Return to Transcripts main page


Tensions Continue with Korea; Trump Provides Support to Guam; Suki Kim Shares Insights of Students in Korea; Tensions in Charlottesville, Virginia, Surrounding Removal of Confederate General Statue; Swift Dismissed from DJ's Suit; China Urges Trump To Tone Down North Korea Rhetoric; Trump: If Kim Utters One Threat, He Will Regret It; Japan Begins Deployment Of Missile Interceptors; Trump To Guam Governor: "We Are With You 1000 Percent"; North Korea To Trump: Be Prudent Or Face "Tragic Doom"; Trump Won't Rule Out Military Option For Venezuela. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 12, 2017 - 08:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- still has yet to be determined so keep a close eye and we'll have the forecast for you in the next couple of days.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks for the glasses.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump issuing an ominous warning to North Korea's leader and to the world.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This man will not get away with what he's doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's drawing red lines, but he's also acting like a child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have tried to hamper North Korea for the last 20 years and it got us nowhere.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have many options for Venezuela. I'm not going to rule out a military option.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president may have played directly into the hands of the Venezuelan president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What place do confederate monuments like this one have in today's world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The statue itself is symbolic of a lot of larger issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want there to be violence. We don't want there to be conflict. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Good morning to you. I want to tell you about a new threat this morning from North Korean media warning President Trump to, quote, "be prudent" or America will face, quote, "tragic doom." No response from President Trump just yet, who was urged by China to restrain or to use restraint as nuclear tensions escalate.

BLACKWELL: This was a call overnight. President Trump initially called President Xi last night to pressure him on trade. He wanted to warn Xi that a U.S. investigation into China's practices can soon start, maybe as soon as Monday, but Xi then shifted the conversation to pressure President Trump to tone down threats like this one.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: If anything happens to Guam, there's going to be big, big trouble in North Korea.


PAUL: Japan is now ready to respond. Massive missile interceptors are now in place we're told should North Korea make good on their threat to strike Guam.

BLACKWELL: Let's the North Korea threat aside for just a moment, President Trump is also signaling a possible military intervention in Venezuela. Officials there are calling President Trump's warning, quote, "cowardly, insolent and vile."


PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have many options for Venezuela. By the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela.


BLACKWELL: We, of course, are covering all angles from around the world, in Hongkong, Tokyo, Guam, and with the president in New Jersey. Let's start with China with David McKenzie and that phone call between President Trump and President Xi -- David.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. Yes. The tension is high and China wants to ease that tension. In that phone call between the president of China, Xi Jinping and President Trump, it seems like the Chinese president was trying to calm things down, saying that all sides need to ease off that rhetoric and restrain themselves.

Perhaps a pointed message to President Trump, who many see in the region at least, ratcheting up that tension through the week. You also had this pointed message coming from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China saying that the Chinese side hopes all relevant parties speak and act with caution. And do more things that are conducive to de-escalating the tense situation and enhancing mutual trust amongst parties rather than relapsing into the old path of showing assertiveness and escalating tensions.

You know, the Chinese generally put out very kind of boilerplate statements, but this is clearly pointed at both the U.S. and the North Koreans who, as you say, just recently put out another very threatening statement on state media -- Christi, Victor.

PAUL: David McKenzie, we appreciate it. David, thank you.

BLACKWELL: So as we heard, President Xi is asking both sides to tone it down, exercise some restraint here, but President Trump is really showing no signs of toning down his rhetoric on North Korea.

Let's go now to CNN politics reporter, Dan Merica at Bridgewater, New Jersey, near the president's golf resort. So what is the president saying about North Korea now and this call with the Chinese president?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Good morning, Victor. That's right. North Korea has all but dominated President Trump's working vacation here in the suburban New York City and New Jersey private golf club nearby.

President Trump has doubled and then tripled down on his threats against North Korea and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, saying initially on Tuesday that fire and fury would be set upon North Korea if the threats continued and then later saying that that threat wasn't even strong enough.

Yesterday during a really free-wheeling question-and-answer session with reporters, President Trump said this about North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: And if he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat, which by the way, he has been uttering for years.

[08:05:04] And his family has been uttering for years, or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.


MERICA: So while China may be asking let's cool tensions down, that certainly wasn't what President Trump did yesterday, that bellicose rhetoric that he's been using throughout these tensions has continued.

What we saw yesterday was some pretty strategic shifts. President Trump took over 50 questions from reporters over the last 48 hours. That's a huge break from earlier in his administration.

And then as you mentioned that call with President Xi Jinping, he notified President Xi that a trade investigation would be started into Chinese trade practices, particularly on intellectual property rights.

That's something he promised to do during the campaign, but it could complicate things if this North Korea -- if these North Korean tensions continue and China is called upon to maybe play a mediating role.

BLACKWELL: You know, the president again tying those two things together, often saying China will get a better trade deal if they help with the North Korean threat. David McKenzie and Dan Merica, thank you both.

PAUL: Right now some of Japan's missile interceptors are arriving at three different bases. Japanese leaders say this is a precautionary measure if North Korea were to launch a missile toward Guam, it would fly over Japan.

CNN senior national correspondent, Kyung Lah, is in Tokyo right now. So, Kyung, talk to us about these interceptors that we're seeing this morning.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The way they are built and what they're designed to do, Christi, is to basically shoot down anything that's heading towards you. So, the reason why these particular interceptor missiles, and they are ground based interceptor missiles.

They have been moved from military bases in Central Japan specifically to the regions that were called out by North Korea in that threat to Guam. So those particular regions are now seeing those interceptors being assembled.

The last one being assembled sometime over the weekend. We are also hearing from Japan's prime minister who pledged that he would do everything he could to protect the safety of the Japanese people so this is a very visible, defensive sign that what Japan wants to do is make sure that the homeland here is protected.

We do need to clarify that this would not stop any sort of intermediate range missile that would be heading to Guam. This would, though, protect Japan. Japan has had these interceptors since the late '90s. The reason why is specifically North Korea and the number of threats that Japan has seen as far as those missiles flying overhead -- Christi.

PAUL: Sure. A lot has been said about the rhetoric between North Korea and President Trump. President Trump says his allies are pleased with what they're hearing from him. Is Japan -- what is Japan's leadership saying?

LAH: Pleased might be something you hear at a different occasion out of Japan. What you are hearing from Japanese leaders is a pledge to protect the people. You're hearing from the defense minister that they would try to make sure that all of the citizens of this country do remain safe even with this cloud of North Korea.

We do know there is a very close relationship between Japan's prime minister and the United States. This is a military -- the two militaries working together that work as a shield and a sphere.

That's something that has been in place since World War II, but what you're hearing from people here is not necessarily pleasure. No one likes to hear these words going back and forth and the risk of a miscalculation ratcheting up -- Christi, Victor.

PAUL: All right, Kyung Lah, thank you so much. Good to see you.

BLACKWELL: North Korea has threatened to strike the tiny island, the U.S. territory of Guam. But President Trump has assured the governor that the public there, the people who live there are safe.

For more on that, let's go to CNN correspondent, Martin Savidge, who is there in Guam. Martin, we're hearing from the president. We're hearing from the governor saying that the people are safe. What are the people saying? Are they as certain as these leaders?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The people here are worried. I mean, there is a background level here of concern and that's very obvious when you have conversations or whether you just watch the news.

We should point out that of course Guam is at the center of it all here in a very unique and potentially precarious position. Number one, it's the target, could be the target of North Korea and yet at the same time it could also be the tip of the spear of any kind of U.S. military response.

So, it carries both of those burdens, you could say, on its shoulders. The governor, who is the leading official on the island of this U.S. territory, has been trying to reassure the public. There's been no increase of the threat level on the island.

And the U.S. military says that they have not increased their level of alertness in any way even though the B-1 bombers are all staged and they are, as they always say, ready to fight tonight if the president were to order that.

[08:10:11] So you've got this kind of odd duality going on and you can see how that could literally mess with people's heads here. There was a conversation that was held between the president of the United States and the governor of Guam. Here's a bit of it.


PRESIDENT TRUMP (via telephone): We are with you a thousand percent. You are safe. We are with you a thousand percent and I wanted to call you and say hello. How are you?

EDDIE BAZA CALVO, GUAM GOVERNOR: 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 confident with you at the helm.

So, with all the criticism going on 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're holding the helm, sir. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Now, that may sound a bit light-hearted given the seriousness of the situation, but it does go a long way to reassure the Americans that are here and the vast majority on this island are American citizens, that the United States mainland has their back, as it were.

But at the same time as they're trying to call people down here, you have the warning that comes out both from the civil defense and from the media, "Missile Watch" is the main headline.

And then officials say, quote, "Do not look at the flash." That of course making a direct reference that if there's any kind of nuclear strike, don't be looking at it, you could go blind among other things.

So, it just shows you again you're on an island where everyone comes to try to get away from it all, only to find they're in the middle of it all -- Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Martin, before we let you go, there was another exchange during that call between the governor and the president in which the president discussed tourism there on the island and potential stardom for the governor. Let's talk about that. Let's listen first


PRESIDENT TRUMP (via telephone): I have to tell you, you're becoming extremely famous. All over the world they're talking about Guam and talking about you. Tourism, I can say this, your tourism, you're going to go up like tenfold with the expenditure of no money so I congratulate you. It looks beautiful. I'm watching -- they're showing so much. It's such a big story in the news. It just looks like a beautiful place.


BLACKWELL: So maybe not an exchange one would expect, considering the discussion of an attack from North Korea, but tourism very, very important to the economy there in Guam.

SAVIDGE: Absolutely. Eddie Calvo is the governor there and, yes, at times there was some laughter, which given the threat you might wonder about. But it is true that any kind of reassurance from the president, talking about tourism, has a major impact as well.

Because that's their biggest fear right now, the reality of any kind of military strike is downplayed, but the concern is that the tourists will stay away. This is an island where 60 percent of the island's income is based upon tourism.

Any kind of threat that would have tourists stay home, most of whom come from South Korea and Asia, that would have a devastating impact. So far there's no sign of that, but of course that can change quickly here. They do not want to see that happen. They need the dollars coming in from tourism, 30 percent also comes from the U.S. military presence. So again, that odd mixture of those who come to get away from it and those who are ready to fight and respond if need be.

BLACKWELL: All right, Martin Savidge live for us this morning from the tiny island of Guam. Martin, thank you.

The president surprised the Pentagon by suggesting possible military action far from North Korea. We're talking about another continent here, Venezuela and what the president there is saying about a potential U.S. intervention. How that could play right into Nicolas Maduro's narrative. We'll talk about that next with our political panel.

PAUL: Also, a journalist goes undercover in North Korea. She shares a really fascinating rare point of view in just a bit.

Also, violent clashes break out at a white nationalist march on the University of Virginia's campus. This happening just ahead of a rally planned later today in Charlottesville.




PRESIDENT TRUMP: We think that lots of good things can happen and we could also have a bad solution, but we think lots of good things can happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would be a bad solution, sir?

PRESIDENT 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?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think you know the answer to that.


BLACKWELL: That's President Trump facing reporters and drawing a line for North Korea as these nuclear tensions escalate with Kim Jong-un. North Korean media this morning is warning the president to be prudent or America will face tragic doom. The world now bracing for what could be said or done next. Some ambiguity left there by the president.

Let's talk about it. We have Jacqueline Klimas, a defense reporter for "Politico," and Kelsey Snell, congressional reporter for "The Washington Post." Good morning to you.

So, Jacqueline, let me start with you and this statement that came from the Korean central news agency, which is state-run media. "If the Trump administration does not want the American entire to meet its tragic doom, they need to be prudent on what they say and how they act."

Not here crossing the line that the president drew saying that if Kim utters one threat in the form of an overt threat, he will truly regret it. Do you think that's intentional?

JACQUELINE KLIMAS, DEFENSE REPORTER, "POLITICO": I think Trump is in a difficult situation here. Lots of people have drawn lots of comparisons to Obama drawing the red line in Syria. He's somewhat backed himself into a corner in which there are no good options.

Experts are sort of advocating for more sanctions, more negotiation, but Trump's continued rhetoric about a military option has put him in a bad situation.

[08:20:08] Where he either acts on what he says and potentially creates a very bad situation or doesn't act and faces a credibility risk.

BLACKWELL: So, the president also said in an exchange with reporters that he's not hearing these things directly from Kim Jong-un himself. The suggestion that there would be an attack on Guam or their plans came from a general.

We know that this statement came from a person who wrote an article for the state-run newspaper and it was a quote not directly from Kim. What, Kelsey, is the significance of this not coming from Kim himself? Does the president have a point here?

KELSEY SNELL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, you know, it's hard to say what we're hearing directly from Kim because it's very hard to know exactly what speaks for whom in actually both of these administrations. At least when we've seen the president come out the past day and take up to 50 questions, we know it was coming from his mouth.

But typically, if things are being filtered through aides and through generals, it is difficult to know what the intentions are of the leader, though, we do know that North Korea said that Kim will make a decision about military intervention later this month. It's possible that the Trump administration is waiting for that time before making any real firm decisions.

BLACKWELL: So, the president of China, Xi Jinping, in his call with President Trump overnight called for a ratcheting down of rhetoric here. Does this reach that -- or meet that criterion? Because we've heard bluster like this from North Korea before. It falls far short of a suggestion that there will be an attack on a U.S. territory, Jacqueline.

KLIMAS: Absolutely. Experts have been quick to point out that this isn't even the first time that Guam has been in North Korea's crosshairs. While tensions are high, none of this -- it's not like this is the first time any of this is happening. Every other time it has sort of quieted down and deescalated over time. But this is the first time the U.S. is really using this rhetoric that we are going to rain down fire and fury and then to say that even that didn't go far enough. That sort of rhetoric has drawn a lot of criticism.

BLACKWELL: Kelsey, let's go now to what the president suggested, a surprise for the Pentagon and for many others, that the U.S. is not taking a military option off the table in response to what's happening in Venezuela.

Something that H.R. McMaster said just a few days ago was not a consideration. Let's remind people of what the president-elect then in December of 2016 said about U.S. military intervention. Let's watch.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Finally, a commitment to only engage the use of military forces when it's in the vital national security interests of the United States. We don't want to have a depleted military because we're all over the place fighting in areas that just we shouldn't be fighting in.

We will stop racing to topple foreign -- and you understand this, foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn't be involved with. This destructive cycle of intervention and chaos must finally, folks, come to an end.


BLACKWELL: There may be some people who were just in the shadow of Ft. Bragg there in Fayetteville, North Carolina, who applauded those lines, who question if what the president suggested yesterday for Venezuela meets that requirement that the president said, Kelsey.

SNELL: Well, you know, I think it's very interesting that we saw Senator Ben Sasse, he was the first senator out to push against this saying that Congress isn't going to be authorizing force for Venezuela.

I think there are a number of people who feel that way, that this kind of came out of left field, but that it might just be Trump being Trump, ratcheting up the threats and kind of using force and big blustery language in hopes that other people will back down.

Now, it's unclear whether or not what his full intention was here, and we did see some pretty strong pushback from Venezuela. I think that we'll see -- we'll know more about this when Trump comes to Washington on Monday.

At that time, he says that he will have a press conference and hopefully, there will be some ability to ask him to clarify that point.

BLACKWELL: Let me quickly read the statement from Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. He says, no, Congress obviously isn't authorizing war in Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro is a horrible human being, but Congress doesn't vote to spill Nebraskans blood based on who the executive lashes out at today.

Quickly to you, Jacqueline, this would seem to play right into the hands of Nicolas Maduro and the consolidation that he's going through with the government there in Venezuela.

KLIMAS: Absolutely. I think it definitely makes it look as if the U.S. has been considering military options and it likely has. The Pentagon has said that they are planners and that they're always going to have an option on the shelf if the president comes to them needing it.

It's when you start saying these things out loud that it becomes problematic. It's important to note that the military is stretched very thin.

[08:25:05] Military leaders have talked about a readiness crisis to then deploy them to another spot would raise more problems.

BLACKWELL: And there were just sanctions levied on eight Venezuelans a few days ago. The president could have discussed those military options not off the table. Jacqueline Klimas and Kelsey Snell, thank you both.

PAUL: If you think you know North Korea, listen to this. It is the world's most reclusive nation as we know and rarely do we get a glimpse of everyday life in North Korea, but we're getting it next from a journalist who went undercover to experience what it's like. Suki Kim has a fascinating story she's going to share with us.

BLACKWELL: And a white nationalist protest over the removal of a confederate statue. You see here the violence last night at the University of Virginia. Now Charlottesville police are preparing for a bigger demonstration, thousands of people today.




PAUL: So good to have you with us here, 8:30 is the time on this Saturday morning. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good Saturday to you. There's a new threat this morning form North Korea, warning the U.S. to avoid tragic doom. Now just a few hours ago, China's President started trying to cool tensions, urging both sides to exercise some restraint here.

PAUL: That plea came on the same phone call where President Trump warned China saying pressure might be applied regarding trade, starting with an investigation of Chinese trade practices. BLACKWELL: Now in Japan, the leadership there, they're hoping for a diplomatic solution to the standoff but they are deploying their own defenses just in case. Their missile interceptors are now set up at locations across the country in case a missile is launched at Guam.

PAUL: And the Governor of Guam said after a phone call from the White House, he feels safe and so should the residents of there.


EDDIE BAZA CALVO, GOVERNOR OF GUAM: I appreciate the President's leadership. He's providing a very clear message that any threat to Americans, whether it is here in our island paradise in the Western Pacific, or in California, or in New York, that he will ensure our protection.


PAUL: Let's talk about North Korea though -- a very reclusive nation obviously. It's called the Hermit Kingdom for a reason. I want to read you a description here. "North Korea is perhaps the darkest place in the world. The country lacks electricity. Everything is gray and monotone and the only light is given to the Great Leader, an authoritarian God-like persona now in the third generation by 33-year- old Kim Jong-Un who is considered the Sun. The sun there you see is spelled with a U."

That was written by our next guest, Suki Kim. Suki we appreciate you being here. She's also the author of "Without You There is No Us, Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea's Elite."

I want to just give you a quick background here, that she went undercover in 2011 to North Korea. I know you posed, Suki, as a missionary, as a teacher. You taught English to the 19-year-old sons of North Korea's ruling class--those kids that were expected to be the future leaders of dictatorship. Help us understand, what were those young men like?

SUKI KIM, AUTHOR, TEACHER, AND MISSIONARY: I mean it was complicated because I had been following North Korea for about a decade, had visited repeatedly, but living there in this military-guarded compound in isolation with them, what I found was really complex psychology of them being really lovely and absolutely human, at the same time raised to be soldiers. Their lives were completely mapped out according to the Great Leader. No ounce of freedom and learning only about the Great Leader. Any information from outside is forbidden and not shown to them in any way--it's really a system of absolute control.

PAUL: You said the University is a prison posing as a campus. When you say that they are forbidden to know anything about the outside world, I remember you talking about the fact that computer majors don't even know the internet exists. Is that right? I mean help us to understand this isolation from the rest of the world.

KIM: Because it's a system, you know, to understand try to understand North Korea, it's basically a cult of this myth -- the Great Leader. It's also a military dictatorship with one of the largest armies in the world. And also it's a place where communication is blocked. Many people don't travel within the country or outside the nation. So when you actually isolate people intellectually and also emotionally, because young men serve in Army except the elite, most about 10 years mandatory service. That's isolating them from family all that time, during which time they don't, they barely come home except for a few times. So it's really a system that exists for this idea of the Great Leader and each citizen being raised a soldier. And also if you block the rest of the world from your country entirely, then how can you actually have information to teach people that other things exist?

PAUL: You had your students write letters and I understand that was a very moving, emotional moment for you when you read some of that. What were they writing that struck you?


KIM: How in fact they were just kids in some way. They missed their mothers. They weren't allowed to leave the campus or communicate with anybody, so they just talked about just emotional need of a 19-year- old and 20-year-old. It took awhile because in the beginning all they wrote about was the Great Leader, but human beings are human beings. And that experience, what is was showing me is how abusive the system is. Yes, the country is nothing like we've seen before. It's a nuclear power that is absolutely enslaving its citizens for the sake of this really one-man nation. But within that is 25 million citizens who are also human beings.

PAUL: For those of us who live here and we have our freedoms and we can go do whatever we choose to throughout our day, what is an everyday schedule for people in North Korea?

KIM: It depends on who you are. You know, in my students' case, you know, they also all have to attend a meeting, weekly meeting, where they report on each other. So there's a surveillance system. Other than that, there are a lot of duties that have to do with serving the nation. It has to do with patriotism. So there's a building that is dedicated to the study of the Great Leader. And this building does exist in different communities where you go and study the study of the Great Leader and you also guard that building. You clean that building. So it's just this endless basically making everyone exceptionally busy studying the Great Leader. Also it's one newspaper and one television station really that only dedicates every program about the great leader. So it's working around this idea of not having a single moment of privacy or imte to think about anything else.

PAUL: OK. Suki, I only have a couple of seconds left, but what did you learn from them? What was your takeaway when you left?

KIM: That is a devastating problem that a world like this exists in this time of our history. I felt like as human beings we can better than having this kind of situation existing in the world. It's the saddest place in the world.

PAUL: Suki Kim, thank you so much for sharing with us. We got a lot of insight from you today and I appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: All right let's take you now to Charlottesville, Virginia. The city is bracing for a white Nationalist rally today. The people are there, thousands of them we're told are expected, to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. Now, what you're looking at now, is a rally from overnight where things got out of hand.



PAUL: A group of White Nationalists gathering at the University of Virginia last night and here's what happened. This was ahead of the rally that's planned for a bit later today in Charlottesville. But here, things got violent. Protesters held torches, changed "White Lives Matter", marched through the campus and protested the removal of a Confederate statue.

BLACKWELL: The name of today's rally is Unite the Right. Virginia police are preparing for thousands of people to show up.

Let's go to now to CNN Correspondent Kalylee Hartung. She's got more details on what we're seeing and I was watching the preview monitor of before we came back on air and we saw some people with some long guns which may exacerbate some of the anxieties we've been hearing Kaylee.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, law enforcement presence has been strong all morning but just minutes ago we saw the first participants in today's Unite the Right rally arrive. About 40 mine and women in camouflage gear, some with militia markings. Virginia is an open carry state. These folks exercising their Second Amendment right while also exercising their First Amendment right. While these visuals are already aggressive, this group's posture is not.

This in contrast to the stark images that came out of Charlottesville last night as that torch-lit march went through the University of Virginia campus, rallied around a statue of Thomas Jefferson. It was not in any way a publicly promoted event, so there were fewer counter protesters there. But when the clash began, it was violent. Police declared the assembly unlawful and dispersed chemicals. The groups then quickly dispersed after that. No matter which side of the issue you come down here, tensions are high in Charlottesville, Virginia.


HARTUNG (voice-over): It's a debate cities across America are having. What place do Confederate monuments like this one have in today's world.

MICHAEL SIGNER, MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: I don't think that these debates that cities and states around the country have had are just about a piece of stone or a hunk of rock. I mean these are symbols and they have a lot of meaning. HARTUNG: Mike Signer is the Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, an historic college town trying to reconcile its past with the present. This statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee has become the focal point since the city council voted in February to remove it.


HARTUNG: Charlottesville native and University of Virginia graduate Jason Kessler, is the lead organizer for the Unite the Right Rally, a protest the Anti Defamation League says could be the largest White Supremacist gathering in a decade.

KESSLER: The statue itself is symbolic of a lot of larger issues. The primary three issues are preserving history against this censorship and revisionism, this political correctness.


The second issue is being allowed to advocate for your interests as a white person, just like other groups are advocate for their interests politically.

And then finally, this is about free speech. We are simply trying to express ourselves and do a demonstration.

HARTUNG: Kessler doesn't consider himself a white supremacist. His activism has caught the attention of the Ku Klux Klan and the alt- right.

This will be the third demonstration in as many months by those who object to the removal of Lee's statue, and it's expected to be the largest.

Mike Rodi is among a group of more than 40 local business owners who are asking the city to protect them.

(on camera): What are your fears for what this weekend will be like?

MIKE RODI, CHARLOTTESVILLE BUSINESS OWNER: I have a lot of fears. And I think most of us are just anxious. We don't want there to be violence, we don't want there to be conflict. You know, there's a lot of -- there are a lot of heated emotions really on both sides of the spectrum.

HARTUNG (voice-over): During previous demonstrations, counter protesters vastly outnumbered Lee supporters.


Faith-based groups, civil rights organizations have plans for today as well. Law enforcement will try to keep the peace, with approximately a thousand responders on duty, the commonwealth's largest deployment of state police in one place in nearly 30 years.

MAYOR MIKE SIGNER, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: A lot of strong opinions here this weekend. Democracy is often noisy and messy, but I'd rather that than the alternative of being sort of quiet and complacent.


HARTUNG (on camera): The estimates for the turnout we see today are a wide range. Police say it could be anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 people today. The rally here in Emancipation Park scheduled to begin at noon.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kaylee Hartung there for us from Charlottesville. Thank you so much.

PAUL: You know, as the White House trades threats with North Korea, it's also watching the crisis unfolding in Venezuela. And the president had something to say about how he might respond.

BLACKWELL: Plus a DJ suing Taylor Swift has his case thrown out. At least,she was removed from the case. But a lawsuit against him, that's not over yet.



BLACKWELL: Violent protests have now broken out in several cities across Kenya after national elections there. One person was killed, four others hurt in Kisumu. That's an area that heavily supports the opposition leader. But dozens of buildings were burned in the capital of Nairobi and that was right after officials announced that the country's president had won another term.

Now, in a message to the country, the president called for calm, insisting there was no need for violence.


TRUMP: We have many options for Venezuela. And, by the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela.


BLACKWELL: And the reporter there didn't even ask about a military option, but you heard it from the president. He's considering a range of options to respond to the crisis in Venezuela, and a military intervention is not off the table.

PAUL: Venezuelan leaders reacted harshly to the president's words.

Here to tell us more about that, journalist Stefano Pozzeban. He's live from Caracas. What are you hearing there in terms of a response? Stefano?

STEFANO POZZEBAN, JOURNALIST: Well, Christi, we know that President Maduro himself hasn't spoken yet, but we know that the president of the Constituyente Nacional which was just installed a few weeks ago took to Twitter last night and reacted to President Trump's word, defining themas a vile and covert attack on the sovereignty of Venezuela.

Delcy Rodriguez, the official I'm talking about, Christi, used to be the foreign minister here in Caracas. She's very experienced in all the diplomatic circles and how the world can react. And we understand that President Maduro might be speaking later today to react to these words and step up the rhetoric. Christi.

PAUL: All right, Stefano Pozzeban there in Caracas, we appreciate the update there. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, still ahead, Taylor Swift says it was humiliating. She claims that a radio DJ groped her during a backstage photo. He says the story is a lie and it cost him his job.



BLACKWELL: A judge has dismissed a DJ's civil lawsuit against Taylor Swift.

PAUL: And the judge ruled that David Mueller failed to prove that Swift got him fired from a Denver radio station. Mueller is accused of groping her during a 2013 backstage meet-and-greet. And he filed a $3 million lawsuit against her, her mother, Andrea, and a radio liaison, Frank Bell. The suit claims those groping allegations are false but still cost Mueller his job.

BLACKWELL: Well, jurors will continue to hear Mueller's case against Andrea Swift and Frank Bell. Ms. Swift has countersued Mueller for $1. A symbol here, in what she calls a chance to stand up for other women.

PAUL: He used the millions that he made from heroin to support the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

BLACKWELL: On tonight's "DECLASSIFIED", the untold story of the hunt for the world's most prolific drug trafficker comes to light. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Afghanistan had 70 percent of the land dedicated to poppy production in the world. It also produced over 90 percent of the world's heroin. So most of the heroin in the world was coming out of Afghanistan. It was also supporting the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After war in 2001, the Taliban wanted to return to power and recreate the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to institute sharia law again, which is fundamental Islam, and kick the Americans out. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban would infiltrate the local communities

and they would threaten everybody and say it's our way or we're going to kill your family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's also a symbiotic relationship between the Taliban and the drug traffickers. The Taliban is making it more difficult for police to target the traffickers. In return, the drug traffickers are financially supporting the Taliban and logistically supporting the Taliban.


BLACKWELL: See the full untold story on "DECLASSIFIED". That's tonight at 9:00 PM Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

And that is it for us. We'll see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for an hour of "NEWSROOM".


PAUL: Don't go anywhere though. "SMERCONISH" is with you in a couple of seconds. Stay close.