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Trump Threatens Iran in Late-Night Tweet; Source: Trump Frustrated with Lack of Denuclearization Progress from North Korea; Once More, Trump Says Russian Interference a 'Big Hoax'. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 23, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A war of words between Iraq and the United States.
[07:00:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This seemed to just come out of nowhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really over the top.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We were the victims of what Russia did in 2016, and it ought to be a source of unity.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump walks back the walk-back; now refers to the Russian attack on the 2016 election as a big hoax.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Either Trump doesn't understand what Russia has done, or perhaps he is being blackmailed.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: North Korea is playing the same old game they played with every other president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is not happy that things have stalled.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our expectations have to be tempered. Diplomacy is a process that takes time.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY withe Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
BERMAN: All right. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Thou shall not sleep, not ever.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We won't. Right. That's where we are.
BERMAN: The breaking news, because overnight, the president threatening war with Iran. Language that raises new concerns. And you can ask yourself why and why now. But this is what president wrote, just before midnight to the Iranian president Rouhani: "NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE."
This came in response, we think, to Iran's president saying that Americans must understand that war with Iran would be, quote, "the mother of all wars." And if what the president said sounded familiar, let's rewind almost to a year ago when the president said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK, so one big question this morning is whether the Iran threat is real or whether it's designed as a distraction from all the criticism about the Helsinki summit that the president has gotten.
While the president continues to publicly praise progress with North Korea, a U.S. official tells CNN that Mr. Trump is actually frustrated over the pace of talks with North Korea. And CNN is also reporting this morning that North Korea plans to keep talks with the U.S. going, but they're calling for the U.S. to make more concessions.
So we have all of this covered for you. It's been a busy 12 hours. Let's begin with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He is live in London with the president's threat.
Nick, what do you have?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, extraordinary to wake up today, and I'll try and emulate the caps lock he left on as I read this tweet out, but it says, "IRANIAN PRESIDENT ROUHANI, NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN, OR YOU WILL SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE AND DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS."
Now, this is obviously to a region where a caps lock key could mean an awful lot. A lot of volatility there already. This was clearly part of a ratcheting up of tensions over the last 48 hours or so.
Hassan Rouhani, in a response to tightening sanctions put in by the U.S. that have pulled out of the Iranian nuclear agreement designed to stop it from having nuclear weapons. Hassan Rouhani said that the U.S. should not pull the lion's tail of Iran. And while saying they could have the mother of all peace, also threatening the mother of all wars. That's what Donald Trump seems to be responding to.
Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state, gave a lengthy speech in California where he essentially accused the Iranian government of acting like a mafia, and more importantly, pointed out that the government, in his opinion, of Hassan Rouhani, considered comparatively moderate, were actually a wolf in sheep's clothing. They're really actually extremists. Now, the broader issue here, of course, is we have many different flash points across the Middle East, where words like this could be the tipping point if there was some sort of military misunderstanding. U.S. troops in Syria near Iranian militia. We have Lebanese Hezbollah at the north of Israel, backed by Iran. So much that could go wrong. Throwing on sort of rhetorical gasoline like this isn't an enormous help.
But the broader thing we heard here from Mike Pompeo was the understanding, in their mind, that there's some sort of liberal option in Iran that could be pursued that would take over from this comparatively moderate government of Rouhani. Instead, sadly, what seems to be happening is the U.S. rhetoric is pushing them closer towards the hardliners, and that's not good, frankly, for anybody.
But yes, Alisyn, a big distraction this morning from Helsinki.
Back to you.
CAMEROTA: It's all so complicated. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much for laying it out for us and explaining it.
CNN has learned that President Trump is frustrated with the lack of progress in denuclearization talks with North Korea. And now an official with knowledge of the North Korean position says the regime is calling for the U.S. to make more concessions.
CNN's Will Ripley has been to North Korea more than a dozen times. He is live for us in Hong Kong with more. What have you learned, Will?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, I spoke with a source overnight who says the North Koreans feel they have done enough by claiming they blew up their nuclear test sites, something we couldn't verify as journalists on the ground; by freezing nuclear and missile tests since last November, and by possibly returning what they claim are the remains of U.S. service members in the Korean War.
In the coming days, the North Koreans say now it's time for the U.S. to make what they call a bold step by lifting sanctions immediately as part of a step-by-step process of denuclearization. And also, perhaps more importantly, by the U.S. pushing for a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War, which the North Koreans feel would guarantee the survival of Kim Jong-un's regime.
The North Koreans say they are committed to denuclearization talks with the United States, but my source says that if the U.S. does not push forward quickly with this peace treaty, they're not going to rule out walking away from the negotiating table, from throwing out what was accomplished at the Singapore summit with President Trump.
And what is emboldening the North Koreans right now is that, even though things with the U.S. have stalled, even though Mike Pompeo got snubbed by North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un when he visited Pyongyang earlier this month, things are going very well between the North Koreans and their traditional allies, China and Russia, who have told Kim Jong-un they have his back, even if things with the United States don't go his way.
That's where we're at right now, John, and we'll see what happens. But clearly, a disappointment for the Trump administration, with everything else happening, as well.
BERMAN: All right. Will Ripley for us in Hong Kong on the North Korea situation. We're going to talk about that and so much more.
Joining us now is Richard Clarke, the former U.S. national coordinator for security infrastructure and protection and counterterrorism.
Richard, thank you so much for being with us. We have a lot to talk about.
What I'd like to do, if we can, if start biggest of big picture and then go down to the separate little crises, which are all seeming to pop up all over the place. But just biggest of big picture, the president met with Vladimir Putin last week and, basically, had to explain it for six days afterwards, walking back the walk-back. President Trump doesn't seem to be getting what he wants out of North Korea. And this morning President Trump lashing out with this verbiage at Iran.
Big picture: What does this tell you about the U.S. role in the world right now?
RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL COORDINATOR FOR SECURITY INFRASTRUCTURE AND PROTECTION AND COUNTERTERRORISM: Well, it's diminishing. The U.S. influence is diminishing. And the overriding thing that connects all of this is diplomatic malpractice by the president of the United States.
He is trying to do diplomacy, high-stakes diplomacy, in multiple arenas himself, shooting from the hip. This is a man who has no experience in national security, no experience in international diplomacy, who's ignoring his advisors, and we see the results. Our influence, our respect around the world is diminishing. The prospects of war are inching up because of his tweets, because of his impulse, because of his lack of experience, and his insistence on doing it himself.
BERMAN: Is there a coherence, though, in what he is pursuing? He will say -- and he said going back to his inauguration -- this is about America first?
CLARKE: No, there's no coherence. He is trying to get a nuclear deal with North Korea, and he threw out a very good nuclear deal with Iraq. Basically, his philosophy is if Obama did it, it's wrong. And if Obama didn't do it, "maybe there's someplace for me to make history."
It's all about him. It's not about security. It's not about international stability.
BERMAN: Let's walk through some of the things that have just happened in the last 24 hours. No. 1, we woke up to the president's language about Iran, threatening that Iran will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.
When you woke up this morning with the rest of us and saw that, what was your reaction?
CLARKE: But John, this comes in context. This comes at a time when Israel and Iran are inching closer to war with each other than they ever have before. And for us to pour gasoline on that fire is very dangerous.
If there's a war a year from now or six months from now, historians go back and ask, "What contributed to that war?" They're going to say, among other things, the president of the United States fanning the flames.
BERMAN: But do you think, though, that people just look at this. You say this type of language could fan the flames and cause a war, ultimately. The president has talked like this before about a lot of things. Do you think people at this point just take it as words?
CLARKE: Well, some people do, but some people in Iran, the hardliners, are using this as justification to get ready for war. And when both sides start getting ready for war, the chances of a mistake or a small incident happening and that expanding quickly go up.
BERMAN: Iran, though, is a bad actor on the world stage.
CLARKE: Absolutely. Absolutely. Iran has been doing terrorism in support of insurgencies throughout the Middle East. And that's one of the reasons we have to be careful. They are now more powerful in the Middle East than they have ever been. A war with Iran could not be limited. It could not be small. It would touch Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and throughout the Persian Gulf.
BERMAN: One of the people who theoretically could help the United States to reign in Iran would be Vladimir Putin.
CLARKE: I don't think so. I don't think Putin has a lot of influence over Iran. He never really has. In fact, there are underlying reasons why the two of them don't like each other if we go back historically.
I don't think the way to reign in Iran is to tweet in all caps that you're going to war with them. The way to avoid war with Iran is to try to negotiate with them. And we had done that, painfully, over several years. And this president threw all of that away.
[07:10:10] BERMAN: When you're talking about Vladimir Putin, you don't think he has the ability to perhaps reign in Iran. Then how do you explain what the president of the United States has tried to do over the last eight days with the leader of Russia?
CLARKE: Who knows what he tried to do, John? We do not know to this day what went on in those secret one-on-one talks in Helsinki.
BERMAN: Normally -- and you've worked in the intelligence community and foreign policy for decades -- would you know by now what happened in a presidential summit?
CLARKE: You'd know within minutes. If you were a National Security Council official, as I was, you'd know within minutes. Or you'd be in the meeting. I think a one-on-one meeting that went on for two hours that covered all of these sensitive subjects, and people don't know? People -- his director of national intelligence said in Aspen he didn't know what happened in those meetings days after the meetings occurred? This is diplomatic malpractice.
BERMAN: Dan Coats apologized for laughing out loud when he found out that the president scheduled a new summit with Vladimir Putin.
CLARKE: Well, it was a nervous laugh. But he also said, on the record, that he did not know what happened in the Helsinki meeting.
BERMAN: What's the consequence of that?
CLARKE: When you don't have a functioning government, when the government doesn't know, when the national security team and the national security apparatus doesn't know what the president is up to when in negotiations with a -- with an enemy state, anything can happen. It's a dysfunctional government.
BERMAN: You know Vladimir Putin. You've watched him for years. what does he make of the president's performance in the last seven days, since he walked out of that summit?
CLARKE: Vladimir Putin loves it. You know, I said the other day that, if the president of the United States were a controlled asset of Vladimir Putin, he would act no differently than he does.
BERMAN: Do you think he actually is, though?
CLARKE: I have no idea whether or not he is. But look at what he does. If he were a controlled asset of Vladimir Putin, what would he do differently? He's doing everything to enhance the Russian agenda.
BERMAN: He'll say -- the president will say, "Well, I cracked down on Germany for reaching -- trying to reach a natural gas deal."
CLARKE: What he's trying to do, what Putin's been trying to do for decades, what Trump appears to be trying to do is break up the NATO alliance, which the United States created, which is one of our greatest assets. If you think, well, what are our national security assets? NATO is at the top of the list. It's an incredible asset. And it's the best political/military alliance in the history of man.
BERMAN: The president also overnight, once again, said that the entire notion of the Russian attack on the presidential election -- he once again called it a big hoax.
CLARKE: Yes, he said that talking about the intelligence court materials that were made public. Very bad precedent. We've never released intelligence court materials before. Now we have the legal precedent that those documents can be released. That will make it more difficult for us to do counterintelligence, more difficult for us to do counterterrorism.
But the documents are out, and if you read them, they contradict the president.
CLARKE: They say specifically that the FBI had good reason to worry about Carter Page. He was meeting with Russian intelligence agents. And you can guess that, in the parts of the material that are blacked out, what we have there, I would guess -- and I've seen a lot of these warrants -- is intercepts of those Russian intelligence agents reporting back to Moscow on their conversation with Carter Page.
BERMAN: If something -- if Carter Page did do something illegal would he not have been arrested by now?
CLARKE: It's not necessarily illegal to meet with Russian intelligence agents. It's what you do after the fact that could be illegal.
BERMAN: And one other thing, and we haven't had a chance to talk about this yet. If you look at the applications, the original applications and the four reapplications or extensions for the FISA warrants, it kept on getting longer.
CLARKE: And four different judges on four different occasions approved these warrants, saying that Carter Page might be a risk. All four of those Republican judges -- they were all appointed by Republican presidents -- all four of those judges saw the material that convinced them that Carter Page could be a counterintelligence risk.
BERMAN: And again, every time it gets longer, you're presenting more evidence. In theory, what could be redacted there is more evidence of -- that they have been collecting over time. Is that what goes on?
CLARKE: Absolutely, and the Russians reporting it back to Moscow.
BERMAN: I do want to ask you about North Korea very quickly. The president, Will Ripley and others reporting, is getting frustrated at the lack of progress on denuclearization. Are you surprised?
CLARKE: No, no one's surprised. No one who's looked at North Korea over the last 25 years in these negotiations is surprised.
The risk here, though, John, is that the president will get frustrated and then do something because of his personal involvement in this.
BERMAN: You keep on falling back on that. You are nervous about what the president might do in North Korea if he gets frustration, like if he would get in some kind of pique. Just like you're nervous about the language he used with Iran. Have you seen any evidence that the actions mirror the words?
CLARKE: Not yet, and we do have Secretary Mattis standing in between him and our forces. So if the president wakes up in the middle of the night and is mad at Iran and orders some attack, hopefully, the system will resist.
[07:15:02] BERMAN: Do you think it's going to come to that? I mean, that's an alarming notion right now, that you think that the defense secretary, General Mattis, would have to stop the president from launching an attack. Is that a genuine fear, or is that just a scenario you're creating?
CLARKE: It's a scenario that I think we have to worry about after having watched this president's diplomatic malpractice for the last two years.
BERMAN: Richard Clarke, great to have you with us this morning. Some sobering words. Do appreciate your time, sir.
CLARKE: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: John, it's a very busy Monday morning. We actually have breaking news, because at least one person was killed, 13 others were shot last night in Toronto. The shooter was also killed. And at least one victim, we can report, who was described as a young girl, is in critical condition at this hour.
So it is not clear what motivated this shooter. Police say they are investigating a variety of possibilities including terrorism. Police are asking for anyone in the area to share with them any photos or any video they may have taken to help them in their investigation.
BERMAN: Right. We'll watch that all morning.
You just heard Richard Clarke refer to the president's foreign policy as diplomatic malpractice. What is the impact of that? What is the president doing this morning with his comments about Iran? What is he doing walking back the walk-back, now telling us, I think definitively, what he really believes about the Russian attack on the 2016 election? He thinks it's a hoax.
CAMEROTA: After spending days trying to reassure Americans that he believes that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, President Trump has now made it clear with a tweet that he actually believes it's all a hoax.
Joining us now is Susan Glasser, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for "The New Yorker"; and CNN political analyst David Gregory.
David, look, nobody thought when the president said last week in that what's been called a hostage video, that it was all about the word "would," "wouldn't." He said, you know --
BERMAN: You didn't believe the double negative?
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean --
BERMAN: That didn't convince you?
CAMEROTA: Then he was like, "I -- insert name here -- believe" -- you know, he had stuck to the script there like glue. He's already -- it was only a few days ago. He's already back this morning in this tweet saying it's all a big hoax. I mean, it -- you've heard it before. And so David, I mean, you know, he's revealed what he believes, and so now what are we to do with that information?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We have to look at what he believes and what he says, and what he does about Russia through the prism of his ego and his paranoia. His desperation to be loved, to feel legitimate.
There is no way he's going to give any quarter on the Mueller investigation, on the specter of Russia meddling in our election, because that, in his mind, undermines his legitimacy. He can't walk and chew gum at the same time. He can't say, "Yes, they meddled, but it didn't make a difference." I think a lot of voters could do that. They can see the threat but also see that it may not have made the ultimate difference. But they can see the threat. And he's never been able to pull back and say, "As president, I have a larger job here: to protect the institutions, to protect democracy, to protect, you know, my own party, if things were to be different."
So I think when he tweets, I think it's abundantly clear what he actually thinks about this. And I think, you know, when you see him come out, as he did last week, with this tortured language that he used in a -- in a statement, that is clearly his staff work at play. Those are advisors saying, "Mr. President, you can't talk like this. You've -- you've gone too far. You may want a relationship with Russia, but you've got to be, you know, a little bit more centered on reality." And so you see that schism with his own staff.
And where all of this goes, we don't know. What he agreed to, we don't know. What another summit looks like with Putin, we simply don't know. But I think we know what he thinks about this whole issue.
BERMAN: I think we can sort of do "case closed" on whether or not he wants to believe that Russia attacked the 2016 election. He just doesn't. He's told us again and again and again.
CAMEROTA: But one last thing on that, Susan, before we get to it, which is that it's not just about whether he believes that the Mueller investigation is legit. It's that he stood on a stage and sided with Vladimir Putin over Dan Coats and over the FBI.
BERMAN: And he's not sorry about it.
CAMEROTA: That's the part that, I think, that was in such, you know, stark relief, Susan, last week. And that's the part that Americans can't unsee.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That's exactly right. I mean, you know, I think there is very little doubt about what President Trump actually believes. This gotcha game, though, over, "Well, should we believe the tweets or
should we believe the statement or the" -- it's all designed to muddy the waters, to confuse us. It's once again a way of both bringing up Russia. In some weird way, he seems to see political benefit in this. He's actually, over the last few months, interestingly, taken to tweeting himself about the witch hunt and "no collusion," and the hoax far more than he had in the previous year.
And so interestingly, he seems to think there's a political benefit to this. Now he's invited Vladimir Putin to come here to Washington for a second summit. Again, to most people that would seem inexplicable politically, to be reminding us of something he clearly feels vulnerable about. And yet, this is Donald Trump's very unorthodox style of politics, No. 1.
But No. 2, I'm worried that this focus on the, you know, "does he believe it, does he not believe it," is making us forget about the sort of scandal hiding in plain sight of the Russian meeting, which is to say -- Richard Clarke, your previous guest, alluded to it. The breakdown in American foreign policy.
[07:25:05] We're a week out of the summit. We don't know what was agreed to. Russia has defined what they said went on in the meeting, and that Trump did make important agreements with Vladimir Putin. Where's the U.S. government telling us whether he did or he didn't? They don't seem to know.
BERMAN: Just to be clear, Susan, Richard told me that he would have known within minutes what went on in a presidential summit in the administrations he worked in. Is that true? I mean, we're now a full week past the meeting with no public disclosure of what was discussed. Is Richard right that this is unheard of?
GLASSER: I think it's extremely unprecedented. And of course, it's very worrisome, because it also suggests that President Trump doesn't really have credibility with his own foreign policy and national security advisors. They may not be briefing us, because they can't really trust what it is that the president had to tell them about the private two-hour meeting.
GREGORY: And isn't it -- I just want to go back to politics. I think Susan makes a really important point. The president is not building a foreign policy vision here. This is just diplomacy on the fly. It's destructive. I don't think he's ever had an informed world view.
He wants to just kind of cast aside anything he's been inherited on -- in terms of foreign policy, in terms of international norms or America's place in the world.
But if he picks up the newspaper, or reads it on his phone, and he sees his marks, his poll numbers --
GREGORY: -- ticking upward and particularly the support among Republicans in this election year, he -- you know he says to himself, "You know what? The wisdom here is my wisdom." And that is that "This Republican Party is my party, and it's sticking with me."
He knows the Mueller probe will end at some point. There will be a report, at the very least, in addition to the cases that are moving forward. He has worked assiduously to undermine the narrative that the Russians meddled, and it made some sort of a difference. And there's enough people who believe him he'll want to stay at it. He's not concerned about what happens down the line.
BERMAN: I just want to point out -- I just want to point out, David Gregory is on Team Berman, not Team Camerota on this notion. And the polls --
CAMEROTA: Because the number is -- it is depressive (ph), 88 percent.
BERMAN: Let's put the numbers up for the people, so the people out there can see them.
CAMEROTA: Here it is.
BERMAN: This is the new "Wall Street Journal" poll. He's at a 45 percent approval rating, which is a tick up from June. He's actually increased to 45 from 44 in June, and he's got approval among 88 percent of Republicans. I just want to put those numbers out there.
CAMEROTA: So what I was pointing out, David and Susan, is that only 27 percent of the country at this point, according to the latest Gallup poll, identifies as Republican. So if you do 88 percent of that 27 percent of the country, you get to the base. I mean, that's really the base, I think, Susan.
So in other words, when you see the 88 percent number, you're like, "The majority of the country feels this way," but in fact, it's his solidifying the base.
But I still find it hard to believe that the base agrees with blaming America on the international stage, standing next to Vladimir Putin and saying it was America's foolishness, and that America was to blame for whatever Russia has done. I mean, that, I just find it hard to believe that that washes.
GLASSER: Well, you know, I think you're making an important point. No. 1, there is a long-term trend of the Republican Party shrinking over time that predates Donald Trump. But he may accelerate that eventually. As you know, the demographics aren't necessarily on their side.
Interestingly, you have in that poll 88 percent of Republicans approving overall of his job. There was a "Washington Post" poll about specifically the Russia summit, and that found only about 66 percent, I believe, was the number approving of his performance with Vladimir Putin. That's still high among Republicans. Again, overall, people disapprove.
CAMEROTA: Yes, check it out. I mean --
GLASSER: That's a big drop-off. CAMEROTA: Hold on, it's 26 percent. This is the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Only 26 percent of all respondents -- this isn't the, you know, party, et cetera -- this is all respondents. Only 26 percent approve of what they saw in Helsinki. Fifty-one percent disapprove.
Sorry, Susan, go ahead.
GLASSER: Yes, well, again, I think it is an important point. It shows that even among the very, very faithful Republican Party hard core, there's a big drop-off between President Trump's overall approval and the Russia thing, which doesn't seem to be that popular even with them. And so again, you have to ask why is he pursuing it, why is he calling our attention to it all the time? I think that's a dynamic to watch going into the fall midterm elections.
CAMEROTA: All right. Susan, David, thank you both very much.
So the FBI surveillance warrant has now been made public. OK? This is incredibly unprecedented. So what does it show us? What are we to make of it? We have a member of the House Intel Committee joining us next.