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Tillerson: Guam Not Under Any Imminent Threat From North Korea; Trump And The Truth; Trump's Credibility In Question. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 9, 2017 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00] BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO: So don't expect them to act rationally. They're unpredictable.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

RICHARDSON: The best thing we need to do is --

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Go ahead. Finish your thought, please.

RICHARDSON: No. I think the best thing we could do is announce a comprehensive policy. The president should perhaps address the nation about this imminent threat because there's just too much -- too much rhetoric, too much misunderstandings. And basically, rally the country and rally people from around the world to this very grave threat.

It's not a crisis yet but, you know, blustery language back and forth, you don't draw red lines and then don't cross them. I think that's what the president's done.

WEIR: Bill Richardson, thank you so much for your insight this morning.

Two hundred and two days into this presidency and we've yet to see an address straight down the camera, you know, from the -- from the West Wing, from the Rose Garden, whatever. If not now, when?

CAMEROTA: Anything is possible since breaking news continues to happen on our watch this morning. So there's all sorts of developments that we'll bring you up to speed on.

WEIR: Coming up next, two military generals weigh in on North Korea accelerating nuclear capabilities and how the U.S. could respond if there's another aggression.

Stay with us, please.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WEIR: More on the breaking news.

Just moments ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the ground in Guam saying President Trump sent a strong message to North Korea, a message that only Kim Jong Un would understand because he doesn't seem to have a grasp on diplomatic language.

But more importantly, telling the country any threats to the U.S. will be met with fire and fury. That was the president's words but Rex Tillerson softening things, saying America should sleep well.

Let's discuss now with CNN military analyst, former Army commanding general in Europe and the Seventh Army, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling.

And, former deputy commanding general of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, author of "Besieged," Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata.

Anthony, let me start with you.

You advised President Trump on the campaign trail. What is his sense of the Korean Peninsula, of China -- all of these players -- and what did you make of his words about raining down fire and fury yesterday?

[07:35:03] GEN. ANTHONY TATA, BRIGADIER GENERAL, U.S. ARMY (RET.), AUTHOR, "BESIEGED": Well, Bill, I see the fire and fury comment as just another element of national power that this team is leveraging.

You've got H.R. McMaster, you've got Gen. Kelly, you've got Gen. Mattis. They all understand about leveraging elements of national power to achieve ends, ways, and means of national security.

And so, I think the fire and fury comment was an informational piece of national power, just as we've got military B-1 bombers flying across the Peninsula using flexible deterrent options.

We've got the sanctions that were imposed. That's an economic element of national power we use. Political and geopolitical national power to achieve a unanimous vote on those sanctions.

So I see -- I think what you see here is an administration that really understands how to synchronize the elements of national power, whereas the previous administration was particularly inept at doing so.

So what we've got now is you've got 8,500 artillery tubes in North Korea, 4,500 rocket launchers in North Korea, and they essentially are threatening Seoul with conventional power while they build their nuclear power.

And what they've got right now is the ability to range the middle of the United States and there is some indication that there are miniaturized nuclear warheads that they can put on these ballistic missiles they've been testing under the Obama regime.

And we've had a difference between power and appeasement.

President Trump prefers to talk about America first and power, as opposed to President Obama and, frankly, the Clinton strategy of appeasement.

We have to remember in 1994, President Clinton struck the deal that would quote unquote "dismantle" North Korea's nuclear program, much the way Obama struck a deal with Iran to dismantle its nuclear program, and we see where we are with North Korea today.

WEIR: Well, years of strategic patience as a strategy brings us to this day.

General Hertling, you had a bemused smile on your face. What are your thoughts about this idea of power?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, EUROPE AND SEVENTH ARMY: Yes, I don't see it quite the same way my good friend Tony sees it and I think strategic leaders should look at many ways to control the operational tempo to find conversation not mixed with emotion to diffuse issues as opposed to ramp them up.

As soon as you start limiting your options by saying one thing when you're the strategic leader you've caused yourself a little bit of trouble.

Now, the current administration has achieved some great things over the last seven to 10 days in terms of diplomatic action and informational action. And to have the leader of that administration using the bellicose language that a lot of the world sees in a very different way than many Americans do causes some challenges when you're talking about a strategic event with dire circumstances on the Peninsula of Korea.

The other thing I'd point out, too, is, you know, as we're focusing on this one area of the world -- one of the jobs I had as a war planner in the Pentagon many years ago was to say what's going on in the rest of the world?

This is one of three or four major strategic issues that are occurring that the United States is involved in and if you put all your focus in one area where this was a conflict that we've always known for the last several decades, would consume America's strength and power. And to put all of our focus on this one area when we have very many other strategic challenges, I think is a mistake.

WEIR: General Tata, is there any form of military warning shot that could be sent here that would, you know, not put American or South Korean lives in danger, and what happens if the chain of command disagrees with the president on the strike call?

TATA: Well, the president is the commander in chief and I think what you've got is a chain of command that will properly execute the commander in chief's orders.

You know, I go back to what my good friend Mark was saying.

You know, I would rather go back in time and have FDR give a warning to Japan not to attack Pearl Harbor than to make his famous Day of Infamy speech that he made.

So, I think, you know, we're kind of at the -- we're at brinksmanship right now with North Korea and the options are we have a range of flexible deterrent options from Operation Foal Eagle that used to be called Team Spirit that we do on the Korean Peninsula. That involves, you know, tens of thousands of U.S. and Republic of Korea troops on the ground conducting military exercises.

We've deployed terminal high altitude air defense systems throughout the region that, you know, help knock down ballistic missiles.

We've got -- you know, Guam is in range. Why do they want to go to Guam? Because that's where the B-1 bombers fly from.

[07:40:04] And we've got 6,000 U.S. military personnel there. We've got a joint naval base formerly called Andersen Air Force Base there. That's a big power projection platform for us in the Western Pacific.

North Korea would love nothing better than to threaten that and that's why -- you know, that is a U.S. territory that is probably most close to North Korea that they can range and threaten.

So, yes, there's a range of options but none of them are good because you've got about 15 million people in Seoul that are under conventional threat right now.

WEIR: Right.

Generals Tata and Hertling, thank you for your time this morning, gentlemen -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Bill.

There's this CNN poll that finds that more than 70 percent of Americans do not trust the information that comes out of the White House, so what does that mean for our current situation? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: So, a new CNN national poll shows that 73 percent of Americans do not trust what they hear from the White House. What does that mean for the president's fire and fury warning to North Korea?

WEIR: President Trump, of course, has a long history of puffery and bluster in the business world but this penchant for exaggeration may have crossed a dangerous line.

CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger looks at Trump's dicey relationship with the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP CAMPAIGN RALLYGOERS: USA, USA, USA.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Donald Trump and the truth, a relationship that's troubled.

From phone calls that never happened --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even the president of Mexico called me. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The conversations took place, they just 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.

[07:45:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George H.W. Bush, 426 when he won as president.

BORGER: -- to the evidence-free claim of who exactly voted in 2016.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I've seen no evidence to that effect. 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 EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: He planted that Princess Di was looking for an apartment in Trump Tower.

BORGER (on camera): And that didn't happen?

RES: No.

BORGER: Oh.

RES: 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.

BORGER: -- about Trump?

Did you guys laugh at it or --

RES: Yes because there was nothing so terrible about it. 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 (voice-over): Tony Schwartz, co-author of Trump's "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 it 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 truth 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 AND 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 and they shut down a third of the slots.

BORGER: Slots that were critical to the casino's success.

LAPIDUS: The slots are the primary revenue producer of the casino. To shut down a third on opening day was both humiliating and financially disastrous.

JACK O'DONNELL, FORMER PRESIDENT, TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL AND 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.

LARRY KING, HOST, CNN "LARRY KING LIVE" (1990): 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 --

KING: So it blew out the slots literally?

TRUMP: They blew apart. We had machines that were --

KING: Was it like too much -- like a fuse?

TRUMP: They were virtually on fire.

KING: Was it --

TRUMP: It was like a fuse or like a fire.

O'DONNELL: Donald is so wrapped up in hyperbole that it's almost constant lies, you know, whether it's the littlest things where, you know, if he had -- if he 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 board room 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 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. He -- 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 oh, you know what? I mean, I 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 (on camera): And what happens when he's challenged with facts? What does he do?

SCHWARTZ: He has a genius -- you know, a 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.

[07:50:00] BORGER (voice-over): 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, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": 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 (on camera): And as we all know, credibility is the coin of the realm for any president, especially once facing his first foreign policy crisis.

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: OK. Our thanks to Gloria Borger there. A fascinating look back at history.

WEIR: The first president with no military or political experience. Moments like these are the test of whether that makes sense.

CAMEROTA: It sure is and we're seeing that in real time because North Korea's nuclear threat is upon us. How are lawmakers reacting to what the North is saying? What do Republicans think about the president's rhetoric?

The head of the Republican National Committee is going to join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: President Trump's fire and fury warning to North Korea comes as an astounding 73 percent of American say they do not trust information coming out of the White House. This is in the latest CNN poll.

And even among Republicans, only half say they trust what they hear from the Trump administration.

[07:55:00] Joining us now is Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. Good morning, Chairwoman.

RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you here.

Let's start with all the breaking news today, including President Trump's rhetoric about North Korea.

We've heard Sen. John McCain say that he thinks that that rhetoric is at best, overheated; at worst, could be dangerous.

What's the Republican Party's take on this?

MCDANIEL: Well, I think you just heard from Sec. Tillerson the president is using rhetoric that will get the attention of Kim Jong Un, somebody who is clearly unstable, who is now making nuclear threats not just against the United States but against Guam. This is a perilous situation.

And I think President Trump contrasts strongly against the 'stick your head in the sand' policy of President Obama who ignored this threat.

And now, we are in a global situation where we have a potential nuclear threat in North Korea and it's going to take strong rhetoric to let Kim Jong Un know that the United States is serious. CAMEROTA: And, President Trump's rhetoric also contrasts markedly from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's. I mean, what he has been saying is that he's trying to launch a peaceful pressure campaign to get the North talking. So, President Trump's rhetoric is -- seems to be off message on that.

MCDANIEL: I think President Trump is exactly what we -- doing exactly what we want the president to do. He is saying this is what the United States is going to do if you use nuclear weapons.

I mean, this is a person, in Kim Jong Un, who tortures his people. We look at Otto Warmbier, what he did to him. He has now created ICBMs and miniaturized nuclear weapons. He is someone who we should take very seriously.

The Obama administration clearly missed the global threat that North Korea posed to the United States of America.

We have diplomatic channels open.

Nikki Haley went to the U.N. this past Saturday and got unanimous support for sanctions, even from Russia and China. And now, you have Sec. Tillerson working through back channels to try and de-escalate the situation.

But the President of the United States needs to be firm that we will act if Kim Jong Un uses nuclear weapons against the United States of America or our allies.

CAMEROTA: Does it cause you any concern that those -- the new CNN polling that we just showed that 73 percent of Americans say they can't trust the information or what they hear from the White House?

MCDANIEL: You know, I'm not concerned about those polls because if polls were correct Donald Trump wouldn't be president right now.

I mean, I'm from Michigan. The largest paper in Michigan called the election for Hillary Clinton on election night.

I just -- and I'm traveling the country and I'm seeing what people are saying, and they support President Trump.

And you look at the RNC fundraising, even. In small dollar contributions, we had 250,000 new small dollar donors between January and March. They're not just supporting the president, they're rallying behind him. So I think he has tremendous support among his base.

And I think it's a tough time right now when you have -- I think the media's been very unfair to the president. You have Democrats obstructing him at every level. He has every obstacle in front of him and he's still going out and fighting for the American people.

A million new jobs, unemployment numbers at a record low, consumer confidence at a 16-year high. I mean, this is a president who is delivering on the things that he promised to the American people. CAMEROTA: I mean, obviously, there are exceptions to that, speaking of repealing and replacing Obamacare.

And we just heard from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying that he thinks -- he said this in Kentucky -- he thinks that President Trump has excessive expectations in terms of a legislative agenda for what can be accomplished and how soon.

Is the president overly optimistic and not sort of on board with what Congress thinks it can do?

MCDANIEL: I think the president represents the American people and he's saying the status quo in Washington is not getting it done for the American people.

And when you see premiums doubling, when you see deductibles so high on health care, when you see people suffering as insurers are pulling out of the marketplace, the president is saying we need to put our foot on the gas and keep working for the American people. I don't care what status quo Washington does. It's time to make a change because people are hurting in this country.

CAMEROTA: Right. But, I mean, of course -- I understand but, of course, you have to care what status quo Washington does because they're Congress. I mean, if that's what you're referring to Congress as.

MCDANIEL: Well, he's saying we should do better. I mean, he's saying --

CAMEROTA: And they didn't get it right.

MCDANIEL: -- we can do better. We should do better. This isn't OK.

I'm in Michigan today. I run into people all the time. They're saying when am I going to find relief. I said -- we sent you to Washington and we want people to help us.

Our health care is failing. Our doctors -- we don't have our same doctors. We were promised we could keep our doctor.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

MCDANIEL: We were promised we could keep our plan.

None of that happened. Our premiums are so high. Please help us.

So, the president is going to keep pushing Congress to act because he's representing the American people.

CAMEROTA: Ronna Romney McDaniel, thank you very much for representing the Republican side for us at this time.

MCDANIEL: Thank you for having me.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you. All right. We're following a lot of breaking developments on the North Korean threat so let's get right to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: North Korea threatening the U.S. territory of --