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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Terror in Britain; Missouri Protests Escalating; Trump Administration Preparing for War With North Korea?; U.K. Raises Terror Threat Level to Critical After London Attack; Ex-Cop Acquitted in Black Man's Death, Protests Erupt. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 15, 2017 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:08]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is the Trump administration preparing for war?

THE LEAD starts right now.

There is a military option, that's the word from the White House today after North Korea thumbed its nose at the world yet again, launching yet another missile over Japan. This one went even farther than it would take to get to Guam.

Terrorism and tweets. A bombing in London prompt President Trump to tweet, earning a scolding from the British prime minister. Why did the president not wait for the facts?

Plus, right now, protesters and police clashing in Saint Louis, Missouri, an all-too-familiar scene after a former police officer is found not guilty in the death of an African-American man.

Welcome to THE LEAD, everybody. I'm Jake Tapper.

Today, top Trump administration officials came before cameras and used some of the strongest language we have yet heard about the possibility of them launching a military strike on North Korea.

The United States ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said she's not afraid to put things in the hands of the Pentagon, and the national security adviser to the president, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster publicly referred to solving the problem with a military solution.

It has been five weeks since President Trump made his fire and fury threats to North Korea. And since then, the hermit kingdom fired two intermediate-range missiles and conducted its sixth nuclear test. Last night's missile was the second one to fly over Japan.

It was one of North Korea's farthest-reaching missiles to date, flying far enough to put the U.S. territory of Guam within range. The U.N. Security Council is right now holding an emergency closed-door meeting about that missile test by North Korea.

CNN's Barbara Starr joins me now live from the Pentagon. Barbara, what are these military options that General McMaster

referred to? And, frankly, how devastating might they be for innocent civilians?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the Pentagon will tell you that this is always the challenge.

Almost any U.S. military option against North Korea that President Trump might order could result in tens of thousands of deaths.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Sirens blare across Japan, warning a North Korean ballistic missile is overhead.

A different kind of warning from U.S. officials. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says time is running out for dealing with North Korea.

H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: For those who have said and been commenting about the lack of a military option, there is a military option. Now, it's not what we would prefer to do.

STARR: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley acknowledging U.N. sanctions may not work.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I have no problem kicking it to General Mattis, because I think he has plenty of options.

STARR: U.S. military planners are looking once again at how to quickly take out North Korean weapons just north of the DMZ before Kim could counterattack into Seoul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are literally thousands of tubes of artillery along the demilitarized zone that are aimed south, some of them directly in Seoul. And, frankly, some of these artillery pieces are very simple. It's simply an old-fashioned cannon that cannot be jammed, it cannot interdicted in any way other than with a direct strike.

STARR: South Korea's response was immediate, firing two missiles from the East Coast into the Pacific, missiles said to be capable of reaching North Korea's launch site, though one failed in flight.

The path of the North Korean missile, a possible poke from Kim Jong-un to President Trump. The missile flew eastward for 2,300 miles, landing in the Pacific Ocean. Had it flown south, the U.S. territory of Guam is just 2,100 miles from North Korea, within the missile's range. Guam had already been threatened by the Kim regime.

The new launch, a show of defiance to the international community, it comes just five weeks after President Trump's extraordinary ultimatum.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen.

STARR: Beyond diplomacy and all-out war, there is another possible option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There could be a cyber-attack that the North Koreans don't even understand that it was a cyber-attack from us. Sometimes, when you attack, you want your enemy to know that you punched them in the nose. Other times, you want them simply to fall down and wonder why they fell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, Defense Secretary James Mattis continues to emphasize diplomacy while working on military options, not just because of the staggering death toll that could result, but a very fundamental problem. The Pentagon still does not know the exact locations of everywhere Kim Jong-un hides his weapons -- Jake.

[16:05:07]

TAPPER: Barbara Starr, thanks so much.

I want to bring in former Republican Congressman Mike Rogers. He was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He was also a former FBI agent. He recently returned from a visit to South Korea.

Congressman, how concerned are the South Koreans, both the South Korean people and also the South Korean government, about this current situation?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's odd on the streets of Seoul that, even with this tension level that we're seeing internationally, they look at it as Tuesday, Jake.

They said, listen, we have been putting up with this kind of saber- rattling from the North for 65 years, and we can't let it get to us. We have got to go about our lives. Looks like calm and every other day.

The government officials, on the other hand, are very concerned. The tension level, the number and increase of the testing of both ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, really has the South Koreans concerned.

And the other piece of is, they just -- there's something called Korean passing, meaning -- and they reiterated this a lot in those confidences. Whatever the U.S. and its allies do, don't leave Korea out of that equation.

They believe their military is ready if it's needed. And they also are ready for some strong diplomatic relationships and discussions with North Korea. They just want to be part of that mix in the decision-making.

That was something that they reiterated in every official meeting that I had. TAPPER: Now, obviously, there's been a lot of muscle-flexing and hot

rhetoric from the Trump administration, obviously much more even from North Korea. What are the South Korean government officials that you spoke with, what are they hoping to see from President Trump and his administration on this issue, beyond including them in the conversations?

ROGERS: Well, they have some political differences as well. There are some that want to be more open and accepting to a nuclear North Korea, and some that say, hey, we can't let that happen. We better put the military option on the top.

So they are having their own discussions as we speak. There are really four options that the United States looks at. And they're all real options. They all have a different set of consequences.

First is decapitation, meaning you strike the leadership, including Kim Jong-un and some of the senior leaders around him, take them out of the equation. The second piece is that limited strike on its nuclear capability, the ability to produce, design, the people, the way that they can get those rockets to and from their launch pads.

All of that would a fair game, limited strike option. The next one down is full-on let's get it done, take out the 8,000 some artillery tubes on the border or as many as you can, and move South Korean troops over the border, or over the DMZ. That's all -- that's obviously a bad one.

It has huge casualty counts. But they're all real options. And, by the way, Jake, all of the things you see happening with our Defense Department is preparation for a real military exercise. And I think -- I know why they're doing that. They're sending a very clear signal to Kim Jong-un, listen, this is for real.

And hopefully it does -- and it goes into the last one, which is we have few diplomatic things left. We're willing to do those. But you're going to have to cooperate.

And I think what they're doing is trying to set the table for a stronger and a better negotiated diplomatic solution at the end of the day.

TAPPER: And, theoretically, any of the military options you just described would set off not only the deaths of innocent people in North Korea, but North Korea would fire into South Korea at the very least, perhaps even Japan.

We're talking, theoretically, thousands of innocent people killed, if the military, if the U.S. military launches a strike.

ROGERS: Well, depending on which option they might take, Jake, that number is actually much higher.

There are some estimates in the millions of casualties. Remember, he has the ability -- Kim Jong-un can launch the artillery strikes. That's 8,000 tubes. That puts an artillery round, if all of them are functioning and all of them are firing, about one artillery round for every three square foot in the city of Seoul, which is a city of about 25 million people.

Just that alone is devastating, let alone missiles and then all the things that come after it, including biological and chemical, which we clearly know that he has.

So the modeling for these are not good. I think that's where you heard McMaster say, we do have military options and we're prepared to use them. That's true. We have all of the options I just described.

What we -- every person in the national security debate talks about is, what are the consequences of each one of those, and can you mitigate it? Can you stop the violence before it escalates into something, a full kinetic conflict that you can't get out of until millions of people are dead?

And that's all of these equations. And these have been modeled like 10 ways to Sunday about what options are possible and aren't. I thought it was interesting. The South Koreans just announced a decapitation brigade that they're training, pretty public way of sending a message to Kim Jong-un that we're going to have a lot of specialized troops that can go in and take you out, if have to do it.

[16:10:03]

TAPPER: Right.

ROGERS: Pretty interesting.

TAPPER: And, also, of course, we're hearing increased voices, a number of people, like former General James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, saying that the U.S. might have to and then the world might have to learn with a nuclear North Korea, because these options are so horrific.

Former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, thank you so much.

And you can see Mike tomorrow night on CNN's special episode of "DECLASSIFIED." This episode will deal with the arrest of Cuba's most notorious spy. It's a great show. It's Saturday 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Be sure to watch.

Another crisis facing the world right now, an urgent manhunt under way in London after a subway terror attack injured dozens. And now investigators are learning more about the explosives that were used -- that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:02] TAPPER: We're back with the world lead.

An urgent manhunt is under way in the U.K. after terrorists detonated a bomb on the London tube, subway, injuring at least 29 people.

A source briefed by investigators tells CNN that the attackers likely used the highly explosive TATP. That's the same material used in the 2015 Paris attacks and last year's Brussels bombings and in the Manchester attacks back in May.

A British security source tells CNN that the terrorists put a timer on their bomb, clearly intending to do even more damage than they did. A man on the train took this photo right after the explosion, possibly a bag still on fire inside a bucket.

Let's go to CNN's Matthew Chance. He's right near the attack scene.

Matthew, we understand the U.K. has just raised its threat level?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it has. It's raised it from severe to critical, which means the authorities believe there is the possibility of an imminent attack. And that, of course, talks to the fact that as yet that no suspects have been detained as far as we're aware by the authorities as having carried out this latest attack here in southwest London at Parsons Green.

You can see, the police are on high alert here. But the search operation for the person or persons responsible is still very much underway.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice-over): Tonight, a massive manhunt is underway, following a rush hour bomb blast on a packed London underground train.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The doors opened, the light shut out. Everybody else (INAUDIBLE). People were falling. People were fairly injured. People were screaming. People were crying.

CHANCE: More than 20 people were injured in the attack. But officials are calling it a terrorist incident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first thing I thought was, I texted my girlfriend, that maybe there would be a second bomb or attacker with a gun. And I saw (INAUDIBLE) to be honest.

CHANCE: Authorities say a timer was found on the device, which was a crude type of contraption known as a bucket bomb. It didn't fully detonate and CNN is learning that the device was intended to cause much greater harm that likely contains the highly explosive material TATP.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this was TATP, that still needs to be confirmed, but it if was TATP, if it had gone off, you could have seen dozens of casualties, perhaps few people getting out of that train carriage alive.

CHANCE: London's police are looking for anyone who has photos or video of the incident, which took place at the Parsons Green Tube Station in southwest London.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hundreds involved looking at CCTV, forensic work and speaking to witnesses. CHANCE: Although this is the fifth terror attack in the United

Kingdom this year, London's mayor says the public should feel secure and that those involved will be caught.

SADIQ KHAN, LONDON MAYOR: I'm reassured that the police and security services are doing all they can to keep us safe. We recognize one of the things terrorists want to do is disrupt our way of life, and we're not going to allow them to disrupt our way of life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: All right. Well, Jake, the authorities here say they're making excellent progress in their investigation, but they're not really prepared to discuss various elements. They're saying there's a highly covert element to that investigation, and that they are chasing down suspects.

They're also appealing repeatedly to the public for any information that's going to lead them towards an arrest -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. And President Trump had reaction to the attack as well. We're going to talk more about that later in the show.

Matthew Chance, thank you so much.

Protesters are gathering in St. Louis after a judge delivered a verdict in the police officer shooting of a black man. Why the city's mayor is calling the verdict, quote, appalling. We're going to go live to St. Louis, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:22:53] TAPPER: We're back with breaking news in the national lead.

Protests erupting in St. Louis after the acquittal of a former police officer. At least one person has been arrested in these protests. Earlier today, a judge found Jason Stockley, a former cop who is white, not guilty in the 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man. Dash cam and cell phone video were pivotal in the case.

After the shooting, a camera inside the cruiser showed Stockley retrieving something in a bag. Prosecutors accused him of planting a gun in Smith's car. Stockley said he was trying to get medical aid from his bag to help Smith.

Let's go to CNN's Ryan Young. He's in St. Louis.

Ryan, only Stockley's DNA was on the gun found in Smith's car. The evidence on its face seemed to be stacked against Stockley. How did the judge come to find him not guilty?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is exactly what people are upset about. The idea that that gun could only have one person's DNA on it. There's video involved, as well. The officers heard saying, I'm going to kill that N-word, and then the shooting happened. So, people say, how do you have that being said and then the idea that then you see maybe a gun coming out of that bag? That's what people think. And, of course, the judge said, hey, that wasn't proven by the prosecution at all.

Now, if you look back in this direction, you can see protesters have gathered. They've been marching up and down the street. About a mile of downtown is shut down right now. Look, you can see the iconic Arch in the distance there.

And even to my right, you can see young men now carrying assault rifles through the street. Look, that's not against the law because this is an open carry state, so people are allowed to carry guns. But people are definitely walking around with guns.

I will say, this has remained peaceful except for one skirmish between the police and protesters. Police say they had rocks and water bottles thrown at them. Protesters say maybe some water bottles were thrown but no rocks were thrown. Police moved in with bikes and pepper spray and started hitting the protesters in the face. That created some tension for quite some time.

Now, the protesters have gathered here. We'll walk you closer. They have this circle here. It is definitely a rainbow of people who are here. They are chanting and they are saying they want democracy.

[16:25:01] They're saying they want changes in what's going on here.

Just don't forget this, Jake. A few years ago, you and I stood really close to here in Ferguson. So, there's a lot of open wounds when it comes to this community and dealing with the police. We'll see what happens overnight. It could be a long one.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Young, the mayor of St. Louis also calling the verdict appalling.

The president of the United States is demanding an apology over an ESPN anchor's tweets and now the White House is calling the network's decision to not suspend the anchor hypocritical. Former NFL player Donte Stalwart will join me next with his take.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back.

Our politics lead now. While British police are investigating this morning's bombing in the London underground, President Trump at 6:42 a.m. Eastern Time took to Twitter. Quote: another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive.

He went on to tweet: the travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific. But stupidly, that would not be politically correct, unquote.

The president's immediate public speculation about the attack and the announcement that the perpetrators were in the sights of Scotland Yard, whatever that mean, that did not go over particular well across the proverbial pond.