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President Trump Continues to Tweet Regarding North Korea; Analysts Examine President Trump's Rhetoric Concerning North Korea. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2017 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody's seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the president is saying is making it much more challenging for us to have a successful end to this crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is nothing incoherent about what is being presented by the United States government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's playing chicken on a geopolitical scale.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cry wolf often enough and pretty soon you don't have credibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our new president had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen.

TRUMP: I'm very disappointed in Mitch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The opioid crisis can't be addressed without the declaration of an emergency.

TRUMP: The opioid crisis is an emergency. It's a national emergency.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, August 11, 8:00 in the east now. Alisyn off. Brianna Keilar joins me, and thank you for that.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here.

CUOMO: Breaking news for you this morning, two stunning new statements out from both North Korea and the president of the United States, nuclear tensions are being said to be at a new high. North Korea's news agency is saying that. They say President Trump is driving the situation on the North Korean peninsula to, quote, "the brink of nuclear war."

KEILAR: President Trump responding on Twitter saying, quote, "military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded." We have these breaking developments covered around the globe starting with CNN's Will Ripley. He is live in Beijing with the latest. Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, there is this new statement coming out of North Korea just within the last hour or so from KCNA, their state media. I want to read you two portions of it. The first one says President Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war, making such outcries as The U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK.

And then they talk a lot about the history because in North Korea, the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 influences nearly every aspect of people's lives. Three million people died on the peninsula in just three years of fighting before the armistice agreement that ended it all. But North Korea tells its citizens that the U.S. is ready to attack again at any time. The second portion of the statement reading, quote, "All these facts go to prove that the U.S. is indeed the mastermind of the nuclear threat, the heinous nuclear war fanatic."

So President Trump's remarks really do play into the longstanding North Korean narrative that the United States is their enemy and their government is justified in spending much of its money developing missiles at the expense of things like electricity, nutritious food, and clean water for their people.

Also here in the region tensions continue and really harken back to the cold war in some ways as you look at this headline from "The Pacific Daily News," the newspaper there in Guam. Fourteen minutes, that is the time that Guam homeland security says it would take for a North Korean missile to travel 2,100 miles and reach that 210-square-mile island home to more than 160,000 American citizens. Homeland security in Guam also putting out bulletins for people telling them advice about what to do in the event of a missile attack, such as do not look at the flash or fireball. Those are chilling words, but we do need to remember at this point this is only a war of words. This is escalating rhetoric, but we have not seen any indications as of this morning of North Korean preparations for a missile launch, at least not imminent, Chris.

CUOMO: What are you picking up in terms of the response to the president's tweet just this morning on hour watch saying that military options are locked and loaded?

RIPLEY: North Koreans will take that seriously. And what we really need to watch is are there other actions in the coming days, because North Korea said earlier in the week that they will present a plan to pull off, if they actually go through with it, it would be their most provocative missile test ever, launching four Hwasong-12 ballistic missiles simultaneously flying them over Japan and down within 20 miles of Guam.

If they did that, it would be highly provocative. It would certainly escalate tensions in the region in a month that is already a tense month because of the regularly scheduled joint military drills between the United States and South Korea. Not as a result of the latest tensions, they were due to kick off anyway, but they always enrage Pyongyang, and it's usually a time when that country likes to show force.

But we have to reiterate North Korea has this arsenal as a deterrent. Officials there have told me repeatedly they don't want to use these weapons, Chris, but they say they're not afraid to do so if the United States were to strike first.

CUOMO: All right, Will Ripley, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Brianna?

KEILAR: President Trump is ratcheting up his rhetoric against Pyongyang, making another threat of military action against North Korea in a tweet this morning. And CNN's Barbara Starr is joining us from the Pentagon with more on this. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: Good morning, Brianna. Let's get right to it. What the president has just tweeted, and I want to quote him, he says, "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong-un will find another path."

[08:05:05] I want to leave those words up for everyone to look at for a minute. "Locked and loaded," those are key words for the U.S. military. What does that mean? Well, what we do know is there have been military options in place for weeks now. This is not new. And they are very much focused on the U.S. being able to conduct a rapid response against a North Korean provocation or attack.

So, again, locked and loaded, the military always ready to go. And they have been for some time regarding North Korea. What would they use? There are aircraft, aircraft in Guam, aircraft in South Korea, in Japan, ships with missiles at sea, submarines, they don't talk about those very much, but there are always submarines submerged of course off Korea ready to launch missiles in a very covert way.

All of this has been ready for some time. So what the president may be referring to here is simply bringing a little more out in public, a little more of a message to Kim Jong-un that, if ordered, the U.S. military always ready to go. Brianna, Chris?

CUOMO: All right, let's bring in CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza, senior white correspondent for "Bloomberg News" Margaret Talev, and former diplomatic aide to President George W. Bush Richard Grenell. Richard, let's start with this. All the generals say the same thing, the might of the United States unquestioned, the superiority versus North Korea unquestioned. What do you do if North Korea takes the wrong path, to paraphrase President Trump -- unknown. They'll say there are no good options. So here's the question, how do you balance the device of tough talk and what it may motivate by China, North Korea, or others, versus the need to act on that talk?

RICHARD GRENELL, FORMER ROMNEY FOREIGN POLICY SPOKESMAN: Well, first of all, let's remember that President Obama said we could destroy North Korea. It was a very provocative statement. And his policy was strategic patience. So I don't really think that the rhetoric has anything to do with the fact that 12 missile tests this year alone have been conducted by North Korea.

They've miniaturized a nuclear warhead. They have been able to successfully put a missile into orbit, which the significance of that means that it can travel very far once you get it into orbit. So they are clearly working on these pieces. That all happened over the last eight years of strategic patience and a very clear message from President Obama that he could destroy North Korea.

So I think we have to take a step back here and understand that diplomacy is really -- there's still room for diplomatic muscle here. We just saw North Korea resolution at the U.N. It was tough. It's the toughest we've seen, but there are still more things to be done diplomatically.

So I'd like to dial this back in terms of the military talk to recognize that we are still now trying to implement the resolution at the U.N. There's still room for oil sanctions, which were thrown out by the Chinese in this last negotiation. And I still think that if we really wanted to do something that would grab the attention of the Chinese who really hold all the cards here, that we should do unilateral banking sanctions on China. That doesn't come without pain. There's pain for Americans, there's pain for Wall Street. We're going to see higher prices. However, we need to remember that diplomatic action can still rule the day. We still have room here.

KEILAR: So a very measured suggestion there, Richard. And I think, Margaret, a lot of people in the Trump administration share this. Maybe you can't tell it from President Trump's rhetoric, but when you have him going from fire and fury to then locked and loaded, is he taking some of that, the diplomatic possibilities off the table? Does he either get himself into a situation where he's going to look weak or into a situation where he feels like he has to take action that could end in something that is ultimately catastrophic?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": You know, Brianna, this is going to sound really counterintuitive because when I saw the latest tweet I thought, whoa. But there's another way to read it, too, which is he's still saying the U.S. is ready to act if North Korea does something unwise. So the president is not talking about initiating action at this point. The president is talking about the possibility of responding to action, and that is really important.

And when you talk across the administration to a spectrum of foreign policy and military experts, everybody says there's a series of both sort of military and diplomatic, call it military-diplomatic, hyphenated, steps that would be taken that still have yet to be taken that could ratchet up the diplomatic pressure through those military channels.

[08:10:03] Whether it's force deployment or positioning of planes, a series of steps if the U.S. wanted to send increasing military signals as well as some of those diplomatic options we're talking about like more secondary sanctions, more pressure on China. So the rhetoric is definitely attention getting and is making some people very nervous. But the subtext of the rhetoric and the space that's left in between is probably still quite significant.

CUOMO: Do you think that's the way it's read? Chris Cillizza, we were talking earlier, does that mesh with diplomacy using language that sound like the title cards for UFC fights? The Fire and the fury, locked and loaded.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: Right. I think what Richard said and laid out in terms of a policy I think is right. I think what's hard is that rhetoric from the president is hard to ignore or just write off to, well, you know, North Korea always says stuff like this, we're just saying it back at this point, because of "fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen," and "locked and loaded."

Now, as Barbara Starr points out, this is not today locked and loaded, right? There's not any sort of thing that happened just now. But that rhetoric has real power, particularly when it comes to the president of the United States. What's difficult here is Donald Trump did get elected. I was on TV last night with Fareed Zakaria who made a great point, Donald Trump did get elected because he is willing to say and do things like this. He's willing to engage when asked questions in ways that most politicians would say, we're monitoring the situation closely, their provocations are obviously unwelcome -- right? Political speak.

That's not Donald Trump. That's how -- that's what the people who voted for him want. At the same time how is it perceived and read in North Korea or anywhere else? Because I guarantee you, though Margaret is right on the nuanced point there that we're not going to make a preemptive strike, but if they do something, we're locked and loaded, locked and loaded is what you're going -- is going to be the big takeaway, right? And what does that mean? That's always the difficulty with Trump. Does the rhetoric overtop the policy or what he meant, what his administration meant?

KEILAR: Is it harmless rhetoric, Richard, or do you have concerns?

GRENELL: I don't have any concerns at all. Look, political types are going to say keep trying to message "locked and loaded," but they're missing the rest of the sentence. And I think it's really disingenuous and shameful to not continue the rest of the sentence. As Margaret pointed out, he's talking about a missile defense program at this point. He's talking about playing defense. He's saying if they should act.

I want to ask Chris Cillizza, what does he expect the president of the United States to do if North Korea should act? Should he not use language that warns them? I mean, look, we have to remember that Barack Obama used language like we could destroy North Korea. That seems to be lost here. That seems to be lost on the left that we had fiery language from President Obama when his whole policy was strategic patience. That failed.

We have to understand that over the last two administrations, three administrations really, this policy has failed. We are now at a situation that is a very serious threat. We have seen them gather the three pieces that are needed to launch a nuke. We cannot just sit back and have the typical kind of rhetoric and preparations and policies that we've had in the past. Washington may be very comfortable with those. They like the status quo. They may freak out when it comes to somebody doing something new. But what Washington has to understand is the last 20 years this policy has failed.

CILLIZZA: Richard may not have heard what I said because I agree with him on the fact that Donald Trump --

GRENELL: What I didn't hear is you finish the "locked and loaded" part. You keep saying "locked and loaded," but you're forgetting the major part which is if North Korea should act unwisely.

CILLIZZA: Right.

GRENELL: That's a key point.

CILLIZZA: I don't disagree at all. I just think that you're --

GRENELL: Well, then say it.

CILLIZZA: Do you want me to read the tweet? I don't have it in front of me.

GRENELL: No, I want you to stop saying locked and loaded without finishing the rest of it because you're being very political with a serious policy.

CILLIZZA: I guess I disagree, obviously. But I do think you have to look at the fact that not every person is going to read every word of that, particularly given what Donald Trump has said fire and, fury and that sort of thing. Don't disagree with you about rhetoric and Donald Trump wanting to -- being elected to talk differently, as I said.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Don't disagree with you about rhetoric and Donald Trump wanting to -- being elected to talk differently, as I said.

[08:15:07] But I do think that you -- to assume that everyone around the world is going to read that entire thing, we just showed it again, to assume everyone around the world is going to read the entire thing doesn't have to do with me. I think misunderstands the way in which rhetoric and words matter.

RICHARD GRENELL, FORMER ROMNEY FOREIGN POLICY SPOKESPERSON: Look, what I hear you saying is people are only reading half a tweet. And I find that to be crazy. I find that to be what politics and political people in Washington, D.C. try to do when they're partisan. This is a serious policy.

(CROSSTALK)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Wait, Richard, isn't that the part of the tweet that Donald Trump wants people to read?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right. KEILAR: I mean, he's not putting that there to say look at the back

half of the tweet. That is the part he wants read.

GRENELL: I've been watching your show all morning. I haven't heard you talk about President Obama saying we could destroy North Korea. So, all I'm hearing is that --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that's because -- that's because that's not the imminent situation, OK? And I don't know where -- you want to talk about logic -- hold on a second, Richard. You talked plenty.

You know, the idea of bringing up what a past president said when you're dealing with an imminent and breaking situation is silly. You don't do that. You deal with what's on the table before you right now.

And we both know you may choose to ignore it willfully, but we both know that President Trump uses inflammatory language on purpose. He sees it as a show of strength.

So to say that every part of the tweet must be weighed equally is naive at best and misleading at worst. But there are other points to be made here.

Margaret, what did you want to come in with?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I was just going to say that, you know, I think first of all President Obama is not the president anymore. President Trump is. And the situation has changed somewhat dramatically in just the intervening six months in terms of what we now know or believe about North Korea's capability and how far along they are.

And so, for a long time the conventional wisdom has been even as the U.S. tries to prepare for a set of not very good options, it's important just not to inflame the situation. And President Trump has taken a different tack. Even though he's not saying the U.S. is going to do something preemptive, he's still sort of poking the stick a little bit, and that's what's making a lot of people very uncomfortable.

What the world is trying to figure out who is his message to. Is he signaling to China to try to get China to do more? Is he signaling primarily to North Korea to say, you think you're such a tough guy, I know you're not a tough guy, you know, calling his bluff? Is he signaling to the base at home to say, look, I promised I was going to be tough and do things differently?

Maybe he's doing all three, but depending on which one he's doing, it helps you to understand really what the kind of risk and reward calculus is. And because North Korea's so unpredictable, it's that in addition to the president's unpredictability that's making the world very uncomfortable.

But I think underlying all of this, you have got now a serious and very engaged set of discussions involving not just the president up at Bedminster, but, you know, the defense secretary, to some extent, the secretary of state, the national security advisor, you have the U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley coming to meet with the president today, probably a lot of people wish it were earlier today. But, you know, she is talking to U.S. allies and not always allies but partners in this all over the world.

There is a real concerted effort underneath the rhetoric to try to get a handle on the situation and to try to exercise all of those diplomatic and military kind of considerations that we're talking about.

CUOMO: Also, Richard, what's your take on this? The president is using different language than everybody else, that's probably not an accident either, right? Mattis is using different language. Tillerson is using different language. What do you think that is? Do you think this is orchestrated carrot and stick, or do you think this is action and reaction, that the president says something and then those around him do what you were suggesting which is shape it more towards diplomacy regardless of the hyperbole coming from the president?

GRENELL: Well, I think they have different jobs and they have different responsibilities and they're focused on different things. Certainly, Secretary Tillerson is focused on diplomacy. And he should be pushing diplomacy all the way up until the very end. There's a dual track with military issues and with preparation and that's Secretary Mattis.

And so, what President Trump is trying to do is watch both. And he's got to decide when one stops.

Look, my whole point here is that we're focused, and I think Washington is hyper-focused on rhetoric. And that's not the solution here. We are where we are with a very serious situation because we've had a failed policy.

So what Washington needs to focus on is policy. We need to focus less on the rhetoric. The rhetoric did not get us here.

My whole point in bringing up President Obama's rhetoric is to show that even tough rhetoric from a different person is absolutely not working.

[08:20:07] The policy is not working.

CUOMO: Understood.

Richard, thank you very much. Chris Cillizza, Margaret Talev, appreciate it.

So, a little bit of this no matter how you feel about it does come down to the central issue of approach and the president's approach is different than what we've seen in the past. Even if President Obama said he could destroy it, it wasn't a constant narrative of threat in response to threat. So is this the best way to go? We have a Republican senator from the Foreign Relations Committee with his take, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: President Trump continuing with the strategy of tough talk when it comes to North Korea, responding to the latest statement from Pyongyang on Twitter in the last hour with this: Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong-un will find another path.

That's the tweet from the president.

Is that the right approach?

Let's bring in Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Always good to see you, Senator. Second -- several boxes --

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Chris, thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: -- to check with you this morning. Let's start with North Korea. Do you believe this is the right approach to have with North Korea, the rhetoric from the president?

PORTMAN: I think the right approach is to be strong and that will have a deterrent effect, I believe.

[08:25:01] That's certainly what all of us hope for.

Ronald Reagan said famously you get peace through strength. I think that's what Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis and President Trump are all saying is that should there be a preemptive strike by North Korea, the response will be swift, it will be forceful and that should deter them, one would hope, from taking any actions against Guam or South Korea or Japan or certainly our shores.

CUOMO: So, if God forbid something would not happen, the president would not have to go to Congress for any power to act because it would be in defense of the United States, but if it did become an issue, would you back the use of military force against North Korea if they sent a missile into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam?

PORTMAN: Chris, we have to see, we have to see of course what the North Koreans do and we'd also want to work with our allies. I've heard earlier some conversations about unilateral acts. We just got the United Nations to agree on a unanimous basis.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Right. But you get why I'm asking, right? If they were to do what's being threatened, Senator, this talk has to lead somewhere because otherwise you wind up getting hoisted on your own petard so to speak, you talk tough but not act.

I'm not encouraging any military solution to the situation, don't misunderstand me. But I'm trying to follow through on the strategic thinking here. If you say you're going to hit me --

PORTMAN: Yes.

CUOMO: -- if I do something and I do that thing, you then have to hit me to follow through on your talk. Is that something you'd be comfortable with?

PORTMAN: Well, I think we do need to honor our red lines. And as you know, in the last administration, we failed to do that on occasion and that had a tremendous effect not just on our enemies but also on our allies. And so, I think we do have to follow through on our threats.

Look, I think what has not worked over the past eight years, and, Chris, I would go beyond the last administration and say the last few administrations is not using hot rhetoric with North Korea and not taking action.

Right now, we have a situation where North Korea continues to export about $3 billion worth of goods, as an example, China continues to do business with them, probably about 80 percent of trade is with China. There are Chinese companies that provide dual technologies to North Korea, meaning technology that's used in the commercial sector but also fro the nuclear weapons program. There's a lot more to be done.

And again, the step North Korea took recently by threatening a U.S. territory escalates it, no question about it. But the U.N. sanctions also help escalate it from our point of view. It was a unanimous decision, help tighten sanctions.

I think we should go further. We've got legislation to do that as you know, it's bipartisan.

CUOMO: Right.

PORTMAN: It's entitled Stop the North Korean Enablers, and China is the biggest enabler. And we can do more.

The sanctions from the U.N. probably affect about $1 billion of $3 billion, let's broaden those sanctions. Let's be sure to use the U.S. financial system which is our biggest leverage to stop companies from places like China from doing business with North Korea because they also want to do business with our financial institutions.

So, Chris, I think there's a lot more that can be done.

CUOMO: Absolutely.

PORTMAN: And we should move quickly.

CUOMO: Absolutely. That's why there's talk about should you just be down the military track, hopefully they're following a lot of different paths. We'll see what develops.

There's something else we want to talk to you about. We have a documentary coming up about the explosion of sex trafficking here in the United States and not the way people think about it where young girls are taken from abroad and shipped into the United States. There are estimates that as many as 70 percent of the victims in the U.S. are U.S. kids that are brought into what we familiarly see as prostitution, but it's way more than that now across state lines, you know, kids being taken all over.

You see this problem, you want to attack it. How?

PORTMAN: Chris, first, I appreciate you guys putting a spotlight on this. We've talked about it before, but tragically, we've had a big increase in sex trafficking, human trafficking. And all the experts look at it come up with the same conclusion which is that the Internet is the reason.

In other words, the dark side of the Internet here is that groups like backpage.com, which is a Website we have investigated, are selling women and children online, and really doing it without any ability for prosecutors or the victims to be able to stop it. They have an immunity under federal law. That immunity is something that we are now looking at in terms of legislation. We've introduced very targeted specific legislation to take away the immunity for entities that facilitate sex trafficking and do it knowingly -- in other words, intentionally.

And to me, this is the only way we're going to be able to slow this down and begin to turn the tide. So, it's bipartisan. We have about 25, 28 co-sponsors now. It's something that I think we have to put into place to be able to allow the prosecutors at the state level and the federal level to go after these groups that are selling girls and women online.

The exploitation continues. And also to let the victims get the justice they deserve.

CUOMO: No question, it's a 50-state problem. Kids as young as 10.