Return to Transcripts main page


North May be Planning New Test; Tensions between Mueller and Congressional Investigators; Trump and McConnell Meet; Trump to End DACA; Reaction to DACA Ending. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 5, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:04] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, reports this morning from South Korea that the North may be planning to follow-up its ground breaking apparent hydrogen bomb test with yet another long- range missile test.

Joining me now, CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. And Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper, senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale.

Nice to have you both here.

And, colonel, let me begin with you.

So, South Korean intelligence this morning says they see something moving in the North and they believe it is another ICBM. Now, the significance is that theoretically what North Korea says is they could put this hydrogen bomb, they could put their nuclear weapon on top of an ICBM and reach the mainland United States. What do you make of this?

RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think it's going to be just another test. I don't -- I think the assessment right now is the North Koreans don't actually have the capability for the deliverable nuclear weapon that they're trying to develop. We know they've got the missile. We know it has the range. We here the claims that they have a miniaturized warhead, a hydrogen bomb, that can fit onto the ICBM, but we -- we've not seen them test the reentry yet, which is kind of the last step. So I don't think they're quite there yet. But it's only a matter of time. I mean this is their number one national priority. They will have this capability shortly if they don't have it now.

HARLOW: So, Mira, to you. I mean Nikki Haley made so clear at the U.N. yesterday, she said a freeze for freeze is insulting. OK, now this is a possible temporary solution that the Chinese and the Russians have been pushing. The U.S./Trump administration says that's off the table. But you say there's no chance the U.S. or anyone else will succeed in getting Kim Jong-un to walk away from his nuclear program. So the question is, what is the end game here?

MIA RAPP-HOOPER, SENIOR RESEARCH SCHOLAR, YALE LAW SCHOOL: I mean that is exactly the question. And that is the question we need to hear the Trump administration answer clearly and to articulate the tools that they intend to put at their disposal to try to enact whatever strategy they're implementing here. The real question, as you say, is that we know Kim Jong-un has been working furiously over the last five years to develop his missile and nuclear program. He has achieved a lot technologically in a very short span of time and we don't have a reason to believe that he's going to come to a negotiating table willing to give those up.

That said, he may, at some point in time, become willing to negotiate over limits on those programs, limits over the types or the number of nuclear weapons he's going to produce, but there will be no way to figure that out without eventual diplomacy. That said, we don't know that he's there yet.

HARLOW: I mean, and that's happened before. That happened in the 90s. That happened in the early 2000s. And again and again and again it fails.

Which is interesting why, colonel, Nikki Haley listed off all those failed U.N. resolutions yesterday in her remarks, right, and she said none of this has worked. Now, she's still betting that the toughest possible sanctions, largely cutting North Korea off from China, is going to work. Mira's argument is, the best you can hope for is essentially containment and limits on the nuclear program. Do you agree?

FRANCONA: Yes, I -- absolutely. I think that's exactly where we're going.

The situation has changed, you know, since all these last U.N. Security Council resolutions. The Koreans now have an existing capability and I think that we're foolish if we don't recognize that capability. And we can say, we will never deal with the nuclear armed Korea. That's just -- that's just foolish.

We can go for some sort of limit to that program, but we have to be very careful that we don't start setting precedents, basically caving into nuclear blackmail. If you --

HARLOW: But hasn't -- hasn't the president --

FRANCONA: The freeze for freeze has to be off the table because once we say, no, we're not going to do that, then what's the next demand. So we've got this -- we've got to hold our position, yet come up with some way where we can contain the North Koreans.

HARLOW: But, Mira, hasn't the president sort of already set these red lines? Something that he and others have criticized President Obama for, drawing that red line in Syria? The president said they will not fire an ICBM, right? They will not test it. Well, they have. He had said fire and fury will rain if there is another threat. There's been another threat and there's been another test. So?

RAPP-HOOPER: I mean precisely, Poppy, precisely my thoughts. We have heard, and particularly in the last few weeks, the president say that there would be a massive U.S. military response if North Korea were to threaten the United States again, which is not a traditional thing for the U.S. president to say. Usually a U.S. president would keep the possibility of using force on the table, but not in exchange for a threat.

And the problem with President Trump's construction is that North Korea has already called him on that bluff by going ahead and firing a missile over Japan in the direction of Guam, the general direction, by going ahead and testing a sixth nuclear weapon. North Korea has continued to issue threats, and serious ones.

HARLOW: Although you know -- I mean you know -- we've talked about this before -- President Clinton said, if they even develop nuclear weapons, they will be non-existent as a country.

RAPP-HOOPER: No question about it. But the point here is that North Korea is going to continue to threaten the United States, continue to threaten our allies, and the United States needs to device a declaratory policy and a strategy that acknowledges that and presents a unified front in spite of it, not denies the reality in which we are currently living.

[09:35:10] HARLOW: Mira, thank you very much. Colonel Francona, we appreciate the expertise. And we will stay on this, of course.

So Congress is back in session, at work, like the rest of us. Their to-do list may be a little bit bigger and a little bit more significant, though, than ours. Can they get it done, or any of it?

Plus, new exclusive CNN reporting on the Russia probes that are heating up on The Hill. That's next.


HARLOW: New in morning, CNN's exclusive reporting that tension in growing between special council in the Russian investigation, Bob Mueller, and congressional investigators. Now, all of this is the probe into the possible collusion between Russia and President Trump and the campaign enters a new phase. A more intense phase.

[09:40:11] Our Evan Perez in Washington breaking the news, of course.

And, Evan, it's interesting reading your reporting this morning because it seems to be going both ways, right? Mueller and his team seem irked at the congressional committees and the congressional committees seem irked at his team.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, three investigations in Congress and one criminal probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It was probably predictable, Poppy, that there would be complications. One such tussle happened recently when lawyers working with Mueller asked the Senate Intelligence Committee for a transcript of the Senate interviews with Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman.

Now, Manafort's lawyers blocked that request. Now, Mueller's office had claimed that they were given the consent prompting this brief fight over what they were authorized to have. Manafort is a top focus of Mueller's investigators, who are looking into possible financial and tax charges. Manafort denies any wrongdoing. But congressional sources tell us that the practice of allowing key

figures in the Russian investigations to testify behind closed doors is part of the issue here. If that testimony happens in public, then Mueller's investigators can use those statements without going through any lawyers.

Now, for their part, congressional investigators are now looking to obtain a letter drafted by President Trump's aides to explain the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Mueller had already obtained that letter and a spokesman for Mueller declined to comment for this story, Poppy.

HARLOW: So, in addition to all of that, Evan, you have some reporting on that raid that took place -- that early morning raid about a month ago of Paul Manafort's home and the documents that were seized. Apparently some of them had to be returned?

PEREZ: Right. We're told by sources that the FBI agents in that raid ended up taking documents that the Manafort legal team considered to be protected by attorney/client privilege. That prompted a warning from Wilmore Haile (ph), the Manafort -- the law firm that was representing Manafort at the time. And that these investigators weren't authorized to have these documents. The documents were returned.

But this happens from time to time in these FBI investigations. There's always, however, a concern about whether investigators saw material that they were not entitled to see and how the government lawyers will make sure that that doesn't taint the investigation, Poppy.

HARLOW: Right, because you can't unsee something, right?

Evan, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.

Joining me now, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun-Times."

So, Lynn, what do you make of Evan's reporting this morning, that there seems to be this heightened tension between two teams trying to get, you know, to the same place?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, it seems almost inevitable because the -- there's deals that are made surrounding the testimony of someone as important as Manafort. And it's not one deal, one size fits all. If you make a deal with Senate investigators, it's not the same thing as making a deal with either the other congressional committees or Mueller. And that's at the heart of what Evan is talking about. There is bound to be some friction between this investigative panels because everybody's kind of out to get the deal, to get the testimony, to get the documents and the information that they need.

HARLOW: Yes, for their own investigation.

Errol --

SWEET: Absolutely. It's not as if the raid that was done on Paul Manafort's home, it's not as if Senate and House investigators were invited along on that ride.

HARLOW: No, that's a very good point.

Errol, so this is something Congress is dealing with, obviously, the Russia probe, but they have a lot -- and that's an understatement -- on their plate. Just look at this lovely list that our graphics folks have made up. I mean some of these things, funding the government, raising the debt ceiling, Harvey aid, those have to happen like right now. You have to fund the government in less than a month to keep it operating and working for the American people.

So, on top of that, you've got tax reform. And to try to get to tax reform and get a legislative win for this administration, they've got the gang of six coming to the White House. That includes Mitch McConnell. The president and Mitch McConnell have not been face-to- face, man-to-man, since their sort of screaming match on the phone back on August 9th. So where does this leave us in terms of progress?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. Well, in terms of progress, there are about 11 big items that you put up there --


LOUIS: And I think they have 12 days to meet. So if they can just knock off one each day, they'll be fine.

One of the points of dispute between McConnell and the president, as a matter of fact, is McConnell said, who's an extraordinary sort of rebuke of the president where he said, this is somebody who doesn't have experience and does not understand how the legislative process works.


LOUIS: The reality is, you know, if you go back to tax reform in the 1980s under President Reagan, he did that in his second term. It took three years of bipartisan negotiation. The notion that they could even dream of rewriting the tax code, all of the exemptions, all of the deductions, all of the different fights that would go on, within 90 days or something like that was fanciful in the first place.

And so, you know, one of the points of having Donald Trump as an outsider was to say, well, he's going to shake things up. Well, there's some things you can't shake up. And this is the way the framers intended it. There's supposed to be deliberation. There's supposed to be hearings.

[09:45:08] HARLOW: Yes.

LOUIS: There's supposed to be discussion. So all of these big ticket items, the most important ones, making sure that there's aid for people in Texas who really need it, making sure the government doesn't shut down. They'll be lucky if they can get that done.


LOUIS: These other bigger pieces, they can maybe start a discussion here.

HARLOW: That's an incredible statement, just sit with that for a moment, they'll be lucky if they can fund the government. They'll be lucky if they can keep, Lynn, the government operating the way that it's intended to operate, the way that we pay our lawmakers to keep it operating. I mean that's remarkable.

There's a story, I'm sure you saw it, above the fold, front page of "The Times" today, Peter Baker, the headline, "Trump skills in art of the deal yet to pay off." This is the test, right? September is the test.

SWEET: I saw that artful headline. They didn't want to quite say in the headline he can't make a deal or he's incapable of making the deal, but, somehow, where is this magic sauce that you promised us to grease government so it runs smoothly?

Well, one thing is that government, like reporters, work best on deadlines, and we've gone through this even in calmer times about raising the debt ceiling where it always goes to the brink, if not a little bit beyond.

But we have so many things, as you pointing out, on the plate now. Congress can absorb a lot. And even for Congress, this is a lot. But I think there is going to be triage. You have to deal with the impact of Harvey. We may now have more money on the table. Let's not forget what's happening in Florida as we speak.


SWEET: So now it's like billions more. This is -- this is so much money just for hurricane relief.

I don't know how you could hold this two states -- two states that were important to President Trump's re-election, I don't know if you want to hold them hostage for the hurricane relief efforts just to get the rest of an agenda passed. So we might have a little different dynamic in that you may not have the linkage that maybe the White House or some congressional leaders want in using hurricane relief as leverage.

HARLOW: That's a really interesting point. And Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, made it very clear that he wants to tie it to the debt ceiling because he can't just borrow more money without raising that debt ceiling.

On DACA, Errol, the president has made pretty clear what he's going to do. This is going to fall on Congress' lap. The thing, though, even though there are some Republicans in Congress who are hopeful they can get this done for dreamers, back in 2010 when they tried with the Dream Act, you had Democrats controlling the House and the Senate. You have far more Republicans now there and they couldn't get it done then. I mean why think they can do it now?

LOUIS: That's right. The first version of the Dream Act was introduced in 2001, Poppy. I mean, you know, we've had now two administrations, two terms of two administrations, one Republican and one Democratic, and they still couldn't get it done, whether they were in the minority or in the majority. The reality is, they have to figure out among themselves, the Republicans do, just how serious this is.

DACA was part of a three sided attack on immigration that the president promised during the campaign. One was the southern border wall. The other was the Muslim ban. The third was eliminating DACA. But the reality is, if you -- if you -- if you put it to voters as this is a legal amnesty for voters, nobody likes it. If you say it as what it is, which is that kids who had nothing to do with it, who were less than 16 y ears old and here they are, they're stranded in legal limbo, something like 73 percent of the president's own supporters like it.


LOUIS: So Congress is going to have to try and do now what they couldn't do for the last 16 years. Again, you know, you want to be hopeful. You want to hope that they can sort of pull it together. They have a much better chance, I'll just say, that if they do it in a bipartisan way and actually invite some Democrats into the discussion than if they try to force it through. There's no consensus in the Republican caucus to get this done.

HARLOW: Errol, thank you very much.

Lynn, we're out of time. Sorry about that. But thank you for joining us, as always.

SWEET: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, so Attorney General Jeff Sessions is getting ready to announce in just a little over an hour the fate of DACA. The present, though, isn't the one saying it. That's interesting. What do dreamers think about it? We will speak with them, next.


[09:53:22] HARLOW: In just over on hour, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to announce the fate of the DACA program. The Obama era program that protects those children brought into the U.S. by their parents, undocumented.

Now, the state with the most people benefitting from DACA right now is clearly California. Our Dan Simon spoke with DACA recipients at UC Berkeley.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We ended (ph) a deal with DACA with heart.

We love the dreamers. We love everybody.

JOEL SATI, UC BERKELEY PHD STUDENT: I'm not determining my course of -- my personal course of action. And I don't think the movement is general is determining its course of action based on the words of President Trump.

DAN SIMON (voice-over): They're the face of the so-called dreamers, each with a unique story about DACA.

SIMON (on camera): Can you explain how DACA has helped you?


SIMON (voice-over): All four are current or former students at UC Berkeley.

MADRIZ: I was able to graduate with zero student debt. I was able to work my whole way through.

SIMON: Ivan Vilasenor Madriz came here with his parents at nine.

MADRIZ: I think just being able to have the sense of security that I can be pulled over with the police and not freak out.

SIMON: At more than 200,000, California has more than a quarter of all DACA recipients in the country, a most of any state. A majority from Mexico. But Joel Sati came here with his mother from Kenya, also at the age of nine.

SATI: There are a lot of black undocumented immigrants who have not been able -- who have not been part of the movement. I don't know whether or not that's a problem, but -- I think that is a problem that the movement must really contend with.

SIMON: Sati, a Ph.D. student, credits a lot of his success to the program.

SATI: And DACA has allowed me to, you know, set out my professional ambitions in a way that's similar to people who do have status. So I don't feel like I'm being limited from any opportunities as far as my current path goes.

[09:55:13] SIMON: Juan Prieto traveled here from Mexico at eight and says eliminating the fear of deportation improved his mental health.

JUAN PRIETO, UC BERKELEY GRADUATE: Stopped working under the table and stopped working long hours for minimal pay.

SIMON: He only wishes the rest of the undocumented population would be afforded the same opportunities.

He had this message for the president.

PRIETO: If he was really thinking with heart, he'd realize that we're humans tied to other people who we're terrified might get deported.

SIMON: And that brings us to Valeria Suarez, who have been living with that fear permanently.

VALERIA SUAREZ, UC BERKELEY STUDENT: I am part of that 10,000,200 people who didn't get DACA.

SIMON: Valeria missed the cutoff to be eligible for DACA. She came here at 16, too old to qualify. She's an example of a system designed to help the young and undocumented that has been far from perfect.

SUAREZ: That rage and that like fear and that insecurity that a lot of people are feeling now because DACA might get repealed is the same fear and rage they 10 million of us have been feeling for decades.

SIMON: And as for whether they think Congress can clean up the mess and come up with a new immigration system they see as fair --

SIMON (on camera): Any optimism about what will happen in Washington?

I hear your silence.

SIMON (voice-over): Dan Simon, CNN, Berkeley.


HARLOW: Dan Simon, thank you for that reporting. We appreciate it.

Hurricane Irma is now a category five hurricane. That is the strongest Atlantic storm we have seen headed this way in a decade. We're following the fast moving development. Stay with us.