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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump Threatens North Korea; White House Targets Opioid Abuse. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 8, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

MEGAN BARRY, MAYOR OF NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE: First of all, our first- responders need to have access to lifesaving Narcan and making sure that that's available.

But the treatment beds are critical. My son was able to go to rehab because he was able to afford a treatment bed. We have to recognize that this is an epidemic and we have to make sure that those resources are out there.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Madam Mayor, before you go, tell us about Max. Tell us something about Max beyond the addiction. Tell us about HIM personally. Tell us about him as your son.

BARRY: Sure. Well, Jake, thanks for asking.

Max was a beautiful, sweet child who loved his life. He loved mountains, he loved fishing, and he loved his friends. And I have been so grateful to the Nashville community. Our hearts are overwhelmed and so grateful for all of the outreach that we have received across the United States, so thank you.

TAPPER: All right, Mayor Megan Barry of Nashville, our thoughts and our prayers are with you and your family. Thank you for telling your story today.

BARRY: Thank you. Thank you.

TAPPER: I hope to talk to you again.

Coming up, we're going to have a press conference from some top members of the president's team about the opioid crisis.

We will be right back with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:10]

TAPPER: Breaking news.

We're going to live now to Bridgewater, New Jersey, near President Trump's Bedminster golf resort. We're expecting any moment the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Dr. Tom Price and counselor to the president, New Jersey's own Kellyanne Conway. They will be there, they will talk about the opioid crisis and take questions.

They just met and briefed President Trump on the opioid crisis. There is a commission that, of course, is making recommendations to the president. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, told us last week that they were going to be asking President Trump to declare a national health emergency. We do not know if President Trump is going to be doing that.

We are also expecting Conway and Price to face questions about President Trump's comments in which he threatened fire and fury against North Korea.

Say that again? I'm sorry.

Jamie Metzl is joining us now to talk briefly about the North Korea crisis while we wait for Price and Conway to come to the podium.

Jamie, in your expertise, President Trump threatening North Korea, saying if they continue to threaten the United States, they will face fire and fury like they never before seen in the United States, might that have the intended effect of North Korea and Kim Jong-un blink, or might it actually escalate tensions?

JAMIE METZL, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, it could do either. And that's the real problem with all this.

We know that Kim Jong-un, his father and grandfather, this was the way they speak, and they have done it a long time. And that's been kind of factored into all of our calculations.

When the president of the United States is mimicking the words, at least -- and we don't know the behaviors -- of the president, the leader of North Korea, that's really concerning. We expect them to be unstable. We shouldn't expect us to be unstable.

TAPPER: If you were advising President Trump on how to make clear to Kim Jong-un that what the United States intelligence agencies have told the media about today, reports that satellite imagery shows North Koreans loading cruise missiles onto a patrol boat that could take down a boat and obviously reports that there is an assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency that North Korea may have successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon that could then be put on an ICBM which could theoretically hit the United States, not to mention, obviously, allies closer to the region, what would you tell a president to say to make it clear to Kim Jong-un that the threats and the continued development of the nuclear weapons program cannot continue?

METZL: There's two parts of an answer to that question.

The first is the strategic issues. What are all the things that we should have been doing to strengthen our position? And that's shoring up our relationships with our allies, particularly Japan and South Korea, putting more pressure on China.

And we threw away our biggest -- quote, unquote -- "trump card" when we jettisoned TPP. There are a whole host of things, Trans-Pacific Partnership -- are a whole host of things that we should have done in the past so we weren't in this vulnerable position now.

But starting from here, I think it's great, I think it's acceptable for the president to say, here's what we're going to do and here are the steps we're going to take, and we are going to respond, and we're going to respond appropriately and with strength.

But just to throw around macho words or fake macho words, I don't know what that gets us, because if we're playing chicken, then we have to master escalation. That's one thing that the North Koreans are great at is mastering this escalation, because as you keep escalating more and more, we don't know what they're going to do.

And that's why at the end of the day for generations, people backed down. But if the United States is in that position, on one hand, if we had a video of President Trump with his finger on the nuclear button, everybody in the world would freak out.

But that's not the kind of leadership that the United States has shown or can show, because we have a potential role in maintaining a structure of the world that we have built and defended for 70 years.

TAPPER: Jamie, just to play devil's advocate, let's operate under the assumption that President Trump made his threat to North Korea about fire and fury, let's say that he did not ad-lib it, let's say that he had planned it, that was something he had discussed with his generals -- hold on a second.

Here is Dr. Tom Price.

Jamie, stay with us. We will get to that later in the show.

TOM PRICE, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We just have come from an extremely productive meeting with the president and the first lady, gathered to talk about the opioid crisis.

[16:40:04]

The president and first lady are absolutely fully engaged on a tragedy that is cross -- crossing the country. The president understands the magnitude of this challenge, how devastating it is, how it's devastated individuals and families and communities large and small.

He understands the effect that it has had on our nation, especially on families and on children.

The numbers are absolutely daunting, 52,000 overdose deaths in 2015, 33,000 of those approximately related to opioids. The numbers in 2016 are no better, and the numbers in 2017 are even worse than 2016.

So, we briefed the president on our strategy through the Health and Human Services Department, a strategy that includes making certain that we have the resources and the information necessary for prevention and treatment and recovery, providing best practices for states and those that are engaged in that process, making certain that we have overdose reversing medication, naloxone and Narcan, as present as needed and possible anywhere across the country.

Making certain that we're doing the data, identifying the data, the public health aspect of it, of this. Why is it that 52,000 Americans succumbed to an overdose death in 2015, and those numbers continuing to increase?

Fourth is the research aspect of this. What is the NIH doing? What can they do? And exciting things to provide for, hopefully, pain medication that is not addictive or is not euphoric. One of the exciting things that they're actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is an incredibly exciting prospect.

And then, finally, how do we treat pain in this nation? As a formerly practicing physician, orthopedic surgeon, I know that physicians and other providers have oftentimes sensed that there is incentive to provide narcotic medication.

And we need to do all that we can to make certain that, yes, people are provided appropriate narcotic medication when necessary, but no more than necessary.

We wanted to make certain that the president understood that it was his entire Cabinet and the federal government that were involved in this process. This is an interdepartmental, interagency process that is moving forward.

We met previously with the Department of State, Justice, Department of Homeland Security, ONDCP, and others to make certain that we're working together on a comprehensive strategy that we are in the midst of right now and that we will be presenting to the president in the near future.

At the end of all of that, the president made certain that we understood that he was absolutely committed to making certain that we turn this scourge in the right direction, turn this tide in the right direction, make certain that we see the number of overdose deaths and the number of individuals addicted to medication decreased.

And he has made certain that we understand and appreciate that this is an absolute priority of his administration, as it has been from day one.

One of the things that we have done to try to bring a voice to it and bring faces to it is to go around the country in multiple states and to visit communities and try to find those best practices. What is working out there? What hasn't worked?

Talk with those families that have been devastated by the addiction crisis. Talk to folks who have been addicts and have recovered. What is it that worked? And it's so uplifting and inspiring to hear the stories of many of those individuals. One of the president's senior counselors, Kellyanne Conway, has

accompanied me on many of those trips. And she was at our meeting today, and I know that she wants to say a few words as well.

Kellyanne?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Thank you, Secretary Price.

And it's very nice to have the acting director of ONDCP, Richard Baum, today with us as well.

The secretary and I have traveled to a number of different states, and we have heard the harrowing and very sad stories, but we also have increasingly met those who have successfully gone through treatment and recovery.

We're very heartened to learn many people who are beating the opioid epidemic. And we recognize this is a poly-drug problem in our nation, that we are a nation that consumes illegal and legal drugs at a very high and alarming race.

The problem is very complicated. And, currently, we're on the losing side of this war. With the president's leadership and the first lady's involvement, across a spectrum of different cabinets and agencies and different departments within the West Wing, we are confident that we can help those in need across the country.

We know that this involves public health, the medical community, healthcare delivery system, law enforcement, education, local and statewide elected officials, devastated families, and those in treatment and recovery. We have presidential imprimatur leadership on this issue, but we full-on know that most of the great work is being done at the state and local levels. Those who are closest to those in need know best how to help them. We didn't get here overnight, and we know that we can't solve the crisis overnight either.

That said, I'd like to bring attention to some other areas with respect to the opioid and drug epidemic that sometimes go uncovered. With a 52.7 percent increase in outpatient veterans treated for substance abuse disorders from 1995 to 2013, it's an increasing concern that addiction is plaguing our veteran community, as well. And we're working with Secretary Shulkin on that.The next generation of the crisis is being seen in the number of newborns that are born addicted to opioids and other drugs. In fact, in this country, now NIH estimates that every 25 minutes a newborn is born addicted to opioids.

We are working hard to also stop the import of fentanyl into this country and to work with those governors and health commissioners and others within the states who are interested in reducing the number of pills and days in a prescription and also in working with the curriculum so that our medical professionals are more educated and more conversant with and versed in prescribing methodologies, as well. President Trump and the administration are working tirelessly toward this, and I would just say that having traveled this country and studied this issue very closely, no state has been spared, and no demographic group has gone untouched.

This is not a problem of young or old, of black or white, of rural, urban, or suburban. It really has affected all of our communities in varying degrees. It is also a nonpartisan issue in search of bipartisan support and bipartisan solutions, and we do hope that those in a position to help with the decision-making and advocacy and solutions, and those charged with covering this issue, as well, will agree that it is nonpartisan in search of bipartisan solutions. Thank you very much.

TOM PRICE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Happy to take a question or two. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, a couple of questions. Several attorneys general, including some Republicans, have said manufacturers of opioids should be sued and are culpable or should be legally culpable for parts of this crisis. Do you agree with that? What's the administration's orientation to those laws?

PRICE: Well, there are a couple suits that are out there right now that have already been - begun. I think that this gives voice and punctuates the damage and the harm that people have felt because of this crisis. There isn't a position that the administration has on these - on these at this point. But it has clearly gotten the attention of the - of the pharmaceutical companies. Some have analogized it to the tobacco issue and the master settlement that occurred, I don't know, 20 years ago, with the issue of tobacco. Whether there is something that's analogous to that, I don't know. But it's -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see it in that light, Mr. Secretary?

PRICE: Well, what I see is that there is - that we continue to move in the wrong direction on the number of individuals that are not only addicted but the number of individuals that are losing their lives to addiction. And so the President is absolutely committed to solving that problem, and we are going to turn over every single rock and make certain that we're identifying every single thing that could move us in a better direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it a national emergency?

PRICE: Well, the President certainly believes that it is - that we will treat it as an emergency - and It is an emergency. When you have - when you have the capacity of Yankee Stadium or Dodger Stadium dying every single year in this nation, that's a crisis that has to be - has to be given incredible attention, and the President is giving it that attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, thank you. I was curious - those of us old enough to remember the crack problem 20-plus years ago, how is this different? And how is the approach to deal with the opioid problem going to be any different? And are we just going through a cycle of a new crisis every 20 years and the public forgets? I mean, what's different here? SECRETARY PRICE: Well, it's different for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the magnitude and the numbers of individuals succumbing to -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. There were - the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Tom Price and Senior Counselor to the President Trump Kellyanne Conway talking about the opioid crisis in this country. They're going to take some questions now about that. I want to bring our focus back to the showdown with North Korea right now, and just remind our viewers there have been - there've been several developments today. First, reports that satellite imagery picked up images of North Koreans loading cruise missiles into a patrol boat, cruise missiles capable of taking out a ship. And then also, there is an intelligence assessment that North Korea has been able to miniaturize a nuclear weapon theoretically one that could be put on an ICBM. In response to that news, President Trump this afternoon issued a rather striking threat to North Korea. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:50:48] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: 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)

TAPPER: Fire and fury like the world has never seen. Unusual language for any U.S. President to use, especially about a nation that may control nuclear weapons. Let's talk about this more with our panelists that we have with us. Elise Labott at the State Department, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon and here with me in studio Gloria Borger. Elise Labott, let me start with you. This is not the kind of language that we normally hear from a U.S. President during a moment of crisis.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's not, Jake. In fact, it sounds like something you'd hear from the North Koreans state news agency the KCNA. In fact, I think if we go back, I'm sure we can see a lot of fire and fury. Right now, when you have developments of this nature, this is the time not only where the president needs to send a strong message to North Korea that the U.S. will hold its resolve and protect its allies, but also reassuring to the American people. And so that's why these comments, while I think probably not very thoughtfully considered by the President, certainly will cause a lot of consternation not just at home but abroad.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr, obviously the Pentagon preparing for all contingencies when it comes to how dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat. It's been made clear by both Secretary Mattis of the Defense Department and Secretary Tillerson at the State Department that they prefer diplomatic resolutions to these type of problems, specifically this one. But if discussing the nuclear option and the National Security Adviser General McMaster made it clear that all options have been presented to President Trump, what is the military option that might pose the least threat to human life?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there may not be one, that's the problem. There is a theory wondering around Washington, D.C. that there's some sort of rational man theory that you could rationally send a message to Kim with some sort of limited strike. Take out a missile launcher, take out a production facility. The problem is nobody in U.S. government believes that he would just sit back and take it. There is a very definite assessment of feeling that he would then launch artillery strikes at Seoul, South Korea, potentially killing tens of thousands of people.

There doesn't seem to be a limited military option against Kim that the U.S. is willing to take the risk on. And that's really the military challenge here. It's not about the options. You can do anything. The U.S. military would have the capability to do whatever it wants to do, it's about the risk. The risk to South Korea, to Japan, to the Asia Pacific, to the economy of the instability that would result from some sort of U.S. strike, and the very definite uncertainty about how Kim Jong-un might react. Remember, he keeps himself in power by convincing his supporters and his people that the U.S. is going to attack them. This begins to play into his hands if there is the threat of that kind of attack.

TAPPER: Gloria Borger, let me play devil's advocate for a second. We don't know if President Trump planned on saying this and this is part of a strategy or if he just adlibbed it. Let us assume that it was part of a strategy. And the strategy is that he would be the bad cop, he would be the one that Kim Jong-un needs to fear. Meanwhile, you have Secretary Tillerson being much more benevolent, trying to calm things down, trying to take the tension out of the air, Secretary Mattis also, to a degree, talking about how he wants to solve this in a diplomatic way. Is it not possible that that is actually what's going on here and not President Trump popping off?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you would hope so. Also the President have said in the past he doesn't like to telegraph what he was going to and saying you're going to be mad with puree kind of telegraphs, certain things unless he's playing a little game here. He does I believe in doing this though play into their propaganda because then un - you know, Kim Jong-un can say, look, you know, the Americans are trying to provoke us and this is what they want to do. This is not us, this is them trying to provoke us. So in terms of making it more difficult, let's say for Mattis and Tillerson to take down the temperature, I think the President may make that more difficult. If this was planned, what would be the sort of overarching theory of that, would be good cop-bad cop?

[16:55:38] TAPPER: Yes, good cop-bad cop. The idea that Tillerson would go in there and suggest, you need to help me out here, I can't control this guy. You know, the idea of sometimes the perception of a leader who is impulsive -

BORGER: Right, can achieve.

TAPPER: - actually can achieve things than of the more measured leader. BORGER: You know, it might be.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: It might be. I doubt it to be - you know, to be honest, I think that the question is how do our allies respond to Trump's language. And I think that was the point Elise was making. I mean, it becomes very difficult when you're saber-rattling back at the initials saber-rattler. What do our - what do our allies supposed to say here?

TAPPER: Elise, Kim Jong-un, and his mental state or something that are discussed a lot and obviously I'm sure studied a lot both among our intelligence community, officials as well as the States Department. What is the perception at the State Department of Kim Jong-un in terms of whether he is, "unhinged," whether he is, "paranoid," or if he is a rational actor who uses the kind of propaganda stick efforts to make his point?

LABOTT: Well, Jake, I think the perception is that he is certainly unpredictable, that he's certainly a little bit erratic, but that he's not you know, a whack job as some people might say, that this is a rational actor. He may act irrationally sometimes, but it's a very calculated effort on his part to hold onto power. And so, I do think that there is a lot of rhetoric and a lot of you know, back and forth. But at the end of the day, I think Kim Jong-un knows very well and so did his father Kim Jong-il that any kind of attack on the United States would spell the end of the regime.

So I think what we're going to see over the next few days is this rhetoric to just get sky high. You know, the North Koreans for all President Trump's fire and fury, new North Koreans are masters at this kind of fiery rhetoric. So if he thinks the rhetoric is going to reach a fever pitch, I think at the end of the day, though, there will be an effort to calm down the atmosphere, and I do think that while they don't think he's particularly thoughtful or considered, that they definitely don't think Kim Jong-un is crazy.

TAPPER: And Barbara, it was just a day ago that we are reporting that intelligence officials were saying that by 2018 they feared that North Korea would be able to deliver a miniaturized nuclear weapon on an ICBM. Now we're being told, and you're breaking the story, reporting the story that intelligence officials already are assessing that that could be the case right now. Was this a development? Did it catch intelligence agencies? Did it catch the Pentagon flat-footed?

STARR: I don't think so, Jake. They watch North Korea very carefully, and we have seen over the months top U.S. military commanders say that they do assume North Korea has that full capability, the missile, the warhead, all of it. Do they know for sure? No. Because you never know what the North Koreans really have. But the assessment has always been, you must plan against the very worst case scenario that they have all of this. The assessment behind the scenes right now is that they have likely produced some sort of warhead device, but whether it can actually be functional, whether it can be deployed, whether it can be put on a missile for an attack remains an open question.

That may well be small comfort because the North Koreans are clearly headed in that direction. But look, you know, Kim knows he helps to keep the level of uncertainty, the level rhetoric at his fever pitch on his end for him to stay in power inside his own country. If he invites a U.S. attack by his actions, he will not be able to control whether he stays in power and that may be the biggest check in this game of checks and balances.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you, everyone, really appreciate it on this news making day. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That is it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thank you for watching.