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Trump: Maybe My North Korea Threat Wasn't Tough Enough; Nuclear Credit Where None is Due. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 10, 2017 - 20:00   ET



A very big night. If the president ever writes one of those "what I did on my summer vacation" essays, he'll have plenty of material today.

[20:00:00] Just today alone, he escalated his tough talk in North Korea twice and North Korea has a new threat as well.

He continued to smack down the top Republican in the Senate, the guy who's supposed to be his key ally. He weighed in on the Russia investigation, restated a false claim about the nuclear arsenal and revisited his election victory several times over.

All in all, in two TV appearances from his New Jersey golf club, the president made a week's worth of headlines.

We begin tonight with North Korea. Mr. Trump not backing away from his initial fire and fury threat. The president today amping it up.


REPORTER: North Koreans said yesterday that your statement on Tuesday was nonsense. That's the word that they used. Do you have any response to that?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don't think they mean that. And I think they -- it's the first time they heard it like they heard it. And frankly, the people that were questioning that statement wasn't too tough, maybe it wasn't tough enough. They've been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years. And it's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country, and for the people of other countries. So, if anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough.

And we're backed 100 percent by our military, we're backed by everybody. And we're backed by many other leaders.

And I notice that many senators and others today came out very much in favor of what I said. But if anything, that statement may not be tough enough.

REPORTER: What could be tougher than fire and fury?

TRUMP: Well, you'll see. You'll see. REPORTER: Mr. President, is one of the options being considered, a

preemptive strike in North Korea?

TRUMP: We don't talk about that. I never do. I'm not like the other administration that would say, we're going into Mosul in four months. I don't talk about it. We'll see what happens.

But I can tell you that what they've been doing, and what they've been getting away with, is a tragedy. And it can't be allowed.


COOPER: Well, that was before briefing with his national security team. Afterwards, he said even more at a session that nearly amounted to a full-fledged press conference which, of course, he hadn't had in months.


REPORTER: Mr. President, are you going to increase the U.S. military presence in Asia?

TRUMP: We're going to look at what's happening in Asia. We're looking at it right now. We're constantly looking at it. I don't like to signal what I'm going to be doing but we are certainly looking at it and, obviously, we're spending a lot of time looking at, in particular, North Korea.

And we are preparing for many different alternative events with North Korea. He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific.

And with me, he's not getting away with it. He got away with it for a long time between him and his family. He's not getting away with it. It's a whole new ball game. And he's not going to be saying those things and certainly not doing those things.

I read about, we're in Guam by August 15th. Let's see what he does with Guam. If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea.

REPORTER: And when you say that, what do you mean?

TRUMP: You'll see. You'll see. And he'll see. He will see.

REPORTER: Is that a dare?

TRUMP: It's not a dare. It's a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That's a statement. He's not going to go around threatening Guam, and he's not going to threaten the United States, and he's not going to threaten Japan, and he's not going to threaten South Korea.

No, that's not a dare, as you say. That is a statement of fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, North Korea weighed in as well, earlier today, saying the United States, quote, would suffer a shameful defeat and final doom, their words, if it doesn't change course. Much more on that shortly.

One other late note, we've just learned from several Defense Department officials, that Joint Chiefs chairman, General Joseph Dunford, has left on a visit to East Asia, including stops in Japan, China, as well as South Korea.

Joining us now is retired Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and former CIA and FBI senior official, Phil Mudd.

General Hertling, you know, if anybody thought the president was going to change his tone, he just seemed to have doubled down on fire and fury and set up some sort of, whether challenge, or basically kind of drew a line under the North Koreans' own date of August 15th in Guam.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. ARMY: It's five days away, Anderson. It's interesting, because this is a guy who was elected because he was a great businessman, and a great negotiator. And he's already going to the final option. It's -- it would be as if he was in his business and already going to suing before he tried to negotiate.

The war of words is not good. It's never good on the diplomatic front. I'm not sure what he's trying to do.

I thought he would tamp it down. I thought some of his aides would get him to get it under control, especially General Kelly, maybe General Mattis and Secretary Tillerson, but they didn't. He should be the guy being quiet and let, in my view, and let his secretary of state and his secretary of defense be either the good cop/bad cop and him weigh in at the appropriate time.

But that's not what's happening. I think by doing that, he's limiting his option and making things a little bit tenser.

[20:05:01] COOPER: Admiral Kirby, I mean, again, he seems to be setting up a confrontation that somebody has to blink on August 15th.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Yes, this is brinkmanship. I mean, it's playing chicken on a geopolitical scale. I think -- look, I still think there's room for diplomacy. And if you listened to Secretary Mattis today, in his comments to the press, he still wants to stay in that diplomatic trade space. And I think there is still room for this.

The problem is, when he ratchets up -- he Trump ratchets up the rhetoric like this, excuse me, he's closing down decision space. He's actually taking away some of the oxygen that Tillerson and Mattis want to have, to let the diplomacy play out. Not to mention he's forcing Kim Jong-un to also close down decision space. It just -- it just takes us to a point where we don't need to be. COOPER: Gloria, I mean, it certainly I guess, from a political

standpoint, makes the president, you know, seem like a decisive leader, and certainly for those who support the president, it's probably a welcome change of language.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, he said, I'm not going to let them do this to us. What he meant was, you know, Kim, you're not going to bully the United States of America.

The problem is that, it's kind of a tit for tat situation here. And so you have General Mattis, who is the leader of the armed forces saying, you know, trying to give North Korea some space there. And say, look, stand down. And you have Tillerson saying, you know, stand down. There's room for negotiation here. And you have the president not acknowledging that at all.

So, you're getting kind of mixed signals, you know? And as John Kirby says, you know, you're boxing Kim in to a degree, and what do you do? Do you look weak if he then ratchets it up and you don't respond?

COOPER: Yes. Phil, how do you see this?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: Pretty simple, one word, choices, Anderson.

I remember being in the White House complex on September 11th of 2001. I was evacuated, walking around the streets of Washington, and you realize within 24, 48, 72 hours, and then when we realize with confirmation that al Qaeda from Afghanistan was responsible for that attack, the president, President Bush, had no options. He had no choice.

In this case, the president has a lot of options. He could choose to focus on different issues, Russia, China, the opioid crisis, which he talked about today.

I agree that North Korea is a potential nuclear threat. They are about a fifth world economic problem. They are a flea on the ass of America.

If the president wants to select North Korea as one of his priorities, my question would be, why? Why do you want to do this? Why are you raising the profile of the North Korean leader to sort of an international celebrity by spending so much time on it?

He doesn't have to do this, that is President Trump. He's choosing to make the North Korean leader a celebrity, and I don't know why. He doesn't have to do this.

COOPER: It's interesting, Admiral Kirby, I mean, you know, the U.S. has always avoided one-on-one discussions with North Korea, always wanting to have other countries involved as well. Almost for that very reason, that Phil is talking about, not having the North Korea on an equal footing with the United States and having it be kind of peer to peer. The president appears to be making it that eye-to-eye confrontation. KIRBY: Yes, no. I completely agree. He's playing right into Kim's

propaganda in the way Kim tries to portray this as a U.S. versus DPRK problem, which we've never wanted to make it. And in fact, it really isn't. I mean, the whole international community has now galvanized against these guys, but he's playing right into that rhetoric.

And you've got to remember, that to Kim, the United States represents an existential threat. I know we don't feel we are, and Tillerson said as much last week before we got to where we are now. But to them, we represent a power that is designed to wipe them off the face of the map. And so, that's why when you throw this kind of rhetoric out there, you have to understand the ears that are going to be listening to it.

BORGER: You know --

COOPER: General Hertling, just from a military standpoint, General Hertling, you know, if this does become a confrontation over Guam in five days, do you know just the logistics of if North Korea was to fire missiles heading -- that they said were going to head toward Guam and fall short, would the U.S. have any idea as the missiles go off, or as we're watching them go, where exactly they are going? And whether they would fall short?

I mean, would the U.S. wait until, you know, they -- we saw what happened with those missiles?

HERTLING: No, you're going to pick them up off the launch pad. I'm sure more surveillance reconnaissance assets have been placed over North Korea because of all this action. You'll probably get all kinds of satellites, maybe some planes, maybe a lot of high-level drones watching them 24 hours a day.

When a heat signature goes off, you're immediately going to pick it up off the launch pad, off the truck that it's fired from, and there are going to be multiple layers of air defense from Korea, through Japan, through the Pacific, to Guam.

[20:10:08] It isn't going to be like a catcher's mitt at Guam waiting for the missile to come in and then hit it right before it strikes. You've not only have land-based, THAAD missiles and PAC-3 missiles. You also have naval base missiles.

So, you're going to pick those things up. And I would say there's a pretty good chance that none of those missiles are going to land unintended with some kind of casualty, or strike against them, a kinetic strike against them. But if you only get one through, it's traumatic.

But going back to what both John and Phil just said, you know, it's all about choices. How do you pull them away from this, and why are we lowering ourselves to the level of North Korea?

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Gloria, you were going to say something? BORGER: Well, yes, I was going to say that, it -- just to make that

point, is that here you have the United States, which should get a lot of credit, and a vote in the U.N. Security Council against North Korea, and why we're not isolating Kim, and saying, the entire international community stands against you, and instead turning it into some mano-a-mano fight that gets ratcheted up between the president of the United States of all people and Kim?

It seems absurd to me, because the entire international community is with us. And we are not making that point very strongly from the bully pulpit, I don't think.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick --

HERTLING: Well, if I could --

COOPER: Sorry. Actually, General Hertling, you get to hold that thought. We've got to have a quick break.


COOPER: We'll have more on North Korea. We'll get right to you when we get back, in this war of words.

Also tonight, keeping the president honest on the credit he's taking for renovating the country's nuclear arsenal barely eight months in office. What's the truth behind that?

And later, how the president's comments on Russia expelling all these American embassy employees in Moscow are being received. Was he joking? Was he praising Vladimir Putin or something else?

That, and more, when we continue.


[20:15:45] COOPER: The breaking news tonight, you can file any notion that President Trump will dial back his rhetoric on North Korea, alongside the notion that North Korea would tone their rhetoric down as well. Pyongyang has more to say tonight. And as before, it's fierier.

Our chief national correspondent Jim Sciutto has that and joins us.

So, what's the response been exactly from North Korea today?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this is North Korea actually responding to Trump's previous bellicose statements, and coming really straight out of North Korean, typical North Korean invective. You hear -- have them saying that the U.S. would suffer a shameful defeat and final doom. They go on to say the vow to mercilessly wipe out the provocateurs, making desperate efforts to stifle the socialist country.

This is typical North Korean invective straight out of the North Korean thesaurus. What is different now, of course, you have the American president matching North Korea to some degree, blow to blow in this rhetorical back-and-forth there. It remains a rhetorical escalation, a military escalation, but certainly incendiary language coming from both sides.

COOPER: Yes. The Secretary of Defense Mattis was asked about North Korea at an event to California, what did he say?

SCIUTTO: That's right. And this is the second time in two days that you've had a cabinet secretary moderate, you could say, the president's language on North Korea. This time, it's Secretary of Defense James Mattis, saying very clearly, that diplomacy is the U.S. priority right now with North Korea.

Have a listen.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: My portfolio, my mission, my responsibility is to have military options, should they be needed. However, right now, Secretary Tillerson, Ambassador Haley, you can see the American effort is diplomatically led. It has diplomatic traction. It is gaining diplomatic results.

And I want to stay right there right now. The tragedy of war is well enough known. It doesn't need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.


SCIUTTO: Mattis, of course, has commanded U.S. forces in war. He very much knows the military -- consequences of military action.

It should be noticed that President Trump as well earlier today also mentioned the possibility of a diplomatic off-ramp for North Korea. But that comment, of course, lost in the more incendiary rhetoric we're hearing from the president as well.

COOPER: Yes, very different message from Mattis.

Jim Sciutto, thanks.

Before bringing the panel back in, I want to focus briefly on something else the president said today. It's not the first time he said and keeping them honest, it's not the first time the facts of the matter contradict him. Here he is today suggesting he has revamped, or in his words renovated the country's nuclear arsenal just since taking office.


TRUMP: The first order I gave to my generals, and, you know, my first order was, I want this, our nuclear arsenal to be the biggest and the finest in the world. We've spend a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of effort, and it's in tip-top shape, and getting better, and getting stronger. Until such time as this scourge disappears, we will be so much better and so much stronger than anybody else. And nobody, including North Korea, is going to be threatening us with anything.

REPORTER: Sir, what specifically have you changed in the nuclear arsenal? And the reason I asked is that a lot of experts yesterday in response to your tweet said that modernizing the arsenal takes many years. It can't be done in six months. It's a long process that's just been done.

TRUMP: We've done a lot of modernization, but we've done a lot of renovation, and we have it now in very, very good shape. It will be in much better shape in the next six months to a year.


COOPER: Keeping them honest now, here's what the president has actually done about the nuclear stockpile. In the 27th of January, he signed a memo directing the secretary of defense to conduct a nuclear posture review to, quote, ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, ready and appropriately tailored to deter 21st century threats and reassure our allies. Now, in reality, that review is required by the Congress.

Back in April, the Pentagon reported it was under way and expected to issue a report by year's end. Separately, there's already a forced modernization program under way, began actually during the last administration. The arsenal has been undergoing modernization for the last eight or so months, but the program was actually launched under the prior administration.

[20:20:10] General Hertling, and the entire panel joins us again.

General Hertling, you heard the president boasting specifically about U.S. nuclear capability that has gone under a big renovation since he's been in office, I mean, does that make any sense?

HERTLING: It didn't, Anderson, because I was on the joint staff back in 2000 -- I think it was 2002 when one of the last nuclear posture reviews, the NPRs as we call it, was conducted. It's a statutory thing. It occurs every five years. It's not something new. And in fact, this started when there was some problems with the nuclear programs over the last two years with deficiencies.

So, actually, this started under the last administration. The other thing that I kind of winced at was when the president said we're bigger and stronger than ever before. The START Treaty has just been in effect over the last -- well, the treaty has been in effect for a long time, but we have just reduced the number of nuclear weapons to 400. It's the lowest rate it's ever been since the buildup of the 1950s.

So, it's not bigger and stronger. It may be looking at modernization, but there's less weapons than we've ever had before. So, all of the things he said were a misstatement or some might call it a flat-out lie.

COOPER: General Hertling, I mean, in your experience, when you're making -- when you're challenging somebody or making a threat to somebody, I assume it's better to be factual in your capabilities than to puff your capabilities up and not be able to -- and then be corrected?

HERTLING: Yes. That's the way I think most people like to do it. You want to appear more -- you want to appear stronger than you talk about. So, in other words, you don't want to be threatening, and not have the ability to back it up.

You actually want people to think, what's he got behind his back? What is he or she going to do next? You don't lay all your cards on the table and say what you're going to do.

It's interesting, Mr. Trump has said from the beginning he's not going to -- he's not going to portray what he's going to do next, he's doing that right now. In fact, he's taken it to the next level with North Korea, and he shouldn't be there.

COOPER: Admiral Kirby, I mean, just looking at this from a different perspective, that the rhetoric from the president, kind of bellicose rhetoric, may push China or Russia to try to push North Korea, try to ratchet down the threats, but also to actually make some progress?

KIRBY: I think it's possible that that's what he thinks, Anderson, that it could do, but I don't think it will. Look, President Xi is not going to be bullied, and we've seen that time and time again. They are the key to try to solve the problem in Pyongyang. That road runs through Beijing.

I think the president and his team were right to try to exploit and use it, but not through tweets, not through bully, not through trade war, you know, threats, and not through this kind of rhetoric. It's not going to impact President Xi. He's a cool, calculating figure. He's betting that a nuclear armed North is still better for him than a violently reunified North with American troops across the Yalu River.

And so, it's not -- we haven't convinced him yet that it's in his best interests to really take aggressive action to help us stop this threat.

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, there's irony in the fact that the secretary of defense, whose nickname is Mad Dog, is the one who is ratcheting this down and being very sober in his -- I mean, he's somebody who has actually seen combat, who actually knows what war looks like. You know, which the president has not served. And to actually have Mattis be the one saying, look, we don't need to describe this in any other way other than cataclysmic.

BORGER: I mean, you couldn't help in that clip that Jim Sciutto showed, you couldn't help but look at General Mattis and see him as a sober diplomat almost. And he becomes the diplomat in this situation. Because he knows what happens in war.

And he -- you know, compare it to the president's kind of apocalyptic language, versus the kind of sober demeanor of Mattis, the quiet demeanor of somebody who's been to war and understands it. It was sort of -- it was just striking to me. COOPER: Yes.

BORGER: And when you look at Trump, I was thinking about this today, it's very much like a real estate guy saying, OK, my building is the biggest, it's the best, and I'm going to -- you know, this is what I can tell you, because you're going to have to go and check me out and there's no way you can figure out that it isn't.

And I think he's using the same kind of tactics he's used his entire life in real estate in New York, only it doesn't work in international diplomacy. And it certainly won't work with North Korea.

COOPER: Yes. Just a correction, I think General Mattis, I said he used the word cataclysmic. I think he used the word catastrophic.


COOPER: Anyway, Phil, I mean, the other part of this, the whole thing, the U.S. doesn't have particular good on the ground intelligence from North Korea. Are you confident that if North Korea was serious in carrying through with their threat, the U.S. would actually know about it ahead of time from aerial surveillance?

MUDD: Confident, heck, no. I would give that about a zero. There's two aspects of any intelligence problem. That is capability and intent.

Over the past week, I understand, you've seen U.S. intelligence assessments in particular from the Defense Intelligence Agency about capability. Can North Korea put together a missile that has a miniaturized nuclear warhead delivered against a point target like Guam? I suspect that is not true. I don't think they can.

The second aspect of this is even more difficult. If you have that capability, and you're a North Korean leader, how confident are you that you know what the North Korean leadership wants to do? Are they bluffing? Do they really intend to do something in August? Do they know where they're going to be in 2020, or 2025?

If you put together that issue of capability and intent, and the fact that North Korea is inaccessible, let me give you a judgment, bottom line, Vegas bet. The United States intelligence community does not have a good understanding of what the North Korean leadership wants to do, and we should not pretend otherwise.

COOPER: We've got to take another break. We're going to have more with the panel ahead.

The president finally addressed the move by Vladimir Putin against more than 700 U.S. embassy personnel in Moscow. But if you thought the president might finally criticize Russia for something, you would be wrong. We're going to show you what the president said that has so many people either shaking or scratching their heads.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: The president's first on-camera response on the Russia expelling more than 700 Moscow embassy personnel was to thank Vladimir Putin. The expulsions came in response to new sanctions against Russia, part of a bill the Senate and the House passed by a margin that could have withstood a presidential veto.

Here's what the president said when he was asked about those diplomats today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank him, because we're trying to cut down on payroll. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll. There's no real reason for them to go back.

So, I greatly appreciate the fact that they have been able to cut our payroll for the United States. We'll save a lot of money.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. Admiral Kirby, how do you interpret that?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Oh, man, Anderson, I try to stay as neutral as I can, but I've got to tell you, this is the most ridiculous thing I've heard the president say I think in six months.

I mean, first of all, this was Putin's retaliation for us expelling 35 diplomats and shutting down some of his facilities here that they were using for espionage. And it was not a proportional response, 755 U.S. employees as opposed to 35 that we kicked out.

Number two, we're not trying to -- you know, the State Department budget is 1%, 1% of the federal outlay of this country every year. So he's not saving that much money. And we should never look at diplomacy as a cost-saving initiative. The fact that those people are there means that they're serving a national interest of our country in Russia. One of the most consequential bilateral relationships we have. So it hurts our ability to actually serve the national insurance.

Number three, of the -- all the employees that we have working in our three consulates and our embassy in Moscow, about 800 of them are local Russian nationals. And it has been a burr in Putin's saddle for years that they're there. Because they try to influence them, intimidate them. They don't like that they're working for the United States government.

And so that number 755, believe me, that was designed by Putin to make sure that the large portion of the people that get kicked out, that aren't able to work in our embassies and our consulates were Russians. So it was hurting Russian citizens. It wasn't saving money or helping us to be more efficient from a diplomatic perspective. This is just ridiculous.

COOPER: Phil, I mean, you know, the -- a lot of people are waiting to hear what the president might say about this because he hasn't said anything for days about it. Does it surprise you that yet again, I mean he finds a way to not do anything that criticizes Vladimir Putin?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I guess not. We've seen this now since the campaign trail. And now into this obviously comment today. There is one aspect to this, Anderson. I have to go personal for just a moment here. Forget about the national security implications.

There are Americans who are coming home from the State Department, from other agencies in the U.S. government. In the course of the past couple of days, they have had to tell their children, their spouse, we have to find a new house. We have to find a new job. They're not going to be fired. The president's wrong about budgetary issues. They're going to stay on the U.S. government payroll.

The most significant issue I can tell you, it is August of 2017. They have to tell a child that that child can't go to their school this fall because they've been expelled, and that child will find a new school. And the president even can't say I'm sorry to those American employees, and I'm sorry that you have to relocate your child, and instead he praises Vladimir Putin?

I understand the national security issues are bigger, but how about a common courtesy to the people who served the government? How about it, Anderson?

COOPER: General Hertling, how do you see this?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes. I'm going to go back to the last block if I can, Anderson. You asked Phil how confident he was of what was going on in North Korea. And it's because we don't have intelligence there, you've just done the same thing now to Russia.

And as a former commander of U.S. Army in Europe, I used to go to the embassies before I visited my counterparts in the armies and I used to talk to the country teams. And the first group I would talk to would be the folks from the CIA, the DIA, the DEA, all of the three-lettered agencies and they would give me an update on what was going on in that country.

I went to Moscow several times. They've got a great country team. We've got intelligence from them. So not only do you have the personnel factor that Phil just talked about, you have the intelligence factors. And commanders on the scene and commanders -- commander in chief in Washington are not going to get the same kind of intelligence. And it was just amazing to me that the president just kind of said, well, no big deal, we're going to save some money. It's just not true.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And Anderson, you know, this was also an opportunity for the president to say, you know, this is clearly in response to the sanctions passed by Congress, overwhelmingly, almost unanimously. And Congress did the right thing. I mean, we know that there was a signing letter with it that the president objected to certain parts of it because he thinks it took away some of his authority.

But it was a moment when he could have said, I stand by the American Congress' decision to impose sanctions in retaliation for the Russian involvement in trying to influence our election. And he didn't.

[20:35:03] And, you know, there are, I'm sure, lots of people in Congress scratching their heads about why the president wouldn't take that opportunity.

KIRBY: I'll tell you the other opportunity he had was to retaliate again for this non-proportional response by Putin.

BORDER: Right.

KIRBY: I mean, 755 people compared to 35. We should have gone the other way. I mean, we should have kicked out more Russian employees instead of thanking them for this. I mean it's just utterly ridiculous.

COOPER: John Kirby, Gloria Border, Phil Mudd, thanks very much, General Hertling as well.

When we come back, breaking news in the Russia investigation, a close associate of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort getting a closer look now from the Justice Department and what the president has to say about the raid at Manafort's home today, next.


COOPER: Well, there's breaking news tonight in the Russia investigation. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is hiring a lawyer specializing in tax investigation, which may be a sign that's where special council Robert Mueller's Russia probe is focusing at least in part.

We're also learning that Manafort's son-in-law recently met with investigators from the Department of Justice. Sources tell CNN they wanted information on possible money laundering or tax violations in Manafort's business dealings with pro-Russia parties in Ukraine.

Today, for the first time, President Trump publicly addressed the FBI raid on Manafort's home. The result that insist documents know the materials. Take a look at what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, was it appropriate for the FBI to raid the home of Paul Manafort pre-dawn?

[20:40:00] TRUMP: I thought it was a very, very strong signal or whatever. I know Mr. Manafort -- haven't spoken to him in a long time, but I know he was with the campaign, as you know, for a very short period of time, relatively short period of time. But I've always known him to be a good man. I thought it was a very, you know -- they do that very seldom. So, I was surprised to see it. I was very, very surprised to see it.


COOPER: With me, Jeffrey Toobin, Gloria Borger, Phil Mudd and Professor Jonathan Turley.

Jeff, what do you make of what the president said about Manafort today?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, the usual practice for presidents, you know, when there's a criminal investigation, is to say almost nothing. And, you know, and he said he thinks he's a good guy. I don't think it was terribly inappropriate. But it's certainly a departure from how presidents usually handle these sorts of things.

But what's really significant is what Robert Mueller thinks. And Robert Mueller thinks there was evidence of a crime in Manafort's apartment and the magistrate agreed and that's a big step in this investigation.

COOPER: Professor Turley, I mean, how significant is it to you that Paul Manafort is now getting, you know, other people on his legal team and focus on tax investigations and that his son-in-law now has reportedly talked to investigators?

JONATHAN TURLEY, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, I think that it's very clear that he's the principal target at this stage. You know, prosecutors will often look for the weakest link. And that is generally the person who has available criminal potential charges. And Manafort has a number of areas from banking to tax to his registration as a foreign agent that could generate charges.

I think the president was right about one thing. I was very surprised that this raid occurred. There's no indication that they asked for these documents in advance. I've been a critic of no-knock warrants for years. I don't see why they would need that with a 68-year-old lawyer. Did they think he was going to meet them at the door with a tech nine screaming nicely (ph) done you comrades? I mean, they -- you know, it seems to me it was a bit excessive and gratuitous. And it sounds like they were trying to send a message.


TOOBIN: Well, I don't think there's any doubt that they were trying to send a message. What we don't know are the circumstances leading up to the decision to get a warrant. I mean, what's clear is the -- Manafort's lawyers had been saying all along that we're cooperating, we're providing documents.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: Mueller doesn't believe it. Mueller doesn't believe that they were being forthcoming so they went in and took the documents themselves. That is certainly an aggressive step.

Only when we can read the affidavit in support of the search warrant and see all the evidence in the case can we, I think, make a fair judgment about whether it's too aggressive or not. But it's certainly was aggressive.

COOPER: Phil, I mean, as someone who worked with the FBI, when you hear the president saying that it -- the Manafort raid was tough stuff, the fact they went in so, you know, early or they went to his home, is it particularly unusual? I mean, isn't that how the FBI raids homes, I mean, wouldn't they go in early? Is that a particularly unusual case?

MUDD: This is not excessive and I want to disagree with some of the comments earlier. Let me give you two perspectives.

Number one, as I mentioned last night, Director Mueller doesn't send messages. He's got to go to a magistrate, as Jeff Toobin mentioned, and say we're going to do something -- there's a term that we use in the investigative business, intrusiveness, extremely intrusive. If I look at your Facebook page, not very intrusive. If I read your e-mail or go into your home at 6:00 a.m., extremely intrusive.

A judge is going to say, if you want to do that you have -- better have some pretty good evidence at 6:00 a.m. And so, whatever the judge saw was significant. The other issue, I'm not going to guarantee this, but I'm going to guess it, Director Mueller is going to go by the book. He's going to say, if we have that order, what would we typically do in this circumstance regardless of whether the subject, in this case Paul Manafort, is high profile?

I don't want any arguments that what we did was unusual. Would we typically do no-knocks? So I'm looking at this saying, this is what the judge said was appropriate and this is how the FBI typically operates, Anderson.

TURLEY: I'm sorry. I'm going to have to disagree with that as a criminal defense attorney. You know, this type of no-knock raids in a white collar case are not the norm. And more importantly, the controversy over no-knock warrants has been going on for years. This is an area of great abuse and judges are not fulfilling their responsibility. He should have struck out that aspect of the warrant.

MUDD: Disagree.

COOPER: You disagree? Gloria, I mean, the president was also asked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions whom he's obviously criticized in recent weeks. I just want to play for our viewers what he said.


TRUMP: It's fine. It is what it is. It's fine. He's working hard on the border. I'm very proud of what we've done on the border. Very proud of General Kelly what he's done on the border. One of the reasons he's my chief of staff right now is because he did such an outstanding job at the border. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:44:59] COOPER: I mean, for a guy -- Jeff Sessions is executing the president's agenda, I mean, whether you agree with what he's doing or not, remarkably, officially, and quickly at the Department of Justice, for the president to immediately just pivot off and, you know, sort of slim pickings in terms of praise.

BORGER: And say it's fine?

COOPER: Yes. It is what it is.

BORGER: It is what it is. It's not exactly a vote of confidence. But as we reported, you know, one of the first acts that General Kelly did was call Jeff Sessions and say to him, your job is safe. And so at least Sessions knows that he's not going to get fired tomorrow. And it's not a great kind of job security because, you know, the president is unhappy with you and it's difficult.

But today, the president had somebody else he wants to pick on, who's Mitch McConnell. So, Mitch McConnell is now on the grill and Jeff Sessions is off of it for a while.

TOOBIN: But can we just make note of the fact that the two people, you know, this extremely luke-warm praise for the attorney general.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: He's trashing the majority leader of the Senate, of his own party. And who's the person he praises today? Vladimir Putin. I mean, what is going on?

COOPER: We're going to take a break and ponder that during the break.

TOOBIN: Anderson, I asked a question, what is going on?

COOPER: We'll allow our viewers to ponder that for a few minutes. We'll be right back more on President Trump's remarks on the Russia investigation, including a lot of excuses on federal disclosures. We'll tell you what he says a lot of people in Washington, next.


COOPER: We've been talking about President Trump's response to the early-morning FBI raid of the home of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. A raid he said surprised him to hear about as he was answering questions. He again said the Russia investigation is an investigation of something that never took place and went on off in general musing about paperwork. Take a look.


TRUMP: Now, as far as somebody else, where did they file the right papers or did they forget to file a paper? You know, I guarantee, if you went around and looked at everybody that made a speech or whatever these people did, that's up to them. Did they do something wrong because they didn't file the right document or whatever? Perhaps you'll have to look at them. But I guarantee you this, probably a lot of people in Washington did the same thing.


COOPER: Worth mentioning here already his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and former national security adviser Michael Flynn are both under scrutiny for failing to disclose or, in Flynn's case, lying on federal disclosure forms.

[20:50:01] I want to bring back our panel.

Jeff, does -- I mean, again, here's the president commenting on the investigation, kind of giving the benefit of the doubt, not only to his son-in-law but also, I assume, to Flynn and Carter Page and anyone else.

TOOBIN: Right. I mean, you know, a lot of white collar crime is filing wrong or false paperwork. So the idea that if just -- submitting a paper is, by definition not a problem, is simply wrong, I don't think Director Mueller is going to pay the slightest bit of attention to that little rift about filing paperwork. But I do think it is indicative of his attitude which is that any criticism of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, of others is meaningless, politically motivated and not based on anything important.

COOPER: Professor Turley, I mean, when the president says, well, a lot of people have problems with their government forms in Washington, is that accurate?

TURLEY: Well, omissions are common on things like SF-86s, failure to register for foreign agents, those tend not to be criminally charged, but it doesn't mean that they cannot be. If you have a special counsel who may be trying to get leverage over a witness, they will often put pressure on those spots and make it clear that people like Paul Manafort that you're all alone, and, you know, as the "Game of Thrones" would say, winter is coming.

And so, you know, I think that was certainly conveyed in that pre-dawn raid. But obviously, the statements are not helpful. I don't think it was helpful for his attorney, Dowd, to criticize the raid on Manafort.

You know, what they're losing is that crush space between the president and key targets that usually White House has try to increase that space and they're doing everything they can to eliminate it.

COOPER: Phil, I mean, back Paul Manafort for a second, if he's truly in a gem with federal investigators, if they think they've got something on him, the question then becomes, will he tell them everything he knows about -- if there was any Russian collusion or any links with Russia or would he keep quiet? How do authorities navigate that?

MUDD: Look, I suspect he's not. Why would you conduct a raid like that if you anticipated that he had or would tell you everything the truth? When you look at a situation like this, there's a couple of elements that you can build to understand whether he is telling the truth. Number one, talking to him. Number two, talking to people around him. Number three, getting the digital trail, every e-mail, every phone, every time he texted somebody.

When we talk about picking up documents out of this raid, Anderson, that's a 19th century, 20th century concept. I suspect they're looking for stuff like laptops. They're looking for information that suggests what his pattern of contacts was with Russians, what financial transfers he has because they're anticipating that he and the people around him are not telling the truth and they're using the digital trail that you and I have to say what happened in June, July, August?

If you say you never talked to Russians, what is your text messaging say? What do your financial receipts say? What do your e-mails say? What do your phone calls say? That's what they're looking for.

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, the president also went out of his way to call Paul Manafort a decent man. I mean, he does it in any way, appear to be wanting to, you know, throw Manafort under the bus, though he also did say that he only worked for him for a short period of time.

BORGER: Right. He was clear to point that out. It kind of reminded me in a way of what he said to former FBI Director Comey, about General Flynn. He said, you know, he's a good guy, right? You know, can you see your way to clearing this -- or I forgot the, you know, the exact quote. But if Comey is to be believed, the president says he didn't say that.

But, it seems to me that in the case of Manafort and in the case of General Flynn, the president has gone out of his way to kind of support them. And, you know, this is a president for whom loyalty is often a one-way street. Ask a lot of people who have been fired by him. Ask Jeff Sessions about loyalty. He's the president's largest cheerleader and now lives in the woodshed.

So, I think that it's sort of interesting to me that he would publicly sort of say nice things about Manafort. I believe Manafort is quite loyal to Donald Trump and always will be and I believe the same about General Flynn.

COOPER: Thanks everybody. Appreciate it.

When we come back, dueling threats between North Korea and the U.S. and the latest threat the president is doubling down on.


[20:58:34] COOPER: Topping the hour, breaking news after a presidential vacation day, the likes of which the world has never seen before. That's presidential language, by the way, and so is what you're about to hear. Combative language, words not just of war, but perhaps preemptive war directed at North Korea. Also, a collection of remarkable statements, misstatements and blunt language, some of it directed to a key presidential ally or at least someone who is suppose to be a key ally. The bottom line, plenty to talk about after two memorable appearances by the president today. Here's a sample.


TRUMP: The people that were questioning that statement, was it too tough? Maybe it wasn't tough enough. They've been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years and it's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would be tougher than fire and fury?

TRUMP: Well, you'll see. You'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you have any response to the Russian president expelling 755 workers from our embassies.

TRUMP: No, I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on payroll. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you categorize your relationship with Attorney General Sessions and have you guys spoken about some of the differences you've had in the past?

TRUMP: It's fine. It is what it is. It's fine. Everybody said there's no collusion. You look at the councils that come in, we have a Senate hearing, we have judiciary, we have intelligence and we have a House hearing and everybody walks out, even the enemies, they said, no collusion. There's no collusion.

[21:00:01] So they're investigating something that never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, have you thought about or considered leading the dismissal of special counsel, or is there anything that Bob Mueller could do that you would send you in that direction?

TRUMP: I haven't given it any thought.