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Top U.S. General Pushes For Diplomacy, Military Options On Table; Mattis And Tillerson Stress "Strategic Accountability" In Op- Ed; Trump's Bizarre Call With Governor Of Guam; Why Won't Trump Disavow Extreme Groups By Name? Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 14, 2017 - 06:30   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news. At least 18 people are dead after a terror attack in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. Authorities in the capital say a group of gunmen opened fire at a restaurant that's popular with foreign visitors.

State media reported security forces did kill two of the terrorists. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. military is investigating a combat incident in Northern Iraq that killed two U.S. members and injured five others. The Pentagon says it was not due to enemy contact for what happened. They are investigating. The names of the casualties have not been released yesterday.

CUOMO: The "New York Times" is reporting that Special Counsel Bob Mueller will reach out to the White House to set up interviews with current and former administration officials including former chief of staff, Reince Priebus.

Why? Well, Mueller is reportedly asking for details about specific meetings as part of the Russia investigation.

HARLOW: America's top general in Seoul, South Korea, trying to defuse tension with North Korea. Does diplomacy have a chance? That's certainly the message from all those around the president right now. We have the breaking details next.



CUOMO: Breaking news, America's top general in South Korea pushing for diplomacy but also saying military options remain on the table in the escalating tensions with North Korea.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul, South Korea with breaking details. What do we know?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we're hearing from General Dunford just recently about a meeting he had here with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. He said that the military priority at this point is to try and support peaceful North Korean resolution.

He says that nobody is looking for a war, but it's important for the military to have a viable military option if the other options don't work. He also referred to an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" from two top U.S. officials, who basically said that it was more important to look now at the diplomatic, the economic issues and the military option is there as well.

This has been said once again by General Dunford. Also, we're hearing more about this U.S.-South Korean military drills, which will be starting on August 21st here in South Korea.

North Korea through its state-run media today saying that there is a danger that could lead to war, saying, that if there is a second Korean war it will be a nuclear war.

[06:40:06] North Korea is also always infuriated by these military drills by the U.S. and South Korea, but General Dunford said they will go ahead.


GENERAL JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I would tell you that today when you look at the rhetoric coming out of North Korea, the exercises are more important than ever. As General Briggs talked about, there's a direct linkage between these exercises and our ability to effectively respond.


HANCOCKS: What we're hearing really from a number of U.S. diplomats today is that is almost a pullback from that rhetoric we heard from U.S. President Donald Trump last week saying the diplomacy is the most important. Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: Paula Hancocks in Seoul, thank you very much.

Joining us now CNN military and diplomatic analyst, Rear Admiral John Kirby, and Gordon Chang, "Daily Beast" columnist and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World."

Gentlemen, nice to have you both. You know, the message, Admiral, from the administration from so many sides over the weekend is diplomacy above all. You had Dunford coming out of that meeting today and saying the priority of the U.S. military is to support a peaceful resolution to the North Korean crisis. Is this the president trying to tamp down his own rhetoric from last week?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I actually think that, yes, Poppy, a lot of what we've seen since the fire and fury comment of Tuesday of last week has been senior cabinet officials and administration officials trying to put context around that, walk back a little bit from the tension, and absolutely push the diplomacy forward.

You saw that with Mattis last week. You are certainly seeing it with General Dunford today in South Korea. You know, frankly, that's the appropriate approach here. I think there's still room for diplomacy and economic pressure to work.

I think they're approaching this the right way. To me it's a little like they're acting as sandpaper trying to take off some of the rough edges from President Trump.

HARLOW: So, Gordon Chang, you disagree. I mean, you read the op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" by Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis, and they say it's time to replace this failed strategy, strategic patience, strategic accountability. They went on to say the U.S. is willing to negotiate with Pyongyang and talk about pressuring China to the ultimate extent. You say not going to work. Why?

GORDON G. CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Well, you know, they talk about strategic accountability in this op-ed and then they don't discuss China's money laundering for the North Koreans, its supply of equipment and technology for the ballistic missile program, the supply of missile material for North Korea's nuclear weapons program and continual sanctions busting.

And I think what they'll read this in Beijing as saying this is more of the same. You know, we've seen this in previous administrations. What they need to see in Beijing in order to move in a better direction is the United States taking a new attitude.

Yes, it's sort of diplomacy and I agree with Admiral Kirby, but it's coercive diplomacy. It's got to say to the Chinese, we can impose costs on you.

HARLOW: They could slap a lot tougher sanctions on bigger Chinese banks and cut a lot of their ability off and they haven't done that yet. Admiral, to you, you had former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Here is what he said over the weekend.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I'd love a denuclearized North Korea, but as I learned when I went there and had some pretty intense dialogue with them, that's a non-starter with them. That is their ticket to survival and I don't see any way that they're going to give it up.

So, I think our thought process here ought to be accepting it and trying to cap it or control it. But I think a denuclearized North Korea, I'd love to see it, but I don't think that's in the cards.


HARLOW: I mean, he says accept a nuclearized North Korea. McMaster has very clearly said that's intolerable. So, where does that leave this administration? KIRBY: It puts them in a very tough spot. I mean, look, they have been -- the North has been racing towards these programs and capabilities now for a long time. Arguably whether we want to admit it or not, accept it or not officially, they have a nuclear capability.

So, we have to deal with that reality. How you do that diplomatically, I think, is for people smarter than me to figure out, although, I associate myself with Director Clapper's comments.

I think we do need to look at this pragmatically and move forward from there. I also agree with Gordon about pressure on China. He's right. China has been enabling the growth of the capability and China has not implemented sanctions fully the way they're supposed to.

They do have more influence than any other nation in the world on Pyongyang, although even they I think are finding that there are some limits to that. But I think, he's right, they do need to continue put more pressure on China and Beijing to do more to help solve this problem.

HARLOW: There was a phone call between President Trump and the governor of Guam over the weekend. It was recorded and posted online, and part of it was striking. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have to tell you you've become extremely famous, all over the world. They're talking about Guam and talking about you. You're going to give tourism -- your tourism, you're going to go up like tenfold with the expenditure of no money so I congratulate you.

[06:45:14] Now it looks beautiful. I'm watching, they're showing so much. It's such a big story in the news, and it just looks like a beautiful place.


HARLOW: Guam is beautiful. I don't think tourism levels in Guam are the key concern right now, Gordon Chang. You hung your head while you were watching that. Explain.

CHANG: I mean, that's pure Trump. I mean, one can sort of explain that. He's trying to give confidence to the Guamanians. You know, try to say, this is no big deal, and that's what presidents do at times of crisis. But that's completely the wrong tone right now and especially, to make it about himself, about how he's famous.

HARLOW: I mean, this week that Kim Jong-un is supposed to potentially approve that plan that the North Koreans said they have to fire four missiles off the coast of Guam.

CHANG: Yes, I mean, and that's the reason why Trump needs to have a much different tone, not only when it comes to Guam, but also all the other players. The problem here is the United States has not been able to marshal its elements of power to do what necessary.

There's been very little message discipline. All the rest of it, and you see the problem in that call with the governor of Guam. It's just symptomatic of a failure right now of the U.S. to have a much more disciplined approach.

HARLOW: Gordon Chang, Admiral Kirby, Gentlemen, thank you both -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, so the president is awake and tweeting, but he is not tweeting about the deadly violence at the hands of white supremacists. Remember, when it's about calling out radical Islamic terror, he can't talk specifically enough. He says it's fundamental to dealing with the problem. What about this problem, next?



CUOMO: The president is up and tweeting this morning talking about how to make America great again, talking about politics in Alabama, but he is not talking about white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK.

Why won't he mention these specific hate groups in relation to what happened in Virginia or in just in relation to the terror climate in America? These are the groups responsible for the most investigations into terror in this country.

Joining us now to discuss are former vice chair of Diversity Outreach for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, Brunell Donald-Kyei, and Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown and author of the book, "Tears We Cannot Stop, A Sermon To White America."

Professor, we start with you. What is your analysis of what the president did and did not say?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, "TEARS WE CANNOT STOP: A SERMON TO WHITE AMERICA": Well, Chris, thanks for having me this morning. It's an unfortunate opportunity that the president missed, a tragic reflection of the fact that he has aided and abetted, whether consciously or not, the forces of white supremacy in this country.

And be clear, we're not simply talking about the external violence and terror that are manifests. White supremacy is the conscious or unconscious belief in the inherent inferiority of some, and the inherent superiority of others.

So, white supremacy is a thought metastasizes across the body politic. The president had the opportunity to say clearly and directly, I am not part of this, I do not have truck with this.

When David Duke, a white nationalist and separatist reaches out to try to support me, I repudiate his support, and I suggest that in America we are not towing the line of white supremacy, but we are opposed to it. He has the opportunity to use the bully pulpit of this country to say, there is a violent history of terror exercised against many others, including especially African-American people, the resurgence of neo- Nazi-ism under his own administration suggests that they find comfort and sucker in a president who refuses to be explicit.

That was a missed opportunity because it's an expression of a deeply entrenched ideology of hate and animus toward African-American and others that needs to be explicitly repudiated.

CUOMO: Brunell, you spent a lot of your time fighting injustice. The idea that this is a problem on many sides, many sides said the president, suggesting that those who are fighting against hateful people like the KKK are part of the problem. What's your take?

BRUNELL DONALD-KYEI, FORMER VICE CHAIR OF DIVERSITY OUTREACH FOR THE NATIONAL DIVERSITY COALITION FOR TRUMP: Good morning. God bless you and God bless America, Counselor, thanks for having us here. What I'll say to you is this, I'll give you an exam. You know, you come into your home as a father and you see three kids fighting.

The first thing you're going to do is stop the fighting. The second thing you are going to do is condemn the fighting and then the third thing you are going to do is find out, get to the bottom of what happened.

That's the same thing here that the president did. He disavowed any bigotry, hate of all kinds, any kind of extremism after the police, of course, broke all this up. The third thing he did was say, look, I'm going to send Jeff Sessions down here to investigate.

He's done what a leader is supposed to do. We know that many of these extremists, whether on the left or the right, they are media monsters. What do you do to a monster? You starve it, you don't feed it.

And so, I think that the president has shown great leadership in showing that he's not going to let anybody on the left, who is a radical extremist tell him what to do, nor is he going to let anybody on the right who is extremist determine how he's going to lead.

Our president -- he basically got a situation where there's been so much division in the nation, and him blanketly disavowing all bigotry and hatred I believe is the best thing he could have done for this nation.

CUOMO: Professor?

DYSON: Well, let me say this. First of all, let's shift the analogy because your metaphor is insufficient. Let's talk about a burning house. You come to the house. One person is an arsonist trying to start the fire, another is a fireman trying to put it out.

What Trump did was essentially re-enforce the status quo where the arson is fire-bombing the house and another group of people are trying to put that fire out. [06:55:11] Number two, Martin Luther King Jr. was called an extremist by a group of Alabama clergy men that led him to write his famous letter from a Birmingham jail. He said at first, I was disturbed to be categorized as an extremist.

He said it doesn't matter if you are characterized as an extremist, it's what you're an extremist for. He said Abraham Lincoln was an extremist for justice. He said Martin Luther was the same. John Bunion in his jail was the same.

If you're an extremist for justice, that's fine. If you're an extremist against justice, if you're a white supremacist, there's no such thing as a false equivalency between Black Lives Matter, which grew out of the movement to repudiate the acceptance of the fact that black lives did not matter.

And that black kids were being killed and people were being killed in the street versus white supremacists whose idea is to subvert and undermine the very patriotism that this country supposedly rests on.

So, this notion that the president has to come and adjudicate between completing claims, Black Lives Matter on the one hand and on the other hand white supremacists is nonsense.

The reality is either you are part and parcel of an American society that reinforces the value of justice and democracy or you're not. White supremacists are in link with those who would undermine the capacity of this country to fully grasp hold of that.

So, this false equivalency is part of the problem and Donald Trump unless he comes out to explicitly articulate his resistance is reinforcing the value of white supremacy in our own time.

CUOMO: Brunell?

DONALD-KYEI: If I may respond, I'll tell you this. I know one group follow the law and got a permit to go down and protest. That's the white nationalist group. You don't have to love or like anything they espouse, I don't. I'm sure you don't.

But the thing about is, they did follow our law and got a permit. It was Antifa and these other extremist groups that came in and did not have a permit. The other thing that was an issue here, there was not sufficient police presence there.

You've got white nationalists there, Antifa and other extremist groups, there should have been a proper police presence there. I live in Chicago. People protest all the time. Our mayor makes sure that there are police officers and different people there to protect.

So, this is the issue, white supremacists, black nationalists, everybody has a right to peacefully protest and you go and follow the law and get your permit, you should be under proper protection and should be able to exercise that free speech.

These people went there to go and protest the fact that Robert Lee's statue was being taken down. They had a right to be there. It was peaceful until Antifa arrived. Those are the facts.

CUOMO: Let me add to them. One is going there for the statue being brought down is one reason they were there. Clearly, the agenda was far more than just that. Secondly, you know local police found it to be an unlawful assembly.

They may have filed the permit, but once the police were able to assess the facts on the ground of why they were really there and what they wanted to achieve, it was found to break the law there locally from what is allowed as lawful assembly and that's why they wanted them to disperse.

So, those are facts as well in terms of who was there to do the right thing versus the wrong thing. Professor, the point about proper policing, that's a legitimate issue. We'll take it up with the mayor from Charlottesville.

But that's not really the context of this discussion. Brunell, what doesn't make sense here is the Nazis, the KKK, the white supremacists, they are about hate. That's what they're about. Why --

DONALD-KYEI: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Why assume that there's some type of equality between them and people fighting against them in this country. Everybody in this conversation right now is targeted by these groups.

DONALD-KYEI: But people have the right to freedom of speech -- excuse me, sir.


CUOMO: One at a time. Brunell, quick response from you and then final word to the professor.

DYSON: You spoke last, Brunell.


CUOMO: Brunell, go ahead.

DONALD-KYEI: I was taught to respect my elders, sir. What I will say is they have the right to the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. Again, you don't have to like what somebody is espousing in order for their rights to be protected.

We know human liberties begin to fail when freedom of speech and freedom of assembly is taken away. I'm not here -- I don't want anything to do with any white nationalists for God's sakes.

But what I'm telling you, as a lawyer we know in court all the time you may end up representing someone you don't agree with, but that doesn't mean they don't have the right to assemble.

CUOMO: That's true. But nobody is arguing what their right is. Just so they have a right doesn't make it right, and this is about moral leadership from the president. But Professor, final word to you.

DYSON: Right.