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CNN TONIGHT

A Warning of Merciless Action; Watching Each Other; Not too Close Anymore. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 14, 2017 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: That does it for this edition of 360. Thank you for watching. The CNN film Unseen Enemy begins now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: As we go on the air tonight, the question is, is North Korea on the verge of conducting its sixth nuclear weapons test with the aim of provoking President Trump?

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

It's already Saturday in that isolated country, which is celebrating the birthday of its founder, a day in which it usually flexes its military muscle.

North Korea is warning of a merciless response if provoked by the Trump administration. And it's clearly rattled by the U.S. dropping a massive non-nuclear bomb on ISIS targets in Afghanistan, calling it serious military hysteria.

Look at that MOAB dropping in Afghanistan. I want to begin tonight in North Korea, where CNN has rare access, very rare access. CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Pyongyang, the capital city. We'll get to Will in just a moment.

But just to show you they had a military parade in the heart of Pyongyang today, as we said and where they were showing off their military muscle. They were celebrating there, and you could see as we look at the video there, the supreme leader Kim Jong-un, was shown clapping and smiling from a reviewing box there earlier.

For North Korean's, it's a suspicious day because April 15th was the day that they see -- millions celebrate the birth of their nation's founder. Again, are they on the verge of testing a sixth nuclear weapon?

We will get to that in a moment and we'll get to Will Ripley, who has rare access there in just a minute. I want to bring in now CNN political commentators Bakari Sellers and Jason Miller, David Swerdlick, and national political reporter, Maeve Reston.

Good evening to all of you. David Swerdlick, let me ask you as we were looking at those pictures coming from North Korea, this is something that this president is dealing with now, he has to deal with Afghanistan. DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.

LEMON: Now he's dealing with the possibility of North Korea. What happens now? We don't know.

SWERDLICK: No, Don, we don't. You know, in recent days, President Trump has tweeted that he wants the help of China, that he's getting along with President Xi. He has enlisted him, at least publicly, to try and put pressure on North Korea to, you know, kind of tamp down their missile tests and their nuclear weapons program.

But has said in those tweets and in other statements that if China doesn't help, that the U.S. will go it alone, what is undefined, Don, is what going it alone means. It's one thing to drop bomb in Afghanistan. It's one thing to launch a missile strike in Syria, countries that can't reach back to us, at least not directly.

North Korea, if we were to attack them militarily, and I'm not saying that we are going to. They can strike South Korea where we have troops and that's one of our key allies. It is a very froth situation.

LEMON: All right. David, stand by. Panel, I want you to stand by. Now I want to get to Will Ripley again, who is live in the capital City of Pyongyang and I can't stress enough rare access there. Will, unbelievable that we are getting you live from there. What's happening in North Korea from there and why do analysts think there may be a sixth nuclear test?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been a lot of talk this week, Don, leading up to this holiday, the Day of the Sun. You were talking the birthday of North Korea's founding father, Kim Il-sung. And around this major holidays, North Korea has in the past chosen to display its military might through nuclear power.

In fact, it was five years ago, it was two days ago before this holiday that North Korea attempted to launch a satellite into orbit. We have not, as far as I know, seen a nuclear test here in North Korea yet today.

And I've been without my phone for more than five hours, so you probably know what's happening up to date better than I do. We have to surrender our phones any time we enter event where North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un is in attendance.

But the military parade is just about to get underway. And I want you to take a look at this. Because we often see the images of the tanks rolling by. This is something that we don't always see, the moments before the parade begins, when you have these North Korean soldiers.

And if you zoom in on their faces, you can see these are very young faces. These are teenagers. They serve for 10 years in many cases, starting from age 17 or so until their late 20s. They don't get married, they don't have, you know, a social life like you might think in the United States.

Their lives are committed to defending this country in the event of a military confrontation. And just a few moments ago, these soldiers were chanting, you know, we will die for you, our supreme leader, our supreme commander, Kim Jong-un.

So this is obviously, this is a militarized country. They have a standing army of more than a million. And what we expect to see in the coming hours during this parade is perhaps a display of some of the new missiles and other weapons that North Korea has been developing.

[22:05:05] In the last year alone, they have perfected submarine launch ballistic missile so that they could fire it from the submarine. They have a land-based ballistic missile that they can launch from a mobile launcher. These are solid fuel missiles. They fuel them up and instead of a liquid fuel it's almost like an explosive jelly and it allows these missiles to sit in hiding and be rolled out and launched relatively quickly.

So we could still see a missile launch today as some sort of a show of force. But the sense I'm getting from North Korean officials in regards to a nuclear test, if it was going to happen today, it is believed that it would have probably happened by now.

Historically, North Korea has tended to conduct those tests in the morning hours, often around 9.30 in the morning. It's now just after 10.30 in the morning here.

But Don, just because they haven't done this nuclear test today doesn't mean it's not going to happen. North Korea has it written into their Constitution that they are a nuclear power. And analysts looking at satellite images from just a couple of days ago believe that the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, is primed and ready for a test, really at any moment.

LEMON: Yes.

RIPLEY: So, could they do it when Vice President Pence visits the region in a few days?

LEMON: Yes.

RIPLEY: Could they choose another occasion? It's really not a matter of if but probably when, when it comes to North Korea. And what we don't know, Don, is how the Trump administration is going to respond with that huge group of warships, the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group now in the waters in place off the Korean Peninsula, equipped with a lot of missiles and a lot of--

LEMON: Yes.

RIPLEY: -- you know, a lot of weapons that are attended to try to deter North Korea from doing this.

LEMON: Well, let's talk a little bit more, and again, I can't stress how extraordinary it is that you're live there and what we're seeing behind you. And you said that there we may have seen it if it was going to happen by now, but again, we don't know. Will, there's been an escalating war of words between Washington and

Pyongyang. How much of it is real, do we know? And how much of it is saber rattling?

RIPLEY: Well, we're used to hearing from North Korea threats of nuclear annihilation of the United States. That's something that North Korea has said repeatedly over the years if they provoked that they'll retaliate and there will be no survivors. And that's the kind of rhetoric that we're still hearing from North Korea now.

But what's new in this dynamic here, Don, is President Trump. And the fact that President Trump is tweeting in real-time his thoughts about North Korea, his thoughts about China and the United States trying to reign in the North Korean nuclear threat.

And so, we don't know how North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un is going to respond to these tweets, that they might find very provocative. Then of course not to mention the fact that this huge conventional weapon, this MOAB, the mother of all bombs, launched on ISIS tunnels in Afghanistan.

North Korea conducts its nuclear tests underground. And so, you wonder is this some sort of a veiled threat, and if so, how is North Korea and its leader going to respond to that?

LEMON: Can you talk a bit more, Will, if you can, about a normal day for folks there? Because you have the members of the military behind you, and you said they don't have a normal social life as Americans would. Explain to us a normal day-to-day activities of North Koreans.

RIPLEY: We're only allowed to see the lives of people who live here in the capital city of Pyongyang. And they have an extraordinarily high living standard when compared to the reports of life outside the city. There are three million North Koreans who live inside the city, 22 million North Koreans who live outside the city. And our cameras are rarely if ever allowed to go beyond the capital.

But take a look at the people who you see lined up here. Some of these members of the military are from the country rural areas, and they're here standing in this huge square. This is Kim Il-Sung Square. Everything about this space, Don, is designed to make the individuals feel small and the society as a whole feel big.

And you can't see them but over my right shoulder, I'm looking at the podium where Kim Jong-un is standing. He's standing underneath two giant portraits of his father and his grandfather. This whole country is built around these three leaders.

As for their typical day, I can tell you what North Koreans were doing this morning. They woke up before 5 a.m. and walked some times for miles to get to this particular location. You're going to see later on a huge mass demonstration, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of civilians, cheering, dancing in unison.

And that's after all the military hardware rolls through. So this is really an example of North Korea doing what North Korea does best, these super-sized displays of patriotic revolutionary gusto designed to send a message to the world that this country is strong and defiant, in spite of sanctions and condemnation and they have pledged to continue to develop nuclear weapons to defend their way of life here.

LEMON: Will Ripley, live in Pyongyang. Will, thank you very much for that report. I appreciate it.

I want to get back to the panel now. Jason Miller, David Swerdlick, Maeve Reston, and Bakari Sellers. Just to get your reaction to what we just saw. Again, I can't stress for the viewer how much of that is really rare access made for us to be able to go live, especially to go live there, even to report from there.

[22:10:01] You know, President Trump has said some things about North Korea, so the problem will be taken care of. He didn't say exactly what it would be. What's your response to that?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN'S NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it is such an extraordinary look inside a country that is such a mystery to so many Americans.

I think that's probably why this sort of escalation of tensions has been so riveting in recent days, with these two very unpredictable leaders now kind of going up against one another.

And we don't know what Trump will do on this. He obviously is surrounded by people who have explained to him how huge this threat is, and that has certainly settled in. If you talk to people that have been talking to him in recent days.

But, there's a very, you know, kind of a jittery feeling about what could happen here and what happens when you have two enormous egos like this in opposition to one another. Donald Trump, of course, campaigned on an American first policy. But you're seeing all these global crises unfold, and he clearly is trying to step into that role.

LEMON: Yes. I'm wondering, Bakari Sellers, North Korea's promise of a merciless response in any U.S. provocation. Is this President Trump's biggest foreign policy challenge do you think?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, if you go back and look during the transition process when Barack Obama and Donald Trump were having these conversations, the 44th President of the United States told Donald Trump that the greatest threat he would have to face in this foreign -- in the foreign policy arena was a nuclear North Korea. And we're starting to see that.

And Iw as reading the A.P. who came out with an amazing article today in response to some articles that came out about our action to any action taken place by North Korea. And what you see is that we're not going to respond with military force unless North Korea attempts to strike any of our allies throughout the country.

If it's just a missile test throughout the world -- excuse me, if it's just a missile test then we will just fall back. But what we're doing right now, what President Trump is doing is playing a very dangerous game of chicken. Not just in Syria, but in Afghanistan and North Korea. Our footprint is expanding in a very war wary country what we are today. And many people are fixated on the access that Will got and you got tonight on CNN Tonight.

LEMON: We still have it, by the way, Bakari. These are live pictures, we're still looking at these festivities that are happening in Pyongyang and again, this is extremely rare for this to be happening, for Will to do a live shot, for us to go live this long and show pictures from the capital city, from Pyongyang inside North Korea.

SELLERS: But if you just think briefly, and I know I'm a wrap-up, but if you think briefly just a couple of days ago, we were looking at pictures of an air strike in Syria. Then just a couple more days after that, we were looking at a MOAB, the mother of all bombs dropped in the mountains of Afghanistan.

And now we're fixated on a North Korea and what they may or may not do with a nuclear arsenal. We're living in very, very dangerous times with the fragile ego of the president of the United States.

LEMON: Yes. And I'm glad you said that. Because today is day 85 of the administration. Within the past 10 days some of the things that Bakari mentioned, the U.S. has launched an air strike in Syria.

President Trump's Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch was sworn in. Yesterday, the mother of all bombs launched in Afghanistan. And not to mention the president flip-flopped on multiple positions that he touted during the campaign and during his presidency even so far. Jason, what is the picture that's emerging here from all of this?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the big picture takeaway I think that most Americans have right is that the economy is improving, and this president is willing to stand up and put America first on the global stage.

Now, with regard to, all due respect to Bakari, there's a little bit of rhetoric thrown out there with regard to the president his approach to North Korea. I think he's doing a very smart thing so far.

We've seen Secretary Tillerson in the theater. We've seen General Mattis, the Vice President Pence will be traveling to Asia, I believe he leaves tomorrow. President Trump is sending his top leaders, and his advisers that are going to be going in and meeting with other dignitaries to really get a sense of the situation.

We've shown that the president is willing to step up and he'll have do with someone like Assad to stop the chemical weapons that we blow.

Obviously, North Korea is a much more complex issue. We have to have additional partners. We need the Chinese involved here. There is no easy solution to North Korea, but I think this administration, and this president know just how serious this is, and you can tell by the steps that they're taking that this is a top priority.

LEMON: All right. Stand by, everyone. I need to get to the break. But I want to show these live pictures again from Pyongyang where a military parade is happening in the heart of that capital city, underway right now and is expected that this, you know, this regime will show off some of its latest arsenal, what you're seeing right there.

The concern is that there may be a sixth nuclear test, and we are watching closely. CNN with rare live access inside North Korea, Pyongyang, the capital city.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This was not a good week for Steve Bannon, President Trump's chief strategist.

Back with my panel now. David Swerdlick, you first. When the week started, we were all talking about the meeting between the president, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon, a meeting where the president told the two to cool it. Where do you think Bannon stands tonight?

SWERDLICK: Look, I think his role, Don, is somewhat diminished, and I think that is a result of the first 80 some odd days leading into the first 100 days, not having gone the way President Trump wants it to go. I'm not going to predict that he's out, but he's certainly down.

Last night I talked to someone at Breitbart who knows Bannon well who said, you know, that he thinks of him as a strategist, he thinks of him as someone who has, you know, belief in his agenda and what he's pushing in the White House, and that if he sticks around he's going to continue to push for that.

The person I spoke to was diplomatic, but said if he's eventually pushed out of the White House, he will continue to fight for the agenda that he believes in. Didn't say he was going to start attacking President Trump, but did suggest that Bannon is not going to change his stripes just to -- just to shift with the changing winds.

LEMON: You're reading ahead in the text book about whether what this means. So I'm going to ask Jason. Jason, you were there, you know. Does President Trump need Bannon in order to keep the alt-right support or certain support from the certain part of his base?

[22:20:03] MILLER: I think President Trump would be well served to have Steve Bannon there just as he has Jared Kushner there, just as he has Reince Priebus and Gary Cohn and the rest of the entire team.

One of the things about the president, and I've had the opportunity to work for him for seven or eight months or so over the course of the campaign and the transition, is he brings together a whole bunch of folks who have different world views and have very strong opinions and he puts them together and he gets all the information then he ultimately makes the choice.

But the key is when you put people who are this smart and this passionate together, sometimes people are going to butt heads a little bit.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK.

MILLER: But I think the message over something clearly from the president--

LEMON: All right, Jason.

MILLER: Hold on a second.

LEMON: Go ahead, go ahead.

MILLER: I think the president sent a pretty clear message this last week that, hey, it was getting too hot and it was a pretty clear reminder was sent out that there's only one person who has their name on the door.

LEMON: OK.

MILLER: And ultimately the president will take his information and make his own decisions.

LEMON: You brought it back to the question, but I just, I mean, let's dig in here and be honest, Jason. I like Steve but -- or he's just a guy who works for me? Come on.

MILLER: Look, I think it was probably blown up and it was just the fact if there's so much--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: His words, his words.

MILLER: -- that there's so much back and forth. Yes. But look, here's the deal with President Trump. You know exactly where he stands. And if he doesn't want somebody there, then they're not going to be there any longer.

And the fact to the matter is, there's a really good team they put together to help get President Trump and help organize the campaign that resulted in 306 electoral votes. He has a very good well-balanced team.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Do you think he's on the way out? Do you think or do you think he's lost some favor?

MILLER: No, I don't think there--

LEMON: Do you think he's lost some favor?

MILLER: I don't think there are any shakeups that are coming to the White House.

LEMON: Do you think he's lost favor? MILLER: No.

LEMON: OK.

MILLER: I think everyone who is there, the president wants them there.

SELLERS: Don.

LEMON: Go ahead.

MILLER: And look, I can tell you from having been in the room with the president, if you're in the room, he expects you to have a strong opinion. He expects you to make your voice heard.

LEMON: I understand that. But I just -- I just wanted to know if he's lost favor. Because anyone who he has stood by, I never heard him say I like, you know, Kellyanne, but, I like, you know, Jared, but I like Ivanka but -- this is like, he speaks very idly then. His language has changed when it comes to Steve Bannon, Maeve.

RESTON: But Don, don't you feel like this kind of goes in cycles with President Trump? I mean, sometimes you feel like he's just sort of playing with his staff, the way that he goes out and talks in the media, sometimes with very high praise, and other times, you know, talking down to them, sending a message through the media.

I mean, I think that what Jason and others have said is right, is that, you know, Donald Trump doesn't like anybody to get too big, including his own son-in-law.

You know, you heard the stories over the last week about President Trump rolling his eyes when he saw the coverage of Jared Kushner suddenly being, you know, the most powerful figure in the west wing.

So, I think that there is also just a bit of rebalancing going on here. And I thought it was interesting in the last week how Trump talked about being, you know, a flexible thinker. He clearly is listening to, you know, a wider variety of voices now than he did on the campaign trail.

And we are seeing a shift to the center with his flip-flops over the last week. Whether or not that lasts and who's going to be out, you know, next week, I think it's like, it's like a constant game that he plays in the press.

LEMON: Yes. And we'll be reporting on it. Bakari, things certainly have changed since we heard those words from the president about Steve Bannon and since Steve Bannon lost his seat at the National Security Council.

SELLERS: There's no question. But I mean, let's just look at Donald Trump's history. You had Corey Lewandowski who was very close, and then he was out. You have Paul Manafort who was very close, and then he was out. You have Kellyanne Conway who was very close, and now she is not necessarily somebody who we look at as being on the inner circle.

And so, when you look at all of these people the only common denominator you have is Donald Trump's children. These -- that is the only loyalty that Donald Trump has. It's not to anyone else, other than himself and his children.

And so Steve Bannon is in a very precarious place. But the White House is fundamentally broken. And whether or not we want to acknowledge that tonight or we just want talk about it offset or whatever, but the White House is broken.

Let's take one small example and look at titles into the foreign policy. They don't have ambassadors to China, Japan and South Korea, and they don't have a deputy secretary of state for East Asia. And we're talking about all of these things going on in the world.

The White House has a problem, and Donald Trump, although we're only 80 days in, is trying to figure that out. It's just really hard to figure out when your approval rating is at 40 percent or lower.

MILLER: But Bakari--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. Thank you, everyone. I've got -- I've got to go. I've got to go. I'm sorry, Jason. Next time.

When we come back, new threats from North Korea. Live pictures coming in now from the military parade in the capital Pyongyang. It's incredible, rare access inside the country.

President Trump vowing to solve the problem, but how will he do it, as we watch these -- as we watch these pictures for a minute.

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Now look at those. These are live pictures, breaking news. Rare live access inside North Korea, which is right now celebrating the birthday of its founder with a giant military parade.

By the way, it is threatening a merciless response to any provocation from the U.S. if it conducts another nuclear weapons test this weekend, will the U.S. take action? That's a big question.

Let's discuss now with Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times. By the way, Nicholas, you have been to North Korea twice.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: That's right. That's right, Don.

LEMON: Do you think--

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOF: In fact, I brought a gift to you from North Korea at one point. I thought you wanted to study journalism. LEMON: The greatest teacher of -- this is Kim Jong-un?

KRISTOF: That's Kim Jong-il.

LEMON: Kim Jong-il.

KRISTOF: The father of Kim Jong-un. I know you wanted to study your journalistic skills. I thought that might be useful.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Listen, look at that, 1989, Pyongyang. What do you think as we look at these pictures? Again because, we don't normally see this, especially not live.

KRISTOF: That's right. I mean, it's remarkable that it's live. I think one of the questions is going to be, what version of the missiles they show in the parade, and especially there's a lot of focus on the KN-08 and the KN-14 missiles which are ICMBs which could reach the U.S. if they -- if they get it right and if they manage to put a warhead next to it which is still uncertain.

But that's the great concern of the American policymakers, that North Korea will not only have the nuclear weapons but also the ability to deliver them to the U.S.

LEMON: By the way, it's Saturday morning in North Korea. The country you're looking now this is the celebration of the 105th birthday of the founder Kim Il-Sung.

Do you think Kim Jong-un is about to take a nuclear weapon? Because this would be the time to do it when they're showing off their military might if they are going to do it.

KRISTOF: I don't know whether they'll do it today. I mean, today would be a natural day because it's a huge holiday in North Korea. But they do seem to be preparing for a sixth test, so whether normally it's earlier in the morning than now. But I suspect that they will have another one soon, and they're certainly developing both their nuclear capacity and their missile capacity to deliver those nuclear warheads.

LEMON: The president is watching from Florida from Mar-a-Lago. How do you think the president will respond if North Korea tests a sixth nuclear weapon this weekend?

KRISTOF: Essentially, there is no good U.S. response. There's a lot of concern in the policy community over an NBC saying that President Trump might have a military strike on North Korea. We don't have any good military options visiting North Korea.

Yes, we can destroy them within a few days. But they have 13,000 artillery tubes aimed at Seoul that they can deliver.

LEMON: South Korea.

KRISTOF: In Seoul, South Korea. That's a population of 10 million people. They can deliver with those 13,000 tubes, they can deliver maybe half a million artillery shells on Seoul. They have thousands of tons of chemical weapons. You know, they would lose the war but they would devastate Seoul. And they could reach Tokyo with missiles as well.

We just don't have a realistic military option. And one of the problems with Washington even talking about it is it puts North Korea on a greater hair trigger of alert, which increases the risk if something goes on.

LEMON: Look at that, there's Kim Jong-un there. And he has said -- you know, I think they said that it was a reckless acts of aggression, right, hysteria, military hysteria. What do you think he's thinking as he is watching? They're beaming, you know. There he is.

KRISTOF: You know.

LEMON: Especially at this president and what's happened in Syria and Afghanistan?

KRISTOF: He's a survivor, and I think he sees that countries that did not have nuclear weapons like Saddam Hussein's Iraq or like Gadhafi's Libya, that they were toppled. And he does not want that to happen to him. I think he thinks that he is going to -- he is not going to give up his nuclear weapons, I don't believe. And you know, I think we exaggerate the leverage that China has over North Korea.

LEMON: He didn't realize. He thought that China had more average and more leverage over--

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOF: President Trump did.

LEMON: President Trump did, right, and then the president, President Xi said well, it's not quite like that.

KRISTOF: That's right. He said and when President Trump said in 10 minutes he kind of learned a lot about that. Yes, I think there's more that China can do that would be helpful, but ultimately they're not going to change the path of North Korea on this in terms of nuclear weapons.

LEMON: Yes. It's concerning to me, because you said there's no good military option when it comes to North Korea. Pyongyang officials have said that they're ready to go to war if Trump wants. That's certainly inflammatory rhetoric and should be taken seriously?

KRISTOF: I mean, absolutely. You know, if there were any kind of military conflict, and then North Korea is apprehensive that it will lose its weapons if it doesn't lose them. So their doctrine is to keep their weapons of, you know, more or less on a hair trigger. And that would be catastrophic for the region.

I mean, if I try to think about things it could go really badly wrong in the next four years, a conflict with North Korea is just about at the top of the list. In 1994, we came close to a war with North Korea. At that point, the

Pentagon had a study indicating there could be one million casualties from that.

LEMON: Yes.

KRISTOF: You know, so there are other things we can do. But a military strike would be about as stupid an idea as one could have.

LEMON: President Trump has said having this conversation, one of the last things, if not the last thing that President Obama told him was that probably the greatest threat or at least at the top of the list somewhere up there was North Korea.

KRISTOF: In North Korea. The present trajectory is unsustainable, because North Korea already probably has somewhere around 20 nuclear weapons. That will dramatically increase, they have both a plutonium path and a uranium path, and that will be coupled in the next few years with the capacity to deliver them to the U.S.

[22:34:55] And so, we have to do something. We don't have a military option that is useful. And that kind of leaves some kind of a deal with China has been proposing that would probably call for a freeze of North Korea's nuclear capacity and missile testing in exchange for some easing of sanctions.

That is what Chinese officials and a lot of American policymakers are talking about back channels. It's unclear if President Trump is up for that.

LEMON: The Vice President is on his way to Seoul. Eleven-day trip. Is there anything, Vice President Pence, is there anything he can do to tamp down all of this the situation?

KRISTOF: The first thing would be to quiet the talk of a military strike, because that just increases the risk of a -- some kind of accidental exchange. I'm not sure it was helpful to send an aircraft carrier to the area.

And I think we have to start talking about with the Chinese about putting -- about cutting off trade between North Korea and China. That would help. And about a deal that can be done involving a freeze of North Korean nuclear and missile materials.

LEMON: Nick Kristof, thank you. I appreciate it. And thank you for the gift. Thank you so much.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you.

LEMON: As we look at these live pictures from Pyongyang, North Korea, we'll check back in with our Will Ripley.

Back here at home, though, President Trump and his chief strategist at odds. Steve Bannon is fired, if he is fired, would he be out for revenge? We're going to ask two of his former employees.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump publicly distancing himself from Steve Bannon, his chief strategist.

Let's discuss two men who worked for Bannon's Breitbart news. Lee Stranahan was a reporter there, and a Kurt Bardella resigned as Breitbart spokesman.

Good evening, gentlemen. So good to have you on. I wanted to talk to you both because there's an interesting political article out today and here's what it asks. "If Trump fired Bannon, would he seek revenge?" You both worked at Breitbart. I would like to know what you think. Kurt, you actually interviewed for this piece, so you first.

KURT BARDELLA, ENDEAVOR STRATEGIES PRESIDENT AND CEO: Absolutely he will. He will I think unleash the dogs of war on those he believes put him in this position to, you know, to be ousted, to be fall out of favor with President Trump. It's not that he's go right after Donald Trump.

I think he will target the advisers who will fill that power void that Steve is leaving behind. And you'll start seeing, you know what we saw a couple weeks ago, which is four stories in one day about Jared Kushner on the home page of Breitbart news. I think we'll see a lot of that if Steve leaves and is moved out.

LEMON: Lee, what do you think?

LEE STRANAHAN, FORMER BREITBART REPORTER: Well, I don't think so. I mean, look, if there's anybody that should worry about with revenge, it's probably Jared Kushner himself. We know, for instance, Jared Kushner's father was prosecuted a few years ago. He actually, he was a big democratic donor and he actually blackmailed his own sister's husband to avoid an investigation.

And the prosecutor in that case was Chris Christie. And multiple reports said that the reason Chris Christie was sort of moved out of, you know, consideration in the administration was Jared Kushner seeking revenge. And obviously I can't speak to that. I'll tell you what Steve--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: How would that affect the administration? What would that have to do with anything?

STRANAHAN: Well, what I'm saying, all I'm saying is that's who I think if you're going to worry about revenge, there's already those stories coming out about Kushner. I think in the case of Steve Bannon, Steve is a--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Wait, hang on, Lee. I'm just trying to figure out.

STRANAHAN: Sure. LEMON: I'm trying to get to understand what you're saying. When you

speak of Bannon, you're talking about Breitbart, which is a huge platform, which is also the alt-right.

STRANAHAN: Yes.

LEMON: But you said another word for it. What did you say the last time you're on instead of--

(CROSSTALK)

STRANAHAN: Well, it's the anti-establishment.

LEMON: Ok. OK, fine.

STRANAHAN: I've never used the term alt-right.

LEMON: OK. That's fine. I won't argue with that.

BARDELLA: Steve sure used it.

LEMON: But I don't want to argue about that.

BARDELLA: He should follow at the top of it, right?

LEMON: I'm just wondering what, how would Jared Kushner exact revenge from his father-in-law--

(CROSSTALK)

STRANAHAN: No, no. What I'm saying is there was a case where Chris Christie was being considered for the administration, and because Chris Christie was the one who prosecuted Jared Kushner's father, does that make sense?

BARDELLA: What does this have to do with Steve Bannon.

LEMON: I don't understand what that has to do with Steve Bannon--

STRANAHAN: No, no.

LEMON: -- or what that has to do with citing (Ph) revenge from the administration. Jared Kushner and his father don't have a platform like Breitbart to exact revenge from the administration.

(CROSSTALK)

BARDELLA: Well, Breitbart has a history of going after people they don't like. I mean, they've torn people left and right from consultants to politicians to establishment figures.

STRANAHAN: Well, what I'm saying--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let him finish, Kurt. STRANAHAN: Here's what I'm saying. In a sense, I feel this is

targeting Bannon, what you're doing right now is targeting Bannon. In the sense you're asking the question, will he seek revenge? Well, it's sort of a loaded question.

LEMON: Well, I was citing a political article.

STRANAHAN: No, no. Right. No, no, I'm not accusing you of doing the things.

LEMON: OK.

STRANAHAN: I'm saying the question itself is loaded, right? And what I'm saying is there's already someone who's been accused. Anybody can Google this that Jared Kushner revenged Chris Christie. They'll find multiple articles that talk about that.

Steve Bannon is not a guy who's out for vengeance, but Steve he has an ideology, it's something that he believes in, which is what Donald Trump ran on, which is this idea of an anti-elitist, anti- establishment, populist nationalism.

In other words, anti-elitism. And will Steve Bannon still have that agenda whether he's working for Donald Trump or not? Of course he will.

LEMON: OK.

STRANAHAN: Of course he will.

(CROSSTALK)

BARDELLA: But don't you think--

LEMON: Kurt, go ahead. Kurt, is that part of the retaliation there, are we seeing the first part of it if it does happen?

BARDELLA: I mean, I think the thing here is, if Steve has moved out and Donald Trump start to veering to the center and abandoning the promises that he made to the base that got him elected, to the base that carried him through the primary.

I think that Steve will be very instrumental and certainly highlighting that every day in the pages of Breitbart and then directing the blame at why Trump has turn on those promises at the people that are running the show, Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, the so- called west wing democrats that he calls them privately behind the scenes.

Like I think that you're going see the pages of Breitbart and throughout the conservative alt-right media a lot of pointed fingers that this is why Trump is not the person that you voted for.

[22:44:58] This is why he's changed course in direction. It's their fault and you should blame them for it.

STRANAHAN: Well--

BARDELLA: And I don't know how you could think that that wouldn't happen.

LEMON: Go ahead, Lee.

STRANAHAN: Because here's what it is. I wouldn't call that revenge. Here's what you're describing. You're describing holding a candidate accountable for promises he made.

Well, that seems like what journalism should do is hold a candidate, any candidate, whether it's Barack Obama or Donald Trump, journalism, right? It should hold people accountable. That's not revenge, that's simply saying--

(CROSSTALK)

BARDELLA: Sure.

STRANAHAN: No, I hear what you're saying.

LEMON: But Kurt, to Lee's point--

BARDELLA: I hear what you're saying there, but the one thing you got to keep in mind--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Hold on, Kurt. I think Lee is right on this, is that he does -- should he have a certain allegiance to the people who helped get him elected and many of those people are Breitbart readers.

BARDELLA: Sure. I think the one thing though that's differentiating is right now, Breitbart hold their fire. You know, there was that story that Breitbart was told, hey, don't do anything about Kushner. They went -- they went dark on him after doing four or five stories in one day.

(CROSSTALK)

STRANAHAN: No, no, that -- no, no, it's not -- it's not--

LEMON: Let him finish, Lee. I'll let you respond. Don't worry about it. Go ahead, Kurt.

BARDELLA: It's not journalistic when one day you decided to do it, the next day it's politically not helping your gossip you stop doing it, and then when he is on the out and you want to start going after him you do it again.

LEMON: Go ahead, Lee.

STRANAHAN: Well, I was not working at Breitbart when the decision was made. But I'll tell you, I wish Breitbart was doing a better job quite frankly, of explaining to their readers who Dina Powell is, who Gary Cohn is, for instance, and why they are people completely antithetical to the agenda that Donald Trump ran on. That's responsible journalism.

And quite frankly, first off, I spoke to a couple inside Breitbart, I wasn't working there. But they told me Breitbart was pulling their punches, had nothing to do with Steve. Steve was not directing it. I never heard that from anybody that's conjecture.

And what I'm saying is, all I'm saying is to call journalism revenge strikes me as a little odd. When Barack Obama, for instance, ran on a platform, he was against the individual mandate. Then he flipped.

I was writing about it at the Huffington Post. I called him on it. It wasn't revenge, it's simply calling him out on it. Now, the idea that somehow Steve Bannon is going to change his ideology with the wind, and by the way, this is not to say that he's not practical. In other words, the perfect in politics is often the enemy of the good, right?

So, I think Steve is willing to make deals and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, I think he will hold firm to the ideology of--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm running out of time, Lee. So, I want to get Kurt. Kurt, I just want to get your response to this. Because this is a tribute to the New York Times. Trump mega donor Rebekah Mercer, Bannon's chief spent much of Friday, this is a quote, "at the office of Cambridge Analytica exploring potential gigs for Bannon should he be fired."

Where do you think he would end up, do you think and do you believe that?

BARDELLA: Absolutely I believe that. She's been her, you know, Breitbart benefactor, the Bannon benefactor. They funded pretty much every enterprises he's been attached to, so they want him to land somewhere where he can still try to have some influence over the political process and some influence over Trump, maybe at a super PAC, maybe some sort of 501-C3 political effort.

LEMON: OK.

BARDELLA: But again, just real quick to lee's thing, it's selective and it's revenge when you impose it selectively base on political convenience.

LEMON: OK. I'm out of time. Great conversation. Thank you both. Have a great weekend. We'll be right back.

STRANAHAN: Thanks, Don. You, too.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Thank you.

STRANAHAN: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be back.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump calls his exclusive Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago the winter White House. But with membership fees at $200,000, members likely don't expect food safety violations in the kitchen.

Let's discuss, Jose Lambiet. Jose Lambiet, the columnist for the Miami Herald. I love that Jose Lambiet. That's a great name. I want that.

JOSE LAMBIET, COLUMNIST, THE MIAMI HERALD: Sounds made up.

LEMON: I know. But it sounds so made up, I know it's real.

Listen, Jose, you spent a lot of time at Mar-a-Lago. How have things changed since the owner became the president?

LAMBIET: Well, I haven't been there since he starts running for office. But I mean, I'm hearing from members that it's not what it used to be. I think the property, you know, originally in the mid-20s, the property was built as a single family house. OK. It's a big single family house. But it wasn't built to be a hotel or the circus it has become.

So I'm sure that the property is losing some of its -- some of its appeals. I mean, there are times there on weekends where you might have 700, 800 people on this small, smallish kind of property and it's just not the way it should be. So I think things are starting to fall through the cracks.

LEMON: Yes. And is it 13 safety violations correct? What's the reporting from Miami Herald?

(CROSSTALK)

LAMBIET: Thirteen safety violations, yes, this was two and a half, three weeks before the Japanese prime minister showed up. I guess the worst for him would be that the raw fish had to be destroyed because they had not treated it with the proper parasite killing methods.

The coolers, two broken down coolers, they were cited for that with meats and chicken and other fish at 49, 50-degree temperatures when the state tells us that it should be at 41 to be safe.

So it's very unusual because I checked on Mar-a-Lago two or three years ago before Donald Trump started running for office. They would get zero violations. And so you know, it's very unusual even to get zero violations.

LEMON: Yes.

LAMBIET: But 13 for a property like that, it's pretty weird.

LEMON: Here's what a spokesman for Mar-a-Lago sent to CNN. The statement says, "We take food safety very seriously and all of our, all of the minor adjustments were made immediately. Additionally, the report by the health inspector was updated on the same day to reflect that the Mar-a-Lago club was in full compliance." Has Mar-a-Lago, you said they haven't had any violations in the past.

Usually zero. This is the first time they've had so many. Correct?

LAMBIET: No. Last year they started to have 11 last year. But never like this.

LEMON: And the concern is you said because there are now visiting dignitaries, people from other countries. They're all going there and eating.

LAMBIET: And they're eating. I mean, look, there's two kinds of food in Mar-a-Lago, too. You have to remember that. There's the food for the members the people who pay $200,000 to get in and that's world class food.

[22:54:58] And then you have the food for people like me who go to black tie shindigs. It's $1,000 to get in and to go to one of these. But it's more like cafeteria food at that point.

So I'm wondering if the coolers that were in question here were coolers for the small fry, not for the members.

LEMON: Let's talk about Palm Beach in general. Is that Palm Beach proud to have so many visits from the president and all the dignitaries?

LAMBIET: Well, Palm Beach in general is like an oasis in the desert. It's liberal all over the place in Palm Beach County. It's very heavily liberal. But Palm Beach itself, which is about 10,000 people, is heavily republican.

So because of that, there's some pride in having Donald Trump there. But I think it's getting old pretty fast. I went on Worth Avenue a couple weeks ago, and so Worth Avenue is the center of town, that's where all the stores are, the fancy stores. Sort of like rodeo drive.

And at this point into season, it should be packed, it should be people all over the place. I was there three weeks ago, you know what, there was nobody there. So I'm sure that the businesses are losing tons of money and the traffic -- you know, the reason you invest 25, $30 million to have a house in Palm Beach is to be comfortable and to be calm and quiet. This is anything but.

LEMON: OK. Jose Lambiet, from the Miami Herald. Thank you, sir. Have a great weekend.

LAMBIET: You're welcome, Don. Have fun.

LEMON: When we come back, the president doing a 180 on some of his key campaign promises. How his supporters are reacting to that.

And rare live access, look at that in North Korea now. We're in the capital city of Pyongyang looking at pictures of a military parade. We'll be back with our Will Ripley, correspondent on the ground at that parade.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)