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Trump Calls on North Korea to 'Make a Deal'; Air Force Failed to Report Texas Killer's Conviction. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:04] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, November 7, 6 a.m. here in Washington. Chris is in New York.

And we begin with breaking news, President Trump calling on North Korea to, quote, "come to the table and make a deal." The president toning down his more aggressive rhetoric at a press conference with South Korea's leader. Mr. Trump vowing to use military force against North Korea if needed but stopping short of saying whether he wants direct diplomatic talks with Pyongyang.

The president also facing more questions about the Texas church massacre. Mr. Trump claims that extreme vetting for gun ownership would not have prevented this attack. Instead, he insists that hundreds more might be dead if a good Samaritan had not also had a gun.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Here's what we know now about this man. The Air Force is investigating why it failed to report a court-martial conviction to a national database. That database is meant to prevent those convicted of domestic violence from owning guns. This comes as police say the killer was threatening his wife's family before going on this spree.

And it's election day here in the U.S. Could that tight governor's race in Virginia be a preview for next year's midterm elections?

Let's begin with CNN's Jeff Zeleny, live in Seoul, South Korea, traveling with President Trump -- Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning.

President Trump said it was time to act with urgency and great determination toward North Korea. But in a press conference he gave earlier this morning with the South Korean president, one thing was missing. It was the bellicose name calling that he's been engaged in for much of the summer. In fact, he left the door open to direct talks of diplomacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump called military force a last resort in confronting North Korea but said it could still be a necessary one if Kim Jong-un won't back away from his nuclear ambitions.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a nuclear submarine also positioned. We have many things happening that we hope -- we hope -- in fact, I'll go a step further, we hope to God we never have to use.

ZELENY: Visiting the Korean Peninsula for the first time today, standing in Seoul, only 35 miles from the North Korean border, the president said sanctions appear to be starting to work. He would not say whether he supported direct diplomatic talks, which he blasted only weeks ago as a waste of time.

TRUMP: We like to play our cards a little bit close to the vest.

Yes, I think we're making a lot of progress.

ZELENY: But he called on leaders in the world, singling out Russia and China, to stand up to Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: He is indeed threatening millions and millions of lives so needlessly.

North Korea is a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action.

ZELENY: Standing side by side with South Korean President Moon, Mr. Trump took a far-more measured tone, stopping well short again today of belittling Kim Jong-un, as he has repeatedly done in recent weeks back in the U.S.

TRUMP: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.

They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen.

ZELENY: Instead, the president made a show of force as he visited Camp Humphreys, where thousands of American troops are based. At a briefing with U.S. and South Korean military commanders, the president expressing optimism the nuclear standoff could be peacefully resolved.

TRUMP: Ultimately, it will all work out. It always works out. It has to work out.

ZELENY: Mr. Trump has been critical of President Moon, once saying South Korea's appeasement with North Korea would not work. But this visit was all about diplomacy, amid escalating tensions with the North.

TRUMP: Thank you so much for that beautiful ceremony. It doesn't get more beautiful than that.

ZELENY: President Trump once again facing questions about the church massacre in Texas. The president was asked if increased vetting for gun purchases in the U.S. would not have stopped the carnage.

TRUMP: You're bringing up a situation that probably shouldn't be discussed too much right now.

If you did what you're suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago. And you might not have had that very brave person, who happened to have a gun or rifle in his truck, go out and shoot him and hit him and neutralize him. If he didn't have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: And back here in Seoul, the president will be addressing the national assembly before leaving Seoul for China. He will be putting more historical context on his view of North Korea, again calling for the world to help confront the rising threat.

And, Chris, interesting: this week, before the weekends, the president will have a meeting with the president of China and the president of Russia. Of course, North Korea, among other things, will be first and foremost on that agenda.

CUOMO: Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much for the reporting from Seoul, South Korea.

So North Korea closely following President Trump's words, watching what he's going to say tonight when he addresses South Korea's national assembly. We have Will Ripley live in Pyongyang, North Korea. CNN, once again, the only American network there. Will has visited that isolated country more than a dozen times.

This time is special, Will. They're listening for a message, and we already have indications that the president may throw them a little bit of a curveball.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because the administration has been hinting for a while now that they're going to announce whether to add North Korea back to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a list that they were taken off almost ten years ago when there were discussions back then about North Korea's nuclear program. We know how that has turned out. North Korea now has a growing nuclear arsenal. They've threatened more nuclear tests and missile launches.

[06:05:11] And the big question is, when is it going to happen? Because it is pretty much inevitable that North Korea will test their weapons programs. They said they need to round off their nuclear program. But will they do it while President Trump is here in the region?

Obviously encouraging that the president hasn't said anything in South Korea to exacerbate the situation. But the sense that I get from officials here in Pyongyang, they feel that the president and the administration have already said enough. We know that diplomacy has broken down. There are joint naval exercises happening right now in the waters off the Korean Peninsula in just a matter of days. Even larger naval drills, involving three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups will get under way. That is certainly infuriating for the North Korean government. But these missile launches and nuclear tests are not necessarily rash acts where they're sitting by the television, waiting for President Trump to say the word before they push the button. They're going to do it at what they feel is the right time to get the maximum impact.

And again, their ultimate goal here is regime survival. They're not going to do anything that they think would intentionally trigger a war with the United States. Although that's still a very great danger. Many people in the region very concerned about that -- Chris, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Will, thank you very much.

It's great to have you there. So stay with us, if you would. And we want to bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory; and CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. Great to have all of you here.

So David Gregory, what do you make of the shift from "Rocket Man," the talk of "Rocket Man" and that kind of rhetoric, to now "I hope that they'll come to the table"?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think you have to consider the audience for President Trump right now. He's in the region where showing up in form is often more important in these meetings than the true substance. There is a diplomatic track going on. He's very scripted over there, something that we don't often see, certainly, when he's back home.

But on a foreign trip like this, he's been very scripted. And I imagine the bilateral meetings that he's happening, bilateral meetings, are rather scripted, as well.

I think there's a lot of things are going on at once. And what would be included in that is as much of a show of force as possible to the North on the part of the United States, working with allies in the region. All the talk about Japan getting more American hardware and weaponry. South Korea and the United States doing joint exercises, and meeting with China. Will there be an effort to put more economic pressure on? All of that happening to perhaps give North Korea an out, some kind of out, where everyone could pull back from how far things have gone.

CUOMO: David Sanger, tonight is the big speech. What does the president have to achieve tonight for it to be defined as a success?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think two things, Chris.

The first is, remember that the United States and South Korea have not been on the same page on North Korea. President Moon, who just came into office a few months ago, has made it clear that he would never approve or allow a preemptive strike against the North. And that, in some ways, undercuts the president's strategy. All of the fiery rhetoric that you heard before on the tape and that David just referred to, is all about convincing the North that, if they don't actually find a way to stop the testing and then begin to dismantle the nuclear program, there could be military action. And the South Koreans have said, "We'll never permit it."

So, what he's got to do in the speech tonight, to my mind, is basically two or three things. First, keep the North from making clear a split between South Korea and the United States.

Second, show a firm resolve but also, as David suggested, offer some kind of an off-ramp. That's why I thought it was so fascinating that he said today that there could be some kind of deal made. That's different rhetoric from what the administration has said before, which is the only deal is complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The third thing he's got to do is make clear that he would bring -- make sure the allies were with him before he took any real action. Otherwise, you're going to see a split.

CAMEROTA: So, Will, you're on the ground there in Pyongyang. What do you hear from officials there in North Korea about a possible off ramp or deal?

RIPLEY: Well, North Korean officials told me just a couple of weeks ago when I met with a senior diplomat here that they don't feel they can talk with the Trump administration.

Diplomacy, and we have this confirmed from several sources, broke down after President Trump's speech at the United Nations General Assembly when he used those fiery terms like "totally destroying North Korea." He called their leader, Kim Jong-un, "Rocket Man." And while he has dialed that back, North Korea certainly hasn't forgotten about that.

And yes, it's been nearly two months since they've conducted any sort of military test. But there are a lot of reasons why that may or may not be. We simply don't know the thinking of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But what we do know is that the North Koreans in their messaging repeatedly and even this week have warned the United States not to underestimate their abilities, not to underestimate their arsenal. And officials here said they want to send the Trump administration a very clear message, because talk, they feel, simply wouldn't be effective, given the mixed messaging that has come out of the administration.

[06:10:11] GREGORY: I also think it's also important to remember the -- the obsession with survival that the North has. That that is the real concern, that the regime is going to be taken over. And even the Chinese are sympathetic to that. They don't want American influence right at its doorstep. So they like the buffer of the North.

And I think that goes to the point of whether we can get far enough along where it looks to be tense enough that there's some off ramp, as David Sanger is saying.

CUOMO: I'm sorry. David has made the point before, both Davids actually, that you know, we have to remember the context. For North Korea, this is existential. So what seems like political prattle from the president and just pushback and tough talk is received differently and that's the concern about what that dynamic might yield.

In terms of mixed messages, David Gregory, let's hop to a different topic. In light of the fact that the U.S. Air Force did not communicate information that it was supposed to to the national database about the murderer in Texas, and that is why he was able to get rifles that he used in this crime, the president gave a mixed message. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There would have been no difference three days ago. And you might not have had that very brave person who happened to have a gun or a rifle in his truck go out and shoot him and hit him and neutralize him. And I can only say this. If he didn't have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now obviously, this is all speculation by the president. But it seems to be a specious premise, David Gregory. Because forget about extreme vetting or whatever fancy label you want to put on it. If they had communicated the information the way they were supposed to, the man wouldn't have been able to pass off his paperwork.

We know from the Texas governor that he was stopped from getting a certain kind of carry permit because of what they knew about him. But this goes to how the system works and that it is often insufficient, that there are gaps and lapses and you have problems.

So how are we to take the president's suggestions?

GREGORY: Well, first of all, what he should have emphasized or what anybody should emphasize is that there are measures in place to prevent this man from ever getting a weapon. And it was the military, it was the Air Force that dropped the ball tragically, by failing to communicate that information about what this guy was. He was a wife beater, child abuser. He had this violent past. There's no way he should have had a weapon in his hands and been able to buy a weapon. That's our existing system.

So it goes to the point that people will make, which is to say you've got to enforce current laws. You've got to put those measures in place that exist to keep guns out of his hands.

To what the president said, it's belied by the facts. We've seen it in the data. That our problem in America is way too many guns, both legal and certainly illegal. And the fact that those states like Texas that have lax gun laws, have easier access to concealed weapons and laws and guns in general. They get lots good guys with weapons but even more bad guys with weapons. That's part of the problem, is how do they make it harder, how do they make it less accessible?

People like David Sanger's colleagues at "The Times," Nick Kristoff, have done around defining this as public health and not just public policy and taking a look at how we make some real impact on this. CAMEROTA: But David Sanger, listen, the president started today in

his press conference with that same old NRA talking point: " It's too soon to talk about this. People are grieving. We can't talk about it. We can't look at what went wrong."

But then he did ultimately answer the question. And so do you think that in some ways this issue of gun violence will keep coming up on his Asia trip and eclipse some of what he's trying to do here?

SANGER: Well, it already has, and I'm sure it won't go away.

I thought what was most notable, Alisyn, was what was missing. It would have been just as easy for the president to say, "This man never should have had a gun. Clearly, there was some lapse on the part of the Air Force." And he could have said, "I'm calling for a complete investigation and a public report to explain what happened here, because he shouldn't have a gun, even if the person who ultimately engaged him outside the church, very bravely, may well have been perfectly legally licensed."

That doesn't strike me as something that would have been very difficult for him to say.

I also think it's also interesting that he never discusses this in terms of public health or public safety. And yet a week ago, when we had the tragic case in New York of an extremist who ran down and killed eight people and injured many more, he had no problem the same day of the attack as talk -- for talking about extreme vetting and his changes in immigration.

[06:15:06] So there's a bit of a double standard here, that right after an incident like this, it's politically acceptable to discuss changes in the immigration laws, a perfectly reasonable thing to discuss, but not politically acceptable to discuss what we've learned about our gun laws.

CUOMO: Right. The hypocrisy is obvious. Studies don't show that the United States has a higher rate of mental illness. It does have 25 times the average when it comes to gun deaths. So clearly, if you look at what the problem is, it's fairly obvious. Whether you want to deal with it is another question.

Fellows, appreciate it very much.

Let's get to the Texas church massacre investigation itself. U.S. Air Force has confirmed what had been reported, which is that it did fail to inform law enforcement about the killer's conviction for domestic violence. That move stopped the process from working. Had they reported it, this gunman should have been kept from buying the rifles that he bought and used.

We're also learning more about the shooter's dark and violent past. We have CNN's Diane Gallagher, live in Sutherland Springs with the latest. What do we know?

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, we're starting to get a clearer picture of, really, these cruel details of what happened inside that sanctuary on Sunday morning. According to authorities, the killer emptied 15 magazines -- we're talking about 450 rounds at First Baptist Church.

And perhaps the most chilling of all is that, in retrospect, it appears that the warning signs were there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The Air Force admitting that they failed to alert federal authorities about Devin Patrick Kelley's history of domestic abuse, the state which could have prevented him from purchasing the rifle he used to carry out Sunday's massacre, adding to his arsenal of weapons.

COL. DON CHRISTIANSON (RET.), FORMER CHIEF U.S. AIR FORCE PROSECUTOR: Somebody really dropped the ball in this case and there's 26 dead people now.

GALLAGHER: An investigation now under way by the Air Force inspector general as court records offer insight into the shooter's violent past. Back in 2012, the shooter pled guilty to assaults in 2011 and 2012 against his first wife and aggravated assault against his infant stepson.

CHRISTIANSON: He would often be physically violent with his son, include violently shaking him. As a result of that, his stepson had suffered fractures, had a subdermal hematoma.

GALLAGHER: Kelley was also charged with pointing loaded and unloaded guns at his wife, but those charges were dropped as a result of a plea agreement. Now, as punishment, Kelley served one year in a military prison and was given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force in 2014 along with reduction in rank.

That same year, a neighbor at a Colorado RV park told police that he saw the shooter beat a dog, allegations that Kelley denied before being cited for animal cruelty.

Kelley remarried in 2014. Police say the killer had recently had become obsessed with a family dispute, and he sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, including the morning of the shooting. She was not in church on Sunday, but another family member was. Kelley's wife's grandmother, Lulu White, was killed in the attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't go into details about that domestic situation that is continuing to be vetted and thoroughly investigated.

GALLAGHER: Joaquin Ramirez and his wife Joanne Scalise (ph) witnessed the unspeakable horror firsthand. Joanne (ph) was shot in the arm.

JOANNE SCALISE (PH), SHOT IN ARM BY GUNMAN: It was so scary. And that man was shooting. I mean, he was shooting hard.

GALLAGHER: The shooting stopped for a moment as the gunman went aisle for aisle, looking for survivors. SCALISE: I thought it was the police when I saw the feet, because

everybody got real quiet. And be quiet. Everybody was saying, "Be quiet. That's him. That's him."

GALLAGHER: Ramirez says the killer shot crying babies inside the church point blank. Stephen Willeford, the local resident who confronted and chased down the killer after he fled the church, recounting his story to CNN affiliate KHBF.

STEPHEN WILLEFORD, CHASED DOWN KILLER: People in that church, they're 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.

GALLAGHER: Willeford shot the killer, once in the leg and torso before police say that Kelley took his own life.

WILLEFORD: I'm no hero. I am not. I think my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done. And I just wish I could have gotten there faster.

GALLAGHER: Scott Holcomb, who lost eight family members, spanning three generations, telling CNN that he met the killer, and he's confident that Kelley knew every person in the church where he carried out the massacre.

The tight-knit community coming together Monday to remember the victims, including the 14-year-old daughter, the church's pastor who was killed in the attack.

[06:20:08] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded yesterday by her church family that she loved fiercely.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GALLAGHER: And one thing we're learning as we start to learn more about each of these victims, is that a substantial number of them are children. The surrounding school districts here, some of them acknowledging that they've lost students, that several have been injured. They've remained open, though. They have guidance counselors there trying to help them out.

Vice President Pence visits this area tomorrow. And after that, they begin burying their dead, continuing to grieve and trying to get back to normal or, Alisyn, whatever normal is now for Sutherland Springs.

CAMEROTA: It's hard to imagine, Diane, what that normal could be ever there, angle there. Thank you very much for the reporting.

So as Diane just said, the Air Force failed to report civilian authorities to the violent past of this gunman. There were so many warning signs. So what can change now? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. So, look, we've had a big development, and it really matters, specifically to what happened in Texas, and in this bigger discussion about how do we stop these damn things before they happen again.

The U.S. military didn't alert civil law enforcement about the Texas church killer's court martial conviction for domestic assault in 2014. This matters, because had they done that, that type of conviction prevents you from buying a gun.

So let's discuss this with CNN law enforcement analyst Art Roderick and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.

Phil, from a practical standpoint, the reason there's pushback on what the president said about extreme vetting wouldn't have made a difference and maybe then the guy, this neighbor who heroically took this guy on, maybe he wouldn't have had a gun. It's not just that that's speculative, but it's a specious premise, because we know that there was a lapse in the system that allowed this man much easier access to a weapon. It's a fair point, is it not?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I mean, this is not that complicated, Chris. If you're the president of the United States, there's a couple of basic questions. One looks back, and one looks forward.

How about the basic question saying, "I've ordered everyone to look at this, ask how we improve and also ask that critical question of whether anybody else flew under the radar on this, and furthermore, whether we have to go retrieve weapons from people who are in similar situations, that is who are not reported.

There's a second issue. I think Art would have a better perspective than I, but that is looking forward.

I would be looking at this saying, why are we doing this on paper? When someone walks in to buy a weapon in the 21st century, you would think we'll be headed towards biometrics. You don't fill out a piece of paper. You put down a fingerprint or you get an iris scan, an eye scan to determine what your past record is.

We have a lot of opportunity to improve here. And just saying we can't do better doesn't make any sense to me, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, look, that's a perfect segue. Art generously brought in today a firearms transaction record. You know, I filled one of these out before. And what he's done is -- let's see. Duber (ph), let me put you to the test, our director. Let's see if you can get anywhere close to that. All right. Of course you can't. But here's the form. If you know anything about gun ownership, you're going to have to fill one of these out.

And you see these circled areas here? These are all the ones that wind up being a function of truthful disclosure by the person who wants to buy the gun. And Art, your point is, this guy lied. OK? But we don't depend on the truthfulness of the person disclosing information when we're vetting something as serious as this. But often that winds up becoming important with gun sales. So explain how inconsistent that is with other procedures.

ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, there's -- there's two systems here. There's the NICS system that is used to immediately check national instant criminal check system. But that interfaces with something called a National Crime Information Center, NCIC, which we've been talking about the last couple days. And that really contains the criminal history of a particular individual.

But that requires an actual criminal clerk or an analyst to sit there and enter not only the arrest but the disposition of that particular case.

So a lot of times you might have a lower felony, an individual gets arrested for a lower felony. There's a plea bargain; it gets plea bargained down to a misdemeanor. And a lot of times, that is -- that disposition is not entered and you, as an investigator, have to go through every single arrest.

So what happened here in this particular case is a criminal clerk or an analyst from the Air Force did not enter the disposition of this case into NCIC so that it would have popped up on that original NICS chart.

CUOMO: So this guy then lied.

RODERICK: Right.

CUOMO: The system is not as efficient as it should be.

RODERICK: Right.

CUOMO: Here's the one making the point, Phil, is that it's just to show that there are things that you could do. Even the NRA talks about enforcing the laws that are already on the books. Yes, we don't do a good enough job about that. So you would think even that should be talked about right now, because if we don't talk about it right now, it won't happen.

Look at Las Vegas. Bump stock was a no brainer a month ago when we were out there. Now, nothing. Chuck Grassley, the senator, had to be asked about it. And he said, "Oh, yes, "I'm going to have a hearing on that very soon." Nothing scheduled. They're not going to deal with it. That's why the immediacy of the moment matters.

So we go to motive, Phil Mudd. We know that there was a lapse in the process here. We know that that helped this guy get a gun. Now we get to why he wanted it. It seems pretty clear why he wanted it. He went to the place where his in-laws went to church. He found his grandmother-in-law there. He took her life. Obviously, that's what it was from the texts and everything else we've seen, no?

MUDD: I think so, but there's a long distance, Chris, between what we think and what we know. I still want to see what the result of the interviews with the family is, and those will be -- those people might be interviewed over time. If there are discrepancies in interviews, this is why investigations take time. You've got to go back and re- interview.

I will say, it's striking the contrast between what we're seeing just in the past couple of days and what we're seeing in Las Vegas. In the 21st Century, in the digital world, you can find somebody's life by, as we're seeing, text messages, e-mails. You can match that up with interviews.

We're learning motive very quickly in the ways I would expect to learn motive in about 95-plus percent of cases. I contrast that with Las Vegas, and I'm still scratching my head at that one, that we don't have a clear picture out there. But I think you're right. This is going to be domestic violence. I'm just not sure yet. Give it another couple days.

CUOMO: Domestic violence, as Art and I were talking earlier--

RODERICK: Right.

CUOMO: -- people don't know how close the connection is between domestic violence and gun violence.