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North Korea Claims New Missile Can Hit U.S. Mainland; Matt Lauer Fired from NBC News; President Trump Reportedly Reviving Birther Conspiracy and Questioning Authenticity of "Access Hollywood" Tape. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- as a result we 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 this may not have been an isolated incident."

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That is an indication of the "New York Times" story and the "Variety" story that have been in the works. I don't know how close these news outlets were to actually publishing. But I do think it's significant that someone stepped forward and did call HR on Monday and made this complaint.

CAMEROTA: One last question. Will this now preempt or preclude any publishing? So do those stories go away now? By NBC getting out in front of it before anything was every published, do they have to spike those stories?

STELTER: My sense is no, that they will still be published, maybe a little sooner than they otherwise would have been.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Also another reminder, Bill, of something you've been speaking about a lot, the stark contrast between how this industry is dealing with these stories and allegations and accusations, and the political realm. How many lawmakers have we had -- yes, these settlements are bad? Me, I didn't know about them. Never heard a thing about them, had no idea. Very different levels of recognition of something equally obvious in both places.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: And also reflect this is a news edition. They can't run from this. They have to confront this. I think we are going to hear more. The key question is not what NBC knew, nobody complained before, but was there behavior that they knew about all along, that's going to come out, whether or not there were producers who heard and other people who heard. That's what we know about Charlie Rose, for example. We don't know about those things yet but I think that's the kind of thing that will be covered in a story, and I'm sure the "New York Times" and "Variety" will still pursue it.

CUOMO: A tough spot for Savannah. That's for sure.

STELTER: It absolutely was. My heart went out to Savannah and Hoda Kotb, and others who were talking about this on the air, Al Roker, just trying to deliver the weather report and trying to get through this. These staffers and co-hosts, they knew something was brewing but they did not know he was going to be fired overnight, so it did just come as a shock.

Lauer's behavior, yes, it had been rumored behind the scenes. I wrote a book about morning TV five years ago, and I mentioned the widespread belief that he had sexual relationships with colleagues at NBC. But there was never a hint that those were nonconsensual. There was never a hint of harassment claims against him. We are in a different era now and different environment where women feel much more comfortable and confident to share stories of misconduct, and they are not going to be shamed into silence. And that I think is the overarching headline even as a lot of viewers are going to be disappointed to see Matt Lauer suddenly disappear.

CAMEROTA: All right, Brian, please come back to us with any developments. I know you're working the phones. Bill, thank you very much.

We are following a lot of news this morning, so let's get to it.

Good morning, everyone. Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, November 29th, 8:00 now in the east.

Let's get right to North Korea, because it claims that the entire United States is now within reach of its missiles after it launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile that flew higher and longer than any previous test. The north now claims it can deliver a heavy nuclear warhead. President Trump offered a measured response to this aggression, simply saying, quote, "We will take care of it."

CUOMO: And that may well be a reflection of the complexity of the situation and the attempts to build an alliance to respond to the North Korean aggression. We will see and we'll give you the latest on that.

The president is facing a lot this morning. There's a new crisis for him to deal with on a personal front, reporting that raises serious questions about his grasp of reality. "The New York Times" reporting the president is reviving his baseless conspiracy theory that former president Obama was not born in the United States. One of the reporters behind the story is going to join us in a few moments.

We have it all covered and there is a lot going on. Let's start with Will Ripley live in Seoul, South Korea. This latest test is really resonating here in the United States all the way up to the presidency.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And here in Seoul as well, Chris, because for the North Koreans they are claiming that this is a game changer, that they have now proven they have a missile that can hit anywhere in the world. That was something that was affirmed by the U.S. defense secretary, saying as well that this is really a new level of North Korean missile capabilities.

This latest missile, the Hwasong 15, reached an altitude we have never seen before for a North Korean missile, 2,800 miles above the surface of the earth, 10 times the altitude of the International Space Station. North Korea claims there was a heavy warhead or at least a simulated warhead on this missile and they say their test proved that it could survive reentry into the earth's atmosphere, the key missing component of North Korea's missile testing.

I've been speaking with North Korean including just after this launch, though, and they reiterate that they don't feel that diplomacy is possible with the United States yet. They think they still have more to prove, and by doing that proving that this missile can actually do what it says they say it can do. They are talking about an above- ground nuclear test and possibly detonating a missile like this over the Pacific Ocean. That's a threat that North Korea officials told me as recently as a month ago the United States and the world should take literally. Of course unknown how the Trump administration and the world would react to such a provocative test.

[08:05:06] We're just about two months out from the Olympics here in South Korean. There's lot of concern about North Korean provocation leading up to that. The North Korean state media has also said that this latest missile test proves that they have rounded off their nuclear program. Will this be enough? Do they think they proved to the world their capabilities, or will they need to do more? That's the big question, that's the big unknown, and that's what is sparking so much concern both here in South Korea around the region and around the world. Chris and Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Will, thank you very much.

So President Trump is still peddling debunked conspiracy theories. "The New York Times" reports the president is once again questioning the authenticity of President Trump's birth certificate, and citing three sources close to the president, they say that he now doubts it's his voice on the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. Let's bring in CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman who co-wrote that "New York Times" piece. Maggie, great to have you here. You have covered Donald Trump for a long time, many years. Why does he bathe in conspiracy theories? What is that?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He likes the idea of a hidden hand, that there's something that you can't see that is out there governing a bunch of things. And it basically goes along with his idea that someone is controlling things and somebody is either out to get a certain group of people, whether it's him, whether it's his voters.

When he seized on the birther issue in 2011, it was not something he had given a whole lot of attention to before that, and if you remember that was really on the fridges of the GOP and of conservative politics at that point. It's ironic, actually, because Breitbart which is now very supportive of Trump or has more of a troubled relationship lately, but over the last few years certainly was, it's founder Andrew Breitbart was virulently anti-Trump in 2011 in part because of the birther conspiracy that he embraced and championed.

Trump tends not to think about whether something is correct morally, whether it's going to hurt other people. It's whether it is good for him. He looks at everything through the lens of filtering back up to him. That was useful to him.

He also has, as you know and as you know, a very hard time admitting he was wrong. So with the birther conspiracy, which was a lie about the birthplace of the first black president of this country, he eventually conceded that he was born here, this literally was based on nothing, this claim, during the 2016 campaign. He didn't really do an apology, and he essentially blamed Hillary Clinton for getting the whole thing started in the first place. So it's not a big surprise that he has clung to that.

In terms of the "Access Hollywood" issue, that actually started after he won. So I spoke with one person who is familiar with the conversation that the president had had with a senator in January, shortly before he was inaugurated, where the president said we don't believe that's my voice, and said they were thinking of look into it, hiring investigators, sounds very similar to what he said about President Obama's birth certificate, and he has continued at points saying it since.

CUOMO: I don't get it.

HABERMAN: I understand.

CUOMO: First of all, this is very helpful, because this is not just propaganda, you know what I mean, or political spin. If he wants to do this thing with "Access Hollywood," it is just a naked lie. There's absolutely --

HABERMAN: Yes, it's his voice.

CUOMO: -- zero to it. He apologized for what happened. Billy Bush lost his job over this. If anybody was going to question its authenticity, it would be Billy Bush because he would have been wrongly dismissed for something that was based on a farce. This is the one that's perplexing.

And look, we're not psychologists, we're not here to put the president on the couch, but if you want to scrutinize this objectively, it has to make you wonder what do world leaders think when they hear that the president of the United States is contemplating whether or not he said what he once admitted he said.

HABERMAN: So I would say two things about that. Three. I agree with you.

CUOMO: What about five?

HABERMAN: No, I'm good. I might end up there, but I'm just counting right now. There's no question that it is incredibly strange to hear. When you hear this, your jaw sort of drops. My jaw dropped when I heard it initially, and then I had several people close to the president saying no, no, that is something that he says. He has done that.

It is often very hard to tell what is him believing what he's saying or trying to convince someone else and selling them on something. But we have long known him, going back to his days in New York as a real estate developer and a reality television star, to paint his own version of reality as he wishes it and to try to will it into existence. You have seen him do that with all kinds of other things. He keeps tweeting he has accomplished more than any other president in the first 10 months. That's just objectively not true.

He was early on speculating with senators that there might have been 3 million illegal voters which became the basis of this vote fraud commission. There was no widespread evidence of vote fraud, but then he put the levers of government and power official into looking into something that as best as we can tell just came from his head.

[08:10:00] A lot of people around him have said they don't know where the line is between what he knows to be true or what he has convinced himself is real. And I would put this in that category. But I would add, I'm sorry, the third thing that I was referring to is that he is not somebody who experiences shame very often. It's part of why he's been able to regenerate himself repeatedly after bankruptcies and after losses and after divorces, but he was humiliated by that tape. He was publicly humiliated. He referred to it at the debate the next night with Hillary Clinton as very embarrassing, and he has not said something like that really in my memory before, and I think this is basically trying to erase some shame.

CAMEROTA: And he apologized. That also we don't hear. He said I said it and I'm sorry. Explain the cognitive dissonance for the people on the receiving end --

HABERMAN: I can't.

CAMEROTA: For instance, a sitting senator who has to hear him say I don't actually think it's my voice on that tape.

HABERMAN: It's stunning because you hear it and it's just completely at odds with objective reality, and one of the problems that we have seen over the last few years, and the president fuels this and has put accelerant on it, is it isn't not that people have different opinions, it's that people don't any longer agree on a shared set of facts. And that is incredibly problematic because it's really hard to accomplish anything if you can't actually agree on what has just happened.

One other thing that I would say about the "Access Hollywood" tape and him knowing it was him is that when he was presented that the fact that the "Washington Post" had this audio, he was doing debate prepare at Trump Tower and he was with half a dozen aides, and he was told the language, they didn't have the audio yet. And he kept saying to people in the room that does not sound like something I would say. And then an aide came in and played the audio, I think on a laptop, possibly on an iPhone, and he listened to it and he said, it is me. He knew it was him. It's a pretty distinctive voice.

CUOMO: There are plenty of points of political rebuttal. I didn't know I was running for president at the time. It was locker room talk. I was joking around with a TV guy. There are lots of different things that you could say that would garner different levels of consideration by voters. But the reason we are seizing on this, or at least I'm seizing on it, is for two reasons. One, it's a naked lie, and even with most of the audacity, there's usually some space, even on the birther thing, there was two different tapes of paperwork from Hawaii, there was the reluctance by the Obama administration --

HABERMAN: There is no kernel of truth here, none.

CUOMO: So there's that. And second, it does call into question the level -- the mentality of the president of the United States. If he is willing to go there on this tape, what else is he willing to call into question without basis?

HABERMAN: I think as we have seen with this president, I think that you are asking the key question, and I think what concerns people who I have talked to around Washington, particularly Republicans, is things in terms of what acceptable continue to go down. There isn't a bottom.

CUOMO: And they say this is the media, you guys are ringing your hands over nothing. Look at his Twitter feed this morning.

CAMEROTA: We thought that may he had been hacked.

HABERMAN: Why would you think that?

CAMEROTA: Because it's so inflammatory.

HABERMAN: He said I think Islam hates us to Anderson Cooper in 2016.

CAMEROTA: But I hear you, Maggie, but sometimes, believe it or not, we are still shocked.

HABERMAN: I am not saying don't be shocked, but I am saying when there was a hacking question that came up with some people I was talking to, too, and my only point was there's nothing at odds -- I am not saying outrage should not happen, because what he's doing is incredibly inflammatory, even "Info Wars" which is the conspiracy theory website where he gave an interview once upon a time, their folks are tweeting this is not a good idea.

CAMEROTA: That tells you something.

HABERMAN: Yes, it does. Something is unleashed with him lately. I don't know what is causing it. I don't know how to describe it.

CAMEROTA: You see a difference in the past, what, days, weeks?

HABERMAN: I think the last couple days' tweets have been --

CAMEROTA: Unhinged.

HABERMAN: -- markedly accelerated in terms of seeming a little unmoored.

CAMEROTA: He's re-tweeting these wildly inflammatory anti-Muslim tweets. Why? Why? What's the point? HABERMAN: Because it makes him feel good at any moment, because he

thinks it's going to be a distraction, because he is actually having anxiety about North Korea, you can add whatever reason to it. It ultimately doesn't matter. It gives a huge permission structure to people in this country and outside of this country who have anti- Muslim sentiment to act on that.

CUOMO: Who says to him, this is dangerous? Don't put the Muslim attacking the virgin Mary. It seems like you are suggesting a holy war.

HABERMAN: There's two things that I would say. One is there is this myth, and you guys know this, that nobody around him ever tells him no. People are constantly saying don't do things. He's also still a grown man and he's the president. They can't handcuff him. They can't break his fingers and keep him from tweeting, so they do tell him please don't do this, and he does do these things it anyway.

[08:15:01] The other problem that we have seen around the president, and I will say that I just want to defend our reporting here -- you know, Sarah Sanders said from the podium and they referred to her comments again yesterday, you know, essentially some version of why won't the media let this go, the media keeps harping on he's apologized -- that's just a fundamentally different question.

Like this is new information. This is something different. This is him now saying something other than what he said last year.

There's probably a reason that I didn't get pushback from the White House in any meaningful way after that ran.

CUOMO: Good point. Good point.

HABERMAN: So, at a certain point --

CUOMO: No word from the White House that that's not true, he's not telling anybody that.

HABERMAN: Do you ever hear them be quiet?

Now, I will tell you one adviser did insist they had not heard him say the birth certificate thing, and, however, we are pretty comfortable on our sourcing, because just one person doesn't hear it, doesn't mean he didn't say it to somebody else. He has pretty widely said the "Access Hollywood" thing based on my reporting.

And again, there is a -- it's fine to stand at the podium and I understand that Sarah Sanders and Sean Spicer before her have a difficult job, but you also just can't say that up is down, and black is white and that something was reported that wasn't. There's -- again, there's a reason that we have not heard a complaint about that.

CAMEROTA: Maggie Haberman, thank you very much for all your reporting.

HABERMAN: Thanks. CUOMO: You will hear complaints. You haven't heard that it was


HABERMAN: We haven't heard him an ask for a correction.

CUOMO: That's right.

HABERMAN: We haven't heard them public say this is false. That is not what Sarah Sanders -- Sarah Sanders never said once that's false. She hedged, she went around it, but she did not say that.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. North Korea, very much in the news. It just launched another missile. It says the entire United States is in its range.

What can the U.S. do about this? We have former director of national intelligence, Jim Clapper, joining us next.


[08:20:28] CAMEROTA: North Korea says the U.S. is now in striking distance of their most powerful missile launched yet. A North Korean military official says President Trump, they just throw out this statement, is, quote, an old lunatic who is daunted by their new gift package, end quote.

What options does the United States have to respond?

Joining us now to discuss this is CNN national security analyst and former director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

Director Clapper, thank you very much.

This missile has gone higher and further than any we have seen before. How do you think this changes the equation?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think the important thing here is context, and you know the North Koreans have been on a path developing a intercontinental ballistic missile for sometime, and each one of these missile tests, you know, moves them along on that path, and they have accomplished yet another milestone. And what they want to be able to portray is a credible operational -- military operational intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, and they have been on this path for sometime.

And so, yes, it's worrisome and disturbing, but at least they did not fly it over the land mass of Japan. So, if you are looking for --

CAMEROTA: Cold comfort.

CLAPPER: Good news of sorts, I guess that's it. CAMEROTA: I guess, except that as you say they have been working on

it for sometime, and is it time to change the United States response to North Korea because of this?

CLAPPER: Well, no, I don't -- you know, there are -- as others have observed many times, there are no good options with respect to North Korea. I do think there needs to be a combination of carrot and stick here. We have been long on the stick and kind of short on the carrot. I think --

CAMEROTA: What carrots do we have to offer? I mean, what can we change to change -- what feels like this inexorable march that they keep making? We keep hearing we have no good options, but are we out of ideas?

CLAPPER: Well, I think the path ahead, the only logical path is through diplomacy negotiations.

So, on the one hand, yes, we need to continue with sanctions, and coercive steps, and, of course, as everybody knows, China is key to that.

But I also think that the -- you know, there would be some merit, maybe the North Koreans right now are not in the mood to listen to offering, for example, discussions about a peace treaty. All we have right now, there' is an armistice, a cease-fire that's lasted 64 years, and as I learned when I visited North Korea, that's bothersome to them. And they find -- as they look South, to South Korea, a very capable military that probably they know is overwhelming to them and they use that in their own domestic dialogue to hype the paranoia.

And to me this is a path -- one thing we could at least discuss with them, which perhaps could lesson the paranoia and the siege mentality.

CAMEROTA: And what about the Olympics on that peninsula coming up?

CLAPPER: Well, I trust the South Koreans will continue to prepare for it and that that will go off. It certainly -- the South Koreans, I have no doubt, I have every confidence in their ability to conduct the Olympics and do it securely. There's opportunity for provocation on the part of the North Koreans. I'd be a tad surprised if they do something like that to disrupt what is really an international event and it's not related only to the Republic of Korea or the United States.

CAMEROTA: Director Clapper, I want to ask you about what is happening this morning. President Trump is tweeting out -- retweeting, I guess I should say, this highly inflammatory anti-Muslim videos and stuff from these far right nationalists -- British nationalists Website that is full of anti-Muslim hateful crap.

[08:25:04] What is happening here? And what do you think the consequences are?

CLAPPER: Well, I have no idea what would motivate him to do that. To me, it's bizarre and disturbing, and particularly when I think of him doing that in the context of North Korea, where moderation and temperate and thought I think is critical. When you see him do something like this, I find it very disturbing. I can't -- I have no way of explaining what on earth motivated it.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, I don't want to sound too alarmist, but with your experience, do you find that things like this end up having a ripple affect around the world? Does this get the attention of people who want to perhaps perpetrate violence?

CLAPPER: Well, there's that, and as well, I think it causes our friends and allies to question where is he coming from with this, so it has all kinds of ripple affects, both in inciting or encouraging anti-Muslim violence, and it causes our friends and allies around the world to wonder about the judgment of the president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: All right. Director James Clapper, we always appreciate getting your perspective. Thanks so much for being here.

CLAPPER: Thank you.


CUOMO: All right. The GOP tax bill cleared an important hurdle, but what does that mean in terms of the chance it becomes law? Majority Whip John Cornyn joins us live, next.