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President Trump Visits South Korea; President Trump's Recent Rhetoric on North Korea Analyzed; President Trump Comments on Texas Church Shooting; Interview with Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: He claimed 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 there are disturbing new details emerging about the Texas killer and his violent past. The Air Force is investigating why it failed to report a court-martial conviction to a national database. By failing to report it, there was nothing to flag with this man when he tried to buy these weapons.

Let's begin with CNN's Jeff Zeleny live in Seoul traveling with the president. We've heard a change in talk ahead of a very big speech tonight for the president tonight.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. There certainly is a more conciliatory tone from the president, no question. Some of the language is still strong. He's promising to use the full weight of the military in the confrontation with North Korea should that be necessary. But he also said that it's time for North Korea to make a deal to come to the table here.

Now, it's unclear if this is a change of strategy or simply the fact that the president is standing here in the shadow of North Korea about 35 miles from the border.


ZELENY: President Trump called military force a last resort in confronting North Korea, but said it could 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 will 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 appeared 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, signaling 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 shore of force as he visited Camp Humphreys where thousands of American troops are based. At a briefing with the U.S. and South Korean military commanders, the president expressing optimism the nuclear standoff could be peacefully resolved.

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

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

TRUMP: I want to 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 are bringing up a situation that probably shouldn't be discussed too much right now. If you did what you are 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 a rifle in his truck go out and shoot him and hit him and neutralize him. If he did not have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.


ZELENY: And just a short time ago the president finished a state dinner this evening, and he offered a bit of a surprise about what could be coming up tomorrow. He said he will have something in store. We don't know if he's talking about a surprise visit or some type of surprise announcement. But he also said he does indeed plan to give a comprehensive speech to the Korean national assembly.

And Chris, look for this to be the biggest and really most robust policy speech of laying out his doctrine, if you will, that he will give on his time over here. He is going to talk about the history of the Korean War, but again calling other world leaders here to join this fight against North Korea which this morning sounds much more conciliatory than it has in the past several months. Chris?

CUOMO: The world will be watching, Jeff, no question about that. It was good to have you with the president. There's going to be one set of ears in particular that will be watching.

[08:05:00] North Korea is going to be listening to everything the president says and does. Mr. Trump is going to give a big speech as Jeff was just telling you. That's tonight, and it's going to be before South Korea's parliament. So what will be the impact on the north? We have Will Ripley live in Pyongyang. CNN once again the only American network there. This is Will's 17th visit to the reclusive nation. What is the level of anticipation about the president's speech?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are going to be listening very closely, Chris. We know that the Trump administration has been hinting for several days now that they could be making an announcement to put North Korea back on the state of state sponsors of terrorism, a list that they were taken off almost 10 years ago during negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program. We know how that turned out. They now have a bigger nuclear arsenal than they ever have and our perfecting their missile capabilities.

And North Korean officials reiterated to me just within the last couple of hours that they will, in their words, round off their nuclear program, which means more nuclear tests and more missile launches. But the question is when, will they do that to coincide with President Trump's visit here in the region. And of course the unknown, how will the president and the administration respond to that? Of course it depends on what kind of test. North Korea has threatened everything from an above ground nuclear test to launching missiles in the direction of the U.S. territory of Guam. Both of those have not happened yet. But the North Koreans certainly are doubling down on the final steps, they say, for their nuclear program.

And even though President Trump did say that diplomacy is on the table, the North Koreans haven't ruled out talks either, the U.S. wants denuclearization and the North Koreans say their nukes are here to stay. They say that those nuclear weapons are essential to regime survival and that's what this is all about for them.

So they will be listening to the president's words. Words do matter. But they are watching the actions of the United States, and they say the joint naval drills underway, an even bigger drill set to begin in the coming days with three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups, the message from the United States is very clear and they are ready to send a clear message of their own. Chris and Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my goodness, Will, the stakes just couldn't be higher. Thank you very much for reporting for us from Pyongyang.

Let's discuss with CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN political director David Chalian. David Chalian, I will start with you, I am tired of David Gregory.


CAMEROTA: So why do you think that President Trump has toned down the rhetoric while he's in North Korea? Who has told him to do that?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We know there have been voices in his ear in the last several months in Rex Tillerson, in Secretary Mattis, who have been trying to keep this on course. I think the president is understanding that he's playing different notes here, right? There was sabre rattling phase, and by the way, that could come back tomorrow in a tweet. Let's not assume that we now all of a sudden have a completely new -- he can decide in a moment that he wants to go back to that.

But during that time of the hot rhetoric, there were people around him in the closest circle who were still trying to get this from escalating to a point of no return. And so now that he's in the region he's trying to play a different note in this process, and that's one that sounds a little more conciliatory.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's also a ramp up process to what the United States has done to prepare for war, frankly. You think about what the South Koreans have done, they have been on a more diplomatic track. Japan is talking about changing its constitution, buying more American military hardware.

It does set up a potential at least to find an off ramp for both sides, to say let's back down on both sides, and for the North to feel like they've extracted something. If what is happen something is an actual negotiation perhaps for a freeze of where we are to prevent future tests, but I think as David said, everything is happening right now. There are real negotiations, there's pretty hot rhetoric on all sides, and there's lot of anxiety among people in that region. That's who is listening to the president in the course of this trip right now, so I think he's staying extremely scripted, which is unusual. But he's doing that in the course of this trip so far.

CHALIAN: And they have been touting that they have been pleased with some signals from China stepping up and they feel that that pressure campaign on China seems to be working a bit to their benefit, too.

CUOMO: So it sounds like, David Gregory, you need to have a couple of pieces of pressure on Congress as the president is giving this big speech. The attention is on him and rightly so, but look at these contentious issues. If you are trying to get North Korea to the table, if that is the new direction, as the president seems to be indicating, of course subject to David Chalian saying he could change at any time, that takes you back to the Iran deal and Congress dealing with the certification right now because it's going to be hard to get the North to the table to do a deal if they see the past deal with Iran winds up being meaningless. And all the military ramping up brings us back to the issue of the authorization of using force. Congress said they were going to do it. Mattis came in and briefed them. Since then, nothing. How important are those contingent issues? GREGORY: Well, they're very important in terms of how a potentially

-- if it's a preventive strike -- would be argued, and whether Congress will assert a role to play, as some are trying to do with legislation, to say nothing can come without the acquiescence of Congress.

[08:10:12] But I don't think the administration wants to raise the flag of all the dangers of a potential military strike. I think what they want to do is try to buy themselves some room with the North to actually negotiate.

And you mentioned Iran. What I think is interesting is whether this administration, like previous administrations, will simply try to buy more time to forestall a certain outcome, in this case stop the North from continuing to develop what they got, and they want to stop them from testing. That's what is so provocative. And just like with Iran, trying to buy time to see if circumstances change, that may ultimately be what the administration is trying to do here.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's talk about the gun violence debate that, once again, is happening, David Chalian, after another sickening mass shooting, and once again we hear the same talking points trotted out, and we just had Senator David Perdue on, and he said there are enough gun laws on the books. We just have to enforce them. We hear that every time something is not working.

CHALIAN: What we continue to get tragedy after tragedy here now is a confirmation of a pattern, and no evidence that the pattern is breaking, which is that nothing is going to get done on this. There's no inkling of a change to that pattern. When you asked Senator Perdue about the bump stocks, his answer was Senator Feinstein has a bill. How that is a satisfactory answer to anyone that watched what occurred in Las Vegas, and there was all this momentum in the immediate aftermath about dealing with these bump stocks --

CAMEROTA: Does that mean the bill is working its way through Congress? Is that what he was --

CHALIAN: He said that Bill was going to go through committee, but I didn't hear him say, and I am committed to join her in that effort, or any sense, it was just a narration of the process and not a commitment to get to a solution.

GREGORY: And what is hypocritical about this is you don't hear this president or most Republicans saying, look, when it comes to terrorism we have to accept that some of these things are going to happen. What happened in New York, this stuff is going to happen. It's impossible to stop. But that appears to be the concession on gun violence. But at the same time, proponents of greater gun restrictions have got to take a different tact politically as well, focus on public health, focus on areas where there could be an agreement or maybe focus on some momentum in the states to move away from a series of outrage and then nothing getting done.

CAMEROTA: David Chalian, David Gregory, thank you both very much. CUOMO: They are poisonous. We've never heard during an alleged

terror attack, well, let's not talk about terror right now. Let's wait, let's give dignity to the victims. You attack why it happened because you want to give dignity to the victims, and we're going to do the same thing right now. Now is the time. And what suffers first in the second wave after the victimization, the facts wind up being victimized when it comes to guns. We will give you them next.


[08:17:17] CUOMO: All right. You give no dignity to the dead by abusing the facts. So, let's start with them. In the wake of the mass shootings, gun control or lack thereof, it gets hot, when facts become a casualty of politics.

Gun rights advocates will say that guns save more lives than they take, they cite statistics, which show guns are used 2.5 million times a year in self defense, and in those instances, the vast majority of times, the gun need only brandished his weapon or fire a warning shot to turn back his attacker.

Here's what they don't say, federal research on gun violence is spotty. That's a political problem. We don't want to take a look at this close enough. Why? It's a bigger discussion.

Second, their suggestion is misleading, because it's based on information from the '80s and '90s, the crime rate was much higher then. So, they extrapolate that data out to today, when we have a very different situation.

Third, their own number creates a frightening reality. For a gun to be used in self defense 2.5 million times a year, that's once every 13 seconds. All right?

So, the FBI actually counts the average of justified homicides that involved a gun. And they have about 213 a year from 2005 to 2010. So, there's clearly a leap being made here. Those numbers don't size up.

So, here is the reality, for all the talk about mental illness as the key, studies show the U.S. doesn't have more mental illness than anywhere else, but we do have 25 times the rate of gun murder, 25 times. Americans own more guns per capita than any other country. In fact, half of all civilian-owned guns in the world are owned by Americans.

America has more mass shootings than any other country in the world. We own more guns. We have more mass shootings. What are we going to do about it?

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.

It's good to have you, Congressman. Thank you for taking the opportunity, as always.

REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: It's good to be with you, Chris. Thank you for having me on.

CUOMO: So, the president spoke about this a little bit in Asia. He said the time isn't right, as you know, I don't agree with that. I think we got to talk about it in the moment.

So, let's do it. Here's what he said most recently about what would have mattered in Texas.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. I can't only say this, if he did not have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.


[08:20:06] CUOMO: Congressman, there's no debating that is scaring, but it's also specious. Extreme vetting was asked in the question to him. He didn't put that phrase on what gun policy should be, just to be fair to the president. But we know for a fact that the U.S. Air Force had a lapse in protocol here.

DUFFY: They did.

CUOMO: They didn't report what they were supposed to. So, if there was just the basic vetting being done, this man should have been denied a weapon, so that's for him. We know that for a fact. And then for the second man, the hero, the neighbor, we have no reason to believe that anything would have denied him a weapon. We have no reason to believe he does not have his weapon legally.

So, do you agree with what the president was saying there, that vetting would have made this situation worse? How?

DUFFY: No, listen, I think the question probably came to the president in a press conference where he was getting thrown a whole bunch of questions from North Korea, to his trip and now to this issue overseas, and I think he should have added in the point that, which you just made, which is we have laws in the books that would have prevented this horrific event from happening, and in that if you commit a domestic crime in America, you can't possess a firearm, (INAUDIBLE) in Wisconsin.

A lot of people were concerned, and a misdemeanor, a domestic misdemeanor, disorderly conduct, they can't possess a firearm with that condition, and they got pretty freak out about it. And the fact that that law wasn't followed by the Air Force is the real issue I think that we have as we look on what happened in Texas. And I think the president should have mentioned that, but I think a lot of things in his plate.

CUOMO: You think he didn't want to tell the truth about this situation because it doesn't play to the political reality that he favors? Which is, when it came to what happened in New York City, let's talk immigration right now, let's attack what's going on. It's not about timing then, it's not about giving some room to the victims then, it's about addressing what he saw as the root cause, faulty immigration policy.

But here, he wants time and he misstates the facts. And he really has no reason to do that. It's very easy for him to know what the real facts are, Congressman. It seems pretty obvious that this is double- speak.

DUFFY: I think what happens in hot moments like this, people use issues for their own political purposes. I mean, some will say, we support extreme vetting for those that want a firearm but we didn't support extreme vetting for those who want to come into the country that could potentially do us harm. And people all over America, we have a constitutional right to possess a firearm. No one has a constitutional right to come into our country.

And, again, I think that we have to get the politics aside, and I think you've done that this morning. And we have look at this and say, OK, what are the facts? And how do you prevent these things from happening in the future?

We have sick, deranged or politically motivated people who want to do people harm, but also protect America's right, the law-abiding citizen, to possess a firearm. And I think that's why you get the real difficulty legislatively, and why you say, hey, I want to have more laws on the books, that's a really hard loaf of bread to slice.

CUOMO: But here's the thing that we know, Congressman, gun owners, you, me, and at least 80 percent of them, every time you have a poll that comes out that is credible says, yes, you should have background checks, we think you do have them already. But here's the truth, OK? If the air force properly reported the way it was supposed to, all right?


CUOMO: Both men involved in the situation, the hero and the murderer could have just gone to a gun show. They could have just done it through a private transaction, because we don't check those the same way.

DUFFY: That's not true. In a gun show, if you are a gun dealer, you have to have a background check. Now, if you sell a gun to your neighbor or you give a gun to your child --


CUOMO: But there are a lot of people at that gun show--

DUFFY: So, we're clear on that fact. Gun dealers --

CUOMO: Right, but many of the sales, 20 -- over 20 percent of all gun sales are done without background checks, Congressman, it's because you have loopholes in effect. And gun owners, when you poll them they say, there shouldn't be any loopholes, everything should be checked, everybody who buys a gun should go through a background check. Why not be in favor of that?

DUFFY: But if you ask them to -- listen, I'm OK with background checks. But I also don't want to make --

CUOMO: Closing the gun show loophole, private sales, too?

DUFFY: No, not private sales.


DUFFY: Because if I want to give my gun to my son or if I want to sell a firearm to a neighbor or friend, I think that's pretty intrusive.


CUOMO: What's intrusive? What if you are selling it to somebody who is deranged, as the president likes to say, and he goes out and wants to use it on people? Why shouldn't he be checked?

DUFFY: That's not the case here. Can I tell you what happens in these situations, Chris? You know, first of all, in 2000, 29 percent of people wanted more gun rights. Now, it's 52 percent of Americans that want more gun rights.

When I go home -- this is the difference in the country. I mean, New York might have one viewpoint, or Connecticut has a viewpoint, but Texas and Wisconsin have another viewpoint, and when these things happen, if I talk to women in my community, many of them will say, you know what, if I don't have a gun, I might want to go take a gun class, I want to buy a gun because --

[08:25:04] CUOMO: But who is keeping them from getting a gun?

DUFFY: Nobody, but I think --


CUOMO: It's a scare tactic, Congressman. That's why they are coming to you.

DUFFY: No, they're not.

CUOMO: They are saying don't let them take my guns, that's because you guys are selling them on that proposition. We are just saying check all the sales. Why isn't that a reasonable move?

DUFFY: This is not to you, but I think even Nancy Pelosi has said, these are slippery slopes. And I think the left -- when will they stop? So, if you have great background checks, will they stop then, or if they can take away certain firearms, will they stop then?

I don't think this will ever stop, I think they want to eradicate the Second Amendment and I think Nancy Pelosi for the most part admitted that.

CUOMO: But even if that's what you think, even if that's what you think --

DUFFY: I think it's a fact, but --

CUOMO: It's hard to say it's a fact that the entire left wants to eradicate the Second Amendment, to take away to all guns.

DUFFY: Well, it really does.

CUOMO: But even if that were true, saying every gun sale should require a background check, how is that not just a reasonable step?

DUFFY: Well, I think if you are a gun dealer, that does make sense.

But, Chris, this morning, we should focus on we have laws that work, the laws were followed. This shooter, this evil man in Texas wouldn't have had a gun had the Air Force followed the law.

CUOMO: There was a problem, unless he went to a gun show and had a private sale. He could have gotten it that way.

DUFFY: But he didn't go to a gun show, and he should have been flagged and he shouldn't have bought a begun.

CUOMO: True, all true.

DUFFY: And we have to look at, instead of saying, well, what new laws do we need on the books, why do we look and say, what laws do we have that aren't being followed that would actually prevent these kind of crimes --

CUOMO: That's one of the laws not being followed, your background checks are being subverted by loopholes that account for over 20 percent of all sales.

DUFFY: There's no loophole here. Chris, there's no loophole here. This was the Air Force --

CUOMO: Here, there was not a loop hope, there was a lapse. I'm saying that if you look at the situation overall, you start dealing with loopholes and sales and background checks that are not consistent.

DUFFY: You might have facts that I don't, but I don't know of a recent shooting where you a deranged individual who got, you know, a firearm from his neighbor that went and shot a bar or a church? I don't recall off the top of my head.

So, we're looking at mass shootings and how do you take guns away from these evil folks. And I will join you in the effort, but again, I want to preserve and protect my constituents' right to own and possess a firearm.

CUOMO: Totally understood and we should be able to do both. That's what the law allows. That's what the Constitution demands.

DUFFY: But it's complicated.

CUOMO: No question. But you guys got to talk about it and that's the first step and the time is certainly now.

Congressman, thank you for taking the opportunity to do exactly that.

DUFFY: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: So, Chris, we're learning more about the 26 people killed in that church massacre. We'll tell you their stories, next.