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Manhunt for London Terror Suspects; Another Missile over Japan; Response to North Korea; Soon: Trump Holds Call With Rabbis After Some Back Out; Trump: A Lot Of People Agree With Me On Charlottesville; NYT: "Humiliated" Sessions Tried To Resign In May; Trump Working With Democrats On "Dreamers" Deal. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:05] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, time for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news, a terror attack in London. An improvised explosive device set off on a London commuter train during the heart of rush hour. We have new video taken moments after the blast showing what is left of an apparent bucket bomb.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So witnesses tell us that this morning they heard an explosion. What followed was absolute panic and screaming. A scramble to escape the station. This morning, 22 people in the hospital. Hundreds of police are on the hunt for the suspect.

Let's go straight to our senior international correspondent, Nima Elbagir. She joins us live on the scene in London.

Nima, I know it's early hours here. The investigation's just getting underway. But what do we know at this point?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning.

We understand from British security sources a little more about the details of this device and the working assumptions that are overarching across these investigations. As they understand it, there was a timer as part of this device and that allows them to extrapolate that this was intended to cause much more damage, Poppy. I mean it's unthinkable, really. You have an injury toll of 22, but it's almost miraculous that that is the limit. And those we've been speaking to who survived this tell us that that's because this device went off as the doors were opening at the Parsons Green Station. I mean it was just an absolutely fortunate coincidence that they were locked in as this device went off.

We've been showing our viewers the device. It's essentially a bucket bomb. It's incredibly, incredibly crude. But the intent behind it is what's concerning authorities as they sit around the table at that emergency meeting, a session of cobra (ph) led by the prime minister.

There is an ongoing manhunt. This wasn't a suicide attack. And that's really all that authorities want to tell us. And we've already seen the metropolitan police force respond with real force to President Trump's tweets and calling them unhelpful speculation, him saying that this was someone that was known to the authorities. They believe that last time they were on a hunt in Manchester that the U.S. administration was incredibly unhelpful and really, they say, had an impact on their broader investigation and that broader manhunt. And the last thing they want to see is this to happen again here, especially where we're dealing with an attack where perhaps the execution wasn't extensive, but the ambition definitely was, we understand, Poppy and John.

BERMAN: All right, Nima Elbagir for us in London with the latest. Nima, thanks so much.

As Nima just said, the president, President Trump, responded to this attack this morning with a statement. This is what he wrote, another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive.

Now, as Nima said, London police are calling that pure speculation and unhelpful. They point out they don't yet know who was behind this attack, so it's too soon to say whether or not he or she was in the sights of Scotland Yard.

Joining us now is Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, CNN national security commentator.

Chairman, you know, a statement like that from the president, we have seen this before, he gets out ahead of what of the known facts are. And when you have the London police saying this is unhelpful from Britain's greatest ally, what's the point of doing it?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, the -- a, the president shouldn't engage this early. He should have probably offered condolences and an officer of assistance to help. Because what's interesting about this attack is, clearly the intent was there, but the level of sophistication of the bomb itself and the fact that it wasn't a suicide bomber --

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: Means that there is just a good a chance that they didn't know who this person was and what -- was not on their radar.

HARLOW: Right. And, you know, the first thing, of course, I thought was my husband taking the subway in New York this morning to work, or all of us in New York who take the subway because this is a huge city, just like New York City, and this could happen anywhere.

If the shoe were on the other foot and Theresa May said something like that in response to this happening in New York, can you imagine what the president might -- might think and say?

ROGERS: Yes. and, again, you won't find Theresa May making these statements.

HARLOW: Correct.

ROGERS: They have been in the middle of it. They have an adult level of leadership.

HARLOW: Because it's dangerous, is it not?

ROGERS: It is -- well, it's not necessarily -- maybe not so much dangerous as it is unhelpful.

HARLOW: OK.

ROGERS: It's very unhelpful to the investigators. And it's a bit of a pushback on the law enforcement work that does happen in -- in Great Britain.

And, remember, we have a very close relationship with our intelligence services between Great Britain and the United States. Very close. One of the closest in the world. And of, you know, the five eye (ph) countries that we have these really exceptional working relationships with.

HARLOW: Sure.

ROGERS: So to say that is also a bit of a condemnation of the United States as well, because we trade information so regularly.

I -- again, it's not helpful for a whole host of reasons, especially to call into question that they knew who they were and didn't do something about it. Just that inference alone --

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: Is maddening to those of us -- I used to be a former FBI agent. I can only imagine some of my friends in Great Britain, what they're going through on that right now.

[09:05:02] BERMAN: All right, and the bottom line is, the important thing right now, you can see it up there on the screen, there is a manhunt right now for anyone who was connected to this terror incident.

We will stay on this and bring you any updates.

Mr. Chairman, stick around because we have more to ask you in just a moment.

HARLOW: Exactly, on North Korea. So let's turn to that because there is growing outrage this morning after North Korea has launched yet another missile. This is the second time in 17 days that Pyongyang has sent a missile over northern Japan, setting off sirens below.

BERMAN: All right, the United Nations Security Council is holding what it is calling urgent consultations this afternoon. But, you know, the ink is barely dry on the U.N. sanctions passed Monday in response to North Korea's last nuclear test, which happened on September 3rd. We should also note that South Korea test fired two missiles while the North Korean missile was still in the air. One of those launches failed.

CNN's Will Ripley following all these developments for us from Tokyo.

Will, what are you learning?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's like deja vu. We left and then the nuclear test happened the next day. And then we left yesterday, and this latest missile launch happened from the same airport that we flew out of. It was the Pyongyang Sunan Airport. In fact, there was a commercial flight, an Air Koryo flight, that took off shortly after the North Korean missile launch. The fact that they launched it from their capital, near their airport, shows they are increasingly confident in this particular missile, their intermediate range missile, the Hwasong-12. A missile that they first unveiled earlier this year and since have now flown twice successfully over Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and brought it down in the Pacific.

And the distance that it flew is really significant, 2,300 miles. The furthest that a North Korea intermediate range missile has ever gone. They launched it towards the northeast. Had they launched it south, that would have put it down right by the U.S. territory of Guam. An island that North Korea has made many threats against and so far they haven't delivered. But it was no coincidence this intermediate range missile traveling that distance, sending a message to the U.S. that they have the capability if they want to, to send their missile towards Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam and more than 160,000 U.S. citizens.

You mentioned the air raid sirens really scaring people yet again here in Japan, going off in Hokkaido. People getting alert messages on their phones telling them to take cover in sturdy buildings. This is the first time since World War II that Japanese schoolchildren are growing up hearing the sound of air-raid sirens. People are getting messages, letters in their apartments telling them what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. This is a country still scarred by Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

And now just in the last few days, we're hearing rhetoric from North Korea threatening to sink the islands of Japan using, in North Korea's words, the nuclear bomb of Juche. Juche being your ruling ideology. North Korea also saying in their state media they refuse to back down to sanctions and pressure from the U.S. and its allies.

And when I was meeting with government officials in Pyongyang last week, they told me this latest round of sanctions will only cause them to accelerate further their testing and development of these missiles and nuclear warheads that could someday legitimately threaten the mainland of the United States more than they already do. Just months away, really, from having a reliable, intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the mainland U.S. according to most military experts.

And so as this U.N. Security Council meeting gets underway in hours, a lot of people out here in the region wondering, what else could they possibly do at this point to prevent North Korea from behaving in this way. HARLOW: Right. Because this comes days -- literally days -- after

Nikki Haley, at the U.N., said these are the toughest sanctions ever imposed on North Korea, and a clear defiance of all of that from Kim Jong-un and his regime.

Will Ripley, thank you so much. And we're looking forward, of course, to your special inside of North Korea tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

With us again, Chairman Mike Rogers, CNN national security commentator, who visited the region just a few weeks ago. Also joining us, John Park, director of the Korea Working Group at Harvard's Kennedy School.

Chairman, to you first. Big picture here. You've got clearly an acceleration of the nuclear program this year, but you also have the fact that over just six years in his -- in his term, Kim Jong-un has fired off more missiles and conducted more tests than his grandfather and his father combined.

ROGERS: Yes. And here's the problem. There's just not a lot of great options left. So there is a little wiggle room on the back end of it. The oil that China helps with North Korea is one of the last bastions and holdout. That and the black market that's on their north border. The other piece of that is Russian cash for North Korean labor is big. So if we can -- that's the last sanction bit of holdout.

If you think about what the options are, they're not very good. There's really four, decapitation, both the United States has announced that they would be interested in that. So has South Korea. They actually created something called a decapitation unit, meaning they would go and take out Kim Jong-un and his leadership team. That's saber rattling.

Second is a targeted strike at their nuclear capability to launch, to design -- the research and design as well. That's the other one.

The other one is a full-scale invasion over the border is the other one that is talked about a lot and you hear a lot of that saber rattling.

[09:10:00] And, lastly, it's a combination of diplomacy to get them to talk. So what you're seeing now is all of this military action and saber rattling by both sides is really designed, including sanctions, to get Kim Jong-un to the table to have real discussions.

BERMAN: You know, it seems, professor, to me that everything the United Nations and the rest of civilized society tries to do to stop Kim Jong-un, he just keeps on saying, it's not working. I'm going to keep doing this no matter what you try to do here. This latest missile test, the missile traveled as far as it would take to get to Guam, a little bit further. You know, is he driving this story or is the rest of the world?

JOHN PARK, DIRECTOR, KOREA WORKING GROUP, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Well, I think if you look at it, the statistics that you mentioned there, Kim Jong-un is definitely, you know, on track to accomplish his goal, which is a nuclear ICBM and the capabilities that come with that. So we're not looking at single events anymore, we're looking at a program. And he is making net forward movement. And we've gone from years in terms of intervals, to months, to weeks, and now literally days. So the idea that these different measures, sanctions and other routes through the U.N. Security Council or through individual countries, I think right now, to be very objective, and this is rather an inconvenient fact, it may be too little too late.

HARLOW: So, chairman, to the four options that you outlined, right, the only realistic, diplomatic one, purely diplomatic, is to actually completely cut off the oil, right, and to somehow convince Russia not to use their cash to hire all of these workers and to send shipments. I mean that was the front page of "The Washington Post" this week, that Russia continues to do this, continues to fund this. Russia and China were successful at the United Nations in not getting these sanctions to be as tough as the U.S. and Nikki Haley wanted them to be. So is that really -- is that really an option because they have veto power?

ROGERS: It's difficult, but you have to start -- take a step back. We always think in diplomacy we have to get what we want. What you have to start with in North Korea, if we really want to solve --

HARLOW: Yes.

ROGERS: Is, what do we all agree we don't want? Certainly China and Russia do not want an armed conflict in North Korea. We know that. They don't want that. We don't want that. That's a good place to start.

China does not want a nuclear North Korea. Why? Because we know that that would proliferate nuclear weapons across the Asian region. Despite what Prime Minister Abe of Japan said, that they wouldn't put a nuclear weapon up, give it time, they'll get nuclear weapons, so will other nations in the region.

So if we start there and try to unwind this, we think, maybe, the folks who look at this, including me, that you can put enough pressure on China and Russia to get where we can agree on what we all don't want to happen, and then try to find some solution from there. Right now saying, well, this is what we want, we want a unified North Korea. Guess what, probably not going to happen anytime soon.

BERMAN: The problem with that, though, gets us up -- and that Professor Park just said before, that it might be too little too late because a lot of these things that we don't want already seem to be in place, or virtually in place at this point. Professor, so what do you do about that?

PARK: Well, this is the part that we are all kind of going back to the drawing board. If you look at the measures in place, sanctions have primarily been the way to engage this regime. It has expressed no interest in any type of negotiations over this time that it's been very busy in this kind of development.

But on the sanctions front, my colleague, Dr. Jim Walsh at MIT, we conducted a study looking at North Korean procurement activities and we treated it like a business case study. The fact that their elite state training companies have migrated into the Chinese marketplace and they're doing their procurement there and they've also amassed funds from earlier coal trade, you're looking at a self-contained phenomenon where in a way they're innovating and finding new ways to do the procurement that is outside of the reach of sanctions. So that's a part that, as we do these type of measures, the North Koreans are adapting and learning and the gap is widening. And that is also very troubling.

BERMAN: All right, Chairman Mike Rogers, John Park, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

And be sure to see Mike Rogers' series, "Declassified." This week, the untold story of how America stopped a dangerous Cuban espionage operation. "Declassified" airs tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

HARLOW: All right, we have a lot ahead for us this hour. Quadrupling down, I suppose you could call it, the president repeats his claim essentially that there were, quote, bad dudes on both sides in that violence in Charlottesville.

And some of the president's -- the president's die-hard supporters are furious with his willingness to make a deal or deals, shall I say it appears, with the Democrats. Perhaps a DACA deal without a wall?

And this.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that people really understand the level of devastation that we have here. We feel like we are living in a war zone and a nuclear bomb went off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: This is just some of the damage that Irma left behind. Americans taking stock and searching for ways to move forward.

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[09:18:58]

HARLOW: This morning, the president is holding a conference call with Jewish leaders ahead of the High Holy Days. It is an annual presidential tradition, but this year four prominent rabbis are boycotting it after the president said both sides were to blame for violence that broke out in Charlottesville during that white nationalist rally.

BERMAN: Hours ago the president defended those comments. He really repeated those comments. CNN's Sara Murray at the White House with the very latest -- Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, John. Look, the president has a lot on his plate but instead of focusing on things like immigration and things like tax reform, he has reignited this controversy over the violence and the tragedy that unfolded in Charlottesville, once again talking about violence on both sides. Listen to what he said.

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TRUMP: I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what is going on there, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side, also. A lot of people have written, gee, Trump might have a point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, there has been plenty of sharp criticism for the president about the way he has spoken about Charlottesville in the past, as well his latest comments.

[09:20:08] And in fact and ESPN host actually labelled the president a white supremacist today. Trump is on a tear on Twitter and among his targets is ESPN. He tweeted "ESPN is paying a really big price of its bad politics and bad programming. People are dumping it in record numbers. Apologize for untruth" -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Sara, before you go, we are getting a lot more color about the relationship between the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and the president and his sort of near resignation or firing, or what have you not long ago, but now messages of support from President Trump according to some new reporting?

MURRAY: Well, look, this is a crucial relationship for any presidency and it has been a very awkward one under President Trump. We know that he and Sessions have some blowups, and then there was a new "New York Times" report that really took us inside some of the details of what went on including this moment where President Trump called Jeff Sessions an idiot.

He was frustrated about Sessions' decision to recuse himself. He was frustrated about Mueller being named as special counsel. At one point, Sessions offered to resign, but our colleagues are hearing that in the wake of these latest stories, the president did reach out to Jeff Sessions and sort of extended an olive branch and say, look, I am not paying attention to these stories, we're fine.

HARLOW: Sara Murray at the White House, thank you very much for the reporting. We're going to dig into it all more with our CNN political analyst, Alex Burns and CNN political commentator, Errol Louis. Thank you, guys, very much.

A lot of messages from the president this morning, Errol. A lot of tweets. The latest one if we have it, talking about immigration. He said, "Chain migration cannot be allowed to be part of any immigration legislation."

It's that. It's the ESPN tweet and tweeting about the travel ban this morning saying it should be much broader and more specific, and kind of contradicting himself, but it can't be because that's too politically correct and then obviously the tweets about the London attack that is infuriating Scotland Yard.

What do you make of this? I mean, is this all to say to his base, I'm here? Don't worry. I'm here.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think this is what you get when you bring in someone, remember from the campaign, we don't want any insiders. We want an outsider who has a fresh approach. Well, you know, boring words like policy means a lot of people try and put different policies together, different ideas together, and make them coherent.

So that when you look to the White House and administration, you can say here's where we are going on immigration? In the absence of that, you get random tweets all over the place. It's something like chain migration, I think, we don't have a policy paper or an ordinarily conversation about this coming from the White House.

But I think what he might mean is what the Republicans, what many conservatives think is the original sin of immigration policy, the 1965 change that made it so that family reunification was sort of a core and very highly-placed value that enables you if you are a new American to go and get your family members.

And they sort of come here a little faster than they would have otherwise. For the president to sort of say he wants to do away with that, well, that's going to take a change in the law.

That's going to take a long process and that's how you have an ordinarily sort of conversation as oppose to making a lot of people kind of freak out and get upset over this time.

BERMAN: That is if he really means it to be that specific. Because, Alex, it does seem to me that if you look at the overall pattern here talking about immigration in that way, and talking about the travel ban, albeit in somewhat vague terms, talking about ESPN, you know, criticizing the media.

He is sending these messages out, right, but he is not focusing on what is the most contentious matter to his base this morning, which is "DREAMers" and DACA. He may be saying I'm going to give you everything else, but I'm going to take away from you may be the one thing you care about the most.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, he's really playing the greatest hits here. You're right. I think that's the way to look at sort of his choice of topics. It's not an accident that this is happening when he feels like he's under fire from the Breitbart section of his base.

There are other parts of his base that are less upset about what he's doing on immigration. It's also not an accident that he is going there and over and over on the same day like this when his own party more broadly is expressing a discomfort and unease about the way he's handling his negotiations with Democrats. HARLOW: It also, Errol, plays right into -- if you look at the last 24 hours and the sound that Sara Murray just played of the president once again pointing to both sides in Charlottesville, to John's point, doesn't that do the exact same thing?

LOUIS: Well, that's right. It certainly extends an olive branch to a portion of his base that maybe a little upset that he's sort of changed his point of view. But also, though, I think it's just pure Donald trump. He likes to, if you want to call it, jam, he likes to rift a little bit with reporters or with anybody else.

HARLOW: The same day he signed a resolution from Congress.

LOUIS: Absolutely --

HARLOW: It's ironic.

[09:25:03] LOUIS: He says, you know, a lot of people are writing that maybe Trump was right that is just vintage Donald Trump. He wants to be proven right. He wants his opinion. He wants to let it be known that he was not pushed into anything by Congress or anybody else.

He will not hold his tongue. He really values these interactions. It's a gift for reporters. It could be a little confusing for everybody else.

BERMAN: Alex, at what point on the both sides of Charlottesville does it complicate the discussions with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi? He keeps on talking about both sides. If he refuses to budge on that, won't some Democrats say, hey, boss, you know, why are you in there with the president who is talking like that?

BURNS: There is no question about it. I have spoken to a number of Democrats this week that say basically they think the party, elected officials and folks in the Democratic base are going to watch this play out for a little while because the DACA issue is so urgent.

Because there are, you know, 800,000 people futures in this country are at stake, and because they feel like so far, Schumer has basically been getting wins on his terms, right? I don't think that the willingness to tolerate that kind of, you know, playing footsie with the president from Democratic base voters is just not there.

HARLOW: Maybe Tim Scott was right, Errol Louis? Leopard doesn't change spots.

LOUIS: Well, that's right. I mean, look, he is the oldest president we've ever had, right? I mean, we don't think of him that way because he's sort of young and vibrant and new.

On the other hand, this is somebody who has a very, very long history on many, many different issues as well as his management style, his epics, if you want to call it that.

This is not somebody coming to this fresh. He's not learning on the job. That's for sure. He, himself, will be the first to tell you that.

BERMAN: One other point, Chuck Schumer, you know, no spring chicken himself has known this president for a long, long time too so watching this decades' old relationship play out in front of us has been fascinating. All right, Alex Burns, Errol Louis, thank you so much for being with us.

It was like a bomb went off. How one resident on St. John describes the Caribbean Island one week after Irma. We will be there.

HARLOW: And just 200 miles east of St. John, a decimated island of Barbuda, where today, if you can believe it, not a single person is living on Barbuda after the storm, and this man, a Hollywood legend, Robert De Niro, wants to change that. He sat down with us exclusively. Our interview is ahead.

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HARLOW: How do you get people continue caring?

ROBERT DE NIRO, HOLLYWOOD LEGEND: Well, you have to have the people who are -- you have to keep -- it's not easy. I don't even know with myself what I'm going to be asked to do and do to help, but I will be there.

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