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States Fighting Back Against Trump Vote Commission; What Happened to Chris Christie's Career?; North Korea Missile Launch; Putin to Meet With Trump. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired July 4, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: President Vladimir Putin has gone from a more informal sidelines talk to now this full-fledged bilateral meeting.
So, we begin the hour with Ryan Brown, our Pentagon reporter.
Brian, the launch triggered an emergency meeting here of President Trump's national security team. What are you hearing from the Pentagon about the launch in terms of the precise missile that was used and next moves?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Brooke.
In fact, this meeting was convened in part to make an exact determination as to what exactly was fired yesterday by North Korea. Initially, the U.S. military put out a statement calling it an intermediate-range missile, something we have seen before, but now in a revised assessment, the military's now saying that it's highly likely that it was an ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missile, that it had two stages.
So it fired, and then it had this booster rocket that fired again, so, something a little bit more technological sophistication being displayed by Pyongyang in this most recent test.
So now that they have identified it as an ICBM, options are being considered. We're told potentially diplomatic options, attempting to increase sanctions, kind of rally the international community to enforce tougher sanctions against North Korea, something that's been tried before.
Also military options, potentially deploying additional assets, ships, troops, airplanes to South Korea, to the region in order to reassure Japan and reassure South Korea in the face of that North Korean threat, some kind of show of force, potentially, from the U.S.
These are the kind of things potentially being considered as options now that North Korea has displayed this pretty new capability, this two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile test that traveled, as you said, into the Sea of Japan. So this is all something that military planners are looking at carefully. BALDWIN: Ryan Browne, thank you very much in Washington.
All of this happening as we learn that Presidents Trump and Putin will no longer have a brief on-the-go sidelines meeting. Instead, it will be this face-to-face sit-down at the G20.
Michelle Kosinski is on this. She's our CNN senior diplomatic correspondent.
What do we know, Michelle, no especially with this new wrinkle being North Korea? What's on the table at this talk?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: We know it's going to focus on Syria, obviously. That's one area where Russia can really have some sway and work with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.
What's complicated that, of course, are many, many things, not the least of which is Russia's continued support for Syrian President Assad. So that's such a weighty, complicated subject to discuss, but then there's plenty else.
There's the situation of continued violence in Ukraine, the fact that Russia has not given back Crimea to Ukraine. And the U.S. has insisted on that. There's the sanctions involved. There's, of course, the Russian meddling in the U.S. election, but it is doubtful, at this point, according to White House sources, that the president is planning to bring that up.
Now, what we also know is that there's no set agenda at this point. It's going to be a formal bilateral meeting. That gives them a lot of time, so it could come up. But that sort of, at this point, informalized set of discussions has also caused some concern, even within the president's own National Security Council, as to, you know, is Putin going to be steering the ship here?
KOSINSKI: Is President Trump going to be able to get his points across without giving too much to Putin or legitimatizing some of the behaviors that the U.S. is, frankly, furious about, and, you know, should do something about?
So, you hear opinions on both sides as to how important it is that President Trump bring up the Russian hacking. You know, it's not as if things would change considerably if he didn't bring it up, and it is true that it can be brought up in other ways, but there are a lot of voices out there right now, including Republican voices, who feel it's important to really get that out there on the table and establish some boundary as to how President Trump himself feels about this.
BALDWIN: There is much to deconstruct ahead of this big Putin-Trump meeting, which we will do here in just a second. Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much.
But first, for more on this North Korean launch, Bruce Klingner joins me now. He's a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea.
So, Bruce, thank you so much for being with me.
And as we're learning, as Ryan was just reporting out from the Pentagon, that it was a probable two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. Explain to us what that means, how there was a second-stage booster, and how that's significant.
BRUCE KLINGNER, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, any kind of more complicated missile, such as a second or third stage, if it's successful, shows that North Korea has made technological developments.
In the past, North Korea has had other two- or three-stage missiles such as the Unha that they have launched or Taepodong that they have launched in the past.
What's particularly significant about this is, although the actual range was short, it was lofted to a very high trajectory. And experts are assessing that had it been flown on a normal trajectory, it could have gone perhaps 6,700 kilometers. Anything over 5,500 kilometers is considered an ICBM.
And 6,700 kilometers may be only able to reach Alaska, that's likely not the full range of the missile, maybe just this flight.
BALDWIN: And I should point out that one of the reasons we wanted to talk to you is that you were just not too long ago over there. When were you over there?
KLINGNER: Well, I met with North Korean officials last month in Sweden, where they emphasized that denuclearization is totally off the table.
There's nothing that South Korea or the U.S. can offer, and then they concluded with, accept us as a nuclear state. We're willing to either talk about a peace treaty or fight.
BALDWIN: Wow. We will get to options in a second.
But with the news today, Bruce, do you think this officially puts the U.S. on notice that they are capable, could be capable, of hitting U.S. mainland?
Four U.S. four-star generals in the past have said that they either assume or have to assume for planning purposes that North Korea already has the capability of hitting the United States with a nuclear weapon. They have another missile that would be launched from a fixed site.
This is a road mobile, the launch yesterday. That fixed site, the missile, the Unha Taepodong-3, that's estimated to have a range of 10,000 or even 13,000 kilometers, which is all the way down to Miami. So they have had the capability in the past, but from a fixed site. We still don't know whether they have been able to miniaturize and mount a warhead to those longer-range missiles.
BALDWIN: But that's the thing. But that's the thing. Right. It's one thing to have a missile with this kind of range. It's another thing to actually miniaturize a nuclear warhead and attach it. That's the fear, right? That's the question, when that is a real possibility.
KLINGNER: Well, experts assume or assess that the No Dong, the medium-range ballistic missile, is already nuclear-capable. And that means South Korea and Japan are under a nuclear threat today.
They've had -- North Korea has had successes in a submarine launch ballistic missile, two different intermediate range missiles that can hit Guam, several different ICBMs that they're working on. So if those aren't nuclear-capable yet, we know they're on that path of development.
But certainly South Korea and Japan are under a nuclear threat today.
BALDWIN: Well, despite what you're saying, I know that you know that the president of the United States has said that an ICBM wouldn't happen. Today, his response to this missile was questioning Kim Jong- un, essentially saying, does this guy have anything better to do with his life?
And, again, you having just recently talked to North Koreans, do you think, A, Bruce, that he's still sort of coming to grips with North Korea's intentions, and, B, what do you think Kim Jong-un is thinking with this sort of taunt from the president?
KLINGNER: There's always been a lot of, I think, disagreement about, you know, North Korea's actual capabilities, and we have to, you know, make certain assumptions, even within the intelligence community.
So, again, we may not know where they are on the development path, but we certainly know what their objectives are, and the president can say it won't happen, but, obviously, this one did. You know, this test doesn't mean that it's actually deployable, but, clearly, they're going to be doing continuing tests. We also expect another nuclear test, which would be their sixth, which would be providing additional progress on their nuclear weapons systems.
So, I think, you know, the president and others are always trying to consider what options we have. Some have suggested a preemptive attack to prevent North Korea from completing development of the ICBM. That would significantly raise the risk of an all-out war on the peninsula.
Some have advocated a return to diplomacy, but we have had eight international agreements with North Korea. All failed. South Korea has tried diplomacy repeatedly. They have 240 agreements with the North. They have all failed. BALDWIN: What are our options? What are U.S. options moving forward?
Well, we have -- certainly, we need to make sure that ourselves and our allies are sufficiently defended against the spectrum of the North Korean military threat. And that includes conventional forces, as well as a nuclear umbrella guarantee to our allies, and also ballistic missile defense.
That's the THAAD missile defense system the U.S. wants to deploy in South Korea, as well as having sufficient ground-based interceptors in Alaska and Hawaii, as well as reviewing the strategic missile defense systems President Obama cut.
But, also, we need to increase the pressure. There's a lot of misperceptions about that North Korea, as President Obama said, is the most heavily sanctioned, the most cut-off nation on Earth. He's flat- out wrong. The U.S. has been holding back on a number of sanctions. And only last week, the U.S. sanctioned a Chinese bank and we know there's evidence for a lot more.
BALDWIN: Right. Right.
In talking with the North Koreans just last month, Bruce, what else did you take away from that that you can share?
KLINGNER: Right, that that they were just very emphatic In that they were not interested in denuclearizing or returning to negotiations, and that when we tried to offer different options or suggest options, they became irritated. They just said, stop thinking of different options. We are a nuclear state.
And they were much more self-assured s self-assured, even cockier, given the recent successes in their nuclear missile tests.
BALDWIN: Just curious, did they say anything about Otto Warmbier or the other Americans who are over there?
KLINGNER: Well, our meetings were in between times that State Department official Joe Yun was meeting with them.
We didn't know that at the time, but certainly in the meeting we raised not only Mr. Warmbier, but the other three American detainees, and pointed out that they were on trumped-up charges, that they were excessive punishments, and that if North Korea wanted to improve the atmosphere for any kind of negotiations, that releasing them would certainly improve the atmosphere.
BALDWIN: Did they appear open to that?
KLINGNER: I think they took it on board, but it didn't seem to gain any traction.
BALDWIN: OK. Bruce Klingner, thank you so very much. And happy Fourth of July to you.
KLINGNER: Happy Fourth.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Coming up next: why Vladimir Putin and not President Trump may be the one bringing up election meddling in this highly anticipated face-to- face. Hear why.
Also, more than 40 states now defying President Trump's request for voter information in his controversial quest to investigate fraud. Is this over before it even begins?
And at one point, Republicans were begging him to run for president, thinking he was the next star of the party. Now Chris Christie sunbathing with a 15 percent approval rating. What happened to his career?
Stay with me.
BALDWIN: The president is spending this Fourth of July getting in some private time before his public events.
Moments ago, he left his golf club in Sterling, Virginia. This will be the 36th day of his presidency that he's gone to a property bearing his name.
For more on that, let's bring in CNN's Dianne Gallagher, who is live on the National Mall there in Washington ahead of the big fireworks today.
So, Diane, how is the first family spending the Fourth of July?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, after coming back from Virginia, President Trump is going to join the first lady and parts of his family along with military families for a picnic about 5:00 on the White House lawn, and then, afterwards, they're going to watch the fireworks show from that area, Brooke, just a select number of military families chosen, kind of a low-key event compared to years in the past at the White House.
BALDWIN: In terms of the festivities tonight, let's just talk about everyone else who will be squeezing into the National Mall. What's security like? What will it be like?
GALLAGHER: Yes, so, Brooke, this is sort of the opposite of low-key here.
They're talking about at least 500,000 people squeezing into this area and they have set up security accordingly. We noticed a difference. There's a lot more fencing. And I talked to Park Police, Capitol Police. They won't go into exactly what changes they have made, but, Brooke, they said that they did take into consideration those soft target attacks that have been happening around the globe over the past year, of course, those vehicle attacks into crowds of people that we saw in Nice, that we have seen in other parts of the world right now.
And so they have taken that into consideration. There are at least 10 different security checkpoints you have to go through. They search your bags. They will only allow certain types of things to be brought in to watch the fireworks here on the National Mall, as well as that concert over closer to the Capitol, and so security pretty tight, but there are a lot of people.
They have been out all day. They're enjoying festivals, the parade earlier. We were expecting a little bit of weather. It might be OK, so we could be looking at even larger crowds a little bit later this afternoon.
BALDWIN: Looking at that pretty, pretty picture of the Washington Monument there. Just gorgeous. Enjoy your Fourth, everyone. Just stay safe, but have fun. Have fun.
Dianne Gallagher, thank you in Washington, D.C.
BALDWIN: Meantime, President Trump getting set for his second foreign trip after a rocky debut at NATO headquarters earlier this year. This time, he will finally meet face-to-face with the man who meddled in the 2016 election, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two will sit down at the G20 summit Friday in what could prove the most important meeting of that time.
So, with me now, John Kirby, CNN military and diplomatic analyst and former Pentagon press secretary.
Admiral Kirby, Happy Fourth of July to you, my friend.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: You too, Brooke. Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
First up, you know, the president's meeting with Putin this week. This whole thing went from this more informal sidelines chat to this full-fledged bilateral meeting, no longer that pull-aside that we knew happened between President Obama and Putin two years ago.
That said, what message does this kind of meeting send to Russia?
KIRBY: I don't know that the format of the meeting sends any particular message to Russia, but I do think it gives the president a better opportunity here, a more structured meeting with a more concise and concrete agenda, more people at the table, a chance to get into a deeper discussion on issues.
I mean, if you're looking for a content-heavy meeting, then this is probably the best way to do that, rather than an informal pull-aside. So I think actually that the White House should take full advantage of this and really use it to try to drive the ball a little bit forward on some of these issues with Russia.
BALDWIN: How should they do -- well, we're hearing from the White House that the influencing the election thing won't be brought up, at least on behalf of, you know, the President Trump's piece, apparently with Syria and Ukraine to be the priorities.
And I can only imagine that, of course, North Korea and everything we've been talking about today with the ICBM will be a piece of that.
KIRBY: Well, I think North Korea will certainly be on the agenda now. I honestly don't think that it's going to be a major part of the agenda between Putin and Trump. It will something more between Xi and Trump, probably.
But I don't know that it will be a big issue. I think you can expect the Russians to bring up old complaints. They will bring up the compounds that President Obama kicked them out of. They will bring up concerns about counterterrorism and cooperation.
BALDWIN: Let me actually stop you, Admiral, because on those compounds in Long Island and in, what is it, Maryland, that belonged to the Russians, they were taken by the Obama administration precisely because of the influence in the election.
BALDWIN: So, in this funny twist, it's not like the president, President Trump, will be bringing up meddling, but it will actually be President Putin.
KIRBY: Yes, he actually will, because--
BALDWIN: You with me?
KIRBY: Yes, I think you're right.
KIRBY: I think you're right.
And, look, I have said this before. And I know -- I have seen the reporting that he has no intention of bringing up election meddling. I hope that that changes. I hope that he does use this.
KIRBY: He has a prime opportunity, his first sit-down with President Putin, to say, look, we know what you did, we can't tolerate it going forward.
And I'm even OK if he doesn't want the bring it up in the past because of his concerns over his own legitimacy. I get that. I don't agree with it, but I get it.
But, look, we have an election coming up in '18. We've got another one '20. We have an opportunity to put the Russians on notice and tell them we're not going to tolerate this and then move off and get on to other issues.
Clearly, there's a lot of things between the United States and Russia that are in disagreement that we need to work through.
BALDWIN: You mentioned Xi a second ago. Let me ask you about China because we know Russia and China, we know Putin and Xi will be meeting today apparently to work on the Korean crisis.
And I think the timing is noteworthy, Admiral, because, you know, this is just days before the Putin-Trump meeting. Do you think at all, as calculating as Putin is, that he is -- you know, looks to be cozying up with China and not the U.S. on North Korea?
KIRBY: Yes. Clearly, I don't think the timing is coincidental given the G20. I agree with you there.
KIRBY: But, look, I mean, Russia and China have been sort of doing this little dance for quite some time, even before Trump was president, to try to leverage what they think is a diminished U.S. influence in the region and in the world writ large.
So I also don't think -- those two countries don't share a lot of common interests. There are some, but not a lot. And I wouldn't think that you're going to look at some sort of now new alliance between them. This is really more a messaging opportunity for them than it was anything else.
And if you look at the statement that they put out today, there's nothing in there. It's kind of high-handed. It's a little bit preachy, and nothing in there is really going to stick with respect to affecting our alliance commitments with South Korea, this whole freeze for freeze thing is just not going to happen. There's no way the United States is going to stop operating with the South Koreans or pull back the THAAD deployment.
It was really more a statement of -- you know, to annoy, I think, than anything else.
BALDWIN: OK. Admiral Kirby, as always, thank you so much.
KIRBY: You bet.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Just in, we are getting word that 44 states are now defying President Trump's question for voter information as part of his fraud investigation. We will sort out fact from fiction with a woman who has studied voter fraud extensively. Plus, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie still taking heat for
lounging on a closed beach, a beach he closed himself, but he says at least he wasn't caught with a blonde. We will take a look at the incredible fall from popularity for the man once considered a presidential front-runner.
BALDWIN: Now to a conflict some are saying is partisan, others just contend this is about privacy.
More than 40 states, we're counting now 44 and growing, defying this request from the president's commission to study voter fraud, and it's not just Democrats here. It's not just Democratic officials balking at giving over information like voter names, addresses, birthdays, political affiliations, criminal history, last four digits of your Social Security number, but also Republicans.
Republican secretaries of state are also refusing to comply, like the one in Louisiana. He is saying -- and let me just quote him -- "The president's commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have time and time again refused to release."
You remember this question of voter fraud? It's coming up because of President Trump. Let me just take you back and remind you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: So, you brought in congressional leaders to the White House. You spoke at length about the presidential election with them, telling them that you lost the popular vote because of millions of illegal votes, three to five million illegal votes.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That was supposed to be a confidential meeting, and you weren't supposed to go out and talk to the press.
QUESTION: But three million to five million illegal votes?
TRUMP: Well, we're going to find out, but it could very well be that much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That has been entirely unfounded.
Myrna Perez is with me, leads the Voter Rights and Elections Project at Brennan Center for Justice. She is back.
Thank you so much for coming in.
MYRNA PEREZ, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Glad to be here. Thank you. Happy Fourth of July. BALDWIN: Thank you. You too.
Explain to me what the president's commission can actually collect. What's OK?
Well, part of the problem is that the whole structure behind the commission is one that is dubious and people are very skeptical of it. It was created basically to justify the president's outlandish claims that massive voter fraud--
BALDWIN: Where there's no evidence, right.
PEREZ: Right, when there's no evidence.
And he staffed it with like a who's-who of vote suppressors. Certainly, a commission, a presidential commission can conduct research, they can conduct hearings. And nobody objects to being -- nobody objects to that kind of research. What people are concerned about is that the requests that were sent to the states last week were vast. They implicated issues of privacy. They implicated issues of state law.
BALDWIN: But on the issues of privacy, and I can understand the frustration because the premise is unfounded, according to you and other people I have talked to.
That said, Mark Rotter (ph) says, well, no, no, we're not asking for anything that's not already out there, when we're talking about this information of voters.
If it's public, what's wrong with us asking about it?
PEREZ: This is a great thing to clear up for the public.
PEREZ: Every state allows some sort of way of inspecting their voter rolls.
But most states have limits on what information you can get, how you can get it, how you can use it, whether or not you can distribute it to other people. And once a state passes this data over this commission that then has to make everything publicly available, they can't enforce their own state laws.
So one very concrete example is if you had a law in your state that said you can't use the information for commercial use, once they give it to the commission, what's to stop a company from looking at it and sending promotional material to everyone? It's different.
BALDWIN: Sure, and therein lies some of the frustration.
I remember when the story first came out, I think it was last week, and you had a lot of these Democratic governors or really mostly secretaries of state saying this isn't OK, I'm not giving you my information. I remember Terry McAuliffe of Georgia -- Democrat, Virginia, last week wrote: "I have no intention of honoring this request. Virginia conducts fair, honest and democratic elections. And there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia."
Flash-forward a couple of days. More and more states pile on. And now you have Republican secretaries of state saying, no, no, no, federal government, don't you meddle in my state processes. So this seems more -- it less like a partisan issue and more like a states' rights issue.
PEREZ: Well, maybe.
I think the commission put the states in a terrible position. One, it caused a bunch of legal problems for them, because, again, they can't enforce their own laws vs. -- about how you maintain certain privacy aspects of the voter rolls, notwithstanding the fact that, in some ways, they're public.
PEREZ: Two, it created a political problem for them.