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Trump: "Certain Movement" on North Korea; Air Force Didn't Report Conviction. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 04:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says he sees certain movement stemming from pressure on North Korea, but all options remain on the table, including options, he says, he hopes to God to never use.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And the Air Force acknowledges it did not relay a court-martial conviction of the Texas church gunman.

[04:00:03] Now, the Pentagon is investigating which allowed the gunman this failure -- to allow the gunman to continue to acquire weapons. How did they miss this one?

Good morning. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: A very early start. I'm Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, November 7th, 4:00 a.m. in east, 3:00 a.m. in Sutherland Springs, Texas. It is 6:00 p.m. in Seoul where moments ago, President Trump held a news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Mr. Trump saying, quote, it's time to act with urgency and great determination against the North Korean nuclear threat.

BRIGGS: The president calling Pyongyang a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action.

Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Seoul with the president.

Jeff, good morning to you. What was your headline from his remarks?


I think the headline without a question here is that the president, of course did not rule out military action of course, but he did say, we hope to God it doesn't come to that.

Now, this is certainly a continuation of a different set of tones, if you will. The president has measured his language while he's been visiting here much differently than he does when he's in the United States. So, saying today, standing some -- only 35 miles or so from the North Korean border, he hopes it does not come to that. But, he did call on leaders around the world to step up and help confront this nuclear regime here. He also said that he would not answer a question, interestingly, about

if he supported direct diplomatic talks. That also is a change. You'll remember that he was sort of strongly not supportive and he lashed out at his own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just a couple of months ago for talking about a direct diplomatic talks.

So, the president I think speaking in intentionally measured language here, and intentionally calling on Russia and China to help step up. Now, it's no coincidence they'll be meeting with both of these leaders yet this week. They'll be going to a Beijing tomorrow and he'll be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the week at an economic summit in Vietnam.

So, no question North Korea front and center here, but the president's tone so different than earlier this summer when he referred to Kim Jong-un, of course, as rocket man -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: Jeff Zeleny, live for us in Seoul, South Korea, thank you, sir.

ROMANS: So, let's bring in CNN political analyst Josh Rogin, columnist for "The Washington Post". He listened to that entire press conference with us.

Let's listen to a little bit of what the president said in this press conference where he talked about determination and urgency.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea is a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action. We call on every responsible nation, including China and Russia to demand that the North Korean regime end its nuclear weapons, and its missile programs and live in peace. As the South Korean people know so well, it's time to act with urgency and with great determination. It is unacceptable that nations would help to arm and finance this increasingly dangerous regime.


ROMANS: He's talking about China. Is he talking about China there?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: China and Russia. And he said a little bit later in the question and answer that he sees China trying very hard to solve the problem and he hopes he sees that from Russia as well.

So, actually, he's throwing more shade on Russia than he is on China when it comes to this problem. And we know or at least we're told that President Trump will meet with Vladimir Putin to talk about North Korea, later schedule in this trip. So, you know, I think inside the administration, we talked to Asia officials, they say the same thing. They say the progress that China has made is significant but not sufficient.

ROMANS: Why can't China shut this down? I've always wondered, what is -- what is the end game for --

BRIGGS: Can't or won't.

ROMANS: Why can't or won't China shut this down? Does having a belligerent North Korea blunt U.S. influence in its backyard?

ROGIN: The most common answer amongst China experts is that China would rather see a nuclear Korea than chaos on the peninsula, chaos on its border that if North Korean regime going down you're talking about a unified Korea. That's the most popular analysis.

My analysis is a little bit different. My analysis is that China has been actively supporting the North Korean nuclear program for decades, all right? If you look at what they're doing, you're looking at the science, the technology, the equipment, the machinery, everything, almost all of it either came from the Chinese or came from China under the nose of the Chinese government.

Now, if you accept that analysis, it leads you to a different conclusion. That is that the Chinese want a nuclear armed North Korea in order to balance against the United States, South Korea and Japan which all live under the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

[04:05:08] Either way, it's pretty clear the Chinese are not going to solve this problem for us. And that's the thing that President Trump has yet to wrap his head around. That he says we want -- this is China's problem, China should be fixing this. That's not going to happen.

So, once you accept that reality and I think, you know, President Trump will get there eventually, as everyone does who studies Chinese actions on this. He'll then have to recalculate his strategy a little bit.

BRIGGS: It was relatively new that the president shifted some to Russia. He's long talked about China's role in supporting the North Korean nuclear program.


BRIGGS: What is Russia's role in supporting North Korea, what could they do and what do you expect?

ROGIN: So, we saw Vladimir Putin resist the new sanctions on North Korea when it came up the last time the United Nations Security Council. Meanwhile, there are plenty of reports that Russia's actively busting sanctions on North Korea, helping the North Korean economy grow despite the fact that there are sanctions. This is a huge problem, OK?

Russia is picking up the slack where China is leaving off, right? So, in the competition between Russia and China, if China really pushes North Korea away, Russia will fill that gap --

BRIGGS: Why? ROGIN: -- for its own economic interest, for its own economic

interest, and for its existential struggle against China. For Russia, they look south and they see a rising China and they would love to have North Korea as an ally in that struggle. Now, that's, you know, three dimensional, four dimensional, five dimensional chess. What it means right now is that President Trump realizes that he needs to put more pressure on Russia, to put more pressure on North Korea.

And if they have a real strategy to do that and if he's going to meet with Vladimir Putin and tell him, listen, whatever you've got going on, you've got to squeeze North Korea right now or else, that could do some good. We'll have to wait and see what happens when they their meeting.

BRIGGS: Of course, the White House, State Department has failed to enact sanctions against Russia that were supposed to kick in on October 1st.

ROGIN: Right, right.

BRIGGS: So your point, we shouldn't hold our breath on any action with Russia.

ROGIN: Yes. Well two things. You know, there's a drive to improve relations with Russia in the Trump administration, right? All administration is trying to improve relations with Russia. It's more complicated for the Trump administration because they're engaged in what they see as a series of unfair Russia scandals. You know, we're not going to get into right now.

So, for them to try to get -- to improve relations with Russia seems a little suspicious but it's fine. They should be allowed to do that if they can. But, you know, this is complicated stuff.


ROGIN: And we can't afford to, you know, just let Russia do anything they want to do in Ukraine, or in Syria or in North Korea, because we're trying to improve relations between the two countries. There has to be a way to walk and chew gum.

ROMANS: I'm going play a little bit more from the president, from this press conference in Seoul. He was asked whether his diplomatic strategy with the North Korean is a success.


TRUMP: I think we're making a lot of progress, I think we're showing great strength. I think they understand we have unparallel strength. There has never been strength like it.

You know we send three of the largest aircraft carriers in the world and they're right now positioned. We have a nuclear submarine also positioned. We have many things happening that we hope, we hope -- in fact I'd go a step further, we hope to God we never have to use.


ROMANS: We're ready, willing and able but hope to God we don't have to use it.

ROGIN: Yes, I hope to God that we don't go to war with North Korea, too, because that's a worldwide calamity, that will cause millions of deaths and untold suffering for years and years.

Now, the problem here is that strength does not equal progress. You know, putting lots of military assets into the region does not actually get you to solve the problem. You know, it's a signal. It could be part of a strategy. But again, pressure, strength, you know, all of this build-up, that's a mean. It's a means to an end. The end has to be that negotiation.

And when you heard Moon Jae-in speak about this negotiation, he has a very clear idea of where he wants it to go. He understands what the tradeoffs are going to be. There's no such acknowledgement from the U.S. side.

They say, oh, well, Kim Jong-un should just sit down and negotiate. That's in his interest. Well, Kim Jong-un doesn't seem to see it that way. So, the question is, what are we will to give, what are we willing to do to get to that table?

So far, nothing. There's nothing that we've put on the table to say, OK, here's where we're willing to sit down. Here are the terms under which we're willing to have this dialogue other than you just do everything that we say and then we can sit down.

BRIGGS: All right. As the president talked about yesterday in Japan, trade was a central focus and he rotated back and forth between our security and our trade. This is $70 billion essentially trade gap with South Korea.

And did it sound to you as though there's a window, an opportunity for a win there for the United States and President Trump?

[04:10:05] ROGIN: I think so, I think so. And, you know, I've followed, ever since the United States pulled out of TPP, I've been following the bilateral discussions between the U.S. and lots of different Asian countries.

We saw in Japan, the Prime Minister Abe didn't say anything about trade. There were no announcements, right? The Japanese are generally open to talking about a free trade agreement, but they don't think it's a real thing that's going happen any time soon.

They're actually still going do TPP, but they're just going to do it without the United States.

The Korean has had a different attitude. And you listen President Moon, he said, we're going to have new negotiations. We're going to do it fast. We're going to get it done.

So, I think that's a bright spot in the Trump administration's view of the relationship.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Of course, he heads so China, where getting out of TPP arguably strengthened the Chinese --

ROGIN: Oh, the Chinese are very happy about that.


BRIGGS: So, we hope to talk about that in a little bit.

ROGIN: Sure.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Josh.

BRIGGS: All right. He helped bring down a gunman at a Texas church. Next, hear from the man who shot Devin Kelley, helping to bring and end to his rampage and the president's remark about that as well.


[04:15:16] BRIGGS: All right. The latest on the deadliest shooting in Texas state history. Investigators said they recovered more than 15 empty magazines with 30 capacities from the First Baptist Church where 26 people were killed Sunday. That's some of the evidence painting an angry and violent picture of the gunman Devin Patrick Kelley.

ROMANS: Retired Air Force chief prosecutor Don Christianson telling CNN Kelley fractured his stepson's skull in an incident that led to his bad conduct discharge. And now, the Air Force acknowledges it failed to properly relay court martial conviction to civilian law enforcement, a move that could have prevented him from buying weapons.

CNN's Alex Marquardt with more from Sutherland Springs.



Well, we are learning a lot more from the authorities about the attack. We are learning a lot more about his dark and angry past, specifically a chapter that might explain how he was able to accumulate such a formidable arsenal with which he was able to carry out this horrific attack. It happened in 2012 when the attacker was in the Air Force and he was convicted on two counts of domestic assault against his then ex-wife and stepson. But it appears that the Air Force never communicated that information to the civilian authorities. He's never entered into what is known as the National Criminal Information Database. So, when he went to buy weapons, he wouldn't have popped up in the regular FBI background checks as someone with that kind of criminal record would have.

The Air Force is now saying they're going to carry out an investigation into what went wrong along with the Pentagon -- Christine, Dave.


ROMANS: All right, Alex. Thank you so much for that.

We're now hearing from the church neighbor, the hero who shot and chased after the Texas gunman. Stephen Willeford says he heard gun fire at the church. He grabbed his rifle, and exchanged gunfire, hitting the shooter twice.


STEPHEN WILLEFORD, SHOT AND CHASED TEXAS GUNMAN: People at that church, they are friends of mine, they're family, and every time I heard a shot, I knew that that probably represented a life. I was scared to death. I was. I was scared for me, I was scared for every one of them and I was scared for my own family that just lived less than a block away.


BRIGGS: Brave soul.

After the gunman jumped in his SUV and sped away, Willeford flagged down the driver of a nearby pickup, Johnnie Langendorff, the ten- minute high speed chase ended when the shooter turned the gun on himself.

ROMANS: Sixteen of the 26 victims of the Texas church massacre have now been identified. They range in age from just 17 months old to 77 years old. The Holcombe family heft devastated. Substitute Pastor Bryan Holcombe, his wife Carlo, their son Danny and Danny's 17-month- old daughter Noah all killed. Also among the dead, Bryan and Carla's daughter, Crystal, who was two months pregnant, along with three of her five children, Emily Hill, Megan Hill and Evelyn Hill.

BRIGGS: Robert and Shani Corrigan of Harrison, Michigan, also lost their lives on Sunday. Robert was retired Air Force. He and leave behind two sons, both on active military duty. The couple lost their son last year. His memorial service was held at the church.

ROMANS: Fourteen shooting victims remain hospitalized. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife will visit Sutherland Springs tomorrow.

It's just too much to bear, you know?


ROMANS: It's just horrible.

Eighteen minutes past the hour. It is Election Day, and a big race in Virginia shaping up to be a bellwether for the president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:23:25] BRIGGS: Well, it's Election Day across the United States, the most closely watched race this off-year is in Virginia for governor. An election seen by many as a referendum on President Trump. Republican Ed Gillespie, a former lobbyist and long time GOP strategist now neck in neck in the polls, with Democrat Ralph Northam.

The president has been tweeting to push Gillespie over the top. A win by Northam would be a big first step toward rebuilding the Democratic Party.

ROMANS: In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy squares off against Republican Kim Guadagno in a race to succeed Governor Chris Christie. Guadagno is Christie's lieutenant governor.

BRIGGS: And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is favored to win a second term. He faces a challenge from Republican State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and former NYPD detective Bo Dietl.

ROMANS: All right. Top White House aides are selling Democrats on Trump's tax plan, just as lawmakers begin marking up the bill. Economic adviser Gary Cohn and legislative affairs director Marc Short, they head to Capitol Hill today. The plan, sources say, is to woo Senate Democrats.

The administration thinks it needs their support to pass the tax bill. GOP lawmakers laud the bill as a middle class tax gift, but Democrats say cutting popular deductions prove otherwise. So, who wins and loses unto the tax cuts and a jobs act?

Early analysis finds while the wealthy still benefit the most, every income group gets a tax cut. The top 1 percent will see 7-1/2 percent next year. The bottom 80 percent only receives up to 2.4 percent more. Of course, the tax writing committees are still fighting over the bill right now.

[04:25:02] The proposal reduces taxes by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years.

BRIGGS: All right. Here's an interesting story, Julie Briskman out of a job for flipping the bird at President Trump. Briskman was riding a bike last month in Sterling, Virginia, when the president's motorcade passed by. She says her middle finger said what see was feeling -- anger and frustration.

The photo of her bird flip went viral. Briskman used the picture on her Facebook and Twitter pages. When Julie's company Akima LLC saw it, she was fired from her marketing job for violating the firm's social media policy. Julie tells CNN she is not ordinarily a bird flipping type.

ROMANS: All right. First Amendment only goes so far when your boss is watching.

BRIGGS: Social media gets every time.

ROMANS: President Trump says he sees movement on dealing with the North Korea threat, but he also says the problem shouldn't be his in the first place.


TRUMP: This is a problem by the way that should have been done over the last 25 years, not now. This is not the right time to be doing it, but that's what I got. That's what I got.