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NEW DAY SATURDAY
Trump Begins High-Stakes Trip: 12 Days, Five Nations; Carter Page Says He Mentioned His Russia Trip To A Few People On Trump Campaign; GOP: Average Family Would Save $1,182 Under Tax Bill. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired November 4, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think we're going to have great success. We'll be talking about obviously North Korea. We'll be enlisting the help of a lot of people and countries.
There was no collusion. There was no nothing.
I'm a very intelligent person, one of the great memories of all time.
I don't remember much about that meeting. They should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. A lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department including me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's simply the scariest thing that I've seen happen so far in this administration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians.
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not and I'm not aware of anyone else that did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's perjured himself at least three times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you and happy Saturday. I'm Christi Paul.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.
This morning, President Trump is getting ready for his most crucial foreign trip since taking office, a 12-day five-country tour to confront growing nuclear fears in North Korea and reestablish U.S. power in the region. PAUL: Yes. The president is waking up in Hawaii this morning. Yesterday, he visited with military leaders there, paid his respects at the USS Arizona Memorial, you see him here with the first lady. They laid a wreath to remember those lost in the attack at Pearl Harbor.
This trip, though, coming as the president is really struggling to escape the problems that he's facing in his administration including a Russia investigation making its way a lot closer to the west wing, it seems.
SAVIDGE: Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump's campaign revealing new details in the investigation. He tells CNN that multiple members of the campaign knew about his trip to Russia where he met with a senior Russian government official and Page even e-mailed details of that meeting to at least one Trump campaign aide, according to the "New York Times."
PAUL: So, with all of these new threads in the Russia investigation overshadowing President Trump's trip to Asia, there is a question about how much can actually get done. Will they distract the president from his meetings with those foreign leaders?
CNN correspondent, Boris Sanchez, is live in Washington this morning. Good morning to you, Boris. What are you hearing from there?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. Yes, the president is set to arrive in Japan on Sunday. He's going to spend several days there, meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In fact, the two are set to golf together. He's going to be there until Tuesday from what we understand.
Abe is going to introduce the president to several family members of Japanese citizens that have been abducted by North Korea. Abe, of course, trying to shift Japan away from a passivist stance to a much more aggressive one in response to aggression from North Korea.
As you know, twice this year the DPRK has launched missiles that have sailed over the island of Japan. On Tuesday, the president is actually supposed to visit South Korea, the shortest stint of his 12- day trip, only one day there.
There were some questions about whether or not he would visit the DMZ. From what we understand, he is not going to be visiting the demilitarized zone, although, he will be holding bilateral talks with Moon Jae-in, the president of that country as well as speaking to the national assembly.
Before he then heads to China, where he is going to be spending several days in bilateral meetings with Xi Jinping as well as taking part in several cultural and economic meetings before he then heads to Vietnam where he is going to be speaking before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Economic Leaders Meeting, and talking about the United States vision for that region of the world.
Then later on in his trip, the president will head to Vietnam, where he's going to be speaking to as ASEAN Conference before meeting with the controversial leader, Rodrigo Duterte. Beyond that, as the president begins this trip, the backdrop is, of course, the Russia investigation and all of the controversy surrounding that.
The trickling of information coming from Robert Mueller's special probe and also dwindling approval numbers. So, you may see the president as he's in Asia respond to things that are still unraveling here at home -- Christi.
PAUL: All right. Boris Sanchez, appreciate the insight. Thank you.
SAVIDGE: OK, so that leads us to a lot of things to talk about. CNN political analyst and columnist for the "Washington Post," Josh Rogin is here, congressional reporter for the "Washington Examiner," Laura Barron-Lopez, and CNN political commentator and former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, Jack Kingston. Good morning, everyone.
Jack, I'll start with you. What's the president's frame of mind as he goes? We know certainly what's hanging over his head. Is Russia really in his thoughts as he heads off to Asia?
[08:05:09] JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's in his thoughts, but he's also a leader who can compartmentalize and he's going to move on. I think he's far more concerned about North Korea than he is about the so-called collusion allegations.
But, you know, I think in terms of trying to address North Korea with our allies, stepping up the sanctions, isolating them a little more diplomatically, isolating them from a trade stand it point, getting China onboard, that's what he's really going to be focusing on.
And then beyond that, the trade opportunities with the Pacific area and also trade violations or non-tariff trade barriers, intellectual property theft, and things like that. So, he's got a full plate.
By the way, this is the longest trip to that area of the region by a president of the United States since 1991. So, it underscores America's commitment to the region.
SAVIDGE: Right. Twelve days and arguably it would allow him to sort of get out from under the cloud temporarily, but, Josh, do you think he will? And can he keep his hands and his voice away from Twitter?
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I agree with everything the congressman said. You know, this is an opportunity for him to do it. Whether or not he sees this opportunity remains to be seen. Already as soon as he got off the plane, the first thing he did was tweet the sentence for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was a disgrace to the country and the military.
So, that's not a great start. You know, what everyone is hoping is that when he gets to the region and starts talking to these leaders, he'll be singularly focused on that. He could get thrown off at any one of these press opportunities when someone especially from the U.S. press traveling with him asked him about the Russia investigation. He tends to pop off and say stuff that creates new cycles in and of itself. So, it's going to be a struggle for everybody to just focus on Asia, which is, you know, enough, you know, five countries, 12 days. Big things to discuss.
But the record shows that because of media's focus and Trump's lack of focus we're likely to get pulled back into all of the other distractions.
SAVIDGE: Well, Jack is exactly right in the sense that North Korea is such a threat, and a concern. It does need to be the focus of all this, but there are distractions and it's not just always the president. Laura, I want to play for you Carter Page, what he said yesterday here on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: It was the only time I ever met him. We had one dinner together and I said --
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Sessions.
PAGE: Yes, and I said it was great to meet you. I'm glad I was able to meet you before I head to Moscow. I mean, it's totally in passing.
TAPPER: Is he the only one in the campaign that knew about the trip?
PAGE: I mentioned it to a few people.
TAPPER: Who else?
PAGE: It will come out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Yes. It will come out. Apparently, it has come out and the implication here is that Carter Page came back and told some members of the Trump campaign that he was having communications with the Russians and some of the members said, no, I don't remember ever having any communication. How damaging is this, Laura?
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, one of those people is former Senator Jeff Sessions, our current attorney general, and so it wouldn't be surprising if members of Congress say that they want Sessions to come back and testify again.
Given the fact that the first time he said that he wasn't aware of any campaign officials having communications with Russian officials. So, you know, as we see Mueller's investigation, we only expect it to ramp up more.
More information is going to continue to trickle out, and so, again it is going to be very difficult for the president to stay on message while he's in Asia.
SAVIDGE: Jack, I want to sort of bring you back here. You were, of course, an adviser for the Trump campaign and I want to get your reaction to what Carter Page said. Do you see it as truly a problem for the administration or is this just a person whose stories seem to wander all over the place?
KINGSTON: Well, I really don't and I would invite CNN watchers to go back on YouTube and watch Anderson Cooper's interview with Carter Page several months ago. He absolutely, Martin, in your words, was all over the place. I know he has never met the president of the United States.
The dinner with Sessions is curious to me because I've known Jeff Sessions many years and I can tell you, it's very hard to get a dinner with him. I just don't -- you know, he could have been in a room with 100 people.
Because I've heard a lot of people in Washington say, oh, yes, I met somebody, which means they were in a receiving line with 30 other people and had a three-second photo op and are claiming credit for knowing somebody or interacting with them.
I'm glad that he did clarify that it was in passing. That he was on his way to Moscow, but I don't think he would have ever been used by the Trump campaign or anybody else as a conduit with Russia or any other country or matter of importance, because he was not that involved in the campaign.
He was in that series of volunteers where they were looking for people who may have known something or stepped forward, and so, you know, I want to give him credit for that, but he never met the president.
[08:10:08] SAVIDGE: Right. Let me bring in Laura to ask about this. We sort of know that congressional Democrats want to bring this up, talk to Jeff Sessions again as a result of what Carter has said. And yet it's like, is this guy really the most reliable witness when he can't seem to get his story correct?
BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, that's right. I mean, you know, you have to take all of the factors into play here, but that doesn't mean, though, that congressional Democrats don't want to bring Sessions back, you know. We just heard yesterday one of the Democrats saying that they are pretty positive that he perjured himself.
Of course, you know -- that remains to be seen. Whether or not Sessions did do that, and, again, there's a lot of moving parts here that not only congressional investigators are looking at, but, of course, Mueller.
ROGIN: I just think it's important here to point out that Carter Page disclosed these meetings, both of them, with, over a year ago. All right. Nothing is really new in what he said this week. It's new that he said it to the House Intelligence Committee.
But we already knew that he went to Moscow. We already knew that he had met with, briefed Trump administration officials on this. We didn't know about that Sessions detail, which again, was sort of a mention in passing. But you know, this is sort of, not an example of Carter Page being all over the place. It's an example of the same sort of facts coming over and over again in a different context. I think there's a lot of sort of like shock at what Carter Page said.
But if you look at the record especially at what he's been saying for months and even as early as last September, you'll find very clearly that Carter Page has been largely consistent, although somewhat at times incoherent about what he did in Russia and why he did it.
SAVIDGE: Largely inconsistent and sometimes incoherent. Josh Rogin, thanks very much. Laura Barron-Lopez and Jack Kingston, we wish we had more time, but that's all we got for today. Thanks.
PAUL: We are going to take you live to Tokyo, Japan, where the president is making his first stop on his Asia tour. North Korea tensions, as you know, expected to dominate the president's meetings with world leaders. Will anything significant and substantial be decided?
SAVIDGE: Plus, Republicans release the details of their tax reform bill. Who are the winners and who are the losers? We'll take a look at all of that coming up next.
PAUL: So, the Trump administration is singing the president's praises regarding the latest jobless rate. Unemployment is down to 4.1 percent, the lowest in 17 years is what you're looking at there, 261,000 jobs added in October.
The jobs gains across the board we should point out. There was a wage growth gap, however, that took a step back. Salaries grew only 2.4 percent in October compared with the year earlier behind September's number.
SAVIDGE: And the president and Republicans say their new tax cuts bill will generate even more jobs. CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, takes a look at who wins and who loses under the tax cuts and jobs act.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This tax reform package is branded as a tax cut for the middle class. Let's start there. What this means for average Americans. It cuts the number of tax brackets from seven to four here. Simplifying that, couples making up to $90,000 a year, individuals making up to $45,000 pay a 12 percent tax rate. Then 25 percent and 35 percent as incomes rise.
The plan keeps the top rate at 39.6 percent for families making more than $1 million a year. The bill also nearly doubles the standard deduction, $12,000 for single filers, $24,000 for couples. The idea, fewer people will itemize, claiming fewer deductions, but it also eliminates personal exemptions. That could hurt families with three or more kids. Now there are some goodies for the middle class in this bill. Aside from the lower tax rates, the plan would increase the child tax credit to $1,600.
There will also be a $300 tax credit for non-child dependent and (inaudible) 401k plans, those will be left alone. So, who are the winners and losers? Corporations are the big winners. The bill lowers the corporate tax rate all the way down to 20 percent from 35 percent.
The ultra-rich are also big winners. This bill repeals the estate tax by the year 2024 and doubles the exemption to about $10 million before that. The bill also repeals the AMT, another plus for wealthy taxpayers, although, not everyone who pays the AMT is super rich.
As for the losers, people in high-tax states, no more state and local tax deductions for income or sales tax, and they could only deduct property taxes up to $10,000. Home builders, stocks fell this week. For new home purchases, the mortgage interest deduction is cut in half to $500,000.
PAUL: So, let's unpack what this means. Back with us, CNN's political analyst, Josh Rogin, Laura Barron-Lopez, and CNN political commentator and former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, Jack Kingston. Thank you all so much for being with us. Josh, first of all, how likely is it that this thing's going to pass by year's end?
ROGIN: The chances are slim to none. OK? There's eight legislative days in the House before Thanksgiving. You know, all of those issues that Christine just laid out, what that means is that each of those issues has a lobbying and constituency and a group that will have a group of lawmakers fighting against it.
This has got to go through twists and turns. Remember, the last time they tried to do it, it took two years. Now they're trying to do it in, what, a month? And we are not even talking about the Senate, where they can only lose two votes and many more than two senators trying to get what they want by sticking to that vote.
So, I really think it's an exercise in sort of intellectual curiosity that eventually will amount to nothing and that's going to be a huge problem for the White House, especially for congressional Republicans heading into re-election years.
[08:20:09] PAUL: Laura, what elements of this plan do you think are vulnerable to being changed?
BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, we know the SALT, the state and local tax deductions, that's something that a number of Republicans in blue states, New York, New Jersey, California, that they're not happy about. So, I would be really surprised if elements of that don't change.
You know, there's also, as Josh said on the Senate side, a whole other host of issues that Senate Republicans, you know, certain ones -- that they're not happy with. That has to do with people like Bob Corker, who are saying that they want to hold firm on this not increasing the deficit, which this tax plan would do.
PAUL: So, Jack, one of the things that stands out to a lot of people is the cap on deductions, $500,000 mortgage interest deductions. Is there a risk that that could really up-end the real estate market as it is now?
KINGSTON: I don't think so, but I think that it is there, I think there may be room for adjustment as that goes through the process. I look forward to that happening more in the Senate than the House.
But I think overall, when you're talking about a substantial middle- class tax cut and a lower corporate rate, then you are going have job growth. You're going to have economic prosperity and I think that offsets some of the losses that people are going to have.
I want to point out, though, this is for people who are upper income. So, if you look at, say, the average home price in the state of Arkansas, it might be something like $124,000. So, you have entire states that would not even be affected by that.
Now, if you are in New York and you are in California, and other spotted areas and cities where you have a lot of high mortgage rates, or, you know, high income people with big houses, that's a different matter, but I do want to point out something very, very important.
When we're talking about the Senate and the state and local taxes, the SALT, those are all blue state senators who are not going to vote for the tax bill anyhow and are anti-Trump on top of that.
So, if you're saying we're going to lose Senate support from New York and California and Maryland, you know, kind of so what? It doesn't change the passability of the measure. I'm not addressing anything but, can you pass the bill on this, and, but I think that people will be looking at the home mortgage deductions as it goes through the process.
PAUL: Here's the question, Laura. If this does not pass, what does that mean for this administration?
BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, it definitely isn't a good sign for the administration. I mean, we could be entering December with no substantial win for Trump or Republicans. Because, you know, again, going back to ACA, something they haven't been able to accomplish. Now we are moving on to tax reform.
If they aren't able to pass this they're going to enter December, which we're expecting a really big fight with Democrats, between Democrats and Republicans, over, you know, the year-end spending bill and Democrats want big things, such as DACA.
You know, they also -- and they have a lot of leverage. I mean, it's very difficult for Ryan to whip his entire House, all of the House members into line.
PAUL: Jack, we did talk about the -- the jobs report. Sarah Sanders came out yesterday saying nearly 1.5 million new jobs since the president took office including over 260,000 last month. It's clear his agenda is putting Americans back to work. Laura just mentioned, there hasn't been any policy passed. So, what agenda is she referring to there?
KINGSTON: Well, he has through executive --
PAUL: Not taking away the success of the economy and the market right now.
KINGSTON: Well, I think a lot of this is because of the regulatory change. A lot of these things are under control of bureaucratic interpretation and executive orders and the president has rolled back job-killing regulations that have made a big difference.
As you pointed out, it's not just the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years but the highest stock market, I think in history, $23,000 with $5 trillion new dollars in the economy since the president has been sworn in.
So, lots of good things are happening. Optimism is up and people do -- I agree with Laura, people want this tax cut, the business community and economy are counting on this tax cut. Republicans have to have it. It's got to be a win.
I think they learned a lot of lessons through the non-repeal and replace, and I believe that they're going to get this tax bill. I disagree with my friend, Josh. The House will move this thing I think as early as next week and will be passed out of the House by Thanksgiving. I'm very confident. Now, the U.S. Senate, anybody's guess. We all know that.
PAUL: That could be another -- yes, you're right. Josh Rogin, Laura Barron-Lopez, Jack Kingston, appreciate all of you. Thank you.
SAVIDGE: Both Bush presidents are now speaking freely in a new book. One calls Donald Trump a blow hard. The other one says the current president doesn't know what it means to hold that office.
PAUL: We are always so glad to have your company. Thank you for being here with us. I'm Christi Paul.
SAVIDGE: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.
George H.W. Bush called Donald Trump a blow hard. Bush 43 said Trump doesn't know what it means to be president.
PAUL: These are just some of the things that we're learning about what both Bush presidents were thinking as they watch the 2016 race unfold. This is all on a new book called "The Last Republicans." And our Jamie Gangel sat down with the author.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Bush 43 told you when Trump entered the race.
MARK UPDEGROVE, AUTHOR, "THE LAST REPUBLICANS": He thought, interesting. Won't last.
GANGEL: Won't last?
UPDEGROVE: Won't last, but when Trump started to rise he became concerned, because he saw this populism of Donald Trump getting in the way of America's position in the world
GANGEL: He gave you rare insight, though, into his criticism of Donald Trump. What did he tell you?
UPDEGROVE: One of the things he said was, that one of the hallmarks of great leadership is humility. So when Donald Trump said, I am my own adviser, Bush thought, and this is a quote, "Wow. This guy doesn't know what it means to be president."
GANGEL: What was his tone when he talked to you about Trump?
UPDEGROVE: I think it was restrained. The Bushes are very restrained. And I also think that they -- they realize they have a role to play as former presidents. And they have to be restrained. They have to be dignified.
GANGEL: He weighed his words?
UPDEGROVE: I think he did, yes.
GANGEL: President Bush 41 was a bit blunter. He said that he thought Donald Trump had, quote, "a certain ego," and then he told you point blank --
UPDEGROVE: He's a blowhard. He's a blowhard. And -- he said, I don't like him. Plain and simple. And I'm not excited about him being a leader, was his quote. And if you look at the Bush family, it makes perfect sense. Donald Trump is everything that the Bush family is not. George Bush grew up thinking about the greater good. Donald Trump, I think, is manifestly narcissistic. It's part of his brand. And that brand is the antithesis of the Bush brand.
GANGEL: How do you think these two men feel that Donald Trump is now the standard bearer of the Republican Party?
UPDEGROVE: I think it's pretty clear if you look at their records, and their views politically, that -- I'm going to quote George H.W. Bush -- they're not excited about Donald Trump being our leader. That's not a -- that's not a leap of faith. That's pretty clear. And I think the most clear demonstration we get of that recently is Charleston. The Bushes came out with a joint tweet, which they had never done in the past. Condemning bigotry and anti-Semitism and all the things that were on display in Charlottesville among the white supremacists. That was a clear betrayal of American values and the Bushes came out
with that joint statement. I think that spoke resoundingly about the void in leadership that they were seeing from the White House.
GANGEL: There are a lot of quotes from the Bushes that are going to make news in -- in this book. Bush 43 talks about whether Vice President Dick Cheney had played an outsized role in his presidency. Something that gets talked about all the time. Was Dick Cheney too powerful? And Bush 43 told you --
UPDEGROVE: Well, he was talking about the neoconservatives in general and specifically about Cheney and Rumsfeld, and he said, and I quote, "Cheney and Rumsfeld never made one (EXPLETIVE DELETED) decision."
GANGEL: That's the quote?
UPDEGROVE: That's the quote. I understand his frustration because at the time there was the perception that Dick Cheney was the acting president, but in fact George W. Bush had had a lifetime of making bold decisions. He has this preternatural confidence in himself as a leader. And if you talk to those around him, they have confidence in his leadership. And so this notion that Cheney was making the decisions is ludicrous.
GANGEL: When you started to write this book, let me guess, the title was not "The Last Republicans."
UPDEGROVE: When I set out to write this in 2013 it was a very different time. But "The Last Republicans" became the right title during what has become the Trump era.
UPDEGROVE: Well, you know, George W. Bush himself said in 2016 privately, and to me, you know, I fear that I'll be the last Republican president.
GANGEL: He confirmed that to you?
UPDEGROVE: He confirmed that to me, and it wasn't just about Hillary Clinton becoming president. It was because Donald Trump represented everything that the Bushes abhorred.
CHRISTIE PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: You know, part of I think what's interesting about this, too, is I'll never forget Donald -- President Bush 43 coming out and saying, I will never say anything about or criticize a sitting president because I know what that feels like, and I'm not going to do that.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Times have changed, as has been pointed out.
CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel joins us this morning.
Jamie, a fascinating conversation there with the author. Does it surprise you to hear the Bushes weigh in as they have now?
GANGEL: So a little bit because they have, as Christi just said, they've gone to great lengths not to criticize him publicly. On the other hand, this is not a surprise. We know that neither one of them voted for him. We've heard these comments that they've said to other people privately, and I think what's key here is also some of the timing of these interviews. It's coming out now but a lot of the research and the interviews that Mark Updegrove did were during the campaign.
[08:35:02] So in fairness, this is not -- it's coming out now that he's president, but a lot of this was said before he was president.
PAUL: Did he talk much about their conversation regarding the election and who they voted for? Because that part was quite interesting for anybody, especially in their position, to come out and say, I didn't vote for the Republican nominee, this is who I voted for?
GANGEL: Right. So we've heard a little bit about this before and we confirmed that former President Bush 41, the father, had voted for Hillary Clinton. He did vote for Hillary Clinton. And then what his son did was he voted for none of the above at the top of the ballot and then he voted for Republicans down ballot.
It's still astonishing to hear it. These are the last two Republican presidents and they did not vote for the Republican. For both of them, that was the first time. So it's -- it is quite astonishing still.
SAVIDGE: I have to ask you, you know, the other stuff they were talking about, which is Vice President Dick Cheney, the influence he had or did not have. The pushback from George W. Bush was emphatic. In fact, he swore. Did the author hit a nerve here?
GANGEL: Absolutely, Martin. He must have, because this is not a new question that Bush 43 has gotten. He's been asked repeatedly about it. He's written about it in his own books. So clearly Mark Updegrove got a little riled up but he also says in the book that it, quote, "blows his mind" that people think that he wasn't the president and in the book and in other places we've seen both his mother and father say that they thought Dick Cheney may have had too much influence on him.
PAUL: Hmm. All right. Jamie Gangel, so interesting. Thank you for sharing this interview.
GANGEL: Thank you.
SAVIDGE: President Trump, meanwhile, the man we've just been talking about indirectly, heads to Japan in a few hours. His first visit comes in a time of great tension with North Korea. Can he convince Asian allies to unite against Pyongyang? And the questions looming about another nuclear test while he is visiting.
[08:41:46] SAVIDGE: President Trump will land later this afternoon in Japan. It's the first leg of his Asia tour and he's looking to show a united front with the Japanese against North Korea as tensions run very high over nuclear missile threats.
PAUL: In the meantime, U.S. Air Force B-1 bombers accompanied by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets have been conducting flyover drills near the Korean peninsula.
CNN's Alexandra Field is in Tokyo ahead of the president's arrival and the big question is, will Kim Jong-un test the president while he's next door, so close to Kim Jong-un's territory, of course -- Alexandra.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Christi, certainly the idea of that is wildly provocative. I wouldn't gamble on what North Korea would do or when they would do it but here's why there's a reason, at least to suspect that at the very least they could pull off a provocative action.
This is a regime that uses moments of major international importance like, say, a U.S. presidential visit to the region for their most provocative actions in order to garner the world's attention. They have pulled off an unprecedented 22 missile launches this year, their sixth and most powerful nuclear test, they have threatened the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam and they've sent two missiles flying over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Now on top of all this you've got the South Korean spy agency now saying that they're tracking some movement of missile but indicates that the regime could be ready to launch another ballistic missile and they say that an underground tunnel at the country's main nuclear test site is ready for another nuclear test.
What do we make of all that? Well, the fact that preparations are being made, the fact that North Korea could be ready for these provocative actions doesn't indicate that there is any willingness to launch such an action at this time. We know that these things happen at the command of their leader, Kim Jong-un. We also know that the regime is well aware of the fact that they are being watched all the time by satellites and that these opportunities to make certain movements, to suggest certain signals to the international community can be shows of strength or attempts to show strength from the regime itself.
Not entirely different from, say, the buildup of U.S. military assets that you've seen in the region in the days and weeks prior to the visit from President Trump. Don't forget, we've seen a war of words now between North Korea and Washington, D.C. for months. You have also seen these alternating shows of strength and a lobbing of threats back and forth. Very tense times for the backdrop of this most important and critical visit of President Trump to the region now.
PAUL: No doubt about it. Alexandra Field, thank you for the update.
SAVIDGE: Joining me now to discuss further, CNN political analyst and columnist for the "Washington Post" Josh Rogin and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World" and columnist for the "Daily Beast," Gordon Chang.
Good morning to both of you.
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.
SAVIDGE: Gordon, I'm going to start with you and sort of following on what we were just discussing. What is the likelihood in your mind that North Korea will test a missile or do something provocative while the president is visiting the region?
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": I think it's more likely than not. Kim Jong-un has been quiet recently and the last missile test was September 15th. This was, you know, a quiet period in the run-up to the Communist Party -- the Communist Party's 19th Congress in China and actually I think that what happened is that the Chinese told the North Koreans not to do anything provocative.
[08:45:07] Now you have Trump coming to the region. He's probably going to confront China in Beijing and I'm sure the Chinese would like to knock him a little bit on his heels. And so I think that essentially there will be something provocative. We don't know exactly what it will be. I think it will be a missile launch but we'll just have to wait, because at this point, you know, Trump has upped the stakes with his warrior nation comment about Japan. A direct message to China. The Chinese are going to do something to knock Trump back on his heels as well.
SAVIDGE: All right. So then we would have to wonder what the president would do or how he would react.
Josh, your most recent piece said that nobody, not even Congress could stop Trump from going after North Korea, but Senator Chris Murphy is pushing new legislation with several other Democrats that would require Trump to obtain congressional authorization before striking North Korea. How realistic do you think is it that that legislation is going to be passed?
ROGIN: There's no chance that that legislation will be passed. It's simply a marker for Democrats to say that they're concerned that President Trump might engage in military action against North Korea without going through congressional authorization process, and maybe in a preventive way, which is to say before North Korea has actually signaled its intent to strike the United States, much less strike the United States.
Now under the Constitution, it's arguable he has that authority. It's a nightmare scenario not just for the U.S. but also for our allies, Japan and especially South Korea, and as we talk about all these tensions, there's a risk of miscalculation here. So I just think, you know, it's incumbent upon all sides to sort of
take any provocation from any side in a matter that doesn't contribute to an escalation that could lead us to a military conflict that nobody wants to see.
SAVIDGE: Josh, just how real do you think these threats are that the president makes?
ROGIN: I believe that the president means what he says. Now that doesn't indicate what he's going to do. But, you know, when he says he doesn't intend to prevent -- to permit North Korea to obtain the capability to hit the United States with an ICBM, with a nuclear tipped warhead, I think he means that.
Now, you know, does that mean he's going to strike as soon as they get that capability? Nobody knows. And I think it's sort of that that unpredictability that the president believes is an asset because he believes that his unpredictability can encourage actors especially China to do things that they don't want to do, but for our allies that unpredictability is a liability because it hurts their ability to plan and to have some assurance that they know what's going to happen in that inevitable scenario.
I mean, whether or not Kim Jong-un tests something or does something provocative while Trump is in the region, he -- he will continue testing, he must continue testing.
SAVIDGE: Of course.
ROGIN: He's trying to get to a goal here. So the provocations are going to come, whether they come this week, next week, next month, and so how we deal with that will determine a lot about what happens in the region going forward.
SAVIDGE: Gordon, I was surprised to hear you say that China might actually want something from North Korea as far as a provocative act in the hopes of pushing the president back on his heels. And yet this is the same nation we're hoping will calm things down for us?
CHANG: Yes. I think that we have sort of misperceived Chinese intentions. China has supplied North Korea with critical equipment for its ballistic missile program and there's been a continuous supply of components and equipment and materials with the nuclear weapon effort. So in a very real sense Beijing has weaponized North Korea.
And when we look at the context of Chinese banks laundering money for the North Koreans, it's clear what China's intentions are. So there's -- while the Communist Party was holding its 19th National Congress is an indication that the Chinese in fact control the North Koreans and President Trump has got to confront that in Beijing because this is going to be the critical issue.
As Josh said, he has actually put a public marker saying that he will not allow the North Koreans to develop this capability. Well, if he's going to be as good as his word, he's got to have some very effective diplomacy with Beijing, which will be more coercive than cooperative. SAVIDGE: Which is why we worry about distractions of domestic players
back at home.
All right, Josh Rogin and Gordon Chang, thank you both for your insights.
ROGIN: Thank you.
CHANG: Thank you.
PAUL: So how far will New Zealand go to protect its wildlife? How about dropping poison from the sky? Yes. Up next, Bill Weir explores how that option could end up being a reality.
[08:53:36] BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's this guy?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is pretty special to me. This is the takahe. Rediscovered high in the mountains in Auckland in 1948. And they're one of our most endangered birds. There's only 280 of them left on the planet.
WEIR (voice-over): And it's not just the birds on the brink here. The Tuatara is New Zealand's most iconic reptile native. Looks like a lizard but is really the sole survivor of an order that goes back to the dinosaurs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're entirely endangered.
WEIR (on camera): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the problem for these guys is, again, they evolved in the presence of avian predators, not mammals.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so they're response when threatened, you know, from above, when threatened at all is to freeze.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you freeze, then you've got a rat or a cat behind you, it's game over.
WEIR (voice-over): So Zealandia is one of the last few places a Tuatara or a takahe can relax. But Kiwis are not content with just predator-free parks. They want to make New Zealand a predator-free country.
(On camera): It is a plan so audacious in scope it's been called New Zealand's Apollo Project. That is, wipe out every rat, every mouse, every possum, every weasel. Hundreds of millions of predatory mammals by the year 2050 and to pull it off, they'll have to spread millions of tons of poison all over this incredibly beautiful country.
[08:55:11] (Voice-over): About as much as Kiwis love the kiwi, not everyone thinks this is a good idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Do not miss the "WONDER LIST" with Bill Weir, tonight 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
SAVIDGE: And that is it for us. We'll see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for CNN NEWSROOM.
PAUL: Yes. It's been good to have you here. "SMERCONISH" is coming up after a short break. Stay close. '