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Trump Warns North Korea: U.S. Military "Locked And Loaded"; Russia: Working With China To Prevent North Korea/U.S. Conflict; North Korean Missile Would Reach Guam In 14 Minutes; Trump: "China Can Do A Lot More" To Rein In North Korea; What We Learned From Trump's Q And A Sessions; Trump Thanks Putin For Kicking Out U.S. Diplomatic Staff; Interview with Rep. Eliot Engle (D-NY). Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2017 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Locked and loaded, President Trump and North Korea escalate the war of words, lobbying new threats and sending new tweets.

North Korea now accusing the president of the United States of pushing the world to, quote, "the brink of nuclear war" and the world is, indeed, taking notice. This morning, we learn that both Russia and Japan are scrambling to deploy their air defense systems and China is now calling on the U.S. and North Korea to calm things down.

No signs of that yet. President Trump tweeting out this already today, "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong-un will find another path."

Let's get the very latest from here and from abroad this morning. CNN's Will Ripley is in Beijing. Sara Murray is traveling with the president in New Jersey. First, Sara, to you, with the president starting the day off like this, what else should we be expecting today from the president?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, certainly, the president is not looking to soften his tone when it comes to North Korea. It's interesting, there was a White House official this morning that was sort of trying to down play the president's language almost saying that this is not new.

That the U.S. always has a military option ready for any sort of international crisis. But of course, Kate, it is new to see a president boasting about U.S. military might at a time when tensions are rising with a nuclear power like North Korea.

Now today, the president will be hunkered down again here in New Jersey. He does have some high-level national security meeting. He is meeting with Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations.

We've also learned that Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, will also be there for that meeting as well as the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Now this is a fascinating meeting because Tillerson and Haley have really taken the lead on trying to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis in North Korea.

Obviously, we've heard a lot from Trump on the military side of that. He's been more pessimistic about the odds of a diplomatic resolution being successful. We will see if that tone changes in any way after this meeting.

Right now, we are expecting it all to be behind closed doors. But obviously, President Trump was perfectly game to talk to the press yesterday. We'll see if he adopts that again today.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. His choice of words, his tone will be very key coming out of this stuff. Great to see you, Sara. Thank you so much.

Let's go over to Beijing right now with Will Ripley. So, Will, China is now responding to all of this and also these reports that Russia and China are working together on a plan to slow things down. What are you hearing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This isn't really a new plan, Kate. What Russia's foreign minister said in the past few hours is that he wants the United States to freeze its joint military exercises happening this month, regularly scheduled.

He wants them to freeze their joint military exercises with South Korea in change for North Korea agreeing to freeze its missile and nuclear program, this is something that China and Russia have been calling for, for a long time.

And it's always been a non-starter. The U.S. is bound by treaty to work with South Korea on defense, and they say they can't. They have to train together in order to make sure that they are ready for an eventual conflict and of course, North Korea has given no signs that they are willing to slow down at all their missile testing.

China also calling for caution in this situation, telling the U.S. that if North Korea fires the first shot that they will stay out of it. They will remain neutral. The U.S. is on their own.

China, in an editorial from a state-run tabloid, "The Global Times," saying that if the United States and South Korea were to launch a preemptive attack that this editorial encouraged the Chinese government to get involved.

This indicates that at least some more hawkish factions of the Chinese government may actually advocate to try to fight against any perceived U.S. attempts at regime change, which would change the whole political dynamic on the peninsula.

So, also, we have these new statements coming out from North Korea. I'm going to read you a portion of it. It says, quote, "Trump is driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war making such outcries as the U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK."

I'm going to read you to the second statement as well. "All of these facts go to prove that the U.S. is, indeed, the master mind of the nuclear threat, the heinous, nuclear war fanatic."

These are strong words, Kate, but I have to tell you, I'm a bit reassured to read these statements after President Trump's remarks yesterday because what we didn't see is North Korea laying out more details about this plan to simultaneously launch missiles towards Guam.

It doesn't mean it won't happen because they say they are putting together a plan to present to Kim Jong-un. Action do speak louder than words. But at least the North Korean rhetoric is now more familiar.

This is what we are used to hearing from North Korea. It doesn't seem like they are ratcheting it up to a higher level at least at this point.

BOLDUAN: That is a statement that is more familiar in your (inaudible) and the fact we are hearing new plans on how to attack Guam. Great to see you, Will. Thank you so much. Always great to see you.

All right, so 14 minutes, it is the ominous headline right now of Guam's "Pacific Daily News." That's how long it's expected to take a North Korean missile to reach the U.S. territory.

[11:05:02] It's also a razor thin window, of course, then for the U.S. military to try and intercept those missiles.

For more on this crisis, I want to bring in right now, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, a former assistant secretary of state for political military affairs under President George W. Bush, Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA North Korea analyst and former White House official under President Bush.

All right. There's many elements to get to in what's happened overnight. But first, I want to get to the statement that Will was just reading coming from North Korea. You have Trump saying his warning should have been even tougher, maybe it wasn't tough enough.

And then you have the statement from North Korea that saying President Trump is the one driving the situation on the peninsula to the brink of nuclear war. Will Ripley says he sees some comfort and gets some comfort in that. Does the statement from North Korea indicate anything, anything different?

SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA NORTH KOREA ANALYST: Well, I agree with him. I think there's some comforting that they didn't reiterate hitting Guam. I don't think North Korea will because Kim Jong-un is all about regime survival.

They are acquiring nuclear weapons so they can survive. So, they are not going to attack Guam when they know it is going to lead to the end to the regime and his personal death. So, I'm comforted to some degree.

BOLDUAN: To some degree. So, General, the other element, it's a huge part of this is China and China's role. Here is what the president said. China has put out a statement, but the president also spoke about China's role in all this and he spoke about it yesterday. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think China can do a lot more and I think China will do a lot more. Look, we have trade with China. We lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. They know how I feel. It's not going to continue like that.


BOLDUAN: China's response today, essentially, they want to try both sides to try to calm things down. What can China do, General, to calm things down?

BRIG. GENERAL MARK KIMMITT, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL MILITARY AFFAIRS: Well, I think the important thing to recognize is China really has been the most irresponsible actor in this entire conflict. For years and years, everyone has known that Korea will do what the Chinese say.

We have reached out to the Chinese repeatedly to calm the things down in the region and they have been irresponsible in many ways complicit to what we are seeing. But I think now, with the kind of tone that we are hearing coming out of the president, the Chinese are starting to realize that they can't sit back.

They have to influence this process. They have to influence Kim in order to calm things down. The last thing the Chinese want are millions of North Koreans coming into their country and they also don't want to see the South Koreans and Americans on the Yellow River again.

So, they have great interest in making sure that this calms down and they and they alone are the ones who have the best chance of doing this.

BOLDUAN: It sure seems like it. Sue, I'm hearing folks once again say when it comes to President Trump, when he used the fire and fury, when he uses that language to take him seriously, but not to take him literally. Do you think Kim Jong-un sees that nuance?

TERRY: I don't think he is going to see that nuance. I think he's a paranoid man and thinks the United States is out to get him. So, I think this kind of rhetoric coming out of the Trump administration and the president himself I think increases his paranoia.

The South Koreans, by the way, are very concerned too. They are not only concerned about Kim Jong-un because they are used to living with that threat, but they are wondering about what Mr. Trump is going to do.

BOLDUAN: To get exactly to that point, General, what we have heard from the president this morning, his tweet where he says that military solutions are fully in place and locked and loaded. What are those options beyond the obvious of complete annihilation?

KIMMITT: Well, first of all, those plans have always been locked and loaded. We have a commander in that region who spends every day worrying about whether a war is going to break out. There are a lot of conventional options. I think this notion of a nuclear threat to North Korea is ridiculous.

We know that we would end up killing more South Koreans from the fallout from the use of nuclear weapons particularly since the wind comes from the North. So, there are tremendous number of options either going against their conventional land forces or going against their nuclear sites.

But like Sue Mi, I don't think that we are heading down to war anytime soon as long as the North Koreans don't fire those missiles at Guam. We have to reassure as Sue Mi said, Kim that we are not seeking regime change because that's the center of gravity in all of this.

BOLDUAN: It seems to be the message coming from the secretary of state, is the administration speaking with one voice. That seems to up for debate in the last couple of days. General Kimmitt, always great to see you. Thank you so much. Sue Mi Terry, thank you. Thank you both.

So North Korea, just one topic President Trump addressed in a pretty epic question and answer session yesterday, raising eyebrows, answering more questions in one day than he has his entire presidency, all six months of it. Here is a look.


[11:10:10] PRESIDENT TRUMP: Let's see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before. Well, I tell you what. If he doesn't get repeal and replace done and if he doesn't get taxes done, then you can ask me that question.

I want to thank him because we are trying to cut down our payroll. I thought it was a very, very strong signal or whatever.

I haven't given it thought. I have been reading about it from you people. Oh, I'm going to dismiss him. No, I'm not dismissing anybody.

He's our friend. He's my friend. He's a very talented man. I like him and I respect him. It is what it is. It's fine. He's working hard on the border. I'm very proud of what we have done on the border.

The opioid crisis is an emergency. I'm saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency. When I was growing up, they had LSD and a generation of drugs. There's nothing like what's happened to this country over the last four or five years.

I have great respect for the community. I have great support or I have had great support from that community. I got a lot of votes. But the transgender in the military is working on it now. It's been a confusing issue for the military.

It's a big decision for me. I took over a mess. We are going to make it a lot less messy. You have the leaks where people want to love me and they are all fighting for love, but, actually, I'm honored by them.

Look, I won because I suppose I was a much better candidate than her. I won because I went to Wisconsin, I went to Michigan. I won Pennsylvania. I fought a smart battle. I didn't win because of Russia.

Look, I have -- nobody has greater respect for intelligence than Donald Trump. You have to have the right leaders. I think we have great leaders right now. Yeah, nuclear to me, number one, I would like to de-nuke the world.

Yes. Nuclear to me, number one, I would like to de-nuke the world.


BOLDUAN: I wasn't kidding when I said he had a lot to say. With me now is CNN political director, David Chalian. I mean, David, there is so much there. What stands out to you?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: There is so much there. Well, first of all, it just dawned on me listening to that right now. I guess there are two categories of leaks, the ones that he's honored by that are advantageous to him, and the one that he's not --

BOLDUAN: It's like polls, I like some, I done like others.

CHALIAN: What really stuck out to me first and foremost on North Korea stuff, Kate, I thought it was interesting, you heard there, what we played, the second press availability where he was tough responding to the Guam threat.

Earlier, though, he was asked about his fire and fury comment. I thought it was interesting, he wouldn't repeat the rhetoric and said that may not be tough enough. When pressed by a reporter, what's tougher than fire and fury, it's you'll see. He seemed to not want to repeat those words after he saw what the reaction was to them.

BOLDUAN: If anyone is wondering at this point, it's clear, Donald Trump saying you will see is any other politician's way of saying no comment. That's his way of avoiding answering as any politician would.

But I was also struck, David, by how he did not seem to try to hide his feelings when it came to the ongoing issues with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. CHALIAN: My God. That reaction he had, it's fine. It is what it is. I mean, it couldn't have been more dismissive. He clearly seems stuck with an attorney general he doesn't want.

He got all that blow back from Republicans on Capitol Hill and conservative media and he's stuck with him. Compare that to what he did with McMaster, he's our friend, total boast, threw his arm around him rhetorically like that. The difference of what he was doing with McMaster and Sessions was quite interesting.

BOLDUAN: And the element -- when you get to McMaster, he's been under fire from conservative media and Trump coming out saying very clearly that he has his back, Trump has his back. That's a statement.

CHALIAN: It is. It may be the strongest signal we see yet about John Kelly's influence as the new chief of staff because, well, obviously, John Kelly has a relationship with Steve Bannon that goes back.

And this McMaster moment, we believe and have learned that John Kelly really wanted to get Donald Trump in a good place with McMaster to make sure that his position was secure as the national security chief in the White House.

[11:15:05] BOLDUAN: And speaking of formers, the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, we had been told that there's going to be no comment on the Russian investigation coming from the president, White House. He had a lot to say about Paul Manafort. What do you think the message was?

CHALIAN: Remember that rule, all those questions are going to be answered by outside counsel. That doesn't seem to be holding still. Listen, he seems to want to indicate to Paul Manafort that he's not throwing him under the bus.

He kind of wants to make sure he knows, that was tough what the FBI did while at the same time trying to distance himself and almost acting like he barely knew who he was. He was there such a short time.

You'll remember when Sean Spicer back at the podium was like, he was in and out. The guy was the chairman of the campaign during a critical moment of the campaign. You heard the president want to distance himself, yet, acknowledge that he thought maybe the FBI was too tough on him with that raid.

BOLDUAN: And also remember, no matter long he was with the campaign, he was important enough that Donald Trump Jr. thought it important to bring him along with Jared Kushner to a now infamous meeting in 2016 with regard to what they thought was going to be dirt on Hillary Clinton. Just saying. Great to see you, David.

CHALIAN: You, too, Kate.

BOLDUAN: See you later. After weeks of silence, President Trump finally responds to Vladimir Putin's retaliation by thanking him for kicking out diplomats. Why? One lawmaker calls it a new low. He's going to join me to discuss.

Plus, after we've learned of an FBI raid targeting President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, well, he is hiring a new legal team. Hear why Manafort's son-in-law is now involved.

And is the president's rhetoric on North Korea going too far? Military and diplomatic consequences as the war of words just continues to escalate. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: The president raising eyebrows by thanking Vladimir Putin for expelling more than 700 diplomatic staff from the U.S. Embassy in Russia. Listen.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I want to thank him because we are trying to cut down on 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. There's no reason for them to go back. So, I greatly appreciate the fact they have been able to cut our payroll for the United States. We'll save a lot of money.


BOLDUAN: Is the -- is President Trump saying Putin spared him the trouble? Let's discuss. Democratic Congressman Eliot Engle is here, a top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, thanks for coming on.


BOLDUAN: Your reaction to President Trump's remarks?

ENGLE: I think the president was being cutesy or glib -- I think, you know, really fool around. First of all, the expulsion of our diplomats is an outrage by Putin. And secondly, we need those diplomats there.

Russia is an important place obviously. They are our adversary. For the president to make lightly on it, I think tries to trivialize it. I really just don't think it's becoming of him to act that way.

BOLDUAN: I heard folks come to the president's defense saying he was being sarcastic when he was answering that question. That's not good enough for you.

ENGLE: Well, he was being sarcastic, but you know, the president has to understand, he's president now. It's not just a matter of a show on TV, a reality show where you are hired and fired. This is something, every word he says has meaning. This is what he doesn't seem to understand. BOLDUAN: What bothers you more, that he did not take an opportunity to criticize Putin's retaliation? He did not take an opportunity to back up or speak out on behalf of U.S. employees or that he seemed to endorse something of an indirect statement that Putin helped cut some costs?

ENGLE: I think all three of those. I think first of all, the president, when it comes to the State Department has put in draconian cuts in his budget. Secretary Tillerson seems to be going along with him, cuts of up to a third. He seems to down play diplomacy.

You know, you have these people in these high positions because you need diplomacy. Diplomacy helps prevent war. The president wants to add to the defense budget and cut from the State Department. That's not something that can easily be sustained.

So, I just don't know anymore, I don't know whether it's flippant or he comes out with things. I think it's all the above actually. I don't think it's right.

BOLDUAN: Yes, but which one do you think it is? Do you think he's being flippant? Why do you think he is hesitant to criticize Vladimir Putin when that seemed a perfect opportunity?

ENGLE: Well, I think he's never criticized Vladimir Putin and none of us can really understand that. He seems to think that Vladimir Putin is a good friend to him and friend to the United States when Vladimir Putin, we know interfered in our elections and shown time and time again that he's an adversary.

I'm sorry he's an adversary. I don't think it's things that we did. He decided to become an adversary. You have to see this with your eyes wide open and the president doesn't seem to want to do that.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask about the crisis facing the country right now on North Korea. The country put out a statement saying that President Trump is pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war. Is President Trump driving this or North Korea?

ENGLE: I think both. You know, you would expect better from the United States. We are not North Korea, thank God. I have been in North Korea twice. We wouldn't want to be North Korea, believe me.

The president has to act like the president of the United States. When you hear words come out of his mouth, it seems like they could come out of the mouth of Kim Kong-un. That's not what we want.

So, what we need to do is try to tamper down this crisis. We need to use diplomacy, behind the scenes, quiet, the way President Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

BOLDUAN: But you have been highly critical of the president's remarks on this issue, of course. As the president has said, there have been 30 years of bipartisan failure in getting North Korea to stop, stop moving where they are right now. Why not try a different path? [11:25:06] ENGLE: Well, I think that there has been failure, but you don't substitute failure with rhetoric that will guarantee there to be failure. You don't play games and sort of dance on the line of nuclear war. I mean, if there have been mistakes made in the past under all administrations. It's true.

The mistakes that nobody made, but that Trump is making is making the rhetoric, turning up the volume on the rhetoric. We need behind the scenes, quiet diplomacy. We may not like China, but we need them to help us.

We may not like other countries, but we need them to help us and the rhetoric has to be toned down or toned up. Trump made the situation worse by making cutesy remarks about this, and then kind of laughing about it. This is no laughing matter. The president of the United States, in my opinion, should know better.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you. Thank you for coming in. I really appreciate your time.

ENGLE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Also, new for us this morning, as the president says the raid on Paul Manafort's home sends a, quote, "strong signal." We are now learning that Paul Manafort's son-in-law is involved in the investigation. We'll explain why.

Plus, the president says he is doing the military a great favor by banning all transgender people from serving in any role in the U.S. military. Do Republican lawmakers agree? I will ask one. We'll be right back.