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Former Trump Campaign Advisor Grilled by Lawmakers; EX DNC Chair: Clinton Robbed Sanders of Nomination; White House Daily Briefing. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired November 2, 2017 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOSTR: Carter Page was part of that same Trump foreign policy advisory board as George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to those charges earlier. And Page said publicly he may have seen e-mails from Papadopoulos on Russia. Did he talk about the e-mails today, Congressman?
REP. ANDRE CARSON, (D), INDIANA: Well, what I will say is that we asked many questions. The transcript will be available for public viewing very soon. I think what you will find is that the Intel Committee specifically have been some issues. I think for the most part, both Republicans and Democrats are working together to keep our nation safe and make sure that we rid ourselves of any bad actors.
BLITZER: You said very soon the transcript of the interview will be released. And can you be more precise? Will it be released today, tomorrow, or a week from now?
CARSON: I can't say because I don't know.
BLITZER: In a phone interview last night with "The New York Times," President Trump said this, and I'm quoting him now, "I'm not under investigation, as you know." On the Manafort indictment, he said, quote, "There's not even a mention of Trump in there." He added, "It has nothing to do with us."
Is the president right? Is he not under investigation? And if that's true, how would he know that?
CARSON: Well, to my knowledge, he is not under investigation. I think the greater point is for us to look at the influence of the Russians and the extent of their influence in terms of meddling in our electoral process. Director Mueller is tasked with looking for any criminal activity. And as we have seen with the recent arrests and indictments, we are encouraging folks to stay tuned.
BLITZER: The whole issue of whether the president is being investigated has been muddied by his White House chief of staff, John Kelly, who said in an interview on FOX News the other night, seemed to suggest very strongly that the president was being investigated. The president denies he's under any investigation.
Let me quickly, Congressman, while I have you, get to another topic. Shocking revelation from the former Democratic National Committee interim chair, Donna Brazile, who now says the Clinton campaign reached a formal deal before Donna Brazile arrived to control the DNC long before Hillary Clinton was the nominee. She said that in a new book, "In exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party's finances and strategy and all the money raised."
That deal was signed in August of 2015, a year before Hillary Clinton won the party's presidential nomination. What's your reaction to this?
CARSON: I haven't read the book yet. I look forward to reading the book. I know Donna Brazile, and I think she is a brilliant thinker and is a former Hill staffer. I'm always excited to hear what she has to say.
BLITZER: The Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee not supposed to take sides in a contest for the presidential nomination. Bernie Sanders presumably is reading all of this. His supporters are reading all of this. They're pretty upset to see there was a formal arrangement worked out between the Clinton campaign a year before she got the nomination and the DNC. You are a Democrat. You want to elaborate on this information we are getting from Donna Brazile?
CARSON: We weren't part of any kind of deal. We were focused in Indiana and statewide in the seventh district in terms of getting the vote out and making sure voters were engaged and the constituents saw us working with elected officials to talk about the changing tide we saw in our country and how we can deal with that. I was enmeshed in that.
BLITZER: Donna Brazile is saying, in the new book, if it's true, I assume you would be upset that there was a formal arrangement to use the DNC and the assets of the DNC, which are considerably, to help the one presidential candidate. And in the process, hurt others who may want to challenge her for the party's nomination.
CARSON: I think more importantly, Wolf, what we have seen with Bernie Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters is that, going forward, we need to come together. Though we may have differences and different approaches in terms of methodology, we have to come together and use our numbers to make sure we don't reelect Donald Trump or see another Donald Trump rise.
BLITZER: And learn from mistakes in the past and review clearly that's going on as well.
Congressman Andre Carson, of Indiana, thank you for joining us.
CARSON: Always a pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.
[13:35:02] BLITZER: Thank you.
We are getting new details on the investigation into the terror attack in New York City, including what the suspect wanted to put up on the walls in his hospital room. And days ahead of the president's trip to Asia, very important trip,
U.S. officials are learning of a sobering new detail in North Korea's nuclear arsenal, a missile that can reach U.S. soil. We have details and new information coming up.
[13:39:47] BLITZER: Looking at live pictures from the White House briefing room. Momentarily, we are told the president's national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, will preview the president's upcoming trip to Asia and start answering reporters' questions as well. We will bring that to you live.
The president plans to visit five Asian nations in the coming days, including three critical to combatting the nuclear threat to North Korea: Japan, China and South Korea.
All this comes as CNN learns North Korea is working on an advanced version of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially reach the United States.
We want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, who has been working the story.
Actually, Barbara, stand by. We will get to you after this briefing.
We will hear from General McMaster on the trip. Sarah Sanders will introduce him right now.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: -- I know you guys are probably very sad since we're not going to get a lot of days like this together over the next couple of weeks, since we'll be traveling. But for those of you on the trip, I look forward to seeing you. For those of you that aren't, we're going to certainly miss all of you and your questions. It's a busy day here at the White House, like most days here.
As you all saw, the president was excited to announce that Broadcom Limited is coming back to the United States, moving their company back here from Singapore. Their CEO credited the president's economic agenda for once again making the United States the best place in the world to grow a business.
He also noted that the tax reform plan which was rolled out this morning will make it easier for them and other companies to do exactly what the president has promised: bring back our jobs, bring back our wealth and bring back our great American Dream.
This morning, the president applauded the House Ways and Means Committee for introducing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is another important step toward providing massive tax relief for the American people.
Our entire administration is working tirelessly to make good on our promise to the working people who built our nation to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms, the rocket fuel our economy needs to soar higher than ever before. Now, as you all know, the president is preparing to leave the country tomorrow for a five-country, 10-day trip to Hawaii and Asia. This afternoon, we have with us the president's national security adviser, General McMaster, who will preview the trip and take some of your questions.
Please keep your questions on topic. If you have other questions, the press team will be around this afternoon and throughout the next 10 days, while the rest of us are on the road. Thanks so much.
GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, good afternoon, everyone. Hey, good to see everybody.
Tomorrow, President Trump embarks on his longest foreign trip to date, and the longest trip to Asia by an American president in more than a quarter century. This trip is a great opportunity to demonstrate America's and the Trump administration's commitment to the Indo- Pacific and our efforts to strengthen longstanding American alliances and expand new partnerships. The president has actively engaged leaders in the Indo-Pacific this year to address a range of strategic issues, including, most notably, the North Korean nuclear threat. Since taking office, President Trump has placed 43 calls to Indo- Pacific leaders and conducted bilateral meetings with Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. This historic trip will build on that ongoing diplomacy.
The president's trip will focus on three goals: first, strengthening international resolve to denuclearize North Korea; second, promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region; third, advance American prosperity through fair and reciprocal trade and economic practices.
The United States remains committed to the complete, verifiable and permanent denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. President Trump will reiterate the plain fact that North Korea threatens not just our allies, South Korea and Japan, and the United States -- North Korea is a threat to the entire world. So all nations of the world must do more to counter that threat. That is happening. But the president recognizes that we're running out of time and will ask all nations to do more.
In particular, the president will continue to call on all responsible nations, especially those with the most influence over North Korea, to isolate the North Korean regime economically and politically, to convince its leaders that the pursuit of nuclear weapons is a dead end and that it is past time to denuclearize. And he will remind friend and foe alike that the United States stands ready to defend itself and our allies using the full range of our capabilities.
The president will also use his trip to promote his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The president will make the case that respect for freedom of navigation and overflight, the rule of law, sovereignty, freedom from coercion, and private enterprise and open markets is the best model to increase prosperity throughout the region, and to secure the freedom and independence of all nations.
And of course, increasing prosperity of the American people is always one of President Trump's top priorities. Throughout the trip, the president will stress his commitment to free, fair and reciprocal trade. He -- he looks forward to working with partners across the Indo-Pacific region to ensure that governments do not unfairly subsidize their industries, discriminate against foreign business or restrict foreign investment. This will help increase trade, reduce unsustainable deficits, and promote prosperity for the American people and the people of the Indo-Pacific region.
A final point and a point that's often overlooked, this trip, like all the president's engagements with foreign leaders, builds on previous accomplishments and on previous diplomatic efforts.
One example I'll provide is that in Riyadh in May, President Trump delivered a historic speech to the leaders of more than 50 Muslim- majority nations. The president will interact with many of those same leaders at APEC or ASEAN, both of those conferences. He will reiterate three key U.S. counterterrorism pillars that he unveiled in that speech in Riyadh: first, deny terrorists safe havens and support bases; second, cut off their funding; and third, discredit their wicked ideology.
I think it's time that we -- for us to recognize that there's been significant progress on all three fronts. Raqqa and Mosul have been liberated and will soon no longer control territory and populations, as the -- the United States has worked very hard with allies and partners to -- to -- to deny that safe haven and support bases, in this case to ISIS.
Second, we should recognize that there's been considerable progress on terrorist financing; as you saw Secretary Mnuchin's visit to the region last week, during which he opened the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center.
And then also, you've heard a lot of leaders across -- across the world, and the president foremost among them, discrediting this ideology -- this Islamist or Takfirist (ph) or Salafi jihadist ideology. And last week, I think it's worth reading Saudi Crown Prince -- the Saudi crown prince's speech during which he called for a return to moderate Islam.
At the ASEAN 50th birthday party in Manila, the president will discuss how to strengthen partnerships across the Indo-Pacific to further efforts against transnational terrorist organizations.
So this trip is an opportunity to build momentum towards shared prosperity and security.
And I'm happy to take your questions. Thank you.
QUESTION: General, as you look at the tools in your tool kit for confronting North Korea, how much (inaudible) to putting that country back on the American list of state-sponsored terrorism?
MCMASTER: OK, that's -- that is an option that's under consideration. And so the -- the president's Cabinet is -- is looking at this as part of the overall strategy on -- on -- on North Korea.
But a regime who murders someone in a public airport using nerve agent, and -- and a despotic leader who murders his brother in that manner, I mean, that's clearly an act -- and act of terrorism that fits in with -- with a range of other actions.
So this is something that's under consideration. And you'll hear more about that soon, I think.
(inaudible), front and center.
QUESTION: (inaudible). Will the president be using the fire and fury rhetoric in the speech about North Korea when he's that close to the border? Will he be meeting with Putin on the sidelines? And will he be bringing up human rights when he (inaudible)?
MCMASTER: OK, so -- so the president will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously. And -- and what the president has done is clarified in all of his -- all of his discussions, his statements on North Korea, our determination to ensure that North Korea's unable to threaten our allies and our partners, and certainly the United States.
So he's done that with a great deal of clarity in the past, and I'm sure he'll do that during the trip as well.
And that's been -- that's been a -- a great reassurance to our allies, partners and others in the region who are under -- literally under the gun of this regime.
QUESTION: So we shouldn't expect any modulation in the language because of where he is?
MCMASTER: Well, I -- I don't -- I don't think the president really modulates his language. Have you noticed him do that?
I mean, I -- he's -- he's been -- he's been very clear about it.
And, you know, there's just -- let me just talk about this quickly.
There -- I've been aware of the discussions about, "Hey, is this inflammatory?" And what's inflammatory is the North Korean regime and -- and what they're doing to threaten -- to threaten the world.
I think there would be a grave danger if that regime didn't understand our -- our resolve, the president's resolve to counter North Korean aggression. And then the president's made it -- made it very clear.
(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Is there a likelihood, during the course of this 12- day trip, that additional multilateral sanctions will be announced pertaining to North Korea?
And the second question I have has to do with China. In your view, General, are they doing enough to apply pressure on the North Korean government?
MCMASTER: So -- so on those questions, what you've seen is a concerted -- concerted effort to isolate North Korea economically. And that's been combined with a major diplomatic effort that asks all -- all countries to do more.
There's tremendous momentum behind that now. And we've seen -- we've seen countries across the Indo-Pacific region but globally, doing more to expel these really, in effect, North Korea slave laborers who are a big source of income for the regime, to shut down a lot of illicit trafficking that was aimed to circumvent U.N. sanctions, and then also to shut down a lot of the money-making enterprises of this regime, often times run out of their embassies.
So you've seen a lot of expulsion of ambassadors, elements of the diplomatic corps, a restriction on this kind of activity. And the president welcomes that and appreciates it, but we'll also be asking others to do even -- even more there.
So it's -- it is both diplomacy and sanctions working together. China is definitely doing more, but -- but obviously it's not enough, until -- until -- until all of us achieve denuclearization.
And I think what's -- what's really -- what's really essential to remember about -- about China's approach to this is, China recognizes this isn't the United States or anyone else asking China to do us a favor. China recognizes it is clearly in China's interest and all nations' interest to denuclearize the peninsula.
And that's -- that's because of the direct threat from a regime like this with a nuclear weapon, but it's also because of the specter of the -- the breakdown of the nonproliferation regime. And what if others in the region conclude that they have to arm with nuclear weapons? I mean, that's not good for anybody.
So -- so I think China will, as it always does, act in its interests. But I think this is an area where our interests are really clearly aligned.
QUESTION: General, you mentioned in your opening comments that the world is running out of time to deal with North Korea, if you could expand on that for a moment.
And earlier this week before the Senate, General Mattis was asked about the process by which the president might use nuclear weapons. And he said, "Well, if we were to detect a potential launch from North Korea, that is a scenario under which the president might act." Do you agree with that assessment? Has that been something that has been discussed here within the Situation Room? Were options presented to the president?
MCMASTER: OK. So on the first -- on out of time, we're out of time because approaches in the past have not delivered; have not delivered on halting and then reversing North Korea's very dangerous nuclear and missile programs.
And -- and the approach of the past has been that -- that we'll be happy with something that some people call a freeze for freeze, or suspension for suspension. And that's the beginning then of a long, drawn-out negotiation process or talks, during which the North Korean regime has in the past continued to develop its nuclear capability, continued to develop its weapons.
Then, upon delivery of a weak, not enforceable agreement -- the Agreed Framework, for example, in '94 -- what you -- what you -- what that does -- what that agreement does is it locks in the status quo as the new normal. And then, of course, North Korea then breaks the agreement and continues with the programs.
So we're out -- we're out of time to do that because of how these programs have advanced over time.
So what we -- what it's time for is a really concerted effort to do everything -- everything all of us can to -- to resolve this short of -- short of military action.
In terms of scenarios, the president's always very clear: You know he doesn't draw red lines, he doesn't forecast directly or say directly what he's going to do. But what he'll do is, he'll do whatever it takes to protect the American people and our -- our allies...
MCMASTER: And -- and so what -- what is clear is -- is that the United States will respond with all capabilities available to -- to -- to North Korean aggression, you know. And -- and they're appropriate to that...
QUESTION: (inaudible) something that might be happening.
MCMASTER: The gentleman, center in the back.
QUESTION: Thank you, General.
There have been stories coming out of North Korea and certainly parts of that part of the world that the North Koreans have targeted the president in different ways. And are you confident about his security? And have you hear any of the rumors about his targeting of him by Pyongyang?
MCMASTER: Well, you know, whenever the president travels, our team does an assessment and will secure the president. And -- and we have assuredly (ph) capable forces in the region. And so, that's routine for us is to take all that into consideration.
QUESTION: ... President Xi now that he has consolidated his power? Does it make it easier to deal with him on North Korea or harder?
MCMASTER: Well, I think what the president will do is build on what was already a very strong personal relationship that they developed at Mar-a-Lago and then also build on a very substantive policy dialogue we had, especially on the security side, in Mar-a-Lago and in meetings since then, at the G-20, for example, and in multiple phone calls between President Trump and President Xi.
And I would highlight three elements of that foundation for the U.S.- Chinese, really the multinational approach to North Korea.
The first of these is a recognition that North Korea is not just a threat to the United States. Remember the old -- in the old days, you'd hear, "Well, this is really a problem between -- you know, North Korea and the United States." Well, everyone acknowledges, China especially, that -- that this is a problem between North Korea and -- and the world.
The second -- the second thing that's really critical is the universal acknowledgment that denuclearization of the peninsula is the only acceptable outcome. No more freeze for freeze, suspension for suspension.
And the third thing is China's acknowledgment that -- that it's acting in its interest obviously, but that China has a great deal of coercive economic power. I mean, 90 percent of the trade at least flows in and through China. And so -- so the -- the implementation, enforcement of the -- of the U.N. resolution holds promise. But there's more that can be done beyond that and I think it's time maybe for nations to do more beyond what even has been called for in U.N. Security Council resolutions.
QUESTION: Two questions.
One, just a follow up on the previous question. Have you guys determined whether there will be a pull-aside or a formal bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during this trip?
MCMASTER: That's not been determined yet, but we -- we'll announce it if that's determined.
QUESTION: And secondly, I know we're focused on the Asia trip here but I just wanted to talk for a second about the president weighing in on the man who's been charged with mowing down pedestrians in New York City. He hoped for the death penalty. Have there been any conversations in the White House about how that could complicate prosecutors efforts and even help the defense claim that this person can't get a fair trial?
MCMASTER: What the president wants is to secure the American people from this threat (ph) and -- and from mass murderers like this -- murderers like this. And -- and so, what he's asked is for options, to take a look, to assess -- if our tremendous law enforcement teams and -- and our judicial system has all the tools they need to be able to combat this threat to the American people.
So -- so, what owe him now, is we owe him options; you know, options to take a look at to see if this is -- if this is the time to -- to reassess, change our capabilities in this area, and the area of law enforcement in particular.
QUESTION: Thank you, General.
In your opening statement, you spoke about a lot of different freedoms, but I did not hear anything on freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and self-determination, democratic values.
And what I want to know is are -- are these things no longer as important to the United States under President Trump? Is he comfortable with authoritarian regimes consolidating power, moving away from democracy, as long as they can help us accomplish larger goals, such as North Korea and on any other subject?
MCMASTER: So -- so, what you'll hear is the president, when he talks about sovereignty, talking about the sovereignty -- sovereign nations protecting the rights of their citizens.
You -- you heard in just the preview, and you'll hear much more in -- in the -- in the speeches and statements the president makes abroad, about the importance of adhering to rule of law, to promoting freedoms, individual rights.
And so, this is extremely important to the president -- and I think, we just -- what we ought to do is just look at the president's record, OK?
So in Syria, you have regime that is a big human rights offender, obviously, in a -- in a number of areas the murder, the torture, the displacement of six million people internally, five million refugees, mass murder of their own people with chemical weapons. Who stood up against Assad to prevent even further murder of chemical weapons?