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WAPO: Intel Says Korea Has Miniaturized Nuclear Warhead; Trump: GOP Congressmen Face Heat at Town Halls Over Health Care; 17-Day Break is "Working Vacation". Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 8, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:31] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: If you are just joining us here, big breaking news this afternoon on North Korea. We have new reporting today that indicates North Korea has built this miniaturized nuclear warhead, capable of fitting inside of its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Let's go to our CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, who has some reporting on this.

Jim, tell me what you've learned.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPODNENT: That's right, Brooke. Multiple officials tell myself and my colleague, Barbara Starr, that U.S. intelligence has assessed though not formally concluded that North Korea today possesses the capability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead, put it atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Now, to be clear, this is not yet a consensus intelligence community view. That is one thing. It is also the view of the U.S. intelligence community that this remains an untested capability. And of course, testing is key to be able to get that reentry vehicle back into the atmosphere after launching a missile with this range.

That said, this is part of consistent progress that North Korea has been making over the last several months and years in this direction. One person briefed on the intelligence telling me that the question of when, not if, North Korea will get this capability and test this capability.

Keep in mind, as well, that the U.S. military has been preparing along these lines for some time, giving itself offensive military options to deal with a capability like this as well as defensive options.

But again, multiple officials telling us that this is an assessment in the U.S. intelligence community that North Korea has an untested capability of putting a miniaturized nuke on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, and Brooke, that is not an insignificant step forward.

BALDWIN: If it's not an if, but when, what do you make of the timing of the news, Jim? This is just after that unanimous U.N. vote that Trump was touting on over the weekend, that the world slapped North Korea with crippling sanctions and a situation where Russia and China and U.S. were all on the same page.

SCIUTTO: This is a measure of just the growing urgency that the U.S., that its allies in the region, Japan, South Korea, but also U.S. adversaries, if you want to call them that, China and Russia, who also came onto this resolution, seeing North Korea making progress, really unchecked progress. That's one reason why you had these sanctions put into place, sanctions that will be costly, not just to North Korea but also to China, really North Korea's only partner in the region to some degree. So, that urgency has been growing. And if you go back to the transaction, Brooke, you'll remember, when Barack Obama was briefing then-President-elect Trump, the one national security threat that he highlighted at that time was North Korea, saying this is going to be the one that's going to be at the top of your list during your term. And that warning appears to be bearing out. Of course, that wasn't just coming from President Obama. It was coming from the intel agencies, military commanders, et cetera.

So a significant assessment here, not a final assessment, not a consensus one, but certainly a significant one as North Korea continues to make progress.

BALDWIN: So maybe there's a test -- again, I still am hearing you are not if but when, what would provoke Kim Jong-Un to hit the button?

SCIUTTO: This is the thing. If you look at this, this is something that Kim Jong-Un knows that the U.S. and the West would respond with just devastating force. So, that would be, in effect, a suicidal move. That said, all these things are built on escalation. And Kim Jong-Un, you'll often hear, Brooke say, well, is he sane, is he a crazy man. The fact is, the people who know North Korea best say that these are rational, yet shocking moves by the North Korean regime, that this is really their -- they view it as their only defense, their only means of survival. So, the idea that North Korea would launch one unprovoked on the U.S. seems out there, unless it was part of a broader escalation, because Kim Jong-Un, as crazy as he may seem, it's certainly been made clear to him that the response would be devastating in reaction.

But then again, listen, as things potentially escalate, neither side necessarily has control as to when those escalating steps happen. And that's the concern here.

[11:34:41]BALDWIN: All right. Jim Scuitto, thank you so much.

We'll talk live with the man who negotiated with North Korea during the Clinton administration. His thoughts, how worrying this should be. Coming up next.


BALDWIN: We're back here, just really following this breaking news on North Korea.

I have with me Mitchell Reiss. He was the lead negotiator to North Korea during the Clinton administration. He also worked in the Bush administration.

So, Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for taking the time with me.


BALDWIN: I know we're just chatting quickly on commercial break. I think it's worth passing along to everyone else, this is a DIA assessment, and so I think just before we get into this huge conversation, your point on DIA, meaning it's a more, what, forceful assessment? This is not the thought of all the intel agencies, is that correct?

REISS: That's correct. They tend to be a little bit more aggressive in their analyses than some of the other intelligence units. But as you and Jim Sciutto discussed, it really is a question of when, not if, the North Koreans are going to acquire the ability to miniaturize their warhead.

BALDWIN: So flat-out, how worrisome is this report?

[14:40:06] REISS: Of course it's worrisome. But this is a punch that the North Koreans have been telegraphing now for more than half a century. We knew that they were working on nuclear weapons. We knew that they were working on ballistic missiles. They've gotten help from overseas entities as well. Again, it's a very serious threat that poses risk to the continental United States but also to our allies in the region, South Korea and Japan.

BALDWIN: How tenuous is the situation over there? How necessary, how dire is the need to deconflict before any side might be provoked to do something more forceful?

REISS: Well, two ways of looking at it. One is take a look at the South Korean and Japanese stock markets over the last six months. They've gone up. The commercial sector there is not spooked, is not as worried as we sometimes tend to be. It's not infallible, but it's an interesting metric to look at.

Secondly, it all depends on whether you think the North Koreans are rational or not, something you just discussed. And that's important because then it really comes down to whether or not they can be deterred. While for the past 60-plus years, the United States and our allies have been able to deter North Korea. They haven't had the capabilities that they're now acquiring. But if you think they're rational, then they should be deterrable. As Jim Sciutto said, they're not suicidal. This regime wants to survive. There are, however --


BALDWIN: You've been at the table with them, sir. Hang on. On that thought, are they deterrable, given the fact that you have been at the negotiating table with the North Koreans?

REISS: I believe they are. But again, deter them from doing what, when. Deter them from launching a second Korean war? We've been very successful at that. Deter them from launching nuclear weapons? I believe that we can be successful if we have the right defense posture and communications strategy. Deter them from creating mischief? No. Deter them from selling narcotics around the world or exporting ballistic missile technology? No. We haven't been successful. But on this existential issue of nuclear weapons, I believe that we can be. But I understand some people might not agree with that.

BALDWIN: But, Mr. Ambassador, if you say that this is something that they have been working on for years and years and years, and we talk about this, you know, miniaturized nuclear warhead and the capability and the ICBMs and all the tests we've been seeing, why would they not want to show it off?

REISS: Well, I think they do want to show it off, which is why they've been testing it. It's why they've been communicating it. They want to deter what they see as an existential threat from us to their regime. And so they believe, to the extent that we understand their thinking, that they live in a hostile neighborhood and they need these weapons in order to survive. They look at Saddam Hussein, at Muammar Qaddafi, and they say, that's not going to be us. We're going to have a nuclear deterrent and we're going to survive for another day.

BALDWIN: Mr. Reiss, Ambassador Reiss, thank you so much for spending the time with me. To be continued. We'll have more conversations on North Korea, I'm sure.

Let's continue on.

REISS: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

We have more news here out of North Korea. We'll stay on that.

But also, these new numbers out today, with regard to the White House. You heard this? Three-quarters of Americans don't believe a word coming out of this current administration. These new poll numbers, just what the president responded to over Twitter.

Also ahead, how's this for a line? "May you die in pain." Yes. That was actually voiced at one of these town halls. Harsh words from a voter at a Republican lawmaker's town hall in California. We'll talk live to one of the women who was there.


[14:48:20] BALDWIN: Health care. It affects millions of real people and the threat of lack of coverage has real consequences. And with lawmakers home during their August recess, people across the country are showing up at their local offices demanding answers on the Republicans' controversial health care plan. In fact, moments ago, dozens of protesters chanted outside of Congressman Darrell Issa's office in California, blasting a Republican over his support of the House health care plan that would have dropped 24 million people from coverage. And he's not the only Republican taking heat here on vacation. You have Congressman Doug LaMalfa, of California, hammered by angry voters at his town hall last night. One voter even shouted out, "May you die in pain."

My next guest was in the room when those words were uttered. She is Anne Sisney (ph). She joins me live.

Anne, thank you so much for being with me.

I mean, you were in the room. You heard someone actually say that to this member of Congress. What was that like, hearing that?

ANNE SISNEY (ph), ATTENDED REPUBLICAN TOWN HALL: Well, I was shocked by that. And that was not the tone of the town hall at all. Most people -- everyone else, except for that man, were very respectful. And there were many people in the audience who held up red cards saying they disagreed with that comment. And so that was not what the -- the main tone of the town hall was very civil.

BALDWIN: That's good to hear.

And you were there for a very personal reason. You lost your son, William, to an opioid overdose in June of 2015. He was all of 19 years of age. Can you tell me a little bit about him and what happened?

[14:49:55] SISNEY (ph): Well, he's a great boy. Very sensitive boy. He loved "Harry Potter," horseback riding, and playing his guitar.

You know, he just fell into marijuana, first. And I think I was naive, and I want people out there to know that, you know, he was raised in a good family. I'm a teacher, so the face of the opioid crisis is me. It's your neighbor. It's not other people. You know, it's your teacher's child. It's everywhere. And it's just -- I was there to ask the congressman not to strip the essential benefits that cover treatment for addiction and mental health out of the health care bill.

BALDWIN: So, what would you say, lastly, just to President Trump. I know he's meeting with his Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, today, specifically on the opioid crisis in America. What would you say to the president, just so he would -- so he'd follow through on the words we heard from him on the trail.

SISNEY (ph): Well, I think that most important thing he can do is to keep that essential benefit in the health care plan. People that receive treatment recover. And that's the good news. It's a long, hard process. It's a terrible disease. But treatment does work.

BALDWIN: I am so sorry about the loss of your son, just two years later.

Anne, I appreciate you coming on and speaking up. Thank you.

SISNEY (ph): Thank you for having me.


BALDWIN: We'll be taking the president's briefing that's happening in just a couple moments.

Meantime, just stunning new video showing a jogger pushing a woman into the path of an oncoming bus. We'll tell you what happened.

Also, the president has spent one out of every four days at a golf resort, despite campaign pledges to avoid the fairway. New insight into the president's working vacation.


BALDWIN: President Trump's 17-day working vacation at his New Jersey resort is in full swing. And he insists he will not be playing golf the entire time. But since election day, the president has visited his golf resorts nearly one out of every four days.

CNN's Brianna Keilar takes a closer look at Trump's frequent tee times.


KEILAR: For President Trump, golf is more than just a game. It's a way of life. It seems he'd rather entertain world leaders like the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on the links than in the White House. And Trump casual, it's not jeans and sneakers. It's khaki pants and golf shoes, even for a visit to tour the U.S.-Mexico border as a candidate.

In March, the president held a meeting with several cabinet secretaries at his course near washington, and spent a 17-day working vacation at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. He tweeted, "This is not a vacation. Meetings and calls."

But also --


KEILAR: -- golf. Trump, in a clear state of play, greeted guests of a wedding saturday at Bedminster's clubhouse. All this time on the course --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump for the birdie.

KEILAR: Head-scratching, considering Trump constantly hammered President Obama for golfing.

TRUMP: Everything's executive order, because he doesn't have enough time, because he's playing so much golf.

I'm going to be working for you and won't have time to golf.

He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods. I love golf. I think it's one of the greats. But I don't have time. I'm not going to be playing much golf, believe me. If I win this, I'm not going to be playing much golf.

KEILAR: At this point, in his presidency, Obama spent 11 days golfing. Since taking office, Trump has visited his golf properties several days each month, 48, as of Tuesday and counting.

In 2012, Trump criticized Obama for playing mostly with close friends, tweeting, "He should play golf with Republicans and opponents. That way maybe the terrible gridlock would end."

As president, Trump hasn't taken his own advice. He's played with Senators, but only members of his own party, Rand Paul, back in April, and Senator Bob Corker in June, joined by football great, Peyton Manning.


KEILAR: The president teed it up with CEOs and quite a few professional golfers, including Ernie Els, David Frost and Rory McIlroy, who revealed in February he had played 18 holes with the president after now White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump only played a couple of holes that day.

The White House has tried to downplay just how much golf Trump plays, and with whom, saying a trip to a golf course doesn't mean he played.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Just because you go somewhere doesn't necessarily mean you've done it. On a couple of occasions actually conducted meetings there, had phone calls. So just because he heads there doesn't mean that that's what's happening.

KEILAR: But in the era of social media, even the walls of the country club have ears and eyes. On Instagram in March, check out that presidential golf glove. And in June --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only place he can drive on the green? Right?

KEILAR: Busted on Twitter breaking a cardinal rule of golf etiquette.

But that's the norm, according to sports writer, Rick Riley, who played with Trump when he was writing his book "Who's Your Caddie?"

RICK RILEY, SPORTS WRITER: It's like bringing your own ham to a great restaurant. It's just not done. The worst thing you can do. And he also parks his cart on the tee box. And when you ask him why, he says, hey, it's my course.

KEILAR: Trump has only visited courses he owns since becoming president. He has 17, from Los Angeles to the east coast to Ireland, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates. He takes as much pride in his courses as his game. Those trying to get on his good side do best to mention it.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Here what I say about the president. He is the most competitive person I've ever met. He sinks three-foot putts.

KEILAR: Short-lived communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, probably meant to say 30-foot putts. Three-foot putts aren't hard to make, especially when you take gimmes the Trump way.

RILEY: Most people give you a putt within the leather, that means the length of the leather grip on your putter. He takes putts within a driver, like the long drivers. It's just like, wait a minute, what about that putt you just took? That moment, it's gone. Now he's over here tipping greens keepers, and then over here yelling at people that are building his cart path. It's madness.


BALDWIN: Brianna Keilar, you had a little fun putting that piece together. She plays a pretty mean golf game herself, I might add, my friend.

So when Rick Riley played with him to write his book, did he tell you how good Donald Trump really is?

KEILAR: It depends who you ask. That's what became clear, Brooke. If you talk to Donald Trump, he's known to claim a handicap of 2.8, so that's really good golf. We're talking low 70s, mid 70s, regularly. But if you talk to people who have played with him, and we heard Ernie Els, has said that, you know, Donald Trump is more like an eight or nine so that's more like play in the 80s, which is still pretty good. Nothing to fib about, and yet he does.

BALDWIN: In all seriousness, it's not cheap. Nearly one in every four days he spends at one of thinks golf resorts. So what does this mean for taxpayers.

KEILAR: If you look at President Obama golfing, he golfed less. And frequently, he would do it at Andrews Air Force Base when it was a weekend at the White House. The cost here really has to do with the travel. And Donald Trump is roughly out of town at one of his golf properties in general about half the time. So, it's very expensive. And right now, he's, you know, in terms of what taxpayers are paying, he's costing several times in travel what President Obama did. It's a lot.

BALDWIN: Would you take him on? Would you go a round of 18 just to see how he is?


KEILAR: Oh, sure. Apparently, he is very fun. It is sort of a circus to play with him. That's what we heard from Rick Riley. And he's just the consummate host. It's really something to behold. In fact, Rick said he was trying --