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Demonstrators Gather in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Protest Removal of Confederate Statue from Park; North Korea Continues Escalating Rhetoric against U.S.; President Trump Mentions Military Options Regarding Unrest in Venezuela; Experts Profile North Korean Dictator; Violence Breaks Out between Protestors and Counter- Protestors at Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 12, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:31] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Always grateful to have you on board with us here. I'm Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. CNN Newsroom begins right now.
PAUL: And we want to take you straight out to Charlottesville, Virginia, this morning. Take a look, a white nationalist rally is expected to start in less than a couple of hours. This is in protest of the removal of a Confederate statue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: I'm gonna let it shine. All in Charlottesville, I'm gonna let it shine. All in Charlottesville, I'm gonna let it shine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Clergy members there have arrived at Emancipation Park, the site of this protest today. You see them there leading groups in prayer.
BLACKWELL: Also there, the self-described militiamen with their arm guns, they arrived a little while ago. Police are expecting thousands of people today.
Now, let's take you to last night where there were these violent clashes between white nationalist marchers and some protesters of their group. This was at the University of Virginia. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is there and talking to people as they get together, and we'll be talking with her and finding out what she's learning very shortly.
PAUL: But we also want to talk to you this morning about this new threat from North Korean media warning President Trump to, quote, "be prudent or America will face tragic doom." No response from President Trump yet who is urged by China to use restraint as nuclear tensions seem to be escalating here. BLACKWELL: So President Trump initially called President Xi last
night to pressure him on trade. He wanted to warn Xi that a U.S. investigation into China's practices could start as soon as Monday. But Xi then shifted the conversation and pressed President Trump to tone down threats like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If anything happens to Guam, there's going to be big, big trouble in North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: And let's talk about Japan now. They are ready to respond. Look at the massive missile interceptors that are in place should North Korea make good on their threat to strike Guam.
BLACKWELL: Aside from North Korea President Trump is also signaling that possible military intervention could be on the table for Venezuela. Officials there calling the president's warning cowardly, insolent, and vile.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: We're covering this from all angles this morning, Washington, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Guam. Let's start in Washington with CNN's Dianne Gallagher. Dianne, good morning to you.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the saber-rattling continues. President Donald Trump not here in Washington of course, instead on that working vacation at his golf club in New Jersey where this escalating war of words with North Korea has really dominated for the better part of a week now.
The president hasn't responded to the latest coming out of North Korea, that warning that the United States be prudent or face tragic doom. But President Trump has made his feelings clear this week, initially threatening fire and fury and then saying that perhaps that wasn't even strong enough, declaring that he has military options that were locked and load.
And of course, all the other countries, many allies like Germany and France, even Russia have encouraged ratcheting down of this rhetoric. The Chinese president most notably calling for a de-escalation of both sides from this tension. But President Trump yesterday didn't show any signs of being ready to do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tens of millions of people in this country that are so happy with what I'm saying, because they're saying finally we have a president that's sticking up for our nation and, frankly, sticking up for our friends and our allies. And this man will not get away with what he's doing, believe me. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Of course, North Korean media did publish threats to deploy missiles to the waters surrounding Guam. President Trump spoke with the governor there yesterday, reiterating the country's support.
BLACKWELL: Diane Gallagher for us there in Washington, thank you.
PAUL: Meanwhile, China is urging both President Trump and North Korea to, quote, "avoid words and actions that would escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula." The warning came in a phone call between the leaders to talk about trade. CNN's international correspondent David McKenzie in Hong Kong for us right now. So David, help us understand what's at stake for China in this situation.
[10:05:06] DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Christi. Yes, a lot is at stake for China, certainly with its border on North Korea. China is the longest, and one of the few allies still left of the North Korean regime. But in recent years because of those ongoing moves by the North Koreans to build that nuclear capability, to test repeatedly these missiles, even in the face of China asking them not to, China is fed up. And Xi Jinping, though, and the rest of the Chinese leadership wants negotiation certainly, not any kind of conflict or even any raising of the rhetorical tension that has been happening over the past few days.
In that phone call, Xi Jinping speaking to President Trump, calling on all sides to really show restraint, a pointed criticism in diplomatic terms of the U.S. president. China has recently signed up to harsher sanctions against the regime in North Korea. That shows that on at least some level they're willing to play ball. But President Trump has repeatedly said that China could do more.
PAUL: As we look at 48 hours from now, President Trump is going to be back in Washington, that will be Monday, announcing that he will direct his administration to investigate China's trade practices. How do you think China will react to this?
MCKENZIE: Well, the Chinese will be expecting this, I think. There's no real mystery in the fact that President Trump has repeatedly said that he believes the U.S. gets a raw deal out of their trade relationship with China. You know, some economists might beg to differ. But the U.S. officials telling CNN that Monday might be this big announcement of an investigation into Chinese trade practices, particularly on U.S. copyrights, something that I've heard U.S. businessmen in China complaining for some years about.
But the difficulty here is this dual track. On one side the U.S. administration wanting support from China on North Korea. On the other side, maybe they want to punish them on trade issues. So the two things might not meet in the middle.
PAUL: They don't go together very well. David McKenzie in Hong Kong, we appreciate you walking us through everything. Thank you, David.
BLACKWELL: Parts of Japan could be in danger. North Korea has warned that some cities would be along the missiles' flight path. So Japan is deploying missile interceptors just in case Kim Jong-un orders those missiles in the direction of Guam. CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah is in Tokyo. And Kyung, is the Japanese government reassuring people there? And how are they conceiving what we're hearing from President Trump?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We heard from the prime minister today, Victor. And what the prime minister said is that he will do everything in his power to protect the safety of his people. What his words mean are moving his defensive forces into positions that will protect his people visibly.
So what we saw are the government moving a number of these ground-based PAC-3 missile interceptors the way down to those prefectures that were specifically named by North Korea as those areas that the missile that might target Guam would fly over. So the prime minister trying to visibly show his people that yes, this is a war of words. But they are going to try to protect the homeland as best as possible. These are ground-based missile interceptors that this country is well used to seeing. They've been around for some time.
What is unique in this case, Victor, is the location. They haven't generally moved them specifically in response to a North Korea threat. The area that they move them to, Hiroshima. This is an area that this country is well acquainted with as the birthplace of the pacifist movement, a city that was devastated by nuclear bomb during World War II. Victor?
BLACKWELL: All right, Kyung Lah for us there in Tokyo. Kyung, thank you so much.
PAUL: And North Korea has threatened to strike the tiny island territory of Guam. Of course President Trump has assured the governor that the people there are safe. For more on that, CNN correspondent Martin Savidge is in Guam. Martin, good to see you this morning. Unpack for us, if you will, this conversation the president had with the governor of Guam.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the governor of Guam is the primary leader here at the U.S. territory. So in essence you had two leaders that were talking to one another. It was important from the aspect of the people who live here, most of them are Americans, about 160,000. And they can previously feel that they were somewhat overlooked. This was reassurance coming from the commander-in-chief that they are not, that the U.S. has essentially Guam's back. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are with you 1,000 percent, you are safe. We are with you 1,000 percent, and I wanted to call you and say hello. How are you?
EDDIE BAZA CALVO, GUAM GOVERNOR: Mr. President, as the governor of Guam representing the people of Guam, and as an American citizen, I have never felt more safe or so confident with you at the helm.
[10:10:05] So there's all the criticism going on over there from a guy that's being targeted, we need a president like you, so I'm just so thankful, and I'm glad you're holding the helm, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: There's a couple of things going on there in that conversation, Christi. Of course, one, it's the confidence that's coming from the president to say hey, we will protect Guam. But then there is the other factor which is the governor here has been trying to reassure the public. It's a difficult message when you try to convey and say everything is fine, safe and sound the island is he says. But at the same time civil defense and of course law enforcement here are alerting the public to be aware of the potential of any kind of nuclear strike. Trying to strike a balance between those two is not easy. But that's part of that conversation, trying to make people feel things are all right.
PAUL: All right, Martin Savidge in Guam for us. Martin, thank you so much.
BLACKWELL: Well, the president surprised the Pentagon by suggesting possible military action far from North Korea we're talking now. Now to Venezuela, where the president is saying about a potential U.S. intervention and how that could play right into Nicholas Maduro's narrative. We'll talk about that with our political panel. That's next.
PAUL: Also, North Korea threatens the U.S. once again. We're taking a closer look at the country's ruling family. How Kim Jong-un is taking a page out of his father's rule book.
BLACKWELL: Also, a white nationalist rally expected to start in a few hours in Charlottesville, Virginia. Clergy members, we know that they have been there as well as some militia members, self-described, you see some on your screen, with long guns.
[10:16:02] BLACKWELL: Live to Charlottesville, Virginia, right now. We're less than two hours out from the start of a white nationalist rally scheduled at noon eastern. But hundreds of people are there already. You're seeing on that hill there on the right side of your screen some self-described militiamen who showed up with long guns earlier today. And you see passing through this live picture some people with signs protesting their presence. You see people with cameras and cell phones recording this. This rally is to protest the removal of a Confederate statue there in Emancipation Park. We have a reporter and we'll check in with her in just few minutes.
PAUL: "Be prudent, or America will meet its tragic doom," that is the latest threat this morning verbatim from North Korea as the country faces off against President Trump over nuclear threats. Now the president and the White House so far silent this morning. Joining me now to discuss, CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein and Tara Palmeri. Thank you both for being here. Ron, first to you. Are you surprised we haven't heard from the president yet? And how should he react?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think the back and forth has been very unnerving for many in the U.S. and our allies around the world. There's no question this is a genuine, serious situation, a crisis that President Trump inherited. Other presidents have failed to find a formula, other world leaders have failed to find of formula to kind of defuse this growing threat.
But I think the president has failed to recognize, and even in the comments about Venezuela reinforcing this yesterday, he has failed to recognize that he's operating I think in a very different position than other presidents. He goes into this with 70 percent of the public in the Quinnipiac poll saying he's not level-headed, 60 percent in the CNN poll saying they can't trust him. He maybe wanting to rattle North Korea, but the problem is the way he has approached this is also rattling many in America and our allies across the world.
And so there is a need for a recalibration. As people have talked about, you don't want to elevate the dictator of a fourth-rate power into kind of an equivalent of the U.S. president. But that's where we are at the moment.
PAUL: So Tara, some people would argue, listen, this guy has said, Kim Jong-un has threatened to hit Guam, and some people are saying we've been talking about this for 25 years and we've not gotten anywhere.
TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and I think the difference now is that they have the capability to attach a nuclear device on to one of their intercontinental ballistic missiles, and that's the difference right now is that this has been going on for 25 years. And that's one of the talking points that Trump is using, saying I've been here for seven or eight months at this point and I'm ready to take action whereas everyone else let this happen. Therefore I am a stronger leader.
But I think that the issue is, he says we want a diplomatic resolution, or at least that's what Tillerson is saying the president meant by his words. But these are not diplomatic words. But then again, a lot of national security experts say you really can't reason with North Korea. This is just another tactic or another strategy, I guess you could say, in the longer issue. But the truth is that this issue has been building up for over 25 years, and the rhetoric is finally showing the public what the Americans have been dealing with for a long time.
PAUL: And some people will say over that 25 years there have been these diplomatic efforts, and in that 25 years this is what we're left with, a country that does have nuclear weapons it seems.
Do all the bluster, though, Ron, from North Korea, now prevent them from even firing a test missile? Because if they do, the president can come back and say, we didn't know if it was a test missile, we didn't know if it was a real attack.
BROWNSTEIN: Right. Look, you know part of the challenge of what's happening here is whether the president's words are boxing him in and putting him in a position where he has to take actions that in the past would have been seen as provocations but not a red line from North Korea and treat them as such.
[10:20:01] There is a reason why for 25 years no president has pulled the trigger on a military option which is because it is a horrific option in terms of the collateral damage that you would be facing in South Korea, in Seoul, not from a nuclear counterstrike necessarily from North Korea, but just from conventional weapons and their ability to impose enormous casualties, as well as in Japan.
I think one of the challenges we're facing in our diplomacy is explaining to the world why the ability of North Korea to reach South Korea and Japan was worrisome but not a red line. And then their ability to reach the U.S. would cause us potentially to consider preventive war, whose consequences would mostly be felt by other people in South Korea and Japan. So, I mean, that is, it is, there's a reason why we have been stuck. There is not necessarily a military option that we can exercise without cost that would be at the high end of what people have ever contemplated in modern military action.
PAUL: And Tara, as much as the U.S. knows it needs to depend on China to some degree, there's some varying messages going on right now this morning with the president saying, listen, on Monday I'm going to be talking about some trade issues with you right after of course this U.N. vote that China supported the U.S. with as they mandated sanctions against North Korea. How do you deal with China when China is getting a mixed message here?
PALMERI: China is definitely getting a mixed message, because Trump on one hand says we need your help with North Korea, and on the other hand says but we want to punish you for bad trade practices. The timing isn't great. And a lot of people look at that and say this is a little suspect, and how does this really give you leverage if you are basically -- you have two conflicting cards out right now.
But at the end of the day a lot of people talk about the U.N. resolution. And the one thing they don't talk about is there is no sanctions on oil to North Korea. And that is the issue between China and North Korea. Without that, the U.N. resolution is pretty meaningless. It's really just rhetoric.
PAUL: Ron, you mentioned Venezuela. I want to listen to what H.R. McMaster said and what then what President Trump said just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see a military intervention from any outside source?
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No, I don't think so. I think what's really required is for everyone to have one voice about the need to protect the rights and the safety of the Venezuelan people.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Nobody asked him about that by the way, Ron. He just kind of you know, unsolicited advice there, I suppose, or a statement there. What changed between H.R. McMaster's statement and the president's?
BROWNSTEIN: It's not clear that anything changed, right? We have seen on many fronts is that almost seems to be parallel government at times where you have kind of the official agencies and processes of the national security and domestic policy that are churning away with policy proposals and alternatives, and you have a president who kind of says things that, you know, seem to be completely disconnected from that.
And it goes to the larger point I was saying before, which is that this president I think is operating on a narrower ledge, a different situation in this kind of crisis, than we have seen from other U.S. presidents where you have so many at home and abroad who polls tell us doubt whether he is focused, stable, calibrated enough to work his way through a problem of genuine complexity of North Korea.
And when you come off the cuff with no kind of preparation and contradicting your own national security adviser, saying, well, maybe there's a military option in Venezuela, it only reinforces the doubts about whether he is directionally focused enough to handle something of the magnitude of North Korea. And I think there is a need for the White House to reassure the public both at home and internationally, particularly when you look at the polls in places like Japan and South Korea where less than a quarter of the people say they trust President Trump to make the right decisions.
PAUL: Ron Brownstein, Tara Palmeri. Thank you both so much for being here.
BLACKWELL: With this growing threat from North Korea, we'll take a look at the lessons Kim Jong-un learned from his family to make him even more dangerous than his father and grandfather.
PAUL: Also, white nationalists getting ready to march on Charlottesville. You see them there, live pictures for you. They are showing their outrage over the city's plans to remove a Confederate monument. We have a live report for you after the break. Stay close.
[10:29:00] PAUL: Always happy to have you with us here in the morning. I'm Christi Paul.
BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.
PAUL: So there is a white nationalist rally expected to start in less than two hours from now. You can see the people that are already there. They're protesting the removal of a Confederate statue. And police are expecting thousands of protesters and counter-protesters, we should point out, that you can see already. They are gathering and they're gathering strong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: I'm gonna let it shine. All in Charlottesville, I'm gonna let it shine. All in Charlottesville, I'm gonna let it shine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Clergy members there at Emancipation Park, the site of this protest, leading groups in prayer and in song as you see.
BLACKWELL: And you see here as well the self-described militiamen armed with their guns began coming in a short while ago. Dozens of them from our reporter there on the ground, and this is coming after the clashes we saw last night at a march, a white nationalist rally at the University of Virginia.
[10:30:00] Let's go now to CNN correspondent Kaylee Hartung with more on what we're seeing this morning. We've seen the protesters and we've seen the counter-protesters. Lay it out for us.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, those images coming out of Charlottesville last night so stark as the torch-literally congregated around Thomas Jefferson's statue on the University of Virginia campus. But this morning here in Emancipation Park, former known as Lee Park, this is the center of the controversy where General Robert E. Lee's statue is standing just to my left.
So you've seen the militiamen marching in. They describe themselves as representatives of many militias across many countries and the clergymen who came face to face with them, singing "This Little Light of Mine." We've seen several white nationalist groups march in, chanting what can really only be referred to as hate speech.
And we just minutes ago saw the largest group of counter- protesters march in to applause form many. There are plenty of spectators here in the middle of this college town as you can imagine. A very strong show of fours from law enforcement, they're keeping these various factions separated with the help of these barricades you can see behind me. But the only altercations we've seen to this point have been verbal altercations. And the discussion that's happening in Charlottesville today is not unique to Charlottesville. The show of force, however, is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JASON KESSLER, ORGANIZER, "UNITE THE RIGHT" RALLY: The statue itself is symbolic of a lot of larger issues. The primary three issues are preserving history against this censorship and revisionism, this political correctness. The second issue is being allowed to advocate for your interests as a white person just like other groups are allowed to advocate for their interests politically. And then finally, this is about free speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: And as Jason Kessler, you just heard from, he is a native of Charlottesville, also a graduate of the University of Virginia, he's the organizer of this Unite the Right rally. Police say we could expect anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 people to show up today. Kessler is expected to appear around noon with a line-up of speakers to follow. He wouldn't share with us his specific plans for the execution of the rally as he sees it today. But as you can both see, plenty of folks already turning out regardless of which issue, side of the issue you fall on. Victor, Christi?
PAUL: Kaylee Hartung, thank you.
Another threat from North Korea, building on decades of tension between the U.S. and the communist regime. Next, the lessons Kim Jong-un learned from his ancestors and how they led to this nuclear standoff.
BLACKWELL: Plus a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it would be interested in Kid Rock as a Senate candidate. Why they say he would be tough to beat.
[10:35:00] PAUL: If you have to travel a lot for work, taking flight might not be the first thing you do for fun, but some travelers are really winging it in California. They're going to flight school. But they're not using engines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like the feeling of freedom and the energy of the air. Sky sailing is a glider flight school. We've been doing rides and instructions since 1959.
Have you been in a small plane before?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An airplane, not a glider.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll keep it as smooth as guys want or we can make it a roller coaster, if you want.
Gliders here, they don't have an engine, so we get towed up by a power plane and then we release and then we glide around. The rides are purely scenic rides, and the rides for one are dual-control so you get to fly as much or as little as you wanted to.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so quiet and really much smoother than I thought.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have families that are coming out here. We get the adrenaline junkies, who do the aerobatic rides, we go upside down, the full-on rollercoaster ride.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so beautiful up here, and really the view is amazing.
PAUL: North Korean state media is warning the U.S. to be prudent or America will face, quote, "tragic doom." It's not the first time the country has threatened an American territory, of course.
BLACKWELL: Kim Jong-un inherited a growing nuclear weapons program from his father, who built on the foundation left to him by his father. CNN correspondent Brian Todd has a look at North Korea's ruling family.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Since its founding in the late 1940s, the so-called hermit kingdom of North Korea has been led by a family dynasty, three leaders with an iron grip. Kim Kong-un inherited from his father and grandfather a regime based on militarization, purges, kleptocracy, and repression. A former North Korean official who defected tells CNN the supreme leader's rule is unquestioned.
RI JONG HO, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR, (via translator): In order to deal with North Korea, we have to understand how the North Korea system works. They're like a dynasty and the leader is worshipped as a living god.
TODD: Analysts say some disturbing psychological traits seem to run in the family.
MICHAEL GREEN, 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. They were logical in their own context, they understood what they had to do to stay in power, but they had these psychological disorders.
TODD: But in other ways, says one former diplomat, the young Kim appears different.
GARY LOCKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: He's not as cooperative and as communicative as his father or grandfather. So this guy is unpredictable, he's brash, he's, in essence, irrational, and quite a big ego.
[10:40:09] TODD: Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, quickly deployed a personality cult around his leadership after he was installed with Soviet backing following World War II. Monuments to him are everywhere in North Korea. His birthday is celebrated with giant festivals. Kim Jong-un emulates his look, even his hairstyle, analysts say, in an attempt to derive legitimacy.
JOSEPH DETRANI, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA: Kim Jong-un wants to project the image of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung who 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 and South Korea.
TODD: Kim Jong-il was next in line with his penchant for luxuries like foreign liquor and Hollywood movies, coupled with his military build-up and his use of labor camps. Kim Jong-un was only in his late 20s when he took over North Korea in 2011, inexperienced in government or the military.
He brought an affinity for basketball, Mercedes limos, yachts, and quickly proved wrong analysts who thought he would be just a figurehead. Kim has accelerated the missile and nuclear programs that his father and grandfather started with more tests in a few years than his predecessors conducted in decades. But he is not depending on his father's holdover cronies. Some have been purged or executed, even his powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who he suspected of betrayal.
JONATHAN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Unlike his father, he exhibits a ruthlessness here by his actions, by the things that he's prepared to do that his father simply was not prepared to do or didn't feel the need to do it. He does.
TODD: Kim Jong-un also had his older brother killed according to South Korea intelligence in a bizarre airport attack this year where two women smeared deadly VX nerve agent in his face. North Korea denied being behind the attack, but many analysts think Kim wanted to eliminate a rival.
JAMIE METZI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: The more that Kim Jong-un can eliminate any possible pretenders to the throne, the stronger a position he'll be in.
TODD: Between his continuing purges, his family bloodline, his rubber stamp parliament, and his payoffs to aides, Kim Jong-un has several ways to keep his country's elites in line.
POLLACK: He's got to have people who he feels are going to be unquestionably loyal to him, who are not going to undermine him, who are going to protect him under all circumstances.
TODD: And that's something which analysts say China is hoping for as well. The Chinese are believed to dislike Kim and disapprove of his nuclear build-up. But many experts believe the Chinese would rather see Kim in place with nuclear weapons than see him tossed from power, see North Korea collapse, and see potentially tens of millions of North Korean refugees at their border. Christi and Victor?
BLACKWELL: Brian, thank you very much.
President Trump takes on Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. How will this affect the fall's legislative agenda? We'll talk with our GOP panel, one early supporter of the president, one, not so much.
[10:47:46] BLACKWELL: All right, 13 minutes to the top of the hour. President Trump is blaming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. He called the Senate's latest vote unacceptable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People have been stalking about repeal and replace for seven years, long before I ever decided to be doing what I'm doing. Seven years they've been talking repeal and replace and it didn't happen. And not only didn't happen, it was a surprise. And it was a horrible surprise. It was very unfair to the Republican Party and very unfair to the people of this country. So I was not impressed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Well, let's talk about this now with Tara Setmayer former communications director for Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, and Jack Kingston, CNN political commentator and former senior adviser to the Trump campaign. Good morning to you.
TARA SETMAYER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: Good morning.
BLACKWELL: So Jack, let me start with you. And before we get to Mitch McConnell, I want to talk about what we're seeing in Charlottesville with this white nationalist rally. We know that there are injuries already and it's still an hour out from the official start time.
The president, we haven't heard much from him today, but he has in the past tweeted about Black Lives Matter and the riots in Baltimore, protests in Ferguson, the women's march, the rallies against his travel ban. Should he speak out against or speak about what we're seeing in Charlottesville?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it would be proper for him to say let's get together, let's talk about this, and let's come up with a peaceful solution. Let's don't bring out the ugly in what is a very, very important debate. And I think the president can do that and I think national figures have always kind of weighed in to regional controversies, our national controversies, our local controversies.
BLACKWELL: Tara, your perspective? SETMAYER: That would be wonderful, except the president hasn't
exhibited the ability to do that, ever. Throughout his entire campaign he had the opportunity to tamp this kind of ugliness and disgusting racism down, and he didn't.
So unfortunately, as someone who has been a Republican and a conservative for most of my adult life, watching this go on and watching the president who is supposed to represent Republicans be awfully silent on this and almost evasive on it throughout the campaign, where I was critical of him at the time when the David Duke controversy came up, when the issues of the alt-right and that horrible racism, and being someone who was on the receiving end of that because of my lack of support for Donald Trump's candidacy, this -- watching something like this unfold in our country in 2017, it hurts my heart to see it because obviously these people called out from a rock because they feel emboldened to do it thanks to Donald Trump and his inability to seem to criticize it in a way that should tamp it down and not make it OK.
[10:50:27] BLACKWELL: Hold on for a second. Hold on for a second. We've got other topics to get to. I'm going to give you maybe 15, 20 seconds, Jack. But we've got to hold on to --
KINGSTON: All I want to say is who was the presidential candidate who went to Detroit, who went to Milwaukee, who did engage in the inner city when Hillary Clinton was still on Nantucket Island and Hollywood? It was Donald Trump. I think Tara is trying to throw gasoline on a hot situation.
KINGSTON: And you know what, I got to tell you --
SETMAYER: Who was the president that didn't dismiss David Duke right away?
KINGSTON: The president has got North Korea, he's got South America. What's that?
SETMAYER: I said, yes, but who was also the presidential candidate who didn't come out and forcefully criticize David Duke and denounce David Duke immediately? Who was the president that wouldn't apologize for his role in the Central Park Five? Who was the president who has --
KINGSTON: He did apologize. Listen, Tara, it's a great line to say the president's rhetoric, the president is a racist. It's just not true. There's no evidence of that at all. He may not be the guy who you want, but that doesn't make him a racist.
SETMAYER: His own words and his history, his own words and his history and his actions make it no question.
BLACKWELL: We have to move to another topic. We're coming up on the end of the show here. And I want to talk about the president going after Mitch McConnell. Jack, to you. How does this help the president's agenda moving into the fall?
KINGSTON: Two ways. Number one, they are both thick-skinned and they understand the political game. The president is putting pressure on the whole legislative branch through the base. I was in an appropriations meeting one time and we were tweaking something on welfare reform, and George Bush was president. He went out and said they shouldn't balance the budget on the backs of the poor. Immediately the leading Democrat got up, read the paper, the headline from it, killed it immediately.
And so the legislative branch can never, ever underestimate the bully pulpit power of the executive branch. So when the president goes in and says stuff like that, not really just talking to Mitch McConnell. He's talking to all the senators, saying let's get this thing done. It was a seven-year promise. As a Republican I feel very strongly that they need to get this thing done in order to keep the majority.
BLACKWELL: Tara, does the president have a point? This was a fairly opaque process, couldn't get 50 votes, called the vote anyway and didn't get it done after seven years of promises.
SETMAYER: He's partially right. There's plenty of blame to go around, including with Trump himself, which he's unable to take any responsibility for. I've had plenty of disagreements with Mitch McConnell. A lot of us conservatives have. But Mitch McConnell is the most powerful guy in the Senate. He can control the president's agenda. What is the president doing picking a fight with his own team member? And you know who else has said that? Newt Gingrich.
BLACKWELL: Hold on for a second. We need to go back to Charlottesville because we're getting some video now that has justified the anxiety that we've heard from people who live there. There was a pretty violent clash back and forth. I don't know what, what this shot is, but what I just watched in the preview monitor were fists being thrown. And you can see in the middle of the intersection there. Here's the video. This is just moments ago. We know that there are thousands of people that are expected -- this is supposed to start in an hour. But you've got now the clash between the protesters and the counter-protesters.
PAUL: It looks like there might be some police involved.
BLACKWELL: Well, we see shields.
PAUL: But we don't know if they're police officers. And it makes you wonder who would come to a rally with a shield if you weren't expecting something like this, which is a little odd.
But take a look here at, at again, Victor said, they are expecting thousands of people. We saw militiamen, as they call themselves, with long guns drawn as they walk the streets. We see the anti-white supremacists who are there. And they are calling for peace.
But this is here in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, and we are at least an hour, a little more than an hour away from this rally even beginning. And already, we have reports of a couple of injuries. We do not have reports of arrests as of yet. But what we just saw there, some of the violence we saw yesterday, does mirror some of the violence that we saw last night.
[10:55:03] BLACKWELL: Our Kaylee Hartung is there on the ground and she said she's heard already this morning heard chants from some of these protesters. Again, they have shields.
PAUL: They have batons, but I don't see the police.
BLACKWELL: We know there are militiamen, self-described militiamen there. We saw them with the long guns. We now these men, and I apologize for not knowing the insignia that they have, this black X over white ovals on their shields here.
But our Kaylee Hartung, as I was saying, said that she heard chants earlier this morning. She described them as nothing other than hate speech. This at its start, or at least it was promoted to be a Unite the Right rally. And we heard from one of the organizers saying that this was to stand up for white persons' ability to speak out on behalf of what they see as injustices, in part to rally against the removal of the statute of Robert E. Lee there in Charlottesville. But this has already turned violent, and we're still again an hour out. We see that some of these men, I don't know if those were poles that were used as flags or objects for defense or offense. But fists thrown and some fights between protesters and anti-protesters.
PAUL: We're going to take a quick break here and we're going to take you back as we continue to watch Charlottesville and give you all the latest news. Do stay close.