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Ambassador Haley: North Korea Launches "Clear, Sharp Military Escalation"; Pentagon: North Korea Missile Not One We've Seen Before. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 5, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:12] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, the U.S. tonight warning North Korea, the window for a peaceful solution is quickly closing. How long before the rouge nation could hit the U.S. with a nuclear bomb?

Plus, the White House won't say what Trump will talk to Putin about at their meeting this week why this could be the riskiest meeting of the Trump presidency. And which country has reportedly put an official in-charge of reading Trump's tweets? Let's go out front.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett, OutFront tonight, sharp military escalation, the U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley tonight, threatening war against Kim Jong-un, issuing a dire warning to North Korea after its first ever launch of an anti-ballistic missile. It's a game changer. It's a missile that could hit the United States. Haley saying North Korea's launch makes the world a more dangerous place.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Make no mistake, North Korea's launch of an ICBM is a clear and sharp military escalation. North Korea's destabilizing escalation is a threat to all nations in the region and beyond.


BURNETT: That comes as General Vincent Brooks, the top American military commander in South Korea sound -- (signed) an anonymous note. Brooks releasing a statement, that also addressed the potential for war saying, "self-restraint is all that separates armistice and war."

Those threats coming on the heels of an extraordinary show of force by American and South Korean forces the two armies holding a joint military exercise, firing ballistic missiles into the sea of the Korean Peninsula as you see there, the missile causing all of these up (ph) war, though is this one.

What U.S. intelligence officials are calling a "brand new" missile for North Korea. You see it there as its launch. It is a missile that could hit Alaska, possibly Hawaii. That test you see there was successful, according to North Korean state media. It reached the height of 1,741 miles, it traveled 578 miles. And we're going to have more on the threat to the United States in just one moment. I want to begin with Michelle Kosinski at the state department. And Michelle, when you hear talk of war, talk of all that threatens or separates us from armistice, how seriously is the US considering it military escalation tonight?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and we've been hearing this a lot lately. That option is a real option, but it's always there. I mean, that's why the U.S. has the capability in the regions, why the U.S. works so closely with South Korea and other countries in that region because it's supposed to be a deterrent.

And right now the U.S. wants to put the threat out there. It wants to visually show that capability, put it right in North Korea's face in the hopes that it will continue to be a deterrent to further action on the part of North Korea. The problem is, of course, it hasn't been working very well. Here's some of what the U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said today.


HALEY: Their actions are quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution. The United States is prepared to use the full range of our capabilities to defend ourselves and our allies.


KOSINSKI: At the end of that she added that the U.S. would use the military option if we must, but would prefer not to. So consider it a serious option, a real option, but also a risky one and very much a last resort. Today, in the Security Council we heard Russia and China state together that they think the way the U.S. is approaching this with the rhetoric and with the threat of military option is actually making the situation worse, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Michelle. And Sara Murray is out front of Warsaw, Poland, that's where President Trump is tonight on his way to meet with other world leaders at the G20 Summit. And Sara, North Korea now looming over all of these meetings and what is the White House saying?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're not saying much at this point. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Spokeswoman for the White House came back on

Air Force One today as our reporters were traveling here and basically said that, look, we're not going to give you any idea of what we could do next to pressure North Korea. She said, we've been pretty consistent and we are never going to broadcast next steps. She said she didn't have anything further to add.

But the way this is playing out, it really set up President Trump's meeting with the Chinese president as one of perhaps the most impactful as we head into the G20. Now, we know they hit it off when they had their summit at Mar-a-Lago and the President left feeling like China could begin to put pressure on North Korea. Since then Trump has made it very clear he's been disappointed that the Chinese have not done more.

And this administration has taken steps. They reach (ph) arms deal with Taiwan. They slapped some Chinese banks with sanctions. That would be interesting to see if in that leading the President makes clear, look, these were warning shots. We expect you to do more and to see what the tenor is between these two world leaders coming out of that meeting and how different it might sound from the meeting in Mar- a-Lago.

[19:05:04] BURNETT: All right, Sara, thank you very much as we step live in Warsaw tonight. And now democratic center, Richard Blumenthal, member of the House Armed Services Committee. Senator, great to have you with me, look, this is a crucial moment here. North Korea has launched its first ICBM capable of hitting the United States. You heard Sarah Huckabee Sanders, her reply, we're not going to broadcast any next steps on North Korea. Is that the right approach?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: What really sadly and urgently lacking here is a strategy for next step? Whether the administration wants to broadcast it or not, it needs to come to Congress with a strategy. We've been calling for it for months now and more than just tough talk that it needs to be action, coercive diplomacy as this been called.

BURNETT: So, North Korea, 17 missiles, OK, during 11 tests. This is just since President Donald Trump took office, OK? This is a lot of testing. And they have made significant progress. So should the U.S. watch and wait? And you're talking about coercive diplomacy but at some point whatever we've work, so whatever was tried has not worked.

BLUMENTHAL: Time is not on our side.


BLUMENTHAL: And time is shrinking between now and the time when North Korea will reduce the size of its warheads so that it can use it against the United States, so that it can master the reentry technology that's necessary and I think that we cannot wait. We need to take action now. And that includes putting pressure on the Chinese as we began to last week, put sanctions on a small Chinese bank. There need to be more sanctions and much tougher.

BURNETT: So let's start about when you say we have to do something but let's just talk about the big one, preemptive strike, would you support a preemptive strike of any sort?

BLUMENTHAL: No, because a preemptive strike is fraud with potential costs in human lives and really countless American lives in soldiers that are there now. So any military action has been absolute last resort. But we are resorting to a military deterrent even as we speak and --

BURNETT: Missile defense.

BLUMENTHAL: -- missile defense force that is deployed in South Korea or deploying there and perhaps in Japan as well. The military exercises so-called in firing missiles as we have done with the South Koreans. So we are beginning military deterrents.

BURNETT: Yes, now, on that front, the defense secretary recently said war with North Korea would be catastrophic, as you point out. You're talking one of the largest metropolis (ph) in the world, Seoul, you're North Korean civilians. You're talking about U.S. soldiers and you are talking about something the likes of which we have not seen at least since World War II. You are talking about casualties. Here's Mattis talking to John Dickerson of "Face the Nation", I want to play his description for you.


JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: A conflict in North Korea, John, would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people's lifetimes. The bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we're not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means.


BURNETT: The thing, though, that, you know, and I've been to South Korea with, at that time Defense Secretary Carter. The one thing that's been a constant is no matter what the United States has said or done, no matter what sanctions have put on, no matter what deals with Taiwan have been done to try to get China in line, it has all failed.

North Korea has made progress after progress after progress. They have made progress towards their goal striking the US mainland. At some point, is this a choice that we're going to have to make, that you'd would have to be willing to support mass casualties and combat to stop that nuclear armed war have been possibly hitting the west coast?

BLUMENTHAL: There are very realistic alternatives, Erin, before we need to even seriously consider a military option for all the reasons that Secretary Mattis has well described --


BLUMENTHAL: -- it would be a kind of war unlike any that we've seen because obviously Seoul is 30 to 50 miles from the North Korean artillery.


BLUMENTHAL: And anybody who has been there, you have been, I have not been, knows just from the kind of statistics as well as seeing it that it would be an unacceptable kind of option to use unless we are in effect at serious grave, urgent, immediate risk. So here's the alternative --

BURNETT: What you're saying we're not there yet. But we are a couple years away now, it looks like at the progress they're making two maybe three. BLUMENTHAL: Maybe even less time depending on how fast the North Koreans advance. But the Chinese know it and they have other objectives here, one of which is to keep the north and south divided. The other is to reduce American military capabilities --


BLUMENTHAL: -- in that part of the world to South China Sea. But they also know that we have a serious and grave immediate interest in it. So I think the Chinese, in reducing trade, food, fuel, going to North Korea have a lever that we need to bring to there.

[19:10:10] BURNETT: So, and so far, look, the President met with the Chinese President Xi, right? He said things are -- he's going to work with me. Things are great, I'm not going to leave the currency manipulator but he's now changed his tune after this missile test. Today, he tweeted trade between Chine and North Korea for almost 40 percent in the first quarter. So much for China working for us but we had to give it a try and now the U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to the Security Council today, here's what she had to say about China.


HALEY: Much of the burden of enforcing U.N. sanctions rests with China. Ninety percent of trade with North Korea is from china. We will work with China. We will work with any and every country that believes in peace. But we will not repeat the inadequate approaches of the past that have brought us to this dark day.


BURNETT: There are many on Trump's teams including himself over time who have advocated significant tariffs on China. I'm talking 30 percent tariffs of the like from the country like that that we haven't seen since those kinds of things sparked the World War. Would you support them at this time because nothing else has gotten China to do anything?

BLUMENTHAL: Economic measures completely are necessary. They are the first resort. They need to be brought there so that China in turn will bring to their economic pressure on North Korea. That's the most viable and effective option that we have now. And it is potentially workful but has to be part of a sustained and continuous constant strategy, not a one off -- not a one time meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese leadership. It has to be part of a strategy that's what's been lacking.

BURNETT: All right, well thank you very much Senator Blumenthal. I appreciate your time.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BURNETT: Thanks for being here.

And next, are American defenses ready if North Korea launches a missile? Well the answer to this may really surprise you. It was actually just a test.

Plus Trump arriving in Poland. His second overseas trip as President even top aides are worried about his impending meeting with Vladimir Putin.

And as Putin and Trump vie for the title of world's strong man, Jeanne Moos introduces as to a new competitor in the ring.


[19:15:59] BURNETT: New tonight, an alarming warning from the Pentagon, North Korea's new ballistic missile test is one the agency has never, "seen before", a scary sign in the stand off between the U.S. and North Korea. And Tom Foreman is out front.

And Tom, North Korea, look, has made incredible progress here. They've made it incredibly quickly. Just our Senator Blumenthal saying we may not have two or three years until they could strike the mainland United States and they show no signs that they plan to slow down.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they're going full speed ahead. In fact, this year is on course to be a record year in terms of missile testing over there and had more than a dozen already and each one has steadily expanded or sense of how far they might be able to strike. And this one is a real milestone because for the first time, analysts are saying they believe, based on what they saw, they might be capable now of actually hitting U.S. soil somewhere up here in Alaska.

So let's take a look at a life-size model of this missile and talk about it a little bit. Physically, it's not terribly tall. It's a little more than 50-feet tall, so taller than a basketball court is wide.

And it didn't fly that far horizontally. Even if you believe what the North Korean say, it was less than 600 miles. So why are people are so excited? Because of how high it went.

If you believe their estimate, even the more conservative ones, it was much, much higher than the international space station. And they brought it back seemingly under control into the atmosphere into a splash down.

All of that says a lot about how they've been working on propulsion and control. And they are having success, Erin.

BURNETT: Tom, you know, I know you said it doesn't seem very tall. Seeing you next to it, it seems that way at least just looking to me. I mean is it beyond the realm of possibility that this missile could eventually hit other major U.S. cities?

FOREMAN: Beyond the realm of possibility? Absolutely not. Take a look at this.

When you talk about the range of something like this, you're talking about its ability to cover a long distance. We can put a green light on this because they basically figured out how to give it range. They'll need some refinement, but they could keep pushing the range out there technologically now. And yes, they could possibly get it to reach Hawaii maybe or maybe some other U.S. cities over time.

Now, important caveat here. What about accuracy? This is a big yellow light, a caution light for them right now because there's no sign yet that they've mastered that part of it. Getting a missile to fly that far is one thing. Getting it to hit what you're aiming at is quite another. And remember, earlier this year they had some very big failures in their missile tests as well.

And last and the real stopper in all of this is the nuclear part of the equation. The reason you build intercontinental ballistic missiles, quite frankly, is to carry nuclear warheads. And there is no indication yet that they have figured out how to make nuclear warheads small enough and reliable enough to ride on any of their missiles.

But take all of this together, Erin, take what we saw just a couple of days back here, you know, over the past recent months and what we've just now seen, this is evidence they are making real progress on all those fronts and fast. Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Tom. I want to go now to Gordon Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown North Korea Takes on the World, and the former U.N. ambassador and U.S. Energy Secretary, Bill Richardson. All right, thanks to both of you.

And we are here at a crucial moment, a turning point, shall we say, Gordon. North Korea is making progress.

You know, now, the United States says that we have, you know, and you know, when I was over there, they talk about don't worry. We have this missile defense system over the west coast of the United States. OK.

The problem is two weeks ago, they tested it with a test like the one we're going to show here, a missile interception test, and it failed. It failed to actually intercept that missile. How prepared is the U.S. military?

GORDON CHANG, DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST": Well, it's defending the U.S. homeland from a North Korean missile in its terminal phase, which you were just talking about, the answer is no. The North Koreans can overwhelm. Even if we hit every target, and missile interceptors that we have in both California and Alaska are not nearly as sophisticated as the one we just tested.

[19:20:11] We do have some pretty good missile technology on ships that can go close to North Korea and they can maybe get it in the boost phase. So there are things that we can do. But, you know, the North Koreans --

BURNETT: Once it gets up there, if they are able to master getting it down and aiming it, you know. CHANG: Yes. It's really hard because it's coming down very, very fast. When you arc a missile like the North Korea just did, it approaches the earth at a very high speed. It's really, really hard to hit.

BURNETT: And Secretary, look, this is pretty scary, especially when you look at the progress that they're making and the failure of diplomatic efforts thus far. Back in January, Trump tweeted, "North Korea just stated that it's in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!"

Look, Secretary, it looks like it's going to happen unless something dramatic is done and quickly to stop it. You just wrote a letter to the president urging him to engage in talks with North Korea, which Kim Jong-un have said he doesn't want to do. What's left here besides military confrontation?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, I think we need some new approaches in diplomacy and sanctions. I would continue the military exercises with South Korea. I'd increase them. I would continue the cyber efforts to try to degrade their missile and nuclear capability.

I think their new kind of sanctions that we're looking at, at the U.N., hopefully China and Russia won't veto them, involving Chinese banks squeezing the North Korean leadership. Under the Bush administration, that seemed to work. But we took those off, an international effort at North Korea.

You're right. There are a lot of bad options and diplomacy is probably the best of a lot of bad options.


RICHARDSON: I think we have to be realistic. The target should be a freeze on ICBMs on missile technology. I think nuclear is probably something that is not obtainable in the short run.


RICHARDSON: But I think, once again, we need new actors, new players. The European Union, the Vatican. Try to find some new levers in diplomacy that we have not tried.

BURNETT: Gordon, you were shaking your head a little bit there.

CHANG: Yes. First of all, we don't want to freeze because we don't want to accept the North Korea nuclear weapons program as a given. That's been a basis of American policy from the very beginning.

So I think that what we need to do is really start to look at coercive diplomacy on the Chinese because the Chinese have been supporting the North Koreans. You know, yesterday, when they launched that missile, they launched it out of a Chinese transporter or rector launcher. So we need to ask questions about how did -- BURNETT: Are you saying some of these missiles are Chinese built? As we were saying...


BURNETT: It's not like a gun that you don't know where it goes. These are missiles.

CHANG: Yes, the most advanced North Korean missile was tested on August 24th, February 12th and May 21st. They looked like they are variants of China's JL-1 submarine-launched missile.

We need to ask how did the North Koreans get it. And this conversation needs to be public because it involves this health and safety and welfare of all Americans. So there are all sorts of things we need to do and we can actually push the Chinese in much better directions if we start going after their banks and their enterprises.

BURNETT: And Secretary, you know, the Trump administration has put a sanction on a small Chinese bank, but do you think the next step should be to sanction the big giant Chinese banks, now among the biggest in the world, Bank of China. Should they do that, ban them from the United States system? Do we gain more than we lose from that?

RICHARDSON: I think this meeting between the president and the president of China is critical at the G20. And we have to put it to China, look, are you going to help us or not? If you're not, there are going to be some consequences.

That option you mentioned, I think, is realistic. But I disagree with Gordon. I mean, talking about -- yes, it's been an objective of U.S. policy to stop nuclear technology. Well, that is the objective, but it hasn't worked.

I think you have to be realistic. The most immediate threat are the ICBMs, that technology, at least to freeze or obviously, we want to go towards elimination or seriously curbing it.

But I think you got to be realistic on what the first step on diplomacy is. And I think it's the ICBMs.

BURNETT: Would you ever go trust them in any word on a freeze? I mean Kim Jong-un, as we've heard, I mean I remember then CIA director, John Brennan was saying he's not crazy. He's not crazy, right? But yet he has a goal, and it is clear what he's going to do. I mean is there any situation under which he would stop, even if he said he was going to?

RICHARDSON: Well, you know, I have negotiated with the North Koreans for years. You could always make a deal with a father's regime, even the grandfather's regime.


RICHARDSON: We don't know about this guy. We don't know. He's unpredictable. He's dangerous. But at the same time, he's going to have to want something. His country is in dire economic straights. They're sanctioned to death. I think something has got to give somewhere.

[19:25:05] China is the main actor. I agree with Gordon there. And they're not stepping up. But I think there's new players that need to be devised, a comprehensive strategy, not a tweet our policy every three hours --


RICHARDSON: -- as the president does. Serious comprehensive military long range, short range strategy, that's what we need to do.

BURNETT: Gordon --

RICHARDSON: We have a little time, a little time.

BURNETT: Yes and as he say, a little time. How much time?

CHANG: Maybe a year, even less if the Chinese accelerate the process by giving the North Koreans even more technology. You know, a month ago, people were saying three or four years including me.


CHANG: But now, you know, the timeframe has been brought back to, perhaps, 18 months because they've got the heat shielding which they have tested and they've got all the other components. They can put it together really, really quickly.

BURNETT: Well, I think both of you just brought the point home there very. Thank you both very much. Very scary, three to four years to 18 months, just with this one test. That's how much it has changed.

And President Trump about to sit down with world leaders with his great shadow and including one, an ally, that he has hired someone just to look at Trump's tweets and Russia demanding that the United States return this.

It is a scrawling multi-million dollar compound. Trump is even considering giving back this so-called spy mansion. Why?


[19:30:22] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: President Trump arriving in Poland hours ago, just the second overseas trip of his presidency. Then, he's going to go to Germany for the G20 Summit, which comes as Trump finds himself under fire for his tweets -- 52 in the past week on his personal page. One in four attacks on the media.

So, how are his controversial tweets viewed overseas?

Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT with tonight's number.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the president left for Europe this morning, he fired off a series of tweets that cast a chill over one of America's most important relationships, implying that China is working against the U.S. in trying to rein in North Korea.

World leaders often use Twitter to lay out their thoughts on foreign affairs, but none like this and none with greater potential consequences.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: It certainly is true that any given tweet you've got to be nervous about it. It might box President Trump in. It might give away some information. It might get him into a dynamic with some other leader who fires back verbally with some risk of it escalating to military conflict.

MARQUARDT: Around the world, Trump's tweets have been met with fascination and amusement but also nervousness and often outright anger. South Korea was reportedly so concerned that they assigned a foreign affairs officer just to monitor his tweets.

Trump has often used Twitter like a traditional president, to offer support and sympathy to friends but also with these same friends in unorthodox and undiplomatic ways, like attacking the mayor of London following June's terror attack. A spokesman for Mayor Sadiq Khan responding: Khan has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump's ill-informed tweet.

The American ambassador to the U.K. then trying to calm the waters, tweeting: I commend the strong leadership of the mayor of London as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack.

O'HANLON: You don't have to take every tweet equally seriously. Sometimes, you're better off letting it be like water off a duck's back. And, frankly, sometimes Mr. Trump will revise his own opinion the next day.

MARQUARDT: One other American diplomat found herself so frustrated she used the president's favorite method of communication to vent. Increasingly difficult to wake up overseas to news from home, the ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, tweeted, knowing I will spend today explaining our democracy and institutions.

Shell Smith has since stepped down.

Trump's tweets often confuse, contradicting what he himself and his administration have previously said. Weeks after calling Qatar a crucial strategic partner, he seemed to side with Saudi Arabia against them, frustrating the State and Defense Departments who view Qatar as a key ally.

O'HANLON: I think 90 percent of his tweets, however much I may not like them, are not so dangerous. They are more or less harmless. But that last 5 percent or 10 percent could ultimately get us into trouble. And so, I really hope that he takes more care with them than sometimes seems to be the case.


MARQUARDT: So even though many around the world like here in the U.S. take the president's tweets with a grain of salt, they are seen overseas as valuable insight into the president's state of mind. Erin, I was speaking earlier with an ambassador of one of America's closest allies. He told me the tweets are received with what he called shock and awe, that they're fascinating but often exasperating beyond words -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex.

And OUTFRONT now, the editor in chief of "The Daily Beast", John Avlon, and the former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign and Trump transition team, Jason Miller.

So, Jason, you just heard Alex, an ambassador of one of America's closest allies says Trump's tweets are received with shock and awe, often exasperating beyond words. Your reaction?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Erin, I think one of the things that's important to keep in mind is what we saw from President Trump on his last international trip, where he went to Saudi Arabia, then he went to the Vatican and then to go meet with folks at NATO. And we saw President Trump be very disciplined on that trip. We saw him be very focused. I think he got a good reception.

BURNETT: You mean he did not tweet.

MILLER: I think he was very focused. And, look, I wouldn't say the president is not going to tweet at all on this trip, but I think he knows the stakes here. I think he knows the gravity on this trip, the importance in particular of these bilateral meetings that he has coming up on Friday. And I think the folks I'm talking to inside the White House are reflecting that fact that the president is very focused going into this trip.

And the other thing, too, Erin, I think that's important to point out, folks have been watching this presidency from day one, as well as the campaign last year. It is no surprise that the president is not shy about getting his message across or taking to Twitter to go directly to people. Folks here in America know that, but they also know that around the world. This isn't coming as any sort of surprise.

JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, the problem is that, you know, it's all well and good. The president should be trying to prepare for this trip.

[19:35:02] But we also know that the president keeps stepping on his own message, much to the frustration of people in the White House. And it's not about simply, you know, trying to talk to people directly. The simple fact is, it's very tough to be president of the United States, leader of the free world and king of the trolls at the same time. It sends a destabilizing message at home, but also to our allies who don't know which Trump they're going to get. And part of the problem is that Twitter Trump is the real Trump and

kind of verbally. So he may be well coached for this trip and I hope he is, these are high stakes, but his Twitter persona does not help his leadership. It does not help the cause of American leadership around the world.

BURNETT: Jason, I want to ask you something, because you mentioned his first trip, OK? First of all, he didn't tweet on that. Look, a lot of people were very happy, right? He was able to focus on the meetings and have the focus of the media be there and not on whatever he's saying about the media or television news anchor.

But there was that one image where he pushed aside the prime minister of Montenegro to the front of a group of NATO leaders, which we all remember. We're showing it again here now.

Jason, are these the kind of optics that are really going to help?

MILLER: Well, I think you make a very important point that so much of the imagery that comes from these trips might not be from particularly prepared remarks. They might come from literally that what appears to be a nudge and looked to me like the president was trying to better maneuver position.

But look, the handshake coming up on Friday will be big, what the body language looks like following the bilateral meetings that the president has with May or Merkel or anyone else come out of Friday. Images do matter and they are very powerful.


MILLER: And I think the president gets that, particularly for his meeting with Putin.

BURNETT: So, do you think, John, that he learned from that shove, nudge, whatever you want to call it?


BURNETT: Because what was interesting about that is while some of his base saw that as a great thing. Look, he's pushing to get to the front of the line. Our country has been left behind, that was a good thing. Very different than how many world leaders or people around the world saw that.

AVLON: Yes. And, you know, you're right in saying that many of his base did seem to rally around it. But internationally, it was seen for what it was, which was a president who is leader of the free world but still feels the need to elbow himself to the front of the line. And that's not the behind of behavior we expect from statesmen. And that's an appropriate standard to use for president of the G20 conference.

And that's a standard he's going to have to live up to and it's been a real problem. We can't sugar coat it. It's recognized around the world and also recognized by his colleagues, who are statesmen on the world stage. It's a problem for the American leadership as well as this president.

BURNETT: Jason, does he recognize the importance of the moment? Because it seems like sometimes he does but then there is another moment, a moment that comes next. In that moment, he fires something off Twitter which frankly undoes whatever statesman like thing may have just done.

MILLER: I believe that he does. And in particular, as we see this additional missile testing from North Korea, we're seeing the threat there and also, we're seeing the threat still with Syria and ISIS, even though I think we're making some great progress against ISIS. We still could be engaging the Russians on that front more.

I think the president does fully realize the stakes here and how important this is. The one thing that President Trump knows, at least as far as my experience with him, both on the campaign trail and through the transition and in observing him now are the stakes going into these big moments. He knows every eyeball in the world is going to be watching him on Friday --


MILLER: -- when he meets with President Putin and I think President Trump will be ready.

BURNETT: Yes. Every eyeball will be.

AVLON: Yes, and I think the key is not to absorb that attention as something positive for its own sake because he likes the fame, but to try to use the moment and the influence to advance American interests and the interests of our allies. That's a follow through we need to see from the president.

MILLER: Yes, and, John, that's a fantastic point. I think the president will be going in there with a very strong message to the Russians both regarding North Korea and regarding Syria. And this is the time to go and send a strong message.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

And, you know, you're saying every eyeball will be on this. They will. Trump going to be meeting Vladimir Putin. But the White House tonight refuses to say what they'll talk about. In particular, Russian meddling in the U.S. election doesn't appear to be on the list.

And last stand for ISIS in Raqqa. But will ISIS defeat create more problems in Syria? A rare look from the frontline.


[19:43:03] BURNETT: New tonight: the White House refusing to preview President Trump's highly anticipated meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Asked what Trump may bring up, the Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, quote, I'm not going to get ahead of their meeting.

And that came as the Kremlin tried to down play the entire thing, saying, well, it would be, quote, inevitably be limited for time.

OUTFRONT now, Republican congressman from Utah, Chris Stewart, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, I appreciate your time tonight.

You know, administration officials are telling CNN, President Trump will talk about Ukraine and Syria, but there's no expectation at this time that he's going to bring up Russian interference in the U.S. election. Should he?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes. I don't know if he should. And, frankly, I don't know if he'll have time. I think they'll have a chance to discuss that. The American people certainly would like to have some answers on that.

I do -- I do hope he talks about Syria. I think it's a very dangerous situation that we've encountered there over the last couple of months. Probably an urgent item that they would discuss. It doesn't hurt to go back and talk about Ukraine and Crimea as well, and just point out to Vladimir Putin that they haven't been helpful in the international community of the last few years.

BURNETT: So, look, all that makes sense, but, you know, sitting where you are and, of course, you are in the midst of an investigation into what happened with Russian meddling and whether there was any involvement from anyone in Trump's orbit with that meddling. If he doesn't bring it up, does he run the risk of signaling to the American people even of any kind of guilt? I mean, why not bring up the election interference?

STEWART: Well, I think that's a fair point in the sense that this is a political process right now and that the American people do have questions. And I mean, you know that there isn't any evidence of collusion right now. I don't think he has anything to lose by bringing it up, actually.

I don't think it will be very helpful. I don't expect Vladimir Putin is going to be very responsive to that. But it is an important issue, as you've indicated. The American people and believe me -- I know this -- I hear it all the time, the American people want to know his response to this.

[19:45:01] And I think the politics of it would actually be helpful if he did bring it up.

BURNETT: Now, the Trump administration, Congressman, as you know, has said it is considering returning two massive mansions, basically compounds in the United States. We're showing them to our viewers. Compounds that were seized in December as punishment for Russian interference in the election. And, again, we're told Trump is considering this as part of a larger set of agreements to partner with Russia. Do you think that it is appropriate at this time to return those


STEWART: I would have to see the contents of the negotiations or the deal they say they're going to get something back for it. I mean, if they gave us, you know, real meaningful concessions in Syria, for example, I could say maybe. But without knowing the broad outline of, you know, what is agreed upon, it's hard for me to say.

I can tell you this, and this is important for the American people to know, our State Department people, our officials in Moscow, have lived under just really, really tenuous and obnoxious circumstances in Russia over the last several years, the harassment that they face.

You may remember a video of one of our officials who he's accosted by a Russian guard, as he's trying to enter U.S. embassy. He's thrown to the ground and actually injured as he's trying to get in the embassy. They're going into their apartments. They're killing their pets in some cases.

I mean, if that's the case, it's hard for me to say, well, we're just going to give these facilities back to you, these homes back to you. I think they should pay a price for some of those things. But once again, if they have some kind of agreement where we're getting something for that -- I mean, I would consider that and in its entirety, maybe that's a good idea. I just don't know right now.

BURNETT: Just pretty stunning though what you say. I mean, killing their pets.

STEWART: Yes. Yes. I mean, it is. It is just harassment that our officials have lived under in Moscow for the last several years is just outrageous.

Many of us have tried to point that out to people, that the harassment and the lifestyle that they have been forced to endure and for no reason other than just to harass them and send a message to the American people or to the U.S. government.


STEWART: And it's just -- it needs to be highlighted and frankly they need to be held accountable for that.

BURNETT: Before you go, Congressman, I know you've been briefed on the latest missile test by Kim Jong-un. What have you learned?

STEWART: Oh, my heavens. This is a real concerning situation for us. I think it's the most dangerous situation we face. And, by the way, that isn't just me who believes that. I mean, many of our senior military officials believe that as well.

Kim Jong-un isn't insane. He's not irrational. But he's very, very evil and he's very unpredictable. And he is committed to developing nuclear-tipped ICBMs that are capable of hitting not just a few cities in the West, West Coast or Anchorage, but, frankly, eventually to be able to reach multiple cities around the United States. And we just can't allow that to happen.

But it is a very complicated situation with no obvious good answers, and it's going to take us a little while I think to figure out the best way to move forward on this.

BURNETT: Congressman Stewart, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

STEWART: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BURNETT: Pretty fascinating there.

Next, ISIS surrounded. We're going to go to the front lines of the war against ISIS. Is the terror group about to lose its chokehold and make things even more difficult for the U.S.?

And Jeanne Moos and the Macho Man who just happen to president. Can Trump or Putin top this?


[19:51:58] BURNETT: Tonight, we take you to the front lines of the war against ISIS. American-backed forces right now inching their way into the ISIS stronghold of Raqqah.

Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground.

And, Nick, what are you seeing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, this used to be the front line against ISIS, but things have moved so fast that the front line is now 40 miles away on the outskirts of Raqqah City. That it is now surrounded by coalition backed Syrian, Kurdish, and Arab fighters, the guys behind me. The last few days, they have managed to break through the defensive walls of the old city of Raqqah, a dense network of streets there, bypassing through airstrikes, mines and defense positions of ISIS puts in their way.

The move on Raqqah is happening quite fast. At the same time, too, Erin, we're also seeing them in their last footsteps really in Mosul, the biggest city they control in Iraq. Hundreds of meters left there, but it's hundreds of meters being defended by suicide bombers using civilians as human shields, tough work for the Iraqi special forces.

They can taste victory, we get the feeling, but they're still potentially days away and they have a difficult task on both sides of the border in Iraq ands Syria here, too. The Iraqi society has to heal somehow, has to get over to bridge the divide between the Sunnis, whose extremists seemed to back ISIS to some degree, and the Shia ethnic group, who are mostly in the government and military now.

Complex tasks there before they even start reconstructing. And here in Syria, the Kurdish forces with Arabs alongside them, that the U.S. is backing on the ground and in the air, well, they want to move in and kick ISIS out. But who comes in after them? That's not a really clear answer to that question. At this point, the U.S. has a plan. But they probably don't have the

budget or the patience to totally rebuild Raqqah. The question is, the Syrian regime, who are pretty nearby, do they want that territory? What really happens next for those innocent civilians in Raqqah who have lived under ISIS and don't know much about their future -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. We're going to have much more reporting from Nick Paton Walsh. And, of course, the big question, Assad then in many ways victorious, Putin still president in Syria. What next then for President Trump?

And next, Putin is known for antics like this, riding horses shirtless. And now, France's Macron dropping into a submarine from a helicopter. Can Donald Trump compete?

Jeanne Moos will look into it.


[19:57:56] BURNETT: Tonight, a president who knows how to make an entrance.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pick the most testosterone fueled leader, is it President Putin, President Trump, or is it France's new 39-year-old president, after tweeting out a photo of himself being lowered from a chopper to the deck of a French nuclear sub. Comparisons were made.


MOOS: My name is Macron, Emmanuel Macron, read one tweet.

OK, it was just a winch, not a jet pack. But still, President Macron, dressed in a naval uniform and took part in a missile launch simulation, up periscope. Tweeted someone, coming soon, president drops in on International Space Station and snaps selfie.

Macron first established his testosterone creed while practically arm wrestling President Trump during a hand shake.


MOOS: Of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin had his mini sub photo-op long ago. He's been fishing and riding horses bare-chested for years. His naked torso has become a regular on "SNL".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin is going to make everything OK.

MOOS: The real Putin has been hang-gliding with cranes, tagging tigers.

(on camera): It's as if world leaders are trying to out-macho each other.

(voice-over): Even if Canada's prime minister was only joking with his pushup. It doesn't hurt to know that he can do this.

The Trump handshake is his signature tough guy move, surpassed only by the time he pushed Montenegro's prime minister out of the way. But holding a golf club isn't nearly as high in testosterone as holding a gun. And compared to being airlifted onto a sub at sea, the most macho thing we've seen President Trump board was a truck.

(on camera): Moos, Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: And thanks for joining us.

"AC360" is next.