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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump To North Korea: Stop Threats or Face "Fire and Fury
Aired August 8, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news. President Trump in an extraordinary statement threatening North Korea with fire and fury. North Korea responding moments ago, threatening a missile strike on the American island of Guam. Are we on the edge of a nuclear war?
Plus, the U.S. preparing for a North Korean strike. We're going to go live to U.S. Command Center, one of America's first lines of defense. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news. Fire and fury, President Trump with that extraordinary threat to Kim Jong-un. Language never before heard from an American president to the leader of another country.
Three hours after a story broke in the Washington Post reporting North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear warhead, President Trump at an event on opioids, lashed out at Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make anymore threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. They will be met with fire, fury, and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen. Words that echo none other than Kim Jong-un himself who has threatened a, quote, merciless blow to the United States, with a, quote, nuclear hammer. And words matter when it comes to possible nuclear war.
Moments ago, North Korea responded to President Trump by saying it's, quote, examining an operational plan to launch missiles at the American islands of Guam.
And breaking now, a new CNN poll just released at this hour showing 37% of respondents approve of Trump's handling of North Korea. A grim number. Before tonight, even before North Korea threatened Guam, Trump was hit in response to his fire and fury statement, with a bipartisan slam from Senate leaders.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I take exception to the president's comments because you got to be sure that you can do what you say you're going to do. In other words, the old walk softly but carry a big stick.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Across the aisle, Dianne Feinstein lashing out in a statement saying, quote, President Trump is not helping the situation with his bombastic comments.
Jeff Zeleny is OutFront tonight from the White House. And Jeff, look, he said it not once, but twice. He carefully chose those words, fire and fury and power, the likes of which the world has never seen before. He said them twice.
We have never heard this kind of bluster from an American president to another world leader.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We have not, Erin, certainly from a U.S. president to a world leader. It would be more common to hear it in the reverse here. But those words were off the cuff, described to me as being spontaneous.
But you're right, he said them again. He echoed them. It's certainly something that he has been saying in private conversations with his military advisers and others. But the situation here is, he's at odds with his own advisers here.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has left the door open to diplomacy, as has Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador. So that is what was so interesting about the president's comments this afternoon, that he is, you know, certainly escalating things, no doubt. But is he closing the door to diplomacy here?
But John McCain, you heard his reaction there, Dianne Feinstein as well. But the question here, Erin, is how do other world leaders react to this? Is he closing the U.S. off of any type of a diplomatic situation here?
There's no doubt, when President Obama left this White House, he had one message for President Trump. He said, North Korea is the biggest threat. Today we're seeing that's right. Erin.
BURNETT: We certainly are. And thank you, Jeff, because this unprecedented threat is coming, as we are learning some crucial new information about what American intelligence now knows about North Korea's miniaturized nuclear warhead. And this is the crucial thing, right?
You may have the delivery, the intercontinental ballistic missile, but they didn't yet have the ability to put the payload on top. This is the huge development and the possible, you know, transformational one for the world.
Out Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto is OutFront. And Jim, this is a stunning and an alarming development. And it is happening on a time frame that is very different than many had expected.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, an accelerating time frame. Multiple officials telling us that North Korea is now producing miniaturized nuclear weapons that could be placed on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which they're also making progress with, with the range to hit many parts of the continental U.S.
Now, we are told that is not a consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community yet, and that it is not the belief of the U.S. intelligence committee that such a weapon has been deployed yet, though they are making them. Still very crucial, but it's part of an accelerating timeline here, where they're only going in one direction.
One official who is familiar with this intelligence report telling me that, really, it's not a matter of if but when. And this happens as North Korea makes increasing threats.
[19:05:01] Keep in mind this threat against Guam. Guam is a U.S. territory. It has a U.S. Air Force base there, in fact, two of them with thousands of U.S. military personnel.
I just learned a short time ago, some of the basis perhaps of that North Korean threat, and that is this. North Korea said in their threat that the U.S. had flown strategic bombers over its territory. In fact, we're able to report now that the U.S. flew two B-1B strategic bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Monday. This part of continuing U.S. air operations there. It's something that the U.S. has done before.
But that threat to Guam, it's not by accident. Those B-1B bombers are based at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. It's a threat that the U.S. military takes very seriously.
BURNETT: Absolutely. Thank you very much, Jim Sciutto.
And let's go straight now to retired U.S. Army Major, General Spider Marks, Bob Baer, former CIA operative, and Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst.
General Marks, let me start with you. These are unprecedented words, fire and fury, from an American president.
RET. MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Erin, they are. Let me tell you, though, I think the narrative is not necessarily what our president has stated. I know that may seem a bit counterintuitive.
What's important to understand is that the North Korean regime, for as long as it's been in place, it goes back over 70 years, has been on a path to assert itself and to establish itself as an independent body. And it has done that, and it has been in a linear progression in terms of achieving what it is now on the cusp of being able to demonstrate and deploy to the world. Which is a nuclear capability, missiles, nuclear deterrent, we are, in fact, a big player, not just in the region but globally, and we are going to stay there.
It really doesn't matter what our president says. Whether we think it's presidential or not is not the narrative. The narrative is the Kim regime has achieved what it's been looking to achieve for many, many decades, and it's on the cusp of deploying that.
That's the issue, plans are in place that we may (INAUDIBLE) and talk about that would allow us options to nullify that.
BURNETT: And yet, when you have an American president speaking, frankly, in words that echo Kim Jong-un himself, words that are often, you know --
BURNETT: -- sort of laughed at, even though people also find them frightening, but the bellicose, belligerent rhetoric that we hear. Bob, you know, they're now coming out tonight and saying, well, guess what, we're looking at a military strike on Guam. Do you take that seriously, Bob?
BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Erin, I do, in fact, take that seriously. Don't forget that North Korea has essentially attacked us in the past in 1966. In 1968, they attacked the USS Pueblo, held prisoners for a long time. They've attacked American soldiers.
This is a very violent, irrational regime and I agree with the president. I don't know that he's a madman, but they are perfectly capable of making a preemptive attack against Guam, even though it would be suicidal, you know? This is a very dangerous country. And we do not know how advanced they are in their miniaturized nuclear weapons.
We do not know whether they, for instance, have bought reentry shields from the Russians for their nuclear weapons. We just don't know. Intelligence in North Korea is very bad.
BURNETT: Intelligence is bad and so, Gloria, obviously, when news like this happens, when we hear, OK, they have the ability to put the nuclear payload on the ICBM, it can completely change the timeline overnight, right with just one new piece. And then the president responds with fire and fury, which are, Gloria, coming from a president, unprecedented words. And as Jeff Zeleny points out, words that completely contradict what his own cabinet members have said as recently as days ago. When Rex Tillerson said the U.S. is not seeking regime change and North Korea is not our enemy.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the benign way to interpret this would be that there's a good cop/bad cop situation going on with the president being the bad cop. However, I don't think most people would interpret it that way. And I think what happens is that you're playing into the regime's hands right now. Because he can go back and say, look at these words, the Americans are threatening us.
And they are the aggressor. We are not the aggressor. And I think you have to wonder what our allies are thinking right now about what our intentions are. And you can only hope that General Mattis and Rex Tillerson and General McMaster behind the scenes are talking to our allies, as Nikki Haley did in the U.N., and trying to figure out what to do next.
We are not accustomed to the saber rattling from us. We are accustomed to presidents who try and take the temperature down, not presidents who try and raise it. And that's what we heard today.
[1910:03] BURNETT: And General Marks, I guess the question for you is, at what point do words become insurmountable, right? They're just words to a certain point, and then all of a sudden they can turn into something. Like a war that nobody wants to have happen, right? But that certainly where the rhetoric is going.
Can it be -- you know, how do you ratchet it back at this point?
MARKS: Yes, to Gloria's point is, everything -- the mission number one on the Peninsula is to de-escalate if there's an incident. As Bob described with the Pueblo, with the tree chopping incident back in '76, with firing incidents that have taken place on the islands on the shoulders of South Korea, is to always de-escalate. And we've always given North Korea the benefit of the doubt, we've been able to ratchet it down.
So true, words are significant here. But I think what's important is the words that the president is using now have less impact in Pyongyang and more impact in Tokyo, in Seoul, and in Beijing. And that's the important point that we need to get our arms around.
You're right, we have a disconnect between the secretary of state and president of the United States. What happens when people start turning on the lights and waking up in those three capitals this morning and are trying to make sense of this all?
BURNETT: Well, and they see fire and fury and assume it's Kim Jong-un and then they see it's President Trump.
Bob, you know, look, we got a new poll here tonight, 85% of Americans say North Korea is a serious threat to the United States, 37% of Americans approve of the way President Trump is handling the situation with North Korea.
Is this the most serious threat the United States faces right now?
BAER: It's a serious threat, but I also agree with General Marks, you have to de-escalate. This is what we've always done with North Korea, we've talked them out of a war. And so what the American people deem to be a threat doesn't mean that we need to go nuclear on this. And this is essentially what the president has said, we're going to go nuclear on this if they don't stand down.
You know, getting everybody stirred up about North Korea is not going to help. And I side with the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. You know, we've got to talk to these people, experts on North Korea that know Kim Jong-un. So you've got to talk to this guy, you can talk him out of this.
So this, you know, this dual policy in the United States is not helpful.
BURNETT: And yet, Gloria, this is a president who says what he wants to say. You know, you just heard Jeff Zeleny. What he said was off the cuff.
That's what he said and that's what he wanted to say, and he said it twice. He didn't care what Rex Tillerson said. And you know, he says what he wants to say.
BORGER: Well, look -- and this is a president who one would presume has looked at all options and has been sitting around with his military advisers, with his national security adviser, and looking at all options. And listening to his secretary of state, who's trying to de-escalate the situation.
BURNETT: And by the way, a president -- sorry, I just interrupt you, who knew this news about a miniaturized ICBM, right?
BURNETT: Before it was in the Washington Post. So theoretically, he didn't hear it from the Washington Post, one would hope. Sorry, go ahead.
BORGER: Right. But, you know, Donald Trump I think, he takes it personally, as he does everything. And feels that he's being bullied by the regime. And so he was going to throw it right back at them.
And you know, his problem is that they'll probably believe him. And, you know, while three quarters of the American public doesn't believe anything that comes out of the White House, I'm not so sure that's how they're going to feel.
And -- so I think it escalates a situation unnecessarily. And I think, you know, now, everybody else has their work cut out for them. And it makes life a little bit more difficult.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And we have more of the breaking news ahead.
It's just after 7:00 in the morning in China. Really, perhaps the only country that could get through to North Korea right now. We are live in Beijing with our own Will Ripley who has spent so much time in Pyongyang.
Plus, how will Kim Jong-un respond? I'll speak to Will Ripley. Thirteen times, 13 times he's been to Pyongyang.
And is America prepared for a nuclear strike? A state on the front line is facing a stark reality tonight. And we're going to go live to that (INAUDIBLE).
[19:17:40] BURNETT: Breaking News, North Korea threatening to take action tonight in response to President Trump's threat of fire and fury. Korea warning it is examining a plan to strike the United States' territory of Guam. That threat, of course, following the president's warning, of course, that North Korea could be struck like the world has never before seen.
And U.S. intelligence analysts, of course, warning that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead, that they are able to launch on a missile capable of striking the mainland United States. That is, of course, a game changer.
Will Ripley is live tonight in Beijing. Will, you have been on the ground. You have been to North Korea 13 times.
What is the reaction right now to what we are seeing? These unprecedented words from the president, and now a direct threat from the North Korean regime to Guam.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know how North Korea is going to respond to these words from the president, because that threat to strike Guam with ballistic missiles was made as a result of a U.S. B-1B bombing fly over on the Korean Peninsula that happened on Monday. This takes things to a whole new level.
And in the coming hours, we expect for some sort of a response from the Chinese government here in Beijing, which often kind of stands in the middle, urging all sides to remain calm. They tell the United States not to escalate the situation with military exercises. They tell North Korea not to escalate the situation by launching more missiles.
But now you have a situation where the rhetoric on both sides is white hot. It's never really been like this before. And we know in the past that North Korea responds with force.
We could see missile launches. We could potentially see a nuclear test. And of course, North Korea will come out with its own strongly worded rhetoric, perhaps a direct attack on President Trump.
I was in North Korea speaking with government officials about a month and a half ago about this very topic. And they say, it's a nonstarter for them that the U.S. demands that they give up their nuclear program or their missile program before they'll sit down at the negotiating table, Erin.
And so these two sides are very far apart. And we really have to watch and wait and see what will happen next.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Will Ripley.
And OutFront now, the Democratic congressman, Eric Swalwell of California, member of the House intelligence and judiciary committees. Congressman, thank you for your time tonight.
We just start with the basic question here.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me.
BURNETT: Were you aware that North Korea had the ability to attach a nuclear payload to a missile that can strike the mainland U.S. before today?
[19:20:00] SWALWELL: I can't go into that, Erin, but what I am aware of right now is we very much need a cool-headed president and not a barstool threats. We really need the president to talk to our experts who will lay out for him all of the diplomatic options, and also assure him that the military options, while they are there, they are no good ones. He also needs to talk to our allies.
We had -- we made progress over the weekend at the U.N. with the sanctions that were put in place. And you know, he should get credit for doing that, but he shouldn't be inconsistent and move to this new threat that he's making. And he should talk to China, because China remains a pivotal player in what will happen next with Korea.
BURNETT: So congressman, let me play again the threat that the president made today. And again, just to be clear so our viewers know, the president was actually speaking at an event about opioid addiction. And he sort of, it seems to adlibbed, and said this at the beginning of that meeting. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: North Korea best not make anymore threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen. They will be met with fire, fury, and frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He delivered that. He's obviously was angry, arms crossed. What's your response, congressman?
SWALWELL: It's not helpful, Erin. Especially the progress that U.N. Ambassador Haley had apparently made over the weekend. And so -- and we've seen this before. Rex Tillerson says one thing about what's going on in the Middle East, you know, as we saw with recent divisions there, and then the president comes out and attacks these countries. We saw that just recently.
And so, again, Erin, he needs to be level-headed right now. He needs to be consistent. And unpredictability is an OK tactic as long as it's part of an overall strategy. And right now I'm not convinced that there is an overall strategy.
BURNETT: Do you, congressman, believe, from what the president said today, that he is willing, he is prepared, to use a nuclear weapon?
SWALWELL: Yes. I believe that he is somebody who would prefer to use the military over diplomacy, because it's easier and he hasn't shown a willingness to engage even our friends. That's what concerns me. But he has a lot of smart people who are working for him. And a number of experienced generals, a number of foreign policy experts. He should listen to them.
And also, Erin, he should appoint an ambassador to South Korea. We had a very experienced hand there in mark Lippert and he's no longer there. And so, you know, he could add more experience to the team, to understand all of his options.
BURNETT: So you just heard the breaking news, I'm sure, congressman, that North Korea is coming out now and saying it's examining a plan to strike Guam. How seriously do you take that threat, which I think it's interesting, our Will Ripley is saying is more in response to the United States flying bombers over the Korean Peninsula, and it is not actually, yet, a formal response to Trump's threat of fire and fury.
So they may up the ante even more. But let's start with this threat to Guam. Do you take it seriously or you think it's just words?
SWALWELL: Very seriously, Erin. You should take people at their word otherwise you'll be sorry when you don't. But unnecessarily escalating the situation is not in our interest.
Our interest is to work with our allies, to work with China, to explore every option before we have to visit the military option. And I thought the president was on that course over the weekend. And so it is concerning that he has jumped now to a pure nuclear option to take care of North Korea's capabilities.
BUTNETT: Of course, at moments like this is when the American people need to trust their president. President trump is our president. He is our commander-in-chief.
A brand new CNN poll just released shows only 37% of Americans approve of his handling of the situation in North Korea so far. You, obviously, speak to all of your constituents, and perhaps carry even more sway, obviously, over the -- your Democratic ones.
How much confidence do you have? Do you believe that this president is able to step up to the plate and handle this?
SWALWELL: I'm very worried, Erin, that he does not value partnerships. And if you look at the greatest challenges America has ever faced, we have overcome them, because of American leadership and partnership.
You think of Delta and Malta and Casablanca. An American president sitting down with our allies and even countries who we weren't necessarily so close, but we came together and we addressed those threats. And right now, you just see the president going the old tried and, you know, not true way of trying to go military first.
And it also reminds me, Erin, if he's relying on uncorroborated sources, to say that North Korea has this capability. You know, we saw what happened in Iraq, when we leaned in like we did and the evidence didn't end up being there. So I'm afraid that we may not be --
BURNETT: So just a quick follow there. You know, the Washington Post is the outlet which reported this. And the president came out and made his comments, which of course presumably indicated he already have the intelligence. But are you opening the door because I know you got briefed regularly to the fact that you think they may not have this ability at all? Is that what your --
SWALWELL: No. If they have this ability, he should be forthcoming with the American people, other than just re-tweeting a Fox and Friends story and de facto declassifying what is an unnamed source.
You know, the Washington Post is a very credible outlet, but we should not launch a nuclear attack based on a Washington Post story that the president re-tweeted this morning. He should lay out the case to the American people.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, congressman. I appreciate your time.
BURNETT: And next, you've got about fewer than 5,000 miles that separate North Korea from Hawaii. How vulnerable is Hawaii to an attack? Well, we're live tonight in Honolulu.
And a closer look at a miniaturized nuclear warhead. What this all comes down to? Is it truly ready for launch in North Korea, at the end of an ICBM? And where exactly could it strike?
BURNETT: Breaking news, North Korea threatening to strike the U.S. territory of Guam. This comes after President Trump promised to deliver, quote, fire and fury to North Korea. After U.S. intelligence analysts assessed North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead, capable of being mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile and striking the United States.
Guam, of course, is not the only island within striking distance of North Korea. Another potential target within Kim Jong-un's range is Hawaii, which is where Sara Sidner is live tonight.
[19:30:03] She's inside a bunker in Honolulu, which houses the emergency operating center state warning point.
Of course, Sara, if North Korea launched a nuclear warhead toward Hawaii, let's just start with the very basics here, if such a thing were to occur, how long would it take to go from launch to strike?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just 20 minutes, Erin. That is what all the experts say. They say that from the time of launch from North Korea with a nuclear warhead, it could land in Hawaii in 20 minutes, which means there will be about five minutes as it's being tracked, and then there will be 15 minutes to get the population warned. And here's where that warning would come. First, there would be a
call that would come into this phone. It's a secure line. This gentleman would pick up the phone. He would say, OK, the missile is coming.
And then there would be a warning that would go out to the entire population. They have sirens they are working on now to make sure that the population knows exactly what that sound means, that there's an attack that's going to happen.
This phone would be picked up by someone sitting here. They would pick up the phone and they would call all of the counties. And that goes to all the counties directly, to let them know that a warning siren is necessary and that an attack is underway -- Erin.
BURNETT: So, Sara, I mean, that's pretty stunning when you talk about 20 minutes, of which really only 15 minutes count to warning people. How is Hawaii actually preparing for the potential of a nuclear strike? It's one thing to have such an idea in concept and it's another perhaps to look at it as a real risk.
SIDNER: Absolutely. It's a really good question. How do you prepare when you only have, for example, 15 minutes?
But that is why Hawaii is looking for. They are the first state to try to get their population prepared. They've been working on this for months now. At least seven months, trying to come up with a really good plan and get that plan out to the public.
And what they're telling people is, look, you need to look at your surroundings because -- and this is really important -- a lot of people on this island believe that if they are hit with a nuclear warhead, that everyone is going to die. And the emergency management folks here say that is absolutely not true. Not true. There will be lots of survivors.
And your ability to survive will probably depend on where you are and what you have planned for. So if you're in a car, you want to get inside of a building. If you're in your house, you want to get to the center of the house. If you're on the beach, see if there's a cave nearby or go across the street to a building. Try to get below ground, if you can.
These are all things they're trying to get out to the public. And this is a just-in-case scenario. People here are not panicking. The emergency management folks do not want people to panic, but they want them to be prepared. Preparation is everything.
And the thought is that the strength of the bomb that North Korea currently has is about what the United States had back in the '40s. So, we're talking World War II era time. And people survived Hiroshima, people can survive if that same type of bomb hits here -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sara. OUTFRONT now, former assistant secretary for the Department of
Homeland Security, Juliette Kayyem, and former Reagan White House political director, Jeffrey Lord, along with our senior analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
Juliette, of course, when you look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there were plenty of people who survived the initial impact and died in horrific ways days, months, years later. It's one thing to survive, and another to call that a survival.
Obviously, this is the biggest threat that any president has faced, right? The big question here is, is any state ready?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: No, not for the kind of attack that might be anticipated from North Korea. I just want to say something. You know, this isn't the biggest threat that a president has faced. It may be the biggest threat that we come to, because of the sort of language by Donald Trump, but we're at this stage, talking about preparedness for a nuclear attack. You know, let's take ten steps back and see whether we can't stop that from happening.
But just quickly on the homeland security side. Hawaii is part of FEMA region nine. What does that mean? It means that they have been preparing for everything from earthquakes to tidal waves to even this, given their proximity to North Korea.
What that means is that they've been focused on what's called "duck and cover", some of you -- some older viewers will remember this, this was a turtle. This was first a movie that was sent out during the 1950s to prepare the population for potential nuclear Armageddon. It was the biggest public relations campaign made by the government to educate people what to do. It's the duck and cover. It remains the best advice we can give the American population facing a nuclear detonation.
But just the comparisons to Hiroshima don't work. One, because we know what the response will be. But secondly, because Hawaii, and -- you know, we're just much more densely populated as a nation at this stage. So --
KAYYEM: But the hope is we never get to this, of course.
BURNETT: Right. Of course, the issue is, when you look at times in history, when you have had moments like this, forget what precipitates it, whether it's the words of a president or otherwise.
[19:35:04] Jeffrey Lord, you so often like to look at JFK. So, in this case, let's talk about the Cuban missile crisis, OK? A "New York Times" headline today called what we are seeing right now with North Korea, a Cuban missile crisis in slow motion. Representative Darrell Issa was also just likening this to the Cuban missile crisis.
At that time, in 1962, the man, the president that you so often quote, JFK addressed the nation and he sounded a lot different than Donald Trump today. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this clandestine, reckless and provocative threat to world peace and the stable relations between our two nations. He has an opportunity now to move the world back from the abyss of destruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Jeffrey, it is -- there are, obviously, words, abyss of destruction. But a very different tone, right? Putting the onus, the opportunity --
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well --
BURNETT: -- on the Russians as opposed to threatening them with fire and fury the likes of which the world has never before seen.
LORD: Erin --
BURNETT: Sorry, go ahead.
LORD: Erin, two things. Two things, quickly. What provoked the Cuban missile crisis was the perception of weakness that President Kennedy was seen by the Soviets to have demonstrated at the Bay of Pigs and later at the Berlin wall. And they felt they could take him on in Cuba and succeed and take him on in Berlin and succeed. They could put nuclear missiles in Cuba.
There's one other thing that we're not mentioning hear. On January 12th of 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave a speech at the National Press Club in which he drew the defensive perimeter line for America and the Pacific. That line included Japan and the Philippines. It did not include the Republic of Korea.
Six months later, North Korea with the backing of Joseph Stalin, invaded South Korea. In other words, there's a lot of people in South Korea who are still around who think that that speech indicated weakness and that America would not respond and therefore, South Korea was invaded and the Korean War was launched.
So, I would suggest as we consider language here, we may consider --
BURNETT: So, you think the president is projecting strength is what you're saying? Strength and not weakness?
LORD: Yes, you have to project strength. President Kennedy, I think, realized himself that he had made a mistake.
BURNETT: And yet, John -- OK so you're saying the president today is projecting strength. Let me just play again what John McCain just said in a radio interview. He, obviously, sees this completely different than you do, Jeffrey. Let me put it in his words.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I take exception to the president's comments, because you got to be sure that you can do what you say you're going to do. In other words, the old walk softly, but carry a big stick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Gloria, the implication from John McCain is clearly the president is walking way too loudly.
LORD: Well, I would just suggest that I'm sure that the president is consulting with Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson. Secretary Mattis in particular would have a very good idea about what the United States' capabilities in the Pacific are or are not. I think that would be a very important person to be listening to in all of this and I would think Senator John McCain would agree with this.
BURNETT: Jeffrey? I mean, Jeffrey Toobin, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Can we just dial this all back a little bit? I think this is an important story, but it is an unconfirmed report of a possible technological development from North Korea. And suddenly, on television, we're talking about people hiding in caves on Hawaii.
You know, I think -- you know, North Korea has had unstable leadership for a long time. They've been developing nuclear weapons for a long time. The idea that we are now in some unprecedented new territory, it does not serve anybody's interests to talk about this as if nuclear war were imminent. I mean, it just seems crazy to me.
BURNETT: So, what do we do? Do we ignore the words of the president of the United States?
TOOBIN: Well, no -- I mean, I think the words of the president of the United States are not helping the situation. I mean, you know, we're so used to editing what he said. What he actually said is if there's going to be more threats, not an attack, but more threats from North Korea, we're going to see, in effect, a nuclear war. Because he said, like -- like the world has never seen.
BURNETT: Right, in which case, Jeffrey, to your point, that truly is a game changer. I mean, you're setting -- and I think that's what John McCain is pointing out. You're setting a red line there that you know North Korea is going to cross. Threats is what they trade in.
TOOBIN: That's right. That's how they talk. That's the lingo franca of the North Korean government. But I think everyone should dial this all back a little bit and not create some sort of panic that we are on the brink of a nuclear war, because, you know, it's just one person's opinion.
I don't think we're on the brink of a nuclear war. And I don't think anybody needs to do anything in Hawaii, except take a great, enjoyable, long vacation. [19:40:03] BURNETT: So, but, Juliette, let me ask you a question,
though. How does the president dial this back, right? He has just set a line, if you continue to threaten, you're going to be met with fire and fury the likes of which the world has never before seen. How does he not act on that threat without losing face and credibility? Because that's the crucial question.
KAYYEM: I think it is, and here's the irony or the sort of what's so upsetting about this is the truth is, is that Nikki Haley, his U.S. ambassador to the U.N., had a great weekend. I mean, she actually succeeded in getting the Security Council to agree to these sanctions. Then things start to ratchet up.
I agree with Jeffrey. I mean, you know, look, I come from the world of preparedness, so you can never be too prepared for anything. That's what you want people in homeland security to be.
I think the thing that worries me about this language more is it increases the capacity for mistake. I don't think Trump is waking up thinking I'm going to nuke North Korea or vice versa. I just think that when you ratchet up the language like this, it leaves the sort of capacity for -- to avoid mistakes. It sort of narrows that lane. And that's what, I think, is different right now.
And I think most presidents in the past have recognized that. And have said, look, I'm not going to narrow that lane. But, you know, I mean, obviously, the president can ratchet it back with his language or let Tillerson and Ambassador Haley do what they were doing pretty well this weekend.
BURNETT: Well, and, of course, you also have mixed messages from all over this administration, Jeffrey Lord, right? Tillerson coming out and saying, we do not seek regime change and North Korea is not our enemy, right? To try to calm them down. Yet the CIA director twice in recent months, I know, and here is one of them, has said the opposite.
Here's Mike Pompeo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: It would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of it, but the thing most dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today. So, from the administration's perspective, the most important thing we can do is separate those two.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Jeffrey Lord, which is it? Separate those two, meaning regime change or no regime change? This is a crucial question. This administration should be on the same page, right?
LORD: Yes, yes. Well, to slip into the American vernacular, I think we may be seeing an example of good cop/bad cop here. And the president has said in the past he wants to be unpredictable. That can be a good thing in a situation like this. Because if you've
got somebody who was threatening to attack the United States of America, you want to make sure he is very, very uncertain as to whether he can survive that attack.
BURNETT: All right. I will leave it there. Thank you all very much.
And next, the crucial question here, right, North Korea issuing threats tonight. What are they actually technically able and ready to do? We'll show you the latest intelligence here, virtual.
Plus, on the front lines of a potential threat from North Korea. Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan joins us next.
[19:46:53] BURNETT: Breaking news: North Korea threatening to strike the U.S. territory of Guam, as President Trump is warning Pyongyang of fire and fury if the threats continue. This all comes as sources tell CNN U.S. intelligence has assessed that North Korea has produced a nuclear warhead, small enough to fit on missiles, missiles that could, of course, potentially reach the United States.
Now, Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT with more now to virtually look at this.
Tom, let's just start with the facts here. What exactly are these miniaturized missile -- or, you know, weapons, this payload. And what exactly is the range of the missile on which they are mounted?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, this photo reference purports to show Kim Jong-un with a miniaturized nuke. When it was released last year, a lot of people laughed at it, said it was fake.
Now, they say, maybe not so much. So, what do we know about this? It would be about 2 feet across, by some estimates, several hundred pounds, maybe 500, 600. And it would have the destructive potential of the bombs that were dropped 72 years ago this week by the United States on Japan.
But look at the difference here. Each of these were 10 feet or longer. They were around 10,000 pounds. These had to be carried in by a heavy bomber. This, a whole different equation here. Small enough, light enough, it could fit in the nose cone of some of those missiles we've seen tested lately.
And that makes all the difference, because the latest test of a missile there, it went 2,300 miles up into space. That's way above the space station, way above many satellites out there. The land distance was only 621 miles, but that's because it went straight up and essentially came straight down.
If you flatten out that trajectory and you fire it across the earth, then you're talking about something that very well could reach Guam, it could reach Hawaii. And depending on the weight of the payload, some scientists believe, technically, it might be able to reach the middle of the country and some cities there -- Erin. BURNETT: So, when you say some scientists and technically, obviously,
huge caveats. What are the North Koreans still missing?
FOREMAN: Well, I think those are important caveats, because if you look at the entire equation, there's still some holes here that are important ones. Let's give them the range. Let's say they have enough thrust in one of these that it could reach to the mainland of the United States. We'll green light that.
Huge questions still around accuracy. When you flatten out that trajectory and you fire that way, technologically, it is a huge challenge to get it to go that far, to come back into the atmosphere without tearing up, and being able to target that warhead at something specific. These are big, big challenges out there. We don't know that they have that technology yet. That's a yellow light, for sure.
But bear in mind, only a few weeks ago, Erin, we were saying that nuclear warheads were a red line, that nobody thought they had the technology or very few thought that they could miniaturize it this much. Now, the opinion seems to be shifting there, moving that into a yellow zone, too -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Tom Foreman.
And back with me now, General Spider Marks.
And, General, I guess let's just start with this on a very basic question, because you have spent a lot of time in South Korea and you spent a lot of time in intelligence.
[19:50:04] How good is American intelligence, you know, in terms of assessing what North Korea can and can't do right now? I mean, is it completely opaque, or is it possible there's been a breakthrough and the information is much more accurate than it was before?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Erin, I doubt there's been a significant breakthrough in terms of our intelligence collection, but it's not entirely opaque. The technical means by which the United States and some of our allies can peer into North Korea is through signals intelligence, imagery intelligence, albeit a little more difficult, because it's routinely cloud cover, the peninsula is cloud cover.
You certainly can do measurements, intelligence, those things, those anomalies that occur in terms of coherent changes, without getting too technical. We also have great collection that takes place among the different services, the Navy, the Air Force.
The human intelligence collection, however, is the long pole in the tent. It's difficult to extract good intelligence from those that have lived up North, those who have been part of the regime. Those that are close to those decision makers and can exfiltrate out of North Korea, make it out alive, and end up someplace where the United States and our allies can interrogate them, debriefed them and figure out what they know.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, General Marks. I appreciate your time.
BURNETT: And I want to bring in now, the Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska, a state that's obviously is less than 3,500 miles from North Korea and a state that is very well aware of the threats from a North Korean missile. He's also a member of the Armed Services Committee.
And, Senator, I appreciate your time. Thank you for calling into the show.
Obviously, the president threatening North Korea, right, saying that if North Korea continues to threaten the United States, it will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. Those are his words from today.
What's your response to what the president said? Do you think that was the right thing to say?
SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R), ALASKA (via telephone): Well, look, Erin, you know, effective diplomacy has got to be backed up with credible military options. And, you know, the president's administration this week, and your previous panel mentioned it, actually was conducting some very effective diplomacy. I applaud Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley.
But, you know, if one of the options that they're looking at that would eventually materialize is a preemptive war on the Korean peninsula launched by the U.S., that would clearly, in my view, require the authorization from Congress. Article I makes this very clear.
So, to me, the administration has done a good job up until now, working closely with the Congress on their broader strategy. But we're going to play an important role here.
BURNETT: So, when the president says, if the threats continue, you know, he'll strike with fire and fury, it sounds like what you're saying is he's drawing a red line that he's not going to be able to enforce.
SULLIVAN: Well, look, I think you have a -- you don't want to get into too many hypotheticals, but you have very different kind of scenarios. The one I just painted, a military option by the United States to preemptively launch a war on the Korean peninsula by U.S. forces, that has to be authorized by the Congress.
And, you know, I have been raising this with the administration for some time now. And now, to be honest, there's not a lot of pushback, if any pushback. So, that's one scenario.
There are other scenarios that you can imagine if for some reason Kim Jong-un did try to launch something -- well, first of all, and this is another very important element of this strategy, the missile defense system, which is mostly based in Alaska -- BURNETT: Yes.
SULLIVAN: -- would almost certainly shoot it down. But then, if you -- if there's some kind of attack on our forces or on our troops, you know, the president as commander in chief has more authority to react to that.
BURNETT: Right. So, what about the missile defense? Obviously, you know, it's gone through many tests so far this year. Some of them have failed, others have been more successful. When you look at that missile defense system in Alaska, are you confident that it would work if it was called into use right now?
SULLIVAN: I am confident, Erin. And it's something I've been very focused on as a senator. But I think we need to do more.
So, I introduced a bill, by the way, has 27 U.S. senators as co- sponsors, some of the most liberal Democrats, some of the most conservative Republicans, that's already been moved out of committee, the armed services committee. I'm very confident it's going to pass when we come back from recess.
We need to do more on missile defense. You know, you can't assume that Kim Jong-un is rational, and that the Alaska based system and missiles in California and a forward deployed missile defense with the THAAD, the Aegis, these need to be integrated, these need to be upgraded, we need more of them.
[19:55:00] We need a space based sensor that can integrate all of our missile defenses with our allies.
That's what my bill would do, and I think the vast majority of Americans, whether you live in Alaska or Chicago, would agree with that. So, the next thing -- whatever the strategy is, it has to include a much more robust missile defense for America.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Sullivan, I appreciate your time and thank you for calling in tonight.
SULLIVAN: Thank you, Erin. Appreciate it.
BURNETT: And next, country music legend Glen Campbell died today. A look back at his incredible life.
BURNETT: Tonight, more breaking news to share, a sad note. Country music singer Glen Campbell died today. Singer, television star, seasoned musician whose career and influence spanned decades. Campbell learned to play in $5 guitar. He had a stream of hits including "Rhinestone Cowboy", "Galveston", and "Wichita Lineman".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(GLEN CAMPBELL SINGING "WICHITA LINEMAN")
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Campbell's death, of course, met with sorrow by many, including his fellow performers.
Dolly Parton tweeting: Glen Campbell was one of the greatest voices of all time. I will always love you, Glen.
Charlie Daniels saying: Thank you, Glen Campbell, for sharing your talents for so many years. May you rest in peace, my friend. You will never be forgotten.
And Campbell's daughter, Ashley, saying this about her dad: Heart broken, I owe him everything I am and everything I will be. He will be remembered so well and with so much love.
Campbell revealed he had Alzheimer's six years ago. He died at 81.
Thank you for joining us. Anderson is next.