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Interview With Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice; President Trump Continues Aggressive Talk on North Korea. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 10, 2017 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the president speaking out about his standoff with Kim Jong-un and more.

Blaming Obama. The president says his predecessors left his him saddled with the North Korea crisis, saving some of his harshest criticism fort man he replaced. This hour, I will get reaction from the former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Strong signal. Mr. Trump suggests the FBI's surprise raid on the home of his former campaign chairman may be a sign of things to come. Is he trying to distance himself from Paul Manafort, now under red hot scrutiny in the Russia investigation?

And Mitch slapped. Mr. Trump unleashes new jabs at the top Senate Republican for his failure to get a health care bill passed. Does the president want to see the majority leader lose his job?

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, President Trump is ramping up his threats aimed at North Korea, saying his tough talk is not a dare and his promise of fire and fury may not have gone far enough.

The commander in chief talking to reporters before and after he was briefed by top national security adviser officials at his golf resort in New Jersey. Mr. Trump vowed to retaliate if Kim Jong-un makes good on a threat to fire four ballistic missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam.

And he left the door up for a preemptive strike by the United States. Tonight, North Korea is issuing new threats of its own, claiming the U.S. will face a shameful defeat and final doom if it keeps provoking the Kim Jong-un regime.

The president also is publicly declaring that he has no plans to fire special counsel Robert Mueller as his Russia investigation heats up. Mr. Trump says he was surprised the FBI raided the home of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, calling the dramatic move a "strong signal." And the president is pouring more fuel on his feud with the top Senate

Republican, a needed ally to push his agenda through Congress. Tonight, he called Mitch McConnell's failure to get Obamacare repealed and replaced a disgrace, this after the president posted multiple tweets slamming the majority leader and urging him to get back to work.

This hour, I will talk about the North Korea crisis with former the national security adviser to President Obama Susan Rice. She's standing by live. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to our White House correspondent, Sara Murray. She is covering the president in New Jersey right now.

Sara, we heard from the president not once, but quite today as he faces escalating threats from North Korea.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

In a rare and unexpected move, President Trump took a number of questions from members of the press today and during that he made clear he has no plans to tone down his rhetoric when it comes to North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you this. North Korea better get their act together or they are going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world, OK?

MURRAY (voice-over): As tensions with North Korea escalate, President Trump says it may time to up the ante.

TRUMP: Let's see what he does with Guam. If he does something in Guam, it will be an event, the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea.

QUESTION: And when you say that, what do you mean?

TRUMP: You will see. You will see. And he will see. He will see.

It's not a dare. It's a statement.

MURRAY: After this saber-rattling rhetoric earlier this week:

TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen.

MURRAY: Today, Trump says that statement may have been too timid.

TRUMP: If anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough. What they have been doing and what they've been getting away with is a tragedy and it can't be allowed. MURRAY: The president's comments coming as he huddled for the first

time this week with Vice President Pence and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster at his golf club in New Jersey.

The North Korean regime has been bristling at Trump's tough talk, threatening a strike near Guam and hurling insults at the American president, calling Trump bereft of reasoning.

TRUMP: He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific. And, with me, he is not getting away with it.

MURRAY: Today, Trump said he would consider diplomatic efforts, but offered a pessimistic view of their odds of success.

TRUMP: We will always consider negotiations, but they have been negotiating now for 25 years. Look at Clinton. He folded on the negotiations. He was weak and ineffective. You look what happened with Bush, you look what happened with Obama.

[18:05:01]

MURRAY: All while imploring China to step up its pressure on Pyongyang.

TRUMP: I think China can do a lot more, yes. China can. And I China will do a lot more.

MURRAY: As Trump continues to serve up fire and fury, his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has taken a different approach, insisting diplomatic efforts are still under way offering reassurances to the American people.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think what the president was just reaffirming is the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack and defend our allies, and we will do so. So, the American people should sleep well at night.

MURRAY: Trump is still insisting his administration is speaking with one voice.

TRUMP: There are no mixed messages. There are no mixed messages.

MURRAY: Even if he couldn't quite explain the sharp difference in tone between himself and his secretary of state.

TRUMP: I heard -- to be honest, General Mattis may have taken it a step beyond what I said. There are no mixed messages. And Rex was just stating the view.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, tensions have been rising not just between the U.S. and North Korea, but also between the U.S. and Russia.

It was striking to see the different tone the president took on these issues. While he was slamming North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he had only positive things to say about Russian President Vladimir Putin today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sara, thanks very much.

As President Trump stands firmly in his promise of fire and furry, Kim Jong-un's regime also is unleashing new threats.

Let's go to CNN's Will Ripley, who has reported extensively from North Korea for us. He's in Beijing tonight.

Will, we just got a new statement from North Korea. Tell our viewers about that.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We did.

And, Wolf, this came out just before the president's latest press conference. We know that North Korea usually takes about 24 hours to respond, because multiple people have to sign off on the message.

This is still in response to yesterday's rhetoric. We have yet to see how North Korea will respond to what President Trump said today. But this statement, North Korean officials, and it cites a number of them, vowing to -- quote -- "mercilessly wipe out the provocateurs," referring of course to the United States.

And let me read you another portion of it. It's North Koreans saying that the U.S. -- quote -- "would suffer a shameful defeat and final doom if it persists in its extreme military adventure, sanctions and pressure."

We've seen North Korea in their statement yesterday lay out plans potentially for the most provocative missile test they have ever conducted, if they go through with it, if they're not just bluffing here, to launch simultaneously four intermediate-range ballistic missiles and put them down -- fly them over Japan and put them down less than 20 miles from Guam, home to Andersen Air Force Base and other key military assets, along with more than 160,000 U.S. citizens.

Now you have more rhetoric. And this is more similar to what we're used to hearing from North Korea, the merciless -- to wipe out -- they have many threats before, turning Washington into a sea of fire. This is more typical North Korean rhetoric.

But with President Trump upping the ante yet again, I can tell you from chatting with North Korean officials in Pyongyang, they're going to take his words literally and they're going to come up with a response.

In the background of all of this, you have in the region -- normally, this would already be a very tense month here because of the regularly scheduled joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

These are not happening as a result of the latest escalation, the latest war of words. These are something that the U.S. does on a regular basis. North Korea is always angry as a result. And they often show their military power by launching missiles or other demonstrations of military force.

But given the climate right now, given the uncertainty about how the United States will respond, and what steps North Korea will take, this is why China and many other countries in the region are quite nervous, China continuing to call for calm on both sides, for both sides to stop the talk and stop the actions that will only escalate a dangerous situation on the Korean Peninsula from going down a road from which there would be no return.

BLITZER: A very dangerous situation, indeed.

Will Ripley in Beijing for us, thank you.

Let's get some more now on the president's threats and his military options if, if Kim Jong-un continues his defiance and actually were to attack Guam, the U.S. territory.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, the president is not ruling anything out, at least as of now.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Not ruling anything out, Wolf, and, if anything, doubling down and then some.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): President Trump not ruling out a preemptive straight against North Korea.

TRUMP: We don't talk about that. I never do.

STARR: The president has been given updated options, as always, for a preemptive strike, using aircraft, missiles, ships and submarines, even though many North Korean weapon sites remain hidden.

The death toll, if war breaks out, could be horrific.

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is a contingency. And it's real, but it has consequences which I think the American people and the world would find really unacceptable.

[18:10:07]

STARR: But if Kim Jong-un moves first, attacking America, as he has threatened, by hitting the waters near Guam with four ballistic missiles, a decision to shoot the missiles down will have to be made so fast, that it could come without President Trump even being consulted, several U.S. officials tell CNN.

Once Kim fires, a shoot-down decision must be made within minutes.

For Guam, the U.S. THAAD missile system there will be the final layer of defense against a North Korean intermediate-range ballistic missile attack.

LT. GEN. SAMUEL GREAVES, DIRECTOR, MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY: My sincere hope is that the testing that we have done to demonstrate THAAD capability will provide confidence to the residents of Guam that they're protected from an IRBM shot coming their way.

STARR: But the next move is up to Kim for the moment.

President Trump late today appearing to set a new red line if Kim attacks Guam.

TRUMP: Let's see what he does with Guam.

STARR: Vowing a U.S. response.

TRUMP: It will be an event to the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea. It's not a dare. It's a statement.

STARR: Trump signaling earlier in the day his initial fire and fury vow against Kim more than stands.

TRUMP: Maybe that statement wasn't tough enough. And we're backed by 100 percent by our military.

STARR: Even as the State Department talked diplomacy, Defense Secretary James Mattis had warned, if the regime initiates a conflict, the U.S. will destroy it.

TRUMP: To be honest, General Mattis may have taken it a step beyond what I said. There are no mixed messages.

STARR: U.S. military officials are preparing for tensions to rise in the coming days. An already scheduled annual 10-day war game in South Korea begins August 21 to test how well U.S. and Korean troops can work together.

More than 17,000 U.S. troops will participate. Kim Jong-un routinely steps up his rhetoric during the war game.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And, tonight, U.S. officials say, for now, they do not see any evidence of an imminent North Korean missile launch -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

Let's talk about all of this, the North Korea crisis and more, with Susan Rice, the former national security adviser to President Obama.

Ambassador Rice, thanks very joining us.

SUSAN RICE, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Good to be with you again, Wolf.

BLITZER: The president, you just heard him, said -- he just said a little while ago that if Kim Jong-un does something in Guam, the U.S. territory, it will be an event, in his words, the likes of which nobody has ever seen before. He said that's not a dare, it's a statement of fact.

Do you see that as a direct threat?

RICE: Well, Wolf, I think we have to be very careful here.

The language, the hot rhetoric that we're hearing from both Kim Jong- un and President Trump is itself a challenge, because, on the Korean side, the North Korean side, we run the risk that they miscalculate and the many messages that have been coming in rapid fire from the White House at face value and perhaps miscalculate and act precipitously.

On the U.S. side, I think that the core of what President Trump said today, discounting for the rhetoric, was if North Korea were to attack the United States -- and obviously Guam is part of the United States -- we would respond with the full force of our capabilities.

That is common sense. That's deterrence. And that's the appropriate approach. What I worry about is this discussion and preparation potentially for what the administration has called preventive war or preemptive war, which would envision the United States potentially attacking North Korea, in the absence of an imminent or actual threat against the United States.

Deterrence makes good sense. That is very essential for us to maintain. And, obviously, we don't ever take off the table the threat of the use of force. But preemptive war, if one were actually thinking of executing that, would be catastrophic, catastrophic for the Korean Peninsula, the over 200,000 Americans that reside there, the 26 million people of metropolitan Seoul, for Japan and the 40,000 American troops stationed there, and for the global economy.

We risk a direct confrontation with China, and a conflict could potentially go to the extreme of being nuclear. So, a preemptive attack by the United States would be a very, very poor choice, a very dangerous choice.

However, maintaining and strengthening our deterrents and making sure the North Koreans understand that, if ever they were to use their nuclear weapons against the United States or our allies, they would face annihilation, that's correct.

[18:15:00]

BLITZER: You wrote today in "The New York Times," Ambassador, that you expect the kind of bluster that we're all hearing from North Korea, especially after the United Nations Security Council adopted those new sanctions unanimously, but you added that what is unprecedented and especially dangerous, your words, is the reaction of President Trump.

Explain what you mean.

RICE: What I said in the article, Wolf, is that whenever North Korea faces tough sanctions from the United Nations -- and I was part of negotiating several such sanctions solutions -- they do react with vitriol and extreme rhetoric.

This time, it is combined with the annual August exercises, where the United States and South Korea are engaged in very significant military exercises on North Korea's doorstep. And they always get very insecure, even more insecure, in August.

So, combine these two things, and we've heard what experts would know to be very predictably hot rhetoric out of Pyongyang.

But when the president of the United States makes statements that could be mistaken for Kim Jong-un's, I think that rattles our allies enormously, and it risks a miscalculation, as I have said, on the North Korean side.

And President Trump's initial threat was tied to not an attack on the United States, which, of course, we need to be very clear about, but Kim Jong-un making another provocative statement or threat, which is almost inevitable.

So, we need today be very measured, very careful, very planned in our rhetoric. I hope that we will see more measure out of the administration and out of the president as he approaches this very real challenge.

BLITZER: North Korean officials said earlier today that the U.S, in their words, would suffer a shameful defeat and final doom if it were to persist in extreme military adventure, sanctions and pressure.

Do you think the North Koreans want war? How do you read this?

RICE: I read that as rhetoric of the sort we have heard many times before from North Korea.

As I said, it may be a little bit hyped up, given the convergence of the sanctions in the August exercises. But, no, I don't think they want war with the United States. I think Kim Jong-un knows that if he started a war with the United States, it would be the end of his regime and the end of his country.

And that message, we need to reinforce, as General Mattis, our secretary of defense, did, I think, effectively yesterday.

On the other hand, we need to be clear that we're not precipitating something, that we're not ourselves going to be part of destabilizing the situation.

BLITZER: But in addition to the rhetoric, the North Koreans are also now threatening to take specific military action. They say they will launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan and fly them towards the U.S. territory of Guam and land maybe 10 or 20 miles off the coast of Guam.

The president warned that if the North Koreans made any more threats, they would be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

Do you believe the president actually drew a red line? RICE: Well, Wolf, I'm not clear what -- and I think the problem is nobody is quite clear what the red line is. Is it a threat from Kim Jong-un? Is it action from Kim Jong-un? Is it missiles flying in the direction of Guam, or is it an actual attack on the United States or its territories or our allies?

I think we have got to be very clear about what we're trying to deter and prevent. And I think one of the challenges that we have faced in the last several days is that the bar has been moved in both directions by both the president and some of his spokespersons.

So, we need to be very clear. Any attack on the United States or territories or allies would be met with the most powerful response, particularly if it involved nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: So, if the North Koreans...

(CROSSTALK)

RICE: But we cannot react -- sorry, Wolf. Sorry.

We just can't react to every statement or verbal provocation that comes out of North Korea.

BLITZER: Well, forget about the statements, but what if they were to launch these four missiles into the waters just off of the coast of Guam? What should the U.S. do then?

RICE: Well, I know that our Pentagon is preparing for that contingency.

We have very capable missile defense systems that defend Guam and Hawaii and the United States mainland. And so I don't want to signal what those options might be, but I have confidence that we have responses that are proportionate to the problem.

BLITZER: What would a proportionate response be, hypothetically?

RICE: Well, Wolf, that's the whole point.

As a former official who is privy to some of this information, I don't think it's responsible of me to get into hypotheticals, anymore than I would encourage sitting officials to get into hypotheticals.

But I think what the American people need know is that we do have and we continue to refine very advanced missile defense capabilities that protect our territories and protect our homeland.

[18:20:04]

And I have confidence that, in fact, there were something that directly threatened United States territory, that we're in a position to respond and defend ourselves.

BLITZER: You say Kim Jong-un, in your words, is vicious and impetuous, but not irrational. Why do you think that?

RICE: Well, I said by most assessments. And by that, I mean those that have studied him and his behavior.

He is a horrific, hateful person. He's viciously killed members of his family and he's engaged in behavior that we all would find absolutely intolerable and reprehensible, but he wants to survive.

His chief objective is his own personal survival and survival of the North Korean regime. And he has not, to date, taken actions that put regime survival in jeopardy.

An attack on the United States or our allies using nuclear weapons or massive conventional efforts would obviously provoke the type of response from the United States that he can be certain would end in regime annihilation.

And so I do believe, as I argued in the piece today in "The New York Times," while this is nobody's preference, and it's a last resort, we do have the ability to manage this problem, not only through sanctions, which we should continue to ratchet up, not only through efforts to undermine the regime, and not only through cooperation with China and others.

But we also have the ability to manage this through traditional deterrents, where the North Koreans will understand that, should they cross the line of threatening an attack and actually attacking the United States or our allies, that they would face overwhelming force.

And given the disproportionate strength between the United States and North Korea, that's a very credible threat.

BLITZER: Ambassador, as you know, diplomacy was tried for the eight years of the Clinton administration, for the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, for the eight years of the Obama administration.

Diplomacy clearly failed. By all accounts, North Korea may right now have as many as 60 nuclear bombs. They may already have the capability of miniaturizing those nuclear bombs, putting them on warheads of intercontinental ballistic missiles that potentially could reach the United States.

I want you to listen to what President Trump said today about those earlier failures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will always consider negotiations, but they have been negotiating now for 25 years. Look at Clinton. He folded on the negotiations. He was weak and ineffective. You look what happened with Bush, you look what happened with Obama. Obama, he didn't even want to talk about it.

But I talk. It's about time. Somebody has to do it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You had eight years.

You were the U.N. ambassador, then the U.N. national security adviser to President Obama. You tried very hard to prevent North Korea from developing this nuclear threat.

You clearly failed. Why?

RICE: Well, Wolf, as you said in your question and in your lead-up, this has been a very, very difficult problem that has now vexed four successive American administrations, Democrat and Republican.

And each administration has tried not only diplomacy, but increased sanctions and pressure, cooperation with China, and various other methods that we shouldn't speak about on television.

And the fact of the matter is that, despite all of those efforts, the North Korean regime has been able to succeed in progressing with its program, both nuclear and missile.

That's a very unfortunate outcome. You can call it a failure. I accept that characterization of the efforts of the United States over the last two decades.

But we are where we are. And we now need to decide how to proceed. And what we're facing is a country with nuclear weapons and reportedly now a capability to reach the United States with intercontinental ballistic missiles. What do we do about it? That's the question.

And it really boils down to two options. One is preventive war, or preemptive war, which I argue would be absolutely foolish and catastrophic. The other is to maintain and increase the pressure on North Korea, leave open the door to diplomacy, refine our military capacities, build up our missile defenses for ourselves and our allies, while at the same time recognizing that we can, in all likelihood, safely rely on deterrents to prevent a catastrophic event, unless we manage it incarefully.

So, I think we have a very serious national security challenge. I argue that this need not be a crisis if we manage this carefully. And I hope, but I frankly worry, given some of the mixed messages coming out of the administration, that we can manage this carefully and responsibly, protecting the United States, protecting our allies, containing the threat that North Korea poses, and leaving open the door, with pressure, sanctions, and diplomacy to resolve it over time.

[18:25:15]

BLITZER: There's something rather intriguing that jumped out at me from your article that you wrote in "The New York Times" today.

And I will read it, because I want you to explain.

"The same red line must apply to any proof that North Korea has transferred nuclear weapons to another state or nonstate actor."

Does that mean, Ambassador, that North Korea might be selling nuclear bombs to other nations or terrorist organizations in order to make money?

RICE: I'm not saying that has happened. I'm saying we can't allow that to happen.

So, we have two parallel and very important challenges. One, as we have been discussing at some length, is making sure that North Korea would never dare, because it would understand that it would suffer incalculable defeat, to attack the United States or our allies using nuclear weapons.

The other challenge is to ensure that North Korea is not foolish enough to try to proliferate its nuclear weapons, i.e., sell or transfer those weapons to a third party, whether that be a state or a nonstate actor.

And so I don't want to suggest that that has happened. I do want to suggest that we have been for many decades concerned about the proliferation potential, and we need to ensure that we are very clear in deterring that, as well as a potential attack.

BLITZER: Because you remember the North Koreans did help the Syrians build their nuclear reactor, the nuclear reactor that the Israelis eventually bombed. Is that right?

RICE: Yes, Wolf, you're right in recalling that. But that was not transfer of weapons. That was transfer of technology, which was also very concerning. And I think the Israelis acted in their national interest to resolve that issue.

BLITZER: Ambassador, the president's national security adviser, General McMaster, he just renewed your security clearance. He's getting some grief for this from some in the right-wing media.

I want you to react to that.

RICE: Well, General McMaster, according to the White House statement, renewed the security clearances of all of his former predecessors as national security advisers and all the former presidents, living presidents of the United States.

That is customary to do when a new administration comes in, and every prior administration has done the same for its predecessors. So, I think this is really, unfortunately, an opportunity and an excuse for those who are now, quite unfairly, in my judgment, attacking General McMaster to make an issue where there really is not one.

BLITZER: Has he consulted with you? Have you been in touch with him?

RICE: Wolf, I think I would rather not answer that.

I think let us just say that it is customary for sitting national security advisers -- I know this from my own experience -- to be in touch with their predecessors to understand what challenges and issues they wrestled with, what options they considered. And so I imagine that General McMaster will from time to time consult his predecessors.

BLITZER: Ambassador Susan Rice, thanks so much for joining us. Deeply appreciate it.

RICE: Good to be with you again. Take care.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead: President Trump insists he is not bluffing, but how will he enforce the new red lines he is drawing for Kim Jong-un?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Let's see what he does with Guam. If he does something in Guam, it will be an event, the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea.

QUESTION: And when you say that, what do you mean?

TRUMP: You will see. You will see. And he will see. He will see.

It's not a dare. It's a statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking tonight, President Trump is going even further in his bellicose warnings to North Korea, saying his promise of fire and fury may not have been tough enough.

Mr. Trump getting a high level briefing on the North Korea threat at his golf resort in New Jersey and talking at length to reporters. This ass Kim Jong-un's regime, just issued another provocative statement of its own saying U.S. attempts to crackdown on North Korea will resort in "Shameless defeat for America and its final doom."

Let's bring in our analyst and our specialist Phil Mudd, you are listening closely to the president, let me play this clip. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's not getting away with it. He got away with it for a long time between him and his family. He's not getting away with it. It's a whole new ball game.

And he's not going to be saying those things and he's certainly not going to be doing those things. I read about where in Guam by August 15th, let's see what he does with Guam. If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody's seen before, what will happen in North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: (INAUDIBLE) TRUMP: You'll see. You'll see. And he'll see. He will see. Is that a dare? It's a statement. It has nothing to do with dare, that's a statement.

He's not going to go around threatening Guam and he's not going to threaten the United States and he's not going to threaten Japan, and he's not going to threaten South Korea. No, that's not a dare as you say, that is a statement of fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what does that tell you?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: One simple thing, we were wrong. When we looked at the installation of a cabinet and the National Security Advisor, you look at someone who is the head of Exxon.

You look at four star generals, you look at a new chief of staff. We anticipated that if the president himself could manage to mature to grow a temperament that was more presidential entering the Oval Office that a circle of advisors, the Republicans, Democrats, commentators would view as people who could walk in the Oval and say, "Look, you can say whatever you want on the campaign trail but when you're talking about nuclear weapons, you better chill out."

We were wrong on that. We're not two hours into this, we're not 24 hours into this. And the fact that he's up there in Bedminster including officials that I would regard as high profile, really talented national security officials and he still decides to box himself in and to add heat instead of taking it away tells me those officials aren't having the influence we expected.

BLITZER: Where do you see this going, Jackie?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: I don't think anyone knows where this is going. I don't know that the president knows where this is going. But this rhetoric as Phil said is certainly isn't helpful because we've seen how North Korea, it's just it's kind of a war of words at this time. You just hope it doesn't escalate into actual war.

BLITZER: Were you surprised when you said that his fire and fury statement the other day was not tough enough?

KUCINICH: But that -- I mean, so it's hard to be surprised by President Trump because he is so surprising if that makes sense. But he is someone who doubles down, he doesn't deescalate and this is further proof of that.

Now, it has consequences and that's where -- so his fights with lawmakers, that's one thing, but this is -- there are real world, very large, and other -- millions of people are involved here. So it really is -- I have to question why his advisors allow him to continue to do this and perhaps it's because they don't have any control. BLITZER: Bianna, I want to play another clip for you, this is what the president said about past attempts to try to resolve this nuclear threat from North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We'll always consider negotiations, but they've been negotiating now for 25 years. And look at Clinton, he folded on the negotiations, he was weak and ineffective.

You look what happened with Bush, you look at what happened with Obama, Obama, he didn't even want to talk about it. But I talk. It's about time, somebody has to do it.

BLITZER: You just heard Susan Rice, President Obama's Former National Security Advisor acknowledged this was a failure of the Obama Administration. They tried for eight years, they couldn't get the job done.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO NEWS AND FINANCIAL ANCHOR: A failure of four administrations. Look, in one way, it's not so unusual for an administration to take a jab at its predecessor.

Just today, Bill Perry who was the Secretary of Defense under Clinton took a jab at Bush when it came to their negotiations with North Korea, the Bush Administration choosing to isolate it. What is a bit unusual though is to see a president seemingly undercut his own team, his own cabinet.

You saw that today with Nikki Hailey. What he should have been hailing as a win for him in that you had 15 countries vote on sanctions at the U.N. against North Korea. The president said, you know what, that happened but chances are it probably won't result to anything because it hasn't really resulted to anything in the past. You see that discrepancy in words and statements from Rex Tillerson as well. And you heard the president say, listen, I'm talking but there's a difference between talking and being tough and coming across as provoking.

So if God forbid there is a situation and things do escalate with North Korea, what's going to happen with our allies? Are they going to accuse the United States of provoking the situation? What's going to happen for instance if North Korea decides not to shoot and fire at Guam but to test a ballistic missile, to test a nuclear missile? The president is sort of boxing himself in right now instead of toning down the rhetoric.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He seems, Mark, the president, to be drawing some new red lines.

MARK PRESTON, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's interesting, I interviewed George Shultz, the Former Secretary of State during the Reagan years and when you're a Republican, you always go back to that time, for an interview, actually for a cnn.com piece, that has just got posted, now this interview took place about two months about and this is what George Shultz said to me verbatim. He said, listen, when we had the Reagan Administration, we knew that words mattered and that if we said something, it would matter.

And he went on to say, if you draw a red line and you don't do anything when it's crossed, your words lose their meaning and nobody pays attention anymore. I hope that Donald Trump doesn't mean it because I think we could be in a situation where we have a very unpredictable leader over in North Korea right now who very well might pull the trigger himself and as Bianna was saying, that he's going to be provoked by President Trump.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. Don't go too far away. Just, we'll talk about the feud that has developed between the president of the United States and the senate majority leader, it's a tensed situation that may be aggravated by Mitch McConnell's personal connection to the Trump Administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're very proud of Elaine as Secretary of Transportation. As you know -- as you said, Mitch's wife. She's doing a very, very good job. I'm very disappointed in Mitch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's breaking news in the Russia investigation tonight. Sources are now telling CNN that the son-in-law of the Former Trump Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, has met with federal investigators. Let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown who's working the story for us. Pamela, you're learning new information, update us.

PAMELA BROWN, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We've learned that Paul Manafort's son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, met with federal investigators just in recent months. This is according to two people familiar with the matter and we're told by one of the sources that he provided information and also provided documents to investigators in New York over two months ago.

And we know, Wolf, through our sources that Department of Justice Investigators have been seeking cooperation from Yohai, from the son- in-law hoping for more information in the investigation related to Paul Manafort. Investigators have been looking into possible money laundering or tax violations in relation to his business dealings in Ukraine. Now, all the information that Yohai provided to investigators is now in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, that's being looked at.

And it's interesting to note here Wolf that Mueller has not asked for documents from Manafort. He hasn't even asked for an interview from Manafort. And as you know, FBI agents executed a no-knock search warrant on Manafort's home late July. We should also point out that neither Manafort nor Yohai have been accused of any wrong doing, there is an investigation involving real estate deals with Yohai as well as Manafort that is ongoing. They have -- their lawyers have declined to comment. Also worth noting here Wolf, Manafort changed his legal team today. He has dropped his legal representation with WilmerHale and he's now hired -- is hiring tax specialists, people who are familiar with tax investigation. So that gives you a clue into what this investigation is focused on with him. Wolf --

BLITZER: Important development indeed. Thanks very much Pamela Brown reporting for us. Let's bring back our analyst, Phil Mudd, what is this late development tell you?

MUDD: Boy, Mr. Manafort, if I were him, empty the bank account, move to Latin American and tee up the pina coladas. That dude is in trouble.

Let me give you two reasons why, number one, you look at the people he's hired, the tax attorneys, that tells me he's concerned about money. Number two, you look at some of the lawyers that the Special Counsel Mueller has brought on, these are Enron people. That is the old case about a U.S. energy company, they're chasing money. My suspicion is this has to do with dirty money and money laundering. One quick point on what we learned over the past 24 hours, that is the no-knock issue that the president raised in his conversation today with the media.

You have to understand the importance of this, Wolf. This is not about the FBI, this is about going to a judge and saying two things, number one, this is not an expedition, we think this guy's involved in a crime. You can't go into somebody's house unless you have evidence that there's something involving.

Number two, we're not going to his office, we're not going to his car, we're going to his house at 6:00 a.m., that tells me they had enough to tell a judge we will authorize you to go in because we don't trust him to respond to a standard inquiry. He's in trouble related to money, that's what I'd say.

BLITZER: And Mark, I want to play that clip, the president was asked about that pre-dawn, no-knock FBI search warrant that was implemented at Paul Manafort's suburban Washington residence, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: Mr. President, was it appropriate for the FBI to raid the home of Paul Manafort pre-dawn?

TRUMP: I thought it was a very, very strong signal or whatever. I know Mr. Manafort, I haven't spoken to him in a long time but I know him, he was with the campaign as you know for a very short period of time, relatively a short period of time but I've always known him to be a good man.

I thought it was a very -- they do that very seldom. So I was surprised to see it. I was very, very surprised to see it. We haven't really been involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Were you surprised the president even reacted to this?

Normally, an investigation like this, an FBI investigation, a president or someone else would say, you what, there's an investigation going on, I'm not going to comment.

PRESTON: Right. He would have been wise to say nothing, right? And instead exactly what you said. But no, he can't stop himself and he does continue on.

And what he says is that, oh, I know Paul Manafort. He was with the campaign for a very short period of time.

KUCINICH: Very short period of time.

PRESTON: We all know very well what role Paul Manafort played in that campaign. We know very well that a convention in Cleveland, Ohio would have not occurred had it not been for Paul Manafort. So I think he was a little bit more significant than somebody that he had just known or was with the campaign.

BLITZER: Another moment at that news conference the president have following his briefing, Bianna, with his national security advisors was when he was asked to react to Russia's decision that's coming up to expel more than 750 American diplomats and others who work at U.S. Embassies and consulates inside Russia. And to get the president's reaction, we haven't heard any presidential reaction so far. I want you to listen to how the president responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No, I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on payroll, so as far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people, because now we have a smaller payroll. There's no real reason for them to go back. So I greatly appreciate the fact that they've been able to cut our payroll for the United States. We'll save a lot of money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He was thanking President Putin of Russia for cutting the U.S. payroll. I think he was being sarcastic, but what did you think?

GOLODRYGA: It's jaw dropping Wolf. I mean if you want to argue and say that the president was trolling Vladimir Putin, that would have been a smart troll if we didn't have the history between these two men that we currently do.

I mean, we have a president of the United States that just today insults Mitch McConnell, has insulted his own staff, has insulted Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General, and yet cannot say anything negative about Vladimir Putin.

I'm not saying he have to go to DEFCON1 here but in the process of saying thank you to Vladimir Putin, he also insulted hundreds of American civil servants who work in Russia and Russians who work at the U.S. Embassy as well. So I'm not saying this should have escalated, but his choice of words is shocking.

BLITZER: He also said something that was different this time. Jackie, you heard him say there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians. If anything Russians were spending money to defeat him because they feared what he would do if he were president of the United States.

KUCINICH: Well we haven't really seen any evidence of that. So I'm not really sure where he's getting it. In fact, the Intel community said that Vladimir Putin was trying to undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign. So -- I mean he could say that but there's absolutely no proof to it, which hasn't stopped him in the past and they desperately want to change this conversation from this collusion -- from the collusion idea and we've seen that many, many times.

BLITZER: He was reluctant to criticize Putin, he has been all of these months. Not reluctant to criticize the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell.

KUCINICH: No. Hasn't shown any restraint there. And apparently the two had a conversation yesterday that was very animated.

This is something that will have diminishing returns for the president. Angering someone who is in charge of pushing your agenda through the Senate and who you're going to need no matter what isn't really a good play for the president. We've already seen him hurt himself.

Remember, he insulted Lisa Murkowski, he insulted Susan Collins, these are two critical votes, that he really turned them off and they aren't inclined to help him and put themselves in jeopardy. Why would you put yourself out there for someone that is trying to bully you?

BLITZER: How do you see it?

PRESTON: Well listen, the old saying is if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Well if you're the president and your party controls Congress, you want your friends to be the Senate Majority Leader and the house speaker and Donald Trump has done nothing to try to get them to work with him and to go the extra mile for him. Although they have so far but going forward, I can't imagine Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan is going to do much more than what they're expected to do.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more in the breaking news. We've got to take a quick break, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking tonight, President Trump is violently retaliate if North Korea makes good on its threat to attack Guam, claiming his provocative promise is a statement, not a dare.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, North Korea shared some specifics of its plan. Now this is a very, very serious moment. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is Wolf. And the missiles in question that we're talking about are important to know here. These are the Hwasong 12 missiles, they're in intermediate range ballistic missile.

And what's important to note is that like North Korea's long range missiles that they've tested to reach the United States, these Hwasong 12s have to go up into space, then reenter the earth's atmosphere and they may well not survive that reentry. Tonight we have new and important information from missile experts as to how these missiles might work if they're fired toward Guam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: If four missiles were launched from North Korea in the direction of Guam, analysts say it could be the first real world test of America's missile defenses.

JEFFREY LEWIS, THE MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE: I think we'd really probably have no choice but to try to shoot them down and then I guess we find out if the systems work.

TODD: North Korea outlined a plan to land four Hwasong 12 intermediate range missiles within 18 to 25 miles of the island. But even if a demonstration was intended to be harmless, there are still risks.

KELSEY DAVENPORT, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATE: These missiles are so inaccurate that they could inadvertently hit the island or land very close to the island.

And then, again, that would likely elicit a response from the United States that could escalate into a larger conflict that would be devastating for the region.

LEWIS: We've dared them to prove the accuracy of their missiles and I think splashing four missiles down kind of bracketing Guam is a good way for them to demonstrate that they really do have the capability to aim their missiles.

TODD: And even if the missiles don't hit land, they could still pose a problem for the U.S.

DAVENPORT: It might be difficult for the United States to shoot down all of the missiles. And that could expose to North Korea that U.S. missile defense is not iron-clad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: More specifically what she's talking about is that there are THAAD missile defense systems on Guam, there could be ship-based missile defense systems on navy ships patrolling around Guam but these are not so reliable, Wolf. There's no guarantee they would work, especially to shoot down four missiles at a time.

BLITZER: Very tough situation. Brian Todd, thanks very much. That's it for me. Erin Burnett Out Front starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, the war of words with North Korea escalating.