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Trump Says His "Fury" Threat Was Not Tough Enough; Trump on Preemptive Strike, We'll See; Trump Aide Says Nonsensical That Tillerson Talks for The Military. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 10, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, if anything maybe that statement wasn't tough enough. And we're backed by 100 percent by our military, we're backed by everybody. And we're backed by many other leaders. And I noticed 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.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Let's talk about the news just made there by the president standing alongside the vice president on his working vacation. With me now, Mathew Kroenig, former Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council

of Foreign Relations, and government and foreign service professor at Georgetown University.

Also with me, Mackenzie Eaglen, national security analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. I knew we'd be talking North Korea. We didn't know exactly what the president would say there at the end of his security briefing. So, Matt, just to you first on -- unlike a couple of days ago in the fire and fury remark that apparently was off the cuff, seemed much more planned. But still doubling down.

MATTHEW KROENIG, FORMER STANTON NUCLEAR SECURITY FELLOW AT THE COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: Yes, I understand why people are confused about the various statements. I think it makes more sense. H.R. McMaster is conducting 15 national security reviews. The first one completed is North Korea. The outcome is two major elements. An element to increase pressure on North Korea with the hope of bringing them to the table to get a deal. The second element is to defend ourselves and our allies from the threat that exists here and now. Including the ability to respond with military force. So, I think the statements about force, sanctions, diplomacy, are all really part of this bigger strategy.

BALDWIN: When he was standing there, he said he's backed by many other leaders. He's right about some lawmakers defending his rhetoric. Senator Rubio today saying it is ridiculous that the president is being criticized.

MACKENZIE EAGLEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: That's right. I would say he has about an equal number of detractors as well. But, you know, that's the whole message here, is, you know, on the one hand, you understand his frustration. Because he's right, this predates many administrations. A problem that can't be solved. Also, you sympathize with his point that sanctions really haven't proven all that effective. Sometimes more than others over the years. Partly that's our own fault and our lack of enforcement. You can understand the White House's frustration. At the same time, you know, you don't ever want a war of words to become actual conflict.

This president is faster and looser with his words than any in modern history. There's a sensitivity here surrounding not just this regime but the region. If we were to live over there and have the same conversation, I believe it's totally different. So, if this were any other White House, Brooke, I would have said that, boy, sure sounds like a smart coordinated strategy aimed at Chinese leadership and their regime that, you know, we really want you to fix the problem. When I look at the tough talk, you know, war is possible, comb combined with the import duties on aluminum foil they just announced. And the freedom of navigation through the South China Sea. It looks semi-coordinated but I'm not sure that it is.

BALDWIN: A lot of people have been making that point, that maybe this is them talking to China but we don't know, we can't crawl in the president's head. Matt, to you, just on -- I'm wondering how Pyongyang responds to this. The original off the cuff threat, they called it a load of nonsense. A guy bereft of reason. President Trump. And only absolute force can work on him. How do they react to this one?

KROENIG: They're threatening to conduct an attack on the U.S. base in Guam. They've been fairly specific, saying they're going to launch four intermediate range missiles. The North Koreans are famous for making these threats and not following through. They say they're going to turn Asia into a sea of fire about once a week and they haven't done that so I suspect this is bluster as well. But the United States and our allies do need to be prepared. I suspect the president is preparing for a possible attack. But I don't expect it to materialize.

BALDWIN: The president says they're all on the same page, you know, Mattis, Tillerson and himself. Despite the varying tones of the statements put out by three of these men. My question to you, Mackenzie, what about the new chief of staff, general John Kelly? We know he said he's not controlling what the president tweets or how much TV he watches, but what do you think he's doing behind the scenes? Because we know they were initially caught off guard by the president.

EAGLEN: I think there's no doubt. In his learning curve in this position, particularly, is still steep. He's days into this new position.

[15:35:00] I have a feeling he's doing most of his time coordinating with the other cabinet officials to try to get them on the same page. I saw a lot of daylight between secretaries Tillerson and Mattis' statements. Secretary Mattis was much more forceful in line with the presidents and secretary Tillerson's was much more comforting. There is confusion. His job really should be to help get everyone on the same page. Starting with his national security adviser general McMaster. And then the cabinet to follow. BALDWIN: Matt and Mackenzie, thank you so much. Speaking of the

secretary of state, one of the president's own advisers today has now essentially thrown shade on the secretary of state. I'm paraphrasing. Basically, saying he should stay in his lane when it comes to talking about North Korea. It should be General Mattis, the secretary of defense, who's talking about this. So, how's that playing out with some of this intra-administration fighting? Quick break. You'll hear from Sebastian Gorka, this BBC interview, coming up next.


BALDWIN: New signs of power grabs within the Trump White House. The president's deputy assistant suggesting secretary of state Tillerson was out of line for talking about military options and North Korea. Here is what Gorka said to BBC radio.


SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: You should listen to the president. The idea that secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical. The job of Secretary Mattis, secretary of defense, to talk about the military options. And he has done so unequivocally. Today he said woe betide anyone who military challenges the U.S. secretary Tillerson is the chief diplomat of the United States and it is his portfolio to handle those issues.


BALDWIN: Just a short time ago, the state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, was asked about Gorka's remark.


HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: The secretary, as you know, he has a close relationship with Secretary Mattis. Our secretary, Secretary Tillerson, talks a lot about our diplomatic strategy and our diplomatic policy. That has not changed. The secretary has been very robust in that. Just having returned, as we talked about yesterday, from the ASEAN conference where he met with a lot of foreign officials. As I was coming out here, I heard about Gorka's comments. I didn't hear them myself. So, I don't want to comment on exactly what he had to say. But I can say that I speak for Secretary Tillerson and this building. Our secretary has been very clear, as has Secretary Mattis, that our diplomatic and military means are both strong and capable. And in the face of the threats that we face against the DPRK or other nations.


BALDWIN: Let's start there with our guest, a CNN military analyst, and Admiral John Kirby, former spokesman at the state department under Obama. Admiral, you've been in that hot seat, you know, defending your secretary of state, and to hear this, you know, deputy to the president criticizing his secretary of state's authority, credibility, what were you thinking? ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), FORMER SPOKESMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT UNDER

OBAMA: You know, I got to tell you, I have a different take on this. I listened to it several times. I actually don't think that's what Gorka was trying to do. I think he was trying to say, hey, Tillerson was speaking in his lane, Mattis is speaking in his lane, and I want to say that I think what he meant by nonsensical was you shouldn't mix the individual roles of the state department with the defense department. I didn't really take it as a slam against the secretary of state's credibility or authority. I think he was trying sort of parcel out why they each had different statements and sort of what was the context behind that.

BALDWIN: Colonel, how did you hear it?

COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think I heard it a little bit differently from my friend Admiral Kirby. I would say that, you know, for Mr. Gorka to say the things that he said really flies in the face of two major things. First of all, the constitution of the United States which predicates civilian control of the military, and the traditions that we have, where the state department is actually the number one when it comes to foreign engagements, foreign diplomacy in the military, plays a supporting role in that case. Number two, I referred Mr. Gorka to Clausewitz.

[15:45:00] He basically said war is an extension of politics by other means. Means diplomacy. For him to make that separation and distinction and sound like, he is actually taking the state department out of the business of military options, military consideration, military planning. That is a huge mistake. And it really, quite frankly, won't work. It is a -- was a very bad thing for him to actually make that statement not only to a radio reporter but a radio reporter of a major network in an allied country.

BALDWIN: Admiral, how would you respond to that?

KIRBY: I love Cedric. Yes, we obviously see this differently. I do think that Gorka is drawn too much to militaristic solution. I wouldn't disagree with Cedric he probably has an overly simplistic view of how control works in the country. If you look at what he said, and I read the transcript, I honestly don't think he meant it to come across that he was subject gaiting the state department to some sort of lower level of interaction. I think he was trying to say the state department has a diplomatic role. They've got to speak in more diplomatic language. Than the secretary of defense can afford to do. I just -- again, I think we're maybe making more out of this than we need to.

BALDWIN: OK. Gentlemen, thank you both so much. We have some news from president Trump. Moments ago, declaring the opioid epidemic in this country a national emergency. We'll talk to our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on this, what this means for so many people desperately in need of help, next.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: The opioid crisis is an emergency. I'm saying officially right now it is an emergency. It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis. We're going to draw it up and we're going to make it a national emergency. It is a serious problem. The likes of which we have never had.


BALDWIN: President Trump there moments ago. Saying his administration is working to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency in this country. Let's go to Sanjay Gupta with what this really means for the Americans who are dealing with this.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, part of this is he's saying that this is going to happen, there's going to be some real specifics as I think you're alluding to, going to be important around this. What does this mean for the millions of people who are currently addicted. Just a couple days ago, you remember, Brooke, he said, look, the best strategy is to never have people get addicted in the first place. Which makes sense but there are millions of people who are currently addicted. The question is what's this going to mean for those people?

[15:50:00] Is there going to be more resources available for those people? Is there going to be different types of therapy to help treat their addictions available for those people? Are there going to be medications to help reverse overdoses, you know, because people are dying from this. Is there a way to increase the resources to try to prevent those deaths? You just heard this -- I just heard the same thing you did, Brooke, obviously not a lot of details in that. Those are some of the things people are looking for when discussing this opioid crisis as a national emergency.

BALDWIN: Poppy Harlow's been doing all this great reporting on people who have been dealing with this. You can check out her stuff, go to Sanjay, thank you so much.

President Trump also tripling down on his criticism of Republicans after the failure of his health care bill. Many in the party agree. I recently met with five conservatives at the Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, New Jersey here is a report of our conversation.


BALDWIN: A show of hands, who thinks President Trump has done a solid job the first six months. So, like, four. What's his biggest win, biggest accomplishment so far?

NICOLE COLLINS, TRUMP VOTER: I would say the biggest win that he's brought to the table has been the actual conversation about repeal and replace of health care. I think our system is broken, and I think it's important that he's bringing the conversation back to the table as someone who's willing to take action, and that I appreciate.

BALDWIN: Marco, what about you? Biggest win so far? MARCO KEPI, TRUMP VOTER: I think he's been able to keep so far all of

his promises. He's had some hurdles, for example, with the travel ban. The judges kept blocking it and stuff like that. Same thing with the health care repeal. He said he's going to repeat it and replace it. He's been fighting for that so hard. It's been an adjustment for him going from a businessman to a politician so he's adjusting in that aspect.

BALDWIN: Katie, what's the biggest accomplishment so far?

KATIE HEPBURN, TRUMP VOTER: Consumer confidence. You can't argue how great our stock market is doing and I think people feel it.

BALDWIN: You think President Trump has brought the markets to where they are?

HEPBURN: Absolutely. I'm not going to say it wasn't going in that direction. I also feel safer. As an American, I feel safer and the respect that we're not going to bring in Syrian refugees. I'm very fearful of what's happening in Europe --

BALDWIN: Terror attacks, that kind of thing?

HEPBURN: Yes, Yes. I can tell you that I would rather him be sitting in that seat than anyone else.

BALDWIN: OK. So, what about though disappointment?

KEPI: For the past eight years, they've been saying we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare and I feel like they only said that because they figured that Hillary Clinton is going to get elected, it's not going to happen. So, they'll say whatever reenergizing their base to get them re-elected.

BALDWIN: You put this all on the Republicans in congress. None of the onus is on President Trump?

KEPI: No. They had 8 years to come up with a better plan.

JOSEPH PINION, TRUMP VOTER: The reality was the bill stunk. Every iteration was horrible. None of these iterations would have addressed the core. The senate passing a bill on the notion that it actually wouldn't have to be signed into law, that you're going to say, we'll just vote on this for the sole purpose of being able to go back to our constituents and say the most famous line in politics, we tried.

COLLINS: In the beginning when we were first talking about the affordable care act, one of the things that was tabled many times was the single payer option and it got swept under the rug for all these glamorous options which are beginning to implode. It seems like that's all they have left. I would love for people to make a true capitalistic decision.

[15:55:00] I just know if it is possible.

BALDWIN: There is a Republican controlled house and senate -- PAX HART, TRUMP VOTER: And they're not taking advantage of it.

BALDWIN: And they're not taking advantage of it.

HART: That's not Donald Trump, that's useless Republicans.

BALDWIN: Tell me more. Why are they so useless?

HART: They're absolutely useless. You have John McCain who I personal believe John McCain is on Nancy Pelosi's payroll. Whenever you want a Republican to stab other Republicans in the back, you go to John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

BALDWIN: War veteran, hero, prison of war.

HART: He also campaigned on repealing Obamacare for seven years and then once he had the opportunity to make that happen, he totally reneged on that.

BALDWIN: Thoughts?

COLLINS: I take real issue with John McCain. I don't think there's a person out there that is happy that he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. It's horrible. However, the fact that this man that we elected for the most part to represent us and our interests in Washington D.C., how he could stand on the floor on a vote that could give us a better health care system, any degree, anything is better than what we're dealing with right now, with a scar across his forehead and say that we don't deserve the same level of care that he has.

BALDWIN: I think what's going to be so interesting for people watching who have a different perspective is to hear most of you all say, like, point fingers at everyone else but the president. No one's trying to play the blame game, but does he own any responsibility for virtually zero major legislative victories in the first six months?

HART: He's had legislative victories.

BALDWIN: I'm not talking about signing executive orders. I mean a win in congress.

HART: Well, the congress, he's not the one casting the votes in congress. To think that there was going to be some -- it was going to be Camelot with Donald Trump, I think that's a complete fallacy.

BALDWIN: Who wishes he didn't tweet?

HEPBURN: Obviously, Yes.

BALDWIN: Three of you.

PINION: I think I wish he tweeted more responsibly, put it that way. Twitter is a useful tool when used appropriately. I think that again when you're literally rewriting DOD policy 140 characters at a time --

BALDWIN: That rubs you the wrong way.

HART: He's the same person he was when we sent him to Washington. If he had changed and started filtering everything that came out of his mouth, that would have been more of a concern for me. FDR had the fireside chats, JFK had television, Donald Trump has social media.

HEPBURN: You have to call a spade a spade. He brings it on himself sometimes. The tweeting, I'm the first person to say, I understand him --

BALDWIN: You don't love it?

HEPBURN: Not at all. I understand him using social media as an outlet because he believes that certain media outlets are fake news and I understand him wanting to have a voice and hearing it directly from the source, but there's a way to do it. And we like that about him. That's, I think, why half of America voted for him, but the thing is that the other half of America, you know, they're scared off of him.

BALDWIN: Nicole, starting with you, Russia, when I say Russia you say --

COLLINS: There's no reason why we can't forge an amicable relationship where the United States remains in control.

HART: There is no connection with Russia that is substantial compared to the Clinton Foundation. And, people tend to forget that we spent the first eight years of the Bush -- Bush 2 doing recounts and with the opposition party trying to discredit the election. And I think that's exactly what's happening here.

HEPBURN: Keep your enemy closer. This is not the cold war anymore. There's no reason that we cannot try to salvage some sort of relationship with them, as long as they stay in line.

BALDWIN: Show of hands, who believed Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election?

PINION: Interfered?

BALDWIN: Interfered.

PINION: Define interference.

BALDWIN: I'm saying the CIA, FBI, Office of National Intelligence, all say that Russia interfered in the election.

HART: They've interfered in every election and they --

BALDWIN: Hang on, so I'm clear, is that a half hand raise?

PINION: The intel clearly to me supports the fact that there was attempted Russian interference. I don't believe that Russia changed the outcome of the election. I think that's the problem that individuals on the right have, this kind of nuanced assertion that somehow Russia is responsible for Donald Trump being president of the United States.

HART: Define what the interference was. Was it cyber hacks on our political parties? Was it, you know, hacking into voting machines and changing numbers?

BALDWIN: These chiefs were saying it was Russia with the DNC sharing the information with WikiLeaks.

HART: I mean, a lot of people are saying that Seth Rich was the source for that, even Julian Assange.

BALDWIN: That story has been entirely debunked, it's been retracted by Fox News, fact.

HART: Russia does cyber security stuff, hacking. OK, we do too, and so does China. So, does -- this happens across the board and this is kind of the environment that we're living in right now.

BALDWIN: How do you reconcile hearing multiple versions of events from multiple people within the Trump White House?

PINION: There is a daily chipping away at the credibility of this administration executed by the administration. And again, it's incumbent on us, to me, as Republicans, as conservatives, to say, just be transparent.

HEPBURN: We're in periled times right now so this is where we need to be focused on, not who's colluding with Russia. Let those departments handle that. We need to shape this country.


BALDWIN: That wasn't the end of the conversation. I sat with them for about an hour and a half and where it got quite feisty was when we started talking about the transgender military ban, do you remember the tweets from Trump where he wrote and surprised the DOD saying that members of the military core transgender should not be in the military, and what that panel had to say about that was something. We'll have that for you tomorrow. But in the meantime, I'm going to hand it over to Washington. I'm Brooke Baldwin, thank you so much for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.