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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With California Congressman Ed Royce; Russia Probe Targets Trump Campaign Manager; Trump Threatens to Wipe Out North Korea; Earthquake Hits Mexico; Intel Committee Cancels Cohen Meeting, Calls for Public Hearing; 7.1-Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Central Mexico; Cat 5 Maria Takes Aim at Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 19, 2017 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:11]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Brooke. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin today with breaking news in our world lead.

Just minutes ago, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked Central Mexico. Early reports put the epicenter 75 miles outside of Mexico City. This comes just one week since an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mexico; 61 people were killed in that earthquake.

Let's go right now to CNN Allison Chinchar.

Allison, what can you tell about how serious this earthquake in Mexico is?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, so a 7.1-magnitude earthquake.

The depth was about 32 miles. That may not seem that deep to you, but that plays a very important role in terms of the vicinity. So, again, here is where it is located, just for some reference point.

Not quite, a little bit further to the north and west from where that 8.1 earthquake happened about a week ago. Here is a look at the population. About 28 million people felt some type of weak shaking; 20 million felt some type of moderate shaking.

And you have about nine million people that experienced some type of strong shaking. We talked about the depth, OK, 32 miles, which is about 51 kilometers, OK? Up to 70 kilometers, it's still considered a shallow earthquake. So even though that may not seem like it would be at 32 miles, it is. In this grand scheme of earthquakes, that is still considered a shallow earthquake.

That's important, because shallow earthquakes often cause the most damage compared to the ones that are deeper, regardless of the strength, but this also was a relatively strong earthquake. When we talk about fatalities, it's estimated to be in this orange

range, what could be anywhere from 100 up to 1,000. All of this information, by the way, coming from the U.S. Geological Survey, in terms of economic losses as well.

Now, frequency, we often get about 15 earthquakes that are between a 7 and 7.9 every year. So it's not uncommon to get these. We would like to point out that the Mexico City International Airport is closed. They need to go around the entire airport, assess any type of damage and make sure that it's still structurally sound before they will resume any flights at that point.

Also, all private, all public schools in Mexico City are closed until further notice, as well as the community of Puebla. That's one of the closest towns to the actual epicenter of this earthquake, again, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake.

We are likely going to be experience some aftershocks as well, Jake, So, any of those buildings that may be structurally compromised from the initial quake may suffer subsequent damage because of these aftershocks.

TAPPER: All right, Allison Chinchar, please stick around.

We're going to continue to monitor the story and when we have more information about the Mexican earthquake, we will bring that you as soon as we get it.

Also in our world lead today, I bet you have never heard a speech like that before from an American president at the United Nations. President Trump taking the stage, addressing prime ministers and kings, presidents and emirs, at the U.N. General Assembly earlier today. He laid out a muscular, even blunt America-first approach to foreign policy, saying the U.S. would not seek to impose its values on other nations.

But he did signal out a handful of countries he considers enemies, going so far as to call them evil and putting them on notice, the president leveling a harsh threat to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong- un, whom he called Rocket Man.

He didn't just call Kim that in a tweet. This was in his U.N. speech, the same one in which he warned that the U.S. would -- quote -- "totally destroy North Korea," a nation of 25 million people, if forced to defend itself or its allies.

Here's CNN chief national correspondent Jim Sciutto coming to us from the U.N. with the Trump doctrine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Major portions of the world are in conflict, and some, in fact, are going to hell.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his maiden speech before the U.N., President Donald Trump delivered a blistering attack on nations he described as evil and grave dangers to the world.

TRUMP: If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph. When decent people in nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.

SCIUTTO: The president giving the more than 150 international delegations present an up-front look at his America-first policy.

TRUMP: As president of the United States, I will always put America first.

SCIUTTO: He reserved his boldest threat for North Korea, vowing in unequivocal terms to destroy the country if it threatens America's or its allies security.

TRUMP: The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

[16:05:13]

SCIUTTO: For Iran, Trump described government as murderous and reckless and appeared to signal that he will exit the Iran nuclear deal.

TRUMP: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you have heard the last of it, believe me.

SCIUTTO: Praising Mr. Trump's remarks was Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he had -- quote -- "never heard a bolder or more courageous speech in three decades of experience with the U.N."

The president's address also taking aim on what he described as growing terrorist threats around the globe.

TRUMP: The United States and our allies are working together throughout the Middle East to crush the loser terrorists.

SCIUTTO: Beyond the threats, Trump's speech more clearly articulated the outlines of his foreign policy, including a drastic turn from a tent of U.S. foreign policy for decades, that the U.S. will support democracy abroad.

TRUMP: This is the foundation for cooperation and success. Strong sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Of the many bold words in the speech, Jake, the threat to North Korea eliciting, sparking really the strongest response. I spoke to a senior U.N. diplomat in the room who said that when Trump

uttered those words threatening to obliterate, this diplomat said, another nation, that the diplomats in the room were taken aback.

It was -- in his words, it felt like a wind had swept had through the room, an emotional response from those present unlike anything they had heard from an American president before. Not to be lost in that, his comments about the Iran nuclear deal. There were those in the room who thought the president was going to withdraw from the agreement on the spot. He did not.

The next deadline for him to recertify the agreement is October 15. We will see what happens then -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto at the U.N. for us, thank you so much.

Joining me now outside the U.N. as well, he is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California. He visited South Korea earlier this month.

Mr. Chairman, good to see you. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: So the president said that the U.S. is ready to totally destroy North Korea if necessary. He also called Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man," said that the Rocket Man is on a suicide mission.

Did using that kind of language in a U.N. speech surprise you? And is it the right approach to giving North Korea an off-ramp, getting them to the negotiating table?

ROYCE: Jake, these aren't the words I would have used.

But what I will share with you here is that in point of fact our biggest challenge right now is applying full diplomatic and financial pressure on North Korea and getting compliance from these other countries to do it. This is the hydrogen bomb they have at their disposal.

And so this is a response by our president to focus full pressure, full diplomatic and financial pressure. We need compliance with these sanctions.

TAPPER: North Korea, of course, has shown no willingness to give up its nuclear program or to stop test-firing missiles. Do you think that a military confrontation might be inevitable?

ROYCE: No, here's what I think.

We know from 2005, Jake, that when we put sanctions, financial sanctions on the banks in China that were necessary for the support of the system in North Korea, that the dictator at that time could not pay his generals and they did not have the money for their ICBM program and they had to discontinue momentarily for a period of many months that program. We need to do that again. That's what these sanctions are intended to

do. We need the China Merchant Bank and we need the Agricultural Bank of China, the state-owned bank, to comply. They do much more business with the United States than they do with North Korea.

They need to comply with these sanctions. And we should give them a choice between doing business with us or North Korea. We are headed in that direction by sending this message, because, if we do that, we ultimately have the leverage on North Korea to, once again, get them to the table or get them into compliance.

Until we do that, we do not.

TAPPER: Do you think that President Trump is trying to, for want of a better term, scare the Chinese into thinking that he might actually launch a strike, a preemptive strike against North Korea, so that China is finally motivated to take these actions by their banks that you have been pushing for, for so long?

[16:10:05]

ROYCE: Yes, you know, China is a little conflicted on this, Jake, because they have shared with me they don't want South Korea, they don't want Japan to develop nuclear weapons technology. They would like to head that off.

And right now, there is only one way for them to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. And that is to face up to the fact that 90 percent of the subsidy still comes from Beijing. So we have to figure out how we message to Beijing the necessity of compliance now with the international community, with what Nikki Haley has done, in terms of international sanctions.

And that means cutting off the support that goes directly, all of it goes directly into supporting the military or supporting the intercontinental ballistic missile and atomic weapons program. That's where we have to be focused.

TAPPER: Secretary of Defense Mattis said yesterday that there are military options the U.S. could take with North Korea that would not put Seoul, South Korea, at grave risk. Without revealing classified information, what would an option like that look like?

ROYCE: Unfortunately, I can't reveal that to you without revealing classified information.

But I will return to the desire not to get to that point, the desire to figure out a way to shut down their program by taking away the foreign currency that they need to run it. They need billions upon billions of dollars, ever quarter, to run this program. We can cut it off with the international community. That's what we are trying to do.

That is better than the other options. I don't think we need to go down the road of just what those options are right now, but I appreciate the thrust of everybody's focus here on getting a solution now that they have a bomb 17 times more powerful than what was dropped at Hiroshima.

TAPPER: President Trump, of course, criticized the Iranian nuclear deal , called it an embarrassment to the U.S.

Sources tell CNN the president is still evaluating what course of option to take. He seemed to suggest he's ready to withdraw. Iran has technically complied thus far. And its president, Hassan Rouhani, warned that the U.S. ending the agreement would -- quote -- "carry a high cost" for the U.S.

Would you recommend that President Trump tear up the deal?

ROYCE: Well, here's the situation we are in.

Iran is violating the spirit of the agreement, right? And they are also doing this with their intercontinental ballistic missile program. intercontinental means from here to there. But the difficulty is $100 billion worth of leverage in terms of the money that was withheld from Iran in international sanctions has now gone into the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

They now have this money. And so in a way, the toothpaste is out of the tube. So going forward, how do we focus on compliance and enforcement of the agreement and how do we focus on preventing them from moving forward with their intercontinental ballistic missile programs, as well as their movement of troops to the border with Israel into Syria across from the Golan Heights?

These are the big challenges. On August 2, new legislation that I authored went into effect that allows us to put specific sanctions on Iran for these issues. And I think that's where I'm focused right now in terms of compliance and Iran drawing back from the border with Israel.

TAPPER: But just to be clear, you are saying that you do not think he should withdraw?

ROYCE: I think we should enforce the hell out of the agreement and thereby force compliance on the part of Iran.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House, thank you so much for your time, sir. Appreciate it, as always.

Now we go to Capitol Hill, where a Senate panel abruptly called off Q&A today with President Trump's business attorney, but that doesn't mean the longtime Trump associate has completely dodged tough questions from the senators -- why he will now have to face lawmakers in front of the cameras, that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:19] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with our politics lead in the intensifying Russia investigation.

President Trump's business lawyer, Michael Cohen, was scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee today behind closed doors, but that interview was abruptly canceled. Now, the leaders of that committee say they want Cohen to appear before the panel publicly.

CNN's Manu Raju joins me now live from Capitol Hill.

Manu, what happened?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, it's a pretty abrupt cancellation. Michael Cohen was actually sitting down, talking to the Senate committee when the staff learned that he had put out a public statement defending his efforts and saying that he did nothing wrong in the whole Russian collusion issue, saying that he was completely innocent and attacking some of the charges that have come out in the press.

Now, what the committee said was that this essentially went against their request to say that he should not make any public comments whatsoever about this own, about this interview, saying that this happens behind closed doors and in a very sharply worded statement, saying that they would have an open session in a date in the near future. This also came -- is rather surprise because Cohen is seen as one of the more high-profile people to come before this committee, a lot of questions about his role in advocating for a Trump Tower project in Moscow. Something he said in a statement was just a real estate deal and nothing else.

But clearly, Jake, this -- the concerns about him under cutting what the committee believed was agreement was enough to abruptly cancel this hearing and the committee wanted to show they were taking this seriously by making this threat for a public hearing in the coming weeks, Jake.

TAPPER: Meanwhile, Manu, CNN broke the story that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was wiretapped both before and after the election.

[16:20:03] Also, that there were communications picked up that sparked concern that Manafort had been encouraging Russian operatives. What can you tell us about this?

RAJU: Yes, very significant, broke by our justice team, saying that the U.S. investigators did obtain these secret orders to wiretap Paul Manafort before and after they campaigned. And interestingly, also, some of this snooping actually occurred at a time when Paul Manafort has been known to actually be speaking with President Trump.

Now, we don't know if any of President Trump's own communications were picked up, but that has raised questions about whether or they have, but also raising questions about how serious and legal jeopardy that Mr. Manafort may be in. Now, to that point, Jake, "The New York Times" reporting after Mr. Manafort's home was raided in July, that investigators with Bob Mueller's team issued a warning, saying that yes, indeed, that he will almost certainly be indicted in the coming weeks, and that's raising a whole series of questions here on Capitol Hill. A number of committees do want to talk to Paul Manafort, including the Senate judiciary committee, but now, in light of all these news, new questions being raised about whether or not they can bring Paul Manafort in for further questioning.

This is what Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley told me earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: Wouldn't you think since he's been told he's going to be indicted, that he wouldn't come before the committee, and that if he did come before the committee, we wouldn't give any information out of him. We have made for weeks, trying to get phone calls returned from his lawyers and they haven't returned the phone calls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So, some frustration there from the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman about not getting his phone calls returned from Paul Manafort's representatives. They're not ruling out the idea of still issuing subpoenas, Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat in the committee saying that's still a possibility, in light of all this news. But clearly, a new wrinkle in this investigation both on the Hill and going forward with these new revelations, in which the wiretap issue in particular, Jake, caught leaders here by surprise, even Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, did not know that Paul Manafort was being wiretapped, Jake.

TAPPER: Manu Raju, thank you so much.

Coming up next, the latest on that major 7.1 earthquake to rock Mexico. And also coming up, preparing for hurricane. Hurricane Maria on a coalition course with U.S. territories. The dire warnings coming out now with category 5 hurricane just hours from its next landfall.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:38] TAPPER: Back with more breaking news in our world lead. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake that just hit Mexico, the epicenter about 75 miles outside Mexico City. President Trump just tweeted about the earthquake saying, quote: God bless the people of Mexico City. We are there with you. And we'll be there for you.

Let's bring back CNN's Allison Chinchar.

Allison, what more are you learning about this earthquake?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right, again. So, it was a 7.1 magnitude quake, again, just to the southeast of Mexico City. The depth was 32 miles. While this may seem relatively -- may seem pretty deep to you, in terms of earthquakes, it's not. Thirty-two miles is about 51 kilometers. Anything below 70 kilometers is considered a shallow quake. And this is well below that. So, again, when we talk about how deep or how shallow it is, that

often has a direct correlation to the amount of damages you can end up seeing from a quake. Now, we also talk about size, OK?

Here's a look, about 28 million people felt some type of weak shaking with this quake. Twenty million felt moderate shaking. And about 1.5 million felt very strong shaking -- Jake.

TAPPER: I want to turn to Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands for a second because they are also engaged in a frantic activity. They're preparing for a worst case scenario as a category 5 hurricane is moving closer to them.

What's the latest track?

CHINCHAR: The latest track still puts it over portions of Puerto Rico. The storm has intensified. It's now up to 165 miles per hour. If it stays at this current strength, it will end up being the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico. It's already close enough now that we can actually pick up some of these outer bands on Puerto Rico's actual radar.

TAPPER: Puerto Rico is warning about massive flooding. They're warning about mud slides. Theoretically, how much rain could Maria bring?

CHINCHAR: In widespread, you're talking six to 10 inches, but there will be several spots that pick 15, even 20 inches. And, Jake, that not only causes problems for flooding but also can trigger mudslides. We have seen it happen in the past with other storms. So, it's very likely with this storm as well.

TAPPER: All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

Let's go to now to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Palmas del Mar along the eastern coast of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

Nick, where you are right now, that I believe is the area that could get the most directly hit. From what you are seeing, does Puerto Rico appear ready for the storm?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With adequate warning, Jake, and this is a beach resort that has been cleared out, boarded up and they're certainly ready here, because it's this coastline right behind me that could be the first part of Puerto Rico impacted by Maria, possibly between 2:00, 4:00, 6:00 the coming morning. We're not exactly sure when.

We do know though that it's gathering speed with great intensity. You heard 165 miles an hour. Well, it was only 65 miles ago, 30 hours early. So it's moving incredibly faster as time goes by.

Now, the broader question, of course, is hurricane Irma gave a glancing blow to Puerto Rico just about two weeks ago or so now, still caused a billion dollars worth of damage, and still 46,00 people without power after that. The issue really is, has the damage sort of being (NAUDIBLE), are people adequately prepared and ready for this? Because they've been in the states of emergency for quite such a period of time or are we going to risk even further damage?

The winds could be awfully catastrophic. They're telling people to get away from flood risk areas. Where I'm standing here, the water could rise in a storm surge. It's almost twice my height. So, definitely perilous hours ahead, Jake.

TAPPER: Puerto Rico's governor urging citizens in these flood zones to evacuate. Are people heeding the warnings from the government?