise is safe, secure, effective and ready to be able to deter, detect and defend against attacks on the U.S. and its allies."
Not a response to North Korea but let me mention North Korea specifically there.
HARLOW: Exactly. Let's discuss all of this, big picture, Kimberly Dozier, CNN global affairs analyst, senior national security correspondent from the "Daily Beast," and David Rohde, CNN global affairs analyst as well and online news director for the "New Yorker."
So, Kimberly, to you first. All right. Here is the line from the administration on North Korea. And I should note it's not one line. Here's Nikki Haley on Sunday, "Time for talk is over."
BERMAN: That's one.
HARLOW: Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday. "All options on the table." That's two.
HARLOW: Three, Trump, the president, on Monday, "It will be handled." Tillerson, secretary of State, yesterday, "We would like to sit down and have a dialogue."
What is the White House saying about North Korea as examples like we just told you of greater and greater concern?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, and let me add one more to that from CIA Director Mike Pompeo just a couple of weeks ago in Aspen.
HARLOW: Right. DOZIER: He said that they were working to find options to separate
Kim Jong-un from this nuclear capability which to everyone in the audience sounded like regime change. So in one sense you get a little bit of a look at the cacophony that it's heading into the Oval Office in terms of advice and kind of conversations and arguments that they're having around the table at the principal's committee meeting at the National Security Council.
But the other thing they're trying to do is thread this line of letting Kim Jong-un know that they're serious about willingness to use military force which is a message you didn't hear coming often out of the Obama administration.
[09:05:05] But also now Tillerson seems to be realizing that he needs to give them a way out. Otherwise, as missile experts will tell you, what they're working to do right now is they seem to have the range, they claim to have shrunken the nuclear weapon to something that would fit on one of their ICBMs. Now they're just trying to improve accuracy. So Tillerson is in a sense giving them a reason not to fire at the United States.
Also possibly empowering China and the international community to come in now and say, hey, look, they're willing to negotiate, let's talk.
BERMAN: You know, so, David Rohde, if Rex Tillerson, the secretary of State, is trying to give North Korea a path through this, the question is does the president of the United States agree with that? You say watching him over the next few hours will be crucial.
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It will be. But the bigger problem here and this sounds sort of wonky to people is there is a process in the White House. National Security Council, everyone sits down at the table, Defense Department, State, CIA. They come with a unified approach and the message publicly has to be consistent. The Chinese are not taking this administration seriously because the message is not consistent.
HARLOW: And then you have Lindsey Graham, guys, saying yesterday that a military option, in his words, is, quote, "inevitable" if North Korea keeps up these tests. We have no indication they won't keep up these tests. And then he said that the president told him, quote, "If there's going to be a war, it will be over there, if thousands die, they're going to die over there."
What do you think that does, Kimberly, to talk that apparently Tillerson is open to with Kim Jong-un and his regime?
DOZIER: Well, what it does is send a message that Kim Jong-un should maintain his path towards a nuclear capable ICBM which he sees as his only way to both survive and to negotiate a way out of this. It also makes allies like South Korea pretty darn nervous because South Korea is within range of not so much the nuclear capability but the conventional artillery that's aligned all along North Korea's borders that could hit, they estimate, just about every three square meter area of the capitol in the South.
So it makes our allies nervous and for China's point of view, they've got to come in some way to try to quiet this down.
BERMAN: You know, David Rohde, on the subject of China, clearly the president of the United States was hoping to get help from China to deal with North Korea, not getting that help, and in what may be the biggest story of the day that will go unnoticed the administration may take knew trade action against China today, opening up a Section 301, the technical term there, but this is -- this is a pretty serious trade action it might take. What do you see is the significance there? What message will the Chinese get and would this force them to do anything?
ROHDE: It could but it's back to the consistency of the message. This is again what is the right doing and the left hand doing at the White House. And I think they won't take this seriously.
BERMAN: The Chinese.
ROHDE: The Chinese. And this is the nuclear option. Trade is what China cares about. This could damage their economy and this is just another example how the easy answers of the campaign, we're going to negotiate new deals, we're going to talk tough to all these other countries, they're -- it's not working for the Trump administration.
HARLOW: But isn't this doing, Kimberly, what the Obama administration could have done and what critics say should have done on China? Because China is four times more reliant on its exports to the United States than United States is on its exports to China. It matters a whole lot more. Does that not give this administration leverage?
DOZIER: Well, it's the nuclear option but it's one of the only cards to play. And if you speak to both former Obama folks and GOP types, they all say China just isn't stepping up and applying the pressure that it could apply. So you've got to do something. Otherwise you're facing nuclear -- you're facing military action against North Korea. And there are no good options here. There's almost no option that doesn't end up with tens of thousands of people possibly killed.
BERMAN: David Rohde, on the subject of mixed messages or confusing messages, quickly, the president still hasn't signed the Russia sanctions bill. What message should the world or does the world take from that?
ROHDE: It's -- I don't understand all the focus again on Vladimir Putin. Sign the bill. It's obvious politically. And focus on a clear and consistent China policy. We're talking about an ICBM that could hit the United States.
BERMAN: It shows a certain degree of indifference. Whether or not he ultimately signs it, the pause does show something to the world.
David Rohde, Kimberly Dozier, thank you all very, very much.
All right. This morning, signs of a growing fault line between the White House and Capitol Hill. Congressional Republicans splitting with the president on health care and now even directly questioning his honesty. This, after the White House admitted that the president did indeed
have a hand in crafting his son's misleading statement about a secretive meeting with a Russian lawyer.
HARLOW: And now just this morning the president of Mexico is questioning the president of the United States Donald Trump's honesty.
Let's go to the White House. Joe Johns has more. Good morning.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. You know, it all goes to messaging, doesn't it, at least to some degree and this is an example of that.
[09:10:07] The president said at his Cabinet meeting on Monday that the U.S. border with Mexico was close to 80 percent stoppage. He said the president of Mexico called him to talk about that, and now the president of the Mexico has put out a pretty stark statement suggesting that President Trump was incorrect at the very least. That statement says President Enrique Pena Nieto has not been in recent communications by telephone with President Donald trump.
More messaging issues, of course, at the very bottom of that question about the president weighing in, if you will, on a statement before it was released from his son, Donald Trump, a statement that turned out to be misleading, at the very least. The change in messaging here at the White House now finally acknowledging in fact that the president did in fact weigh in. They do say the president did not dictate that statement.
Now how is it all playing on Capitol Hill? Well, for both some Democrats and some Republicans, there is a big question of credibility. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If that's true, then that was a bad decision by the president which will make us ask more questions. When you get caught in a lie about one thing, it makes it hard to just say let the other stuff go.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: This administration continues to say, vis-a-vis Russia, there's nothing there. Yet they don't act that way at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: So now a growing number of Republican senators starting to speak out against President Trump about his priorities, including Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has asked the president, despite his own pronouncements here at the White House, that he not discontinue the payments to insurance companies that keep the costs low under Obamacare.
The administration of course today holding a big news conference trying to protect its right flank by calling for among other things a skills based immigration system. Poppy and John, back to you.
BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns for us at the White House.
Joe just reported there. Serious new questions about honesty from this administration, honesty about the Russian meeting or lack thereof. Honesty or lack thereof about the speech to the Boy Scouts. Honesty or lack thereof about conversations with Mexico.
We'll talk about all that, plus sources telling CNN that a top pick, a top possible pick to take over the Department of Homeland Security says he might not want the job after seeing how the president has treated other top officials.
HARLOW: Also this morning the family of the murdered DNC staffer, Seth Rich, responding to a stunning new lawsuit claiming the White House and FOX News worked together to push a completely bogus false story about their son's death.
And what is happening to support for the president in some of his key areas, amid all of these shakeups? Our Alex Marquardt goes to Nebraska to find out.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Does this White House have a problem with honesty? Does the president of the United States have a credibility problem? Why are we asking that question?
Well, the president of Mexico is essentially accusing President Donald Trump of making stuff up. Listen to President Trump explain what he said was a phone call between himself and the Mexican leader. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Says, you know, the border was a tremendous problem and now close to 80 percent stoppage and even the president of Mexico called me. They said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they're not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: He said the president of Mexico all well, but the president of Mexico just put out a statement and said, "Mexico has not been in recent communication via telephone with President Donald Trump."
All right. Let's talk about this with an all-star panel filled with honest people. Mark Preston is CNN senior political analyst. We are also joined by CNN political analysts, April Ryan and David Gregory.
I mean, David, you know, this is the president of Mexico saying no, it didn't happen that way about the president of the United States. This is on the heels of a flap of what the president did or did not hear from the Boy Scouts of America.
This on the heels of the president's own lawyer saying something that proved to be false. That according to the White House. What is the credible issue here, David?
DAVID GREROGY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, the president doesn't tell the truth all the time. The president with regard to this statement that his son, Donald Jr. put out about this meeting with Russians, lied about it. The White House lied about it. His lawyer lied about it.
I mean, it's just flat-out contradictions. Let's not shy away from calling it what it is, and the president has to deal with this because his credibility is at stake. The office of the presidency is at stake and America's reputation is at stake.
So, it's no small thing. And the president, I think persuades himself that these issues, the investigation is illegitimate, therefore, he can say anything or weigh in as opposed to, you know, dictate it.
There's no question the president was involved with the statement with regard to his son. Now on this, is he just being loose about communications with Mexico? We don't know. But ultimately if the president's word isn't strong, isn't reliable, that becomes a problem for his credibility around the world.
And we've seen this time and time again in this administration so far. Again, what's so difficult about it is what the president's talking about substantively there is accurate. The crossings are down.
And that is to his benefit and does -- it's something the DHS officials have argued strongly is an accomplishment for the administration. He undercuts it by doing it.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Now we've reached out to the White House to get their reaction to what the president said. I would just note looking at the president's words specifically in that cabinet meeting.
He didn't say when the president of Mexico called him. So, we'll see what the White House says.
[09:20:02] Mark Preston, to you, though, does this tie into a bigger week where Republicans seemed to have this liberty to lash out at the president, lash out at this White House and be more forthcoming with their criticism especially if they see these honesty gaps over and over again seemingly from the White House?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I still think it remains to see how much we're going to see pushback from Republicans when we run into instances like this when it's clearly a blatant lie and it's been a habit of President Trump to exaggerate or outright lie.
Having said that, though, I do think it's inevitable that Republicans are going to end up pushing back against President Trump for a couple reasons. One is that President Trump isn't a, quote/unquote, "true conservative."
You know, he wasn't part of the movement. He's not a believer in the sense that social conservatives are embracing him and really was behind his candidacy. They saw him as a vessel because he was the Republican nominee to try to get some things done. So, there is no personal relationship there.
The second thing is that Republicans running in 2018 don't necessarily need President Trump to get them over the finish line, right? If you go back and look at how a lot of these Republicans performed back in 2016, they performed better than Donald Trump did in many of these districts.
When Donald Trump starts to go after sitting members of Congress as we do think he will against Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, he's going to make more enemies.
BERMAN: I just add one thing, one of the things that we heard from the president's lawyers and from Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the Don Jr. meeting, they kept on saying it was of no consequence. The fact that the president or the lawyer or others did or did not tell the truth was of no consequence.
You know, I wonder if it's worrisome to the American people that the truth is of no consequence to this White House or people who work there. That's an aside.
April Ryan, there's another thing that CNN is reporting that's pretty interesting because Mike McCaul, who is a congressman from Texas right now, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and is being considered, we believe to be the secretary of Homeland Security.
Well he, we understand, is a little bit nervous about getting this job because the way the president has treated his staff. What do you make of that?
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not surprising, there are so many people who have been interviewing at the White House for different jobs, and they're coming back saying, you know, they were pleased that they were thought of, but it could be a career ender if you go into this administration.
There's also concerns. I mean, I've talked to someone who actually interviewed with the president over a job in the White House and I've talked to other people who are thinking about jobs or have been asked to go into the administration or being considered.
They're very concerned with how this president deal the with his staff. They're very concerned with how he deals with his cabinet. Look at Jeff Sessions and we also understand that there was a conversation with Jeff Sessions.
One of sources said Jeff Sessions said, no, I will not go to Homeland Security. So, it's a lot going on. This president, his attitude, demeanor, ruthless businessman like way does not work in Washington. Poppy and John, I want to go back to something else that you said earlier about the confidence and credibility of the president. I remember a story that was true that happened a couple of months ago.
Remember, Congressman Elijah Cummings, when he met with President Trump at the White House, when they finally had that meeting, after that meeting, the president said Elijah Cummings said he was the greatest president, and Elijah Cummings said no, that's not what I said.
He said you could be the greatest president if you would deal with certain issues. So, the way the president sees things is totally different than the reality of how it really is sometimes.
HARLOW: As they teach you when you're a kid, words matter including all of the words in your quotes quoting a conversation matters. David Gregory, so the White House, though, trying to flip the script. We haven't seen any statements on Twitter from the president on any of this this morning.
But here's what they are doing, they're focusing on things that appeal to their base so they are 35, 40 percent, right. This immigration event, big crackdown on China trade that's apparently coming and also the Department of Justice taking on affirmative action in their front office. So, the strategy, smart for this White House?
GREGORY: Well, any White House is going to target elements of their coalition and there is no question about what the president has done on transgender members of the military. That policy which seemed to take the Pentagon by surprise, was geared toward that.
The priorities of the Justice Department with regard to drug policy and now affirmative action does the same thing. The China issue is about trade and really about North Korea as well. So, you know, there's certainly political strategy and then also policy strategy as well.
The White House has to be thinking about -- you know, it's interesting the president accurately pointed out how well the stock market is doing, which I think -- is fantastic for investors of all levels in this country.
[09:25:09] The stock market is performing so well and it is a sign of great confidence of what Washington could actually do, and the markets are rising despite the dysfunction in Washington perhaps still counting on some kind of tax reform.
So that's where the White House has to have some level of discipline to be able to achieve and if you have a deadline that's looming about the debt ceiling to not screw that up to rattle markets because the economy's growing, corporations are making money, and they are doing all of that, treating Washington as more irrelevant.
BERMAN: Good segue way.
HARLOW: Because you know it's almost 9:30 and we might see a record on Wall Street. Thank you all very much, Mark, April, and David Gregory. Five minutes away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Will the Dow cross 22,000? We'll see. Stay with us.
HARLOW: That is the opening bell on Wall Street. Will the Dow hit a record 22,000 today? Yes, it will --