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Trump Doubles Down on Warning to North Korea; North Korea Issues Usual Threatening Line; Tensions Between McConnell and Trump Escalate; Trump Thanks Putin for Expelling U.S. Diplomats; Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2017 - 06:00   ET


[06:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, August 11th. 6:00 here in New York.

Alisyn is off. Brianna Keilar joins me once again. Good to have you.


CUOMO: All right. Here's the starting line. Fire and fury, not tough enough. That's President Trump doubling down on his warning to North Korea responding to Pyongyang's reported plan to attack Guam. The president says they would face retaliation, quote, "the likes of which nobody has seen before."

So while the president is stepping up the war of words, his Defense secretary is stressing diplomacy. James Mattis says right now the U.S. effort in the increasingly tense standoff is being diplomatically led by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

KEILAR: The tough new talk on North Korea is part of a wide-ranging question and answer session which President Trump thanked Russian president Vladimir Putin for pushing American diplomats out of Moscow and cutting the State Department's payroll. And the president continues to attack Mitch McConnell telling the Senate GOP leader to get to work on the Trump agenda, leaving open the possibility of asking McConnell to resign if nothing gets done.

A lot going on. We have it all covered for you. Let's go first now to Barbara Starr. She is live at the Pentagon -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brianna. The administration emphasizing that diplomacy does remain what they hope is the long-term solution, but short of that, if North Korea were to attack the U.S. in Guam, the president saying much more than just fire and fury.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I read about where in Guam by August 15th, let's see what he does with Guam. If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea.

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

TRUMP: You'll see. You'll see. And he'll see. He will see. It's not a dare. It's a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That's a statement.


STARR: That if North Korea attacks Guam. The secretary of Defense going very much down a longer road in his comments yesterday.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The American effort is diplomatically led. It has diplomatic traction. It is gaining diplomatic results and I want to stay right there right now. The tragedy of war is well enough known. It doesn't need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.


STARR: So you continue to see this emphasis by the administration that they are not sending mixed messages, but two very different messages and it goes without saying the U.S. intelligence community now as you would well expect watching Guam, watching all of this around the clock -- Brianna, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Barbara. Thank you very much.

The U.S. and North Korea locked in an intense war of words. Kim Jong- un's regime says America would, quote, "suffer shameful defeat and final doom."

China is calling for caution here, but will they step up to help fix the situation? That remains unknown. And that's why we have CNN's Will Ripley live in Beijing with more. What is the word officially from there?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the word officially from China is they are reiterating their position here that they want all sides of the conflict, the United States and North Korea, specifically to use caution moving forward and to avoid this kind of rhetoric that can further inflame the situation. China put out a statement a few hours ago saying that's just basically going down an old familiar road.

Also within the past few hours a brand new statement from North Korea but this one is not yet directly responding to those remarks from President Trump from his golf resort yesterday.

I want to read this for you, though, because this is actually pretty familiar threatening language from North Korea, from military officer Ri Chul Ui, it says, quote, "Our military will turn the U.S. mainland into a stage of a nuclear war by immediately attacking it with various strategic nuclear weapons even if any small sign of the U.S. carrying out a preventative war is spotted."

Now I know for people listening at home that sounds very scary, but North Korea makes this kind of threat all the time. That language is very familiar. It is much different from the very detailed specific plan that was laid out earlier this week about attacking Guam. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was on the phone during the overnight hours speaking with South Korea's national security chief, trying to reassure him of the U.S. commitment to this region.

Also Vice President Pence and the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talking about sanctions saying they still believe those are the best path moving forward -- Chris, Brianna.

CUOMO: Will Ripley, good reporting. Thank you very much.

Let's discuss. We've got a great panel for this. CNN military analyst, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks, CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, and senior fellow for the Atlantic Council, Jamie Metzl.

[06:05:08] He's the author of the book, "Eternal Sonata." That is a quality title, by the way.

All right. So let's deal first with the existential possibilities here.

General, the fear for the rational person when you hear two world leaders talking this way is oh my god, it looks like something terrible is about to happen. How much of this do you see as posturing and talk versus potential threats of actual action?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, thanks, Chris. I think from the Kim regime and Pyongyang, this is rhetoric that is right out of their playbook. They do this as a matter of routine. This has been 70 years of isolation -- essentially self- imposed isolation and as they do an about-face and they look around the region they see nothing but enemies and they see competitors.

So this is routine. What's unique about this -- so from that perspective, that's normal. We haven't ratcheted up the tension. But what is different now is that our intelligence community has now assessed and ascribed to the North Korean regime the fact that they've got ICBMs and they have a nuke that they've miniaturized and they've been able to marry those two up. That's what's new.

Now from the U.S. and coalition side and the rest of the world is trying to tamp this down, we now have a president that is jumping into the ring and has this verbal conflagration, which frankly doesn't help but bear in mind, it is the narrative really is about what has been taking place in North Korea, and what the world has either allowed to occur, has facilitated on the part of China.

China frankly is a partner with North Korea. And then what the United States and South Korea, our allies in the region, certainly Japan as well, have witnessed and allowed to occur. North Korea has gotten away with bad behavior their entire existence and now we have a very narrowing window with a nuke and we have bellicosity that hasn't tamped down any. So certainly everybody is concerned. Legitimately should be concerned. But bear in mind, nothing is different this morning than it was yesterday or 15 years ago in terms of the level of preparedness and the heightened tensions that exist as a matter of routine on the peninsula.

KEILAR: One of the things we heard from President Trump, he's saying, look, I inherited this mess and he's pointing to past administrations. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: We'll always consider negotiations, but they've been negotiating now for 25 years. Look at Clinton. He folded on the negotiations. He was weak and ineffective. You look what happened with Bush. You look what happened with Obama. Obama, he didn't even want to talk about it. But I talk. It's about time. Somebody has to do it.


KEILAR: Jamie, I wonder what you think just because we are where we are with -- the U.S. is where it is with North Korea, he characterizes that as past administrations failing, but going this other direction with such bellicosity could make it worse.

JAMIE METZL, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, one, what is the other direction? As far as I can see the United States is continuing with the same policy. The only thing that we are adding is that the president is making these incredibly bellicose and unhelpful statements that are undermining -- they're undermining our allies. They're undermining the United States.

And when we try to assess what's happening now, Supreme Leader Kim, he's making all kinds of statements that are in many ways putting North Korea in a stronger position. But every time Trump talks like he's talking, it weakens the United States, so there's nothing different. And if we think that destabilizing our allies and the world is going to get us anything without a coherent strategy that has yet to be unveiled, I think that's a terrible, terrible error.

CUOMO: The president doesn't agree with Jamie, Phil. He says that past presidents haven't talked about this. I'll talk, he just said. Someone has to do it. What do you think his thinking is and is he right?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: He's dead wrong. He should wake up, put the golf clothes on, and put some duct tape over his mouth. There's a simple reason why. He has a choice here as the president. It's like sitting at a stove. You can take the temperature up to 400 degrees or you can take it down to 200 degrees.

He's chosen to ratchet up the temperature. Here's the problem with that. If you do that, you offer the North Koreans justification to say look, the Americans are a threat. I told you all along that they threatened not only the security of the region but the security of my regime and therefore I have justification not only to build missiles and a nuclear program but to threaten the United States and to continue testing.

Why do you take up the temperature if it persuades your adversary that that gives them a reason to keep threatening the United States? I don't get it. He should golf more and talk less, Chris.

MARKS: Can I jump into this?


[06:10:02] MARKS: My view of that -- Phil and I have a difference of opinion on this. My view is it really doesn't matter what we say or what anyone has said. Inarguably no one, no one over the course of 70 years has been able to alter the behavior of the North Korean regime.

I will agree completely that this type of talk is not helpful. However, it doesn't matter necessarily what we do. North Korea is going to be North Korea. They will continue to advance their capabilities. They have forever.

METZL: Let me jump in on that because it does matter what we say. But in addition, it matters what we do. And so certainly this rhetoric is not at all helpful. But on top of that, the president has done so many things to undermine America's leverage. China has a lot of influence. But our ability to pressure China to help on North Korea is now less than it was when President Trump took office because we've undermined our allies.

We've stepped away from the Transpacific Partnership that gave us a lot of leverage over China. And so now the United States is weaker in every way. And so yes, if we were taking strong actions that strengthen ourselves, that would be great. If we were continuing to have measured words coming out of the president and a coherent message coming out of the administration that gave our allies and the world faith that the United States had a coherent policy moving forward, we would be in a much stronger position. We are not in that position now and we are worse off because of the actions and behavior of this administration.

CUOMO: Well, you know --

KEILAR: I was going to say obviously the mixed messages are very confusing for people, but if you're in Guam, there's really only one message. Right? If we're looking at the Guam paper this morning, this is serious. This is what you are waking up to. Here's what it says. "14 Minutes." Guam officials, missile fire from North Korea would take 14 minutes. I mean, that's the reality of this.

So as we discuss whether being bellicose actually makes a difference, this isn't something you mess with. Right, Phil? I mean, this is -- this is something that has very real consequences. And when you're talking about nuclear weapons, you don't really open up yourself to the possibility that something could go wrong because the consequences are huge. MUDD: And I think that's the bottom line here, Brianna. When the

president speaks like this and critiques his predecessors, George Bush, Barack Obama, you've got to put up or shut up if you're the president. Any president who deals with this problem realizes that beyond rhetoric you have a choice. You can either take military action against the North Korean capability that is trying to take out the nuclear missile capability.

Let me give you a message on that. If you break it, you own it. That is, if you take out the capability, you also have to move in conventionally and take out the leadership. Otherwise they'll rebuild.

Do we want to build another country again after what we just did in Iraq and Afghanistan? So this isn't just about talk. It's not about missiles. The real question, if you want to get tough is what are you going to do about the regime? And do you want to commit the American military to go rebuild another country, that's what the bottom line is.

CUOMO: Gentlemen, appreciate the perspective this morning.

KEILAR: Thank you, guys, so much.

This was a rather cheeky moment that we saw yesterday with President Trump. He seemed to kind of have a smirk about it when he said this. He said, thank you to Vladimir Putin for expelling hundreds of U.S. diplomats from Russia and for helping him cut the State Department budget. All of this while slamming his most important ally in the Senate.

CUOMO: It's almost like a twofer.

KEILAR: It was -- definitely. Two for three, for four, for -- CNN's Joe Johns live for us from Bridgewater, New Jersey, with this story -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brianna. The president took 31 questions during two off-the-cuff sessions with reporters. More questions than he's taken over the last several months combined. And beyond North Korea, he had plenty to say about a number of topics including his ongoing feud with the Senate majority leader, the man he needs to help push his agenda through on Capitol Hill.


TRUMP: I'm very disappointed in Mitch. But if he gets these bills passed, I'll be very happy with him.

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump ramping up his criticism of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell suggesting he may want a top Republican to step aside if he doesn't deliver on the president's agenda.

TRUMP: If he doesn't get them done, then you can ask me that question.

JOHNS: The stunning public spat escalating after the two leaders exchanged jabs in recent days over the failure of the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Our new president had of course not been in this line of work before, and I think had excessive expectations.

TRUMP: They should have had this last one done. They lost by one vote. For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace.

JOHNS: President Trump delivering harsh words for the Republican Senate leader, but offering his thanks rather than condemnation to Russian president Vladimir Putin over his decision to expel 755 U.S. diplomatic staff from the Russian embassy.

TRUMP: I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on payroll and as far as I'm concerned I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.

[06:15:06] JOHNS: The president also sounding off on the Russia investigation hanging over his administration.

TRUMP: There is no collusion. You know why? Because I don't speak to Russians. Look, I won because I suppose I was a much better candidate than her.

JOHNS: Dismissing the probe while denying he has plans to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

TRUMP: No, I'm not dismissing anybody. I mean, I want them to get on with the task.

JOHNS: Mueller's investigation accelerating amid news that the FBI conducted an early morning raid at the apartment of Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort last month.

TRUMP: To wake him up, perhaps his family was there? I think that's pretty tough stuff. 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 I know him. He was with the campaign, as you know, for a very short period of time.

JOHNS: As for his current staff, President Trump gave high marks to his national security adviser and new chief of staff. But offered a far more lackluster endorsement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions when asked about their relationship following the president's public attacks.

TRUMP: It's fine. It is what it is. It's fine.


JOHNS: The president also reversed his administration's decision on the opioid crisis, declaring an emergency two days after his own secretary said that wasn't going to happen. Today the president is expected to sit down and talk to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley where North Korea is expected to be on the top of the list of topics -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Joe, thank you very much.

You grew up out in California. Did you have it is what it is out there? Did you guys use that phrase or not so much?

KEILAR: I don't recall it being particularly regional, but I believe everyone kind of uses it is.

CUOMO: It is a very big fixture of parlance where the president grew up and I grew up.

KEILAR: OK. So maybe not in California.

CUOMO: And it applies to basically everything that you don't want to explain any further.

KEILAR: All right.

CUOMO: You know? So it is what it is, is kind of like I don't have anywhere else to go with that particular thought.

All right. So the president thanks Vladimir Putin tongue in cheek for kicking out hundreds of U.S. diplomats. What kind of message does that send to other American diplomats around the world and other malefactors around the world who may want to put pressure on America by expelling diplomats?

We discuss the cheekiness next.


[06:21:09] KEILAR: President Trump's first public comment since Russia expelled hundreds of American diplomats is drawing some criticism. He did not condemn the move by Vladimir Putin. In fact, he did just the opposite.


TRUMP: No, I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on payroll. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll. There's no real reason for them to go back. So I greatly appreciate the fact that they've been able to cut our payroll for the United States. So it will save a lot of money.


KEILAR: We want to discuss this now with CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza, CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.

Phil Mudd, the more -- (CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Can we just look at their faces again on the intro?


CUOMO: There was no attempt to maintain any type of decorum.

KEILAR: And he says, Phil, in there he says there's no reason for them to go back. I mean, he's approaching this sort of as a CEO talking about job cuts by attrition. Right? That's what he's saying. But that's not how this works -- Phil Mudd.

MUDD: Look, there's a couple things you've got to think about here. First, I don't understand the hypocrisy. The president of the United States with American friends keeps talking about reciprocity. Particularly on trade. If we want to trade fairly you give us something, we give you something.

In this case, in terms of reciprocity, the United States tossed a few dozen Russians, the Russians eliminate hundreds of jobs from the embassy, and the president of the United States says nothing about reciprocity, that's great.

There is one personal point that I think is very painful for American officials who have dealt with foreign policy. It is August, 2017. There's a lot of diplomats coming home from Russia who've got to find a school for their kids next month. How about if the president says thank you for their service instead of denigrating the fact that they worked in Moscow. A little bit of thanks to the people who worked overseas for the American population I think would be appropriate instead of saying thanks to Vladimir Putin.

CUOMO: A question of style or do you something else in play?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I see something else in play. I mean, let's acknowledge the fact that this isn't how government budgeting works. Right? You know, Vladimir Putin doesn't order people out of the country and the U.S. saves money. That's a misunderstanding of how basic budget works from the alleged CEO president. You know, Putin doesn't protect American payroll. You do.

Second thing and more important, find me one example where Donald Trump has not lost an opportunity to suck up to Vladimir Putin when asked a tough question. Even when conservative commentators have said he's a killer, the best he'll do is well, there are lots of killer, are we so innocent?

Every time he gets pressed on Vladimir Putin, who's one of the bad guys on the international stage and a leader of a hostile foreign power, Donald Trump, president of the United States, finds a way to praise him or deflect blame. That is at some point what it is to use one of Donald's phrases. That looks like what it is. Someone who has a reason, a compunction, an impulse to never say anything that could be construed as a criticism of the leader of Russia.

KEILAR: You hate that phrase.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: I do. I'm not going to spend my time decrying it is what it is because it is what it is. I think what you're seeing -- I grew up watching boxing. And in boxing if a guy gets hit with a real solid punch, a lot of times the reaction is to try to shake -- to like, show, that didn't hurt me, like, punch himself, it didn't hurt me, I'm totally fine.

I think that's what Trump was going for here, that's like, show Putin, like, he did that, like, I'm going to joke about it, I'm going to let it roll off my back. The point, however, that John and Phil make, I mean, number one, you're talking about 700 plus lives affected by this. Number two, you can't joke about certain things. He has a tendency -- he does this a lot. He has a tendency to joke about things that are frankly not terribly funny.

And you can never tell he's joking or if he's not. Right? If you played that clip five times, I've watched it five times, I think he means it tongue in cheek and meant to say like you didn't hurt us.

KEILAR: But then --

CILLIZZA: Like it's --

[06:25:07] KEILAR: But there's no reason to go back, kind of makes you think maybe he wasn't joking. Right? I see no reason for them to go back.

CILLIZZA: This is my whole -- I mean, he lives in this constant state -- this was like the entire campaign was, wait, does he mean that or -- I mean, that's literally the entire campaign was spent trying to puzzle out. He says these things that are purposely provocative, purposely controversial, but with enough wiggle room where he often would say, I'm just joking, I'm just kidding around, you couldn't disprove it but you also couldn't prove it. I think he purposely lives in that space.

AVLON: Yes, look. That may be his style, you know, I'm a tough guy, I like to joke around. A like pal snapping. But if that -- you know, the boxing metaphor you say is true then he would have the same attitude towards Mitch McConnell.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

AVLON: When there's an innocuous criticism in a town hall. But instead we go on a three-day Twitter rant against the leader of his own party in Congress.

CUOMO: Let's play a little sound of that. This is the latest back and forth between the president and the Senate majority leader who stands at the middle of getting everything done that the president wants to achieve. Here.


TRUMP: I'm very disappointed in Mitch, but if he gets these bills passed, I'll be very happy with him. I'll be the first to admit it. But honestly, repeal and replace of Obamacare should have taken place. It should have been on my desk virtually the first week that I was there or the first day that I was there. I've been hearing about it for seven years.


CUOMO: Phil Mudd, that would be an unreasonable expectation.

KEILAR: The first day.

CUOMO: But hold on, hold on. Because, Phil, on many points, you've got to give the fair balance of criticism to what we're hearing from the panel that whatever is done in the interest of style doesn't seem to be productive. However here I think most would suggest the president has got high ground.

The Republicans had been promising to do this. This was a big part of the campaign. He did also go heavy on it. The president himself as a candidate. And McConnell hasn't delivered. So he has high ground and winds up being how does he deal with this relationship, what do you make of this back and forth.

MUDD: I think you're right, he has half high ground, though. At some point when you --

CUOMO: Half high ground?

MUDD: Half high ground.

CUOMO: How do you have half high ground, Phil Mudd? I don't like vacillators.

MUDD: It's the middle ground.

CUOMO: Don't on vacillate on me, Mudd. That's not who you are.

MUDD: Look, I understand you took your ugly pills this morning. I'd recommend --

CUOMO: Oh, why do you laugh?

CILLIZZA: I wasn't laughing. I was totally --

CUOMO: You're on my side.

KEILAR: It is what it is, Chris.


CUOMO: Go ahead, Phil.

MUDD: It is what it is and you're hideous. OK. So I think there's something critically important. I don't think the issue here is repeal. I think the issue is replace. That is, if the Republicans had something to offer people like me, I have the Affordable Care Act and my provider just said they're not signing up on January 1st. So I watch this with some personal interest.

The president is right to critique Mitch McConnell. But the president did receive the bid from the Republicans last summer. He's been in office since January. My question would be where is the conversation over the past year about a sophisticated replace plan so Americans and the Congress would say we're OK with repeal because we know what happens afterward. At some time -- at some point you've got to own it. And a year after winning the nomination, I think you have enough time to come up with a reasonable replace plan. I haven't seen it.

CUOMO: And also to that point, Phil makes a good point. Yesterday we had Senator Ron Johnson on here, one of the first Republicans I've heard - you guys tell me if I'm wrong -- where he said all right, maybe repeal and replace didn't work, we've got to leave that alone. Let's find what's wrong and fix it. He came on. You can look online, you can see a lot of his economic reckoning. So maybe that's starting to go in the right direction.

But, you know, I appreciate that, guys, and thanks for stepping up, Brianna. Real nice of you.

KEILAR: But they share responsibility, right? That's what happens. The president shares some of the responsibility. That's just how it goes.

CUOMO: That's how it goes. Please.

KEILAR: All right. Well, riveting testimony, I mean, it really is, really fascinating from pop superstar Taylor Swift if you've been following this, Chris, as I know you have closely, about the Denver DJ who allegedly groped her. What she told the judge next on NEW DAY.