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President Trump Continues to Criticize Mitch McConnell on Twitter; North Korean Official Mocks President Trump; Interview with Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired August 10, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Americans should sleep well tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The United States is on the same page.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a serious threat is taken as a bluff, that's be catastrophic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: CNN learned of an unannounced raid on Paul Manafort's apartment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody had to go to a judge. They're not just here on a fishing expedition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a significant turn by Director Mueller in this investigation. Stay tuned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Thursday, August 10, 8:00 in the east now. North Korea appears to have crossed President Trump's red line. They have a new threat, very specific details that they are giving outlining their plan to fire several ballistic missiles into the water near Guam. The North Korean general who over sees their missile program slamming the American president as bereft of reasons and dismissing his fire and fury warning.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, the Trump administration is sending various messages in the last 24 hours. Secretary of State Tillerson pushing for diplomacy and trying to reassure Americans that they can sleep well while Defense Secretary Mattis warns of a scenario that could lead to the destruction of the North Korean regime and its people.
So we have it all covered for you with the global resources of CNN. 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. What is the latest, Will?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is really an extraordinary statement from the North Koreans. But there obviously is a key difference from putting down here this highly technical plan of launching these ballistic missiles toward Guam and actually being able to successfully execute that plan. Because if they do that, it would be the most provocative North Korean missile test they have done. And they are spelling out clearly here what they want to do, saying that the missile would have a range of at least 2,300 miles. That would put Guam within the missile's range. Guam is 2,100 miles from the Korean peninsula. This missile could theoretically fly to Guam in under 20 minutes, and North Korea is saying they want to put these missiles down in the waters less than 20 miles from this island of more than 160,000 American citizens, and also the staging area for 6,000 troops. Anderson Air Force Base, Naval base Guam, key military assets, and these missiles coming close to those.
North Koreans in a statement also mocking President Trump, saying that his fire and fury remarks made from his golf course are a load of nonsense, saying the president doesn't grasp the severity of the situation on the Korean peninsula. These are personal insults against the president. Even this quote from General Kim Rak-Gyom of the Korean People's Army, saying, quote, "Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him." So clearly North Korea upping the ante here, not dialing back but stepping things up.
Now, for the president's remarks, and North Korea also staging this massive rally in their capital city of Pyongyang, tens of thousands of people in Kim Il-sung Square, a place that I've visited many times. It can fill up very quickly with citizens who are required to attend these events, chanting anti U.S. slogans, denouncing the round of sanctions. All of this designed to project force and to threaten the United States and perhaps directly President Trump for his words, the last lines of the statement saying "We will keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the United States." North Korea saying they will not accept what they heard from the White House this week but will respond and fight back. Chris?
CUOMO: Very interesting, Will, the spin there. They are obviously the provocateurs in this situation, but they're trying to represent themselves as victims. Thank you for the reporting from Beijing. North Korea is the provocateur because it is they who are saying that they are planning to launch missiles into the waters near Guam. Guam is a U.S. territory. And they say they're going to do it within days. The Pentagon is preparing a preemptive attack against Pyongyang involving launching B-1b bombers from the Anderson Air Force Base which is in Guam.
CNN's Ivan Watson is live there with more. What is the mood in Guam with all of this hot talk?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is absolute no panic here, Chris. But there is concern. I spoke with one woman who said that she's had to tell her six and eight-year-old children how to react in the event that the sirens go off, either because of a drill or, worst-case scenario, some missiles on their way here.
The governor of Guam, Eddie Calvo, I spoke with him at length. He insists that the threat level has not been magnified at all as a result of these North Korean threats against this island. He points out that there is a substantial defense umbrella that the U.S. military maintains in the western Pacific between here and North Korea.
[08:05:01] A missile would have to fly over South Korea, over Japan to get here. The U.S. has bases, missile defense systems in those countries and in the ocean. And Guam also has the THAAD missile defense system which was deployed after North Korea first made threats against this U.S. island in 2013.
The bay behind me was full of people snorkeling, full of tourists from Asian countries like Japan and Korea today, Chris, people who have flown in, in the last 24 hours, people whose countries, whose territories, are much closer to North Korean missiles and perhaps they are -- that's a reason why they're not afraid when North Korea makes threats the likes of which this part of the world has seen before.
CAMEROTA: Sounds like it, Ivan. Really interesting context from Guam for us. Thank you very much.
So the White House offering seemingly mixed messages when it comes to the North Korean crisis. President Trump and Defense Secretary Mattis delivering aggressive warnings to the Kim Jong-un regime while Secretary of State Tillerson claims that diplomacy with prevail and insists Americans can, quote, sleep well tonight.
Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with how they're feeling there. What's the latest, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. When you talk about preemptive strikes against North Korea, what the Pentagon emphasizes is it's a little more nuanced than that of course. They have all options on the table, and that's not just an expression. They mean it. All military options are available at all times to any president. No indication as we stand here this morning that a preemptive strike is coming any time soon. But it's something all worth watching.
And some of the confusion may be because of the words we're hearing out of the administration. They are emphasizing behind the scenes still very much on a diplomatic track. But when you listen to the president, you get a very different impression. So let's listen again to what President Trump and the secretary of state have had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more 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, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: Maybe sleep well at night after you try and figure out what everybody is really saying here. The secretary of defense weighed in with his own statement, saying in part, "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." Secretary Mattis very well-known to be an advocate for a diplomatic solution but making clear there, if there isn't a diplomatic solution, coming back full circle, all military options are always on the table. Chris?
CUOMO: Barbara, thank you very much.
President Trump isn't talking about this North Korean crisis today. Instead he's once again attacking the man he needs to get anything done in the Senate.
CNN's Joe Johns is live in Bridgewater, New Jersey, with the latest. And we have been feeling the fire and the fury this morning on Twitter where the president has gone after Mitch McConnell, the man at the center of empowering his agenda.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris, a very unusual public feud between the president of the United States and the Republican majority leader of the United States Senate. And this is all about the so far unsuccessful attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Let's just look at the president's tweet this morning. "Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed repeal and replace for seven years, couldn't get it done? Must repeal and replace Obamacare!" with an exclamation mark there. First, it is no secret that the president has had zero ability to persuade the Republican senators to vote for the bill the last time it came before the Senate. That said, it's also true that over the last 24 hours the president has tweeted twice now about Mitch McConnell. Though you can say, in some ways, Mitch McConnell started all of this with some remarks he made in his home state of Kentucky before the Rotary Club. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Our new president -- of course, I've been in this line of work before. And I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: What's striking about this is that our Sara Murray reports, the president and Mitch McConnell had a telephone call just yesterday. That conversation was described as animated over some of these very same issues.
[08:10:02] But what seems clear right now, at least, is that the president and the man the president needs to push his agenda through the Senate haven't buried the hatchet yet. Chris and Alisyn, back to you.
CUOMO: All right, Joe, appreciate it. Let's bring in the panel. We've got CNN political analyst John Avlon,
associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst rear admiral John Kirby. And everybody, we need to have an operating assumption here. Do we go after the president's words and try to figure out what he's saying on a regular basis? Yes. And is this situation like every other one? No. And why? Because, John, we're talking about an unstable mad man who is running North Korea. And if you poke at that with the fire and the fury, it's different than what he is saying about Mitch McConnell or about us or about anybody else because we don't have nuclear warheads.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. This is where the idea that words matter, presidential words matter, starts to get weaponized, if you will, because it's one thing to be throwing hand grenades around the halls of Washington rhetorically and angering people for no reason. But as you say, you're dealing with a country that effectively is a cult. And it's a nuclear power. And all of a sudden to be firing off phrases that sound really tough to you but have real world meaning in geopolitical strategy without any connection or coordination with the Pentagon or your national security team, who has been doing a pretty good job on this issue proactively, is really just irresponsible and it's an example of why you've got to watch your words and be responsible as president. If you're unwilling to do that, you're going to create a ton of problems for yourself and the world.
CAMEROTA: John Kirby, you've heard our guests this morning, as well as President Trump and his supporters say this is all President Obama's fault. This strategic patience that he preached, this is what got us into this mess, and finally some strong words will get Kim Jong-un attention.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It's a real overstatement, Alisyn. It's not all on President Obama. President Clinton, President Bush before President Obama all of have tried to struggle with this problem of the North's advancing program. Clearly I'm not going to say that we've been successful. Obviously this regime has been able to advance their capabilities to a very dangerous point. But to lay it all on the previous administration is oversimplified, as well as all this discussion about strategic patience.
I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding of what strategic patience was all about. First of all, it was never a doctrine. Number two, it was something the entire international community signed up to,not just the United States. This wasn't pushed by President Obama. The U.N. adopted this idea of trying to work to galvanize international community pressure against Pyongyang.
CAMEROTA: OK, I guess the point is it didn't work.
KIRBY: No, of course it didn't work. And there's no question. And I don't begrudge the president for bemoaning the situation that he has found himself in and what he has inherited. He is right that this is much more dangerous than any other president before him has had to deal with. And to John's excellent point, I think his national security team has done a commendable job trying to put together a multilateral, international, interagency approach to solving this problem. It is all rendered harder for him when he goes off and pops the way he did at the golf course the other day about fire and fury. That undermines the very good effort that his team has actually put forward.
CUOMO: A.B., this is simple logically in terms of why it's so different, why it deserves analysis. You're going feel the fire and the fury like the world has never seen before. OK, so now they fire the missiles. Let's say they do it. God forbid, but let's say they fire the missiles and they basically get where they want them to go. Well, now what? What does fire and fury mean? Now you have set yourself a situation. You want to call it a red line, you call it whatever you want.
But now he's going to have to do something, and we heard, Senator Ron Johnson, he was here to talk health care, but said, hey, look, they can't threaten us like that. Of course, of course you don't want to be threatened. But what are you going to do? What do these words mean? How much meat has to be put on those bones for the American people?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, that's what everyone is waiting to find out. It was a red line. And the failure of strategic patience doesn't call for some off-the-cuff remarks that essentially is winging it without consulting with the team about the most measured and calibrated and deliberate way out rhetorically as a next step. They don't seem to have an actual strategy except to blame the past and try to talk tougher.
But you can talk tough about consequences without doing what President Trump did. The American people have no idea, it looks like the ball is in our court. What comes next? And I think that the administration right now, we know, Chris, as we speak, is struggling to try to really contain the damage done by those remarks and the fact that the North Koreans are now mocking the president of the United States.
[08:15:02] AVLON: Right. But North Koreans sort of, you know, do propagandistic bluster as a matter of course. But we just don't expect it to be returned in kind from the leader of the free world.
But, look, I think the point you're making, is it a red line? No, it's a threat off-the-cuff tough-guy talk. The problem is, there is no connection to strategy. And there shouldn't be, because nuclear threats are something that we don't generally indulge in in the United States of America.
You know, our tradition has been Teddy Roosevelt, speak softly and carry a big stick. Or in the run-up to the Cuban missile crisis, JFK reading the guns of August and realizing the unintended consequences of escalation and tough guy talk from great powers.
The absence of a historical perspective, the absence of responsible restraint in presidential rhetoric could set off a cascading series of events, which is bad for the world, bad for the United States. But let's not treat this as a red line. It was an off-the-cuff, tough guy comment that now the rest of the administration is trying to contain.
KIRBY: That's right. And it was unclear whether -- when he said -- when they continue to threaten whether he meant a physical threat, since it's a natural launch or a verbal threat. So, it was very unclear.
And I'll throw another historical perspective out there. General Omar Bradley said the only way to win a nuclear war is to prevent it. That's what I think his team is trying to do.
CUOMO: Look, the proof that it was not as deliberate as we may think is -- look where his head is today. This is the beauty of social media with the president of the United States. He retweets something from the FOX talk show in the morning about what Mattis had said. And then there's a -- he retweets a poll about who is a better president, him or Obama. And then it's him going after Mitch McConnell for a couple of tweets.
So, A.B., I guess the good news is, if you were worried, that this is a suggestion of all-out warfare, he doesn't seem to be that preoccupied with the topic. So I guess people worried about that eventuality, he's got other things on his mind. And let's talk about Mitch McConnell. This man is absolutely fundamental to everything the president wants to get done. Is going after him in public, while he may have a fair frustration -- look at that, my finger came right on the John's nose -- if it is a fair frustration for the president to say that they should have gotten it done, fair point, but to do it this way, what's the risk?
STODDARD: Right, let's start with the fact that it's not President Trump's fault the Republicans can't come together and pass a fix for Obamacare. And, obviously, the Senate majority leader was expressing some frustration in public which the president didn't appreciate. The way to handle it would have been to call him up on the phone, ream him out in private and carry on from there.
But this public shaming of him twice now on Twitter, which gets his supporters all riled up about the Republicans in Washington, not helping the president, really leads to a few things. One, much more trouble on the horizon in September when they have to get through really excruciating deadlines on the debt ceiling and budget, et cetera. It really doesn't portend well for a very tough challenge on tax reform.
And finally, it actually depresses Republican votes in the midterms, that if he wants to wake up after the midterm elections and find that Nancy Pelosi is speaker and she has subpoena power, he just might get that.
CAMEROTA: Go ahead, John.
AVLON: Look, you know, it shows also how thin the president's skin is. I mean, you know, this seems to be in response to a fairly innocuous polite comment Mitch McConnell made about the president not having a background in this sort of thing, and he goes -- he responds by going nuclear, if you will, on Twitter.
It also shows that John Kelly is supposed to be monitoring the president's tweets and restraining them, you know, Donald Trump's got an impulse that says, you know, you're not the boss of me. Again, not the most mature model to be setting as president of the United States.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you all very much for being with us.
Meanwhile, North Korea responding to President Trump's fire and fury warning. But is the Trump administration sending a clear message? We have a Republican congressman, next.
[08:22:34] CAMEROTA: The tensions between the U.S. and North Korea seem to be intensifying by the day. The reclusive regime's new plan now threatens to fire several ballistic missiles into the waters near Guam. How will President Trump respond?
Joining us now is Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma. He is the deputy House whip.
Good morning, Congressman.
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Do you have a sense of what President Trump would do if North Korea makes good on its plan that it has now put out in paper to fire these intermediate ballistic missiles into the waters off of Guam?
COLE: No, I don't. But I think, frankly, I think the president made his point and made it very clearly, the North Koreans should understand that they engage in provocative actions, there will be consequences to that.
I don't think it would do him any good or anybody else to speculate what that might be. He's got a wide range of options as the president of the United States, and he's got a great set of advisers around him. I think he'll choose wisely.
CAMEROTA: Do you think that the president's fire and fury comments are helpful, or are increasing tension?
COLE: I don't think they're increasing tensions at all. Frankly, I think he meant to be crystal clear to the North Koreans. And I think that was probably a good thing.
More importantly, I think, it also sent a message to China where it seems to be lost on everybody. He's had more success than anybody else in getting the Chinese to take this seriously. So I think --
CAMEROTA: But what is that, crystal? Sorry to interrupt.
COLE: Well, the clarity --
CAMEROTA: What does fire and fury men?
COLE: Well, heaven, if North Korea was to attack, you know, American citizens on the island of Guam, American military installations, or, frankly, was to attack our allies in South Korea or Japan, they ought to know, they ought to understand, there will be an immediate retaliatory response.
I mean, we have treaty obligations to those two countries, and we obviously have an obligation to our own citizens in Guam. So there shouldn't be any doubt in their mind. And I think that's exactly what the president meant to do.
CAMEROTA: But if they just fire missiles into the water off of Guam, should the U.S. take any action?
COLE: I -- well, again, I'll leave that to the president and his advisers. But I think I would make clear in some way, fashion or form that that's not acceptable.
You know, is the next step they'll fire missiles into the water off San Francisco? Of course not. So, that doesn't mean you have to do a direct attack, but does mean you need to have some form of consequences.
[08:25:04] And, again, I think the president is bringing other countries into this in a way with all due respect for what we've tried in the past and not succeeded. Getting the Russians and the Chinese to vote with the United States on the sanctions resolution earlier this week at the U.N. was a major achievement. And -- but I think that was done in part because he's projected to those powers.
Look, the consequences here are pretty serious. Nobody is threatening China in this way. Nobody is threatening Russia in this way. The United States shouldn't be forced to accept these kinds of threats, either.
CAMEROTA: I want to move on to the seeming public -- feud is probably too strong. But the president is criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for comments that he -- that Mitch McConnell said about the president not quite understanding or not having enough patience with the legislative process this morning. President Trump tweeted, can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed repeal and replace for seven years couldn't get it done? Must repeal and replace Obamacare.
Why do you think that the president is going after Mitch McConnell, who he needs for any legislative victory?
COLE: Well, it's probably a pretty silly thing for a congressman to get in a dispute between the president and the majority leader in the United States Senate. So I certainly wouldn't take sides for something like that.
But I will say this. I really do believe this was a congressional failure. This was not a presidential failure. And Republicans of all stripes need to look in the mirror and recognize that. We made this commitment for seven years. We got it through the House,
and I'm proud that we did. It was a struggle. I'm really disappointed and I'm sorry that my friends in the Senate weren't able to be more successful.
But this belongs at the feet of the Republicans in Congress. It does not belong at the feet of the president of the United States.
Could he have done more? Sure. Are there things I would recommend he would do? Of course. But at the end of the day, we should have been able to have a bill that could pass both houses and go to his desk. And we know he would have signed anything that we could have put there.
CAMEROTA: I understand, but you don't want to wade into this public spat between Mitch McConnell and the president. But don't they need each other?
COLE: They absolutely do. Frankly, all Republicans need one another. It's not like we're going to get any help on the other side on something like this. And so, you've got to have a high degree of cohesion within your conference.
We were able to achieve that in the House. Sadly, they weren't able to achieve that in the Senate. And you need a president with all the influence a president has and the megaphone that's available to any president of the United States out there making the argument to the American people.
So, you know, we've got to do a much better job in coordinating. And as one of your previous commentators said, September is a very big month for us. We've got to get a budget. We've got to finish the appropriations process in the House. We've got to navigate the debt ceiling situation and we've got to unveil and start the argument over tax reform.
So, this isn't a time we need to throw rocks at one another. But it is a time to recognize we did not get done what we needed to do, and we've got to up our game. And if we don't, we'll -- there will be consequences for that in November of 2018.
CAMEROTA: Rest up. September is coming.
Congressman Tom Cole, thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.
COLE: Thank you, Alisyn.
CUOMO: And, you know what, look, it's a little bit of a joke, but a little bit not. I mean, we keep dealing with the similar dynamic with the president. Is he being unpredictable as strategy? Or -- as part of our bottom line, we're going to discuss whether the erratic nature of what the president says is often a burden. We'll talk about it, next.