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U.S. Pursuing Back Channel Diplomacy with North Korea; Trump Attorney Says Manafort Raid a Gross Abuse of Justice; Trump Says Kim Jong-Un Will Regret Threats Against U.S. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 11, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There have been for some time. Now, we're talking about discussions between the U.S. envoy to North Korea. His name is Joseph Yun, and several of his counterparts, both the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, and also some top officials in the North Korean foreign ministry. Now, originally, these talks started in May. They were really about the release of U.S. hostages in North Korea, and you remember Otto Warmbier, the young man who was ultimately released by North Korea and died back here in the United States, it was about trying to release them, but the hope was that these talks, these talks about releasing Americans in North Korea would also lead to some kind of fuller dialogue.

They did address the issue of poor relations between the U.S. and South Korea. So, ambassador Yun has met with his counterparts. He met with them in May, in Oslo and in June in New York, and he's been, you know, they called this, and you might have heard this kind of diplomatic term before, the New York channel. It's been a long- established channel between the state department and the North Korean -- the mission at the united nations, and this is usually to pass messages, but since president Trump came in, secretary Tillerson, ambassador Yun have been really, at the instruction of president Trump, trying to double down on getting these Americans out. So, those are the discussions going on. They do kind of tiptoe around the issue of relations. The question is, in the midst of all this fiery rhetoric, can that channel be used for some more diplomacy.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. Let's listen to the president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Secretary DeVos for joining us today. And thank you all, because we are -- we have been working very hard on being sure that Americans have the training they need for the jobs in the future. I also want to thank Ivanka, my daughter, for her leadership on workforce training and her efforts. She's been working very, very hard to create new economic opportunities for women across America and actually for women across the world. She's been working with the chancellor of Germany on helping women all over the world. In the past seven months, we've made enormous gains in getting Americans back to work.

The stock market is at record highs, unemployment is at a 16-year low, and manufacturers have never expressed more optimism about the future. The optimism has been truly incredible. Recently, Foxconn announced it is going to invest $10 billion to build a new factory in Wisconsin. We want to make sure that every job that comes back to our shores is filled with American workers. We have a lot of companies moving back to our country. You are probably seeing that. Two major automobile companies just announced they're moving back to the United States. And they're going to build major plants. They're looking for the site. They're putting it out to seven or eight different states, and they're going to be very happy building in the United States. It's going to work out very well for them. That's why in June, we began a historic initiative to expand apprenticeship and workforce training programs in all industries. We're expanding pathways to success. So important.

And apprenticeships are one of the many avenues that lead to the great jobs completely debt-free, and who knows more about the word apprentice than Donald Trump. In fact, under the apprenticeship, you earn while you learn. So important. And so great. And you love getting up in the morning and going to work and a lot of great things involved here. We're always here today to discuss additional steps we will be taking to expand apprenticeship programs, especially for women and minorities in S.T.E.M. fields where women have been truly underrepresented, really, I guess you could say, underrepresented for many, many decades. Technology has become a part of nearly every industry, from manufacturing to retail.

And we want all of our citizens, every single citizen, including women and minorities, to have access to high-paying tech jobs and other S.T.E.M.-related jobs. American workers are the best there is anywhere in the world, and we're finding work for them.

[15:35:00] They built the skyscrapers of our cities, the roads and bridges across our land, and will be building plenty of new roads and bridges, by the way. The technology that has revolutionized the globe and so much more, as you're well aware. Their skills, talent, and grit have always put America on top, and we're going remain on top, but at a much higher level than we are right now. And speaking of now, it is our job to make sure that they have the training, immediately, to lead us into the future. We have great, great hope.

We have a great, great future in this country. There's never been more optimism, and again, unemployment at a 16-year low. So, we're honored to have all of you. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. We appreciate it. And Ivanka, congratulations on working so hard.

Thank you.

We really do appreciate it. Thank you. Any questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what did you mean by military solutions are locked and loaded as it relates to North Korea?

TRUMP: I think it's pretty obvious. We are looking at that very carefully. And I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what I mean. So, hopefully they'll understand, peter, exactly what I said and the meaning of those words. Those words are very, very easy to understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any progress on the diplomatic back channel? TRUMP: Well, we don't want to talk about progress. We don't want to

talk about back channels. We want to talk about a country that has misbehaved for many, many years, decades, actually, through numerous administrations and they didn't want to take on the issue, and I have no choice but to take it on, and I'm taking it on, and we'll either be very, very successful, quickly, or we're going to be very, very successful in a different way quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Angela Merkel says she sees no military solution to fight with North Korea. Why is she wrong?

TRUMP: Well, I think maybe she's speaking for Germany. Let her speak for Germany. She's a friend of mine. She's a very good person, very good woman. She's a friend of Ivanka. Perhaps she's referring to Germany. She's certainly not referring to United States. That I can tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you've said you want to send a strong message to North Korea. What do you say to your critics that say the rhetoric is raising the tension?

TRUMP: My critics are only saying that because it's me. If somebody else uttered the exact words, they'd say, what a great statement, what a wonderful statement. They're only doing it. But I will tell you, we have tens of millions of people in this country that are so happy with what I'm saying, because they're saying, finally, we have a president that's sticking up for our nation and frankly sticking up for our friends and allies. And this man will not get away with what he's doing, believe me. And if he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat, which, by the way, he has been uttering for years, and his family has been uttering for years, or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, Tom Countryman, Elise Labott, he will regret it. He will regret it fast. Gloria, what does that mean?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, this is a president who is tripling down. Yesterday, he was doubling down. I think today you could easily say he is tripling down, and what's not clear to me is he said, if he utters one form of an overt threat, and then within the went on and said, and threatens Guam, et cetera, well, he already has been threatening. Kim has been uttering overt threats.

BALDWIN: The specifics of the Guam attack, they're out there.

BORGER: Right. They're already out there, so I'm not quite sure. I was trying to parse those words. I'm not quite sure what he means by that. But he reiterated a lot of what he said yesterday, Brooke, which is that tens of millions of people are applauding him, that there's finally somebody to stand up for America, and he also said, if somebody else had uttered the words that I said, they would have been applauded. But because, you know, the inference is but because it came from Donald Trump, he's being criticized. BALDWIN: Listen, I know that the White House, Elise, is saying that

there are no mixed messages, we're all on the same page, Tillerson, Mattis, Trump, but again, you have this, you know, Gloria's right, this tripling down, and yet you have what you are hearing, what you were just reporting, that the back channels and the -- let's bring them to the table and try diplomacy.

[15:40:00] How do you square those?

LABOTT: OK, I think, you know, as Gloria said, we need to really parse out what the president said and he kind of stopped himself. He said if he even threatens -- and then he kind of said, overt threats. Now, if you saw kind of over the last two days, secretary Tillerson, especially defense secretary Mattis, have been kind of clarifying what that means. And that means, if you threaten with actual force, if you take action. North Korea's been threatening the U.S. and its allies for years. I mean, if we listen to every, you know, threat by North Korea, I mean, we wouldn't be able to go on with our lives.

They are masters at brinksmanship, at rhetoric and sometimes you just need to kind of put that aside, and when we say, listen to the president, look at what the president does, don't listen to his tweets, I think you need to do that with North Korea. You need to put your pressure on North Korea. And to North Korea, the message is, if you're thinking about it, don't do it. Because we will annihilate you. We have the defenses. We have the capability. You will not survive an attack on the U.S. or its allies, but I have to say, it's working, Brooke, because you know, if you look at North Korea, if you parse out North Korea's statements a couple days ago, he was very specific. The North Korean news agency was very specific about four missiles directed at Guam.

Today, you're hearing the kind of typical bombast that you hear from North Korea, that the U.S. will go up in a sea of fire, it's kind of the things that we hear all the time. So, I'm not trying to make light of the fact that it's a very serious situation. There is a chance for miscalculation here, but I do think that this kind of serious threat of force, Kim Jong-un is cowering a bit, and you know, look, the masters of the brinksmanship, Kim Jong-un, may have met their match in Donald Trump and he seems to be cowering a bit.

BALDWIN: The U.S.'s good friend in Germany, and the chancellor saying that there is no military solution. Tom, going to you and your years there in foggy bottom, like, you know, the president was essentially saying, we'll let Merkel speak for Germany, certainly she's not speaking for the U.S. what did you make of that?

TOM COUNTRYMAN, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think that chancellor Merkel's statement was pretty clear that there is not a military solution that the United States could impose upon North Korea that would reliably destroy the nuclear arsenal of North Korea. And that's not just speaking for Germany. I am sure that she intended for our president to listen to that statement as well. I understand the impulse to reply to a thug like Kim Jong-un with the same kind of intemperate language that he uses, but the fact is, no American president has ever done that before. I think that the president may succeed, I hope, as Elise says, in getting North Korea to back off some of its rhetoric, but the fact is, North Korea does not intend to initiate an all-out conflict with the United States. The president will take credit, have no doubt, if they never make a military move, but it is not credible to believe that the president's words are going to convince North Korea to halt its nuclear program.

BALDWIN: OK. Gloria, the president, though, in terms of tom's talking about the rhetoric, the president defended his rhetoric, and, you know, said if any other president did the same thing, they would be praised. Is he right?

BORGER: No. I don't think he is. That I think the kind of bellicose, apocalyptic language coming from a president is a little jarring, and he may be right that there are an awful lot of people applauding it, but on the other hand, I think what you want to hear from a president in this particular case with North Korea is you want to isolate North Korea and say the entire civilized world voted against you at the United Nations, and we led that fight.

[15:45:00] And you know, Trump has reason to crow about that, and he should, and not make it a fight about, our fire and fury against your fire and fury but rather a fight between the civilized world and Kim Jong-un.

And instead, what you hear is this kind of mano a mano, we have more armaments than you have, and you know, by the way, I think the language that you hear from general Mattis, for example, is so strikingly different, and this is the man who's in charge of all the armaments, right? And the secretary of defense, last night, was so sober and somber about all of this, and talked about a diplomatic solution, and very different from the president. So, while you don't want the president to not, you know, stand up for America, criticize North Korea, et cetera, et cetera, ratcheted up an already-tense situation is kind of questionable. And you know, maybe the ends will justify the means, you know, we'll have to see.

BALDWIN: Sure. Everyone stand by. We have a correspondent in Guam. We've been talking about Guam and the specific attacks from Pyongyang to this American territory, just about 2,100 miles off the peninsula. Martin savage is there live, just about 2:00 in the morning your time. You know, the president mentioned Guam, Martin. Nice to see you. Talk to me about, we've seen the headline from the paper there today where it says "14 minutes." that's the time it will take for a missile to go from North Korea to where you are. How are people in Guam feeling?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's kind of two levels of preparation that I think people are going through here, Brooke. One is the physical, which is of course getting ready with emergency supplies as best you can. And then the other is the mental preparedness and that's probably the most difficult. Let me show you the newest paper. This is the Saturday morning version. And the banner headline there, of course, says "missile watch." but the one that really catches your eye. Officials, quote, do not look at the flash, which is a clear reference that if there's some sort of nuclear fireball, don't be looking at it because you could go blind. If it's on the front page of the paper, you can see how it ratchets up the level of people's concern.

The governor on the island is doing his best to tell people that the threat level has not been raised in any way, that the island is safe and sound and they should go about their lives as they always would. It's the old, keep calm and carry on. But at the same time, the bureau of homeland security issued a new guideline sheet in which they talked about what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion. And they talk about, Yes, don't look at the fireball. Immediately get low on the ground behind any kind of substantial block there may be, cover your head. It's the old duck and cover from the cold war days. Then on top of that, it goes on to say that, stay indoors after the initial blast for at least 24 hours to reduce exposure to fallout and then wash yourself in a shower, scrubbing with copious amounts of water and soap. You get this kind of listing coming from your official government, and you could see why people here are beginning to really get worried, and even though this island has been threatened in the past, there's something this time around, folks say, that makes it more real. And of course, very much concerning.

BALDWIN: That's what I wanted to ask about. I was talking to a congresswoman from Guam this week. She had talked about how she reached out to secretaries of defense past, asked about the readiness of any defense missile system, but sort of intuiting that this felt different. What is it about this time, just quickly, that feels so different for people there in Guam?

SAVIDGE: Well, couple of things. Of course, North Korea's been much more active in its testing and its use of its rockets and missiles. And then on top of that, the other difference is who's in charge in the White House in the United States. It's Donald Trump. You have two men who don't like to back down. Kim Jong-un being the other here. And there is a fear that they could talk themselves into a very dangerous situation. That's one of the biggest differences, say, from several years ago when the same threats appeared.

BALDWIN: OK. Martin Savidge in Guam for us, thank you so much. Again, now seeing the new headlines there in the newspaper, "14 Minutes" they're saying that's how long it would take for the missile to reach the island nation off the Korean peninsula.

Everyone stand by. We have more on our breaking news about these back-channel efforts that Elise Labott was just reporting on between the U.S. and North Korea.

[15:50:00] I'm Brooke Baldwin. This is CNN special live coverage.


BALDWIN: In this tripling down on North Korea and the leader of the rogue nation coming from the president of the United States moments ago here. Let's go to Will Ripley, our correspondent overseas there in Beijing who has been to Pyongyang many times for us here at CNN, so listening to president Trump, tripling down. Kept saying, he, you know, referencing Kim Jong-un felt a little bit different this time in his messaging. How do you think Kim Jong-un reacts to president Trump this time? WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the thing, Brooke. All of

these responses, these fired responses we've seen from North Korea so far haven't been direct quotes from Kim Jong-un.

[15:55:00] They're his generals or lower level government officials. He's putting out statements through officials in his government and then the president of the United States is directly responding, mentioning him by name. Either North Korea is being elevated up to the level of the United States or the United States is being dragged down to the level of North Korea.

But either way, all of the Sunday, we have two leaders vastly different with military capability, wealth, political influence, respect. And yet, basically at the same level in this tit for tat and the North Korean propaganda I've seen today and we could see another wave of North Korean releases soon, but the rhetoric was relatively tame by North Korea standards. Back to their normal threatening to turn the mainland United States into a stage for nuclear war. We've heard that before, saying President Trump and the United States is pushing towards the brink of a nuclear war and heard North Korea say that many times before. They didn't personally insult the president and didn't talk about this plan to launch four intermediate range missiles and put them down within 20 miles of Guam or elaborate further on that.

Although they're putting together a plan for Kim Jong-un's signature and President Trump now saying this, it is almost as if he's baiting Kim Jong-un to sign the orders on the plan and have North Korea give it a go, and do what would be their most provocative missile test ever because he just continues to fan the flames even when the North Korean rhetoric didn't seem to match the rhetoric of the president. More intense than what we heard today from North Korea.

BALDWIN: Here's hoping it doesn't ratchet up and see if Kim Jong-un the man responds this time. Will Ripley, thank you so much in Beijing and let's move now to developments in the Russia investigation. After news broke that the FBI raided the home of the former Trump campaign Paul Manafort, sources tell CNN Manafort is dropping his old legal team and hiring new lawyers with particular expertise in tax investigations a sign that the special counsel probe could be focused more on possible tax crimes and we are also learning before this pre- dawn raid, investigators met with Manafort's son-in-law who handed over documents. Meanwhile, President Trump is weighing in on this said he was, quote, very, very surprised when he heard about the raid. Here he is.


TRUMP: I thought it was a very, very strong signal or whatever. I know Mr. Manafort, I haven't spoken to him in a long time but he was with the campaign for a very short period of time, relatively short period of time. I've found him to be a decent man and makes consultant fees all over the place. Who knows? I don't know. I thought that was pretty tough stuff, to wake him up, perhaps his family was there. I think that's pretty tough stuff.


BALDWIN: Jeff Cramer with me, a former federal prosecutor and managing director of Berkeley Research Group. Firing legal team and bringing on attorneys. Forgive me, sir. Jeff, thank you so much for being with me. The fact that Manafort has fired the old team, brought on these new guys with specifically tactical expertise. We knew that Bob Mueller was following the money trail but what does that signify to you?

JEFF CRAMER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Putting new attorneys that focus in that area as well as warrants itself, I think it's significant but not really surprising. I think it's significant in the sense we've got some idea of the direction based upon the lawyers he might be hiring and also, a warrant itself where a judge determined that there was probable cause that a crime occurred and there might be evidence in the house. That's significant but not really surprising. Executing a search warrant of a subject of an investigation is part and parcel of what goes on during the course of any investigation like this.

BALDWIN: Jeff, we know they took a bunch of documents from Manafort's home and here's the if. If investigators actually uncovered any documents related to current members of the administration, do you know, is there any required disclosure to the White House? Or can Bob Mueller keep it to himself?

CRAMER: It could be attorney/client privilege but certain instances where director Mueller, special council, will have to disclose something but can keep everything close to the vest. Mr. Manafort has disclosed some documents and an investigation has obviously been going on for months and months. Not sure what might have been found at that house. But after months and months, may not be a smoking gun but there could be some information there leading to either tax or might be information regarding moneys overseas that need to be disclosed by U.S. citizens.

BALDWIN: OK. We played the president's comments on this ongoing investigation and we know the president's own attorney talked about the raid. John Dowd emailed "The Wall Street Journal" and a piece of this quote. He said the raid was extraordinary invasion of privacy and a gross use of judicial process and these methods are normally found employed in Russia and not America. Here's my question to you, Jeff. If this investigation does not involve the president personally, which his attorneys maintain, why are the lawyers and the president himself commenting on this?

CRAMER: Well, it's not surprising that the president's lawyers would come to lay the groundwork for an argument down the road, perhaps but your point is well taken. If this investigation doesn't touch the White House, why is the president commenting at all? But I think what we have here is a search warrant, again, his normal course in what investigators do. Not a Russian tactic. It's under the fourth amendment where a judge, a judicial representative, has already said there was enough evidence in the search warrant obviously sealed at this point. BALDWIN: OK. Jeffrey Cramer, thank you so much. Happy Friday.

Happy weekend. Thanks for being with me here. Again, we're going to stay on. I'm sure Jake will stay on what's happening, the latest reporting on the back-channel conversations. Back with regard to the U.S. and North Korea with the latest tripling down from the president of the United States there in bed minister during the working vacations, so stay tuned. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.