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President Trump in South Korea, to Hold News Conference with President Moon; Texas Church Massacre Investigation; Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:13] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think we have lots of good answers for you over a period of time and ultimately it will all work out.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump just minutes away from taking questions in South Korea. Overnight he praised the tremendous spirit in Seoul in the face of a new provocation from North Korea.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And the Air Force acknowledged it did not -- it did not relay a court-martial conviction of the Texas church gunman. Now the Pentagon is investigating this failure which allowed the gunman to acquire his weapons.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: An early EARLY START, my friend. I'm Dave Briggs. Tuesday, November 7th. It is 3:00 a.m. in the East. It's 2:00 a.m. in Sutherland Springs. We'll have the latest on the Texas church shooting shortly.

But it's 5:00 p.m. in Seoul, South Korea and that's where we begin this morning. Moments from now, President Trump is set to hold a news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Overnight the two leaders sat down for a meeting with the North Korean nuclear surely at the top of their agenda.

ROMANS: Ahead of all this, just hours ago, North Korea answered the threat of new sanctions with a fresh provocation. A commentary at a state newspaper says as long as the U.S. and its allies continue their hostile acts, North Korea will further bolster its, quote, "nuclear treasure sword of justice."

For the latest on President Trump's visit, let's turn to senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny in Seoul.

Good morning, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. As you said in just a few minutes time here, the two leaders here will be holding out joint news conference. President Trump and President Moon, they have been having meetings for several hours now here in Seoul. Of course, North Korea, that rising nuclear threat is at the center of all of their discussions here. But a short time ago President Trump expressed a bit of optimism about those talks. Let's watch.


TRUMP: We'll be meeting with the various generals, General Brooks and the various generals, about the situation in North Korea. And I think we're going to have lots of good answers for you over a period of time and ultimately it'll all work out.


ZELENY: So the president there saying ultimately it will all work out, of course, so much to be done before we know if that will happen. But no question, one thing I'm struck by as we are following the president across Asia, of course making a second stop here in Seoul is that he is defending his harsh rhetoric from before but he is not repeating that harsh rhetoric here on the Korean peninsula.

Just to point out a bit of geography here, we are about 35 miles or so from the North Korean border. So until now President Trump has not repeated any of the incendiary remarks about Kim Jong-un that he, of course, often says back in the U.S., but we are watching closely that news conference, Christine, that's starting here in a few moments.

ROMANS: OK. I know that you will be there listening and monitoring it, as we will, too. We'll bring it to you live when it happens.


ROMANS: Jeff Zeleny there on the trip with the president.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Jeff.

Joining us now CNN political analyst Josh Rogin. He's a columnist for the "Washington Post."

Good morning, sir.


BRIGGS: All right. So it will all work out. Don't worry about it. That's interesting because a Trump tweet, we don't consult the history books. We look at Twitter. The president tweeted back in September, "South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work. They only understand one thing."

What is he going to say today?

ROGIN: Well, listen, first of all we should give President Trump credit for not continuing his rhetoric, his brinksmanship, his raising of the temperature while he's 35 miles from the North Korean border. That would be bad. OK. North Koreans are watching this closely, the South Koreans are watching this closely, the Chinese are watching this closely. The worst thing that he could do is to raise tensions even higher. So if he's going to take this opportunity during his visit to South Korea to bring it down a notch, that's good.

ROMANS: No more little rocket man, no more any of that kind of language.

BRIGGS: Fire and fury.

ROGIN: For at least the next couple of days. Now that being said just changing the rhetoric doesn't change the policy. And what we have right now is a policy that has no chance of really solving the problem. OK. The president said we're not going to negotiate. He said -- you know, he's threatening to attack all the time. There's very little chance North Korea -- actually no chance is going to do what he wants, give up their nuclear weapons just because he says so. So we're basically at a stalemate.

The South Koreans are very worried about that. The region is very worried about that. OK. So, fine, he's not ramping up the tension right this moment. That doesn't actually get us to where we need to be, and where we need to be is eventually to talk to the North Koreans. Just try to solve this problem.

BRIGGS: Where we are is brinksmanship. Where has that rhetoric -- the president said in Japan the weak rhetoric for the last 25 years didn't work, that his strong rhetoric is.

[03:05:05] Is that the reality? What --


BRIGGS: Where are we?

ROGIN: Weak rhetoric, strong rhetoric, neither of those things is responsible for where we are. First of all the main reason where we are where we are is because of North Korea. OK. The blame lies with the North Koreans who are building, testing nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles. You know, threatening their neighbors --


BRIGGS: Right. But hasn't that all ramped up exponentially during that harsh, strong rhetoric?

ROGIN: Yes. It got worse during the Bush administration, it got worse during the Obama administration. It's getting worse every day. It's more dangerous today than it was yesterday. It's going to be more dangerous tomorrow than it was today.

Now what the Trump administration says -- not the president but the people who actually work on this stuff is that we've ended the era of strategic patience. They're doing more, they're doing more sanctions, they're doing more pressure, they're more everything. It still hasn't worked. Now, the question is, what is doing more lead to? You can have pressure, pressure is fine. Everybody thinks we need to pressure them. Pressure is not an end. Pressure is a means to an end. The end is the negotiation.

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: Eventually we've got to sit down and talk to these guys, as difficult and as unpleasant as that's going to be. If you're not going to do that and they're not going to give up their nuclear weapons by themselves, then you're talking about an attack and a war, and that's a nightmare scenario that nobody wants to see.

ROMANS: Is there a feeling that Rex Tillerson and the Department of State behind the scenes is working on, setting up these pathways to actually talk to the North Koreans?

ROGIN: Yes, so there are channels. There are North Koreans who hang out in New York at the U.N. Mission. We talk to them on a regular basis. There are North Koreans traveling around the world that meet with experts and diplomats, and we talk to them, too.

The problem is everybody knows when they see Rex Tillerson or Rex Tillerson's guy that he doesn't necessarily speak for the United States because every time he says something about negotiations the president comes in and tweets out, forget about negotiations. He literally tweets hey, stop wasting your time, Rex Tillerson. We're not going to negotiations.

Now again sure negotiations have failed, nothing works until it works. But that begs the question what else are you going to do? War would be a nightmare scenario. Nobody wants that. So eventually at some point we're going to have to negotiate. There's no other way to look at it.

BRIGGS: What's stopping President Trump from attacking North Korea?

ROGIN: Well --

BRIGGS: Congress? Is there any way Congress can?

ROGIN: So, you know, I did a whole column looking at this. If President Trump decides to attack North Korea today he can do it. There's nobody that can stop him. Not the secretary of Defense, not the Congress, not our allies.

BRIGGS: No authorization needed.

ROGIN: He is the guy with his finger on the button. Now what's stopping him is the fact that once he does that we're in a whole new world, right, where the North Koreans will retaliate, millions of South Koreans will die, hundreds of thousands of Americans who live in the region will die.


ROGIN: Americans who live all over the world might die. And that creates, essentially, you know, the risk of a nuclear war that will change the face of the earth forever. That's what's stopping him. Now interestingly if you think about it, that's also what's stopping Kim Jong-un because Kim Jong-un knows that if he starts the war, that'll be the end of his regime. It's called deterrence. Right?

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: And deterrents has worked essentially for decades. Now that doesn't mean it's not profoundly dangerous and it doesn't mean we don't have to deal with this right away. But that mutual deterrence, if you believe that Kim Jong-un is rational and not crazy and if you believe that Donald Trump is rational and not crazy, and if you're working under that assumption, then neither side should start the war and neither side should do what we can in international law break the peace.

Once you break the peace all bets are off. So the calamity and the sheer destruction and cost to humanity of a world war, that's what's stopping them.

ROMANS: You can see it there right on your screen, we're waiting for this event to begin. This is an address to the Korean National Assembly, and this will be his most formal opportunity on this trip to lay out what is his plan. What is his stance on the region. What are you expecting from him?

ROGIN: OK. So I've talked to administration officials who have been preparing these speeches. All right? We're going to see tough language, OK. He's going to talk about trade, he's going to criticize the U.S. free -- Korean free trade agreement, which he does all the time.

We're not going to see any big announcements. We're not going to see any big reveals. He doesn't have a new trick up his sleeve that no one ever thought about before. OK. The choices are still the same as they were. We're going to see a reassurance that the U.S. will protect its ally, South Korea, right? We're the big senior partner, they're the junior partner. They live under the protection of our nuclear umbrella. We're going to see a call for them to get tough on North Korea.


ROMANS: Do you think -- what's the China position in all of this? From his perspective.

ROGIN: I think the president again has been very consistent. They want China to do more. China has done a little bit more, they haven't done a lot more, right. So the policy is pretty clear, right. The path that we're on is pretty clear. You know, the question -- we're not expecting any big deliverables. Right? The way the Trump people think about these trips, they don't think about it as, oh, we go to South Korea and we get something, or we go to China and China gives us something.

[03:10:05] They'll have little announcements here and there, but basically we're going to see a reassertion of the Trump administration policy. A call to action to be strong against North Korea. A condemnation of North Korea's illicit activities. That's about it. BRIGGS: Quickly let's talk about the man behind the other podium

shortly. Moon Jae-in, we have not spoken enough about. He was elected.

ROGIN: Right.

BRIGGS: On the concept of direct engagement with North Korea.

ROGIN: Right.

BRIGGS: How will the president respect his wishes?

ROGIN: Right.

BRIGGS: And the will of the people that put him in office?

ROGIN: Right. Now this depends on whether President Trump reads carefully from the teleprompter or not. Because if he reads carefully from the teleprompter he's not going to say anything that insults Kim Jong -- I'm sorry, Moon Jae-in.

BRIGGS: Moon Jae-in.

ROGIN: The South Korean president, who was elected on a policy of engagement. They used to have a Sunshine Policy, now they call it the Moon Shine policy, all right? The idea here is this is a liberal Korean government. That Korean government is under attack because when he was elected the tensions weren't nearly this high. So as North Korea gets more dangerous, they get more defensive and they're in a worse and worse position. And politics in South Korea are very, very tense right now.

So, you know, if -- again, if Trump sticks to the script then you won't insult the guy who he's standing next to. OK. Because you're not supposed to do that. There's no upside in having a meeting with a guy and then saying something that's going to hurt him or insult him. That doesn't make any sense.

Now if he gets asked the question, hey, what about this guy's, you know, engagement policy. Who knows what he's going to say.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: All right. We'll see if we can you some coffee, Josh Rogin, from the "Washington Post." He's going to stick with us throughout the program.

ROMANS: Yes. We're expecting that, you can see, and Moon Jae-in in few minutes.

BRIGGS: Any moment now.

ROMANS: All right. Now he helped bring down the gunman at a Texas church. Next hear from the man who shot Devin Kelley, helping bring an end to his rampage.


[03:15:30] ROMANS: Investigators say they have recovered more than 15 empty magazines of 30-round capacities from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, where 26 people were killed Sunday. That's just some of the evidence painting an angry and violent picture of gunman Devin Patrick Kelley.

BRIGGS: 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 Kelley's 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. And 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 that they are going to carry out an investigation into what went wrong along with the Pentagon -- Christine, Dave.

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

Arizona Senator John McCain promising rigorous oversight by the Armed Services Committee as the military investigates what led to the Air Force's failure to relay Kelley's conviction to civilian law enforcement. McCain chairs the Armed Services Committee.

BRIGGS: We are also learning the gunman originally faced multiple weapons charges at his 2012 court-martial. That included two charges of pointing a loaded firearm at his wife. Kelley was also arrested on animal cruelty charges in 2014 in Colorado after witnesses reported he punched a dog several times in the head and neck.

ROMANS: As for why he targeted the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church evidence points to a personal dispute. Police say Kelley had a contentious relationship with his former mother-in-law who was a church member. We know he sent her threatening texts that morning. She was not at the church at the time of the shooting. His ex-wife's grandmother, Lulu White, was among those killed.

BRIGGS: Also now hearing from the church neighbor who shot and chased after the Texas gunman. Stephen Willeford says he heard gunfire at the church, grabbed his rifle, and exchanged gunfire, hitting the shooter twice.


STEPHEN WILLEFORD, SHOT AND CHASED TEXAS GUNMAN: These people at that church, they are friends of mine, their 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, I was scared for my own family that just lived less than a block away.


ROMANS: Remarkable his wherewithal.

After the gunman jumped into his SUV and sped away, Willeford flagged down the driver of a nearby pickup, Johnnie Langendorff. The 10- minute high speed chase ended when the shooter turned the gun on himself.

It is election day across the U.S. The mostly closely watched race in this off-year is for Virginia governor, an election seen by many as a referendum on President Trump. Republican Ed Gillespie, a former lobbyist, longtime GOP strategist, now neck and 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.

BRIGGS: Sure would. And New Jersey Democrat Phil Murray squares off against Republican Kim Guadagno in the race to succeed Governor Chris Christie. Guadagno is Christie's lieutenant governor. Murphy, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, also served as Finance chairman for the DNC.

ROMANS: 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.

BRIGGS: In Utah, John Curtis, Democrat Kathy Allen and United Utah candidate Jim Bennett, they're battling to fill the congressional seat vacated by Republican Jason Chaffetz.

[03:20:10] You can see in the bottom right of your screen, the president along with South Korean president Moon Jae-in approaching the podiums, about to give remarks in Seoul, South Korea -- Christine.

ROMANS: Let's listen into this. We expect there will be remarks and questions. So let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): First of all, President Moon Jae-in of Republic of Korea will give a speech, followed by President Trump.

Please allow me to invite President Moon Jae-in to the stage.

MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (Through Translator): I extend my heartfelt welcome to the visit by Your Excellency, President Donald Trump and Madame First Lady to South Korea. His visit marks the first state visit by the U.S. president to Korea in 25 years and President Trump is also the first state guest for myself and my government.

The special bond forged between President Trump and myself I find it very meaningful and I'm gratified to be part of it. President Trump and I met and communicated with each other numerous times building deep trust and consolidating our friendship. Today we had candid discussions about steadfastness of rocky U.S. alliance. Moreover we agreed to work towards resolving North Korean nuclear issue in a peaceful manner and bringing permanent peace to the Korean peninsula.

Against escalating nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, we reaffirmed our principle that we must maintain strong stance toward North Korean threats based on overwhelming superiority of power. President Trump has reaffirmed his ironclad commitment to defend Korea and President Trump and I agree to further strengthen the robust combined defensive culture of our two countries.

In this regard, President Trump and I agree to expend rotational deployment of U.S. strategic asset in and around Korean peninsula. We will step up our collaboration to enhance Korea's self-defense capability to unprecedented levels. To this end we reached a conclusion today to lift the payload limit on Korean missiles completely. There was a final agreement. We also agreed to begin consultation for Korea's acquisitions and development of Korea state of art military reconnaissance assets.

Once again we strongly urge North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile provocation and to come to dialogue table for denuclearization as soon as possible. President Trump and I reaffirmed our current strategy which is to maximize pressure and sanctions on North Korea until he gives up nuclear weapons and to come to the table for dialogue on its own.

At the same time, should North Korea choose to make the right choice, we also reaffirmed our view that we are willing to offer North Korea a bright future. Based on such common approach between our two countries we will continue to lead efforts to bring peaceful and fundamental solutions to North Korean nuclear issues. We will maintain close collaboration with international community, including the neighboring countries.

I sincerely hope that President Trump's visit at this time will be a turning point for the situation on the Korean peninsula in a stable manner. Today President Trump and I visited Pyeongtaek base, which is a symbolic venue for showing the future of ROK-U.S. alliance and also Korea's contribution to the alliance.

As we gave our words of encouragement to Korean and American service members who are striving to realize our common goal, we could feel the strong friendship of Korea and U.S. alliance on descent.

[03:25:07] President Trump and I also agree to continue strengthening of the combined defense cultures and capabilities of the bilateral alliance by pursuing defense cost sharing at an adequate and reasonable level.

Last but not least, we reaffirm that economic cooperation is important pillar of ROC-U.S. alliance. We share the view that economic cooperation is a critical element in our efforts to pursue sustainable future oriented ROK-U.S. alliance. In order to enjoy the benefit of free, equitable and balanced trade together we agreed to have the relevant authorities expedite the prospect of KOR's FDA consultation.

By sharing the universal value and add the fruits of economic prosperity with the human kind President Trump and I agree to make joint contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world. We also agreed to continue strengthening cooperation for global challenges, including issues of terrorism, women, human rights and public health.

President Trump requested that I need to talk with him continuously and we agreed that we will continuously have a frequent and close communications and by doing that we'll further strengthen the trust and ties between us and also solidify the bilateral alliance.

Once again I extend warm welcome to president and Madame first lady's visit to Korea. Please enjoy the beautiful autumn weather and fine deepening of friendships in our two countries as well as our two leaders.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Thank you very much. That was an opening statement by President Moon Jae-in, which will be followed by President Donald Trump.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, President Moon. Thank you for honoring us with the invitation to be here today. And for the incredibly warm welcome and magnificent ceremony you have given us during our first trip to the very beautiful city of Seoul.

Thank you very much. Melania and I had a wonderful time having tea with you and First Lady Kim. Thank you. At the beautiful Blue House, which I've heard so much about and now get to visit and see firsthand. We're looking forward to joining you for dinner this evening and we have much to discuss.

Today the president and I had an opportunity to talk about a range of vital economic and security matters, including our trade relationship and our joint efforts to solve North Korea's grave nuclear threat to South Korea and, indeed, the entire world. This is a world-wide problem.

The Republic of Korea is more than a longstanding ally of the United States. We are partners and friends who fought side by side in a war and really worked very hard and prospered toward a great and lasting peace. I feel confident that we'll be able to reach a free, fair and

reciprocal trade deal as we renegotiate our current five-year-old trade document. We cannot allow North Korea to threaten all that we have built and we built it very much together and we're very, very proud of it also together.

But all that we've built in the decades since our soldiers sacrificed side by side in the struggle for freedom, our alliance is more important than ever to peace and security on the Korean peninsula and across the Indo-Pacific region. That is why Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, who's with us today, and Secretary of Defense Mattis, who was here just a short time ago have all travelled to Seoul in the first year of my administration.

It was very important to me that they did. North Korea's sixth test of a nuclear device and its missile launches are a threat not only to the people of South Korea, but to the people all across our globe. We will together confront North Korea's actions and prevent the North Korean dictator from threatening millions of innocent lives.

He is indeed threatening millions and millions of lives so needlessly. North Korea is a world-wide threat that requires world-wide 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.