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President Trump Gave North Korea a Warning; Kim Jong-un's regime Responded to U.S.'s Sharp Message. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 8, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: President Trump threatens fire and fury against North Korea and draws a red line but what happens next?
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
An unprecedented warning from President Trump to Kim Jong-un in the wake of the Intel that North Korea has produced a nuclear warhead that could fit on a missile.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That he says will be the response to further threats from the rogue regime. And tonight, North Korea warns of a missile strike on Guam. Will this become a crisis? That's what we're wondering.
The White House already faces another crisis of confidence. Half of Americans in our latest poll conducted before today's threats and counter threats saying they disapprove of President Trump's handling of North Korea.
Only 37 percent approve.
Let's get right now to our top story and our CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, also Gordon Chang joins us, he is the author of "Nuclear Showdown, North Korea Takes on the World," and former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark.
Gentlemen, good evening to all of you. Jim, I'm going to start with you on this one because the president is threatening North Korea with fire and fury, those are his words, as North Korea advances their nuclear weapons program. Here is the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: North Korea best not make not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal statement. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It's an extraordinary ultimatum, Jim, from the U.S. president, it comes as North Korea is threatening to target Guam with a preemptive strike in response to U.S. bomber flights over the Korean Peninsula. What do you make of that?
JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's exactly right. That threat against Guam alarming. Guam, of course a U.S. territory. Thousands of U.S. servicemembers based there at two the air bases. Also a very specific threat.
North Korea even specifying the kinds of missiles it might use to target Guam including intermediate ballistic missiles. That follows, as you mentioned, John -- Don, just yesterday U.S. B-15 bombers two of them flew over the Korean Peninsula out of Andersen Air Force base on Guam.
It appears that threat from North Korea to that air base related directly to those U.S. over flights, which happen frequently. It's part of a consistent U.S. show of power in that part of the world, the fact that that North Korean threat followed just a couple of hours the president saying that if North Korea were to make threats, the U.S. would respond with fire and with fury.
It's not clear that they were connected but the threat did follow the president making that statement. And it highlights what I've heard from a number of folks in the national security community just in the last several hours that threats like that from a U.S. president, the danger is, you make a threat like that, it is something you have a danger if you don't follow through on that threat then.
It raises credibility about the exercise of U.S. power beyond just the 'bombasticness' of the president's words there, talking about fire and fury that the world has never seen before, seemingly a reference to nuclear war.
LEMON: Jim, I'm getting, we're getting some new information in here. I just want to get it in. And I'm reading it just now so bear with me. Here's what it says.
It says urgent, this is from our CNN reporting, "North Korea threaten preemptive retaliatory operations of justice. North Korea's military stands ready to retaliate at the earliest indication of a U.S. attempt to carry out a beheading operation against its leadership according to a statement from the Koreans people's army published state-run KCNA on Wednesday."
Jim, the statement was issued by the spokesman for the army's general staff and dated Tuesday. It deter recent U.S. military activity anticipating involvement on the Korean Peninsula and accuses the United States of indulging in war hysteria without discretion. The military went on to say it will turn the U.S. mainland into a
theater of nuclear war if it were to detect a sign of a U.S. attack. Again, that's just coming in. What do you say to that?
SCIUTTO: Listen, it takes away any doubt that that's a response to the president's comments. Because if that's dated Wednesday from the state, the North Korean state media follows on...
LEMON: Dated Tuesday.
SCIUTTO: ... is that after the president said. It appears to be a response to the president's rhetoric. So there you have it, the president said if North Korea makes any more threats, the U.S. will respond with fire and fury. The North Korea just made a threat there. So it remains to be seen what follows. And this is the concern about escalation.
[22:05:01] At this point, it's an escalation in words but it's an escalation in words that specifies particular military actions. What is North Korea saying there about a quote, unquote, "beheading operation?" It is known that one of the U.S. military options is a quote, unquote, "decapitation operation" either missile strikes or Special Forces operations that aim to take out the leadership, to decapitate the North Korean leadership there.
So North Korea referencing what it knows to be at least a military option for the U.S. And it shows the danger of rhetorical escalation that could lead to an actual kinetic escalation. That's the real concern here.
LEMON: When you see -- when you hear what I just read, General Clark, what do you think preemptive retaliatory operation of justice? That's what North Korea is threatening. What do you think?
WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I think that what Jim said is exactly right. You can't be engaging in schoolboy rhetoric with North Korea. This is absurd. We have a very strong military. The emphasis should be on deterrence.
War could start by accident or miscalculation on the Korean Peninsula. We've said that for decades, by the way, and it's more likely when you have this kind of escalatory rhetoric from the President of the United States, I'm sorry to say. There's no reason for him to say that, there is no reason to engage in that kind of rhetoric.
Nobody believes that the United States is going to actually launch a preemptive attack against North Korea because the military options really aren't very appealing. They've been discussed, ad nauseam. What they involve is open warfare, general warfare on the Korean Peninsula with hundreds of thousands if not millions of casualties.
So don't engage in that kind of escalatory rhetoric. Use diplomacy. Stabilize, stop threatening. Use China, use Russia. Secretary of State Tillerson tried to move down this path a few days ago. But it's been blocked apparently by the escalatory rhetoric.
The United States has to understand its objective. We're not going to roll back the North Korean nuclear and missile program. They're not going to give that away. They're smarter than that.
LEMON: Yes, there's so much to get to Gordon...
CLARK: Our objective is stability.
LEMON: There's so much he said, you know, he said with Secretary of State Tillerson said, but there have been mixed messages coming out of the White House. Pompeo saying one thing, Tillerson saying one thing, the president is saying another thing. Have we been focused enough on deterrence? How did we get to this point?
GORDON CHANG, "THE COMING COLLAPSE OF CHINA" AUTHOR: Yes. There is a lack of message discipline in the administration because do you have messages from all over the place. And it would...
LEMON: We would meet with them. We won't meet with them. We're going to keep talking.
LEMON: We're tired of talking. Yes.
CHANG: And that's a problem. And especially when you have the national security adviser talking about preemptive strike but preventive war which is even more aggressive. But the point right now is that deterrence is breaking down.
And I think that Trump's statement, you know, I wouldn't have used inflammatory language. But he does need to reinforce the message of deterrence. Because the one thing that's of concern is that when the North Koreans feel confident in their arsenal and that perhaps within a half year, maybe a year, they will use it to try to blackmail the United States to break the alliance with South Korea, get our troops off the Peninsula, and then destroy the South Korean state. Because that's at the core of the legitimacy of the North Korean regime.
And I think the North Koreans are starting to think that they might actually accomplish that. And that's why we are at such a dangerous point. And then of course you add the language from the president that sort of makes things a little bit more volatile.
LEMON: So where do you put this now? North Korea's military stands ready to retaliate at the earliest indication of a U.S. attempt to attempt to carry out a beheading operation against its leadership. Again, that's coming from, a statement from the Korean people's army publish and state-run KCNA on Wednesday. The statement I think was dated on Tuesday. What do you make of that? CHANG: August is a big month for South Korea/U.S. exercises on the
Peninsula, the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises. North Korea hates them. I think that what the North Koreans might have been referring to and it could have been a number of things, but one of them is these upcoming exercises which they view as sort of the prelude to war.
And that's why you're starting to get much more of this rhetoric out of North Korea over the last week or so. They're anticipating these exercises.
LEMON: Is there an implement threat to the United States right now, Jim? Or is this all saber rattling?
SCIUTTO: Well, let's look what we learned today with the U.S. intelligence community's assessment about North Korea's capability of putting a miniaturized nuclear device on top of a missile.
We learn today, CNN reported, Washington Post first reported that the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that North Korea is at least manufacturing, making, producing miniaturized nuclear weapons to be put on top of warheads. Now one caveat, it's not a consensus view. Yet, in the U.S. intelligence community, two, it is not believed that that capability is yet tested or deployed but it's another step along the way to do exactly that.
[22:10:02] And therefore threatening, we know based on their missile tests so far that they have at least a perceived capability to reach the U.S. continent, the continental U.S., U.S. cities here but also much closer to them of course is Guam.
And Guam while it's not one of the 50 states, is a U.S. territory with two major bases there and tens of thousands of servicemembers, not to mention our allies in South Korea and Japan.
So, yes, North Korea is a very real threat. Whether it's a modern nuclear threat with the ability to project that power thousands of miles away, not entirely clear, but I tell you this, the U.S. military and Gordon and general know better than me, the U.S. military treats this as something that they have to assume to be a North Korean capability and makes preparations as such.
LEMON: Do you agree, general, again, that what Jim said, that this is in direct response to the president's fire and fury has never seen before? Do you think that this response from North Korea.
CLARK: Yes, I do.
LEMON: You do?
LEMON: So where are we at this point, then?
CLARK: Well, I think you're at the point where the president's not going to say anything else. And we're going to have to work this thing through China and directly with diplomacy. Look, what we have to do is we have to stabilize the Korean Peninsula. And with this kind of rhetoric, it looks unstable. And that's very dangerous.
LEMON: Can you go back though, general, I don't mean to cut you off. But can you go back after fire and fury, can you go back to trying to, you know, negotiate or de-escalate the situation after you use that?
CLARK: Of course you can. Of course, you can. Sure you can. Just got make the right approaches. We're not going to abandon our South Korean allies. We can make the right measures to take the right military measures to strengthen them and give them even more capacity. We should be doing that. But we don't need the rhetoric to go with it.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. Thank you, general. Thank you, Gordon. Thanks, Jim. I appreciate it.
When we come back, how will world leaders react to the rapidly escalating threats between the U.S. and North Korea? We're going to ask Fareed Zakaria of what he thinks. And that's next.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back now. We're covering the breaking news about tensions between the U.S. and North Korea escalating tonight. Angry words and threats from both sides as the world watches.
I want to talk about this now with Fareed Zakaria, the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS. Fareed, just within as we went on the air we got the statement about a preemptive retaliatory operation of justice, North Korea is threatening that.
I just want to read parts of it and get your response. "The military stands ready to retaliate in its earliest indication in U.S. attempt to carry out what North Korea calls a beheading operation against its leadership. That's according to a statement from the North -- from the Korean people -- people's army published in state-run KCNA on Wednesday."
Also the statement goes on to say that the military, they say it will turn the U.S. mainland into a theater of nuclear war if it were to detect a sign of a U.S. attack. Strong words.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN: Strong words. This is a regime that has been around for 75 years. They have passed the regime on from father to son to grandson, they've outlasted the Soviet Union, they've outlasted Mao. They've outlasted all the Arab dictatorships. They know regime survival.
And one of the things I think that they have realized is you have to make clear that you are willing to go all out.
ZAKARIA: That you are willing to, you know, the stakes are as high as they could be, and particularly, what this seems to me to be aimed at is what they are furious, is that there is an increasing sign that there is a U.S./Chinese plan to decapitate the regime. Because the Chinese don't want an imploding North Korea. They don't want all the refugees, they don't want what the new Korea would look like probably a pro-American regime on their border.
So the Chinese are paranoid about that. The Americans don't want a nuclear North Korea. So what if you could decapitate, get rid of Kim, get rid of the leadership and have it replaced with a more pliable military dictatorship that would maybe cut a deal on nuclear weapons?
So what they are saying is that is not on. There is no such deal to be had. If you try to go after this regime in any way, if you try to separate the Kim family from the regime, we will go all-out.
So it's one more sign that this is a regime that while we think of it as crazy is actually very rationally pursuing its core objective, which is the survival of the regime.
LEMON: I want to talk to you a little bit more about that, but I think I want to play for our viewers what the president said. The president was said this after he learned today that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead. Here's President Trump's reaction. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal statement. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So two questions. Is that a red line? Yes?
ZAKARIA: That's a red line and it worries me because...
LEMON: Is that the danger of when you get a statement like this of that kind of rhetoric of you know, fire and fury that you're going to get something equally as rhetorical from them?
ZAKARIA: Certainly there's no question you'll get something back from them like that. But you know what worried me about it is the kind of rhetoric Donald Trump used is the kind of rhetoric the North Koreans use.
ZAKARIA: It's not the kind of rhetoric the United States of America uses. We are measured, we are careful, we match our words with deeds. We do not go out and say, you know, that could make these outlandish claims which frankly will not be met.
We will not, let me confidently say, respond to North Korea with fire and fury the kind of which the world has never seen before. I don't know if Donald Trump remembers but we dropped two atomic bombs in Japan.
We went through a kind of bombing campaign in Indochina the likes of which nobody has seen even during World War II. None of that has been happening. So this was empty rhetoric that will not be followed by words. And it's dangerous. John McCain pointed...
[00:05:05] LEMON: Will not be followed by words or by actions.
ZAKARIA: I'm sorry, by deeds.
LEMON: By deeds.
ZAKARIA: And so it's dangerous. John McCain pointed out, look, when you threaten something, be sure you have the intention, the capacity, a strategy to carry it out. The kind of empty braggadocio, we're used to that with Saddam Hussein and his minister of information as they were losing they were going on these outlandish claims.
We're used to that with the North Koreans. But the United States is held to a different standard. And we are -- you know, we have mentor. Theodore Roosevelt once said the key to foreign policy was, speak softly and carry a big stick.
ZAKARIA: And I feel as though, Donald Trump is Theodore Roosevelt in reverse. He's brandishing this enormous stick and you know, he's not going to use it.
LEMON: Yes. We heard Donald Trump today; let's listen to him back in 1999. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One is North Korea. And you say that you as president would be willing to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea's nuclear capability.
TRUMP: First, I'd negotiate. I would negotiate like crazy. And I'd make sure that we tried to get the best deal possible.
The biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation. And we have a country out there in North Korea which is sort of whacko which is not a damn -- not a bunch of dummies and they are going out and they are developing nuclear weapons. And they're not doing it because they're having fun. They're doing it for a reason.
And wouldn't it be good to sit down and really negotiate something? And I do really negotiate. Now, if that negotiation doesn't work, you better solve the problem now than solve it later, Tim. And you know it and every politician knows it and nobody wants to talk about it. Jimmy Carter who I really like and he went over there, it was so soft. These people are laughing at us. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The former general of the Air Force it, Merrill
McPeak, the former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin said you could not launch a preemptive strike against North Korea because the nuclear fallout could be devastating to the Asian Peninsula.
TRUMP: I'm not talking about -- I'm not talking about us using nuclear weapons. I'm saying that they have areas where they're developing missiles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but taking out their nuclear potential would create a fallout.
TRUMP: Do you know this country, Tim -- Tim, do you know that this country went out and gave them nuclear reactors free fuel for 10 years? We virtually tried to bribe them into stopping and they're continuing to do what they're doing and they're laughing at us. They think we're a bunch of dummies. I'm saying that we have to do something to stop. Ideally...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the military told you, Mr. Trump, we can't do this.
TRUMP: You're giving me two names. You're giving be two names. I don't know. You want to do it in five years when they have warheads all over the place? Every one of them pointing to New York City, to Washington, and everyone above. Is that when you want to do it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Interesting. What's your reaction?
ZAKARIA: I think what Donald Trump was quite intelligent if you listen to what he was saying, he was saying they're not doing it for no reason. They're developing these weapons for a reason. Let's try to negotiate with them.
One of the things North Korea has always, you know, been dealing with is the reality that it is a state that its existence is threatened by the most powerful country in the world. The United States has made it clear it would like to wipe North Korea off the face of the earth.
The only ally they have in the world - China is now essentially siding with the United States voting against them in U.N. sanctions. If you were embattled like that, forget about being crazy, suppose you just wanted to survive, what's the one thing that protects you? Nuclear weapons.
The one insurance policy you can buy is nuclear weapons. They're very candidly and shrewdly acquired those nuclear weapons. And so the question, you know, which we don't want to ask as a country is, is there any circumstance in which you could offer the North Koreans assurances of security so that they don't need those nuclear weapons? You know, they're buying -- they're insurance because they're sure
that everyone wants to destroy them. The only -- by threatening them more, you're only getting them to buy more insurance.
ZAKARIA: Is there some other path? And that was a path that Donald Trump was suggesting and that I think you know, remarkably coherent interview.
LEMON: He was very clear then.
ZAKARIA: Right. And now what you hear is just a series of kind of slogans often.
LEMON: Word salad.
ZAKARIA: Yes, exactly. So I'm nostalgic for the old Donald Trump.
LEMON: That's a first. Mark this moment. Thank you very much, Fareed Zakaria. I appreciate that. Don't miss Fareed Zakaria GPS Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
And when we come back, the president facing criticism after threatening North Korea with fire and fury. Why members on both the left and the right are worried about the president's harsh language.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump facing criticism from both members of both parties tonight after his stern warning to North Korea that it will face fire and fury if it keeps threatening the U.S.
Let's discuss now. CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson is here, Daniel Dale is here as well, he is Washington bureau chief of the Toronto Star, Philip Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA official, and former republican Congressman Jack Kingston, a CNN political commentator who was a Trump -- a senior adviser to the Trump campaign.
Good evening to all of you. Thank you so much for coming on. It's an interesting night and newswise at least. Nia, I want to get you first. We've been talking about how the president has a credibility crisis. But now he is dealing with another incredibly dangerous crisis. North Korea. How can he handle this without credibility?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, CNN: Yes, and that's been, you know, kind of a big topic of discussion from the beginning of his presidency. This idea of him essentially frittering away his credibility tweet after tweet. Tweeting untruths or trafficking in conspiracy theories.
What would all of that mean if he was faced with a big crisis, if the country was faced with a crisis and that's where we are now.
I think at some point the president has to display some sort of competence in dealing with this and maybe if he displays some kind of competent, if he gets some results out of this, then maybe he can start to get some of that credibility back.
I think, you know, it's obviously a question for world leaders, right? I imagine that people around him are having to do some sort of clean- up duty after these comments that he made, some seem to be off the cuff, some of it seem to be scripted. I don't think we know.
[22:30:07] There's no reporting yet in terms of where these comments came from in terms of his reaction to North Korea. But he's got some work to do in terms of gaining that credibility. And we'll see what the next steps are and what kind of statements come out of the White House.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Daniel, you raise a very interesting question that goes back to the campaign and was coined by one of our very own here. About taking the president seriously or literally, right?
The president threatened today that North Korea will meet fire and fury like the world has never seen. And then you tweeted this. You said, "North Korea has to decide whether to take Trump literally or just seriously."
And the question back then was, well, you know, maybe the American people may be able to do that or see it that way but how do other leaders, how does the world view him? How will they take it literally or seriously? Is this the ultimate test to see how the world interprets this president?
DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TORONTO STAR: It's the most momentous test I think world leaders, you know, in every country have been faced with. To some extent in my home country of Canada, leaders faced it on the issue of trade, of NAFTA, in the Middle East in the Gulf, leaders of Qatar and so forth have faced it on the conflict there.
And now we have the regime. And Pyongyang trying to interpret the inscrutable behavior, words and intensions of a president who is mercurial, erratic, and whose real aims are often not known even to the people within his administration. And so it's -- this is a real high wire act that Trump is attempting to pull off here.
LEMON: So is this -- what is this? Is this a literal or serious moment, Daniel? I mean, the president's comments today about North Korea is especially alarming because he used the words like the world has never seen.
DALE: Yes. You know, I am not Kim Jong-un. I would say that this is a serious moment if I were to try to interpret Trump here rather than literal.
I wrote a piece just earlier this evening about how Trump frequently uses the phrase that today became an apparent threat of nuclear war. He likes saying like the world has never seen. He said you know, I created the greatest grassroots movement the world has ever seen. Corn prices have gone up so much food prices are going to go up more than the world has ever seen.
So, my impression of his comments today was that Trump was just talking like Trump talks, he was adlibbing being hyperbolic and it ended up coming out like a threat of nuclear war. But we don't know for sure. And I certainly don't.
LEMON: Well, then we see Philip Mudd with the smile. So, Philip, I'll play this and then I'll let you respond. Here's what Daniel was talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Grassroots movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.
We're all part of this very historic movement, a movement the likes of which actually the world has never seen before.
Unemployment is the lowest it's been in 17 years, business enthusiasm is about as high as they've ever seen.
We're being very, very strong on our southern border. And I would say the likes of which this country certainly has never seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Philip, that last comment was about opioid addiction, the crisis in America. And the same event he made those North Korea, that North Korea remark. Do you think the president has elevated this threat because of his love of a particular catch phrase?
PHILIP MUDD, COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, CNN: I think he's making a confused decision, that is when you -- when you listen to what we just heard, Don, you're hearing him typically talk to a domestic audience. He understands that audience. Clearly he understood it better than we did during the election.
The problem is, he's using same language for an audience he doesn't understand. In the intelligence business, we use a phrase for this. It's called mirror imaging. That is if you threaten a foreign audience, in this case threatening the North Korean leader, you make a judgment that they will view that threat in the same way you would view that.
You look in the mirror and say they think like we do. The problem the president is making a fundamental problem in foreign policy decision making is, he cannot understand how Kim Jong-un views that threat. Does he view it as a threat or does he view it as an indication with, for example, military exercises or military deployments that mean the president is serious about toppling the North Korean regime.
If the president doesn't stop this, he risks the North Korean leader misinterpreting what he's saying in a way that a North American audience and American audience would not misinterpret the president. It's very different audiences. LEMON: Congressman, as president, your words have global
ramifications. You know that. Do you think President Trump is aware of the consequences of those comments, of his comments there?
JACK KINGSTON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Absolutely. I would actually agree with Philip but I would expand it to say his audience wasn't just Kim Jong-un. It was China. It was the European Union. It was NATO. It was our allies across the globe.
[22:34:59] And what he was saying is, this is an extremely dangerous situation. This is what his cabinet members have been saying, as well. And we need a worldwide solution here. We need a coalition. These sanctions they have to be followed. We need to expand them further. We need to cut off North Korea and isolate this regime so that we can deal with it diplomatically because we are in the 11th hour and the 59th minute here.
If you go back 20 or 30 years, every president has had to deal with this family, the Kim family really since the Korean War. And so -- but now they have the weapons. They've always had the insanity and so I think the president is really raising the stakes here but he's done it deliberately because he want -- he doesn't want the United States to do this alone.
LEMON: Phil, why are you shaking your head?
MUDD: That's not what the president said. Jack just said the president characterized this as a difficult dangerous situation. I agree with that. The threatened a foreign leader. And we don't understand how the leader will interpret that threat.
If the president said this was a dangerous situation and we need more action from the Chinese, I would understand that. Let's be clear about facts. That's not what he said.
KINGSTON: But Phil, that is what he said. You can speak to the world but direct it towards the North Korean regime because what you've said, I agree with. You don't know how he's going to react. And I don't think the president is saying he's going to react one way or the other but he does have a little bit more faith in our traditional allies and our traditional adversaries.
And so he is speaking to them and he would love to see China get off its duff, love to see Russia get involved more.
LEMON: Jack, what's the interpretation of fire and fury? What's your interpretation?
KINGSTON: I am not certain, but let me say this. You know, I know Philip has been -- I sat on the defense committee and I said it very many classified briefings. And you walk out of these hearings and you say, my gosh. I cannot believe the world is on the brink of the brink. And you just get this kind of fatigue feeling.
And I think the president has been seeing some of these briefings and he's saying we have got to move. And that's why he was raising that, and I think that his statement today...
LEMON: Do you raise that on a world stage or do you raise it inside the committee meeting or inside the meeting with your...
KINGSTON: Well, when you think about having, what is it, 35,000 American troops in the Korean Peninsula, you have millions of South Koreans, you've got Japan, maybe you have Guam with Americans. You know, I mean, maybe you just don't know where this guy is going to go. And I'm saying he is saying, this could be a, you know, four bell fire alarm here, five bell, whatever the saying is. I think he's being real serious and I think he does want the world...
LEMON: You don't think there should be more precision in the president's words, that he should be more precise and not left open to interpretation? I don't really see any other way that you can interpret fire and fury.
Does anybody else on the panel see in any way to interpret fire and fury when you're talking about a miniature nuclear warhead, I mean, and you're talking about the possibility of war? Does anybody else see -- does that mean something else?
DALE: I think fire and fury in itself could have meant a conventional military strike of some sort. I think what elevated it to the nuclear level was the like the world has never seen.
LEMON: The world has never seen.
DALE: So I come back to that hyperbolic phrase again.
LEMON: All right, stick with me, everyone. When we come back, the president's credibility problem goes way back. A history of Donald Trump's trouble with the truth. That's next.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: With North Korea threatening to strike Guam, our new CNN polls show Americans increasingly concerned about the North Korean regime. It's important to point out that the poll was conducted before President Trump's stern warning today when asked how the president was handling the situation with North Korea, 37 percent said, they approve. But a full 50 percent say, they disapprove.
And when asked if they trust most of what they hear from the White House, only 24 percent say yes. But a whopping 73 percent say no. Donald Trump definitely keeping fact checkers busy because as president what he says matters as soon as he says it.
But in his former life as a real estate titan, speaking the actual truth was not always part of doing business.
CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger takes a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Donald Trump and the truth. A relationship that's troubled. From phone calls that never happened...
TRUMP: Even the president of Mexico called me.
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The conversations took place. They simply didn't take place over a phone call.
BORGER: To the size of his victory.
TRUMP: I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George H.W. Bush 426 when he won as president.
BORGER: To the evidence-free claim of who exactly voted in 2016.
PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I've seen no evidence to that effect and I've made that very, very clear.
BORGER: Trump's unique take on accuracy goes back decades. To the building and selling of Trump Tower. Where Barbara Res managed the construction.
BARBARA RES, FORMER EVP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: He planted that Princess Di was looking for an apartment in Trump town.
BORGER: And that didn't happen?
RES: No. But it made the papers.
BORGER: Sure. So veracity wasn't a part of it. It was just getting the buzz out there.
RES: Yes, yes.
BORGER: About Trump? Did you guys laugh at it or?
RES: Yes. Because there was nothing so terrible about it. And I mean, you know, it was kind of like puffing , you know, it was like exaggerating.
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL: It seems sometimes like that's not the case.
BORGER: Tony Schwartz, co-author of "Trump: The Art of the Deal," even invented a name for Trump's strategy. SCHWARTZ: I came up with this phrase truthful hyperbole which is, you
know, I called it an innocent form of exaggeration. Now I can call something that I actually sold for $2 million, I can say $10 million and that becomes truthful hyperbole.
The problem is that there is no such thing as truthful hyperbole. The truth is the truth. Hyperbole is a lie. They don't go together.
BORGER: In 1990, truthful hyperbole was on full display when disaster struck at Trump's Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
ALAN LAPIDUS, ARCHITECT, TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL & CASINO: When the casino control commission went down there on opening day to check out that all the things had been done, many things hadn't been done. They shut down a third of the slots.
BORGER: Slots that were critical to the casino's success.
LAPIDUS: The slots are the prime revenue producer of the casino. To shut down the third on opening day was both humiliating and financially disastrous.
[22:45:04] JACK O'DONNELL, FORMER PRESIDENT, TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL & CASINO: Something could go bad like the opening of the Taj and he would say it's because we had so much business here that this happened. Not that the systems broke down, not that we didn't know what we were doing. We had so much business it broke down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the slot machine thing where they were down for a while?
TRUMP: The slots were so hot. Nobody's, again, nobody's seen people play that hard and that fast. Every slot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what, it blew out the slots literally.
TRUMP: They blew apart. We had machines that they were virtually on fire. It was like a fuse or like a fire.
O'DONNELL: Donald is so wrapped up in hyperbole, it's almost constant lies. You know, whether it's the littlest things where, you know, if you had -- if you had 2,000 people at an event, you know, he would say there were 5,000 people at an event.
BORGER: Behavior that might have been tolerated in the boardroom or during a private real estate deal but not from the bully pulpit.
ALAN POMERANTZ, REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY: You can say anything in a room, anything. And people do. And we know as real estate people you always check what everybody says. You do your diligence.
BORGER: Alan Pomerantz represented the banks that held Trump's debt when he was in financial trouble decades ago. POMERANTZ It doesn't mean that people lie. Because they don't
necessarily lie but they sell. And if you tell me something and I don't check it and I buy the real estate, it's my fault, not yours. I own it. It's mine. I don't think it works that way in the world. In the world, everybody listens to what the president says. What the president says matters.
TRUMP: And will to the best of my ability.
BORGER: Trump may have changed jobs but not himself.
SCHWARTZ: There's no belief system. If it will work, I will say it. If it stops working, I'll say it's the opposite and I will not feel any compunction about saying it's opposite because I don't believe anything in the first place.
BORGER: It's all about telling the story he wants to tell.
SCHWARTZ: Seeing it from his perspective, doesn't make a distinction between what's true and what's false. His only distinction is what will work and what will not work.
TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.
SCHWARTZ: And if it happens to be true, OK, he'll live with that. That's fine. But there is no -- there's no governor in his mind that says you know what? I mean, I'm really am pissed off about somebody saying something like that, but I'm not going to lie in response to it. That doesn't exist inside his brain. It's just not there. That's the nature of not having a conscience.
BORGER: And what happens when he's challenged with facts? What does he do?
SCHWARTZ: He has a genius, you know, perverse genius for turning any situation into something that is evidence of his brilliance. Even if it's not true.
TRUMP: They did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday.
BORGER: The need for exaggeration to always be first and never be wrong is rooted in the need to be the best, says a biographer.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: The truth wasn't quite good enough. And I think this is an important thing to understand about Donald and the Trump way. And the Trump way is to be impossibly superior to always be winning, always be prevailing. And always be the best thing.
BORGER: Even if the best thing turns out to be a lie.
BORGER: And as we all know, credibility is the coin of the realm for any president, especially for one facing his first foreign policy crisis. Don? LEMON: Gloria Borger, thank you very much. When we come back, will
President Trump ever change his relationship with the truth? And what impact will his credibility problem have on his presidency?
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We've told you about the crisis of credibility in the White House but what will this mean for a president just a little over 200 days into his term.
Back now with my panel. My panel that was just getting heated up before we went to the break there. Nia, I have to start with you. The president clearly has a problem with the truth, you saw Gloria's report there. What does this do to the office of the presidency?
HENDERSON: You know, in many ways -- you know, we sometimes we think of the office of the presidency as a static thing but presidents, as much as shaped by the presidency, they also shape the office of the president -- of the presidency as well.
I mean, you know, the way that Obama conducted himself in office, obviously you have Donald Trump as the anti-Obama in many ways. You think about somebody like Jimmy Carter he came into office promising to the American people that he would never tell a lie. The sort of subtext of that was about Nixon.
And so, I think whoever succeeds Donald Trump in four to eight years will likely have to have a conversation about how they expect to conduct themselves in office. I don't necessarily see that the way that Donald Trump conducts himself will necessarily have any effect or carry over in terms of whoever succeeds him conducts themselves in office.
LEMON: Daniel, the Toronto Star, your paper is running a tally of every false thing. President Trump has said what's the official number 200 days into his presidency?
DALE: We are precisely 500 in 200 days.
LEMON: Five hundred?
LEMON: Do you have room in your paper to print anything else?
DALE: You know, we don't even run them in print. It's an online only project for obvious reasons.
LEMON: Jack, you smile but as...
KINGSTON: I'm smiling because I wondering if they kept such a tally on Obama. But I would never accuse them of trying to tally...
LEMON: Jack, don't try to compare. Don't try to compare. KINGSTON: Well...
LEMON: Politicians are politicians and they don't always meet up to campaign promises. I know you're going to say if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. That's one.
KINGSTON: No, actually...
LEMON: But if you look at 500. Come on, Jack, let's be real. Can you actually be honest for a moment when it comes to this president and his relationship to the truth for once? Can you do it?
KINGSTON: Yes. Let me -- yes, let me -- I always am, Don. Let me point something else, though. Bill Clinton, if we could all admit, wasn't always factual in some of his statements but when we were at war in Bosnia or when we were bombing Kosovo, and I actually went to Kosovo with Bill Clinton, the American people got behind him because Americans do get behind their commander-in-chief during the time of crisis.
And they forgive a lot of statements and a lot of partisanships and previous thoughts because they realize that the stakes are high. So, I want to say that, but...
LEMON: But it's more about credibility when you do it 500 times. Because this new CNN polls shows 73 percent of Americans, Jack, don't trust what they hear from the White House. So, and that's not a question of getting behind the president. How can the president lead without the trust of the American people?
KINGSTON: Well, as you may know, a Rasmussen poll in 2013 actually said that the press reliability was below 15 percent at that time. Now it has gone up, it has gone down and it depends on who you're interviewing.
LEMON: The question was about the White House not about the press.
[22:55:00] KINGSTON: Well, no, but what I'm saying is sometimes it depends on who's reading these things and who's responding to them. So you don't really know. And I got to say, I don't know what that -- I've read a lot of polls. I may be the only one on the panel who's paid for polls and interpreted polls and spent thousands of dollars based on polling decisions.
What I do know is it depends on the demographic that you poll, when time of day that you poll and the way the questions are phrased. I haven't seen that.
LEMON: But, Jack, a lie doesn't depend on the way you're polled. A lie depends on the truth and facts. I mean, that doesn't depend on interpretation. You can't say two plus two equals four. Well, not if you've interpret it. Some people may interpret that one
way and some people may call it new math and other people call it old math but when I'm from the south we do it this, I mean, that's...
KINGSTON: Don, if you interview people from San Francisco...
LEMON: That's how you sound.
KINGSTON: ... if you are going to -- well, let me tell you this. If you're knowing to interview people from San Francisco and weigh them heavier than people say from Nebraska or maybe a swing state like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or Ohio.
LEMON: But again, it doesn't matter where you're from. OK, so a lie is not the same -- a lie is not the same in the south than it is -- but go on.
KINGSTON: I'm saying the polling reality, you can't just rely on that poll. But what I did -- I mean, you would agree with me though, that the American people were solidly behind Bill Clinton when we were at war in Kosovo and Bosnia, and yet he did not have a sterling reputation for telling the truth all the time and could we agree on that?
LEMON: OK. Phil?
MUDD: Let me be -- let me be simple here. The same about the president. It's about his cabinet. When the president comes out and says Iran is not in compliance with the nuclear deal, who do you going to believe, Don? I'm not going to believe the guy.
The pressure on the cabinet is going to be coming out and say if it the president says something that's not true, are they going to come out and reverse them. Look at what we've seen, State Department has said he's not correct on Iran compliance with the nuclear deal.
The Defense Department on sexual orientation of military officers has said we are not doing it until you guys give us an implementation plan. The CIA director and the Director of National Intelligence have said nice views, Mr. President on Russian medaling with the election. We don't agree with you.
I think this is a unique pressure on the cabinet when the president comes out and makes something up to come out and speaks in ways the cabinet don't usually speak and say the president is making stuff up. And I think we'll see that in the future.
LEMON: I know, I'm going to go a little bit over so don't get at me, producers. Daniel, I have to ask you. To Jack's question, why didn't you do it with President Bush or President Obama or President Clinton? Why didn't you do a tally then?
DALE: Sure. I'll give you two answers. One, I was in high school during the Bush presidency and I just got out of college in the Obama presidency.
KINGSTON: That's not acceptable.
DALE: So I'm going to plead -- I'm going to plead innocence there. But the second reason is that Trump is just different. I wish I'd done it for Obama so I could offer the comparison. I wasn't here. But we know, you know, talk to any historian who studies presidents. We just have not seen day to day serial lying like we see from Trump. I would never argue that Obama was holy truthful.
DALE: There are a number of important false claims that Obama made throughout his presidency.
LEMON: But not to this number.
DALE: We just haven't seen anything like this. Yes.
LEMON: But not to this number.
LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
HENDERSON: Thanks, Don.
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