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North Korea Responds to Donald Trump's Language; Top Diplomats Not in Unison; Guam in Full Military Alert. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 9, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: ... over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts now.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: North Korea steps right over President Trump's red line.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
President Trump warned North Korea of fire and fury if they threatened the U.S. And tonight, Kim Jong-un is doing exactly what the president warned against. Threatening the U.S.
North Korea's state news agency mocking the president for being, quote, "at a golf range and putting out what it calls a load of nonsense about fire and fury. Failing to grasp the ongoing grave situation."
But there's more. The North Korean army says it's, quote, "seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam." A plan they say will be ready in the next few days.
So with the standoff escalating, what happens next? Let's get right to CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto and Robin Wright, joint fellow at the Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center. Good evening to both of you. So glad to have you on.
Jim, I'm going to start with you. Tonight, North Korea has issued a new response to the president. Here's what it says. "U.S. President at a golf range again let out a load of nonsense about fire and fury, failing to grasp the ongoing grave situation. It seems that he has not yet understood the statement. Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him."
I mean, that's a pretty strong statement, and they're threatening to launch four missiles near Guam. This all crosses the president's red line. So what now? What happens next?
JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You're right. I mean, it's the second time in 24 hours since the president made that statement that North Korea has additional threats against the U.S. And this is a very specific threat. It specifies the target, Guam, where the U.S. has two military bases. It specifies the kind of missile, intermediate-range ballistic missile and even says the number of missiles, four missiles intended to overwhelm the missile defense system. The THAAD system that is based on Guam.
So it's a specific threat. I spoke to a senior military official in the Pentagon tonight who said that when a hostile nuclear-capable adversary makes such a threat they certainly take it seriously.
But to be clear here, there are questions about whether North Korea could have the targeting accuracy to carry out a strike like this, one. And two, North Korea knows, we often talk about whether it's a rational or irrational actor. North Korea knows that any attack like this on U.S. territory would be met with an overwhelming response.
So that's a message that was made even clearer today by Secretary Mattis and others. So is this a threat that the U.S. expects North Korea to act on? No. Is it one they take seriously? For sure. Yes.
LEMON: Yes. But it doesn't -- I mean, from the sounds of the statement it doesn't seem like they're taking what the president is saying and his advisers are saying too seriously. So Robin, we have this new North Korean response that frankly sounds a lot like the way Americans describe Kim Jong-un. How do you see President Trump responding to this?
ROBIN WRIGHT, JOINT FELLOW, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE AND THE WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: Well, I think he'll probably use the kind of tough language he's used over the last 24 hours. I think what's electrifying to people is the way this confrontation has escalated to the point that people are talking about firing missiles or confrontation or fury and fire, when in fact diplomacy is still the only way out of this.
The secretary of state has said the diplomatic option is still very much on the table. So there's a certain hysteria that's been associated with the rapid-fire sequence of events in just two days. And somebody has got to pull it back a little bit, and that's where it will depend on what the president says.
I think the outside world, particularly those in the neighborhood of North Korea are very concerned about this getting out of control, that the kind of an ad-lib remark by the President of the United States has produced the kind of response that looks like we're really on the precipice of something that could become military in the not too distant future. And that's not really where I think sentiment is in either country.
LEMON: Yes. Do you think the North Koreans are taking the president's -- I mean, if you read the statement, Jim says obviously they are because they know what they would be met with. But this statement, Robin, doesn't sound like they are.
WRIGHT: I think the North Koreans have always been paranoid. I've been to North Korea. I went with Secretary of State Albright in the one encounter by a high U.S. official. It's paranoid, it's insecure, it's economically strapped. The regime believes that a nuclear weapon is the only way to prevent regime change and to hang on to power.
I think they take the president -- what the president says seriously. But we have to understand the prism through which they see these remarks, and that's the kind of fear of obliteration or regime change which is what they fear the most.
And we've had that kind of language from, for example, the CIA chief when he talked at the Aspen security forum last month about separating the regime from its nuclear weapons, which indicated whether it was assassination or regime change.
[22:05:08] LEMON: Yes. Jim, you wanted to respond?
SCIUTTO: No. I was at the conference as well. And those comments by Mike Pompeo were notable. I mean, that was -- that was an intentional when the director of the CIA talks about separating the North Korean regime from its weapons, that was an intentional message to be said.
I think this point needs to be made. You know, there was a status quo from previous U.S. administrations, republican and democrat, Obama, Bush, Clinton, going back further, that you did not want North Korea to get nuclear weapons but that the cost of military action to prevent that from happening was too high, in effect it's on the table but not really on the table.
Clearly President Trump comes in and he wants to upset that status quo to some degree. It doesn't mean that he's going to order a military strike. But he wants to raise the cost, raise the level of urgency not just for North Korea but for China as well, pressure.
And I think some of this messaging here, while bombastic and bellicose, is also designed to put pressure on China to say that listen, the status quo is not tolerable anymore, we have to find a way forward. It doesn't mean that the U.S. is going to pull the trigger on military action. But there's a kind of method to the madness, if you could say, in terms of message sending not just to North Korea but also to China.
LEMON: Yes. Let me put this up because this is what we're hearing, Jim, from the Trump administration. President Trump says "North Korea will be met with fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen before."
Secretary of Defense Mattis says "North Korea should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime." Secretary of State Tillerson says "Americans should sleep well at night." And the State Department spokeswoman says "we are speaking with one voice." One voice? Really?
SCIUTTO: Listen, I call this, you know, the reinterpretation of the president's comments yesterday, not necessarily a contradiction, possibly I suppose you can call it a walk back.
I mean, the president said if North Korea threatens again we're going to respond with fire and fury. Of course North Korea's threatened twice since then. That's what North Korea does. It threatens every other day.
What Mattis and Tillerson did today, first of all, Tillerson said listen, the American people can sleep at night. He even said specifically that the rhetoric that he's heard, and he didn't specify North Korean or American, should not make Americans concerned that we're going to war here.
And then Mattis, while he had a very strongly worded statement, reminding North Korea that if they take certain actions that it would lead to the destruction of their people, but in terms that had been uttered by American officials before, in other words, saying not just a threat but let's be clear here, if North Korea attacks the U.S. will respond.
So kind of bringing the president's comments back in line with more -- with more of a mainstream message from the U.S. regarding military action against North Korea.
LEMON: Robin, I want to talk about your latest piece for the New Yorker. You spoke to a foreign -- former foreign policy officials or former foreign policy officials, and to put it bluntly they're freaked out about how little this president knows about foreign policy. What are the folks you're speaking with saying about the current situation we're in now?
WRIGHT: Well, I think there's a deep concern among many officials dating back eight administrations that this president doesn't have a very sophisticated knowledge of foreign affairs. He doesn't understand the nuances. He doesn't understand the history.
I don't know whether he understands that we have not responded to the provocations by the North Koreans since 1953, since the end of the Korean War. And I think there's a concern that by making these bellicose statements he's boxing himself in, he's limiting his options.
And he's only provoking the North Koreans into believing they have to have a nuclear weapon and a deliverable nuclear weapon a missile in order to defend themselves and that it does -- it closes off options.
I think the sad truth is we've reached the point probably that trying to get the North Koreans to roll back their nuclear program is not a viable solution. And it's how do you contain it, how do you prevent them from wanting to use it. And those are very tricky diplomatic questions that involve prolonged negotiations. And that doesn't look like it's being cultivated by this administration at a very dangerous moment.
LEMON: Robin, Jim, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, we're learning the president's threat of fire and fury was completely improvised. So were the members of his administration really on the same page? We'll talk about that next.
[22:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: North Korea threatening military action again tonight against U.S. territory and mocking President Trump's fire and fury warning.
Here to discuss, senior political commentator Rick Santorum, a former republican senator and presidential candidate, and political commentator Steve Israel, a former democratic congressman.
The powerhouse here. Thank you, gentlemen for joining us this evening. Good to see you. Senator Santorum, straightforward question. Are you comfortable with how President Trump improvised on North Korea, especially now that North Korea responded with another threat against Guam?
RICK SANTORUM, SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes. I'm comfortable that the president has decided to abandon the approach that previous administrations, democrat and republican, have taken, the people who were just on your -- on the panel before, the diplomatic groups here in the United States, which is, you know, we can always negotiate our way out of this problem.
And that this is just simply a matter that we have to -- you know, we have to open up channels and we have to figure out -- we did this under President Clinton when we were trying to prevent North Korea from getting a nuclear weapon. That failed.
We had an agreement called the framework agreement. President Clinton touted it that there would never be a nuclear power. Guess what, they're a nuclear power. Then we had agreements to say, you know, they're not going to get missile technology. Here we are, they now have missile technology that can reach.
So, all of this, all of this talk has got us to the precipice where one of the most truly crazy people in the world, unpredictable crazy person in the world now has a nuclear weapon and now has potentially the ability to deliver it to the United States.
At some point we have to stop talking and start doing something that gives them the impression that this isn't going to be tolerated.
[22:15:04] LEMON: OK. I just want to get to the bottom of the question. You're comfortable with him improvising the fire and fury part of it.
SANTORUM: I think -- I think what he did, whether it was improvised or not, was try to change the directive of our policy in this country from one that says we can manage the situation by talking to them and conceding things and allowing this and tolerating a nuclear-capable North Korea with a missile technology to deliver to the United States and that we can live and, quote, as you heard "contain that."
You can't contain someone who's completely irrational, unpredictable. What you're doing, what they're doing is projecting their rationality on an irrational actor and that just doesn't make no sense. LEMON: I want to get Steve Israel. Steve, same question, and I'll
take it up a notch. Are you comfortable with that? And if you look at the statement the way the North Koreans responded, it doesn't seem that they're taking it seriously.
Are you comfortable with him improvising and do you think this is a way as Senator Santorum said to end this situation or at least to contain the situation?
STEVE ISRAEL, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I'm exceedingly uncomfortable. I'm uncomfortable with any ad hoc policy that is applied to the potential for an escalation to a nuclear confrontation. Look, Don, I was at the DMZ with some of Senator Santorum's former colleagues, Joe Manchin and others, last October. We took a look at our ballistic missile defense systems. We met with Japanese officials, folks on Guam, South Korean officials, went to the DMZ. And this much is clear.
One, we cannot allow North Korea to have a -- to threaten us with nuclear weapons. That is clear. That should be the objective of foreign policy. Making bellicose statements I don't believe is the best way to achieve that policy. What we do need to do is first rapidly accelerate our research of ballistic missile defenses. Some people say it's too late. Every day we delay makes it even later.
Number two, engage China constructively. And number three, continue to build out our alliances. Those are sane, sensible, calibrated foreign policies. Ad hoc is never a good idea on foreign policy in my view.
LEMON: So, the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the National Security Council was aware of the tone of the president's statement but the words were his own. And I'm wondering if you think that this is a sort of wag the dog scenario, Mr. Israel. Did the president, you know. go all in to distract from everything else that's going on?
ISRAEL: No, I don't think so. My understanding from talking to some of my former colleagues is that the president is very deeply concerned and anxious about Kim Jong-un. He feels that Kim Jong-un is a bully. And he decided to out bully him. I'm just not sure that that constitutes a coherent and clear foreign policy objective.
LEMON: I'll ask you, Senator Santorum, same question. Did he want to distract from everyone? Because -- I'm asking because we've seen in interviews over the past couple of decades, right? The one in 1999 where he was very thoughtful. He spoke very thoughtfully about nuclear weapons and North Korea. Now all of a sudden we have this fire and fury.
SANTORUM: Well, I think Donald Trump has recognized this is the national security threat that his administration is going to have to confront. Every president has one, you know, had their first true national security threat. And I think Donald Trump has embraced that.
I think most presidents have tried to ignore it and tried to sort of sweep it aside and say, well, he's just a crazy guy and we'll manage him and focus on other threats that maybe are other manageable. I mean, this is a very, I agree with Steve. This is a very difficult situation. I actually agree with the three suggestions that he made. I would add more that we need to increase our maneuvers.
I think we need to increase our military presence. We need to show that -- we need to show the North Koreans we absolutely mean business here. And the idea that, you know, just doing more of the same is going to result in some different result with North Korea has proven to be wrong.
And I give the president credit for owning North Korea, for taking it on personally as a serious threat in spite of the difficulty in dealing -- and the options that he has to deal with.
LEMON: I'm sure you saw the video. I mean, it was live. He was supposed to be talking about opioids, and then he addressed North Korea. But if you saw the expressions on the faces of his advisers after he made that comment, I wonder if this incident is another example of the grown-ups having to sort of retrofit an explanation after the president says something off the cuff because we saw a similar thing happen with the whole transgender in the military policy.
I'll offer that up to you, Mr. Israel, first.
ISRAEL: Look, I saw the video. Many people did. I think what we saw was a president who let Kim Jong-un get under his skin.
[22:20:01] Now, let me say this. If in fact that statement was the product of an Intel assessment, that such a statement might actually work, might actually back Kim Jong-un down, I'd be OK with it. But we didn't see that. We saw the opposite.
And so I don't believe this was driven by some assessment by General McMaster or Secretary Mattis with the intelligence community. I think it was driven by what Donald Trump wanted to say at the time.
The fundamental challenge we have right now is unpredictable is meeting unpredictable. We have an unpredictable president who's meeting a wildly unpredictable Kim Jong-un. Never in my life have I seen unpredictable plus unpredictable getting you predictable. And what we need here is a sustained predictable outcome based on some smart and tough foreign policy objectives.
LEMON: I think that unpredictability has a whole lot of people concerned.
LEMON: Listen, Sebastian Gorka, one of the president's advisers, is out on this. All right. And here's what he told Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's saying don't test America and don't test Donald J. Trump. We are not just a superpower. We were a superpower. We are now a hyper power. Nobody in the world, especially not North Korea, comes close to challenging our military capabilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Senator Santorum, to the point about unpredictability, I mean, it seems everyone else is trying to turn down the temperature and then Gorka is pouring gasoline on the fire here. What's going on?
SANTORUM: Well, again, I would just say that if you look at the past, where everybody in every administration for the past several administrations had tried to tone down everything, you saw -- nobody used the rhetoric.
I'd agree, nobody's used the rhetoric that President Trump has used or Sebastian Gorka has used. But we're in a situation that is a very dire situation right now as a result of this very toned-down policy that we've allowed North Korea to get to this point.
It might make some sense to take this unpredictable leader and have him think that maybe he's dealing with someone who's unpredictable. And maybe that could be a good thing. Contrary to what the foreign policy establishment...
LEMON: What is hyper power. What does that even mean? I mean, should we be saying hyperbolic power? Because there's so much hyperbole happening on both sides.
ISRAEL: We're huge. We're huge. That's what we are. We're huge.
LEMON: What does that even mean?
SANTORUM: I just think, you know, he's just trying to say that we're the, you know, maybe the greatest power or bigger than everybody else by magnitudes more than in previous -- I don't know. I mean, I think he's just trying to follow up with what the president's saying, which is, you know, we're serious -- we're serious about this.
The president -- we have the capability to do this. And we have a president who you don't know. May not listen to his advisers and may do something. That may cause a -- I know most people say, well, North Korea will react poorly. They also may react in a way that would be actually be favorably to us.
LEMON: They also could react poorly.
ISRAEL: Don, can I just...
LEMON: Yes, go ahead, Steve.
ISRAEL: Can I comment on that briefly?
ISRAEL: What Mr. Gorka said after that I think is even more concerning, which is this is a national security crisis that requires the country to come together. I agree with that. But then suggested that if you question the president you don't care about national security.
Mr. Gorka ought to read the Constitution of the United States of America, article 1 section 8, which says that Congress has the power to declare war. It is Congress that decides how much money is going to be spent on war. It is Congress that has a constitutional oversight responsibility.
No president, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George Bush, Bill Clinton should receive a blank check and a free pass, particularly when we may be going toward a conflagration of the nature that we're looking at now.
LEMON: Great conversation. I appreciate having both of you on as always. Thank you, gentlemen.
When we come back, previous administrations all failed to deter North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons. So, was President Trump right to try a new approach, or is he boxing himself in? We'll discuss.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A defiant North Korea warning tonight that it's examining a plan to launch four ballistic missiles targeting an area near Guam. A statement saying the missile strike would send a crucial warning to the United States. It's in response to the president's stern warning to North Korea yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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: North Korea calls the reference to the fire and fury, quote, "a load of nonsense."
Joining me now to discuss all of this, lieutenant commander Steven Rogers. He's a former senior military intelligence officer who was a member of the Trump campaign committee. CNN military analyst colonel Cedric Leighton, a former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Balbina Hwang, a former senior adviser to the State Department.
Can't wait to hear from all of you. I'm going to start with you, lieutenant commander. So, this is what everyone asks me. Are we going to go to war? Is there
going to be some military action? You and I have been talking about this for two nights now. You say...
STEVEN ROGERS, FORMER SENIOR MILITARY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, UNITED STATES NAVY: I believe we are not going to go to war. I believe that after -- look, keep in mind President Donald Trump has not escalated this. This has been -- this has been escalated by North Korea over the past 40 years.
The president inherited this. Business as usual hasn't worked. They now have this intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, and I believe the president did change the rules of engagement here and he made it clear to them that they heed his words.
LEMON: But you don't think he boxed himself in with his language? Because this -- because after he said that here's what North Korea said tonight.
[22:29:56] "As already clarified, the strategic force of the KPA is seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate range strategic ballistic rockets in order to interdict the enemy forces on military -- on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the U.S.
I mean, is that why he should have maybe not said fire and fury?
STEVEN ROGERS, FORMER SENIOR MILITARY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, UNITED STATES NAVY: I don't believe he boxed himself in. I believe if they dare fire a missile that's your red line that they're going to cross. But I've got to tell you, and we've talked about this earlier, what astonishes me is what they didn't say. They're not threatening South Korea. Not a word about South Korea.
The North Koreans don't want to go to war with us. They know what will happen to them in the event that they cause a nuclear -- well, not a nuclear war but a conventional war. So I really believe, Don, that the president in an interesting way strategically maneuvered the region into a position where perhaps China will now step in and do their diligence.
LEMON: Balbina, earlier today you said that you thought we were all overreacting to this fire and fury statement. Do you still think that? What should the president say or do next?
BALBINA HWANG, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, U.S. STATE DEPARMENT: Well, yes, I do. And I think the statements that came out of -- from Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson were exactly right. I mean, I think they are the ones that that is the tone of the policy.
And frankly speaking, you know, this is not some dramatic change in policy. The Trump administration's North Korea policy review very clearly states the Trump administration will pursue maximum pressure and engagement. That's actually very consistent with what W. Bush said. And by the way, W. Bush, when he gave his axis of evil statement back in 2001, that also set off a firestorm which we had to deal with for over a decade.
LEMON: I remember that. Yes.
HWANG: So, I mean, you know, these kinds of rhetorical statements, these strong statements have been stated before. But lieutenant commander is exactly correct. Let's put the blame exactly where it belongs, which is North Korea.
LEMON: Colonel Leighton, I want to bring you in because you say if North Korea has produced, and that's an if, right, because this is according to a source? A miniaturized nuclear warhead, as was reported yesterday. That it's a game changer.
So what do you make of tonight's threats? And why do you think that either cyber -- the lieutenant commander said he doesn't believe there's going to be any sort of response militarily or whatever. But you think that cyber sabotage or commando attacks are more likely.
CEDRIC LEIGHTON, MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: I do think that, Don. And the reason I think that is because the North Koreans are going to try to use the entire spectrum of capabilities that they have. So when you look at their statement tonight that basically goes in and says we are going to use intermediate-range missiles against targets around Guam, they're not threatening to use their long-range missiles, their intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs.
What they're threatening to do is use weapons that they already have that we have known they had. So there may be a lot of bluffing going on here, but the North Koreans are more than willing to use the entire arsenal that is at their disposal, and it would not surprise me one bit if all of this posturing results in something completely different from what we are expecting right now.
I do think that the reactions that we've seen about the president's remarks are very interesting because the president is basically reacting to a report of an assessment. He is not reacting to an actual North Korean action. And there's a...
LEMON: OK. So be clear for us then. Because you said likely to result in something that we have never seen before. Be more specific about what that means. Because that is a response in itself. As I said, initially with your question.
LEIGHTON: That it is, absolutely. And so what I think we would see, Don, is something that is perhaps even outside of the realm of missile technology. It would be perhaps a cyber-attack, perhaps a combination of a cyber-attack and a missile launch, plus of course they are overdue, many of us think, in testing a nuclear device. They haven't had an underground test in some time.
LEIGHTON: So if they do this, it's going to be something that I think will be probably a bit of a different response than what we think we're going to see.
LEMON: Balbina, you're shaking your head in agreement. Why are you doing it?
HWANG: Well, yes and no. I mean, I think it's very important to look very, very carefully at exactly what the North Korean statement said. First of all, it does not from Kim Jong-un the leader. It comes from the rank and file of the Korean People's Army, the military.
LEMON: The military, right.
HWANG: So, it's a military position. And I don't believe the statement actually states that they will fire these four missiles. They are being very specific about the kinds of capabilities that they claim exist.
LEMON: It says examining the plan.
HWANG: Well, and they talk about interdiction. And in a way there is -- it is absolutely about posturing, but there is plenty of room for North Korea to not fire these missiles. And in a way it's trying to put the onus on the United States, that if the United States were to stage some sort of attack.
[22:35:02] LEMON: Yes, I know you want to get in, commander. But one more question for Balbina. Do you think that the military would have put this statement out without Kim Jong-un knowing about it?
HWANG: No, of course not. On the other hand, you know, branches of the North Korean regime but especially the military, they've never been -- nobody is punished in North Korea for stepping too far out and being too aggressive.
LEMON: Got you.
HWANG: If anything, they get praised for that.
LEMON: Lieutenant commander, you want to jump in.
ROGERS: Good point she just made. The history of our relationship with North Korea has been to really take a step back, try diplomacy, try conciliatory persuasion doesn't work. Now they're dealing with a president who is saying hey, look, if you cross this line this is what's going to happen.
And we're not there yet, Don. I don't believe we're going to get there because as I said I believe the president put it in such a way that they realize they're not dealing with business as usual. They're dealing with a tough guy who's going to protect the American people.
LEMON: Fascinating conversation. I love having you guys on. Thank you so much. When we come back, Trump's team was said to be rattled by news that the FBI conducted a raid on Paul Manafort's house. We'll bring down -- we'll break down for you what this says about Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and how it could affect the president and his inner circle.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: This was a fascinating development today that we're learning that FBI agents launched a pre-dawn raid at the home of President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. It happened two weeks ago. Sources say news of the raid took Trump's inner circle by surprise.
Let's discuss now. CNN legal analyst Richard Ben-Veniste is here. He's a former chief the Watergate task force. Chris Swecker, the former FBI assistant director for the criminal investigative division, and CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor.
I said it was a surprising development because sources tell CNN, Laura, news that the FBI raid took President Trump and members of his inner circle by surprise and rattled, that is a quote, "rattles" a few cages. Are the president and his team right to be rattled by this raid?
LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: I would say so. Especially because of course Manafort was the person who was not a little guy in the campaign. He was the person who headed the campaign for quite some time during the period of time where alleged collusion was alleged to have ramped up in a significant period of time.
The FBI doesn't come do a pre-dawn no-knock announcement warrant to tell you that to have a cup of coffee with them. They're trying to get information and evidence and records that are going to indicate there has been perhaps a crime committed.
Remember, they have to actually go to a federal judge and show probable cause that this person may have evidence that leads to or suggests a crime or an ongoing crime. They should be rattled.
LEMON: OK. So, Laura, but why a raid in the middle of the night? I mean, in the pre-dawn hours. It's also clandestine. Like what's going on here?
COATES: It is. But it shows two things. Number one, the fact that this is a pre-dawn raid is actually quite normal, to have a pre-dawn or early hour raid for the FBI. If they believe the person is going to destroy evidence. If they have prior notice. Or if they feel the person is not going to be cooperative and they have evidence that may be fleeing or gone if it's not acquired in a timely fashion.
Number two, it also shows you that Mueller means business. He does not intend to handle this with kid gloves, does not intend to have this be in front of the camera with a nice glass of water in front of a congressional hearing. They're trying to investigate the possibility of a crime. And he's being treated like most other people would be treated if they were investigated by the FBI.
LEMON: Chris, what do you -- you know, if they're trying -- what kind of evidence, what kind of evidence could he be destroying at this point? I mean, I have to ask you the same question. Why a pre-dawn raid on this man's home?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: Sure. Well, this is what a real credible federal investigation should look like. They use a grand jury routinely. They use search warrants. They don't say mother, may I to some team of attorneys and ask for evidence. They go out and get it.
But this is a little bit unusual in a white-collar investigation and it does tell me that they were able to go to a magistrate, a federal magistrate, a federal judge, and convince them or that person that a crime had been committed, there's probable cause that a crime has been committed, that there's evidence in that location and there's a distinct possibility that that evidence could be destroyed.
That's the only way you get a no-knock search warrant and are able to execute it in that fashion. Usually, it's not going announce. These are mostly done in drug cases.
LEMON: Interesting. Richard, here's what a spokesman -- this is Paul Manafort's response, but it's from a spokesman. It tells CNN that "Manafort cooperated with the FBI during the raid." He said "FBI agents execute a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort's residences. Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperative with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well."
So if he's being so forthcoming, I mean, he could have just -- they could have just asked, could have just turned the information over. So why would the FBI need to raid his apartment?
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: What it tells me is that Bob Mueller must have thought that he was getting jerked around in some way, that either he wasn't getting a straight story from Manafort's attorneys, that either documents were not being forthcoming, that there was foot dragging or in fact that there were statements that were made that have been shown to be inconsistent with statements of other people. Therefore, he got tough.
LEMON: So, if its statements -- OK. OK. I get what you're saying. But Mr. Swecker said, Chris said this usually happens in drug cases. What are they looking for? Computers? Paperwork?
BEN-VENISTE: All of the above. Who knows what they might have found? They might have found cash. They might have found papers, statements, computers. Any sort of thing. But this is an announcement that it's no more Mr. Nice guy on the part of Bob Mueller. This is as Chris said what is often done in drug cases. It's rare to see it in a white- collar case.
[22:55:02] So, that's what leads me to believe that something unusual must have happened in connection with the normal cooperation that occurs in a white-collar kind of case.
LEMON: Yes. So he's sending -- he's sending a message. Go ahead, Laura.
COATES: Yes. And if I might say, we talk about cooperation and Manafort's spokesperson has talked about him being very cooperative. Remember, there are two very distinct probes going on. One is the congressional probe and one is the criminal probe. He may be very cooperative with the Senate intelligence committee or with the House committee as well. But that doesn't mean that he's cooperating with the criminal probe.
And to Ben's point, the idea that he may be jerking the person around or may not be forthcoming in that context, the FBI cannot operate and cannot function as the chief investigating agency of the United States government if they are just on a trust and wink and nod basis.
They must be skeptical. They must try to figure out they have all the information they want. Cooperation is not enough. They need all of the information in an information-gathering inquiry just like this.
LEMON: OK. So speaking of that, you mentioned the Senate Intel committee. Because Chris, this raid occurred the day after Manafort met with the Senate Intel committee staffers. How significant is the timing of all of this? Can you read -- can we read anything into that?
SWECKER: Don, I don't think Director Mueller wants to have anything to do with these congressional investigations. He's going to play nice with them as best he can. But there's nothing they have that he needs. He should always get the evidence first, get his hands on the evidence first. This may have been an effort to do that. It might have been computers, it might have been a mobile device, something that could be very easily destroyed or dropped in water and that sort of thing. But they're not going to rely on this congressional investigation. It's really political theater to prejudge.
BEN-VENISTE: History has shown that congressional investigations have advanced the ball in connection with finding facts and we shouldn't denigrate the opportunity for Congress to do its job.
It is very important because Congress has the opportunity to make public its findings and to have public hearings. So those can work alongside any criminal investigation conducted through a secret grand jury and quite properly the secret process that Bob Mueller is obliged to use before bringing any charges.
LEMON: Yes. But to Chris's point, I mean, this is -- and I understand what you're saying. This has been so political, though. I mean, people have had to recuse themselves from the Congress, on and on. I get both of you gentlemen's point. But I just have to ask you quickly here if you can answer yes or no because I asked Laura. Richard, do you think the White House, the Trump folks should be rattled by this raid?
BEN-VENISTE: Yes. I think it is an indication that Bob Mueller will use the powers that are available to him.
BEN-VENISTE: To get the evidence that he's entitled to get as the investigator here.
LEMON: Chris, do you think so as well?
SWECKER: Yes. I mean, honestly, this investigation is -- let me go back a little bit to address something that Ben said...
LEMON: Can you hold that thought? I'm going to get a break in, and then we'll come back, all right?
LEMON: And we'll discuss. We'll be right back. Don't go anywhere.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Back now with my panel. We're talking about the pre-dawn raid at Paul Manafort's house, the former Trump campaign chairman. So I was asking you, Chris, just quickly. Do you -- they should be worried, right?
SWECKER: Well, I'd say no if they've done nothing illegal.
LEMON: All right. Good. Good answer. OK, so, let me ask you this. My next question is could the FBI -- could they be trying to flip Manafort by using these tactics, Chris, you say yes?
SWECKER: I think that's a very common tactic. It indicates seriousness and as Richard said he could have been jerking them around a little bit and they may have even use, tried to use a subpoena to get the information. So the short answer to that is yes.
LEMON: Laura, flip him or someone close to him?
COATES: Absolutely. He is one of the people who has tangential issues, they are financial matter that are unrelated to the Russian investigations that could be used as leverage to get him to cooperate for future target. Absolutely.
LEMON: What do you think about that, Richard, because someone close to him, who might that be? Who could that be?
BEN-LEVISTE: Well, he's up there near the top of the food chain in terms of dealing with the Russians. Look, Donald Trump has publicly talked about the use of pardons and when you think about that, the idea of pardoning somebody in this investigation without their been any charges levied at all yet, and calling the investigation fake news and a witch hunt.
This is the same kind of thing that Richard Nixon did secretly when he offered clemency to some of the Watergate burglars. So when you talk about pardoning, you're getting the attention of the FBI and the investigators in a way that is inconsistent with letting the investigation go on toward a conclusion based on fact. LEMON: Let me ask you this. Paul Manafort was Trump, the campaign
manager at the time of Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting with the Russians. I mean, could the need for this raid have sprung from that meeting? Chris?
SWECKER: I think that information that was in that e-mail string is probably the first concrete information that I've seen that states the Russian government had an interest in the Trump campaign and helping him. So, yes, I think it forms some of the building blocks for the probable cause affidavit that supported that search warrant.
LEMON: Laura, the Trump administration isn't taking any of this lightly. So the New York Times reports that they had spent time digging into the history of Mueller's team. Unearthing details about political donations that they've made. Do you think Trump's attempts to discredit Mueller and his team will have any impact on this investigation at all?
[22:55:05] COATES: I think you'll have an impact perhaps in the political circles to figure out whether or not the president is trying to distract from the issues. But I think ultimately in the investigation legal context, it will have very little to do with the investigation.
Mueller's financial disclosures have already been made by the Department of Justice along with parts of his team. And it doesn't indicate anything nefarious article in there. So really if anything it shows that there is a paranoia that continues to grow and paranoia invites further speculation and further detailed investigations.
LEMON: What if he tries to fire Mueller? I mean, what happens then because he's already said, you know, there was a red line. Don't cross a line by looking into his finances?
BEN-VENISTE: Well, this red line is a pigment of the president's imagination. It's got nothing at all to do with the legitimacy of the investigation. Of course if there is a motive that is financial, that is behind this argument about collusion, then it should be fully investigated. There's nothing of the sort that is off limits. Talking about a red line, only demonstrates that there is something that the president is very concerned not be made public.
LEMON: Yes. Laura, I know you want to weigh in but I got to go.
LEMON: Thank you very much I appreciate it.
COATES: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, North Korea crossing President Trump's red line with a new threat to the U.S. territory of Guam. The latest on their escalating warnings.
Plus Trump's threat of fire and fury is not the first time he's spoken about using nuclear weapons. We're going to give you a history of the surprising statements.