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North Korea Outlines Plans to Fire Ballistic Missiles Toward Guam; South Korea and Japan Vow to Retaliate Against North Korea; Trump administration Sends Mixed Messages on North Korea; FBI Raid at Manafort's Home Rattled Trump's Inner Circle; Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired August 10, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: 6:00 here in New York. And here is our starting line.
North Korea arguably crossing President Trump's red line with a new threat outlining a specific plan to fire several ballistic missiles into the waters near Guam, a U.S. territory. If they follow through, it will be the first time that North Korean missile lands so close to an American territory.
The high stakes war of words intensifying. The general in charge of North Korea's missile programming slamming President Trump as bereft of reason and dismissing his fire and fury warning as nonsense.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, the Trump administration is sending mixed messages in the past 24 hours. Secretary of State Tillerson was reassuring Americans that we can sleep well at night while the Defense Secretary Mattis warned of a scenario that could lead to, quote, "the end of the North Korean regime and the destruction of its people."
So where are we today? Our political reporters and a group of lawmakers will be here to tell us. We have the global resources of CNN covering this all for you. So let's begin with CNN's Will Ripley. He is the Western journalist who has spent the most time in North Korea. He is live for us in Beijing -- Will.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, I can tell you I have never seen a statement like this from North Korea, a detailed technical plan for a -- what would be North Korea's most provocative missile test ever if they actually go through with it and are able to pull it off.
They're talking about launching four missiles simultaneously. The Hwasong-12, a missile that they tested in May, with a range of 3100 miles which puts Guam, which is about 2100 miles from the Korean Peninsula well within striking range. These missiles can actually reach Guam in less than 20 minutes. And what North Korea is saying they want to do is fly these four missiles over Japan, towards this U.S. territory, a 210-square-mile island, home to more than 160,000 American citizens, putting those missiles down in the waters less than 20 miles from the island itself.
It would be highly provocative. It would certainly cross President Trump's red line. But this statement from the North Koreans indicates that they say they do not take President Trump's warnings seriously. They called his fire and fury statement a load of nonsense. They made fun of the fact that he was speaking from a golf course in New Jersey when he made the statement.
I want to read you a quote from General Kim Rak Gyom of the Korean People's Army. It says, quote, "Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him."
All of this as a major anti-US rally was staged in Pyongyang in Kim Il-sung's square, a place that I have been many times. It's a large square that North Korea can fill up with hundreds of thousands of people on very short notice. It is mandatory for citizens to participate in these major events.
And so you saw massive crowds chanting anti U.S. slogans, denouncing the sanctions and denouncing the United States. But perhaps the most chilling part of all of this is the last sentence of this warning from North Korea. It says, quote, "We keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the United States, indicating that North Korea won't back down despite the fiery rhetoric and the threats from the U.S. president. In fact, they upped the ante with this statement, now we have to watch and wait what the United States will do to respond -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much, Will. Appreciate it. Be safe.
North Korea says its plans to launch missiles near Guam's waters will be ready within days. South Korea and Japan warning Kim Jong-un's regime against firing missiles near Guam, vowing they will retaliate against any provocations.
CNN's Anna Coren is live in Seoul, South Korea. Remember just 35 miles from the border with the North -- Anna.
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, I think it's fair to say that South Korea is certainly used to these saber rattling that comes out of its northern neighbor. And the government at least in the past has tried to remain calm and measured. But in the last couple of days it's taking these threats out of North Korea much more seriously.
They described those threats of military action, those military strikes against Guam as absurd, saying that any provocation will be met with a powerful response.
Now South Korean president Moon Jae-in has just wrapped up a meeting with his National Security Council in which they are urging North Korea to stop escalating tensions, saying that war will not benefit either side.
Now Guam aside, Chris, I think it's important to remember that there are at least 1,000 artillery pieces aimed at South Korea. Where we are here in Seoul, it is some 35 miles from the border. Those artillery pieces, if unleashed according to defense secretary Jim Mattis, would be the worst kind of fighting ever seen in most people's lifetime.
Certainly sobering words. So it's fair to say that war here on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic and for the North Korea regime, Alisyn, it would be suicidal.
[06:05:08] CAMEROTA: Anna, thank you very much for all that, from South Korea for us.
In the last 24 hours the Trump administration has sent mixed messages on the escalating crisis with North Korea. The president and the Defense secretary have been using aggressive language while Secretary of State Tillerson has been trying to reassure the American people and the U.S. allies that diplomacy will prevail here.
CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. How do they see it there, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, you know, whatever you call it, mixed messages, confusing messages, different messages, top official are using very different language to describe what they see going on.
Let's start again with President Trump's remarks and the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responding to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make anymore threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think Americans should sleep well at night. I have no concerns about this particular rhetoric over the last few days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: If you were thinking about sleeping well at night, you might want to first consider the statement from the Defense Secretary James Mattis, putting out a written statement that says in part, and let me read it to you, "The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.
Now what we're hearing from administration officials is that none of this a conflicting message. They're sort of singing, you know, the same hymn but maybe from a different page, different parts of the same message. But the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did acknowledge that the president's fire and fury remarks were his own words. That was not preplanned, pre-written out for him.
That is what he chose to say somewhat off-the-cuff. So keep in mind it is the secretary of State and the secretary of Defense with those differing messages responding essentially to what the president said -- Alisyn. CUOMO: All right. Barbara, appreciate it.
That's right. The Pentagon spokesperson saying that they're all singing from the same hymnal. The hope is that we haven't come down to just the power of prayer to help us through this situation so let's get the facts of how real this threat is and what the options are on the table.
We have CNN political analyst David Gregory, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World," and "Daily Beast" columnist, Gordon Chang, and Will Ripley we're going to bring back in with us. He is in North Korea. He has been monitoring the situation. He got this very lengthy statement from the North Korean government unusual.
Gordon Chang, help us understand the precise nature of this threat, what makes it different, what stands out to you coming from North Korea?
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": What stands out to me is they're firing multiple missiles and of course very close to American territory.
CAMEROTA: They're threatening to.
CHANG: They're threatening to. They're saying, for instance, 30 kilometers off of the Guam shore, that's 18 miles. That's always six miles from U.S. territorial water which goes out 12 nautical miles. But the thing that's fascinating about this is that they fired four missiles in March. And I think what they were trying to say then was that we can overwhelm your missile defense system.
What they're doing now is they're threatening the four against Guam. And I think it's going to be again a question of whether we are able and willing to try and use our missile defense system to shoot them down if they come close to Guam territory.
CAMEROTA: But, Gordon, are they just baiting the president? I mean, in other words, if these missiles, if they do this and if these go into the waters off Guam, they don't hit Guam, then isn't this just another sort of provocation and a missile test? Does it have to be responded to with force?
CHANG: No, it certainly doesn't have to be responded with force. And I think there are some non-kinetic options that we have which could really put the North Koreans and the Chinese on the back foot. So you know --
CAMEROTA: Meaning what? Like what?
CHANG: I think the one thing that we should be doing is enforcing U.S. law against money laundering. Big Chinese banks have been doing that. You know, if we were for instance to declare a large Chinese financial institution a primary money laundering concern and therefore unplug it from the global banking system, we would do a number of things. First of all, it wouldn't be the use of force, it would show political will and it would say to the North Koreans that we can separate China from Pyongyang and therefore isolate them, really isolate them.
But, you know, the one thing that's important about this threat, you know, essentially what we're going from is from words, and if they actually carry forward, then they're doing something. The one thing that we haven't seen, and this is important, is we haven't seen a realignment of forces along the demilitarized zone. Neither us nor them.
[06:10:01] But one caveat, and that is, in August we always have these large scale exercises with the South Koreans, the Ulchi-Freedom exercises, and that the North Koreans and the Chinese are going to hate and that's when this crisis could get very real.
CUOMO: David Gregory, though, you know, even though it's just words, you can't be casual about it right now because if they were to do this, those missiles would go over Japan. So they are now injected into this situation in a very real way while these missiles may, as Gordon is outlining for us, strike in the waters close to the territorial boundary of the United States.
They are threatening -- the North Koreans -- to send them over Japan which would, of course, you know, make this a very specific threat to them. So in terms of the political fallout, how it's being handled, this criticism about double speak, what do you see as relevant?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there's a couple of things. First of all, just how unpredictable all of this is. I think the administration is being deliberately unpredictable. I think it's being deliberately confusing in terms of what the president is saying versus the Defense secretary, versus the secretary of State, to let the North Koreans and the Chinese know that there's various levels at which this is operating within the United States government.
I think you have to be afraid of miscalculation on both sides. We have an untested president who does not have experience, who seems to be reacting impulsively to some of this. And we certainly have an unstable leader in North Korea.
I do think there's more to the Trump strategy than meets the eye. And I think if you look over the many months of how they've approached North Korea, there's some very thoughtful consideration and strategic thinking going on about how to pressure both the Chinese and pressure Pyongyang.
And I think we also have to remember that, as tense as the situation could become with our allies in South Korea and in Japan, there's a lot of options with regard to missile defenses and, of course, sabotage which we don't know for certain, but there's certainly been a lot of reporting on this over the many months about U.S. efforts to sabotage the missile system of the North to make sure that these missiles don't go off as planned.
And so all of that could be meant to suggest to the North, you can't even pull off what you're trying to and that still falls short of whether the U.S. would try some kind of limited strike short of saying to the North that we're engaging in preventative war or that we're starting an actual war.
CAMEROTA: Will, you are in Beijing for us this morning. But as we've said, you're the Western journalist who has been to North Korea the most. You've spoken to North Korean officials. How -- where do you put this in context? Have you seen it get to this pitch level before?
RIPLEY: Well, certainly there have been times over the course of history where the peninsula has come very close to the brink of war. Think back to near the end of the Clinton administration -- actually in the '93-'94, during the Clinton years, they were very concerned about North Korea starting a nuclear program. There were meetings in the White House happening where they were going over war strategies. And it wasn't until former President Carter went in and announced on CNN that he had bartered a peace deal.
That the situation was defused and then a few years later you had Madeleine Albright going in, meeting with Kim Jong-il and there was even talk that it came fairly close to President Clinton visiting but then his term ended. And when the second Bush administration came in, the North Korea strategy shifted dramatically and the relationship toxified. And of course during the Obama years, it just got worse as North Korea kept proliferating.
So it has been bad before. But the difference is that normally North Korea warns about strikes in very colorful, flowery language, we'll turn Washington into a sea of fire, we'll annihilate the United States. We've never seen anything this technical where it seems as if North Korea is quite confident that they could pull something like this off, or they're really bluffing here.
I mean, the fact that they would specify the missile, the trajectory, how many kilometers it would travel, how far it would come to Guam, it seems to indicate that they either feel that they can do this and they can pull it off or they're bluffing, they're hoping that the United States will dial back the rhetoric because there does come a point where everybody is drawing all the red lines and then what happens when they're crossed or when they're not?
So this is a credibility issue for the North Koreans just as much as it is for the Trump administration because now North Korea essentially could be put into position where they have to back this up in their view to save face. And that's really where this gets so dangerous because what if these missiles aren't as accurate as the North Koreans say they are. 20 miles is not a long distance.
And it could go 20 miles overshot and then all of a sudden you have a North Korea missile potentially landing on U.S. territory, even if it doesn't have an active warhead in it. Still, can you imagine what would happen after that?
[06:15:03] Again, an accidental war. That is the big fear. It's not that either side wants a war but all of these provocative acts could lead this region down a path from which there's no return. CUOMO: Well, they have been imprecise. They haven't had the capacity
that has been rumored in the past and that's why them flying over Japan -- hold on one second, though, David. In terms of this threat as articulated, Will saying that there's a lot of detail that we're not used to getting, is Guam as a target just about proximity or are there a list of reasons why the North Koreans would want to target that territory?
CHANG: Well, I think there are certainly specific reasons why. So for instance, every time that we try to reassure the Japanese and the South Koreans and to warn the North Koreans, we fly B-1B bombings which come from Andersen Air Force base on Guam. That's a very important facility for the United States. It back up American forces in the region.
And, you know, when you think about Guam, it is really the forward base of the United States. Yes, we have bases in Japan and elsewhere, but those are not an American soil. Guam is the most forward defense perimeter on American soil for us.
And you know, with regard to something that Will said which I think is really important, and that is, you know, when you try to target an area which is very close to American water, you're saying your guidance systems are very good. And one of the things that American missile experts say, and they're correct, is that with their long range missiles their guidance isn't good, you know, they'll miss by miles. Here they're being very specific about where they plan to put this missile.
CAMEROTA: Very quickly, David, did you have a point?
GREGORY: I just think we can't forget the importance of China here. Throughout of process of North Korea testing missiles, the response from an American administration has always been what is China going to do about it. And does this escalate? That will be the real question. Because they have the influence. This is not just the U.S. against North Korea. The important player here with influence is China.
CAMEROTA: OK. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Obviously we'll be monitoring it throughout the program.
Meanwhile, we need to tell you about this news back here at home, a predawn raid on the home of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. It raises questions about how much he is cooperating with the Russia investigation and investigators. Should other members of the Trump administration be concerned? We tell you all you need to know on this next.
[06:21:04] CAMEROTA: As the president tries to unwind at his golf course in Bedminster, the Russia investigation continues. Sources tells CNN that the Trump administration is, quote, "rattled" by the news that the FBI raided former campaign chairman Paul Manafort's home. Let's bring in our panel, we have CNN political director David
Chalian, CNN political analysts Karoun Demirjian and David Gregory is back with us.
David Gregory, so hard to understand what this raid means. We had thought that Paul Manafort was cooperating, and then the FBI was raiding -- you know, the news that they raided his home looking for things now.
GREGORY: Well, look, this is an aggressive sign that's coming to light about who they're interested in and perhaps what they're interested in. We know who Paul Manafort is in this story, someone who had a financial relationship with Russia because of the nature of the work -- the political work that he was doing. And so if you're investigating financial contacts, potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, then you're going to be looking at Paul Manafort, you're going to be looking at documents that may prove that relationship, and it may be an indication that these were documents that were not forthcoming, that he was not cooperating on some aspects of this.
It always gets difficult to try to piece together these investigative elements and put it into a larger frame, but that's all we have to go on at the moment, that provides a strong indication of the financial nature of the investigation.
CUOMO: And also remember, to get a warrant, you have to go do a judge and you have to make a case. So you know, that implies a standard of show by the special counsel that we haven't heard of before. So that's something that factor into the mix. And it goes to the seriousness of this probe, the legitimacy of the issues.
And therefore, David Chalian, questions about whether or not the American people understand the significance and importance of these questions beyond what is often dismissed as pure politics by the president. What do you see in the CNN poll on Russia and its significance?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, we do have a bunch of new polling numbers on this, Chris. Take a look at the overall approval rating, how Trump is handling the Russia investigation, 31 percent of the country approves, 59 percent of Americans disapprove. 2-1 against them.
We do see a bunch of partisan division. Among Republicans, 56 percent of Republicans approve of his handling of the investigation, but that's far lower than his overall Republican approval. Take a look at what you were just saying, is this seen as a serious matter or an effort to discredit Trump? 60 percent see it as a serious matter, 38 as an effort to discredit Trump.
And of course what about, will Mueller be able to do a thorough investigation, look into his finances, is that fair game? Yes, 70 percent of the country says looking into Trump's finances is fair game, that's a huge gain. 25 percent says no. You know that is certainly going to get under the president's skin -- Kris. CAMEROTA: Karoun, it's so interesting. We so often hear the Trump
White House said this is all a distraction, they're trying to distract away from the good work that we're trying to do. They're to impede our agenda. And then these, you know, public opinion polls show that now a majority of people do think this is valid, they do think this is a serious matter. They do think that -- they're happy that investigators are looking into this.
So, you know, you're obviously the congressional reporter. Where does that leave Republicans on Capitol Hill for how much emphasis to put here?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in a way it's good, they have reinforcement now from the public because Republicans have been in the same sort of bind where they, you know, certainly don't want to completely discredit the president because in a way he holds the keys to the Republican agenda, assuming that you can first get that agenda through Congress which has been not necessarily the situation that we've seen over the first six months of Trump's presidency.
But they also think that this investigation is a serious matter. Even the people that support him think he should let it go ahead because they think that the probe will exonerate him in the end. But there's very, very few members of Congress that would actually say yes, we agree that this is a witch hunt. This is something that they feel they have to go through.
[06:25:03] It's a serious matter if Russians are meddling in the U.S. election, period, and they want to just kind of follow the course and dot all the I's, cross all the T's, even if they think that, you know, Trump isn't at fault. But -- so in that sense they have some reinforcement now from the public every time the president tweets that this is a witch hunt or not a legitimate investigation, people actually think, yes, it is.
And that's good for them as they, you know, face their potential re- election races in 2018 and 2020 and are clearly in disagreement with the president about whether they're spending their time wisely in looking into this.
CUOMO: All right. And David, the next issue we'll file under the heading of no one is immune. The Senate leader Mitch McConnell was giving some comments about expectations coming out of the White House. The president responding in signature fashion, meaning nasty. So here is what McConnell said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Now our new president, who has not been in this line of work before, and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process. And so part of the reason I think people feel like we're underperforming is because too many kind of artificial deadlines unrelated to the reality and the complexity of legislating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Not the most scathing attack we've ever heard in politics, but it was enough to prompt a sharp response from the president. Here was his tweet.
"Senator McConnell said I had excessive expectations. I don't think so. After seven years of hearing repeal and replace, why not done?"
Now we've heard him use much more edgy language than that. But just saying anything at all created this embroilo (ph) of, you know, that there's division at the top levels of the party. What do you make of it? Hype or is this something that's worth looking at?
GREGORY: Well, I actually think Trump is making a fair point here, but there's more to that. And the fair point is, hey, wait a minute, Republicans. You guys have been campaigning and promising for seven years to repeal and replace. You know, I'm the one who gets the presidency. You have a Republican Senate and House on my coattails and you can't get it done because Republicans can't agree about health care.
That's the reality. The former speaker of the House said so. It came to be true. And so I think the president is making a fair criticism here of the fact that a Republican Congress has not been very effective.
Now where it's on him is the fact that he's not the leader of the Republican Party, only he is and he should be. And what he's been doing is outsourcing this, not providing the kind of backup that ultimately they would need and hasn't really been campaigning on it. And as soon as things looked a little squirrely, then he started blaming them. That's not great leadership for the party and it's going to undermine what they're doing on the hill.
So you have a Republican Party starting in the White House that is simply not getting along and the specter of the president taking all commerce, he'll fight anybody, Republican or Democrat, if it makes him look bad.
And Chris, that goes back to this business of the investigation. I think the fact that it's so high on the level of thinking of American people, the Russia investigation, is because the president has put it there by his actions and his focus on it. And I think he'd be happy to run on this. He wants to fight this to the death, whether they find something or don't find something, he's going to make the referendum in the midterms and then potential re-election campaign.
CAMEROTA: So, David Chalian, how does it help President Trump to have a feud with Mitch McConnell when they're looking at tax reform, the debt ceiling issue will come up this fall?
CHALIAN: It doesn't, Alisyn. That's the big question. I agree with David, there's lots of blame for Republicans on Capitol Hill. And President Trump is right to put it there. But the tactic he's using has proven not to help him. Remember, he took to Twitter to go after Lisa Murkowski right before the vote to try to get her on board and scare her into joining his side to vote for the bill. That did not work.
I think going after McConnell on Twitter like this, when you need him to corral those 50 to 52 votes on any given matter you need in this fall whether it's tax reform, infrastructure or trying to get health care done, this is not going to help the president's cause.
CUOMO: Yes. That's the difference, is that when you attack people, that's fine, that's his style. Some people like it. When you attack the people you need, now it becomes a different calculation.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much for all of that.
CUOMO: All right. So there's this bizarre mystery unfolding in Cuba. The State Department claims diplomatic staffers at the U.S. embassy in Havana were victims of something called an acoustic attack. What is that? What happened? Who did it? Reporting next.