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U.N. Meets on North Korea; Trump Criticizes South Korea; North Korean Nuclear Test; Trump Expected to End DACA; Congress to take up Immigration. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 4, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Viewers here in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now. Thanks for watching.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with us on this Labor Day Monday.

We begin the hour with an emergency response to a global threat. We're now getting new reaction from all around the world as North Korea claims it has successfully conducted a test of a hydrogen bomb. Experts saying North Korea's latest and largest underground nuclear test represents a, quote/unquote new dimension of threat and puts the whole world at risk. In fact, one nuclear monitoring group says this device they tested was more than eight times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima back in 1945.

So, one of the questions, how will the U.S. respond to this? According to the secretary of defense, annihilating North Korea not at the top of the list, but it is an option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Any threat to the United States or its territory, including Guam or our allies, will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming. We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea. But as I said, we have many options to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: In addition to the secretary of defense, we have just heard from Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: For more than 20 years, this Security Council has taken actions against North Korea's nuclear program. And for more than 20 years, North Korea has defied our collective voice. Enough is enough. We have taken an incremental approach. And despite the best of intentions, it has not worked.

His abusive use of missiles and his nuclear threats show that he is begging for war. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's take you live to the State Department, to Michelle Kosinski, our CNN senior diplomatic correspondent.

What's the U.S. prepared to do about this?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is the enormous question that has been looming over this very disturbing problem. I mean we've watched this escalate pretty rapidly over the last few months. And you hear Nikki Haley at the U.N. Security Council repeatedly now saying essentially the same thing, but kind of struggling at times to ramp up her statements in keeping with the way we've seen North Korea escalate. I mean today she's saying, enough is enough. The time for measures is over. There's no more road left.

We also heard the spokesperson for the State Department say today publicly that the U.S. has a lot of options, military, she did mention that one first, economic and diplomatic. Of course, the problem is there are issues and major difficulties with every single one of those measures.

I think when you heard Nikki Haley today at the U.N. saying it's time, almost as if to say it's really time this time, everyone, for the U.N. to take the strongest possible measures. The U.S. would like to see much tougher sanctions, things like blocking at least some of the oil that goes into North Korea, that powers the entire country.

But when you see, you know, almost in the same breath right after Haley spoke, Russia and China aligned with each other saying that their idea is for North Korea to halt its missile program and the U.S. and South Korea to stop their joint military operations. You can see that something that might seem obvious to some, pile on those sanctions fully enforce them, that's not so obvious to Russia and China. So it could be very difficult to get China on board to the extent that the U.S. wants to see.

BALDWIN: You mentioned South Korea. Let me come to that.

Michelle, thank you so much.

You know, speaking of this U.S. ally, President Trump has now taken a swipe at South Korea. This is what he tweeted over the weekend. South Korea is finding, as I have had told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work. They only understand one thing.

So on that piece, let's go to Will Ripley, who's live in Tokyo.

And so on top of the tweet, Will, we know the president talked to Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, twice. But it took more than 30 hours to call South Korea's leader. And that call did happen a short time ago. Talk me through what was said and was there any kind of diplomatic fallout?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a very tense situation between President Trump and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea because on Friday President Trump was telling President Moon that he wanted to pull out of the free trade agreement with South Korea because the United States is unhappy with how South Korea has been going about things.

[14:05:09] Critics of that would argue that now is not the time. The focus needs to be on presenting a unified front. And you saw South Korea put out a statement saying that the two leaders agreed to impose maximum pressure on North Korea. So they're trying to put on a unified front.

But it's not fooling the North Koreans. I can tell you, Brooke, I was just there. I landed here in Tokyo on Saturday night. And they were well aware of the mixed messages coming from the White House. Well aware of the tension -- the apparent tension between the U.S. and South Korea.

Of course, Shinzo Abe, the prime minister here in Japan, and President Trump have been talking all week. They talked twice since the nuclear test. So that relationship seems to be pretty good.

But I just -- I look at all of these developments, Brooke, and I just have to think and wonder, where is the way out here? I -- when I was in North Korea, I did not encounter a frightened country, an intimidated country, a country that has any indication of backing down. I had officials telling me that they are angry, they are furious with the United States. And you have seen that in their actions. They were furious about the military exercises, so they launched that intermediate range missile and flew it right over Japan, terrifying people here. And then they put out images of Kim Jong-un, their supreme leader, starting in front of a miniaturized nuclear warhead, a hydrogen bomb, that they say they can put in an ICBM. Hours later they test a nuclear device. Their biggest nuclear test ever. And now they may just be days away from launching another ICBM possibly towards Guam.

BALDWIN: Stunning, the threats, the propaganda. You have seen it firsthand. Will Ripley fresh off here I believe his 14th trip now to Pyongyang. Will, thank you for weighing in.

Let's broaden out this whole discussion. I've got a couple great people standing by. Laura Rosenberger, director at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. She's also a former national security council director for both China and Korea under President Obama. John Park is back with us today, the director of the Korea Working Group at Harvard Kennedy School. And CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

So, welcome to all of you.

And, general, you know, first just on this bomb, the North is claiming that they successfully tested this hydrogen bomb. This bomb could be, you know, they say, strapped to an ICBM. I'm reading it is, you know, eight times the blast of Hiroshima. How is this different from what they've done in the past? LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well it's, what

you said, Brooke, it's the largest device they've ever tested. It is much larger than anything we've seen before, at least what some of the seismic readings have indicated. There still isn't a determinant of whether or not it is a hydrogen or just a typical fission bomb. But that really doesn't matter. It's a big bomb.

But the thing is, it's still a test. They haven't tested it on top of a rocket yet. They haven't tested their rockets to the point where they can deliver these kind of weapons.

Now, all of that is important, but it's also irrelevant because they continue to go towards the desire of Kim Jong-un to put a device on the end of a missile and continue to use it to threaten the world. That's the critical point.

But also in line with that, it allows us, the west and others, to still have time in terms of diplomatic actions to try and back KJU off of his path that he's on right now. That's going to be difficult. It hasn't happened in the last couple of decades in terms of what Korea has done. But you need to take some new approaches.

He wants his military to continue to be at the forefront. He wants recognition on the world stage. And he wants an improved economy. He can't get all those things.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. We'll talk options in a second. I mean I know I saw you over the weekend saying the military options are very ugly and you made headlines saying that.

But, John, to you, just on the president. I mean we've talked about the bellicose rhetoric, the fire and fury line a couple weeks ago, right, and said that the U.S. is locked and loaded. But now we're seeing, to borrow the general's phrase, you know, KJU, Kim Jong-un's most powerful nuclear detonation in this string of missile launches. We talked about the one recently just over Japan. Has Kim Jong-un effectively called the president's bluff?

JOHN PARK, DIRECTOR, KOREA WORKING GROUP AT HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Well, Brooke, what we're seeing is an ongoing program. Irrespective of what the president says, you're looking at a North Korean pace right now that is somewhat predictable. If anything, it's accelerated. Before we were looking at, on average, four to six weeks between long range ballistic missile tests. These things are happening much faster now. But it's the focus of the program.

BALDWIN: Did you predict this kind of thing, though? This massive bomb?

PARK: This massive of a bomb is something that we were anticipating, on this kind of scale, 6.3 on the Rector scale.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

PARK: But this is something that the North Koreans had claimed that they would be working towards. So it was a matter of time. Unfortunately, a lot of the measures and responses that we're hearing, it's increasing previous policy tools that we really haven't seen any impact on.

BALDWIN: Here is how, Laura, to you, let me just play this sound, how President Trump responded to a question on North Korea just yesterday.

[14:10:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Mr. President, will you attack North Korea?

TRUMP: We'll see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Here he was walking out of church. The two words, "we'll see."

How does "we'll see," change potential calculation for the U.S.?

LAURA ROSENBERGER, DIRECTOR, ALLIANCE FOR SECURING DEMOCRACY: Well, I think it's really important that, you know, we continue to note, of course, that there are no very good options when it comes to North Korea. And as General Hertling has said, the military options are all very bad.

It's very important that in these kinds of scenarios that any administration not take options off the table. So the idea that all options remain on the table I think is what we want in terms of thinking about deterrence. But we also really need to be sure that we're using precise language, which sends very clear signals to our adversaries and reassurance signals to our allies. And things like we'll see --

BALDWIN: Give me an -- give me an example of precise language. How about that?

ROSENBERGER: Yes. So what we saw Secretary Mattis uses after the meeting at the White House yesterday, his words were very carefully chosen.

BALDWIN: Yes.

ROSENBERGER: They were chosen to send very clear signals to our allied capitals and to Pyongyang, to Beijing, to say, these are the kinds of things that the United States is considering, to give very clear sense of what our alliance may be. That's the kind of thing that's incredibly important because in deterrence and reassurance, our credibility is incredibly important. And when we use very vague terms that don't really have any attachment to meaning, that President Trump may not know what they mean, that Pyongyang may not know what they mean, that Seoul may not know what they mean, that's the kind of area where I worry about miscalculation. And, to me, that's one of the biggest concerns in this entire scenario is that somebody miscalculates and what another party's intentions are. And that's how something could escalate very quickly. BALDWIN: Yes. On your note about precise language, I'm so glad you went back to the Secretary of defense. General, you know him. So here's my question. Just, you know, he had promised a, quote, massive military response if it threatens the United States or its allies. But he added, we are not looking for the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea. But as I said, we have many options to do so. What does that mean?

HERTLING: Well, he does have many options, Brooke. I mean there are a series of war plans even on the book, contingency operations that are on the books in the Pentagon. There are very many targets that could be struck. There are different ways of approaching this. I mean I don't want to give away any inside secrets --

BALDWIN: Sure.

HERTLING: But there are a lot of options that we can use that North Korea can't defend against. The problem is --

BALDWIN: So why do you say they're all ugly?

HERTLING: Well, because of the unanticipated reactions to all of the options.

BALDWIN: Got it.

HERTLING: I mean this is not a country where you could have a precision strike against one target as a symbol of, hey, knock it off, don't do that anymore, like we've done in other nations. A single precision strike might create a massive retaliation, and just like what was just talked about, precise language is critically important. You can go back in history and find dozens of instances where diplomats or military wrong terms created war as recently as Desert Storm. A misunderstanding of an ambassador when talking to Saddam Hussein created the impetus to start Desert Storm.

So I mean this is the kind of thing that it's real easy to get into a war. It's a whole lot harder to get out of one once it's started.

BALDWIN: I'm listening to you very, very carefully, general. And, you know, if we move off of that, just lastly, John, and you do talk sanctions. You know, my question is, what's left to sanction? I mean I know they talk about, you know, oil imports to North Korea. Maybe something that could affect their farming industry. But, you know, they're pretty good at getting around sanctions. And they seem to be building all these missiles faster than the U.S. can impose sanctions that would actually matter. What are the best options?

PARK: Well, right now we're seeing a doubling down on sanctions, a tripling down, if you will. But one of the things that you have to realize is that in the border region, China and North Korea here, there is a marketplace. And in that marketplace, when you restrict quantity, price goes up and you're incentivizing smuggling. And some of that smuggling is also happening in the waters between China and North Korea as well. It's not to say that we shouldn't -- we should abandon sanctions. It's that we have to anticipate these type of activities as well.

But as you mentioned, the pace of development of North Korea's program right now is far outpacing these policy tools. And that is an inconvenient fact.

BALDWIN: Inconvenient indeed. We can go with that word. John Park, Laura Rosenberger and General Hertling, thank you all so very much. We'll stay on all things North Korea, of course.

Meantime, a lot of people are calling it a cruel and ugly decision. Others say it will restore rule of law. President Trump expected to fulfill a campaign promise ending the Obama-era program that protects so-called dreamers from being deported. What CNN has learned about the president's announcement slated for tomorrow.

Also just in, a new advisory on Hurricane Irma, this category three storm that's gained strength in the last couple of days. The very latest on where Irma is headed.

[14:15:04] And, royal watch. The duke and duchess of Cambridge with a massive announcement about their family's future.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Tomorrow, President Trump is expected to make good on a campaign promise ending the DACA program. That's according to multiple sources. DACA, it's an acronym. It stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive action under President Obama, and it allowed undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children, otherwise known as dreamers, to get Social Security Numbers, legal working status and avoid deportation. Candidate Trump vowed to get rid of it, but at times he seemed to waver on what to do.

[14:20:13] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the Constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants.

When somebody's terrific, we want them back here, but they have to be legally --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Should they have to leave, too?

TRUMP: Look, it sounds cold and it sounds hard. We have a country. Our country's going to hell. We have to have a system where people are legally in our country.

We're always talking about dreamers for other people. I want the children that are growing up in the United States to be dreamers also. They're not dreaming right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should dreamers be worried?

TRUMP: We love the dreamers. We love everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The president is also expected to delay ending DACA by six months so that Congress can act and turn some version of DACA into law.

So with me now, CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan.

So, Tal, nice to see you.

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Hi.

BALDWIN: I know some members of the president's party think he should not put an end to DACA.

KOPAN: That's absolutely right. You know, flash back five years ago when President Barack Obama put this into place through executive action. You know, of course, Republicans criticized it for being done through executive action, but Obama said he had to do it because Congress wouldn't act.

The truth is, the program is actually pretty popular. Members of the left obviously are fans of sort of pro-immigrant policies and support it. But, in fact, a number of moderate Republicans also support it. And there are several of them who have long been pushing Congress to act. And, you know, a few of them are actually speaking out against the president in this regard today.

In fact, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who's a Republican from Florida, she tweeted, after teasing dreamers for months with talk of his great heart, POTUS slams the door on them. Some heart. And, of course, she's one of the members that has long supported a fix.

And then one member, who hasn't long supported the fix but who is speaking out is Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma. And he said, it is right for there to be consequences for those who intentionally enter this country illegally. However, we, as Americans, do not hold children legally accountable for the actions of their parents.

So there's definitely now a push for Congress to do something to make this program permanent because there's concern about what the courts might do if it's actually challenged on the grounds of executive action.

But now the hot potato goes to Congress. And as we've seen this year, Congress doesn't always come through. And there are nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. who have benefited from this program who now stand to have their life upended if the president does go through with this and Congress cannot come up with some sort of solution.

BALDWIN: We're talking to one of those 800,000 people next hour. Tal, thank you so much.

But let's have a bigger conversation with just two -- two great guys, both with differing opinions, which we welcome here. CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson, talk radio host of the conservative "The Ben Ferguson Show," and Dean Obeidallah, who frequently writes opinion pieces for cnn.com and is host of Sirius XM's "The Dean Obeidallah Show."

And so welcome to both of you.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CNN.COM OPINION CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Great to be here.

BALDWIN: And, Dean, you know, obviously I read your piece. You wrote -- you wrote an op-ed for cnn.com. And so your whole thesis is essentially that, you know, the president is treating this pending DACA decision and these 800,000 dreamers like, to quote you, a dysfunctional reality show. How so?

OBEIDALLAH: In that Donald Trump on Friday at first said, I'll give you a decision by this weekend. About an hour later, he said, I'll give you a decision on Monday. Two hours later it came up, I'll give you a decision on Tuesday. Building it up. And it reminds me of when he announced Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court. He had like a build-up -- primetime buildup like it was the series finale of "The Apprentice."

But, you know, apart from that, Brooke, the way he's doing it doesn't matter to me as what he does. And you're going to had a dreamer on -- I had one on my show this week, Andrea Fernandez (ph). She came to America at eight. Her mother brought her here from Mexico. She grew up her entire life in this country. She's now 21. When she graduated high school with a 4.0 average, before DACA, her guidance counselor said, don't even dream of going to college because you're an undocumented immigrant. DACA happens. Now she's at the University of Texas doing great. She's a leader of community -- of student groups and wants to run for Congress.

This is what these kids are about, these young people. They are the -- they represent the best of the -- of America. I say, honestly, they're all vetted, no criminal records, they're contributing to America. Some are in our military. Some are teachers. They've started business. They're really good people.

BALDWIN: So, Ben, how do you see it?

FERGUSON: I actually think that what you're seeing from the White House is they're trying to figure out exactly what Congress is going to do. Congress is really who should be blamed here. For years they have had the ability to actually make something permanent, and they purposely chose not to. Republicans have been in charge and they have not been able to fix it. Democrats have been in charge, the House, the Senate and the White House under Obama, and, again, he had the votes to do whatever he wanted to do. They also didn't have the political will to make this permanent.

[14:25:20] And so I think what you're seeing from Donald Trump is, Donald Trump does have a lot of compassion for dreamers. I think he's been pretty clear, even this last week, that he wants something to be finalized. It's unfair to anyone to have this open-ended, we're not sure what's going to happen to your future, we'll just keep passing the buck down the road. And so I think his point is, Congress, you've got six months to do your job. This is your job. Stop putting it off and stop extending programs after extending programs. Let's make a final decision.

These young people deserve that final decision. I think there's a lot of conservatives like myself that have compassion for those in DACA, those that are dreamers. But you also have to have some sort of finalization with the law and then move forward as a country. So I think that's the president's point here is, I'm not going to be one of these presidents that kicks this down the road another two, three, four, five years and just says, oh, someone else will deal with it one day. We're going to deal with it right now and, Congress, you're going to have to do your job or you're going to be blamed for this expiring.

BALDWIN: I mean it's a total point on that Congress didn't get their act together and ultimately this came down to President Obama.

FERGUSON: Yes.

BALDWIN: This could come down to, you know, President Trump keeping it intact, which you didn't say. But you bring up the point that, you know, Congress -- I mean there is the possibility, Dean, where, you know, Congress could swoop in and write a law protecting them, Trump aside.

OBEIDALLAH: They could.

FERGUSON: They need to.

BALDWIN: Does that at least make you feel a little bit better about it?

OBEIDALLAH: Of course that would be great if Congress did that. But, let's be honest, the Congress -- the Republicans have the House and the Senate, and the presidency since January and there's been no effort to move this forward. In fact, a moderate Republican to try to have a discharge petition in the House to have a vote because Paul Ryan doesn't want to let them vote on it.

Look, Donald Trump is the GOOP and the GOP is Donald Trump. Let's not play games. There's no distance between them. This is a Republican idea, the idea of disenchanting -- disenfranchising and deporting 800,000 young people for their own base to make their base happy is wrong.

BALDWIN: But you have Republicans -- Dean, you do have Republicans --

FERGUSON: (INAUDIBLE) -- Brooke --

OBEIDALLAH: You do, a small, small number, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You do. You do, Dean. Tal -- Tal mentioned James Lankford.

OBEIDALLAH: A small number.

FERGUSON: (INAUDIBLE).

OBEIDALLAH: Donald Trump is the leader of the GOP.

BALDWIN: I know and I hear you.

FERGUSON: Brooke --

BALDWIN: I'm just trying to -- I'm just trying to round out the conversation. Speaker Ryan, there are kids who know no other country who were brought here by their parents and know no other home. You know, there needs to be a legislative solution.

FERGUSON: Exactly.

OBEIDALLAH: But, Brooke, he could have had a vote.

FERGUSON: Brooke -- Brooke --

OBEIDALLAH: But, Brooke, Paul Ryan's the one stopping the vote in the House on this. If Paul Ryan's really sincere, have the vote in the House on this. He stopped it.

FERGUSON: OK, look --

BALDWIN: OK, go ahead, Ben.

FERGUSON: Let's not play politics with these young people's live. Let's also be clear, this is a very tough issue for Congress to do their job on. Proof of it is the fact that we could literally be having this same conversation, rewind the tape a couple of years when Democrats also could not get it done. With Obama in charge, they had the House and the Senate. They couldn't even find the political will to get this done when they were in charge.

BALDWIN: True.

FERGUSON: And so, again, I go back to the point here. I think there -- this is one of those issues where we should dial down the partisan politics and look at what the intent is from the White House. The intent of the White House is for Congress to actually do their job. And every Congress --

BALDWIN: But you're a little bit passing it off on Congress, Ben.

OBEIDALLAH: Yes.

BALDWIN: I mean, I need to push back on you at the same time.

FERGUSON: No, no, no, I'm not, though, because -- because -- BALDWIN: I mean this could be -- this could not be politicized with Congress if President Trump decides to have a change of heart, not make good on a promise he made on the trail and say, you know what, all you 800,000 people, you can stay.

OBEIDALLAH: Absolutely.

FERGUSON: Well, can he say that indefinitely or can he say it for a period of time, like President Obama did? That's the question here and he's saying --

BALDWIN: He's the president. Yes. Yes.

FERGUSON: He's saying -- no, but he can only do it for an extended period of time, which is exactly what Obama did. And my point is this. Congress is the one that passes laws, right?

BALDWIN: Yes.

FERGUSON: The president's the one that advocates for them and/or signs them or vetoes them. Congress -- I'm not passing the buck. I'm tired of Congress not doing their job. Congress has a job. There is bipartisan support, I think, on something like this with compassion. But also there has to be an end date. We have to have a point where we stop kicking the buck down the road and saying, we'll let someone else deal with the political fallout. So we'll just extend it. You guys will be up in the air for a little bit longer, a couple more years, and then we don't know what's going to happen to you. That's unfair to these children.

BALDWIN: I will pose that idea to my dreamer next hour, how about that, and we'll see. We'll see what he says about that.

Guys, we've got to go.

OBEIDALLAH: OK.

BALDWIN: I appreciate both of your perspectives. Read Dean's piece, it's on cnn.com/opinion.

FERGUSON: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Dean Obeidallah and Ben Ferguson, I really appreciate you both.

FERGUSON: Thanks, Brooke.

OBEIDALLAH; Thanks.

BALDWIN: Ahead here on CNN, just as cleanup efforts from Hurricane Harvey get underway, we turn now to Irma, growing into a powerful category three storm out in the Atlantic. The governor of Florida telling people there to get ready -- get their disaster kits ready. The very latest on where Irma is headed, next.

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