Return to Transcripts main page


FBI Raids Paul Manafort's Home; North Korea Nuclear Crisis. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 9, 2017 - 15:00   ET



BEN FERGUSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You need to know this is a new day. The last eight years of a policy that allowed you to get those weapons and to be this bully, we're not going to let you have another four years of that.


OK, Rick Wilson, I want to make sure I get you in also just responding to the same question and also just responding to Ben. What do you think?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First off, Ben's answer to you betrays a level of naivete about nuclear weapons and about the Korean Peninsula in specific that is utterly staggering.

BALDWIN: Why? Why?

WILSON: That was some weapons-grade stupidity right there, because...



WILSON: ... the fact of the matter is, you can't -- you don't threaten people -- the deterrence model is this. You say to another country, if you hit me with nuclear weapons, I will respond. Therefore, neither country does it.

You don't say, if you talk bad about me, if you threaten me, I could respond with fire and fury. That's not a code word for some little tap on the wrist. That's a code word for the first use of nuclear weapons.

This is entirely out of the bounds of what a nation like ours should do. We could level North Korea into a shimmering plane of glass.


FERGUSON: And it doesn't mean that we're going to use nuclear weapons. This is the part where I say you're being irresponsible because you're saying the only option America had was nuclear weapons.

(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: Hang on, hang on. Let Rick finish.

WILSON: Deterrence and diplomacy have worked for this country for generations.

And the fact of the matter is, the failures of administrations of both parties over the last 25 years have led North Korea to be where it is now. You cannot argue that a military strike on North Korea, even in a non-nuclear strike, will not result in the deaths of millions of South Koreans, 100,000 Americans.


WILSON: Ben, listen, this is a matter by which you have displayed your absolute ignorance of the Korean Peninsula.


WILSON: This is not something where a military operation that you throw off the back of Donald Trump's shoot-from-the-hip style could possibly lead to anything, except an incredibly damaging and horrifying death toll in South Korea.


FERGUSON: Let me go back in the point here.

What you're missing, obviously, is you're implying that somehow over the last eight years, our policy of 100 percent diplomacy and deferring to Japan and the United Nations has somehow been a success. It's been a total failure.

You and I wouldn't be having this conversation right now if it wasn't for the fact that they have been able to do exactly what they have done in their nuclear program and including have the ability to reach half the United States of America.

If we keep going down the road that you're going down, and what you're saying is successful, then what does failure look like to you? Sixty nuclear weapons, you're saying, is successful? Having half of America be reached by North Korea is successful?


WILSON: I just said that the failures of administrations of both parties for the last 25 years in the Korean Peninsula have led us to this point. The fact of the matter is, though, that when you...


FERGUSON: I'm sorry. That's just not accurate.


WILSON: ... and fire and fury, you're in a whole different zone. You're in a whole different zone, and it requires responsibility. (CROSSTALK)

WILSON: ... and judgment, none of which Donald Trump has in his strong suit.

FERGUSON: With all due respect...


WILSON: He's sitting there saying fire and fury. That's a threat of a...


WILSON: ... nuclear strike. Are you in favor of a...


WILSON: ... nuclear strike, Ben? Ben, are you in favor of a preemptive nuclear strike on Korean Peninsula?


FERGUSON: Listen to the words coming out of my mouth, if you're going to ask a dumb question.


WILSON: It's a simple question, yes or no. Do you favor a preemptive nuclear strike?

FERGUSON: It's not as simple as that. You're turning this into second grade here.


WILSON: It's a simple question. Donald Trump today laid it out on the table. You love the guy.


FERGUSON: You obviously don't care what anyone else says.


WILSON: Do you think that's a great idea?

FERGUSON: OK, I'm going to finish now.


BALDWIN: Rick, Rick, Rick. Rick, Rick, hang on. Let's let Ben have a moment.


FERGUSON: Listen carefully, because you're having a hard time understanding this.

There are other options militarily besides only nuclear options. Fire and fury does not necessarily mean only push the red button for a nuclear war. It is incredibly incompetent and ignorant to imply that the only option our military has...


FERGUSON: That is not what the president said yesterday. You're implying that there's only one option. There is more than one option.


BALDWIN: Let me cut through this for a second.

Ben, I totally understand the point you're making and how, Rick, you're arguing against it.

But so, to Ben's point, if the diplomacy thus far has not been working, what, in your opinion -- and you have the State Department saying let's give it a shot, let's get North Korea at the table. In your opinion, what's the best option here?

WILSON: Look, you have to move this into a deterrence frame.

BALDWIN: What does that mean?

WILSON: And a deterrence frame is not threatening a preemptive strike.

FERGUSON: So, do what we're still doing right now.


WILSON: A deterrence frame is when weapons are deployed and used by North Korea -- if weapons are deployed and used by North Korea, then a nuclear response is on the table. But you don't lay it out there.


BALDWIN: You're going to wait for them to launch them?



WILSON: Donald Trump was not talking about -- he was not talking about a conventional strike.


WILSON: The language was hardly coded.

FERGUSON: You're telling me the only time that the president can use the words fire and fury is literally if nuclear weapons are in the air? Are you literally kidding me right now? That is the worse foreign policy I have ever heard in my entire life.


WILSON: Ben, there are boundaries and there are ways you talk about deterrence.

General Mattis did it right today. Donald Trump shot from the lip, as he usually does, because he is ignorant of history. He is ignorant of strategy. He is ignorant of diplomacy. And he's certainly ignorant of the use of deterrence in nuclear warfare.

FERGUSON: I get that you don't like Donald Trump, but the foreign policy you're describing has been a failure over the last year.

When the president says he's going to protect and defend the United States of America, and then the only option you give the president is nuclear war, that just shows that you have no understanding.


WILSON: The option is active deterrence and diplomacy.

FERGUSON: We have done sanctions.


WILSON: If you strike North Korea with conventional weapons -- Ben, if you strike -- and I ask you this question. If you strike North Korea with conventional weapons, you understand that the most heavily armored area of the world for artillery is on the South Korean border with North Korea.

They will slog the hell out of South Korea, out of Seoul. This is not going to be pretty. And you're saying that you think there are no consequences to this kind of action, and it's really irresponsible.



BALDWIN: I want to stop. I want to -- why don't I just pivot, please?

Let me just ask, Ben, to you, and then, Rick, I want you to weigh in, on the different messaging, right, coming out of the White House. So you have the language, fire and fury, that the president uses. Then you have the language that we have heard from both Tillerson and from Mattis.

It's not all entirely on the same page. I don't know if you guys were listening to Admiral Kirby a second ago on how, essentially, it's been a catch-up situation, as this was off the cuff.

Ben, so can you speak to the issue of not all being on the same page?

FERGUSON: Yes. I think the president was being blunt and off the cuff. It was very

clear from how he said that that it was off the cuff. But I do think the tone was...

BALDWIN: Should you be off the cuff on North Korea?

FERGUSON: I think the words that people have obsessed with him saying are fire and fury are words that, you know what, do you want him to use a different word?

His point was to speak directly to Kim Jong-un and to make it very clear that it is a new day. You're not going to get away...


BALDWIN: But he didn't give his administration a heads-up -- he didn't give his administration a heads-up on using that kind of language about North Korea.

FERGUSON: Let me say this. Let me say this.

I think that there are multiple ways that you can deal with diplomacy. Only having a kumbaya diplomacy that we have gone, which is go to Japan, go to the United Nations, and all of a sudden we will kind of set back a little bit, that has been a failure to the point where half of America's now at risk and you have a crazy guy with nuclear weapons and he can actually deliver in a real capacity.

BALDWIN: I know, but that still doesn't mean that the president should be speaking off the cuff when it comes to North Korea.

FERGUSON: No, no, my point is, his policy is, we're going to be tough. Now, can you have good cop/bad cop with the State Department? Absolutely. I think that's what you have seen today.

BALDWIN: How is that most effective?


FERGUSON: Well, I think you have to have more than just one avenue to talk to Kim Jong-un, because the one avenue of sole diplomacy has gotten us nowhere but a crazy guy who now has nuclear weapons that he can deliver to half the United States of America.

It did not work for eight, nine years. We would have been since doing that since the end of the Bush time. You're talking nine-plus years, nine-and-a-half, to be conservative, and now he has more of an arsenal than he's ever had before even while sanctions have been imposed.

And we have new sanctions.

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

FERGUSON: You can do two things at once, but the president is not going to sit there and be bullied by him.


WILSON: The president, as he always does -- the president, as he always does, shot from the lip. He was riffing. He was -- whatever impulsive thing that drives him drove him at that moment.

And so, yes, you had to see the entire administration play catch-up. And in a matter as consequential as a potential nuclear exchange, you have to have probity and you have to have judgment, and you have to have discipline. And Donald Trump has never displayed those at any point in his life or career.

And so everybody that's scrambling -- and, by the way, I have talked to some of my friends in the military today who are in this world, and the sense was, oh, dear God. It wasn't, hey, this is great, let's get on board with this great policy. It was, oh, dear God, this guy has no idea what he's doing.


FERGUSON: There was no policy that was announced. It was the president defending the fact that you have a leader that has nuclear weapons that he can deliver.

WILSON: The president's words become policy.

FERGUSON: The policy of saying, if you continue to come after America, or if you threaten America, we will defend yourself is a policy that I'm pretty sure almost every president in my lifetime has had. It's not a new policy.


WILSON: When he said fire and fury, he didn't mean a sternly worded letter.

FERGUSON: So, be kind and give him a hug and send him a gift, is that what you want diplomacy to be for a guy with nuclear weapons?


WILSON: You really believe that's what I'm suggesting?

FERGUSON: I mean, that's a foreign policy over the last nine years that has been a failure. So we have nuclear weapons that guy has now. So I would say it might be time to try something else.

WILSON: You are unbelievably irresponsible and ignorant of the Korean Peninsula. It's astounding.

BALDWIN: OK. On that, we're going to go.


Rick Wilson and Ben Ferguson, it's been a pleasure. Thank you both so much for a healthy dialogue.


WILSON: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.



Let's continue on, shall we, breaking news here.

The U.S. secretary of defense has just issued what is perhaps the fiercest warning yet against North Korea's nuclear threats. We have been talking about all this messaging out of the White House. You now have the secretary of defense, General James Mattis, saying this, that North Korea should cease any consideration of actions that will lead to the end of the regime and destruction of its people.

The U.S. and North Korea trading barbs after the revelation that North Korea has likely produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can be strapped to its missiles. President Trump vowing to bring fire and fury if North Korea continues to threaten the U.S.

The State Department is also responding to new North Korean threats to attack this small U.S. territory of Guam. And it insists that administration officials and President Trump are on the same page, despite Secretary of State Rex Tillerson playing down the fears of a war with North Korea.


HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: But the United States is on the same page. Whether it's the White House, the State Department, the Department of Defense, we are speaking with one voice. And the world is, in fact, speaking with one voice, and we saw that as it came out of the U.N. Security Council with the resolution that passed less than a week ago.

The United States, along with other nations, condemned North Korea for their destabilizing activities. They have continued to take part of that. Two ICBM launches in less than a month's period of time, the world remains very concerned about that.


BALDWIN: Let's go to Sara Murray, CNN White House correspondent there, traveling, following the president on his working vacation.

Sara, what is the president saying that prompted these questions to this spokeswoman at the State Department?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, obviously, we saw a very fiery statement from the president yesterday, fire and fury. We are now told that he basically came up with that on the spot, although other administration officials were aware of what he said, but the president's sort of aggressive posturing is continuing today.

He took to Twitter to say: "My first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before. Hopefully, we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world."

And, Brooke, it's worth noting that when the president came into office, he did order a review of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, but if he were to aggressively modernize it, that would take Congress approving a large amount of funds to do so. And if we were going to aggressively change America's nuclear capability, there are treaties that govern that, so this would have had to be an international discussion.

So it's unclear what Trump has actually done, if anything, when it comes to the U.S. nuclear arsenal. But it is clear that he wants to send a signal to North Korea, to Kim Jong-un that the U.S. has a strong positioning on this, that the U.S. is prepared to act if tensions continue to escalate.

Obviously, though, the president's language, it has caused some concern, including from some members of his own party who say, look, this may be Trump's style, but this is not how presidents usually conduct diplomacy, especially when you're talking about an issue as sensitive as North Korea and the potential for a nuclear crisis, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Sara, thank you so much.

From New Jersey to Guam, we go.

Ivan Watson is our senior international correspondent who is live in Guam, 5:13 in the morning there, where you are. We know the U.S. has an Air Force base there.

Ivan, Secretary Tillerson trying to, you know, reassure Americans during a visit there, a very different tone from what we heard from the president. What exactly did he tell those reporters in Guam?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That there was no new threat to this island, that he did not consider redirecting the itinerary of his flight that stopped here for refueling.

That's part of why Guam is so important to the U.S. military. It's a refueling point. It's a place to launch planes and ships from.

Listen, I believe we have some sound from the secretary of state as he was passing through here. Let's take a listen.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think the president -- what the president was doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-un would understand, because he doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language. But I think what the president was just reaffirming is the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack and defend our allies, and we will do so. And so the American people should sleep well at night.


WATSON: And the people of Guam, whether or not they're sleeping well, that's an important question because after all, North Korea did threaten to envelope this small island in fire, Brooke.

When we landed at the airport after midnight, a border guard, a U.S. border guard, joked with us, welcome to ground zero. So, people here know about the news. But we're not seeing any signs of panic. The hotels here seem overbooked, if anything. It's hard to get a hotel room here.


And we came on a flight from South Korea, of all places, that was full of Asian tourists coming here to presumably enjoy Guam's beaches and scuba diving -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Ivan, thank you so much live in Guam.

Coming up, we will analyze all of the breaking news here on this North Korean threat.

Also ahead, breaking news in the Russia investigation today. We have learned that the FBI raided the home of the man who once ran President Trump's campaign, Paul Manafort. Details on what exactly those FBI agents seized and what it tells us about the state of investigation.

Stay with us.


BALDWIN: More on our breaking news.

Officials tell CNN that President Trump spoke off the cuff, that he improvised his fire and fury threat, that line against North Korea.

So, let's begin there.

Bruce Klingner, former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, recently met with Korean officials, and Phil Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official.


Welcome, welcome to both of you.

And, Phil Mudd, to you first.

I don't know if you were listening so closely, maybe as closely as we all were, when we took that State Department briefing live, but you heard the spokeswoman defending the president's phraseology of fire and fury, saying that the president used the same language that Kim Jong-un would use so that he would understand the message that the pressure campaign is working.

Do you agree?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's downright goofy. Let me explain why.


MUDD: Goofy.

There's a theory that the president is violating every day, and it's called the rational actor model. Let me simplify that for you. The president assumes that an adversary he doesn't understand and a potential adversary who does not have a good window on the world is going to interpret the message the president offered in the same way the president meant it.

The president clearly wants to speak to his base. He also wants to potentially intimidate Kim Jong-un. Why would we assume that Kim Jong-un takes that comment and interprets it how the president wants?

If I were him, I would say, I don't understand this guy. He speaks off the cuff. He's engaged in military exercises, and maybe he actually does want to topple me, so why shouldn't I accelerate my military operations, including the development of a nuclear weapon?

I think the president needs to be more careful, because he's assuming he knows how Kim Jong-un is going to interpret what he says. Not true.

BALDWIN: You, Bruce, I don't want to say you speak the language of the North Koreans, but you have spoken to the North Koreans. You know how to be effective with the North Koreans.

What do you make of the president's use -- choice of language and how he should be responding moving forward?

BRUCE KLINGNER, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, his language sounded like it was penned by Pyongyang. And, in a way, it's been a distraction from what had been the first of the big stories in the last 24 hours, which was the leak of the intelligence assessment that North Korea has warheads for its ICBM.

Again, it's a CIA assessment or a DIA assessment.


KLINGNER: Yes, it's the best assessment that analysts have. But it's something that is a long time coming. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, and we can debate whether North Korea has the capability today or tomorrow or next year, but I think that's the real focus.

The president's comments, he was trying to reassure our allies of U.S. resolve. He was trying to deter North Korea. I think the language was unhelpful. I think it was a distraction.

So, as we move forward, we have seen comments by Secretary Mattis, who is showing resolve for our allies, but in response to if North Korea were to attack us. And Secretary Tillerson's comments, I think, were more diplomatic in that trying to point out that, you know, we are not seeking to initiate hostilities with North Korea, but we will respond accordingly.

Now, that seems to fly in the face of comments by National Security Adviser McMaster, who said the government has told the military to prepare at least the option for a preventive attack, even though other officials say that could have catastrophic consequences.

BALDWIN: Phil, what do you think of this whole good cop/bad cop routine?

MUDD: Well, excuse me, when you go into a discussion with somebody and you're going to do good cop/bad cop, you talk about it before you go in to determine who plays which role.

Now, we know the president didn't have that conversation because his comments were improvised. So if it's good cop/bad cop, how did we plan before the president went off to make those comments?

Let me clear. There's a simple rule of thumb in these situations, Brooke, and that is the hotter the kitchen gets, the cooler the cook gets. In this situation, Rex Tillerson is saying let's take some air out of the balloon. Notice how often he talked about the word dialogue.

The president, in the midst of a dialogue, I guess, or a conversation with a dictator halfway around the world has decided he has to make the kitchen hotter. That violates the fundamental principle of crisis management. Keep cool when it gets hot.

BALDWIN: I'm listening to you and I also just want to get to this sound, just speaking of how the president speaks.

Here's a quick example and then we will talk on the other side.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're being very, very strong on our southern border, and I would say the likes of which this country certainly has never seen that kind of strength.

Grassroots movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic 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.

I see it now, even more than I saw it in this great campaign, which turned out to be a movement, a movement like the world has never seen before, actually.

Unemployment is the lowest it's been in 17 years. Business enthusiasm is about as high as they have ever seen it.

We're unleashing a new era of American prosperity, perhaps like we have never seen before.



BALDWIN: Now, call it what you will, a verbal tick, enthusiasm, hyperbole, Bruce, here's my question. The world is watching. Do you think North Korea will take this threat based upon how he has spoken in the past about things? Will they take him seriously?

KLINGNER: Right, well, messages received sometimes are different from the intended message delivered.

Our allies are concerned about what U.S. intentions are, whether we will initiate a preventive attack against North Korea, which could precipitate an all-out war on the peninsula.

Also, with North Korea, they are -- you know, they use the U.S. rhetoric and claims of hostile policy as justification for their nuclear policies, but what I'm concerned about is the danger of miscalculation.

When we have South Korea, North Korea, and the U.S. all talking about preemption or preventive attack, and the others saying we will preempt your preemption, we could stumble across a red line by miscalculation.

So, if the talk about preventive attack or preemptive attack and this kind of rhetoric of never seen before, is that beyond Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is that a nuclear attack, or is it a conventional attack?

All of that gets thrown into a very volatile mix of each side trying to determine what the other's intentions or likely actions are. North Korea, if they feel they are about to attack, may feel they need to lash out first.

BALDWIN: Bruce Klingner and Phil Mudd, gentlemen, thank you both so, so much.

Coming up here, we have -- we will talk to a top senator, get his reaction to President Trump's threats, warnings to New York.

Also ahead, more on our other breaking news, the raid on the home of a foreign -- a former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Stay here.