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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump: "Big, Big Trouble" If Anything Happens To Guam; Trump Talks With Chinese President Xi Jinping; Trump: There's A "Possible Military Option" For Venezuela. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 11, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:29] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: He's taken more than 50 questions in four press events over the last 48 hours. The president clearly is talking especially about North Korea and possible military action against Kim Jong-un, but also perhaps military operations in Venezuela which apparently took the Pentagon by surprise.
We begin this hour with North Korea. The president starting the day with a tweet saying, the military is in his words "locked and loaded." Today in two separate press events he was asked to elaborate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what do you mean by military solutions are locked and loaded as it relates to North Korea?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think it's pretty obvious. So we are looking at that very carefully and I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said and what I said is what I mean. So hopefully they'll understand, Peter, exactly what I said and the meaning of that those words. Those words are very, very easy to understand.
Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump, that I can tell you. Hopefully it will work out but this has been going on for many years. It would have been a lot easier to solve this years ago before they were in the position that they're in. But we will see what happens.
We think that a lot of good things could happen and we could also have a bad solution but we think a lot of good things could happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would be bad solutions, sir?
TRUMP: I think you know the answer to that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you say bad solutions, are you talking about war? Is the U.S. going to go to war?
TRUMP: I think you know the answer to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us now with the latest. Jim, what more did president have to say about North Korea?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, he did say that tonight he was speaking with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, that call scheduled to take place at 8:00, so a short time ago. We don't know the substance of the call. Certainly a key conversation here because the U.S. needs China's help some China needs U.S. help, but the president that you saw there in those answers didn't really give any clarity as to what U.S. military options are, also, what the broader strategy is, right?
And we don't at this point, Anderson, what the president's bellicose tone, if that's part of an intentional strategy on the part of the administration, other -- the national security officials in his administration, one of the president's (INAUDIBLE), because at times his words have contradicted the more diplomat tone coming from even his Secretary of Defense James Mattis yesterday, who said that the primary focus was on a diplomatically led effort.
COOPER: And earlier you said the president was asked about diplomatic backchannels with North Korea, didn't respond. What's the reporting to that? Are there backchannels?
SCIUTTO: CNN is reported that there had been at least (INAUDIBLE) since February of this year, this is principally through the U.S. special representative for North Korea affairs, Joseph Young, if he traveled to North Korea, you may remember when Otto Warmbier was brought back, of course, dying shortly there after. And his discussions with North Korea that had taken place sometimes at the U.N. and North Korea's U.N. representative but also another overseas locals and during his trips to North Korea have been principally about Americans detained there and there still are three others, but also about the broader relationship as well as some lower level contacts, people not necessarily part of the U.S. government but speaking to other North Korea officials.
To date that hasn't warmed certainly the relations but at least keeps a channel for discussions open. And that's something that you heard reference, say for instance, when you hear from Secretary of Defense Mattis talking about diplomacy being at least the first choice for the Trump administration.
COOPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much. I want to bring in the panel, Errol Louis, Ana Navarro, Paul Begala, Scott Jennings, and Cornell Brooks.
Paul , I'm wondering how much do you think the president's rhetoric compared to secretary of state and the secretary of defense, that it is part of an actual coherent strategy, that it's sort of good cop-bad cop and there's a lot of different ways people characterized it.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I had hoped that that was a strategy, but I don't think it is. First of, I wouldn't advice the president to be the bad cop. You want the general to be bad cop then commander-in-chief can be the good cop. They're also not touting a terrific success that Donald Trump and his administration had getting the United Nations, including Russia and China to pass really tough sanctions against North Korea. That is a big deal. Even people like me are going to salute President Trump for that -- Ambassador Nikki Haley at the U.N., Secretary Tillerson. He had the world community on his side by pursuing very tough actions, but doing it without the bellicose and threatening war and I don't know why he's not touting those sanctions why he's not -- you know, action them up if he needs to. And I don't think he's winning any allies.
COOPER: But there were questions even if China was going to -- I mean, yes, China voted for the sanctions but whether China would actually carry out those sanctions. You know, there's one argument being made that this tough rhetoric is going to motivate the Chinese to get more involved in North Korea, Scott.
[21:05:10] SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think that his words are aimed at North Korea. They are as much aimed at China to try to get them in the game. I agree with Paul, it was amazing achievement to get them on board with the sanctions, but that hasn't really ratcheted down North Korea's rhetoric and now we found out they may have miniaturized a nuclear weapon.
I also don't think President Trump's position on North Korea is really all that different from what we've seen from other presidents. I mean, Barack Obama, less than one year ago, said to be clear, the U.S. does not and will never accept North Korea as a nuclear state. That's what Donald Trump is saying. We're not going to accept it. What are those words mean? That means if they have a nuclear weapon, we are going to take actions to stop them from having it.
And so, I think there is a lot of hand wringing going on today about what President Trump is doing with his rhetoric, but his position it's pretty much the same as every other president that came before him.
COOPER: But he's talking about -- I mean, he's been saying that any threats coming from North Korea and today he elaborated that he's talking about rhetorical threats. I mean, there was some question earier, did he mean actual, you know, threats against our allies and military maneuvers, but he's talking about Kim Jong-un actually making threats. That would be intolerable.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And think this is also being -- so there's the message to North Korea, like was Scott is mentioning, but there's also the message to the Republican base. The Republican base was out of their mind with how deliberative, how friendly with our enemies and our foes President Obama was. But the idea of all of branch is to oppose 9ph) -- just drove, practically, every one of us crazy.
This is being very well received by Republicans. They like the tough talk and I think Donald Trump is getting that feedback which means he's going to double down and he's going to triple down and he loves playing the tough guy, he loves the bluster. Now the things he's saying, "fire and fury," "locked and loaded," they sound like new title for Vin Diesel film, you know, but he is playing a game of chicken with an erratic insane man in North Korea.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He also disdained and this is part of what the base likes about Donald Trump, the role of leader of the free world. So the answer to question of why not continue to orchestrate all of these voices, having won this important vote in the United Nation, why not orchestrate multiple voices around the world, all putting pressure from different directions on North Korea. Instead, what we get is the bellicosity, the threats, the sort of comic book talk, you know, sounding like he wants to take on this person physically, personally one-on-one which really sort of let's an important opportunity just get passed.
BEGALA: Like part of his appeal in the campaign, was he was a radical break with particularly the George W. Bush, neo conservative interventions model a.
This is what he said, President-elect Trump, on December 6th when he introduced General Mattis which (INAUDIBLE) brag, had a big great rally, introduced General Mattis, he said this, "We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we nothing about that we shouldn't be involved with. We don't want to have a depleted military because we're all over the place, fighting the areas we shouldn't be fighting in." That's what he's -- that's how he won, OK. Now a traditional Republicans like the bellicosity, they like George w. Bush. The people who give him this victory in the Rust Belt were anti- interventionist, they were much more about come home America.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I think a couple of points are important here that -- if the president, we got to make a distinction between calculated civil raveling and uncalculated inconsistency and what we've seen from this president is -- where today where he has an opportunity to clarify his rhetoric, what he does is ramp up the rhetoric. By suggesting that the North Korean leader personalized, that he personally articulated the threat. In other words, that he owned what his generals had put forward. That does not in any way advance our interests.
And the point being here is the president -- I should say leader of the free world and the commander-in-chief should not be speaking to the Chinese as though he's speaking to his base. That's in fact dangerous and that is what we've seen over and over again. Undisciplined, unfocused communication that's not (INAUDIBLE) consistent relative to the administration in terms of the secretary of state and secretary of defense and certainly not with respect to world leaders.
NAVARRO: Look, and the other aspect of what's going on here, that Donald Trump is a master of he is, forget the master of the deal, he is the master of distraction. There's a lot of wag the dog going on here. You know, we're not talking about this week. We're not talking about Paul Manafort's house getting raided in the early morning. We're not talking about the Russia investigation which is something that burrowed in Donald Trump's head and he just cannot accept. So I think a lot of this is distracting us with a very good tactic. COOPER: I talked to Former Secretary of Defense William Perry who served under President Clinton and he told me tonight about -- what he thought with the North Korea regimes end game. I just want to play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[21:10:06] WILLIAM PERRY, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: This regime is not suicidal, they're nuts, leaders of the regime, Kim Jong-un in particular, they're not seeking martyrdom, they're seeking to keep -- to have the regime survive, to keep the Kim dynasty to save, that's what they're seeking. And we should understand that that in dealing with them. They are ruthful, despotic regime. They're cruel to their own people. It's an abhorrent regime in many ways. It is what it is. And now they have an arsenal and perhaps 20 nuclear weapons and we have to take in account when we deal with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Essentially, he's saying that they are a rational actor. They're, you know, I think Tom Freeman (ph) said they're homicidal, they're not suicidal.
JENNINGS: I want to talk about something that Paul mentioned on this front, I think it's an interesting political point about the way Donald Trump talked about foreign policy in the campaign. I do think it set him apart from other Republicans. But here is the thing, the stated policy of the Trump administration is we're not seeking regime change in North Korea and what's different, what Secretary Perry just said, they have nuclear weapons. They don't even have to hit anything in the United States. Remember, if they detonate one of these things in the atmosphere, it is enough to mess up the electrical grid, airplanes and anything with a circuit board. They don't have to be that accurate. So he's dealing with heightened circumstances beyond what presidents previous had to deal with.
So, do I want war? No. Do Republicans want war? No. Do we need to be prepared to bomb these people and their missile silos back to the 15th century if they're about to fire out a nuclear weapon, damn right.
COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. I want to get the panel's take on something else. The president said today not really a military option in Venezuela. We'll get into that next.
Also coming up, the White House says the president was just being sarcastic when he said he would thank Putin for expelling hundreds of American embassy staff. Isn't the first time the White House has been using that term sarcastic to describe words the president said. Keeping them honest, ahead.
[21:15:28] COOPER: The president upped the rhetoric again from his golf resort in New Jersey this afternoon. And not just when it comes to North Korea, he's now is bringing up the possibility of military action in Venezuela.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm not going to rule a military option. We have many options for Venezuela.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just last week, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said this when Hugh Hewitt asked him about Venezuela.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGH HEWITT, HOST, SALEM RADIO NETWORK: Do you see a military intervention from any outside source?
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No, I don't think so. I think what's really required is for everyone to have one voice about the need to protect the rights and the safety of the Venezuelan people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just moments ago, Venezuela's defense minister called the president's remarks on military action in his words a crazy act. Back now with the panel.
I know Ana, you are tweeting about this earlier. It does -- I mean, critics of the president have said this plays in the hands of Maduro in Venezuela who has for a long time been talking about the U.S. trying to overthrow him.
NAVARRO: Right. I mean, Venezuela is a completely different situation, right? They are not aiming nuclear missiles at us. It's all an internal problem. I am glad that we're paying attention to what's going on in Venezuela, it has been going on for months and months and months, hundreds of people have die, opposition leaders have been jailed, what's going on there is a disgrace. They are suffering. People are practically starving in what was a very rich country. And for far too long, the international community, including the United States has sat idle by in silence watching this happen in our own hemisphere.
Now that being said, what Donald Trump said, I don't know what that means. What are we going to doing? Like what we did with Manuel Noriega in Panama and, you know, going in there and pluck him, pluck him out and bring him to a jail here. Does Maduro need to go? Yes. And what we need is for the organization of American states, we need for the United Nations, we need for the international community to get activated, impose sanctions, be hard, we need to support the opposition and Venezuela. We need to bring light to the situation. But military action from the United States, wag the dog.
BEGALA: In fact, he got sanctions there too not international, but he get the United States sanctions for the top Maduro thugs and I completely agree of what you say about the regime. They're just appalling, and terrible human rights, terrible for the country it's great the United States finally standing up the way under President Trump. I'll praise him again. We did in the last couple of weeks.
But this notion that now we should have a military option there, this whole thing is a potential national security policy. The president says something, military options on the table, but, thank God, we never do anything, right? We're not massing troops in southern and command to go invade Venezuela. We're steaming war ships toward North Korean, wer'e not -- we're moving dependence from either of those countries or -- there's a quarter of million Americans in South Korea. We're not telling it.
So, this is what President Trump says and it's -- I think scary and maybe even crazy. And it's what the United States of America is doing and so far what we're doing all the right things, does diplomatically and what we are not yet doing militarily.
COOPER: -- a schism between what the president says and what the government is actually doing, I mean, --
BEGALA: Don't mind what he said. He's only the president.
NAVARRO: Which is very, you know, it's a very significant. Because at what point does he become the boy who cried wolf. If, you know, there is no such thing as military action, if there is no such thing as action against North Korea, and I want to say that, a lot of the sanctions that we've seen against Venezuela have actually been led by Congress. It's been people like Senator Marco Rubio, and people like Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Trump has endorsed them --
JENNINGS: He's not the boy who cried wolf. Remember, let's now forger it was just a few weeks ago he fired 50 some cruise missiles in the Syria. He proved that he's willing to take action when he feels like it's warranted. I don't think we're going to have military action in Venezuela but I'm not sure it's a idea for the commander and chief to take it off the table right out of the gate. I agree with everything both of you all said about Venezuela, but I don't think you can leave -- I don t think it's wrong to leave something on the table but not necessarily make it your first, second or thirst option.
NAVARRO: But, you know what, to Paul's point earlier on where, you know, and to your point were you saying we're not doing regime change, that's exactly what he's proposing to do in Venezuela which is completely and consistent with what he said in the campaign. I want regime change in Venezuela. There are so many thousands of thousands in Venezuelans who are exiled in my home town in Miami right now, because what's going on in Venezuela is horrible. But what Donald Trump is saying is irresponsible.
COOPER: Even though -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
BROKS: It's one thing to take military options off the table another thing to put them (INAUDIBLE) on the table. And to speak in ways that are inconsistent with respect to Venezuela and with respect to North Korea, undermines the president's credibility in the aggregate and that's a problem with this administration. That is -- the say to speak in the undisciplined, unfocused ways on the variety of the issues and bringing up issue and inconsistent ways by the day and by the tweet. This is not presidential behavior.
[21:20:14] COOPER: It's interesting though, you know, the president has gotten a lot of criticism from reporters and particularly about not holding press conferences. We've heard, you know, we've seen him now where just taken 50 questions in the last two days alone, do you think this is some sort of a change -- I mean, and clearly seems to like it. I mean, these are not enforced, you know, forced briefings.
LOUIS: People who have reported on Trump have discovered and God bless to all the people who are stuck in, you know, a stake out at Bedminster and, you know, had no real availability and had no real hope of getting anything and they get the longest press conference since February.
He is impulsive. He does things sort of off the cuff. There was clearly no directed message that was the point of taking all of those questions. He likes to engage. It's one of the good things about being a journalist covering him, you know.
COOPER: One of the things that actually during the campaign, I always -- I mean, I would publicly sort of spoke well of him for is, being willing to sit down for a kind of a free ranging interview and he would answer questions where you could disagree or not with what he said but he would answer questions that other politicians wouldn't. I mean, remember there was a time like a gorilla got loose and got shot and somebody said, you know, what should have been done about that and he answered. Words like --
LOUIS: -- on Harambe.
COOPER: Would be like --
BEGALA: -- never forget.
COOPER: Right. Right. We've touch and been on the president's rhetoric. We'll expand the conversation next focus in the White House explanation that the president's remarks thanking Vladimir Putin for dispelling all these U.S. diplomatic personnel was sarcasm.
[21:25:03] COOPER: In more than seven decades not a single nuclear weapon has been used in combat anywhere in the world, one reason rings specially true. Tonight, as the U.S. and Soviet Union acquire weapons capable of destroying civilization. They also learned how to confront one another short of launching missiles including informal but closely (INAUDIBLE) rules of verbal engagement. Anyone of a certain age remembers the language American-Soviet leaders used. It wasn't perfect but well probably still around because it worked.
Today, whether he's aware of that legacy or not, the current president became part of it with respect to North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said and what I said is what I mean. So hopefully they'll understand, Peter, exactly what I said and the meaning of those words. Those words are very, very easy to understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: His message, he believe, is clear, self-evident, needs no interpretation. Keeping them honest, though, on the very same day that he and his advisers were telling Kim Jong-un to take the president's words utterly, literally, totally seriously, they were saying the opposite about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to thank him, because we're trying to cut down our payroll. And 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was the president yesterday appearing to thank Vladimir Putin for cutting 755 U.S. employees from the American diplomat presence in Russia.
Today, Press Secretary Sara Huckabee-Sanders said the president was being sarcastic and it's hardly the first time we've all heard the president say something, perhaps and (INAUDIBLE) only to be told later that he didn't really mean what we just heard him say. Time and time again, whether it's the president's tweets are off the cup remarks, it's left his advisers scrambling to come up with alternative explanations or excuses.
The president tweeted accusing President Obama of wiretapping him, days later his press secretary said, that because the president used quotation marks around the word wiretapped, he really meant broad surveillance not necessarily wiretapping. Of course that was one of four tweets. Two using the quote marks, two not. Meaning perhaps he only half meant it, who knows.
Then there's this, just recently in front of police officers the president made remarks on use of force that caused controversy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said please don't be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you are protecting their head. You know. The way you put your hand -- like don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody. Don't hit their head. I said you could take the hand away, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All this time the White House said the president was only joking. In big ways and small from the president on down during the campaign as well as his presidency, the message has been the president does not always mean what the words coming out of his mouth might indicate or as one surrogate thinks put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER THIEL, VENTURE CAPITALIST: You know, the media always is taking Trump literally, they never take him seriously but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who voted for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It clearly, served candidate Trump well may served President Trump well in certain respect, however the time when the lives of millions of people in South Korea and North Korea, Japan, Guam, American service members, Chinese, all depend on Kim Jong-un taking the president both seriously and literally is now really the best time for the president to be less than clear and straightforward about everything he says. And just to come full circle on the remarks, the sarcastic remarks about Putin, the president weighed in again on that this evening and as you might notice reopened the door the idea that maybe he wasn't kidding after all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President were you being sarcastic when you tanked Vladimir Putin for expelling 755 diplomats from Russia?
TRUMP: In order to reduce our payroll, absolutely. I think you know that. And we'll see, and in fact I was just speaking to the secretary and we're talking about coming up with an answer when Rex tell me.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: By September 1st.
TRUMP: By September 1st we'll have a response, but we have reduced payroll substantially, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Back now with the panel. Joining is -- also Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio. Michael, just in your turns with Donald Trump as a civilian, I mean, is sarcasm something or humor something you heard a lot from the president?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well humor, no. He's not the kind of person who actually tells a joke because you have to have empathy for the people listening and he doesn't have much empathy for people listening. So jokes are sort of beyond him. But sarcasm is sort of his forte. He's often very sarcastic. It's a way of cutting someone down and using a sort of bitter rhetoric to make a point.
But it also allows him to declare what he really meant after the facts. So he can say something see how it goes over, if it goes over well then it was serious and if it doesn't go over well, well I was only kidding. It was only sarcastic. It's sort of like the guy who goes out with his wife and said a cutting remark about her dress and then on the way home, says well I was only kidding. I really love your dress, you know. He can have it both ways and every which way by doing this.
[21:30:08] COOPER: Is it -- I mean, obviously when you are president, every word you say is parsed. It doesn't seem like, though, he is adjusting at all to that. I mean, it's sort of the same way of communicating and same way of talking which, obviously, worked very well throughout his life and during the campaign. But in a situation like this, the stakes are high.
BEGALA: That's right. Selling timeshares in a condo is one thing. And even running for president is one thing. It is all about big promises and God knows every politicians puffs and inflates when they're campaigning. I get that.
But when you are commander-in-chief of 1.4 million people under arms, when you have 4,000 nuclear weapons at your sole command, you better be really careful about your words, especially about those forces. I think it should be about everything but can we at least get him on the forces, he has around him some of the best generals our country has produced, he's got General Dunford, a Marine General who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he's got General Mattis at the Pentagon, he's got now General Kelly as his chief of staff, he's got General Herbert McMaster from the army as his national security adviser. Surely those are telling him, sir, when you're talking about our world, we you're talking about putting our troops in danger, you be very, very careful with what you say.
COOPER: It's interesting because General Mattis made remarks the other day and he said, look, talking about war you don't need to use other words. Everyone knows the reality of it.
CROOKS: Listen, the problem with this administration is the example being set at the very top. Let's note this that the president has used irresponsible rhetoric with respect to the military. He tweets a transgender ban and puts servicemen and women in fear of losing their careers and their ability to defend this country. He uses loose and irresponsible rhetoric with respect to the state department. The same week our state department, our ambassadorial staff in Cuba is subject to Islamic attack, he is speaking irresponsibly with respect to those who are serving in Russia.
He speaks irresponsibly with respect to the North Koreans in terms of tweeting and asserting threats that are not really threats and might be threats. He needs to clarify as to whether or not they are threats. The fact of the matter is, he is no longer a reality T.V. star. He is our president. Meaning he has a responsibility to those in uniform, his responsibility for those in the state department and most importantly he has responsibility to the citizens and the constitution. And that demands a certain level of seriousness and thoughtfulness.
NAVARRO: And also consistency. There's going to come a time in this country where, it's not if but when, there's going to be a natural disaster, there's going to be a man made disaster where we are going to need to hear from our president and we need to believe what he is saying. Credibility man matters.
If he wants to be funny, he can go to the White House correspondents dinner and try to be funny, but he wants to be funny got to late night, but being funny about diplomats, U.S. diplomats getting expelled from Russia does not pass the smell test, should not allowed, should not be justified, and should not be explained away as a lame attempt at humor by president of the United States.
JENNINGS: Yes, this was probably around burgundy moment for the president here. Milk was a bad choice. This is not a great time for joke and not a great subject matter for a joke. I picked up on the sarcasm. I think a lot of folks pick up on the sarcasm. But it's not the right topic. I know a lot of diplomat serving overseas, some political, some are in the career foreign service. They put themselves in harm's way. They love their jobs. They love their country. So it was a joke at a wrong time. I take the White House at its word. I take the president at his word that this is sarcasm, but sometimes sarcasm isn't warranted and this is probably one of those cases.
LOUIS: The problem with a lot of rhetoric is not just what's said, but what is not said, right? So unlike past presidents, we don't hear this president speaking the names of dissidents who are rotting away in prisons around the world, you know. The victims of Russian regime, victims of the Venezuela regime for that matter, victims of the North Korea regime. When does he start to sort of say their names, speak out on behalf of human rights, on human dignity, things that (INAUDIBLE) was always very good at whether you liked his politics or not.
It has a huge impact for somebody who is in complete obscurity, hoping that the leader of the free world, hoping that somebody in the outside world with a megaphone and with some power to do something is going to speak up for them.
You know, so while we're trying to sort of pars whether or not he really means to start a war or not start a war, whether he means to sort of excuse an outrageous breach of protocol by firing 755 diplomats, there's a lot more that can be done but we can never get there as long as we create this special space for Donald Trump.
COOPER: But it is --
NAVARRO: If it was sarcasm, then today he had yet another opportunity to condemn the act.
[21:35:03] COOPER: But it is interesting --
NAVARRO: To condemn what Putin did. COOPER: -- that the day after, you know, or he said that and then the White House described it as sarcasm. They do announce that they're going to come up with a policy on September 1st of how to respond to what Vladimir Putin did which is, you know, if this happened days ago, you would think they could have said something much earlier of we're going to come up with a policy.
NAVARRO: And it would be nice for once to hear Donald Trump condemn what Vladimir Putin is doing instead of -- which you see so easily does against McConnell or Lisa Murkowski.
COOPER: We're going to talk about --
COOPER: -- more include some breaking news. a phone call between the president and the governor of Guam. We'll bring that to you.
Also, the one sided feud between President Trump and Senator McConnell continues. I'll speak to a former Senate majority leader for his take. Is the president being strategic here or bombastic?
COOPER: We've just gotten in video of a phone call between the president and the governor of Guam, Eddie Baza Calvo. It took place within the last hour or so. Chief of Staff Kelly on the line as well. Here's a portion of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are with you a thousand percent. You are safe. We are with you a thousand percent and I want to call you and say hello. How are you?
EDDIE BAZA CALVO, GOVERNOR OF GUAM: Mr. President, as the governor of Guam, representing the people of Guam, and as an American citizen, I have never felt more safe or so confidence with you at the helm. So with all of the criticism going over there from a guy that's being targeted, we need a president like you so I'm just so thankful and I'm glad you are holding the helm, sir.
[21:40:10] TRUMP: Well we're going to do a great job. You don't worry about a thing and they should have had me eight years ago, somebody with my thought process, because that was the time. And frankly, you could have said that for the last three presidents. But you're going to be taking care -- Eddie, I have to tell you, become extremely famous. All over the world they are talking about Guam and they're talking about you. And I think, tourism, I can say this, your tourism is going to go up like tenfold with the expenditure of no money, so I congratulate you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Back now with the panel. So clearly, I mean, you know, there is this red line about Guam. Really, I guess set for Tuesday when -- that's when North Korea said that they were going to fire missile or potentially fire missiles to Guam.
BEGALA: And toward. They didn't say they were going to incinerate Guam. And for all those talk, I don't know what our position is, what's the United States going to do. The president said if they threaten and as you pointed out, he even means simply verbally threaten. We're going to rain "fire and fury" upon them. Well they have threatened again and again and again.
COOPER: Well now it is Kim Jong-un himself threatens.
BEGALA: Which I find interesting. Over there Kim has his generals say the really bellicose things and now he's holding back, so I think actually a better communication strategy, then our president being the bad-cop and the generals being the good the same once beneath him.
COOPER: But politically, I mean, to Ana's point earlier. Doesn't that -- I mean, there's an argument you mad that it helps the president, you know, look strong and for the people, you know, the people rallying around the president.
BEGALA: Yes, I have a different view of his base. They are isolationist type, a lot of people who put him over the top. They didn't want America to police the world and I saw Donald Trump go to South Carolina primary and say to Jeb Bush's face, your brother did not keep us safe.
NAVARRO: Please don't remind me about the primary.
BEGALA: But that was heresy -- and he won South Carolina the next day in landslide. So, there's -- he go elected I think in part on isolationist type of message not on --
COOPER: Although it's different. I mean, you can still have an isolationist message if you believe the United States is being threatened by the potential for nuclear ballistic, intercontinental ballistic missiles from North Korea.
NAVARRO: And don't forget the anti-Obama aspect here, this is Obama's fault, because this is what Obama did. I'm doing something completely different. That plays very, very well with the Republicans.
JENNINGS: Isolationism, to your point, is about not policing the rest of the world. Guam is us. We are Guam. They are Americans. This is our people. We have military facilities there. We have thousands of soldiers there. They have a governor who is a proud American citizen. So I don't view ignoring Guam as viable because any attack on Guam is an attack on United States of America.
BEGALA: Of course it is.
JENNINGS: So I think his base would actually understand that and not default -- BEGALA: Just for the record, Guam was threatened after the president
said if you make any more threats I'll incinerate your country, OK? This didn't begin with Guam. It began with North Korea testing missiles, most importantly, and apparently now having the capability of a war head. But then our president then starting to say if you even threaten, I will incinerate you which I think is too bellicose for most Americans.
BROOKS: Note this that the president has drawn a red, purple, pink line relative to North Korea. But he's also drawn a red line relative to his predecessors. So in other words, he said relative to President Bush, and President Obama. I'm not going to do what they did. Not defining what he will do. This is again dangerous, irresponsible, undisciplined rhetoric by our commander-in-chief. He has that -- literally have one message, it is focus, it is tight, it is consistent across the administration and that we haven't seen that.
COOPER: When we comeback the fight between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican senators throwing support behind their party's majority leader, the president not backing down.
[21:47:56] COOPER: For the third day in a row the president went after the Senate Majority Leader of his party Senator Mitch McConnell. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: People have been talking about repeal and replace for seven years, long before I ever decided to be doing what I'm doing. Seven years they've been talking repeal and replace, and it didn't happen. And not only it didn't happen, it was a surprise, and it was a horrible surprise. And it was very unfair to the Republican Party and very unfair to the people of this country. So I was not impressed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The strategy doesn't seem to be working so well for the president. Already high ranking GOP members are speaking out in support of McConnell while the senator himself is not taking the bait and said he's sticking with no comment. Earlier, I spoke to Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell who is also friend of Mitch McConnell for his take on all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Sir Mitchell, as a Former Senate Majority Leader yourself, when you hear the president publicly attack Mitch McConnell now for the third straight day. I'm wondering what goes through your mind? Does it make sense?
GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, 1989-1995: I think it's unfair and unwise. Think for a moment of what Senator McConnell did. He persuaded 96 percent of the Republicans in the Senate to vote for a bill that had the support of only 17 percent of the American people. A bill that was so bad that some of the Republicans who voted for it denounced it in advance, and other Republicans who voted for it insisted that they be assured in advance that it would not become law before they voted for it. And yet, he got 49 out of 52 votes. I think that's rather extraordinary. I don't think it was the manager that was the problem, it was the message, the substance of the bill that was advanced in the Senate and in the House, it would just be disastrous for the American people if they were enacted in law.
And so I think the president action first misplaces the blame and secondly makes it harder for the president in the future because that vote in the Senate reflects, I think, in part, a support for Senator McConnell within his caucus.
[21:50:10] COOPER: Is there a strategy, though, from the president's standpoint in criticizing McConnell. You know, does it help him with the people who elected him? Does it help him with his base to show that or to try to create some distance between himself and, you know, historically unpopular Congress?
MITCHELL: Well I'm unable to discern any strategy that would be helpful to the president in this regard except the one of avoiding responsibility for any failure and pinning it on someone else. But I think it's a real mistake to antagonize the majority leader especially since as I said, Senator McConnell, I think, through his tactics and approach achieved a truly remarkable of getting 49 out of 52 senators who vote for one of the worst bills that's been presented in Congress in recent years. I don't agree with Senator McConnell's politics but I think he himself representing the cause of the Republican Party and the administration has done a very good job tactically.
COOPER: What is the strategic danger for the president in doing this, and in speaking, you know, ill of the McConnell, going after and day after day after day? I mean, I'm sure in the past not all presidents and their majority leaders have gotten along privately.
MITCHELL: This is, I think, uncharted territory, Anderson. I'm not sure how it will turn out. Senator McConnell hasn't said much in recent days. But he's bound to be antagonized by this and it can't possibly help him at home. I think it will anger some of his colleagues. Many of whom have rushed out to support him to express their support for him. They'll make calculations on their own future but I can't see how this can possibly help the president in the difficult legislative struggles that are ahead. He still has got health care, he's got infrastructure, he's got tax reform, he's got a whole range of issues that confront him and I would think he'd want to take steps now to modify his criticism with the Senate majority leader because I don't think he's going to be able to replace him.
COOPER: Senator McConnell, I know paid you a compliment once, saying while he didn't agree with your politics he wanted to run the Senate much more like you did by treating everyone with respect and an open collegial way. Do you think he'll be able to move beyond the public jabs that he's been receiving?
MITCHELL: Yes, I do. I think he has a responsibility, not just to the president, obviously he has to the members of his caucus, but everyone has a higher responsibility to the country, to the constitution. And I think, I know Senator McConnell pretty very well, I regard him as a friend, although as I said I don't agree with much of his politics nor he with mine. I think he'll be able to rise above it and still move forward on the legislation that they have, but it's bound to have an effect with him and with his colleagues. And it also poses a risk in the House. One of the House leaders see when they observe this in the Senate. Anything goes wrong, they are going to get the blame.
COOPER: Senator Mitchell, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
MITCHELL: Thanks for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We have more breaking news tonight. In Venezuela, the story accelerating tonight in the wake of the president's marks mentioning that U.S. the military action there was possible. The White House saying that Venezuelan President Maduro has requested a phone call with President Trump and the White House has responded this way, "President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country." And back now with the panel.
Scott, do you see that as --
JENNINGS: We just sat out here a few minutes ago and everybody but me sort of poo pooed the idea that the military option should be let on the table and state (INAUDIBLE) president and look what happened. He leaves the military option on the table and the president of Venezuela freaks out and calls the White House. I'd say the president's work -- results today.
NAVARRO: He wasn't -- Maduro was not freaking out. Maduro was calling the White Housse -- by the way, that was a perfect response from the White House. Maduro was not freaking out. He was calling the White House to stage a publicity stunt, to do what Anderson said at the beginning which is that this helps him say, you know, we are the imperialist pigs against us, that's the message, he was doing a publicity stunt.
JENNINGS: He got stiff armed from Donald Trump.
BEGALA: He got a gift. Maduro is a thug and an autocrat and now he's a dictator and the one thing he needs is the great American colonial power. Their currency is called a bolivar, OK. They are about standing up against imperialism and now for the president who should be standing for democracy, he's actually, probably unintentionally, bolstering Maduro by giving him an external threat to rally his country against.
NAVARRO: Now that being said the White House has response is --
BEGALA: Very good. Yes.
NAVARRO: We should not be talking to -- COOPER: There's also obviously a history here of U.S. intervention in
the region which obviously resonates with some people in Venezuela very strongly.
NAVARRO: Listen, we saw it Nicaragua, we've seen in Central America so many times, in Panama, you know, this has happened in Grenada, this has happened over and over --
BEGALA: Into Republic (ph) --
[21:55:01] NAVARRO: Right.
COOPER: Do you think the president continues to talk about Venezuela? I mean, is this a subject you expect to hear, because we haven't heard much from him on this.
BEGALA: Does he know where it is? He says very close to our neighbors. Well, it is 2,000 miles -- I guess global sense, maybe that's kind of in the neighborhood, but 2,000 miles a big neighborhood.
LOUIS: It's also -- one more opportunity to sort of remind everybody that we don't have a coherent policy. We didn't hear one for this hemisphere and didn't hear it during the campaign. We're not hearing it now. He's talks about Venezuela but, you know, clearly there's a need to sort of rally the region to talk to our allies in the region and have a different kind of conversation.
At this point, we're building a wall with Mexico. We're restricting travel to Cuba, we're threatening military intervention in Venezuela, what ties it together other than a series of statements from the president.
COOPER: We got to take a break. More news ahead, we'll be right back.
COOPER: That's it for us. The "CNN Special Report: Why Trump Won" starts now.