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Officials on Trump's North Korea Comment; Pentagon Chief Issues Ultimatum; FBI Raids Manafort Home. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired August 9, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:13] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you so much for being with me.
Breaking news at this hour here. The rapid escalation of threats between the United States and North Korea. And the U.S. secretary of defense has just issued what is perhaps the fiercest warning yet. We have just heard now from General James Mattis. Let me just read part of what he has said -- written here.
North Korea should cease any consideration of actions that will lead to the end of the regime and the destruction of its people.
It's a tone and tenor echoed initially by President Trump, who vowed to bring fire and fury if North Korea continues to threaten the U.S.
And if President Trump stoked fears of imminent war yesterday, he did little to ease them this morning. He took to Twitter to boast the U.S. nuclear arsenal, writing this, my first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before. He goes on, hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world.
Now, the State Department is holding a briefing any moment. There's a live look inside there. We're ready to take it and we will as soon as it begins. It's expected to respond to North Korean threats that are new, attacking the small U.S. territory of Guam where the U.S. has an Air Force base. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson trying to reassure Americans during an unscheduled visit there.
But let's begin with our correspondent, Jim Sciutto, CNN chief national security correspondent.
And, Jim, we're getting some new information on when the president said fire and fury with regard to North Korea, it was, what, off the cuff or planned?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, what the White House is saying now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is that the tone was discussed prior -- they wanted a tough tone -- but the words were, in her words, the president's own. Of course words coming from the president's mouth have meaning, and those words were forward leaning, I think, in the most conservative terms saying very explicitly, if the U.S. -- if North Korea threatens the U.S. again, it will be met -- those were the president's words -- with fire and fury.
Today, from Secretary Tillerson, from Secretary Mattis, we've heard something of a reinterpretation of the president's remarks to make it more in line with what U.S. policy is, which is if there is an attack on the U.S. or U.S. interests, that would be met with really devastating response from the U.S., that would, in the words of General Mattis, lead to the end of the regime and the destruction of the North Korean people.
That's, of course, different from what the president said, because the president said, if there is a threat, the threat will be met with fire and fury. Of course even in the last 24 hours, since the president made that statement, North Korea has made more threats. It makes a threat every other day or so to the U.S. But I think you're hearing from Tillerson and Mattis today something that's more in line with what has been the U.S. policy, very strong words, very clear expression of U.S. military dominance, that a U.S. response would be overwhelming and deadly for the regime, but not quite what the president himself said in his own words now as the White House is confirming yesterday.
BALDWIN: Let me follow up on that. When you say it's his own words, it could be his own words that he thought about because he knew he'd get a North Korea question given the fact that that was the story and has been the story? Was it something he had planned to say, to how he wanted to respond? Or was this the president off the cuff?
SCIUTTO: Well, they're saying the words were off the cuff. That the tone was planned. That's what Sarah Huckabee Sanders says. Whatever that means that the tone was planned, a tough tone.
SCIUTTO: But the words, as you heard them yesterday, Brooke Baldwin, were very fiery, literally fiery, fire and fury, like the world has never seen before.
SCIUTTO: That phraseology is unique. I don't know if it's unprecedented, but it's certainly unique coming from the mouth of a president. And you're seeing, I think today in the comments from Tillerson and Mattis, bringing those tough words back in line with what is the U.S. position here, which is a North Korean attack or an imminent threat would be met with an overwhelming U.S. response.
BALDWIN: OK, Jim Sciutto, thank you so much, in Washington.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
BALDWIN: We continue on to the Pacific region, watching the escalation -- the escalating situation very closely, especially with China warning against worsening tensions. Let's go to Will Ripley, who has been inside North Korea more than a
dozen times. He is live for us in the middle of the night there in Beijing.
How -- I know it's the middle of the night, but so far how has China responded?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China has responded as they often respond when tensions are escalating, trying to urge everybody to just calm down. You know, China's standing right in the middle here. They have North Korea, their ally, their trading partner. Then they have the United States, a much larger trading partner. Not an ally, but it's still an important relationship.
[14:05:13] And they think that both sides share the blame here. They think the United States, through its military exercises, though the rhetoric, like what we heard from President Trump, which was just an extraordinary statement, they think that only further enrages North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un and encourages them to test more missiles and potentially conduct nuclear tests and continue with their threats.
So, we did have a statement to CNN after questioning them about both of those countries' threats and the foreign ministry here in Beijing told us, quote, the current situation on the Korean peninsula is complex and sensitive. China calls on the relevant sides to follow the broad direction of resolving the nuclear issue through political means, avoid remarks and actions that could aggravate conflicts and escalate tensions.
That's something China says quite a lot. And make a greater effort to return to the correct path of resolving the issue through dialogue and negotiations because China thinks if the U.S. and North Korea could just freeze what they're doing, North Korea freeze the missile test, the U.S. freeze the military exercises, then maybe they could sit down at the bargaining table and work out a deal. But both sides have said, Brooke, they're not willing to do that.
There's a lot of nervousness in Japan, by the way. They've been conducting missile drills as a result of this. But interestingly, probably the two countries where people are the least nervous, North Korea and South Korea. In South Korea they were talking more about the weather today than they were about this, when you're talking about social media in South Korea, because they've lived under the threat of war for decades.
BALDWIN: So long.
RIPLEY: They're used to hearing this. And so it doesn't really faze people. And I've had -- I've had a similar experience in the North as well. They live in a constant state of war and they just go on with their lives and they kind of think, if it happens, it happens.
BALDWIN: Stunning. That's reality check for how a lot of Americans have been feeling in the last 24 hours.
Will Ripley, thank you. As always, excellent reporting from China.
Let's discuss further, shall we. Philip Coyle is with us, former assistant secretary of defense and a board member on the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. John Park is with us, director for the Korea Working Group at Harvard Kennedy School. And Jamie Metzl, a former staff member on the National Security Council and a senior fellow on the Atlantic Council.
Jamie, let me just turn to you.
The news reported by Jim Sciutto, the fire and fury words, apparently the tone was planned, according to the White House spokesperson, but the words were improvised.
JAMIE METZL, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Yes. That may be true, but what a frightening state of affairs for our country and for the world that the president of the United States is essentially threatening nuclear war from a golf club without any coordination. I mean what does that say about the job that this White House is doing, projecting American power and American interests? And it may be that he just was speaking off the cuff, but that's really frightening.
BALDWIN: So, one way to look at it, John Park, isn't another way to look at it the fact that, you know, we know this is how North Korea speaks, right? Recently that their tone and imagery talking about fire and fury similar to their words, catapult and sea of fire. This is how they talk normally. I mean maybe this sort of language, might this be the way to address Pyongyang?
JOHN PARK, NORTH KOREA ANALYST: Well, that actually -- that symmetry may not be a good thing, Brooke. Consistently, Republican and Democratic administrations in the past have been very careful, very coordinated internally and then with friends and allies about messaging. So right now this rapid news cycle and the messaging that's been happening from the very top is something that's different. And with that, and given all the change in the terrain in the sense of a nuclear capability, an ICBM capabilities coming on in line, this is a very volatile and uncertain situation right now.
BALDWIN: What about the messages just coming out of the administration, Philip, to you. You know for weeks we know Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been building what he's calling a peaceful pressure for the campaign, you know, to garner international support, to bring North Korea to the table. Obviously, that's not the same message the world received from President Trump. So, in a sense, you have a good cop/bad cop scenario. Then you throw in, as we just discussed off the top, you know, the secretary of defense issuing this statement, echoing a more forceful message. How do you read all of that?
PHILIP COYLE, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, the president's comments yesterday weren't helpful. And what you see now is the Defense Department and the State Department trying to dial down what the president said.
BALDWIN: Do you think that the Defense Department dialed down with that statement? Or is it more in line with the president?
COYLE: It was intended to be supportive of what the president had said, but it was also more careful than what the president had said.
BALDWIN: Jamie, you were just in Beijing. We talked recently about that.
BALDWIN: Do you -- there is one consensus that thinks well perhaps the president, you know, used that sort of language because he was also talking to China.
METZL: It may be. There are some people who have been saying that this is some kind of great strategic plan and the president is some great strategist. I haven't seen a shred of evidence that either the president or the administration has a coherent plan. And the administration themselves --
[14:10:12] BALDWIN: He's got a lot of smart people working for him.
METZL: Yes, but the question is, what is that adding up to? Is -- they're saying that he was speaking off the cuff, making these outlandish threats. And, yes, there's a big threat from North Korea and it's very, very real. But if there is, as John Park was saying, if there is a symmetry between the behavior of the North Korean leader and the American president, I don't see how that helps us at all. And the big question is, are we stronger today than we were yesterday before President Trump made these remarks? And these remarks have only harmed our interests. They've only inflamed the situation on the ground. And now we're trying to get back to the actual U.S. policy, which has a lot of consistency from Obama to today. So I really don't see any kind of strategic effort.
BALDWIN: But what about -- and I'm going to get to this interview that he did with Wolf Blitzer in just a second. But just to push back on you. You know, conservatives would say, listen, the world was waiting for this day and nothing has been done. I mean, yes, there are sanctions, but look how far that's gotten us. So is this kind of rhetoric -- I know you disagree with what he said --
BALDWIN: But what else are you supposed to do?
METZL: Well, so, I mean, there's two questions. One, is this rhetoric helpful? Is this rhetoric part of a strategy? I, again, I don't see that. Maybe there's some secret plan. But we would have a strategy, and that strategy that can actually work over time is raising the cost to China of supporting the status quo.
But by undermining our allies, by these kinds of outlandish statements, by stepping away from the Trans Pacific Partnership and taking all these steps the president and the administration have taken, we are less able to pressure China than we were during the Obama administration. BALDWIN: OK. OK.
To this interview. This is fascinating to watch. This is 1999. You will see a slightly younger Wolf Blitzer here. He is interviewing private citizen Donald Trump specifically on North Korea and urging for action before it's too late. Here was Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (1999): Look at North Korea. North Korea is developing missiles like nobody has ever seen. And we'd better do something rather quickly with them. Hopefully through negotiation. But we'd better do something rather quickly with them.
Russia is --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: What if -- on the North Koreans part. What if the North Koreans don't play ball, develop a nuclear capability, go forward with their missile development. Does the United States act unilaterally?
TRUMP: Excuse me. If spoken to correctly, correctly, they will play ball.
BLITZER: But is there something the United States should be thinking about doing as far as North Korea's potential nuclear development that it's not --
TRUMP: Absolutely. They should be thinking about it and, frankly --
BLITZER: Like what? Give me an example.
TRUMP: I'll say this. You go in and you start negotiating. And if you don't stop them from doing, you will have to take rather drastic actions because if you don't take them now, you're going to be in awfully big trouble in five years from now when they have more missiles than we do.
We're a bunch of saps. There's no question that North Korea is developing missiles. We give them nuclear power plants. We give them tremendous aid because we thought we could bribe them into stop develop -- well, they're developing. So much so that South Korea is now developing their own missile systems in order to protect. And I'm -- I'm really not sure I can blame them.
But North Korea is totally out of control. And would you rather have a very, very serious chat with them now and, if necessary, you might have to do something fairly drastic, or would you rather have to go after them in five years when they have more nuclear warheads and missiles than we do.
BLITZER: When you say something fairly drastic, that sounds like you're suggesting a potential Israeli-like unilateral strike against the (INAUDIBLE) reactor in Iraq in the '80s. TRUMP: You can never rule it out. What Israel did was fantastic. And
you can never rule it out. And, you know what, if you ruled it out, you couldn't talk to them. Why would they -- the only thing they're afraid of is exactly what you just said. That's what they're afraid of. That's what they're concerned with.
You'll most likely, with that attitude, be able to make a deal. But if you can't, you have to react. And, let me tell you something, don't react in five years because if you react in five years, nothing's going to be left. You don't have to worry about your Social Security system anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: John Park, I mean, first of all, little did he know that we'd be talking about him as president and dealing with this very issue in 2017, but I digress. Was he right?
PARK: Well, I think at that time North Korea's program was still at the early stages. And I think those statements had some merit in terms of those discussions that occurred in different circles.
But one of the things that's different now is North Korea's capability being able to range the continental United States and being so far advanced. Earlier efforts to try to do pressure tactics or incentives, they were tried one by one. But now we're at a stage where North Korea has, you know, frankly, jumped in many people's eyes a few steps and we're at a crisis situation. So I think there are some, you know, apples to apples comparisons when you look at the statements. But the underlying phase of the development right now, North Korea's very far advanced.
[14:15:05] BALDWIN: All right, let me ask everyone to stand by. We're watching and waiting for that State Department briefing to begin. Should happen any moment.
You're watching CNN. Back in a flash.
BALDWIN: To the breaking news in the Russia investigation. We are learning that the FBI raided a home of the man who once ran President Trump's campaign. I'm talking about Paul Manafort. FBI agents executed the so-called no-knock warrant at Manafort's Washington area home in late July. This happened one day after Manafort met with Senate Intelligence investigators. And a source tells CNN that agents seized financial and tax records, including documents that Manafort had already given to Congress.
According to "The Washington Post," the items seized are notes that Manafort took while attending that June 27 -- excuse me, June 2016 meeting that Don Junior had and also Jared Kushner and others, Russian lawyer were all in the room.
[14:20:05] A Manafort spokesperson told CNN, quote, FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort's residences. Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries, and did so on this occasion as well.
Say it again?
A quick break. We're back in a moment.
BALDWIN: Welcome back. We're going to take this State Department briefing which will begin any moment now, of course, on all things North Korea.
We know that the secretary of state, who has been traveling overseas, has talked a lot about North Korea, especially in the recent weeks, before this news in the last 24 hours in the miniaturization of the nuclear warhead, which is, you know, obviously frightening in and of itself depending on who you're talking to, and capability-wise.
John Park, let me just bring you back in this conversation here. And we're waiting for this briefing from the State Department and we know Secretary Tillerson has had a different message than that of the president, more of a let's get North Korea to the table, let's give diplomacy a try. Is that what you -- that same sort of message what you anticipate will come out of the briefing momentarily?
PARK: Well, the Trump administration formally has a name for its North Korea policy. It's called maximum pressure and engagement. So with certain statements coming out of the president and out of the Defense Department, I think under the maximum pressure component.
For State, I think what we've seen with Secretary Tillerson is more efforts of engagement, some kind of negotiation. But those have conditions and the latest one that Secretary Tillerson mentioned was this idea that the North Koreans had to commit to denuclearization before negotiations. So that kind of statement, for many of the North Korean watcher community is a nonstarter for the North Koreans and we're unlikely to see the North Koreans to come to the negotiating table under those conditions.
BALDWIN: So, again, just jogging everyone's memory to just the last couple -- a couple days ago. The, you know, unanimous 15 to 0 U.N. vote on slapping these sanctions on North Korea. It was a rare time where you had the U.S., Russia, and China on the same page. This would come down to about a third of the North Korean exports, which translates to roughly $1 billion.
[14:25:03] The question, and correct me, John, but it's really on whether or not China actually enforces this.
PARK: That is a crucial element, Brooke. But the other piece of it is, what is the goal for these kind of measures? If it's the idea of, to stem the flow of funds into North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, I would argue the train has already left the station. In the second half of the 2000s, the North Koreans made a lot of money from the coal trade and from that I think you see the, you know, funds that they're using to finance this kind of procurement.
BALDWIN: I think someone may still be in my ear. John, I apologize for that. John Park, thank you so much.
We're waiting for the State Department briefing. And we're going to take it momentarily.
But let's go back to the story we were just talking about, this Russia investigation and this FBI raid of Paul Manafort's home.
Asha Rangappa is with us, CNN legal and national security analyst.
And just, you know, question number one being, the how, this early morning pre-dawn raid. Explain the significance of that timing.
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: OK. So, just so you understand the significance of the search warrant itself, this is an important development in this case because it's the first time that we've seen that the government has had to go before a federal judge and show probable cause that evidence of a crime exists in this house, that a crime has been committed and that this search will produce -- is likely to produce evidence of that crime. And that's a higher burden for the government to meet. It does involve a federal judge deciding that they've met that burden.
Now, when they go in, in the early morning, that's usually for a few reasons.
BALDWIN: When they say no-knock, Asha, no-knock, pre-dawn.
RANGAPPA: Right. No-knock is that the FBI does not have to identify themselves before they enter the home. That's different than a knock and announce warrant where they have to knock, FBI, and then they have to wait for some reasonable period of time for the person to answer the door before they go in.
Again, here, they need to be -- the idea is that they need to go in immediately because there may be a chance that evidence might be concealed or destroyed if the target has some advance warning that the -- that the FBI is coming in.
And typically these are done early in the morning because the target is likely to be home then, and also for agent safety, and it's less likely that, at that hour of the morning, there will be any kind of confrontation that could result in any harm to the agents or to the target.
BALDWIN: Isn't it --
RANGAPPA: But really here this would be -- go ahead.
BALDWIN: No, I'm just wondering, listening to you, is it possible that they, you know, convinced the judge that Manafort couldn't be trusted and had to do this?
RANGAPPA: Well, this is -- you know, the fact that Manafort was, prior to this, ostensibly cooperating with the FBI and with congressional investigations, tells us something about this warrant, because normally when a target is cooperating, the FBI or the prosecutor in this case, Mueller, would be able to subpoena the information that he wants and get that as a result of a subpoena.
So here they must have believed that that kind -- that that effort was not going to result in the information that they need. That somehow Manafort might not be forthcoming or may not be producing everything that he has, and that's the reason that they would go to a search warrant.
And again, this is a higher burden for them. It's easier for them to use a subpoena. So this would require more work, require them to put together the evidence to convince a judge that this kind of intrusion into a person's home, which is, you know, the highest level of privacy that the Constitution affords, was justified.
BALDWIN: And again, pre-dawn raid. This is the day after he sat in front of that Senate Intel committee.
Asha, thank you so much on that.
Again, just a reminder, we're waiting for the State Department briefing to begin on all things North Korea. We're going to take that live.
Also, the president tweeting moments ago, calling out the Republican leader of the Senate. We'll discuss that ahead.