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Inside North Korea; Past Diplomacy in North Korea; Melania and Ivana Trump Spar; Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 10, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: World leaders are trying to make sense of President Trump's tweets. "The Washington Post" reports that his online taunting of North Korea is putting many foreign diplomats on edge.

Joining us now is "New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof. He has just returned from North Korea and, boy, does he have a story to tell.

Nick, great to have you.


CAMEROTA: This is your third trip to North Korea.

KRISTOF: That's correct.

CAMEROTA: What was different this time?

KRISTOF: So there was much more military mobilization in the capital of Pyongyang. Everywhere you go, there are billboards showing North Korea missiles striking the U.S. Capitol. Students are parading every day with these kind of military marches. And there's an effort -- there's a sort of element of menace in the air, frankly.

I think what struck us the most -- I was with three colleagues -- and we were hosted by the foreign ministry. And in contrast to past (INAUDIBLE), we were housed in a foreign ministry compound in rice paddies outside the city. And at first we thought this was to keep us from interacting with North Koreans. We eventually realized this was actually to protect us from other elements inside North Korea. The security forces, their military, who might not be onboard with having American journalist in town.

CAMEROTA: So you were sensing more aggression from the people?

KRISTOF: Yes. And that the -- I mean, look, North Korea's no more monolithic than the United States government. And the foreign minister, I think, perhaps understands the risks of heading toward a nuclear war. But I think the military and the security forces are ascendant. Essentially hard liners I think are ascendant in both capitals, in ways that are really scary.

CAMEROTA: So we've always -- I mean we've heard from our own Will Ripley's reporting, when he's gone there, the kids obviously are indoctrinated from very young.


CAMEROTA: So the feeling there is what, of terror or optimism because they think that North Korea would squash the U.S.?

KRISTOF: Well, I mean, let's be clear that also reporting in North Korea, you don't really know what people are thinking. People are essentially reading from a script. And so you know that that's script. But having said that, the script these days is that they are not afraid of a war. That a war may well be happening. And that they will win.

And it is kind of astonishing to hear officials, ordinary people, speak about how they will not only survive a nuclear war, but actually defeat the U.S.

CAMEROTA: Are they listening there to things -- I mean the regular people there -- to things that President Trump is tweeting or saying?

KRISTOF: It's striking that North Korea actually promotes -- publicizes some of the things President Trump says, and in particular his U.N. speech, talking about destroying North Korea. And that's because North Korea, Kim Jong-un, is leveraging President Trump's comments for their own political advantage. Essentially that fits into the North Korean narrative that Kim Jong-un is using nuclear weapons for defensive purposes to hold off those American imperialist who would attack North Korea.

CAMEROTA: Are they also aware of Secretary of State Tillerson and him saying that he's trying to work diplomatically and establish back channel communications?

[08:35:02] KRISTOF: Ordinary people are not. Government officials are, but they are also acutely aware of American politics. They were asking us whether Tillerson will survive the end of the year, whether Nikki Haley will replace him. And there was a sense that he is being undermined by the White House, which I think is exactly right.

CAMEROTA: Here's what Secretary of Defense Mattis said about the options in North Korea. Let me play this for you. This was yesterday.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, there's one thing the U.S. Army can do. And that is, you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ if needed. We currently -- we currently are in a diplomatically-led effort.


CAMEROTA: So, I mean having just returned from there, what do you think about all of the rhetoric coming out of the White House?

KRISTOF: Well, I think that President Trump is essentially trying to intimidate North Korea into backing off and that -- CAMEROTA: But are comments like that helpful? I mean the fact that

there's a duel -- there's a duel track. We're prepared for military if need be, but we're trying to work diplomatically.

KRISTOF: No, they're unhelpful, both because they fit into the North Korean narrative, and also because they -- I mean we're already on a hair trigger but they put us on even more of a hair trigger. And there is a real risk of some kind of an accident. North Korea intercepts a B-1 bomber, plane gets shot down and they respond.

And, look, we've looked at military options since 1969 when North Korea shot down a U.S. military plane with all aboard lost. And there are no useful military options. The latest study showed 2 million people dying in Seoul and Tokyo alone. One million people dying on the first day of a war. I mean this would be the worse war since World War II and it -- I left North Korea feeling that that kind of war is avoidable but may not be avoided.

CAMEROTA: And I know you brought back some, what, propaganda, postcards, what are these?

KRISTOF: So these are kind of examples of the -- how North Koreans are being indoctrinated, what they're thinking of. This shows a fist hitting the U.S. Capitol, U.S. flag, or, I'm sorry, U.S. missiles. And it says that U.S. can take a hard line but North Korea will take a harder line. This sort of says something similar. That's an American, as you can see, and it says that if U.S. essentially brings a gun to the fight, we'll bring a cannon to the fight. We will escalate.

CAMEROTA: So in other words, the people there don't see this as apocalyptic as they should?

KRISTOF: Yes, that's right.

CAMEROTA: They think they could win?

KRISTOF: They have been steeped in a narrative that they have repeatedly defeated the U.S. in the Korean War and every confrontation since. And one hopes that Kim Jong-un realizes that is not the case.

But there is a tradition of dictators coming to believe their own propaganda and being misled by it. And so both sides are intuitively -- you know, the one thing that Kim Jong-un and President Trump have in common is that intuitively they escalate confrontations. And when both sides have nuclear weapons, that is extraordinarily unhelpful.

CAMEROTA: So as you sit here today, what do you think the answer is for dealing with this tension with North Korea?

KRISTOF: So, I think that there should be talks without preconditions. And I think that it is conceivable that there could be a deal that would involve essentially what is called a freeze for a freeze. That North Korea would freeze its nuclear testing, its missile testing and in exchange there would be some reduction in U.S. military exercises, perhaps in sanctions, and then push things off and hope for regime change down the road. But I feel -- I am afraid that these days there is no appetite either in Washington or in Pyongyang for that kind of a deal. And so I think we're going to be headed for a very dangerous confrontation.

CAMEROTA: On that note, Nicholas Kristof, thanks so much for sharing everything that you saw on the ground with us.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we have some palace intrigue for you. A Trump family feud. Melania Trump, or at least her spokesperson, firing back at Ivana Trump, that's the president's first wife, after she called herself the first lady. Melania's comeback, next.


[08:43:21] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

Number one, the feud between President Trump and Senator Bob Corker escalating. A White House official tells CNN, the president isn't finished with Corker yet. Senator Corker tells "The New York Times," the president's volatility is alarming.

CAMEROTA: At least 11 people are dead as wildfires burn out of control in northern California. Tens of thousands have been ordered to evacuate their homes.

CUOMO: President Trump will likely discuss North Korea when he has lunch today with Secretary of State Tillerson and Defense Secretary Mattis. Mattis says the U.S. seeks a diplomatic solution, but warns the military, quote, must stand ready.

CAMEROTA: Investigators now say the Las Vegas killer shot a hotel security guard six minutes before he turned his guns on concert goers. Police originally thought the security guard approached the killer's room as the shooting was underway, thereby diverting his attention.

CUOMO: A Texas Tech University student is now in custody after allegedly fatally shooting a police officer. Officials say the suspect, 19-year-old Hollis Daniels, shot the officer in the head after police allegedly found drugs in his room.

CAMEROTA: For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

CUOMO: All right, public spat between Melania Trump and President Trump's first wife, Ivana. What has the first lady fired up? Find out next.


[08:48:49] CAMEROTA: First Lady Melania Trump firing back at President's Trump first wife, Ivana. It's -- some people are calling it a reality show style smack-down. President Trump's current and former wives feuding over the title of first lady. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First wife versus first lady. In fighting among the herem, read one comment.

It started with Ivana promoting her new book, "Raising Trump." The book "SNL" predicted back when the couple split.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "SNL": OK, Donald, but you just wait until I write my book.

MOOS: Well, now, it's written, and the book tour has begun. Ivana described how she talks to her ex, the president, about once every two weeks.

IVANA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S EX-WIFE: I have the direct number to the White House, but I don't really want to call him there because Melania is there and I don't want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I'm basically first Trump wife, OK. I'm first lady, OK.

MOOS: And with that little joke about Ivana being first lady, the actual first lady erupted through her spokesperson. Melania plans to use her title and role to help children, not sell books. There is clearly no substance to this statement from an ex. This is unfortunately only attention-seeking and self-serving noise.

[08:50:09] Melania certainly seemed to be reacting. Read one tweet, elect a reality TV star and get the real housewives of Trumpland.

When Ivana and the future president separated more than 25 years ago, it was a juicy story.

MOOS (on camera): He and Ivana have a prenuptial agreement.

MOOS (voice-over): And though Ivana now says --

I. TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) during the divorce was brutal.

MOOS: Once it was over, they made a commercial together.

DONALD TRUMP: It's wrong, isn't it.

I. TRUMP: But it feels so right.

D. TRUMP: Then it's a deal?

I. TRUMP: Yes, we eat our pizza the wrong way.

D. TRUMP: Crust first.

MOOS: If only the two wives could share a pizza, then exchange notes on the man to whom they both said, I do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "SNL": If you're good to him, he's incredible to you. If you're bad at him, your dead.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

I. TRUMP: Can I have the last slice.

D. TRUMP: Actually, you're only entitled to half.

MOOS: New York.


CUOMO: All right, let's discuss with Emily Jane Fox.

CAMEROTA: Chris is almost speechless.

CUOMO: CNN contributor and senior reporter at "Vanity Fair," along with Kate Andersen Brower, CNN contributor and author of "First Women."

One question that will seem a little bit off topic, but it isn't. The White House put out this statement. We don't know that Melania had anything to do with it. And the only reason I'm giving her cover on this is because what we lived through during the convention with all of the plagiarism kerfuffle where she wants used as a proxy. She didn't like the strategy that was going on. She was mad about it. So we don't know where her head is on this.

But she wants to use her title to help kids, not sell books. Do we know whether or not Melania has divested from all of her private businesses, or is her brand still on sale right now while she's in the White House?

EMILY JANE FOX, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think that there's much left to the Melania Trump brand. I know that there was a skin care line for a while. I don't think that that exists anymore. Her website that existed, once she used to sell things, was totally scrubbed after the convention. So I'm not sure that there's anything that Melania Trump is selling with her name on it any more. But, as you know, her husband has not divested of his interests.

CAMEROTA: Kate, you study first women and you have a book called "First Women." So what did you think in the past 24 hours when all of this started bubbling?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that Melania is actually really involved with this statement. I think she wanted this out there. I know that, like her husband, she reads a lot, she watches a lot of TV, and so I think that this is something she wanted out there. I don't know if her press aides really wanted it out there.

You know, like Trump's Twitter, we are seeing this kind of open book in the White House. Usually statements from the White House are really bland. And in this case, she's coming out and just really sharp jabs. I was really shocked actually at the statement. No first lady in history has ever been so kind of open about resentment. I man Ronald Reagan was divorced, the only other divorced president and --

CAMEROTA: And how did Jane Wyman act?

BROWER: She was very respectful. She was a star herself on "Falcon Crest" at the time. And, you know, Nancy Reagan said that her husband never spoke about the divorce to anyone but her and that she respected him for that. And they had a sort of frosty relationship, but it was behind the scenes. And that's the way it's usually done.

I mean this is a blended family. This is an opportunity for them to really showcase how you can make divorce work for your kids. And I think it's a missed opportunity really.

CUOMO: It's interesting that if not for the response, the suggestion by Ivana that I don't want to cause any jealousy in the White House because Melania's there so I don't want to call, that would have been a little bit of a laugh line. But then they responded as if there might be some jealousy and it wound up putting it on national television.

FOX: It did come off as a joke when she was saying it in the interview. She was laughing when she said it. I think that there are no two people who are quite as similar as Ivana Trump and President Donald Trump. And they both know how to us the press to sell what they want to sell. And in this case it's her book and her brand. And look at us talking about her book and her brand on television a day later.

CAMEROTA: Mission accomplished.

FOX: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Right. So, Kate, the genius behind the "Real Housewives" franchise, Andy Cohen, sees an opportunity -- a golden opportunity here. Here's what he suggests how they hash it out. Listen to this.


ANDY COHEN, HOST, BRAVO'S "WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE WITH ANDY COHEN": Open invitation to the first lady, to the honorary first lady, Ivana Trump. I'd like to get Marla Maples in there. I think she maybe has some unresolved issues. And I feel it would be great to have Ivanka Trump there as well. I will set up two couches, get this thing going. And just put me in the game. I can do this. I can -- I can make this OK.


CAMEROTA: I think that would really help civilization.

BROWER: Yes, we really need that.



BROWER: But no one would have wanted --

CUOMO: I can make this OK, he says. That really says it -- just about it all.

[08:55:05] So, you know, is there a protocol here that should have been followed? I mean, look, the only reason -- the only news value in this is that once again we see a White House that's really hair trigger in terms of what it decides to go after, even when it's the mother of his three older children. You know, she still gets attacked.

BROWER: It's amazing how awkward this must be now because Ivanka, of course, is a senior White House aide. You have to imagine that Melania sees her a lot and there's got to be a relationship there. And they've gone out of their way to say that they have a good relationship. And now I think it opens the door to the question of, how is this stepmother/stepdaughter relationship really behind the scenes. It's just an incredible turn of events how, you know, now people I think are going to be clamoring to get Ivana's book that maybe weren't interested in it before. So it kind of backfired, I think, for Melania.

CAMEROTA: But worked for Ivana. So, there go you.

Emily Jane Fox, Kate Andersen Brower, thank you very much. Great to talk to both of you.

CUOMO: All right, that's it for us. CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow is going to pick up right after this quick break. We have new information about the Vegas shooter's timeline. Stay with CNN.


[08:59:56] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Top of the hour.

We do begin with important breaking news. Deadly wildfires sweeping parts of California. Right now, at least 11 people have died. Officials fear that number will rise.

More than 100 people across California reported missing. That's according to a Sonoma County official.