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North Korea: Trump's "Fire" Warning "A Load Of Nonsense"; Trump Criticizes McConnell Again Over Health Bill Failure; GOP Source: Trump "Made It Much Harder" To Pass Health Bill; North Korea Tensions Rattling Investors. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 10, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- the equation. Love it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's great. Great program. OK, hold down the fort for me. I'm off to the beach.

CUOMO: What?

CAMEROTA: And the fire pit at night. That's all I need to tell you.

CUOMO: Have you walked on embers? Sober?

CAMEROTA: No. Time for CNN NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow.


CUOMO: Sober is the key word there, Poppy.

HARLOW: Ali, you better hope -- I'm hoping that my baby goes to sleep at like 6:00 p.m. all next week because I've got to get up at like 2:00 in the morning while you're at the beach, my friend. Have a good time.

CUOMO: Bring the kid!

CAMEROTA: Thank you for that.

CUOMO: Bring the kid!

CAMEROTA: Thank you for that.


CUOMO: Like the person with the cat at the baseball game.

CAMEROTA: You're right. Right.

CUOMO: Bring the kid!

CAMEROTA: I'll also take of her.

HARLOW: I do think she would not disrupt the show at all. Absolutely not at 16 months old.


HARLOW: Thank you --

CUOMO: She could certainly do my job. You'd have to carry the rest.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys. Ali, have a wonderful week off.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Have you great weekend too.

CUOMO: You know you've walked on them.

HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has a well-deserved week off.

If President Trump was hoping to silence North Korea with his improvised threat to unleash fire and fury, it didn't work. Today, Pyongyang is shrugging off the threat that it calls nonsense from a president that it calls, quote, bereft of reason.

And a senior North Korean general says a plan is in the works to send four medium-range missiles into the waters of Guam, saying the plan will go to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un within days for review and approval. Now, the Trump administration, meanwhile, is insisting it speaks with one voice in the North Korea standoff, and South Korea says it is keeping the door open to dialogue.

We have all of this covered around the world, the only way CNN can. Let's begin with our Will Ripley in Beijing.

Good morning to you, Will. As you said on this program yesterday, generally, it takes 24 hours for North Korea to respond, and respond it did.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They sure did. And, you know, we're used to hearing fiery rhetoric from North Korea, Poppy. We've heard them say that they're going to turn the mainland U.S. into a sea of fire, that they're going to annihilate Washington in a nuclear attack.

But what makes this different -- and, really, I've never seen anything quite like this before -- is the level of technical detail in this statement, talking about the specific missile that they're going to use. The trajectory up over Japan, 2,100 miles towards Guam, that U.S. territory home to more than 160,000 U.S. citizens and key military assets, and bringing those missiles down less than 20 miles from the island. Talking about all of that so specifically.

If they were to pull this off successfully, it would be North Korea's most provocative missile test that they have ever done. But, of course, there is a big difference between writing words on a sheet of paper and then actually executing the plan.

There are a lot of questions about the accuracy of North Korea's missiles and their capabilities. But the fact that they're putting this out here, this could be a big bluff. Or they could feel quite confident, technically, that they have the ability to do this, and they're saying they could have this plan ready to go in a matter of days.

But what's also noteworthy about this statement are the, you know, the insults aimed at President Trump after he warned North Korea not to engage in threatening behavior, threatening to rain down fire and fury like the world has never seen. Well, North Korea calling that a load of nonsense, poking fun at the fact that President Trump was speaking from his golf course in New Jersey, his private golf club, when he made these remarks.

They said he doesn't grasp the gravity of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. They say they don't believe that, essentially, sound dialogue would work when communicating with the President. They say that only absolute force would work. That's coming from General Kim Rak-gyom of the Korean People's Army.

And the last statement here, Poppy, from North Korea, saying we keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the U.S. This is a threat that if the rhetoric continues from Washington, North Korea will continue to up the ante.

And you have the concern in this region that one-step leads to another. One misstep and then all of a sudden you have an accidental war breaking out on the Korean Peninsula, which is why the South Korean government is saying that despite all of this, their door remains open to sit down with North Korea for negotiations, an offer that they have extended now for weeks. North Korea has yet to respond.

HARLOW: Yes. And that has been President Moon's tactic since he won the election recently. Will, stick around. We want you to stay with us as we discuss more, but let's go to Guam because our Ivan Watson is there.

Look, these are the people that are caught in the middle of all of this, including, of course, the South Koreans and Americans. But this latest threat is right off the shores of Guam.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, a threat on paper and a threat in statement. But despite it, the governor, the highest elected official on this island with more than 160,000 U.S. citizens and two U.S. military installations, insist that the threat level has not been raised at all.

I spoke at length with Governor Eddie Calvo, and he's trying to reassure the public. And he pointed out to me, there is no panic on this U.S. island right now. Take a listen.


[09:04:57] GOV. EDDIE CALVO (R), GUAM: There is no panic in Guam. I'm sure you've talked to people who live in Seoul or even Tokyo. I think the concerns are even more weighty over there, which is closer to the action particularly Seoul where enemy artillery is within range of the inhabitants of Seoul.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WATSON: I was speaking to the Governor in the Guam Museum, which has an exhibit showing photos of people's grandparents here who were put in Japanese concentration camps when this was occupied by the Japanese army during World War II.

People here, in living memory, remember conflict. They have endured super typhoons. And in response to these threats, it's not the first time they've heard them from North Korea.

In 2013, Kim Jong-un, when he was just brand-new as supreme leader of North Korea, threatened Guam, and the U.S. military deployed THAAD missile defense systems here. The Governor pointed out that there is an entire umbrella of U.S., South Korean, and Japanese military defense between Guam and North Korea, and any missile from there would have to fly over South Korea and Japan and a large expanse of ocean to reach here. So he's trying to say he's confident in U.S. defense capabilities to protect this small island from this North Korean threat. Poppy.

HARLOW: Ivan Watson on the island of Guam. Thank you very much for that reporting.

And let's talk more about this specific threat from the North Korean regime. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.

And, Barbara, we saw Will holding up the text of this latest specific threat. And he said, frankly, he's never seen anything like it. What do you make of it?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's some things that really do stand out with the North Koreans threatening to launch four simultaneous missiles. And one of the reasons they might be saying that is they think, or they're trying to send a message, that they could overwhelm the THAAD missile defense system that is on Guam. They may believe that they are able to do that.

THAAD is a system the U.S. put there that is supposed to defend against at least a small number of incoming missiles. I mean, clearly, the missile they're talking about could, on paper, reach Guam. It's got about a 3,000-mile range on paper. Guam about 2,000 miles.

But still, very serious but a heavy technical lift for the North Koreans to be able to target with precision at that distance and to be able to hit the target they think they're aiming at. So THAAD will be there.

There will be a lot of watching and observation of North Korea over the coming days, even more, perhaps, than there already is. But it's going to be a matter of trying to, you know, get that intelligence, at what point, if any, does this paper threat -- and that's what it is right now, holding up a statement, a statement on paper. At what point does that turn into the U.S. having to take some kind of action about this, if any action?

HARLOW: Important point, Barbara Starr. Thank you and stay with us because we still don't have word from the President this morning on North Korea. We do know the Vice President and national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, are heading to New Jersey to meet with the President over lunch today.

Let's talk about the big picture here. Former CIA Operative Mike Baker is with us. Also back with us, Will Ripley and Barbara Starr.

So, Mike, to you. This is, as Will point out, something like he's never seen before. This is a very technically detailed plan, four missiles that they're threatening. The appropriate response, in your mind, from the administration is?

MIKE BAKER, FORMER COVERT OPERATIONS OFFICER, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Well, I mean, we have to operate on several levels. It's not we have to do this or we have to do that.

And by that I mean, look, we've already had a fairly successful effort in the U.N., right? So we had 15 to zero on the U.S. drafted resolution. Now, we have to implement those sanctions.

And then we also have to monitor. If China tries to circumvent the sanctions as they have in the past, we need to be aggressive in calling them out. So we have to do that.

We also have to work simultaneously, at the same time, off the radar screen -- it's not going to be some public display -- with the Chinese authorities to aggressively explain and work with them so that they understand that this is one of those rare moments where their interests align with ours. And to work with them to understand that this can either happen in a very bad way, and nobody wants that. That's obvious.

Or they can work with us, to try to affect a resolution. And whether that resolution, ultimately, is that the Chinese work to affect a regime change or unification, whatever it may be, and that all sounds grand, but the Chinese are going to have to be at the table. And I think they have signaled a mind-set change by the fact that they signed on to that U.N. resolution.

HARLOW: But Kim will not go for a regime change.

BAKER: Well, no, of course not.

HARLOW: I mean, as --

BAKER: And that's not going to be the, you know -- but, again, we have to realize Kim is not a loved figure within the North Korean military. If Kim left tomorrow or if Kim was gone tomorrow, it's not as if the military there would be in mourning.

So I think we have -- and we also have to understand, they're operating in a bit of a bubble. I don't think anybody believes that the military is giving him honest assessments of the North Korean capabilities compared to the U.S. capabilities.

[09:10:06] HARLOW: That's interesting. Will Ripley, I mean, you've spent -- you've been to Pyongyang more than a dozen times. You've spoken with high-up officials there. Do you agree with Mike Baker's assessment?

RIPLEY: I am not sure that I would say -- look, at least the way it's publicly expressed, you ask any member of the military, and they will say that they will die for Kim Jong-un. Now, granted, he is the leader of an authoritarian regime where political dissent is not tolerated, and people who are deemed to be unloyal are punished severely or even killed.

However, the -- so every military member that I've ever spoken with inside the country, as recently as a month and a half ago, has said that they are ready to fight on his orders. And he is the commander of the Korean People's Army, the Supreme Commander.

But I do think that we need to -- we really need to watch over the coming weeks, and here's why. August is always a tense month in this part of the world because August is when the United States and South Korea engage in their joint military drills. And those are expected to kick off later this month.

It always infuriates Pyongyang and, frankly, it also angers the officials here in Beijing. The Chinese government doesn't like to see these military exercises either.

HARLOW: Right.

RIPLEY: And so if North Korea did feel confident that they could pull off something like this, the month of August might be a time when they would try it because North Korea often launches missiles and tries to show force during this time.


RIPLEY: But what we don't know is now that President Trump has drawn this red line, how the United States is going to respond.

HARLOW: Yes. Right, we don't.

Barbara Starr, to you. We have learned that the President's choice of words, fire and fury unlike the world has ever seen before, was improvised. It was essentially ad libbed.

Now, the White House is taking pains to say we're all on the same page. General Kelly, not surprised at all to hear this. However, can you just speak to us about whether it is rare for a president to make remarks like that off-the-cuff, or when they're speaking about a situation like this, previous presidents have cleared that with those around them in the national security apparatus.

STARR: Well, you know, it's rare until it happens, right?

HARLOW: Right.

STARR: There's always been a case of a president speaking extemporaneously, I suspect, and giving his staff a heart attack by doing that. What I think we're dealing with here is, in fact, you know, take the White House at its word, that the President was speaking extemporaneously. He wanted to deliver a message. He wanted to deliver a very tough message.

It's what's happened after that that's so interesting. You saw the Secretary of State saying sleep well at night. You saw the Secretary of Defense warning that if North Korea were to initiate an attack, there would be dire consequences for them to pay, the destruction of the regime, even as Secretary Mattis also made the point about the diplomatic track and supporting that diplomatic track.

So it's -- it is nuanced. This is -- it's -- I think it's what Mike went back to a minute ago, none of this is one path or the other. There are several things happening at once. There is no indication that the Trump administration is turning away from diplomacy, but they are ratcheting up the rhetoric, trying to make sure that Kim hears them. What he hears in Pyongyang may be the big problem.

BAKER: And I think that that's a really important point. Also, I think what China hears. And I think more to the point, this -- any messages that are delivered, whether they're extemporaneous or they're scripted, it's more important how China processes it, at this point.

Because we tend to look at -- they, for years now, looked at North Korea as an enabling-- you know, a situation. So what they've done with North Korea has served their own interests, meaning Chinese interests. And I think that they are at a point where they're realizing now, they've kind of come to a point in the road where that may be changing.

HARLOW: Right, right.

BAKER: And to be clear, diplomatic language, restrained talk, sort of a pseudo appeasement, carrot and stick approach --

HARLOW: Hasn't worked. No, I mean, that's clear.

BAKER: -- hasn't worked, and it's gotten us to this point.

HARLOW: We have to leave it there.

BAKER: Sure.

HARLOW: Thank you, Mike Baker, Will Ripley, Barbara Starr. As always, thank you very much.

Ahead for us, is the President rethinking calling the Russia probe a witch hunt this morning after a new CNN poll shows 60 percent of Americans don't agree? They think it is a serious matter.

And ObamaCare is still in, so chew McConnell out? Apparently, the President's tactic this morning, letting it rip on the Senate majority leader again today, as a GOP source tells CNN it was the President who made it harder to pass the repeal.

And brace for sticker shock. A new report out this morning, all this uncertainty around health care, well, that is going to mean your premiums will likely skyrocket next year. We're putting politics aside and digging into the issue.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, more taunts from North Korea, calling President Trump's fire and fury warning, quote, "a load of nonsense." And they say they're preparing a plan to fire four missiles right near the U.S. territory of Guam. Could be approved in a matter of days so says the regime in Pyongyang.

Let's talk about all of this. CNN political commentator, Ben Ferguson is here, and Democratic strategist, Adrienne Elrod joins us, a long- time Hillary Clinton campaign aide. Nice to have you both here. So, Ben --

Good to have you. North Korea responds to all of this, the president's rhetoric, and here's what they say. They call it a load of nonsense and they say that sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him. Do you think that the president's tactic and his -- I mean, he rolled the dice here with this language?


HARLOW: Is it back firing?

FERGUSON: I don't think so, and I don't think it was rolling the dice. I think he was looking at --

HARLOW: We know it was improvised, adlibbed --

FERGUSON: Yes, but I think the tone and the point of his tone was the point that over the last eight and a half years, we've had this patient diplomacy. And where it got us was 60-plus nuclear weapons, miniaturized nuclear weapons, interballistic missiles, and now half the United States of America can be reached.

[09:20:10] That obviously the patient calm diplomacy of sanctions, of letting the world deal with this on relying heavily on China to somehow rein them in has been a complete failure. We even know that there are markings from the Chinese of now their nuclear program.

HARLOW: What tells you this rhetoric is working, that's what I'm trying to get at.

FERGUSON: I don't think it's going to be something you're going to see every single day from the president. But I think he was basically having a reset that was very clear. We're not going to allow you to act this way in the world.

We're not going to allow for another four years of to have these sanctions on you and us to have patient diplomacy and then you keep doing this. And so, I think he needed to understand, there is a new American policy and this is unacceptable behavior.

HARLOW: So Adrienne to, get to Ben's point, he says diplomacy over the Obama administration's eight years and frankly before that, George W. Bush, the Clinton administration, that that just has not worked.

ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, I think we are walking a very fine line here. Hillary Clinton warned time and time again during multiple debates on the campaign trail that having somebody who is temperamentally unfit like Donald Trump as president of the United States handling potential nuclear threats was incredibly dangerous, and now we're actually seeing that come to fruition.

HARLOW: Hold on, hold on. Let me -- hold on. Let me read a statement from former President Clinton in 1993. "When you examine the nature of American security commitment to Korea, Japan, to this region, it is pointless for North Korea to try to develop nuclear weapons."

He went on to say, Adrienne, "because if they ever used them, it would be the end of their country." If they ever used them, it would be the end of their country. How is that markedly different from rhetoric used by President Trump?

ELROD: Well, look, that was in 1993. We're now talking about 2017 and we're dealing with a real potential threat here.

HARLOW: Do you see what I'm saying? Aren't they both really strong? Isn't that really strong language from both?

ELROD: Well, look, it's strong language from both, but, again, we're looking at 2017 and this current moment here. Kim Jong-un knows exactly what he's doing. He's provoking Donald Trump, trying to get him to say things that are -- that are potentially going to put us in a harmful position. So, it's a cat and mouse game here.

FERGUSON: Here's the question, though. You say that he's basically provoking Donald Trump. He has 16 nuclear weapons, he has miniaturized them. He can reach half of America. We're already past provoking. You have an individual that is in a situation where they can hit, for example, Hawaii in about 20 minutes' warning is all the people of Hawaii would get for that.

And you're worried about words and I'm worried about the reality of nuclear weapons. Patient diplomacy and this U.N. and sanctions and China and relying on other people has gotten him everything he needs to actually be a nuclear super power.

And you're basically saying, stay the course on this. So how -- at what point do you become alarmed, when he has 180, 200, 300 nuclear weapons and you say, OK, now it's time to change the rhetoric?

HARLOW: Hold that thought, you guys. We have to get some other news in here, as well. This capability as far as CNN knows, has not been tested yet. We know they have the weapons, capability to accurately precisely aim hasn't been tested yet. We also have not heard from the president this morning yet on North Korea. He has ripped in, though, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Let's go to our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns on that. He's talking -- certainly taking out McConnell on health care.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure. An unusual public feud between the majority leader and the president of the United States over the so far unsuccessful efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Let's look at the tweet. "Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screened repeal and replace for seven years, couldn't get it done? Must repeal and replace Obamacare."

Now, there are already some finger-pointing on Capitol Hill and the fact of the matter is, the president was unable to persuade the Republicans who voted against the bill.

But Mitch McConnell may have gotten it started earlier this week in his home state of Kentucky when he said this. Listen.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: Our new president, of course, had not been in this line of work before and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.


JOHNS: Now, McConnell and the president apparently had a telephone call, conversation yesterday, talking about this, and it was described as animated. Nonetheless, it doesn't appear they have been able to bury the hatchet, at least so far -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Animated. Joe Johns, thank you very much.

Let's bring back in Ben and Adrienne. Adrienne, to you. There is also some interesting reporting on top of what Joe reported from a GOP source, GOP Senate source, who says that the president's call with Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, which she called a direct conversation before the vote on repeal and replace Obamacare, may have cost the president a win on that one.

[09:25:10] That then she voted no partly as a result. Your take on the president's strategy in all of this, trying to get his signature promise done.

ELROD: You know, Poppy, I have given up on trying to understand what the president's strategy is on a lot of these things. But we do know, again, he has a very hyper emotional knee-jerk reaction to anyone who tends to challenge him or doesn't exactly go along with his agenda.

And I think that's what we saw with these tweets with Mitch McConnell. Look, if impeachment proceedings actually come forward, you're going think that Donald Trump would want to have Mitch McConnell on his side.

So, I can't understand where this rationale is coming from especially if he wants to actually work with his Republican colleagues in the Senate to pass his agenda.

HARLOW: Ben, the only thing he seems to be saying the Senate can do right is if they were to go to a 51-vote majority, which would be a complete -- I mean, they did the so-called nuclear option with the Supreme Court.


HARLOW: But -- I mean, that is a complete overhauling of how American -- that means that you don't believe in bipartisanship. So, I don't --

FERGUSON: I don't think Washington, to be honest, believes in bipartisanship.

HARLOW: OK, but I'm not going to go down that road right now. I hope you're wrong. But what I'm saying is, talk to me about if you think the president has the right strategy here, attack McConnell, have that call with Murkowski, which we are now learning may have cost him her vote.

FERGUSON: I don't buy that. If Murkowski is at the point where she is basically putting her personal feelings towards a conversation with the president over what she promised the people of her state, then the people of her state need to hold her accountable for this. The other thing is, I think you need to have conversations with the Republican leaders.

HARLOW: So you think this is -- are you happy to see this back and forth between your party's majority leader and the president?

FERGUSON: Yes, I don't have a problem with it and the reason why is because every Republican that was up for re-election said I'm going to repeal and replace Obamacare. So. the president is right to be outraged.

HARLOW: Right. President Trump or McConnell?

FERGUSON: I think President Trump is right to put pressure on McConnell to say why can't you get the votes together, and why can't you get this done when all of you guys ran on this, and all of you did. There is not one Republican that said I don't want to repeal Obamacare.

HARLOW: Does it matter what you ran on if your constituents don't think it's good enough, don't think it's ready yet?

FERGUSON: I think when you have 73 percent of Americans that say there needs to be major changes or complete overhaul of Obamacare, and you have a consensus bipartisan consensus on that --

HARLOW: More Americans saying that they would like to keep the existing law than what was put on the table by Senate Republicans.

FERGUSON: Most people don't even know what was put on the table by Senate Republicans.

HARLOW: Come on, you're undercutting --

FERGUSON: This is fearmongering and you know that --

HARLOW: No, I don't know that and I think you're underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

FERGUSON: I think if you look at the consistent polls, the majority of Americans, why did the president win? Obamacare was a large part. Why did all of the Republicans win --

HARLOW: Ben, we will have you back. We will duke this out, as well. But I'm just telling you what the latest polling shows and I do think a lot of Americans know a great deal about health care because it matters to their entire families. Thank you both, Ben and Adrienne, very much.

Let's talk markets for a moment. Tension with North Korea rattling investors. Christine Romans joins us before the bell. How did overnight markets look?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's been a pause in the rally because of the North Korea tensions. So, another night of sour mood around the globe. We got Dow futures down a little bit here right now. They call it, as you know, Poppy, at Wall Street risk off.

Meaning, you know, don't buy stocks. You buy the safety stuff like gold. Gold at a two-month high. Volatility is up. (Inaudible) plumbing these real historic lows that volatility spike here that's the fear gauge. That means there's more nervousness out here. It's all about context and perspective. Still has been a fantastic year.

I'm going to show this chart of how the three major averages have done very, very well. So, investors have had fantastic returns in stocks. Watching the North Korea situation with a little bit of trepidation.

Also, Disney earnings weren't you have to snuff. Disney a big component in the Dow Jones industrial average. So, when one company falls on earnings, it could hurt the whole market.

As you often see, when there is international turmoil and concerns about saber rattling with North Korea, that's good news for anybody invested in the defense stocks. Look for the broader market -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, Romans, thank you so much. You'll be back with us later to dive more into health care.

The president has called the Russia investigation a witch hunt, fake news. But what do most of Americans call it? Serious, according to a new poll. Stay with us.