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Trump Trades Insults with North Korea; Feud Heats Up Between Trump and Pro Sports; 307 Confirmed Dead After Tuesday's Quake; Polls: Merkel Poised to Win Fourth Term as Chancellor. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired September 24, 2017 - 02:00   ET


PAULA NEWTON, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. And thanks for joining us. I'm Paula Newton in Atlanta. "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

A standoff at the U.N. as escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea -- U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted this Saturday night, "Just heard foreign minister of North Korea speak at U.N.

If he echoes thoughts of little rocket man, they won't be around much longer." Little rocket man is Mr. Trump's new nickname for North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

And the insult appears to be getting under his skin. North Korea's foreign minister spoke Saturday at the U.N. He said jabs from the U.S. president are pushing the countries closer to open war.


RI YONG HO, FOREIGN MINISTER, NORTH KOREA: He committed an irreversible mistake of making our rockets visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more. None other than Trump himself is on a suicide mission.

In case innocent lives of the U.S. are harmed because of this suicide attack, Trump will be held totally responsible.


NEWTON: Now, from that same podium, Mr. Trump threatened Tuesday at the U.N. to destroy North Korea if forced to defend the U.S. or its allies. North Korea's foreign minister responded by saying Pyongyang (ph) could test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

Both countries have been doing much more than just name-calling. The U.S. says it flew these (ph) bombers in (ph) international airspace east of North Korea on Saturday.

Now, they flew out of Guam and were escorted by fighters from Okinawa. Now, the Pentagon says this is the farthest north of the demilitarized zone any U.S. bomber or fighter has flown near North Korea this century.

Meantime, the impact of North Korea's test earlier this month is still being felt. Analysts say seismic activity detected Saturday near the test site could be aftershocks caused by the blast. Following all of this, our Ben Wedeman is in Tokyo and joins us now.

I mean, Ben, those bombers flying so closely there. To what end? What kind of message are they trying to send?

WEDEMAN: Well, this is yet another attempt by the United States to sort of flex its muscles and show North Korea that unlike North Korea, the United States has a massive military force worldwide and that it can project itself in ways that North Korea can never imagine. I mean, it's important to keep in mind the relative size of these two countries.

The Korean -- North Korean economy is 1/1,000th the time the size of the American economy. Now, we did hear an American spokeswoman for the U.S. military saying that this display by the B-1B bombers along the coast of North Korea was to show that the United States has military options, not that anybody was under any misconception that the United States doesn't have military options in this instance.

But clearly, they want to said a very clear message to the North Koreans. Now, of course the problem here is that this has become a one-on-one mudslinging fight between Kim Jong-un on the one and Donald Trump on the other.

And of course, for decades, what the United States tried to do when dealing with the North Korean nuclear program was to stress that this was a problem not only for the United States but for South Korea, for Japan and in particular, china. But now, it's really become a one-on- one personal fight between these two leaders leaving, for instance, China, which is the most influential country when it comes to North Korea.

China, of course, it accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea's foreign trade. China is now on the sidelines frustrated.

It's been called upon by President Trump time and time again to put pressure on the North Koreans. But with this one-on-one, mudslinging fight between Trump and Kim Jong-un, Chinese are simply on the sidelines.

NEWTON: Yes, and it has to be unnerving for everyone there in the region. Our Ben Wedeman there live in Tokyo. Appreciate it.

Now, the controversial practice of taking a knee during the national anthem has now spread to major league baseball. Catcher Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics, you see him there, is believed to be the first major league player to join the silent protest over U.S. racial injustice.


Now, it comes on the hills of a deepening feud between Donald Trump and professional sports. On Saturday, the president abruptly disinvited the national basketball champion, Golden State Warriors from visiting the White House. He tweeted, going to the White House is considered a great honor for a

championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore, invitation is withdrawn.

NBA star, Lebron James, yes, he fired back calling the president a bum. He added, going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up.

It started Friday when Mr. Trump blasted football players who refused to stand for the national anthem.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a bleep off the field right now out. He's fired.


TRUMP: He's fired.


NEWTON: You can imagine the reaction just keeps coming. On Saturday, some major league owners -- legal owners, pardon me, from the NFL shot back, calling the president's remarks callus and offensive.

Now, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, for his part, was especially critical. In a statement, he said, "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."

Now, as we were just saying, this controversy is unlikely to go away. In fact, it could get even worse and even more pronounced during Sunday's football games. We get more from CNN's Brian Stelter.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there. This controversy involves politics, patriotism and two of America's favorite pastimes, the president seemingly taking a baseball bat and swinging at a hornet's nest, first on Friday night, at a rally in Alabama, then on Twitter on Saturday. In both cases, he's criticizing some of the best-known African-American athletes in the sports world.

That's causing some people to say that there's a racial component to these controversies, with the president speaking to a mostly white crowd in Alabama, was talking about the African-American players in the NFL who've been taking a knee during the national anthem before games, protesting, they say, racial injustice and inequality.

The president doesn't want to hear it. He says those football players who do so should be fired by NFL team owners. He said it at the rally on Friday.

He said it again on Twitter on Saturday, keeping this controversy going even as NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, weighed in a surprising move. He called the president's comments divisive, even though he didn't name President Trump directly.

So there is the NFL controversy. Then there's the NBA side, the president taking aim at Steph Curry, member of the championship Golden State Warriors team. On Twitter Saturday morning, the president was apparently inspired or motivated or ticked off by a segment on the Fox News morning show, "Fox and Friends."

Twenty minutes after, "Fox and Friends" mentioned that Steph Curry is thinking about skipping a White House visit. President Trump tweeted and said the invitation had been withdrawn.

We've seen lots of prominent celebrities and athletes and CEOs having to make these choices about whether to attend White House events, whether they want to be associated with President Trump or try to avoid it. Curry said he was going to avoid it.

Now, the Warriors say, they're definitely not going because the president has disinvited them. And so this rolls on, these controversies, with a racial component to them continuing to fire up people on social media.

And now the question, by the way, is what's going to happen on Sunday? Are even more NFL players going to take a knee, not just to protest racism, but to protest President Trump? Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

NEWTON: Now earlier, I spoke with David Zirin. He is sports editor at "The Nation" magazine. I asked him why this silent protest, which has been going on for a year now is suddenly getting more traction.


DAVID ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION: Sports just does not exist in a vacuum, no more than it did in the 1960s and '70s with people like Muhammad Ali and Billie Jean King. You know, athletes don't just come down from planet awesome to talk about the world.

But the sports world has definitely been influenced in recent years by social media certainly, by the Black Lives Matter Movement certainly and honestly, by Donald Trump's reaction to Charlottesville. I mean, the players I spoke to did not expect this to be such a volatile NFL season.

They just didn't. And a lot of NFL owners thought that Colin Kaepernick not being in the league would send a message to players that this kind of dissent (ph) would not be tolerated. And yet now, you have owners standing up for players for goodness' sakes, NFL owners who are known to be some of the most conservative people in the sports landscape.


BARTIROMO: That was Dave Zirin, sports editor at "The Nation" magazine. Now, the death toll in Tuesday's earthquake near Mexico City has risen to 307. [02:10:04]

Officials say the search for survivors could go on for at least two more weeks. Now, to make conditions even more difficult, a new 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit Southern Mexico early Saturday.

It really unnerved people. Three quakes have now rattled the country in less than two weeks. The Puerto Rico government says the cracked dam that was damaged by Hurricane Maria is holding for now.

But 70,000 residents in the area are still being urged to leave their homes immediately. This, as the U.S. Army Reserve sent 4,000 troops to Puerto Rico to help with hurricane relief efforts.

Most of the island doesn't have running water or electricity. Polls in Germany have just opened.

In the country's general election, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union Party are expected to win. A victory would set her up for a fourth term as chancellor after 12 years at power.

Now, her main challenger, Martin Schulz of the Social Democrat, is trailing in the most recent polling. Surveys also suggest, though, a far right party, alternative for Germany could pick up seats in the federal parliament for the first time in more than half a century.