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Fast-moving Wildfires Kill at least 11 in California; Trump, Tillerson to have Lunch at White House Today; Trump: "Failing" NYT "Set Liddle Bob Corker Up"; Trump Offers to Compare IQ Tests with Tillerson. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 10, 2017 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:10] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, breaking news this morning, I'm Poppy Harlow in Washington.

Today, wildfires out of control across California, the death toll now stands at 11 and one official says more than 100 people are reported missing. Some 17 wildfires are burning right now across the state and the ones up in the north, the wine country are among the worst in California history. Just look at these before and after photos. This fire station in Santa Rosa now scorched beyond recognition, just the frame there, just the structure. Hundreds of homes destroyed, resorts, hotels, completely wiped out.

Our Miguel Marquez is live again in Santa Rosa. Miguel, last time we saw flames, now we see a lot of smoke. You said last hour the winds had shifted. What are you seeing now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Those winds fortunately are staying down for now and that is very good news for firefighters. Of the 17 fires you're talking about, those are fires that just started in the last 24 hours. There are 32 fires burning across the entire state, some 120,000 acres in total. I want to show you exactly where we are. This was a lovely wine country resort 24 hours ago. Now it is completely wasted.

11 people are dead across northern California, possibly 100 more. The Sonoma County Sheriff Department has had calls of 100 people missing, tens of thousands have evacuated with only minutes to spare. So that may account for why you have so many people missing. Two hospitals have been evacuated, 1500 homes and businesses destroyed across northern California, including a water pumping station in Napa and even the fire chief's house in Mill Valley.

In Anaheim, California, some fire there burning over 6,000 acres, a very, very fast-moving fire there with Santa Ana winds burning it - blowing it right up those canyons. Several homes destroyed, several thousand more threatened. That, of course, is Disney Land territory just a terrible, terrible situation there where it's not just the fire, but the smoke as well, makes it almost unbearable for people to be outside and you probably shouldn't be outside because a lot of this is not just wood burning, it's toxic smoke.

The one bright spot right now is that that wind has died down. The humidity is up. The temperature is down. All good things for firefighters, but these fires are so widespread that firefighters say they've been going back to areas they've already fought before trying to get fires knocked out there. But hopefully as the day wears on, they will be able to get the upper hand and start putting these fires out. Poppy?

HARLOW: Our thanks to them, all of those first responders, and Miguel to you, your entire team out there risking a lot to cover this. Thank you very much. Keep us posted.

All right, let's turn to the White House now where later today President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet for luncheon. This is not just any lunch. This is their first publicly scheduled event since reports surfaced that Tillerson called the president a moron, something he did not outright deny.

This morning, President Trump tells "Forbes" he doesn't think that Tillerson made those comments. He did offer a unique way to answer questions though about whether he thinks Tillerson is up to the job. Their meeting comes as the president shows no sign of backing down in his feud with fellow Republican Senator Bob Corker, slamming him again this morning.

Let's get it all from the White House. Joe Johns is there. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. I have to say, this off again/on again battle between the president of the United States and Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is on again. The latest volley as you said fired by the president this morning on Twitter. He writes "The Failing "New York Times" set Liddle' Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that's what I am dealing with!"

That recording a conversation is a reference to the fact that "The New York Times" did an interview with Bob Corker over the weekend in which he responded to some insults made by the president. Corker made some very sharp comments of his own and also notable that the president referred to Bob Corker as Liddle. That, of course, is an insult that the president has used before, last year during the campaign directed at Senator Marco Rubio of Florida who ran against the president in the primaries.

The significance of all of this is the president going back and forth with members of the United States Senate, a Republican, a powerful Republican, though. He's decided not to run for re-election. The question, of course, whether the president will attract the anger of other members of the Senate who privately are critical of the president and his style, certainly his tweeting habits.

[10:05:12] Meanwhile, as you mentioned, Poppy, at the top, the president is expected this afternoon to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. This as far as we know will be the very first meeting of the president and the Secretary of State since there were reports that Tillerson referred to the president as a moron. Now, the president responded in kind in an interview with "Forbes" on-line that was published just today. And part of that interview, the president suggested Tillerson never said it, and in another part of it, he attacked Tillerson just in case he did. The quote there is, "I think it's fake news, but if he did that. I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win."

The president was also asked in that interview about Tillerson and why the president suggested on Twitter that Tillerson was wasting his time in trying to get a diplomatic solution in North Korea. The president indicated in his view that he was not undermining Tillerson, but that he was, quote, "strengthening authority." Not sure exactly what that means. Back to you, Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. We're going to try to figure out what that means. No IQ tests here but I do have someone very bright with us, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby joins me now. Joe just outlined a lot. Let's get through it all, nice to be here in person with you, usually you're remote on a screen far, far away.

Let's just start with this the sort of I'm smarter than you taunt from the president to "Forbes" in this interview to his top diplomat. I mean, he's talking about the guy he needs to lead on diplomacy with North Korea, with Iran, et cetera. Can Tillerson effectively do his job when the president questions his intellect?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think the way Tillerson is approaching this is sort of just not taking the bait from what I understand, they're being fairly dismissive of that comment and not trying to let it affect anything that they're doing. --

HARLOW: Can other world leaders take him seriously then?

KIRBY: So this is a problem. I don't think the problem is, you know, who's got the better IQ. I think some of the president's tweets in particular have made it harder, for not just Tillerson, but for Secretary Mattis or Ambassador Haley, to do their jobs. I have said and I continue to believe that national security team around President Trump has done a commendable job trying to deal with the challenge in North Korea in particular.

HARLOW: Right.

KIRBY: They have taken a team approach, measured, deliberate. They have secured stronger sanctions than have ever been secured before. So I think they're moving things in a very good direction, given the fact that there's a high urgency of time here. They don't have as much time to deal with this problem. And that isn't always helped by the president himself. And I said it the other night, you almost have to take the president, put him over here, separate and distinct from his national security team which I think is working this pretty hard.

HARLOW: So this lunch today.


HARLOW: To be a fly on the wall. It's with Secretary Mattis. It's with Rex Tillerson. What do you hope happens there, because they have publicly been on a different page than the president on North Korea and Iran?

KIRBY: So this is a long scheduled meeting. The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State are on a normal sort of drumbeat, these lunches with the president. This was the next iteration of it. So this was not put on the schedule for any specific event. What I expect will come out of this, and also what I hope will come out of it is that they'll have a substantial policy discussion about some significant issues facing the country today. Such as North Korea, such as Iran, and what we're going to do about not just the Iran deal going forward, but Iran's destabilizing activity, the fight against ISIS and, of course, our bilateral relations with China and Russia which are momentous. So I think they're going to have at least my expectation is they will have a normal conversation about that.

HARLOW: But the president seems to be -- I mean help us determine what this means. Because when asked by "Forbes" about, you know, are your statements undermining Tillerson's ability to do his job, like when he tweeted out, you know, a week and a half ago, don't worry about North Korea, you know, I got this one, Rex Tillerson. He said I'm not undermining. I think I'm actually strengthening his authority.

KIRBY: He really believes that.


KIRBY: Because -- I'm not saying I necessarily subscribe to the logic, but the logic is, this is a, about China, not about Pyongyang. This is about trying to pressurize an atmosphere where Beijing will truly do more and be more aggressive in getting Kim Jong-un to the table in some sort of negotiation going forward. That they believe and I think they're right about this, that China can do more. And so, I think what they believe this is part and parcel of a strategy to pressurize the atmosphere so that Tillerson can get them to do more to get Pyongyang to do more and to negotiate.

[10:10:04] Now, on the plus side, they have a case. I mean if you had told me a year ago that China would ban seafood imports from North Korea, that they would ban textiles, that they would put a ban on oil and gas, I would have laughed at you. We couldn't get them there before but they've done that. So there is a case to be made that China has been doing more, but I also am skeptical, though, that saying things like, you know, don't waste your time, Rex.

HARLOW: Right.

KIRBY: Is helping him on the world stage writ large.

HARLOW: Right. In terms of being taken - I mean, as CEO of ExxonMobil, he never had this kind of, you know, sort of public patting down if you will. Before we go on Iran, this morning, major European countries, Germany, France, Britain, have a major message for this administration on the Iran nuclear deal. The president is planning to, as far as we know, decertify it officially this Thursday. The German foreign minister said doing that would, quote, "deteriorate rather than improve the security situation." So, I mean, this is a key ally. How should, how does the U.S. respond to that? KIRBY: Well, they should take it seriously and we'll see what they do. It's important for everybody to remember that he decertifies their compliance with the deal, Iran's compliance. It doesn't really - it doesn't tear the deal up. In fact, the moment he does that, it doesn't change anything really tangibly right away.

First of all, the deal isn't just between the United States and Iran. It is several countries and the EU with Iran. -


KIRBY: Number two his certification requirements are to Congress. They have nothing to do with the International Atomic Energy Association's actual physical scientific assessment that Iran is complying. So -

HARLOW: Or the State Department.

KIRBY: With the State Department. So the fact that Iran is complying with the deal, I don't think will really be at issue. What this is is an opportunity for him to express his dissatisfaction with the deal, meet a campaign promise and try to find a way to punish Iran. --

HARLOW: Not have to put a signature on it certifying it in 90 days.

KIRBY: Right. And so, 60 days later, Congress has to make a decision on sanctions. I suspect that's going to be very difficult for them to do. I really don't think that this will be the end of the deal.

HARLOW: Thank you so much, Admiral, nice to have you here. We appreciate it.

KIRBY: Thank you.

HARLOW: Rex Tillerson is not the only one on thin ice with the president as he doubles down on his attacks against Bob Corker. We'll talk more about what that means for the president's plans and hope for tax reform.

Also, there's a big change in the timeline of the Las Vegas shooting massacre, why it matters for investigators as they search for answers.


[10:16:42] HARLOW: As President Trump really digs in on this battle with Senator Bob Corker, his fellow Republican, could picking a fight with him, someone who has a key vote on some very important things for the president like tax reform, be the best strategy.

Here to discuss, CNN political commentators, Patti Solis Doyle, Alice Stewart and Margaret Hoover, all ladies. Where are the men? We need John Berman back here. John will be back tomorrow. Thank you all for being here.

Alice, as a communications whiz, as someone who worked with Ted Cruz on this stuff, help me understand the strategy because Steve Bannon says in his interview with Fox totally unacceptable for Corker to attack the president the way he did in "The New York Times" interview. He needs to be out. The president just keeps attacking Corker in response now. He needs Corker on things like ding ding tax reform, what do you make of it?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, this is nothing new with the president. He has always had the mindset if someone hits me I'm going to hit back, often, much harder, with a much bigger megaphone with his social media. --

HARLOW: He did strike first.

STEWART: He did strike first after the Charlottesville response by the president and then there's been tit for tat back and forth. Look, in my view, it is conduct unbecoming of any adult to air your public grievances on Twitter, same goes for a president and a sitting member of the U.S. Senate. I think this is beneath the dignity of both of the offices. But that being said, this is how they communicate. This is how they get words across. This is not going to be helpful for the GOP in getting a legislative agenda accomplished.

I think the two of them need to go behind closed doors and work this out and work together. I think the president needs Corker more than the other way around. Corker is unbound by the niceties of a pending re-election campaign. He can say and do whatever he wants and has nothing to lose by this.

HARLOW: But Margaret, just one note. I mean, these aren't personal attacks on the character of the president personally. These are substantive attacks. Lindsey Graham made substantive attacks against the president a few weeks ago and the two went golfing and had a heck of a time yesterday. I mean, is this much different? Should members of Congress just, despite their party, not be able to say here is how I feel, here's where I disagree?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, what we also know -- yes, all of that is true, what Alice said is true, but what we also know is this isn't -- these public quips back and forth are not the only communications they've had. As the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he and the president actually have spoken on several occasions. They actually have to work together. And, you know, it is the understanding of those of us who follow this that this has been sort of escalating and sort of I think Corker is quite honest with the president and there is a little bit of give and take, but the president just has had enough. And so, the president really escalated this into the public tirade.

Look, none of this is helpful. I think Corker felt that he had to talk to the "New York Times" to sort of tell the truth and add his voice to sort of the panoply of voices that are sort of giving context and texture to how Washington is working right now and it helps those of us out sort of who are not there to understand how it all works. This is -- it's not constructive. And it's a certain -- it isn't a functioning White House in any traditional sense.

So even if you read, it's shocking "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board today doesn't undermine - I mean, says that Corker is telling the truth ultimately. It's a dire state of affairs. It's deeply disappointing.

[10:20:10] HARLOW: Patti, last hour we had a former New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg, a Republican on him. He used a phrase, I won't forget he said, Poppy, at this point, this is survival politics and at some point, you know, you're only surviving if you can get this stuff done. Big things have failed on getting Obamacare repealed and replaced. So now it's really on tax reform. How do you see it?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, President Trump won in 2016 on running on destruction, right? Just blowing the whole government up, Congress up, you know, he's an outsider. He didn't have a record. He never held elected office. He was never in public service. But now he has a record. You know, he's been president for 10 months and by the time 2018 rolls around, if tax reform goes up in flames, which is kind of looks like that's where it's heading because of his fights with -- not just with Corker but McCain and Murkowski and Collins -

HARLOW: They all want tax reform that's the thing.

DOYLE: He now has a record and voters will judge him on that record. He can't run as an outsider anymore. He can't. So I think if they don't get a legislative accomplishment done he's in trouble.

HARLOW: Here's why I think they can. Let me just -- my team and I spent a good amount of time in Kentucky and really rural Kentucky last year doing a story about after the election. We're going back in a few weeks right, to talk to these voters. I was on the phone with them last week and to a person, he said to me, this is all Mitch McConnell's fault. This is all, you know, Rand Paul's fault. This is all the fault, Margaret Hoover, of them not our president. We are as hopeful in our president as we were before. Do you agree? Is it harder?

HOOVER: Poppy, I'm so glad you said that because that is the point here. For Trump's base and his loyal supporters, when he picks a fight with Corker, all they see is establishment versus Trump. And it gives them the ability to point towards the establishment for flummoxing the Affordable Care Act, for maybe they flummoxed tax reform, and then it absolves the president of actually having done anything to use or leverage his political leadership and his bully pulpit.

The truth is tax reform will not get done if the president and the Congress don't come together and work together to leverage their different power together in order to pass it. Because the Congress is even though Republican, it is too diverse. It is too -- there are Trump Republicans, there are Paul Ryan conservatives. They all have to work together to get it done but if they don't get it done it's the Congress' fault according to Trump, not Trump. Trump will be absolved of any responsibility for it and his base will remain even stronger and Bannon will have more reason to run people against the establishment and continue to break up and divide the Republican Party.

STEWART: And all that is true. The difficulty here is that Trump can't afford to lose more than two votes in the Senate and Corker may potentially be one of those. There is also the potential that Corker is trying to be sly like a fox for him, tax reform, he wants that to be along with raising the deficit so maybe this is his way of negotiating. Making the president realize, look my vote is important. This is what I want.

But I truly believe the president has a tremendous megaphone on social media, with Twitter and with Facebook and all these forms. And he has used it masterfully to get elected and to get his message out there. It also comes with a double edged sword. Sometimes if you go out there unvarnished and unedited and without the input of your senior leaders sometimes it can cause problems and I'm worried that this could cause more conflict within the Senate than is necessary.

HARLOW: What it means for the American people if nothing is getting done. Patti, before we go, because you ran Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2008. On Harvey Weinstein, I mean, he bundled a lot of money for her, over $1.4 million. She had this public event this week and in fairness she was not asked about it, but she didn't use it as an opportunity to condemn his behavior to talk about it at all.

The Obamas have also not done that. He raised a lot of money for them. You're a Democrat. You're a strategist, where are those voices on this? Should we be hearing them?

DOYLE: Look, what Harvey Weinstein did was repulsive, you know, diabolical, awful, and as far as I'm concerned he should not just be fired, but go to jail. Because what he did was a crime. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, are no longer elected officials. They will never run for anything again by both of their admissions.


HARLOW: The need to say something -

DOYLE: Look, I -

HARLOW: You're not running for public office and you just said something.

DOYLE: No and I have to say personally having worked for Hillary Clinton for 17 years, and knowing that in her heart, the rights of women and girls have been at the forefront -

HARLOW: Women's rights and human rights and human rights are women's rights, her words.

DOYLE: As long as I have known her she really has walked the walk and talked the talk on this. You know, for me, she gave me the ability to bring my little, you know, 3-month-old baby to work when I needed to and have a crib in my office. And you know, I know her heart is in the right place.

[10:25:01] So personally it is, it is disappointing she hasn't come out and condemned Harvey Weinstein.

HARLOW: Thank you, ladies, very much. We appreciate it. A lot to cover. Thank you very much. Margaret, Patti, Alice.

Ahead for us, some pretty stunning new details about when those first shots were fired in the horrific Las Vegas massacre. How it changes the investigation ahead.


HARLOW: New details emerging in the Las Vegas rampage that killed 58 people and wounded almost 500. Police are now saying that the killer shot a hotel security guard a full six minutes before he began raining down bullets on concertgoers. They initially said the guard was shot during the rampage. Why does this matter to the investigation? What else are they learning about his plan to escape?

Let's go to our Scott McLean. He's in Las Vegas with more. Why is this significant?