Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Calls on North Korea to 'Make a Deal'; Air Force Failed to Report Texas Killer's Conviction. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired November 7, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea is a worldwide threat. It's time to act with urgency and with great determination.
[07:00:24] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is defending his harsh rhetoric from before, but is not repeating that harsh rhetoric here on the Korean Peninsula.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: North Koreans repeatedly saying that they don't feel they can talk with the Trump administration, that they have to send a clear message.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was able to get four guns, even though he had this history of domestic violence.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We don't need politics right now. Evil is evil is evil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see a pattern in elected officials saying, "We need to send our thoughts" but then not proposing any action.
STEPHEN WILLEFORD, PURSUED TEXAS CHURCH SHOOTER: I think my lord gave me the skills to do what needed to be done.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is in Washington. This is election day, so we have a lot to cover.
Let's begin with breaking news: President Trump calling on North Korea to come to the table now and to make a deal. Very different talk than we've heard in the past. President Trump clearly toning down that heated rhetoric at this joint news conference with South Korea's president. He did vow to still use military force against North Korea, if necessary. Mr. Trump stopping short of saying whether he wants direct talks with Pyongyang.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president also facing questions, more questions about the Texas church massacre. He claims that extreme vetting for gun ownership would not have prevented the attack and that hundreds more may have died if not for a good Samaritan with a gun.
This comes as new details emerge about the Texas killer and his violent past.
So we have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He is live in Seoul, South Korea, traveling with President Trump.
Good morning, Jeff.
ZELENY: Good morning, Alisyn.
President Trump said he would use the full weight of the U.S. military to go after North Korea. But he said that in a very different way. He struck a conciliatory tone as we stand in the shadow of North Korea.
In fact, he even said the regime should come to the table and make a deal.
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: The president visiting the Korean Peninsula for the first time today, standing in Seoul, only 35 miles from the North Korean border. He 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 around 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.
[07:05:19] ZELENY: The president is wrapping up a state dinner this evening here in Seoul, once again spending time with President Moon. Now, before he leaves South Korea, he'll also be delivering a major policy speech, in fact, the biggest speech of his Asia swing this week. He'll be addressing the national assembly, again talking about the importance of a worldwide effort to go after and confront the North Korean regime.
And then it's on to China from here. Of course, China is so central to all of this conversation about North Korea. And it's that relationship between the president of the United States, President Trump and President Xi Jinping that bears the most watching on this trip.
CUOMO: What a turnabout here, Jeff. You know, we heard the president saying that Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State Tillerson, was wasting his time with diplomacy. A different message now, and it comes at the right time, because North Korea is going to be closely following President Trump's words. They'll be watching what he says tonight when he addresses South Korea's lawmakers.
What will be the reaction in North Korea? We are positioned there for you. Will Ripley, live in Pyongyang, North Korea. CNN once again the only American network there. This is Will's 17th visit to the reclusive nation.
This one is going to matter in a very special way, Will.
RIPLEY: Indeed, Chris. And the sense I get from speaking with North Korean officials here in Pyongyang, they know that the stakes are incredibly high right now. And it is encouraging to hear President Trump use a more measured tone, speaking in South Korea, about 120 miles from where I am here in the North Korean capital.
But what the North Koreans have made clear to me, even tonight, is that they say they are going to round off, in their words, their nuclear program. Which means at least one more nuclear test, a missile launch of a long-range missile, the kind that they say could reach the mainland United States.
They say these things are going to happen. What we don't know is when and exactly what may trigger that sort of a test. Could it be President Trump's speech? Could that be the time North Korea decides to demonstrate their own abilities, given the fact that senior diplomats have said that they don't feel that they can talk to the Trump administration right now, that first they have to send a clear message before they would be willing, down the road, to sit down for negotiations?
And keep in mind what the United States wants here is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And the North Koreans say that is simply a nonstarter. They say their nuclear weapons are here to stay -- Chris, Alisyn.
CUOMO: All right. Appreciate it. Thank you very much, Will.
Let's discuss the context here. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory and "New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristoff.
Nick, how big is this speech in South Korea tonight?
NICHOLAS KRISTOFF, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": I think it really is important. And a great improvement that President Trump, A, is not using the kind of extreme rhetoric about totally destroying North Korea and also that he's talking about trying to work out a deal. So this is really welcome, but I think one question is, you know, is this just a swerve while he is in South Korea, where there is a lot of anxiety about the American position? And more broadly, you know, at the end of the day, we have a strategy toward North Korea, seeking denuclearization by pressuring it on sanctions that almost everybody thinks is doomed. It's just really hard to see it working.
And so, if, indeed, North Korea continues with its tests, then is President Trump going to use military options? And I think there is a great anxiety among a lot of security experts that we -- that the risk of a war may be substantially greater than the American public realizes.
CUOMO: Well, it also plays into, though, Nick, a broader argument about the authorization for use of military force, right? Because the only way legally the president could take military action would be in response to direct and imminent threat to the United States. Anything after that should take congressional authorization, which gets us back to the debate that we still haven't heard in Congress, that they were promising so loudly just last week.
KRISTOFF: That's true. I think the Trump administration would present it as preemptive, to protect the U.S. But there -- there would be a lot of doubts about the legality of that.
There is an effort by some Democratic senators to say that President Trump would be able to make a preemptive strike against North Korea only with congressional authorization. I think that's unlikely to pass, frankly.
CAMEROTA: So David, listen, I mean, as Nick lays out the stakes, they're obviously very high. But the rhetoric has changed, and the tone seems to have been tamped down.
And it's just, you know, curious to see if that will help, in some ways, bring the North to the table. Because as Will Ripley reported, all the talk of "Rocket Man" did derail things on their side.
[07:10:04] DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think you have to realize what presidential trips are about, particularly to Asia, where there's a real focus on showing up on a lot of the form.
And remember, the headlines that he's getting in Asia, throughout the region, where there are people who are very anxious and have different views about North Korea. You know, there are a lot of South Koreans whose leader is following a more diplomatic track, whose leader has been criticized by President Trump for doing so. The Chinese, of course. And this is so much more real to them.
Should there be a preemptive strike, it's, of course, South Koreans who would face the immediate impact of that. The Japanese, a lot more talk about rearming and confronting the North Korean threat.
The bottom line is there's so much going on all at once. The president has been more measured. He's sticking to his script in Asia, which I think would reassure a lot of people. And he's suggesting that there's going to be some acceptance of the status quo. As much as America and others would like the North to be totally denuclearized and the peninsula be denuclearized, they may get a new position where they're effectively trying to get a freeze on all sides. And there's no question that this administration wants a stop to the testing. And that may be a new negotiating r
You were saying there's so much going on. There's so much on the table. How do you prioritize in terms of what needs to be addressed on this trip, what your concerns and potential pitfalls that you see?
KRISTOFF: I mean, North Korea is -- has to be simply at the top of the agenda. And it's -- you know, we really don't have very many options. One is long-term deterrence of North Korea, that has the. That's very unappetizing.
Another is a war. That's even more unappetizing. One study says that on the very first day, there would be a million -- a million deaths.
And the third option is some kind of, as David referred to it earlier, a freeze for a freeze. And that is what Rex Tillerson has been pursuing. I think that's also what the North Korean foreign ministry might be willing to accept. I think hard liners in North Korea would -- would not be -- would not find that very appealing, and I'm -- I think that's a last best hope. But I'm not sure it can be achievable at this point.
CAMEROTA: Obviously, back here at home, we're wrestling with this Texas church massacre and how it could happen. So President Trump was asked about that this morning. Listen.
(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 save this. If he didn't have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: I don't know, David Gregory. That's strange logic. If the guy with the assault conviction, who had a long history of domestic violence hadn't had the gun, we wouldn't have 26 dead.
GREGORY: And look, this is a failing of the system and existing laws, right? The U.S. Air Force failed to convey that this was a violent guy with a criminal past who shouldn't have had a weapon. I mean, that's a huge leakage in our existing system to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of people like this.
The problem is, the response, to go to the place of "what we need is more guns and more people shooting back," the facts belie that. Right? I mean, Nick has done great work in putting out a very smart kind of public health piece this morning in "The Times" about laxer laws lead to all kinds of people getting access to weapons who shouldn't have. And there has to be a different kind of approach to this, both politically and otherwise, that can create some momentum about making these not just rarer -- right, these kinds of rampages, which are still rare, but making them also less impactful.
And yes, in this situation, having someone there who can neutralize the shooter is part of that. But this was still horrible.
CAMEROTA: It didn't help soon enough.
GREGORY: Well, obviously, it didn't, but yes, it's not wrong to say it could have been worse. But that's not really what's relevant in terms of making these less severe.
CUOMO: Nick, what do you want people to know?
KRISTOFF: So I'll tell you, in general, the policies that have been most effective in addressing gun violence have been those that aren't so much targeted as -- at guns themselves but rather at access to them. And so, you know, there's no -- nobody would have denied this good Samaritan access to his weapon. But there should have been efforts to prevent the perpetrator in this case.
And, you know, there's a lot of talk about how the Air Force screwed up. And it absolutely did. But remember that 22 percent of guns are acquired without a background check in this country today.
[07:15:02] And so even if the Air Force had put his name on the list, he would have been able to go to a gun show, and through a private transaction, buy a weapon anyway.
And so a starting point is to make sure that everybody goes through a background check before acquiring a weapon. Ninety-three percent of gun owners support that policy. And, you know, there's a rare consensus here. It's not a magic wand. But would it help? Absolutely.
GREGORY: And I think the mental health piece, the president talked about that. And the administration initially rolled back greater efforts to restrict people with mental health problems from getting weapons.
But at the state level, I remember a few years ago in Colorado after one of the shootings there, they made some progress on getting access to records, to information about people with mental health histories in denying access to guns. I think that's absolutely the right approach.
KRISTOFF: Yes. You know, we actually have some good -- good examples there at the state level. So, Connecticut tightened its access to weapons. Missouri loosened them. So in Connecticut, gun homicides dropped 40 percent. In Missouri they rose 25 percent. Gun laws do matter.
CAMEROTA: I mean, there you go. Let's just go with what works. You know, forget the emotion, forget the ideology. Just go with what works, and those statistics are telling. Nicholas Kristoff, David Gregory, thank you both very much.
Now let's get more on the Texas church massacre investigation and where that is. The U.S. Air Force confirms that it failed to inform law enforcement about the killer's conviction for domestic violence. That's a move that could have prevented him from buying guns. We're also learning more about the shooter's violent past.
CNN's Diane Gallagher is live from Sutherland Springs, Texas, for us. What have you learned, Diane?
DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alisyn, as the hours and now days are passing, we're starting to learn, most importantly, more about each of these victims but also some cruel details about what happened inside that sanctuary on a Sunday morning.
Authorities telling us that he emptied 15 magazines -- that is 450 rounds -- at the First Baptist Church. And really, perhaps most chillingly, in retrospect, we're learning that the warning signs were there.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): The Air Force admitting that they failed to alert federal authorities about Devin Patrick Kelley's history of domestic abuse, a mistake that could have prevented the killer 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, you know, 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 pleaded 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 Kelley denied before being cited for animal cruelty.
Kelley remarried in 2014. Police say the killer had recently 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 witnessed the unspeakable horror firsthand. Joanne was shot in the arm.
JOANNE SCALISE, SHOT IN ARM BY GUNMAN: It was so scary. And that man was shooting. I mean, he was shooting hard.
GALLAGHER: They say 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.
[07:20:17] GALLAGHER: Scott Holcomb, who lost eight family members, spanning three generations, telling CNN he met the killer, and he is confident 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 of 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.
GALLAGHER: Now 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy, one of many children killed in that attack. The school systems around this area have remained open. They have counselors there. They've acknowledged that they've lost students. They have some that are still in the hospital. But they're trying to give this community a sense of normalcy.
Chris, I know that you were here, as well. You know just how difficult it is for this community. The next couple of days, as they start to bury their dead, are going to be even more difficult. And after that, they've got to figure out what normal is for Sutherland Springs again.
CUOMO: And you know, we just have never seen anything like this. It's the deadliest, you know, attack within a church. But in that small community where you have, what, maybe 500, 600 people, you know, even the people who live there aren't quite sure. But it's so small. You had about 10 percent of the population was directly victimized by this. Not to mention their family and loved ones. We've never seen a place hit so hard with so many different outreaches, so many different parts of that one small community.
Thank you for being there. Thank you for the reporting.
Look, we know that seeing what happened in Texas hollows out your heart, makes you angry. You want it to stop. You'll see it in the media with all this spontaneous outrage. But that doesn't get you anywhere if nothing is done about it. And that's easy to say, too. We have a Democratic lawmaker coming on. He's calling for change and an investigation. But what can be done to make what's on your screen less likely? Let's test it, ahead.
[07:26:20] CUOMO: President Trump is not calling for stricter gun laws after the massacre in a Texas church. If anything, he's suggesting we need more guns.
We've learned that the man who shot and killed 26 people should have never been allowed to buy a weapon. Remember the issue. The issue is access to weapons. His domestic assault conviction prevented him legally from purchasing guns. The Air Force that court-martialed him, put him in jail for a year, gave him a bad conduct discharge, reduced his rank but then failed to enter the charge into the law enforcement database.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's calling for an investigation into the Air Force failure. Look, they've acknowledged it. We'll have to see if this is something that happens enough to warrant some type of procedural change. But, you know, military reporting is probably not the root cause of the gun problem that we have in America.
What do you think will change? What do you think could change that would help us stem the violence?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Let's be very clear, first, Chris, that there's a federal law that requires the Air Force to report and the military in general to report these kinds of crimes to the federal database. This law, evidently, was not followed here.
BLUMENTHAL: And that's why I want an investigation.
But even more broadly, there are court-martials, thousands of them, every year, that involve very serious felonies as well as domestic violence misdemeanors. All of them should be reported. The preliminary information available to me is they're not being reported, and that is a major lapse in the system.
CUOMO: So what do you do about it? Look, you're touching on what the root is of one of these things that should be common ground. Common ground should be the laws that we have should be strictly enforced. OK? The NRA brings that up all the time and they get too much credit. You've got plenty of people on the right that own these positions, regardless of NRA influence. And on the left you say, yes, we've got to enforce the laws. So what do you do? If people aren't putting the proper data into the database, what do you do?
BLUMENTHAL: First of all, there has to be clear direction from the secretary of defense. And that's why I'm going to be writing to him today, asking for an explanation about exactly your question. It's the key question. What are they doing to enforce this law.
I'm a former prosecutor. I know how important enforcement is. The best laws on the books are dead letter if they're not enforced.
But more broadly, Chris, what we need is background checks that cover all the sales in this country, that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and, most particularly, domestic abusers.
There are lapses and loopholes in the current law. For example, they fail to apply to temporary protective orders. Domestic abuse and violence combined with guns are a toxic mix. In fact, women are five times more likely to die in domestic violence disputes if there is a gun in the house.
Fifty-five percent of all women who die from homicides are victims of domestic abuse. We have a clear and present, urgent problem, and we need to address it.
CUOMO: Thirty-five thousand people a year take their own lives with guns. So clearly, this is a broader concern, often gets ignored. But we wind up in the same place, don't we, sir? What will happen that will change anything that existed before the Texas massacre?
BLUMENTHAL: I think that what Alisyn said earlier, let's go with what works. We know background checks work. It has been proven in Connecticut, my state, where we've reduced serious crime as a result of the strong measures that have been introduced like background checks, a ban on assault weapons such as were used --