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North & South Korea Reopen Hotline after Trump Threats; Biden Reacts to Trump's Nuclear Tweets Against North Korea; New CNN Show Features Trailblazing Women; Trump & Bannon War of Words. Aired 2:30- 3p ET

Aired January 3, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:31:36] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: "My nuclear button is bigger than yours" -- yes, that was a taunt heard around the world. President Trump taking to Twitter to measure his button to that of volatile leader, Kim Jong-Un. An absolutely stunning scenario, given the stakes, nuclear war. The schoolyard taunt happening at the same time the Trump administration was basking in an incredible step towards diplomacy. Reports of possible dialogue between the North and South, confirmed hours after the tweet. North Korea picking up the phone not once, but twice, to reopen a hotline to South Korea. But was it undermined by Trump's taunt? It's hard to say. But, oh, to have been a fly at the wall at the president's lunch today with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

We me now, Garrett Graff, CNN contributor, historian, and author of "Raven Rock," the story of U.S. government's secret plan to save itself while the rest of us died.

I always laugh when I read your title.

A book that looks at the U.S. government's doomsday plans in a nuclear world.

So nice to see you. Happy New Year to you.


BALDWIN: Let's get past the B.S. and playground chatter. And onto what actually happens. Heaven forbid, walk us through the actions of a nuclear war.

GRAFF: Sure. So we often forget that all of the things that we sort of think of as the majestic toys of the presidency, Marine One, Air Force One, armor motorcades, are really tools to ensure that the president of the United States can launch nuclear weapons wherever he is anywhere on the surface of the planet in a moment's notice. That, wherever he is, that military aid carrying that nuclear football is just a few steps behind him. When he's on the golf course, that football is in one of the golf carts following him. You know, if he gets on an elevator, that nuclear football gets on that elevator with him. And that football, the black briefcase contains everything that he needs to launch a nuclear war. Contrary to his tweet, there really isn't any such thing as a nuclear button.

BALDWIN: Yes, spoiler alert.


GRAFF: He has a big red button on his desk in the Oval Office --


BALDWIN: Let's show the picture. I'll stop you. Let's show the picture. Because, Pete Sousa, that used to be the photographer for President Obama, shows the button red button in the office. It has nothing to do with the nuclear order.

So please continue.

GRAFF: What it does is summons the White House steward with a coca cola. So what the president would do in launching a nuclear record is he would turn to the aide and it's basically a telephone, and a series of binders with preprinted nuclear options in it. One military aide who used to be responsible for it as compared it to the Denny's menu of nuclear war.

BALDWIN: What is that supposed to mean? Denny's?

GRAFF: Pictures and what kind of war you want to order. And this was by president carter to boil down what would be a complicated Armageddon scenario, under pressure, knowing that the president wouldn't have time to think a lot, and instead point to a couple of different pictures that he would want to order nuclear war.

BALDWIN: No kidding. And this whole, "My button is bigger than yours," how does this rhetoric compare to president's past?

[14:35:10] GRAFF: Brooke, it is, I think probably the most reckless statement we have ever seen a president of the United States make about nuclear weapons. To say that it is out of historic character is an understatement. Presidents throughout history, going back to Harry Truman, the first president to confront this power, normally, go out of their way to not be reckless in their words about nuclear weapons. This is the ultimate authority that presidents have. There is no second voice in the system. Presidents just order the launch of nuclear weapons and they take that -- in the past -- very seriously and very soberly.

BALDWIN: As they should.

GRAFF: As they should. And every president that we have seen speak publicly about nuclear weapons in the past talks about this with utmost respect. And I think it is almost impossible, from a historic perspective, to capture just how out of character the president's tweet was last night.

BALDWIN: Should be held to the utmost respect. You are right.

Garrett Graff, thank you so much. GRAFF: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Nice to see you.

Coming up next, we'll talk to two experts how North Korea is likely to respond to the president's taunts.

Also ahead, the White House getting ready to respond to this explosive new book featuring Steve Bannon, who is now turning on the man he helped elect as president. That White House briefing coming up in just moments. Stay with me.


[14:40:37] BALDWIN: Let's bring in two more voices here on the president's tweets taunting North Korea. With me, Laura Rosenberger, the former national security council director for China and Korea and former member of the six party talks delegations on North Korea under President Obama. And Balbina Hwang, is a former senior adviser to the State Department and a visiting professor at Georgetown.

So, ladies, thank you so much for being with me.

And, Laura, let me begin with you. We heard from the former Vice President Joe Biden today with scathing words on President Trump's tweet telling CNN it's really, quote, "poor judgment." Listen for yourself.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only war that's worse than one that's intended is one that's unintended. This is not a game. This is not about can I puff my chest out bigger than your chest. It's just not -- it's not presidential.


BALDWIN: Not presidential, not a game. I mean, at what point do these taunts trigger a war that no one wants?

LAURA ROSENBERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DIRECTOR FOR CHINA AND NORTH KOREA: Yes, you know, I think that Vice President Biden is absolutely right, number one, to make the point about the potential for an unintentional war. Many of us have been warning for quite some time as Trump has used these very undefined, very chest beating kind of words and rhetoric, that this raises the chance of miscalculation. That Kim Jong-Un could misread something that the president says. When you are talking about things like nuclear war, these are normally words that are chosen very carefully. And I think the risk of miscalculation is very, very high. And secondly, Vice President Biden is absolutely right, this is deadly serious. Hundreds of thousands of Americans and South Koreans and North Koreans would die in any conflict on the Korean peninsula. This is a very, very serious matter.

BALDWIN: I was just in Seoul, other areas, different military camps over in South Korea couple of months ago.

Balbina, for you, and just talking to not just South Koreans and Americans living over there and U.S. military, my takeaway is that they are not as worried about Kim Jong-Un, that they believe that's all about regime survival. They are more worried about the unpredictability of our president. And I'm wondering if you think President Trump realizes he is causing all this apprehension for Americans over there?

BALBINA HWANG, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT & VISITING PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, I'm not so certain that President Trump necessarily cares. Look, I think this factor of unpredictability, frankly, is overstated. We have now been --


BALDWIN: Which part, forgive me, of Kim Jong-Un or Trump?

HWANG: Well. Well, no, no. Actually, Kim Jong-Un is the single most predictable leader in northeast Asia. I'm talking about President Trump. We've now been with President Trump for a year. This is not the first time he's made these outrageous rhetorical statements on Twitter and other forms. The point here is that the risk of unpredictably starting a war. The Korean War essentially was never finished, and now almost 65 years ago, since then, these two allies have worked so closely together, and in fact both sides in far more crisis situations have restrained from these unpredictable moves. So I think that really what the focus should really be on is whether or not inter-Korean relations will start to improve as a result of Kim Jong-Un's New Year's message.

BALDWIN: Speaking of that, we now know that South Korea and North Korea communicated right after the president's tweet storm. There had been this open channel. Hadn't been in touch for a couple of years.

Laura, how significant is that? And is part of the reason perhaps this upcoming Olympics in South Korea?

ROSENBERGER: You know, Brooke, I think it remains to be seen how significant it is. They are trying to drive a wedge between U.S. And South Korea. As you noted apprehension in South Korea is high about the tensions but not because of the actions of the North per se. South Korean have been living with that reality for decades.

But because of the concern about whether or not President Trump and the new South Korean President Moon is on the same page. Whether U.S. has same commitments and whether the U.S. could be marching South Korea towards a war that no one on the peninsula wants. I worry that against the backdrop of these potential inter-Korean talks, which are fraught with risks, I worry that President Trump's tweets actually risk playing further into Kim Jong-Un hands by playing into that goal of driving a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea.

[14:45:27] BALDWIN: Final thought from you, Professor.

HWANG: Well, yes, I certainly agree with that to some extent. But I think it's more about just driving a wedge. I think North Korea has clearly been on a path where it is separating its nuclear weapons development. And it is separating that from improved inter-Korean relations. And I think that will actually be the biggest challenge facing the United States in the future.

BALDWIN: Balbina Hwang, Laura Rosenberger, thank you, ladies, both so very much.


BALDWIN: We are moments away from the White House briefing amid this epic fallout between President Trump and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Both sides tossing verbal grenades. Steve Bannon using the "T" word, treasonous, to describe that infamous meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. Trump says Bannon has "lost his mind." The White House briefing is straight ahead.


[14:50:00] BALDWIN: I want to share something really special with you today. First to go back, throughout 2016 presidential election, I listened at debates, rallies. I heard their voices and felt compelled to do something more. Thousands and thousands of women spoke with confidence and conviction. They were women of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicity, all political persuasions. And, yes, so many of them were hoping for history to be made, a first female president. But when that didn't happy, I asked myself where will all these women go.

I had a hunch something significant was about to happen as women were speaking out and showing up in record numbers. From the stage at the women's march in Washington, D.C., last January, where I witnessed the collective strength of those who travelled far and wide, it was overwhelming, and personally it was crystal clear the next chapter of my career would focus on women.

Cheryl Crow, Ava DuVernay, Tracy Reese, Pat Benatar, Betty White, they have all shattered glass ceilings, whether in music, fashion or film. These are trailblazing women who shared with me personal stories of success and failure, who are not afraid to talk politics, frustration and hope. And perhaps most importantly, these are women who don't want to be at the party alone. This is how Ava so selflessly put it to me as we talked on the set of her hit series, "Queen Sugar." In the end, these are leaders who want to help other women realize their dreams.

And 2017 was also the year of #metoo. Fairness and consequence. And some cases are beginning to land because people, like you, are speaking up.

In order for this movement to continue, for quality to exist, we must never forget that great changes of history have always come through persistence and belief. And for my part, I created "American Women."


BALDWIN (voice-over): They voted. WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Donald Trump, he's elected the 45th president

of the United States.

UNIDENTIFEID NEWS CORRESPONDENT: This is truly historic event.

BALDWIN: They marched.

UNIDENTIFEID NEWS CORRESPONDENT: More than one million people participated in women's marches.

UNIDENTIFEID NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And what you see is giant grassroots outpouring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen.

BALDWIN: They broke their silence.

BLITZER: Bill O'Reilly fired today from FOX News sexual harassment allegations.

UNIDENTIFEID NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

BALDWIN: And turned a set into a --




UNIDENTIFEID NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Sexual misconduct allegations against Congressman John Conyers.



UNIDENTIFEID NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Stunning allegations tonight against Roy Moore.



BALDWIN: Me too. Two simple words that have become a rallying cry of sorts.

UNIDENTIFEID NEWS CORRESPONDENT: So many people coming forward and speaking out.

UNIDENTIFEID NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Because when we stay silent all we do is fuel the game.

BALDWIN (on camera): What did you say? You believe in the First Amendment and B-O-O-B-S?


BALDWIN: See ya.

(voice-over): This is the moment of the "American Woman."

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSWOMAN: We are reclaiming our time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of women are energized.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Young women are realizing what they took for granted may not be so granted anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There have been so many times that I've been heavily criticized because I'm a woman and a black woman.


BETTY WHITE, ACTRESS: Back in those days, women didn't get hired as easy.

Oh, yes, she's a woman.

PAT BENATAR, SINGER: Sit right here.

BALDWIN (on camera): Sit on my lap.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, this guy is torturing me, telling me if I don't do this I'll never get a deal. I'll never work.

BALDWIN (voice-over): We are not labeling men based off of numbers out of their pants, why are we labeling women.

BALDWIN (on camera): How do young black girls grow up and think I can and I will?



[14:54:10] BALDWIN: Please join us. Go to Your voice matters. I would love to hear from you. Send me a video, Instagram or Twitter on @Brooke@CNN. Tell me your "American Woman" story and we'll show it here. We'll be rolling out clips of these women for the next eight weeks. Don't forget the #Americanwoman. We'll be rolling out the clips over the next eight weeks. And creating the series has had a profound effect on me, and I hope, in some way, it inspires you, too.

Next, the White House briefing. As former allies, President Trump and Steve Bannon turn on each other. We'll have a live report, next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. BALDWIN: Here we go. Hour two. You're watching CNN breaking news. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Any moment now, that White House briefing is set to begin on a pretty extraordinary day, even for the Trump White House. The president has just declared his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has, in the president's words, "lost his mind." That caustic comment is a response to new book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which releases next week. But it's already living up to its name causing quite the firestorm here in the last hour. Excerpts out today reveal Bannon's stunning smackdown of his fellow Trump campaign workers.

According to a piece in "The Guardian," Steve Bannon calls that Trump Tower meeting back in June of 2016 with a Russian lawyer treasonous and unpatriotic. He labels the business dealings with Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, as, quote, "greasy." He said more than that, but I can't say that on CNN. And check out this exchange reported by "New York" magazine, between Bannon and FOX News chief, Roger Ailes: Quote, "What has he gotten himself into with the Russians," asks Ailes. "Mostly," says Bannon, "he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin, but Putin couldn't give a bleep about him, so he kept trying."

Let's start this hour at the White House and our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim Acosta, ahead of the briefing, and many questions to be sent to Sarah Sanders. What's the response from the president to all of this?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, I think this book, "Fire and Fury," has lit Trump world on fire. That is essentially what we're seeing today, the war of words between the president and his chief strategist, Steven Bannon.