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North Korea Claims New Missile Can Hit U.S. Mainland; NYT: Trump Revives Obama Birther Conspiracy Theory; NBC News: Matt Lauer Fired for 'Inappropriate Sexual Behavior'; Interview With Senator Mike Rounds. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 07:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: North Korean missile testing that we've never seen before. They are getting closer to being able to threaten the United States.

[07:00:33] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They went higher than any previous shots they have taken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting rid of their nuclear arsenal is simply no longer an option that they would even consider.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a very big day for the tax bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody on on my side of the aisle is trying to get to "yes."

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: If the president and Republicans in Congress set out to pass a middle-class tax cut, this bill completely misses the mark.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: "The New York Times" reports the president is peddling conspiracy theories again behind closed doors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's living in a totally different world of facts.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Republicans are trying as hard as they can to ignore the questions about his fitness for office.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning to you. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

North Korea claims the entire United States is now within reach of its missiles. This comes after it launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile that did fly higher and longer than previous tests. The North claiming it can deliver a heavy nuclear warhead on such a missile.

President Trump offering a measured response to this act of aggression, simply saying the situation will be handled.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: As the president faces this latest crisis, there is new reporting raising serious questions about his grasp on the truth. "The New York Times" is reporting that the president is reviving his baseless conspiracy theory that former President Obama was not born in the United States.

One of the reporters behind that story will join us in just a few moments to talk about it.

Let's begin, though, with CNN's Will Ripley. He is live in Seoul, South Korea, with our top story. What are all the developments, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning that North Korea is claiming at least, this is a new kind of intercontinental ballistic missile called the Hwasong-15. It was the Hwasong-14 they launched over Japan back in September. Then there was a two-and-a-half-month gap. And now this new launch, the missile reaching an altitude of some 2,800 miles above the surface of the earth. That is roughly 10 times the orbit of the International Space Station for context.

This intercontinental ballistic missile took a very high arc up into space, essentially, and then down within 130 miles of mainland Japan. Obviously, very concerning, because calculations indicate, based on how far this missile traveled, it could potentially reach, as U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis put it, anywhere in the world, including the East Coast of the the United States, including New York and Washington.

This is the kind of missile that North Korea has been telling us for months know that they are going to test. I spoke with a North Korean official shortly after the lunch, who reiterated something that he first told me back in October. That North Korea feels they need to prove to the Trump administration they have this capability, they have this missile in their arsenal.

He said there are two things they need to prove. One, a long-range launch like the one that we just saw. Two, an above-ground nuclear detonation, the kind of which North Korea's foreign minister threatened could happen over the Pacific Ocean, the kind of highly- provocative nuclear test the world hasn't seen in nearly four decades. We don't know if that's just posturing or North Korea does plan to do that, to take that final step.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un after the launch did say, he potentially proclaimed that North Korea has now become a nuclear power. Will they feel that they've proved enough? They need to take it one step further? That's what we have to watch and wait.

And of course, the Olympics here in South Korea, in PyeongChang about two months away from right now -- Chris, Alisyn.

CUOMO: Will, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

So with this international crisis unfolding, a "New York Times" report is raising new concerns about the president's grasp on reality. The report citing White House aides who say the president right now, not a year ago, is once again questioning the authenticity of former President Barack Obama's birth certificate. And Mr. Trump's infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, in private meetings where he is actually saying he's not sure if it's his voice on the tape that he apologized for in front of all of you.

One of the reporters behind this story, CNN political analyst Jonathan Martin, joining is us now.

I think I'm moving into the "What?" phase of this type of talk. You know, it's one thing if he's saying it to you or to me or to the base or from the podium to just kind of excite his base and play with people's uglier suspicions about life. But if he's saying it in private, like he means it.


CUOMO: What does the reporting reveal?

[07:05:02] MARTIN: As one senator who I talked to told me, he has trouble letting the Obama birth certificate go. And he's still fixated on it.

But what's striking, though, Chris, is he does have an awareness of those issues that are a little bit too fringy for him to even tweet about or discuss in public, i.e., the birth certificate and this question that you mentioned there about the validity of the "Access Hollywood" tape.

Now he won't question those things in public, but yes, indeed, he is still questioning them in private. And I think it just gets to the heart of a president who, well before he came to the White House, has often tried to create his own version of reality and has tried to construct a version of events that he prefers, that is more convenient to the world that he wants to see rather than the world the way it is.

But I can tell you from spending yesterday in the Capitol, talking to lawmakers -- and by the way, these are almost entirely folks who are on his side of the aisle -- they just discount a lot of what he says now, because they sort of write it off as so much bluster. It's striking to talk to members of Congress who effectively are telling you you just can't take the president's words too seriously. But that's the unmistakable message that I got yesterday.

CUOMO: All right, John. So let's kind of get after what this is really about. OK? I am one of those who often, in the course of reporting and analysis, says look, the president is a smart man. He knows what he's doing. This is about politics and optics and maybe, on the ugly side, division.

But I've got to tell you, the reporting makes me think that maybe I was being too optimistic.

Do you believe that there is cause for concern about what is going on inside the head of the president of the United States, if he can truly entertain such B.S. as being true? MARTIN: Yes. That's not my job to put him on the couch like that.

But I will say, just the...

CUOMO: Not the couch part, Jonathan. Do you believe that there is basis in your reporting...


CUOMO: ... that people close to him think he actually believes this, that he's not just putting it on people for persuasion.

MARTIN: That's a good question. It's hard to get at what he actually believes and what he is just sort of chewing over.

I can tell you, though, that the folks that you talk to about this who convey it, they kind of roll their eyes at it. They don't take it too seriously. They just sort of assign it to Trump being Trump and this kind of bluster.

Now, the exception to that, I will tell you, is Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona, who is retiring, which is a key factor here. But he is deeply troubled by this. And I think he reflects some elements of the kind of "never Trump" wing of the party who think that this is not just bluster. That this is deeply troubling.

And he told me yesterday, Jeff Flake did, that he believes that shared facts are crucial to democracy, and what Trump is doing is a threat to our shared -- our shared fabric of democracy. And he's going to give a series of speeches on the Senate floor expressing concern about this. The first one about the topic of truth.

CUOMO: So, Jonathan, I appreciate it. Let's now bring in David Gregory here and discuss what's going on in the world around us this morning. CNN political analyst, obviously, David Gregory. It's good to have you.

Let's deal with this report. Why does it matter? Are we being distracted by BY the president's distractions, or -- OR is the reason this reporting matters from Jonathan and his team is that this is the man who is negotiating with South Korea, with China, with Russia. This is the man who is the leader of all of the United States of America. And if he is really entertaining the authenticity and the genuineness of such crap, that that's a scary proposition.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, I'm with you on that. I mean, this is about his state of mind. And yes, it's not our job or our expertise to really make a judgment about that other than to scrutinize what he says, to whom he says it, how he carries himself, how he spends his type obsessing about, that becomes part of history.

And this is also about a president who is crude, who is a kind of a slash-and-burn person through -- through life and now through public life and through the institutions of government and the institution of the presidency. He's not alone. I mean, I think some of his supporters are -- it's

fair to point out, you know, Clinton had a bad rap on Capitol Hill because he wouldn't tell the truth in negotiations. You know, he talked about smoking weed and saying, "Well, I didn't inhale." I mean, you know, yes, there are parallels.

[07:10:02] But let's focus on what this is: you know, an inability to tell the truth, a disinclination to tell the truth. And to just kind of spread it and to paralyze people in the process. Because what you're seeing is these people that Maggie and Jonathan are reporting on, these are senators who are not saying, "Whoa, Mr. President, slow down. You can't say this kind of stuff in public. We're not going to stand by you."

What they're saying -- I mean, I saw it yesterday with Rob Portman on CNN. He's saying, "Well, you know, I have a different style. I wouldn't insult, you know, a member of Senate like that." I mean, because they're still cowed by him; they're afraid of him. And you have to be willing to retire to stand up and say, "No, I'm going to give some speeches about the fact that the president doesn't tell the truth."

MARTIN: Right.

GREGORY: That's what has to be a concern about anybody, Republican or Democrat. And we can go back and scrub history and make judgments about Democrats, as well. That's fine. But let's deal with what this is right now.

MARTIN: Yes, that's the real challenge for the GOP, is that even the senators who are tempted to speak out about him are deeply concerned about the backlash from their own voters who, you know, for the most part like this president. And some of them actually enjoy the fact that he operates the way he does. And so that's the challenge for the party.


MARTIN: Is that the party tends to actually enjoy this.

Just real fast, guys. Look at the president's Twitter stream this morning.



MARTIN: He's pushing out tweets about Muslim violence from a fringe activist in the U.K. It's extraordinary to see from an American president, promoting this kind of content on the most powerful platform he has, Twitter.

CAMEROTA: It's really inflammatory. We -- I mean, we thought that he might have been hacked. It's so inflammatory that so far, we haven't been reporting it, because we didn't believe that it was actually him putting this stuff out. But David and Jonathan, just one thing. Look, I know that you guys

are reluctant to put him on the couch, as you said, Jonathan. But I do feel that just as a reporter, we need to say that there have been scores of psychoanalysts who have said that they believe that the president shows the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder.

And one of the hallmarks of that is an inability to ever accept criticism or on to say that you're wrong and creating sort of your own reality that puts you in the best light. I mean, what more is there to say? I'm not diagnosing him as that. That's -- better people more trained have said that. And it seems as though that could be at the bottom of what's happening here.

And then that does lead us to the conversation that we've been having of what does that mean for leaders who are trying to deal with him and if he'll keep his promises.

GREGORY: Well, but look, I think, you know, the importance of reporting from the ties of Jonathan and for Maggie, people who are -- who are on the Hill every day and who -- Maggie is at the White House who are having important conversations, that reporting provides us with critical insight. We don't have to make a judgment about it.

What's important is to keep providing insight and the inside glimpses into what his state of mind is, how he speaks to people. And people can make a judgment based on that. And that if we look through history, that's the kind of insight that becomes so valuable. And that's what we're seeing. Because we're seeing that through good reporting. But we're also seeing it because the president just invites everybody into his thinking, as well.

MARTIN: Right.

GREGORY: He's totally transparent about it.

MARTIN: Right.

GREGORY: People are going to have to make a judgment about it.

CUOMO: Look, that's the good thing about the Twitter feed. Right? I mean, people are like, "Oh, it's a distraction." No. It is a look at the inner workings of what matters to the most powerful man on the planet.

In his thread this morning, you know, he goes from, "Hey, it's a great day for the stock market. Consumer confidence is high. You know, CNN sucks." And then he's got the Muslim hate-baiting going on right there in the thread. Economy, Muslims are terrible people, the media is terrible.


CUOMO: And it's this imbalance...


CUOMO: ... of appropriateness that deserves scrutiny. Gentlemen, thank you for giving us the reporting, the analysis. Appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: All right. We have breaking news.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: NBC News is reporting that veteran "Today Show" anchor Matt Lauer has been fired for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.

This is the latest high-profile media figure to be terminated amid sexual allegations. I mean, it doesn't actually get bigger in our business than Matt Lauer, I think it's fair to say. He has been such a staple of morning -- morning news and morning TV throughout most of our lives.

CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, joins us with the breaking details. Brian, before we -- you give us what you've learned, let's watch what Savannah Guthrie, his co-host, said to American this morning.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-HOST, NBC'S "THE TODAY SHOW": And good morning, everybody. Welcome to "Today." And Hoda is here with me this morning, because this is a sad morning here at "Today" and at NBC News.

Just moments ago, NBC News chairman Andy Lack sent the following note to our organization. "Dear colleagues, on Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company's standards. As a result, we have decided to terminate his employment. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he has been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe that this may not have been an isolated incident. Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender. We are deeply saddened by this turn of events, but we will face it together as a news organization and do it in as transparent a manner as we can."

That is the statement from our chairman, Andy Lack.


CAMEROTA: All right. Let's bring in Brian Stelter. Brian, look, we're shocked. We're shocked. I mean, we're just shocked that -- to hear that Matt Lauer has been terminated this morning.

BRIAN STELTER, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Matt Lauer has been the cornerstone of "The Today Show" for 25 years. He is a figure who is revered in the television business. An icon of television news.

But let's -- let's face what's going on here a little bit underneath the surface. For several weeks, "The New York Times" has been working on an investigation, into Lauer and into alleged sexual misconduct. It's the kind of story, Alisyn and Chris, we may have known about. I certainly knew there were rumors in our business about this story.

CAMEROTA: But wasn't it a little different than what -- all the stuff that we've heard about Charlie Rose, and Harvey Weinstein, and Roger Ailes. Wasn't this in a different category? Or no?

STELTER: I'm going to be clear. I don't know the details of what the "New York Times" may or may not have. This story has not been published by "The Times." But it was well-known within NBC that there was this reporting going on that women were being contacted, the women were being interviewed.

I don't know if "The Times" has people on the record or not. All of that remains to be seen.

But Jodi Kantor, who worked on the Harvey Weinstein story, was one of the reporters doing this pursuit. So that's why this was buzzed about in the business. Now more importantly, NBC says a woman came forward on the record on Monday night with an allegation against Lauer, and that is what triggered this move overnight.

Savannah Guthrie said she was just informed overnight. But certainly, there was talk about this inside NBC that maybe there was embarrassing information about to come out about Matt Lauer. And we've seen the companies, whether it's on the West Coast, companies like Amazon are on the East Coast, companies like CBS, taking a very serious -- responding very seriously when there are allegations that go public. Charlie Rose being the most recent example last week.

CUOMO: All right. Look, there's a couple of tough points that we have to make about this story. But first, the president has already weighed in on it.

And he says, "Wow, Matt Lauer just fired from NBC for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace, but when will the top executives at NBC and Comcast be fired for putting out so much fake news. Check out Andy Lack's past."

All right. This is not helpful to us in terms of how women are being treated in the workplace. And I think it's probably obvious in terms of what the president is avoiding. There are reasons he is avoiding it, because it touches on his own behavior.

However, Alisyn has been outspoken on this, as someone who was victimized by it and wants to see change about it. I have been fairly consistent in saying you've got to get men involved in this conversation, because they're the ones who cut the deals. They're the ones who allow NDAs. They're the ones who are doing the inappropriate behavior.

That said, what is happening with the pendulum of change right now? You have sexual assault and gross misconduct by any definition that we saw with different people in Hollywood, and they're gone. You saw it with media figures, and it's gone. Then, in the hunt for new and more, we see a changing scale. Now we

see the biggest name, the best anchor in the history of morning television on the male side, to be sure, is gone. And I don't know why. I don't know what the one allegation is. I don't know what they say. I see that NBC gave themselves cover in that statement saying that it's the first complaint they've had in 20 years.

CAMEROTA: But I mean...

CUOMO: But there may have been more. That's corporate cover going on there.

STELTER: There may have been more because "The New York Times" clearly has more information.

CUOMO: But they're saying it that way, because they have potential exposure in terms of what they knew. This gets to be legal, not just cultural.


CUOMO: So my question is how do you appraise these things? If everybody is getting the same penalty. On the media side, not the political side. We don't see anything happening on the political side. There's a totally double standard. But how is he the same as a Weinstein with what we know right now?

CAMEROTA: And here's the deal. We don't have enough information.

CUOMO: That's right. That's for sure.

CAMEROTA: We don't have it right now. But I think that it is safe to assume that you do not terminate the biggest broadcaster in TV news for one idle complaint.

CUOMO: They suggest that there may have been more. I'm just saying we've gotten from stark, everybody has known this for years, this guy's a predator, and this and that, to this.

CAMEROTA: Look, the -- we just don't know yet. But to your point, we knew "The New York Times" was working on something. And this is -- tell me if I'm wrong -- the first time the network is getting out ahead of it before...

[07:20:06] STELTER: I think that's right. I think that's right. This was Monday night. The network says it received a complaint Wednesday morning, early Wednesday morning. Staffers were told Matt Lauer is out. It is a stunning -- it is a stunning move by NBC.

CUOMO: Right.

STELTER: And it begs the question about what else the network knows that we don't know. Suffice to say, Matt Lauer, as you said, Chris, he has been the bedrock of "The Today Show," a -- you said, I think, the best morning anchor.

CUOMO: That's my opinion.

CAMEROTA: My opinion also. No offense.

CUOMO: Listen, high praise for him from me. He has always been a mentor in terms of how to do the job on air. Obviously, his behavior off air matters much more than what he does on air.

All I'm saying is this. This culture changes, because it changes at the top. Firing talent is hard financially. It is not hard from a management position. Changing your culture, what you allow to be settled, how you deal with it when it happens in the workplace, who makes those decisions, that's culture. That's corporate. That's hard. We don't see that. We see them getting rid of Lauer, getting rid of Charlie Rose. We don't see culture change.

CAMEROTA: But anybody who doubted that we're in a tipping point, I think today...

STELTER: We see it now. And by the way, Lauer has not even commented yet. I'm trying to get comment from him. Let's see what he says about this.

CAMEROTA: Brian, please be on stand-by for us for the rest of the morning.

CUOMO: All right. So big day, period. Certainly, we have to start with what's going on in our government. President Trump, he had a big positive day in terms of getting a tax bill through. Now it goes to the floor. But the challenge, if anything, has redoubled. It is not over. Do they have the votes to pass it? What would it take? We have a Republican senator next.


[07:25:47] CUOMO: All right. Time for CNN facts first.

Republicans are trumpeting their tax plan as a sweeping middle-class tax cut that, while helping the wealthy and corporations also helps the little guy.

Now, that is not true, at least in the long run. And each new study of the numbers proves it. According to a new study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, America's poorest will lose billions of dollars in benefits under the Republicans' tax plan.

A big part of that is them repealing the mandate. Remember, that's in there also. That's going to result in 13 million people losing health care coverage by 2027. Speaking of dates, everybody gets a tax cut at first.

But by 2019, those making less than $30,000, worse off. By 2021, those making less than 40 grand, hurting. By 2027, when many provisions of the bill expire, all of the tax cuts will be released for anybody making less than $75,000.

Meanwhile, the wealthy corporations will continue to benefit. Republicans say all of this is OK, because that which is being gifted to the upper tier will help overall growth in the economy, and that that will generate some 3 percent growth annually. And that will, of course, lift all votes.

Now, this number flies in the face of other estimates of growth. The conservative-leaning tax foundation says we will not see 3 percent growth until 2027 at the earliest.

The Tax Policy Center says you'd be lucky to see one-third of one percent growth, the Wharton School, of course, Donald Trump's alma mater, says the economy will grow at less than 1 percent. So those are the facts. How do they apply to the politics of the tax bill. Let's get into that with a great guest, Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

Sir, thank you for taking the opportunity. You heard what we're reporting in terms of the facts. What is your case for this bill?

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: I've heard different facts before. I'm not quite sure the spin that you've got on them today.

But I can tell you what's going to happen for a family with $73,000, four kids. They're going to get about half the tax bill immediately than what they've got today.

And I really do believe that, long term, and you suggested it, and that was that about ten years from now, this is designed to where the businesses taxes continue at a reduced rate. Personal income taxes would change. But that's only if Congress decides to allow them to -- to expire.

So I don't think the whole story is there in the facts that you've got. By the way, if you've noticed recently, our economy is currently growing at 3 percent. And that's what we need to not only -- not only pay back the dollars that we're -- that we're sending back out in terms of reductions for middle-income families and for businesses, but it will actually help us to pay off our debt and to -- to pay for some of our -- our expenditures that we need at the federal level.

You know, if we want to continue to make payments in Medicare and in Medicaid, if we want to continue to have the greatest defense in the world, we're going to have to have the revenues coming in to do it. That means we've got to have a strong economy. We can't do it with the current tax structure that we've got.

CUOMO: Well, right. But there's a counter argument, right, to that, which is don't cut the taxes if you need more revenue.

But I want to go back to your numbers premise. Where are you getting your numbers that a family with 73,000 will have half its tax bill? Because I have not seen that from the Joint Committee on Tax. I haven't seen it from the CBO. Where are you getting that?

ROUNDS: Yes. That actually comes directly from the Joint Committee on Tax. And what it's based on is an average family, 73,000 in income, a family of husband, wife, and two children. And it's based upon -- and here's the part that some folks are forgetting about. Kids are going to get double the tax credits directly taken. That's money that's taken directly off the amount of tax that you have to pay. And so if you've got two kids, you're going to get twice as much as what you do today, basically, in tax credits.