Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey; FBI Raids Paul Manafort's Home; North Korea Nuclear Crisis; FBI Raids Home of Ex-Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort; North Korea Moments Ago Threatens to Launch Four Missiles Near Guam. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 9, 2017 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tweeting about nukes. The president follows up on his bellicose riff by boasting about America's nuclear power and claiming credit for it. Is his credibility in question again, even as he and Kim Jong-un trade threats of war?

FBI raid. Agents storm into the home of the president's former campaign chairman in a surprise search for evidence in the Russia investigation. What does it tell us about the state of the special counsel's probe and whether crimes were committed?

And attacking his party. As if the president doesn't have enough on his own plate, he's picking a fight with his most powerful ally in the U.S. Senate. Will his battle with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell make it even harder for Republicans to get things done?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: more fire and fury in the Trump administration's warnings to North Korea, as the specter of nuclear war hangs over the escalating rhetoric on both sides.

President Trump touting the strength of America's nuclear arsenal, this on a day after he vowed to respond to Kim Jong-un's threats with power like the world has never seen before.

We are now learning those provocative remarks were improvised. Defense Secretary James Mattis is now backing up the president with an unusually confrontational statement of his own, Mattis demanding that Kim Jong-un stand down from his pursuit of nuclear weapons, warning his actions could lead to the end of his regime and the destruction of his people.

North Korea, undaunted, is protesting new international sanctions, warning it may strike the U.S. territory of Guam and turn America's mainland into what it's calling a theater of nuclear war.

All this dangerous standoff playing out as some U.S. intelligence officials now believe that North Korea has produced a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

We're also following a dramatic development in the special counsel's criminal investigation into the Trump camp's contact with Russia. The FBI raiding the home of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Sources say agents showed up before dawn two weeks ago without any warning, seizing documents and other materials, including financial and tax records.

This hour, I will talk about all those stories, much more with Senator Ed Markey. He's a key Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to CNN's Will Ripley, who has reported from inside North Korea more than a dozen times.

Will, there's breaking news coming out of the Kim Jong-un regime right now. Update our viewers.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just minutes ago, North Korea putting out a very fierce and threatening response to President Trump's remarks when President Trump threatened to unleash fire and fury on North Korea.

We knew that this was coming, but this is a very strongly worded warning from KCNA, the North Korean state media, Wolf. They called President Trump's remarks a load of nonsense. They say that President Trump fails to grasp the gravity of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

And this really stands out. They say that dialogue, they believe dialogue will not work with the U.S. president, that only absolute force will work. I want to read to you a portion of this because they actually detail their plan for an attack on Guam, the island that contains key U.S. military assets.

It says here -- quote -- "As already clarified, the strategic force of the KPA is seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets in order to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the U.S."

So, they are targeting the naval base, Guam, Andersen Air Force Base, the Coast Guard station, more than 6,000 troops and more than 160,000 American citizens living on that island along with an estimated 10,000 tourists. The island packed right now with tourists, and North Korea now issuing this direct threat as a result of President Trump's remarks more than 24 hours ago.

All of this also happening as there was a major demonstration happening in the North Korean capital, an anti-U.S. demonstration about the sanctions measure that was passed by the United Nations unanimously earlier this week. North Koreans, tens of thousands of them, organized in the city protesting against the sanctions and against the United States. I have been inside the North Korean capital, and it's amazing how they

mobilize people so quickly for these demonstrations, Wolf. All of a sudden, an empty plaza will fill with people who seem to come from all corners of the city.

[18:05:02]

This is something that the government arranges. People are expected to attend. But this is all designed to send a message to the United States, a very defiant message. The big question now moving forward, what else will Kim Jong-un do? Will he leave it with this strongly worded statement, or will there be action in terms of another missile test or even something more?

We know that North Korea for quite some time has been ready to push the button on their sixth nuclear test. And judging by this statement that has just been put out within the last few minutes, they are really dialing up the rhetoric even further, Wolf.

BLITZER: And this statement, I'm just going through it myself. This North Korean statement not only saying they are ready. They are getting ready to launch four intermediate-range strategic ballistic missiles against U.S. targets on Guam, the U.S. territory of Guam.

They then go on in the statement to ridicule the president of the United States. They point out that the president made that statement about fire and fury at a golf course in New Jersey, that he's failing to grasp what they call the ongoing grave situation, that he's simply speaking with a load of nonsense. "Sound dialogue is not possible," they say," with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work with him."

The statement adds, "This is the judgment made by the service personnel of the KPA strategic force."

So, it's going to be amazing to see how the president responds to these statements of ridicule coming from the North Korean regime. This is really, Will -- and I want your thoughts because you have been there more than a dozen times. This is clearly going to escalate all the nuclear tension right now.

RIPLEY: So, what we have just seen in the past few minutes is a direct response, a direct warning to President Trump signed off on by Kim Jong-un.

That's why these messages often take 24 hours or more to release, because there are a lot of people who read through these messages and they sign off on them. So, what you have seen, you saw President Trump throw out his hand. North Korea now throwing out their hand and upping the ante.

Obviously, this is a country that is not going to back down. They have made it clear through now their direct insults of the U.S. president and also strategically laying out their ability to simultaneously launch these intermediate missiles. And they have simultaneously launched missiles before, Wolf. It was back in February, I believe, when North Korea launched these

same intermediate-range missiles, and three of them landed within 200 nautical miles of Japan. So, this is a capability that North Korea has demonstrated. And the reason why they're talking about a simultaneous missile launch is because the THAAD missile defense system, which was put in place in Guam a few years ago after another North Korean threat, could potentially be overwhelmed by a simultaneous missile attack.

That is the big concern. The missile defense systems may not be able to handle multiple missiles being launched simultaneously at a single target. So, North Korea essentially saying that they have the potential plan to try to strike U.S. military assets in a way that the missile defense systems in Guam may not be able to protect them from, theoretically.

This is assuming that the missiles would be accurate, that they could actually reach their target, that they would be effective. Those are all big questions, but North Korea drawing a red line just like President Trump's red line, and we do now have to wait and see how the United States is going to respond, because President Trump said threatening behavior would be met with fire and fury.

North Korea saying they are prepared to respond to that with absolute force.

BLITZER: And it's very interesting. As you point out, they spell out in this document that they just released this statement, Will, the exact nature of what they're planning to do as far as Guam is concerned.

These four intermediate-range missiles, they say, would be launched. They would fly over Japan, clearly a violation of international agreements. And they would land, according to this statement, 30 to 40 kilometers away from Guam in the Pacific.

"This unprecedented step," the statement says, "is to give stronger confidence in certain victory and courage to the Korean people and help them witness what they call the wretched plight of the U.S. imperialists."

They're spelling out in great detail what they're planning on doing with these four intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Will, have they done this before? Have they given that kind of information? Because yesterday the president said if there are any more threats from North Korea, the U.S. will respond with fire and fury.

This is a direct threat that the North Koreans have just released.

[18:10:00]

RIPLEY: And what we're getting a sense of as well is the confidence of the North Koreans in their technical capabilities. The fact that they are now spelling out specifically what they intend to do in terms of the range, the missile trajectory, to go 2,100 miles from the Korean Peninsula to the island of Guam, a small 210-square-mile island, 30 percent of which is U.S. military asset, they are essentially saying, we can strike, we can demonstrate exactly how we will do it.

And perhaps this is the only way from the North Korean perspective to send a message to President Trump that they are serious, that they will strike back if they feel threatened by the United States. So, clearly, the rhetoric has now been dialed up even further. If it was white hot yesterday, it's even hotter today.

BLITZER: Certainly is. And the statement concludes with these very ominous words, and let me read it to our viewers.

"The KPA strategic force of North Korea will finally complete the plan until mid-August and report it to the commander in chief of the DPRK nuclear force and wait for his order. We keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the United States."

Clearly, a warning to the president of the United States, the defense secretary, the secretary of state. North Korea is watching your speech. And if the rhetoric continues along the lines we have heard over the past 24 hours, the impression that they are leaving is that they will launch these four intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Mid-August is not very far away, Will.

RIPLEY: It's not.

And certainly this new round of sanctions that was just passed unanimously most certainly will not take effect by then. Sanctions take a very long time. North Korea is saying that they already have these capabilities. And I have had conversations inside the country as recently as a month-and-a-half ago, and there is a similar tone from authorities there.

But even back then, there was no anticipation of this kind of rhetoric from the United States directly from the commander in chief. And, so, as we continue to cover this country, we will have to see has this been a game-changer, has this been a turning point in how North Korea is prepared to deal with the United States?

They have often threatened to annihilate the U.S. mainland. You mentioned the statement that was put out about turning the mainland into a theater for nuclear war. But this message feels different because it technically spells out North Korea's capabilities to launch missiles that they have tested quite frequently. They launched a barrage of intermediate-range missiles, especially last year.

This is a missile that they are perfecting, that they are getting better at, that they feel they can really target it. They feel that they can -- that it can hit a target fairly accurately. And again, the simultaneous launch significant, because it could theoretically have the potential to overwhelm missile defense systems.

BLITZER: Stand by, Will. You're in Beijing.

I want to go to the Pentagon.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is watching all of this unfold.

Barbara, I always assume following the president's tough statement yesterday, there would be a tough response from the North Koreans. And this statement released by General Kim Raqqa Gyom, commander of the strategic force of the North Korean People's Army is very, very specific, very detailed, and extremely threatening.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf.

I'm with Will on this. The fact that they're saying four missiles is the thing that's going to catch everyone's attention inside the Pentagon and inside the U.S. intelligence community. What happens is the U.S. has satellites. They have radar systems. They have ships, submarines that are watching North Korea constantly, watching for any signs or signals of a potential missile launch.

You can count on what is already 24/7 coverage of North Korea, if at all possible, ratcheting up even further in the coming days. The North Koreans may have a lot of trouble exactly hitting their target, but nobody is betting that they won't be able to do something. So, even earlier today, we saw the U.S. defense secretary turning up his rhetoric.

The defense secretary just a short time ago warned that war with North Korea might be a bad idea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Tonight, a dire warning from Defense Secretary James Mattis that North Korea should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.

Warlike language. Mattis also telling the world, "North Korea's military will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict."

A very different tone than Mattis' previous statement emphasizing diplomacy and what war would mean for South Korea.

JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It will involve the massive shelling of an ally's capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on Earth. It would be a war that fundamentally we don't want.

[18:15:06]

STARR: Kim Jong-un's regime undeterred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Any desire to execute a preventive war devised by the U.S. would be met with an all-out war, wiping all the strongholds of enemies, including the U.S. mainland.

STARR: All of this after North Korea threatened to attack Guam, a U.S. territory in the Western Pacific, where U.S. bombers are based and other aircraft that could be used to attack his regime.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has been very threatening beyond a normal statement.

STARR: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Trump's warning would hopefully keep Kim from reacting.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it was important that he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part.

STARR: If Tillerson was playing good cop, Mattis and the president were not.

TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

STARR: The commander of U.S. missile defenses told CNN the U.S. can defend against North Korean missiles today and in the future.

LT. GEN. SAMUEL GREAVES, DIRECTOR, MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY: We can deal with the current threat as presented today. As the threat matures, we have a plan in place to mature our capabilities to deal with that threat.

STARR: The secretary of state still trying to reassure.

TILLERSON: I have nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 44 hours. And I think Americans should sleep well at night.

STARR: President Trump touting the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal today, tweeting: "My first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now for stronger and more powerful than ever before."

Trump did order a review of U.S. nuclear weapons soon after taking office, something mandated by Congress to happen every five to 10 years. But it did not get under way until April, and there's no indication the nuclear arsenal is substantially different today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So, when and if North Korea were to launch these four missiles, there is a standard, very classified protocol that the U.S. military follows.

They are able to see the heat signature of a missile launch almost instantly, and they go through these classified protocols to quickly determine if a North Korean missile is a threat to Japan, to South Korea, to Guam indeed, or to the United States.

And if there is any decision that it is a threat to any of those areas, that is what would trigger the decision to try to shoot down a North Korean missile. It will be a very rapid process. It will be very tense if and when the North Koreans fire -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon.

Let's continue to follow the extraordinary news coming in right now.

Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, is joining us.

Senator, as you know, yesterday, the president threatened fire and fury on North Korea, if any more threats, threats, come from North Korea. Well, you just saw the statement. We have been reporting it. This is a direct threat from the North Korean regime. They will launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles aimed at Guam, a U.S. territory, with 160,000 U.S. citizens living there, if the rhetoric continues from the United States.

What's your reaction to this?

SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: My reaction is that this is getting very scary, very dangerous.

It's escalating, and it could escalate out of control. We don't want an accidental conventional conflict that could trip-wire into a nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea. They have nuclear weapons that could destroy South Korea, that could destroy Japan right now.

When General Mattis talks about the destruction of the people of North Korea, of the regime change in North Korea, it actually sounds like we're in the movie "Dr. Strangelove" and the general is advising the president that we could get into a conflict, a thermonuclear conflict, and we might get our hair mussed, but that we will totally destroy their people.

This is the kind of language that could be completely misinterpreted by the leaders of North Korea, that could wind up with an accidental conflict that could ultimately wind up with the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions of people, including Americans along the demilitarized zone, 25,000 soldiers there, people who are in Guam who are our people who could be killed.

It's time for the president to go to the negotiating table with the North Koreans and begin to discuss a peaceful resolution of this conflict. It is slipping very rapidly out of control.

[18:20:07]

BLITZER: In this North Korean statement, Senator, the North Koreans ridiculed President Trump.

Let me read a couple sentences from the statement. "The U.S. president at a golf links again let out a load of nonsense about fire and fury, failing to grasp the ongoing grave situation." The statement adds: "It seems that he has not yet understood the statement. Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason, and only absolute force can work on him."

How do you think the president is going to respond when he's being ridiculed by the leadership of North Korea? MARKEY: Well, of course, our hope would be that he would respond the

way President Kennedy did in the Cuban Missile Crisis and kept cool and calm and detached and tried to find a rational way out of the problem.

But we have to be concerned that Donald Trump is going to respond in an irrational -- in a way that could, in fact, enhance this dangerous situation.

So, our hope, of course, is that the advisers around him will be able to impose some constraints, but the language by General Mattis today was not reassuring at all, talking about the destruction of the North Korean people.

For the North Koreans, they fought a war with us. The United States killed hundreds of thousands of those North Koreans during the war. For them, that is something that we have to take into consideration as they hear what we're saying again about the destruction of their people and understand that only through negotiation, only by sitting at a table, only by using economic means and bringing in the Chinese and the Russians to sit at a table will we be able to resolve this conflict.

Or else I'm afraid this could just slip out of our control and into the hands of generals on both sides, who will be trying to find slight military advantages that will result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions of people.

BLITZER: Yesterday, the president said any more threats, he used the word threats, from the North Korean regime would result in the fire and fury and power of the United States that the world has never seen before.

Has North Korea, with this statement that they just put out, crossed that red line that was drawn by the president?

MARKEY: Here's what I think.

When the president says that they should not take any additional action, you know who he's been frightening? He's been frightening the American people. He's been frightening Asian nations who believe that a conflict could imminently be breaking out.

It's clear that he's not frightening the North Koreans. The North Koreans are now escalating and threatening Guam. They're threatening American citizens on Guam. They're threatening to shoot missiles over Japan towards Guam.

And, so, that's just one more signal that we're receiving that dialogue, negotiations is what we should be pursuing and we should be doing so urgently right now. And we should also, by the way, be naming an envoy to South Korea.

We don't even have an ambassador to South Korea right now that could be our intermediary at this point. This entire situation that the administration is creating, they're saying they're good cop, they're bad cop. No, this is Keystone Cops. This is no plan. This is not a strategy.

This is just escalating like it's a schoolyard brawl with people yelling at each other, but now it's with two sides with nuclear weapons. It must end. We must begin negotiations now.

BLITZER: In the statement, Senator, the North Korean strategic commander says they're watching the speech and behavior of the United States right now. And they say there's a mid-August, only a few days away, mid-August deadline for the U.S. to do the right thing.

Let's say that they launch those four intermediate-range ballistic missiles toward Guam and they actually land 20 or 30 kilometers off the coast of Guam, as they say in this very detailed statement. What should the U.S. do if those missiles are launched?

MARKEY: Well, obviously, we should try to shoot them down, to make sure that no damage is done to our personnel or any citizen of Guam.

But what we should do is try to avoid that from ever happening in the first place. President Kennedy said, I think quite accurately, that we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.

[18:25:01]

I hope and pray to God that it's not too late, but the president should change his tactic, move towards dialogue, allow for a negotiation to open up, send Secretary Tillerson to the negotiating table, so that we can de-escalate the rhetoric and the possibility that military action could be commenced in the next several days.

There is no military solution to this problem that does not result in catastrophe.

BLITZER: And you can see if these four intermediate-range ballistic missiles are launched from North Korea, you could see they would fly over Japan towards Guam, and in this very detailed statement, they say they would hit the waters 30 to 40 kilometers away from Guam. But you never know how accurate or inaccurate those missiles could be.

Senator Markey, thanks so much for joining us.

MARKEY: And this would be in the week that we're of the anniversary of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs being detonated on Japan. We should have -- we should learn from history. We should go to the table. Nuclear weapons should never again be used on this planet.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise, Senator. They're not saying that these four ballistic missiles would have nuclear warheads. They're just saying that they would fly over Japan and land very, very close to the U.S. territory of Guam, and that's a threat that they're making right now.

The president yesterday said any more threats from North Korea, they will face fire and fury and the power of the United States. We're standing by. We will get reaction from the Trump administration and see what they're saying.

(CROSSTALK)

MARKEY: And by that, I think he is implying the use of nuclear weapons, and that is what I am referring to.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Senator. Thanks so much for joining us.

We're going to have much more on the breaking news coming out of North Korea only moments ago, the president's surprise ad-lib about fire and fury.

Other news we're following as well, including, what were FBI agents looking for when they raided the home of the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort? We're going to tell you what we're learning about the search and where all of this could lead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:31:56] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news tonight, North Korea has just released a new statement in response to threats from the Trump administration saying that Kim Jong-un regime is, quote, seriously examining a strike directed near Guam.

We're going to have much more on that coming up in a few moments. But there's another major development we are following in the Russia investigation. We are learning more about an FBI raid on the home of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Investigators for the special counsel Robert Mueller barging in without any warning.

Our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has been digging into the story for us.

Jessica, we're told Manafort had been cooperating with investigators, but all of a sudden, this explosion.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right. This was a raid that presumably secured material that Paul Manafort probably hadn't already turned over. And the fact that this raid came down as a surprise in the darkness of early morning hours, it signifies the special counsel could be sending a message and getting serious.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, CNN has learned of an unannounced raid on Paul Manafort's Alexandria, Virginia apartment. According to "The Washington Post", it unfolded in the early morning hours, July 26th, the day after Manafort voluntarily answered questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee staff, with agents seizing financial and tax records, among other documents.

The raid appears to be unusual since Manafort has repeatedly claimed he is cooperating and it marks a significant step in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO ROBERT MUELLER: The FBI

agents working for special counsel Mueller believe that he's hiding something and that they conducted their search in the early morning, as is normal for them, so that the individual whose residence it is, has no opportunity to destroy or otherwise tamper with the evidence that they seek.

SCHNEIDER: Manafort stepped down as Trump's campaign chair last August, as questions about Russia's involvement intensified.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Are there ties between Mr. Trump, you and your campaign and Putin and his regime?

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: No, there are not. It's absurd. There's no basis to it.

SCHNEIDER: But CNN has learned investigators have become suspicious of Manafort, after they turned up intercepted communications from suspected Russian operatives discussing Russian efforts to work with Manafort to gather information that could hurt Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House, according to U.S. officials. Manafort's attendance at a June 2016 Trump tower meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer has also piqued the interest of federal investigators.

During the campaign, Manafort denied working with the Russians.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Why is it so farfetched to blame the Russians and say that the motive was to help you?

MANAFORT: I mean, it's just absurd.

SCHNEIDER: Agents raided Manafort's home one day after he met behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee. And CNN is told Manafort turned in approximately 400 pages to the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 2nd. Many of those documents pertained to Manafort's retroactively registering as a foreign agent at the end of June. Paul Manafort disclosed he was paid $17 million for consulting work he did for a pro-Russia political party before he became Trump's campaign chair.

[18:35:02] It's been a focus of FBI and DOJ prosecutors according to U.S. officials briefed on the investigation. Investigators are scrutinizing Manafort's tax and business records to determine whether any criminal violation may have occurred. Mueller's former special counsel at the Justice Department says if there is evidence of other crimes committed by Manafort, it could be leverage for the special counsel to convince Manafort to cooperate.

ZELDIN: If you can obtain charges that are viable against them on something collateral to that, then you can use that as leverage to strike a deal with respect to the type of evidence that you want, with respect to the heart of your matter, in this case the collusion.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: And Paul Manafort spokesman confirms the raid, but then reiterated that Manafort has, quote, consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well. But the FBI obviously hasn't gotten what they wanted and they ultimately resorted to this raid -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's really dramatic development. Jessica Schneider reporting for us, thanks very much.

The raid of Manafort's home in suburban Washington, northern Virginia raises lots of questions.

Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

This is an extremely bold move by the special counsel. Explain your understanding why he would -- he would order it.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: OK. Well, let's just look at what had to happen here. The Office of the Special Counsel went to a magistrate judge and said, we have probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime in these documents or in the materials sought in this apartment. The magistrate judge agreed and gave them the search warrant.

Magistrate judges don't give authorization for searches of people's homes lightly. This is a big deal. So, the fact that the Mueller investigation could prove to a judge that there is probable cause to believe of -- there is evidence of crime there, it's a big deal and it's the first sign from the Mueller investigation that they believe there is criminal behavior at the hearts of their investigation.

BLITZER: And when those FBI agents went in in those early morning hours into that home, they do take out presumably whatever they wanted.

TOOBIN: Well, they have to look for what's listed in the search warrant. But it's usually in such a generic way that it gives them a lot of leeway.

Another reason why this is very significant is that Manafort through his lawyers has been saying throughout the process, I'm cooperating. We are -- we are giving documents. We are giving testimony.

What this raid means is that Mueller doesn't believe Manafort. Mueller believes that Manafort was hiding things. That's why he went to a search warrant. Again, very unusual in a white collar investigation where the usual way to obtain evidence is through subpoena and voluntary compliance.

BLITZER: And very quickly, what does it say this raid happened the morning after he actually testified before Senate Intelligence Committee investigators?

TOOBIN: I'm less sure about what that means because I don't know that there has been close coordination between the Senate committee and the independent -- the special counsel investigation. That's a bit of a mystery to me, the timing.

BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much for that analysis.

Just ahead, we'll have more on the breaking news. North Korea now responding publicly very directly to President Trump's fire and fury threats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:43:02] BLITZER: Breaking tonight, North Korea now firing back at President Trump's warning of fire and fury, mocking the president of the United States, saying he fails to grasp the gravity of the situation while he's playing golf. The top North Korean commander ramping up the threat of an attack on the U.S. territory of Guam, offering details about the specifics of his battle plan.

Let's bring in our correspondents, analysts and specialists.

Phil Mudd, it looks like the North Koreans in this lengthy at the same time basically explaining how they're going to launch four intermediate range ballistic missiles towards Guam, they have crossed the red line the president drew yesterday.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: What's he going to do about it? That's the problem with ratcheting it up. And we discussed this last night, the law of unintended consequences.

We see it within 24 hours, the president ratchets it up, and the North Koreans say, OK, you've got a pair of twos, we've got three threes. We're going to throw them on the table. What is the president is going to do?

When the North Koreans say this, he's got a couple of options. One, talk. Doesn't seem like he wants to do that. The secretary of state talked about that.

Number two, military action. We don't understand the implications and I don't think he does of military action. We're not only talking about going against a ballistic missile capability. You're talking about ensuring that the regime leadership is gone so they can't rebuild the capability. That means an American engagement like the one we had in Iraq. Nobody in this town is going to talk about that.

So, as soon as we ratchet up, my question is, what's the end game? Because I don't see it.

BLITZER: The North Korean statement and you read it, John Kirby. Very specific, very details, they say, the U.S. has until mid-August, only a few days from now, to come up with some better language. We're keeping -- we keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the U.S. And then they say they'll launch -- if it doesn't change, they'll launch these four intermediate range ballistic missiles and they'll land, according to them 30 to 40 kilometers from Guam.

[18:45:01] That sounds like such a specific threat. JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: It very much is and

certainly what strikes you when you read that statement, it's the naval equivalent of a shot across the bow. Only, they're telling you before they take the shot across the bow, when they're going to do it, where they're going to do it, and how they're going to do it. So, it's a very specifically designed threat here to try to change the rhetoric coming out of the United States and to try force a different outcome.

I have never seen this come out of Pyongyang before anything like this. I mean, we're used to bellicose rhetoric. But with such specificity, the type of missile, the trajectory, how far away from Guam it's going to land -- I mean, what they're trying to convey, I think, is that they need to be taken extremely seriously with this threat.

BLITZER: Will Ripley, you've been to North Korea more than a dozen times, and I think that John Kirby is absolutely right. I have not heard this kind of specific threat launched, if you will, by the North Koreans with all the details of where these missiles would be fired from, they'd fly over Japan, and they'd land very, very close to the U.S. territory of Guam.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And if North Korea follows through on this threat, Wolf, it would be their most provocative missile test ever. Far more provocative than the two ICBMs that were launched last month, including the most recent, which landed relatively close to Japan. This tops all of that because what they're talking about is to simulate, and not even simulate, to demonstrate the kind of attack that could potentially overwhelm U.S. missile defense systems on Guam.

It is a known fact that the THAAD missile defense system, if you're talking about -- if you're talking about one missile approaching, that's a very different scenario from four. So, this is North Korea saying they are prepared to show President Trump and the United States that they have the capability right now to simultaneously launch an intermediate range missile that could travel up to 5,000 kilometers, theoretically putting Guam within striking range. And they are confident enough, they say, that they can put these missiles down within 30 to 40 kilometers of key U.S. military assets and more than 160,000 American citizens on this 210-square-mile island.

They technically are confident that they can do this or they wouldn't spell it out in black and white like this. And if they go forward with this test, it will be by far the most provocative test they have done. And what will the United States do in response? And then what will the North Koreans do in response?

This is what China has been talking about, this chain reaction, this sequence of events going down a road from which there is no return, an accidental war on the Korean peninsula which everyone agrees would be absolutely catastrophic.

BLITZER: Gloria, as you know, the president seemed to draw this red line yesterday in the fire and fury statement. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He did.

BLITZER: Is he now boxed in? Because there is a new threat. If there are any more threats from North Korea, and they'll face fire and fury.

BORGER: Well, it would seem that he is. I mean, clearly, I think if I were in the administration, I might be looking for a way out, an intermediary of some kind perhaps to help him out of this. But you saw what General Mattis did and what Rex Tillerson did today, which was try and provide a little bit of context here for the fire and fury statement.

Mattis taking a harder line, Tillerson telling everybody that, you know, all we were trying to say is that the United States has an ability to defend itself and that Americans should sleep well at night. So, Tillerson trying to lower the temperature here because I think he recognized that the president had really ratcheted it up.

And now when you have a counter threat, the question is, what will the response be?

BLITZER: Yes, and in this statement that the North Korean regime put out, the commander of the strategic force, they ridiculed the president of the United States. Let me read a couple sentences, Jeff Zeleny.

The U.S. president of the golf links again let out a load of nonsense about fire and fury, failing to grasp the ongoing grave situation.

Statement adds: It seems that he has not yet understood the statement. Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him.

You've covered the president. He's going to have to respond to this statement.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We'll see if he does. So far, we've reached out to the White House and multiple people in the National Security Council. They have not responded. And we do not have an indication they would respond directly to this immediately. They did not respond yesterday on the Guam threat either.

So, the reality here is this is the challenge and the difficulty of a president having this in his own voice because now, they are directly firing back at him, you know, essentially calling him into question, his credibility, his manhood in one respect, into question. And this is something the world has been watching President Trump during these first 200 days of his time in office. They know what gets under his skin.

[18:50:00] This statement to me would seem to get under his skin, but we will see -- right, but we'll see if they react to it. But others inside the government are saying they are not sure what the red line is. It appears that they may have crossed it. But was the red line really intentional? We know the president was

improvising yesterday when he was speaking. I was told by three officials today that he said these words yesterday off the cuff, it was not a scripted statement. But he said them. Those words are his. So, the next move is the White House.

BORGER: You don't get to say never mind when you're president because you said it. So, now, they have to -- they have to be --

ZELENY: If he does respond, it would probably be in a tweet tonight. But, again, we do not know if the White House is going to respond to this immediately.

BLITZER: Because, Rebecca, the president did draw a red line. He specifically said, any more threats from North Korea, they will face this fire and fury. And now, it's not just the threat, it's a very specific detailed threat with all sorts of military jargon in there.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And this really highlights, I think, Wolf, a really important challenge for the president and also a question because we've seen this sort of hyperbole here from him here at home in the United States. And we've seen lawmakers on both sides of the aisles sort of become accustomed to statements from the president that are not necessarily meant to be taken literally or even seriously and they dismiss it out of hand as being Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

But Donald Trump as president of the United States I don't think is going to get the same pass from the international community and especially when you're talking about an adversary like North Korea who is going to take his statements seriously and potentially literally. I think the president is potentially learning an important lesson here that words do have meaning and that people abroad are going to take him very seriously.

BLITZER: I want to bring in our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, over at the State Department. Are you getting any reaction to this very, very tough statement from the North Koreans?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: No reaction to this latest statement, Wolf, but there's been a lot of talk here at the State Department about this war of words between North Korea and the president. You'll notice this morning, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Asia talking to reporters, really in an effort to try and calm the situation, tone it down and walk it back, say that Americans don't need to be concerned about any attack on the U.S. right now, but that the president, all he was trying to do is make clear that the U.S. has resolve to defend itself.

And some diplomats here thought, even though there's a lot of consternation about Secretary Tillerson, that that was one of his finest hours in terms of really being a diplomat, trying to calm it down, because that statement yesterday by President Trump, fire and fury, certainly not very diplomatic and not -- concerning to both allies and Americans at home. BLITZER: The statement, you know, Phil Mudd, and if you read it

carefully, says there's only a few days left before they actually go ahead and launch these four intercontinental ballistic missiles, mid- August, the KPA strategic force will finally complete the plan until mid-August report to the commander-in-chief, wait for his order. We keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the U.S.

MUDD: We're missing one point here and that is we have a new chief of staff who is supposed to put a lid on this. We have a secretary of defense who has climbed down on the president on other issues.

Remember waterboarding. The president used to talk about waterboarding. Jim Mattis comes in. The president says my advisers tell me something else.

We saw a clue today from these advisers. Secretary of State Tillerson used the word dialogue. Noted that word also showed up in the North Korean statement. Tillerson is giving the president an out to say, the president says, I'm concerned, but my advisors say we ought to take another step or two, so I'll defer to them on this, but if it goes south I'm going ugly.

I think the real critical step in the next 24 hours is his advisors saying, you better chill out because we don't have many options.

BLITZER: You know, Will Ripley, the statement also says the unprecedented step the North Koreans are now considering will give stronger confidence and certain victory and courage to the Korean people and help them witness what they're calling the wretched plight of the United States imperialist. That sort of standard North Korean rhetoric, but the details in this warning to the United States, this specific threat is, you know, you have 160,000 plus U.S. citizens living in Guam, get ready because these four ballistic missiles could be on the way.

RIPLEY: It is. And, you know, we should also point out that North Korea has made personal attacks on U.S. presidents and U.S. officials before, everyone from former President Obama to Secretary Clinton.

But this kind of analysis in this statement about President Trump essentially saying that only absolute force will work with him, that he doesn't have a grasp, a full grasp of the grave situation on the peninsula, essentially North Koreans are saying that the American president doesn't know what he's doing.

[18:55:10] When I was in the country a month and a half ago, I was interviewing citizens, asking them for their opinions about President Trump for a project that we're working on, and a word that kept coming up was impulsive. People said President Trump was impulsive and losing the trust of the American people. These are North Koreans who are isolated from all outside media, so these are things that are being told to them by their state-controlled media.

So, inside North Korea, the message being transmitted to the North Korean people is that America elected an impulsive president who is losing the trust of the American people and a president who now North Korea is telling them has threatened to rain now fire and fury on their country.

This plays into the North Korea's longstanding narrative that America is an enemy looming just off the horizon, ready to invade, ready to attack and that therefore, Kim Jong-un is telling them that he's completely justified in investing a considerable amount of his country's resources in building missiles and testing nuclear devices at the expense of things like consistent electricity, clean water and nutritious food for millions of the citizens there. They're told they have to sacrifice, because otherwise, a repeat of the Korean War when hundreds of thousands of Koreans, including many civilians, died.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, you spent a lot of time reporting on Donald Trump. When he hears this statement and they say that this is a guy, referring to the president of the United States, bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him, they are taunting him. They are ridiculing him. How is he likely to respond?

BORGER: Well, I don't think he's going to respond well. I mean, he's going to say they are crazy. And he's not going to respond well to it.

And, of course, as we know, Donald Trump will never admit that's saying fire and fury was a mistake. He will never do that. I think this is the moment that he might defer to his generals and you were talking about that, Phil.

But I think that he's going to have to look for guidance here. I mean, this is unchartered waters for him, and he did speak. He has his, you know, secretary of state and secretary of defense speak today on this. And so, we'll have to see if they continue to speak for him and convince him that perhaps he ought not to speak any more on this.

BLITZER: Yes, you know, it's interesting because about 18 years ago back in 1999, Jeff, I interviewed Donald Trump private citizen. We spoke about North Korea, the threat then. Let me play a little clip of what he said. This is back in 1999.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: North Korea is totally out of control. And would you rather have a v-very serious chat with them now and if necessary, you might have to do something fairly drastic, or would you rather have to go after them in five years when they have more nuclear warheads and missiles than we do?

BLITZER: When you say something fairly drastic, that sounds like you're suggesting potential Israeli-like unilateral strike against the Osirak reactor in Iraq in the '80s.

TRUMP: You can never rule it out. What Israel did was fantastic and you can never rule it out. And you know what, if you ruled it out, you couldn't talk to them. Why would they -- the only thing they are afraid of is exactly what you just said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, listening to what he said, what, 18 years ago potentially could be instructive.

ZELENY: It could be potentially but that was when he was first entering the idea of running for president so many years ago. Of course now, he is president. Now, he, without question, realizes the stakes are higher. He has military advisors.

His new chief of staff, I think, this is the first big test for General John Kelly who is in Bedminster with him. He's advising him. Of course, the president was out of playing golf for at least part of the day today. But he does have his advisers with him, the vice president is going to New Jersey tomorrow.

The difference between now and then, I think, many years ago, there are consequences to his words now. He realizes that. So, I wouldn't be surprised, actually, if he doesn't respond to this, this evening, because that's one way to cool it down by not responding.

Of course, I'll have to check my phone --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Very quickly, John Kirby, is there a preemptive strike that's realistic?

KIRBY: Not right now. I don't think so. No. And I agree with Jeff. I think now, what they really should do is calm down, sit quietly, do not overreact or even react to this tonight. No, I don't see a preemptive strike that makes any sense at this point.

BLITZER: It's a dangerous, very, very dangerous situation. I think all of us agree right now. And we're all as you points out, Jeff, we're all going to be anxious to see what the president says, what the president does in reaction to this very, very tough statement, a direct threat issued by the North Korean military.

We're going to have continuing coverage of this here on CNN, of course, throughout the night. Thanks very much for joining us.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.