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Trump: If Kim Attacks Guam "He Will Regret It Fast"; Trump Hopes North Korea Knows Full "Gravity" Of His Words; Trump Meets With National Security Team Amidst North Korea Crisis. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired August 11, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, he will regret it. President Trump unleashing a series of harsh new threats against North Korea. The president is warning Kim Jong-un against any attack on Guam and says he hopes the dictator fully understands the gravity of his words.
Secret diplomacy, the president refuses to comment on back channel U.S. communications with North Korea, which CNN has learned have been taking place amid the escalating crisis. Will that be the key to averting a military confrontation?
Volatile leader, the U.S. is now locked in a standoff with one of the world's most bellicose and unpredictable dictators, but Kim Jong-un is carrying on a family tradition of ruthlessness and aggression. Will he take it to the next level?
And Mitch, please. Key Republican senators come to the defense of Mitch McConnell as President Trump steps up his attacks on the majority leader. The verbal assaults on McConnell follow public shaming of other GOP senators. Why is the president attacking the very people he needs to implement his agenda?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The breaking news this hour, President Trump underscoring his latest threats against North Korea. A little while ago in his New Jersey golf club, the president warned that dictator, Kim Jong-un, will truly regret an attack on Guam fast.
And the president stood by his earlier tweet, which he said military solutions are locked and loaded, adding just now that he hopes North Korea fully understands what he calls the gravity of his words.
But Mr. Trump was silent when asked about back channel communications with North Korea. CNN has learned that U.S. diplomats quietly and regularly been in contact with their North Korean counterparts as this crisis between the two countries has escalated.
We're covering all of that. Much more this hour with our guest, including "New York Times" columnist, Thomas Friedman, and Congressman Gregory Meeks of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and our correspondents and specialists are also standing by. But let's begin with the president's grave new warnings to North Korea, our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, has the very latest for us. Jim, the president said he meant it when he tweeted that military solutions are now locked and loaded.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly did, Wolf. President Trump is meeting with top officials at this hour including his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, about the escalating tensions with North Korea.
The White House is downplaying the significance of the president's locked and loaded comments on North Korea from earlier today. Aides say, there's, quote, "nothing new in the president's tweet" that we saw earlier today, but that's cold comfort to the president's critics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: My critics only say that because it's me. If somebody else uttered the exact same words that I uttered, they'd say, what a great statement, what a wonderful statement.
ACOSTA (voice-over): No second thoughts from the president, just hours after a new chest thumping message to North Korea.
TRUMP: If he utters one threat in a form of an over threat, which, by the way, he's been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years and if he does anything with respect to Guam, or any place else that's an American territory and American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.
ACOSTA: The latest tough talk following a morning tweet. Military solutions are now fully in place, the president says. Locked and loaded should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong-un will find another path.
The threat of military action comes less than one day after Defense Secretary James Mattis was starting to tone down the administration's rhetoric emphasizing diplomacy.
JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You can see the American effort has diplomatically led, traction and gaining diplomatic results. I want to stay right there right now. The tragedy of war is well enough know. It doesn't need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.
ACOSTA: Still, the president insists his team is on the same page.
TRUMP: There are no mixed messages. There are no mixed messages.
ACOSTA: Asked about the president's claim that military options are now locked and loaded, an administration official all but said don't worry there are military plans for just about anything crisis we may face in the world and these plans are updated on a continuous basis as needed and provide options for the president. This isn't anything new.
The president may be shrugging off questions about his talk of fire and fury this week.
TRUMP: And frankly, the people that were questioning that statement, was it too tough? Maybe it wasn't tough enough.
ACOSTA: But the increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric ran somewhat counter to his repeated claims that he won't telegraph his next moves.
[17:05:03] TRUMP: I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or thinking. I'm not like other administrations where they say, we're going to do this in four weeks. It doesn't work that way. We'll see what happens.
ACOSTA: Democrats insist the White House message is a mess.
REP. ERIC SWALLWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: He's isolated at a golf club in North Korea and sending out bar stool threats.
ACOSTA: The president is also clarifying his comments on Russia's decision to expel American diplomats.
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 he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.
ACOSTA: Asked about that, the White House said in a statement the president was being sarcastic. We take seriously Moscow's unwarranted actions against our personnel and diplomatic properties and we are exploring our response options.
ACOSTA: And as for the kremlin's decision to expel those American diplomats, one White House official noted it was Russia's interference in the election last fall that led to the negative trend in relations between the U.S. and Moscow. That is a rather stunning statement, Wolf, given the president's reluctance to embrace that view in the past -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting for us from the White House. Thank you. North Korea has been quick to react to the president's threats. Let's go live to CNN's Will Ripley who's reported extensively from inside North Korea. Will, are we hearing any response yet from the Kim Jong-un regime?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We need to keep watching over the next hour or so because this is normally around the time that North Korea puts out their new round of early morning statements, early morning local time here in Asia.
But throughout the day, we did see statements from North Korea threatening to make the United States, the mainland, a stage for nuclear war saying that President Trump is pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war. These are fiery statements, bellicose rhetoric that we're used to hearing from North Korea but noticeably what we did not hear today was any further detail about this supposed plan to simultaneously launch four intermediate range ballistic missiles and fly them over Japan, and put them within 20 miles of Guam, home to key U.S. military assets and more than 160,000 American citizens.
Now this could be simply because North Korea has given this plan to Kim Jong-un as they said he would for his review or could be they're dialing back the rhetoric a bit. We just don't know.
But what I do know from visiting the country many times and speaking with officials there, when there are statements made directly naming or you know, speaking directly to their supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.
President Trump calling him he, for example, not referring to a bias title. Nothing is more infuriating to the North Koreans than that. Any perceived disrespect of their supreme leader, they take almost as fighting words or an act of war.
So, to have the U.S. president speaking in this way directly to the North Korean leader is likely to provoke a response of some kind much like the one they saw when they fired back insulting the president and detailed that very specific technical plan.
But is this a bluff on the part of North Koreans or try to pull something like that off? Clearly, President Trump has once again drawn a red line. We'll have to see if North Korea draws its own red line and decide to cross that line -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll get right back to you, Will, as soon as you get the next North Korean statement as you point out. Those statements come out roughly around this time. Will Ripley reporting from Beijing for us. Thanks very much.
Let's get some more on the breaking news. Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks is joining us. He is a key member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congressman, we're also standing by, as you know, the president is now meeting with the secretary of state and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser.
We expect the president will be make another statement answering reporters' questions following this meeting. We'll have live coverage of that, but just a little while ago, Congressman, you heard him say that Kim Jong-un won't get away with this if he utters one more threat or anything involving Guam, for example, he will truly regret it and regret it fast. Do you believe the president is drawing another red line?
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, he's drawing red lines, but he's also acting like a child. When you look at Kim Jong-un, we don't go down to his level. That's what he and the regime in North Korea have been doing forever.
He is supposed to be the leader of the free world, the president of the United States of America. My fears are being unfortunately are coming to truth. My fear is that he would not know how to act as president when he ran for the office and clearly as president, he's not acting like a president.
He's not acting like a leader. He's acting like a child. That's what I've had to do with children on the playground. They go back and forth as opposed to being a smart leader as previous presidents have been.
BLITZER: How dangerous is this current situation right now?
MEEKS: Well, it is dangerous because you are playing a game and playing with hundreds of thousands of lives. That's what being the president of the United States is all about.
You're playing with it and that's why other leaders around the world can't believe the words that are coming out of the mouth of the United States, of the president of the United States of America.
[17:10:10] They could believe it out of the mouth of the head of North Korea. But cannot believe that this is coming out of the mouth of the president of the United States. I've got to think that when you look at Japan, the Japanese and the South Koreans, you know, they've been involved in this and here, you have an individual who is not speaking presidential and speaking with them in the manner that they should be.
BLITZER: I know you want to finish your thought, but he issued that warning to Kim Jong-Un about fire and fury. If Kim Jong-Un levels more levels threat, since then, Kim Jong-Un's regime has levelled more threats.
Now he says the U.S. military is ready for any military action and get ready if he issues more threats. How is the president's credibility as far as the North Koreans are concerned from your perspective?
MEEKS: I think that the president's credibility is shot with reference to the North Koreans and the rest of the world in this sense. Listen. Everybody knows how strong the United States of America is and the military fire power we have. Everybody knows.
You don't have to go out and talk about it or say you'll do this or that. If someone tries to preemptively strike the United States of America, we will -- we have enough to do what we have to do.
So, for the president to come out and say, this is what I'm going to do and, this is not a game show or reality tv. This is not "The Apprentice." This is real life so it's not the real life you put on television. We need him to take a step back and I hope in the conversation he's having with his aides, General Mattis and --
BLITZER: He's meeting with Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, and General H.R. McMaster, his national security advisor.
MEEKS: I hope in that conversation, they explain to him in terms he will understand that he's being un-presidential and he's not helping the scenario and in fact, he's endangering more --
BLITZER: Every day, he keeps elevating. He's not backing away at all from those initial fire and fury comments. He keeps doubling and tripling down.
MEEKS: I hope the adult in the room, those individuals. I woke up the other day and seemed like the world flipped itself 180 degrees when I heard China talking about people should take it easy, calm, you know, being reserved. That's what the United States president --
BLITZER: Let's say, Congressman, North Koreans live up to what they threaten to do the other day. Launch four intermediate range ballistic missiles towards the U.S. territory of Guam with 162,000 U.S. citizens and a major U.S. air base, Anderson Air Force Base and say he does do that. He says the U.S. military president is locked and loaded. What should the U.S. do if those missiles are aimed towards Guam?
MEEKS: We should not be going to North Koreans to do that, but we don't have to say, if anybody makes an aggressive move against the United States in its territories or its allies, we would know that the United States of America, anybody that is the president of the United States, anybody will protect us and do what's necessary for the protection of our folks. Everyone knows that. You don't have to go around and try to goad someone to say that, cross this line.
BLITZER: Because the North Koreans said in that statement, unless they see some different policy from the United States, by mid-August next week, this is what their military is recommending.
MEEKS: Can you imagine a life lesson? I mean, I got my daughter, I got a daughter that just started college, she's 17 years old. I would never teach her to go and to do in her life lesson if she had a dispute with someone to handle a dispute the way this particular president is handling this dispute.
It's not the way a leader does it. I think that we need to make sure and I hope that he listens to someone, although, his entire life, his only career, this is the way he's handled it but he's not part of Trump enterprises now.
He's not on "The Apprentice" show. He's president of the United States and I hope he would be responsible as a president of the United States should be.
BLITZER: Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, thank you so much for joining us.
The breaking news continues next. We're going to talk about President Trump's latest tough talk towards North Korea with the "New York Times" columnist, Thomas Friedman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We'll either be very, very successful quickly or very successful in a different way quickly. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We are following the breaking news. A heated new talk from President Trump warning North Korea not only against this threat to Guam, but also making anymore threats at all.
Let's dig deeper with "New York Times" columnist, Thomas Friedman. He is the author of the best-seller "Thank You For Being Late," an optimist guy to thriving in the age of acceleration. Tom, thanks very much for joining us.
He's accelerating his rhetoric, the president. Just said moments ago that Kim Jong-un won't get away with this if he utters more threats or anything about Guam, he'll truly regret it.
Early in the week, he spoke about fire and fury of North Korea, issued threats against the United States. His credibility right now, how good is the U.S. credibility towards North Korea?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, Wolf, I don't object to the president doing a little madman game here with the North Koreans. It's clearly got their attention and I think it's more of the Chinese than the North Koreans to get the Chinese to act, because they really have the greatest leverage.
BLITZER: To get the Chinese to squeeze North Koreans?
FRIEDMAN: But ultimately, it's got to be connected to a diplomatic pathway, to a solution. The question is, is it? I really, it's very hard for me to see what comes after the president's. Does he expect unilateral surrender from the North Koreans? Not likely.
If we don't expect that, what is he ready to offer? That's what's not clear to me here. But I don't object to the president saying, this is a new situation. These are about to acquire intercontinental ballistic missile to hit us in the next year or two years.
That is a new situation and that we shouldn't be, you know, just passive about it. At the same time though, it's good he brandishes the stick but what set of diplomatic offers to actually resolve this issue --
BLITZER: Is China paying attention? Are they going to squeeze North Korea? They have enormous leverage over North Korea.
FRIEDMAN: We actually don't know how much.
BLITZER: Most of North Koreans exports involve China and most of their imports involve China. The Chinese who voted for the U.N. Security Council resolution last weekend, if they decide to fully implement it, that could be significant.
FRIEDMAN: Well, I mean that the leverage is limited, Wolf, by the fact they don't want to see North Korea collapse because it falls into their lap and that's where there's some limit here. I do think he got the attention of the Chinese. When the Chinese issued a statement today through one of their papers to the North Koreans, you attack the Americans, you're on your own.
OK. I'm sure that was definitely taken notice of in Pyongyang, but ultimately, Wolf, this is the problem for him. There is no easy solution here. You're dealing with a crazy regime in North Korea that's been in power for three generations.
Now they're acquiring nuclear weapons and highly resistant to any kind of sanctions and manage to develop these nuclear despite the sanctions and ultimately, maybe we have to live with a form of deterrence because the alternative to deterrence.
Any kind of military solution from the North Korea side, it leads to suicide and the American side and military action could lead to tens of millions of people including hundreds of thousands of Americans in Korea also being killed. Unleashing God knows what fury in Asia. So, a military solution really is not an optimal, it's unimaginable at this time.
BLITZER: You've heard some of the president's critics saying he's deliberately for whatever reason blowing up this crisis now with North Korea for political reasons maybe to change the subject. They refer to a tweet he posted back in 2012 referring to President Obama.
Polls are starting to look really bad for Obama, looks like he'll have to start a war or major conflict to win. Don't put it past him. What are you saying he's deliberating answering questions and making statements, very tough statements on North Korea and maybe wanting to change the subject?
FRIEDMAN: All I could say is if he's doing it, it's incredibly dangerous because if, in fact, the North Koreans don't back down or stop their missile program he's putting himself in a situation where he's embarrassed because he doesn't do anything or take military action that could be catastrophic.
BLITZER: This is what you wrote in your most recent column. Very tough words against the president. Have we already become so inured to the madness of the Trump administration that we have simply forgotten over the last six months what if America had a real president, not the historically ignorant erratic petulant boy king we're stuck with? Ignorant petulant boy king.
FRIEDMAN: Yes, that's kind of how I see things, Wolf. What would I be doing him? Again, I don't object to raising the temperature on this story, but I would pair it, if I were calling the shots, with a very clear diplomatic offer to the North Koreans.
That if you will unilaterally stop your nuclear program and ballistic missile program, we'll end the Korean war and set up an embassy in Pyongyang and engage in diplomatic relations. A very clear offer on the table. What's the virtue of that, Wolf?
Our strength in Asia ultimately requires a coalition. We need the Chinese, the South Koreans, the Japanese.
[17:25:08] If we put an offer on the table, and by the way, this is the offer that's been implicit in everything we've done, which is your nuclear program, we'll engage --
BLITZER: They believe, Kim Jong-Un's dad believed it, his grandfather believed it. The only potential insurance policy is a nuclear capability.
FRIEDMAN: I do believe that and that's why I believe we would have the moral high ground because I don't think they would accept that offer but we'd have the moral high ground to be able to enlist the allies we need for I think is the only solution here, Wolf, and that is simply for a long period of sanctions and deterrents on the North Koreans. I just don't see anything else but that.
BLITZER: But the president has said publicly and privately, the United States cannot tolerate a nuclear capable North Korea. That if North Korea had intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the United States and miniaturized warheads, nuclear warheads, even that would be intolerable to the United States?
FRIEDMAN: We tolerated the Soviet Union having tens of thousands of warheads aimed at us, we tolerated the Chinese having warheads. We thought was crazy at one point. We're going to have to tolerate it because the options, the alternatives to that are horrifying.
The president, put myself into a situation to get resolved one way or another. I did a column about this a while back. The medieval criminal who gets pulled before the king and he said, your highness, if you would commute my sentence, I will teach your horse to sing.
He goes back to his cell and says, what happened? He said, I got a year. He said, I promised to teach the king's horse to sing. He said, you can't. I have got a year and the king might die, I might die, the horse might die or the horse might sing.
And my view, on this story, keep kicking the can down the road, deter them as much as you can and isolate under sanctions. Who knows? Maybe the horse will sing, maybe something will happen. Maybe a coup.
BLITZER: A coup in North Korea?
FRIEDMAN: Which would be the ideal situation, maybe the Chinese can engineer, I don't know. But the minute you step off of this and say, we're going to resolve this thing now one way or another, well, you open up the possibility of a hellish nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula. I think that is terrible.
BLITZER: As we are speaking right now, he's meeting with his secretary of state, U.N. ambassador, national security advisor. Do you have confidence in that national security team at least that he has assembled?
FRIEDMAN: I think they're serious people there, Mattis, McMaster. What worries me, Wolf, are they a team? Because you see them often out in multiple directions and attacking the secretary of state for military matters and doesn't realize it's a person who actually negotiates arms control agreements, so the question I have is not that individually these aren't serious people they are. Is there a coherent team there with a coherent strategy?
BLITZER: Thomas Friedman, the "New York Times" columnist and author of the best-selling new book. Thank you for being an optimist guy for thriving in the age of acceleration. I recommend it. Tom, thanks very much for coming.
FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: There is much more ahead on the breaking news. We'll dig deeper into President Trump's new warning to North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have tens of millions of people in this country that are so happy with what I'm saying because finally, we have a president that's sticking up for our nation and frankly, sticking up for our friends and our allies. And this man will not get away with what he's doing, believe me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:33:50] BLITZER: The breaking news, President Trump breaking from his vacation at his New Jersey golf club to warn North Korea's dictator against launching missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam, as he's threatened the president says, Kim Jong-un, quote, will regret it, fast. Our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto is working on the story for us, Jim, the president clearly not backing away from his threats.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. Certainly, more touch words today but no more clarity as to what U.S. next steps are. The president issuing another threat of military action but not saying whether that would follow military action by North Korea or simply another threat from North Korea.
SCIUTTO: Tonight, President Trump issuing an ominous warning to North Korea's leader and to the world.
TRUMP: If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat, which by the way, he's 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.
[17:35:02] SCIUTTO: This after earlier in the day tweeting, that he's willing to order military action against the North. Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded should North Korea act unwisely, hopefully, Kim Jong-un will find another path, exclamation point. Defense Secretary James Mattis who yesterday, insisted the U.S. is focused on a diplomatic solution, declined to give details on what military options he's given the president.
MATTIS: I don't tell the enemy in advance what I'm going to do. Our readiness, we're ready.
SCIUTTO: North Korea is now accusing President Trump of escalating the crisis with his dire rhetoric. Pyongyang's State 1 Korean Central News Agency reporting, quote, Trump is driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war. In Guam, the target of North Korea's latest threat, people woke up to a grim newspaper headline. Fourteen minutes, that's how long it would take a North Korean missile to reach the U.S. territory, if it managed to get past U.S. missile defenses. Guam now, warning its citizens. Today, U.S. bombers on Guam were seen preparing for action, a constant state of alert, forces whose motto is ready to fight.
LT. COL. CHRIS OCCHIUZZO, ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE: Obviously, I can't tell you what they're doing or where they're going but we are training every day, all the time. Just so we're ready. We're always prepared to prevail and to fight tonight.
SCIUTTO: South Korea is calling on its military to maintain full readiness and Japan is deploying this U.S. missile defense system, the Patriot PAC-3 to four different locations. The Patriot System is not designed to shoot down the intermediate range ballistic missiles that Pyongyang is currently threatening to launch. Following Secretary of State Tillerson's trip to the region, a top Asia diplomats said the U.S. is open to talking with the North.
PATRICK MURPHY, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't have anything to comment about discussions or engagements with North Korea, except to say this, the North Koreans know how to reach us.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
SCIUTTO: Despite the rhetorical escalation by the president, U.S. Defense Officials telling CNN that there are no plans to deploy any additional forces to the Korean Peninsula and its ships and aircraft in the region are on regular deployment schedules. There is a major exercise coming up, Wolf, between U.S. and South Korean forces, but that as well is regularly planned, regularly scheduled part of the normal deployment in that region.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jim. I want you to stick around. I want to bring in our correspondents and specialists. Gloria, the president says flatly, he will truly regret it and regret it, fast, sounds like this is yet another red line.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is yet another red line, but when you have a lot of red lines, you're not quite sure what the actual red line is. So I think it remains unclear what action would require a U.S. military response. We just don't know. Now, maybe that's being done on purpose. Maybe he's just saber rattling for the benefit of the Chinese. You know, that could -- that could be. But the president clearly wants to be provocative, talking about locked and loaded, fire and fury. If he wants to be provocative, he is. And maybe that will affect the Chinese one way or another. We're just, you know, we don't know.
BLITZER: He keeps saying, Phil, that the president keeps saying that if there are more threats, get ready for U.S., a quick U.S. response. There have been every day more threats from North Korea. There hasn't been any U.S. military response, at least not yet, just threats of the U.S. military response.
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: That's right, but I don't think the president is losing traction yet. Look, there's a difference between this and a situation where we would stop paying attention to the president and that is, we've got a drama playing out live on TV and we have an end game. The North Koreans obviously have talked about a time limit on their threat to Guam, that time limit is in this month, August. The president has talked about responding to that. So as long as that time limit is weighing out, they're over our heads, we've got to pay attention to what the boss says. That said, I think there is a rough parallel to health care. When we first started going through the debates and votes in congress, everything the president said about repeal and then repeal and replace was really significant. And now, when you see his tweets on that, you start to say, they don't really mean anything because, over time, he hasn't been able to accomplish much.
BLITZER: Mark Preston, how do you see it?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things. One, I think that messaging in words really do matter and this is a moment where they actually really do matter. When Phil's talking about health care, he's absolutely right. The president said a lot of things that didn't necessarily come to fruition and he backed off of. However, we're talking about life and death right now. And I do think that the president has put himself in a position that he has never been in before and quite frankly, probably no one has ever been unless you have been a president who's been faced with this. This is the big concern, certainly what I'm hearing from folks in Washington, and quite frankly, around the country, the unpredictability of the North Korean leader, that is the big wild card right now. And we don't know how he's going to act. And I think President Trump has got to take that into consideration. My question is, is he taking it into consideration?
[17:40:08] BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Gloria, because the president, as we speak right now, is meeting with the top diplomat, the Secretary of State, the U.N. Ambassador's National Security Advisor is there. We expect a fairly soon to be hearing once again from the president. Do you think we'll hear a more diplomatic statement coming out of his mouth?
BORGER: Well, if they -- look, if they're playing good cop bad cop, he's the bad cop. And we, you know, we heard the Secretary of Defense, Mattis last night, talk about diplomacy over and over again with a very sort of somber tone and so, you know, I never would predict what will come out of Donald Trump's mouth after this meeting. But I don't expect there's going to be a complete about-face. I think what we've seen is Rex Tillerson talk about diplomacy trying to calm people down. We've heard that from Secretary Mattis. I'm not quite sure what we're going to hear from Trump. I don't think he's going to talk about back channel negotiations, which by the way, may or may not be going on. I don't think he's going to talk about that publicly.
BLITZER: You just heard Tom Friedman, you know, Jim, say that the tough talk from the president may be aimed at the Chinese. Get them nervous about all of this because they have leverage, they could squeeze the North Koreans. What do you -- you lived in China. You understand that.
SCIUTTO: Listen, clearly, China is a major audience here and often, the president has been explicit in that. He has said, he's tweeted, and he said, the China is not doing enough after having started the year by saying, I think we can work with China on this. So clearly, they're part of the message. It's interesting though, that, you know, each audience for this, is sensitive, right? And words matter. I mean, when you look at North Korea, this is an insecure state. They're nervous. So, you know, if you trigger a finger, maybe. I mean, they're talking about their survival.
China, extremely nervous about U.S. military action in the region, our allies clearly made a little discomforted by the president's comments and you can see from them their officials to try to calm their populations in South Korea and Japan about it, and then even here in the States, because you have senior U.S. officials concerned about the U.S. audience, Tillerson, for instance, trying to say Americans can sleep at night. So the discomfort with his comments is kind of across the board. I think what's not clear is, is Trump freelancing down this path or is this part of a coordinated strategy from his national security team because there's clearly conflict between those messages. Mattis said yesterday, this is a diplomatic let-up. Today, the president said locked and loaded. That's not -- it doesn't quite fit into with that message.
BLITZER: We'll see what he says. We're standing by to hear from him, momentarily, we're told after this meeting, he'll be making another statement. Well, of course, have live coverage of that, very curious, Phil, the intelligence community used to work at the CIA. How good or limited is U.S. intelligence and what really is going on in North Korea right now? What is -- what is the impact of the intelligence if it's not very good?
MUDD: Boy, this is going to be difficult intelligence to acquire. Let's give you two categories. Number one, a missile launch, that's technical information you can get from a mission's from that missile, so when North Korea tests, that's an intelligence bonanza for the intelligence committee. That's not golden intelligence. The golden intelligence is what we call plans and intentions. What are foreign leaders thinking? And you got a few problems with that in North Korea. Number one, there aren't Americans in country. How do you going to talk to North Koreans? How are you going to recruit them? Maybe when they travel overseas, that's an option.
Well, that's your second problem. North Koreans don't get out of North Korea much. How do they going to bump up against an American? And the last problem, I think, people in this country don't understand very well, and that's the power of propaganda. The people you bump up against that you want to serve American interests because they don't trust their own leader are going to be indoctrinated for 40 or 50 years. That he is not only the political leader. He is the answer for everything in North Korea. That is a tough recruitment target, what we call intelligence a hard target, very difficult to get a picture of what they think, Wolf.
BLITZER: The U.S. intelligence community, Jim, still believes that Kim Jong-un is rational, may be unpredictable, but rational. He wants to survive. He wants the regime to survive.
SCIUTTO: That's right. I think, we should dispense with that notion that you have -- you have a crazy man there, because who knows what his mental state is, but at least, the strategic steps taken by North Korea, makes sense, because this is really in their view, their only means of survival. They look to the Iraq invasion, they look to the Libya -- Libyans who gave up their nukes and then what happened to their regime. So a lot of these acts make sense in a brutal, yet rational world view.
[17:44:41] BLITZER: All right. Everybody stick around. We have more coming up. There's more on the breaking news, a fiery new talk from President Trump. We're going to hear his newest warning to North Korea. We're standing by to hear from him, live. Plus Kim Jong-un, a young dictator carrying on a family tradition of ruthlessness and aggression.
BLITZER: Once again, we're standing by to hear from the President of the United States. He's meeting right now, wrapping up a meeting with his Secretary of State. The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., his National Security Advisor. The President will then make a statement. We'll have live coverage of that on North Korea. Stand by. We're following the breaking news. Earlier, the President was warning North Korea's Kim Jong-un, he will, quote, regret it fast if he makes any more threats against the U.S. territory of Guam. CNN's Brian Todd has done extensive reporting on Kim Jong-un and his regime. Brian, there's a history, family history of aggression.
[17:50:07] BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There certainly is, Wolf. You know, we've been speaking with U.S. intelligence officials and outside, analysts who are keeping a close eye on this crisis. They've given us new information on how this young dictator is managing the standoff with President Trump. Tonight, some are warning the President not to push this dangerous man into a corner.
TODD: In the midst of what seems to be a daily battle of testosterone between two leaders with nuclear weapons.
TRUMP: And this man will not get away with what he's doing, believe me. TODD: Tonight, analysts who study North Korea's Kim Jong-un are warning President Trump about setting off the volatile 30 something dictator with increasingly heated rhetoric.
SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA NORTH KOREA ANALYST: I think Mr. Trump should be very careful on pushing the buttons and double daring Kim Jong-un because I think Kim Jong-un is going to have a very hard time backing down from the threats that he's making.
TODD: Experts say to maintain his status with his people and the elites surrounding him, the man worshipped as a living god in North Korea may be compelled to keep escalating this crisis if President Trump does. The heir to an almost 70-year-old dynasty, Kim Jong-un swept into power in his late 20s when his father, Kim Jong-il, died. From that moment in late 2011, Kim has moved swiftly and ruthlessly to cement his power. He's believed to have executed about 140 top officials including his own uncle, sometimes with anti-aircraft guns.
JONATHAN POLLACK, SENIOR FELLOW, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: We know he's violent. We know he listens to no one so far as we can tell. He certainly doesn't listen to the Chinese.
TODD: Kim's ambition is dizzying. He's conducted three nuclear bomb tests and in less than six years in power, he's overseen about 80 missile tests, more than twice as many as his father and grandfather combined. U.S. officials tell CNN Kim Jong-un grew up with few limits. After studying at a private school in Switzerland and developing a passion for basketball and James Bond movies, he leapfrogged his two older brothers to be placed in line as Supreme Leader. Analysts say his erratic father, Kim Jong-il liked something he saw in his youngest son.
SUE: Kim Jong-il thought Kim Jong-un was most like him in terms of strength, in terms of having leadership capability, being decisive and even brutal when need be.
TODD: So brutal, in fact, South Korean intelligence believes Kim Jong-un ordered the assassination of his older brother who was killed with a chemical nerve agent in the middle of Kuala Lumpur's Airport earlier this year. Kim's regime denied it, but observers say it could be consistent with certain psychological traits his father and grandfather had.
MICHAEL GREEN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR ASIA & JAPAN CHAIR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Paranoia, narcissism, an abnormal attraction to violence. And that was the assessment of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
TODD: It's his grandfather, North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, who the young tyrant is believed to most want to emulate, from the clothes he wears to his hairstyle.
JOSEPH DETRANI, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA: Kim Jong-un wants to project the image of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. Kim Il- sung was viewed and is viewed by the people of North Korea as a great revolutionary. He gave them independence. He fought against the colonials, he fought against Japan, he fought against the United States in the Korean War in South Korea.
TODD: He questions tonight -- is Kim Jong-un under threat internally? And if so, could that cause him to flex his muscles against the U.S. in a show of strength?
MICHAEL MADDEN, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF NK LEADERSHIP WATCH: Kim Jong-un's leadership appears to be fairly solid. He has insulated himself and protected himself from any threats to his leadership. Whether those be physical or political threats.
TODD: Analysts say it is possible North Korea's elites may get nervous and move against Kim if he keeps taking his country from one crisis to another. But one expert points out Kim keeps his elites and generals under such close surveillance, it's tough for them to gather forces against him. Wolf?
BLITZER: Interesting. Brian, who are the people Kim Jong-un trusts the most?
TODD: Well, Wolf, he has got two sisters, and most observers believe those are possibly the only people around him who he can really trust. His younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, she is in her late 20s. She's been elevated to several top positions and is said to be his gatekeeper. Everyone who meets him has to go through her. And there's a mysterious older sister, Kim Sul-song, never seen, no pictures of her, but she's a mentor to Kim who helps him develop relationships in those very treacherous halls of power in Pyongyang.
BLITZER: Very interesting. Once again, we're standing by to hear from the President of the United States. He's wrapping up a meeting with the Secretary of State, his National Security Adviser, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Once the President goes out to the microphones, we'll have live coverage of that right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as our breaking news coverage continues, the President warning North Korea against an attack and even against making any new threats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:55:01] TRUMP: If he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it. And he will regret it fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Here's the President of the United States.
TRUMP: President Xi tonight from China, and we've been working very closely with China and with other countries. That phone call will take place tonight. So, if you have any questions, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what have you been able to do to reassure South Korea given the recent tensions rising?
TRUMP: Well, I think as far as reassurance, they probably feel as reassured as they can feel. Certainly, they feel more reassured with me than they do with other Presidents from the past because nobody has really done the job that they're supposed to be doing, and that's why we're at this horrible situation right now. And it is a very bad situation, it's a very dangerous situation, and it will not continue. That, I can tell you. So, I think South Korea is very happy and you don't mention Japan, but I think Japan is very happy with the job we're doing. I think they're very impressed with the job we're doing. And let's see how it turns out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, were you being sarcastic when you thanked Vladimir Putin for expelling 755 diplomats from Russia?
TRUMP: In order to reduce our payroll, absolutely. I think you know that. I think you know that. We'll see. In fact, I was just speaking to -- I was just speaking to the secretary and we're talking about coming up with an answer. When, Rex, tell me?
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES: By September 1st.
TRUMP: By September 1st, we'll have a response, but we have reduced payroll very substantially, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, a lot of Americans are on edge with this -- with this rhetoric going back and forth between United States and North Korea. What can you tell them? What --