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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Threatens in U.N. Speech; Feinstein on Trump Speech; Trump on Iran Deal; Trump Makes dig at China and Russia; Maria Slams Dominica; Puerto Rico Prepares for Maria. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 19, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:14] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks if are sharing your day with us.

President Trump's United Nations debut concludes his America first trademark, rebukes of Iran and Syria, and this colorful but blunt warning to North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, stunning new details of the Russia meddling investigation. CNN has learned the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was the subject of an FBI wiretap at a time he was known to be in touch with candidate, president-elect and President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: We know that there was enough concern to get the first wiretap. We know there was enough concern to go back and get a second permission for a wiretap. We know that the FBI has broken into his home and -- in appropriate legal fashion -- and taken all of the records.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And one last time. Senate Republicans a vote or two short as they try to pass a new health care plan that would shift big decisions to the states and allow insurance companies to drop some coverage now mandated under Obamacare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: You're going to be facing a binary choice, leaving 100 percent of Obamacare in place or taking what we can get and then working with the governors long-term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We begin the hour with President Trump's first address to the United Nations General Assembly and his deliberate choice to hold out North Korea and Iran for his most harsh words. Kim Jong-un wants to be accepted as a nuclear power. The president of the United States, an hour or so ago, standing before the world community, says, never. And added a threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea.

No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons.

The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: No uncertain terms there from the president or in his description of the Iranian regime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history in culture into an economically depleted rogue state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tough talk from the president. But he left unanswered a giant question, is he prepared to follow-through on his campaign promise and shred the Iran nuclear deal?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States and I don't think you've heard the last of it. Believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of "The New York Times," Sahil Kapur of "Bloomberg Politics," "The Wall Street Journal's" Michael Bender, and Eliana Johnson from "Politico." What did we hear from the president that matters most? It was remarkable to see a leader of any country, but the president of the United States, standing in the well of the United Nation's General Assembly, threatening to totally destroy, not retaliate, not hurt, not isolate, not prove a point, totally destroy a country. What do we make of that?

JULIE DAVIS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I mean, I think clearly you have to focus on the sort of starkness of that threat and how strongly he came out against North Korea. His, you know, very strong hints that he is willing to pull out of the Iran deal. I think we'll learn more about that in the next couple of weeks and probably mid-October.

But also, I mean, this speech was important for what it showed us about the president's vision of his sort of America first philosophy. That he is not budging for this idea that, you know, the correct way to go about geopolitics and diplomacy is for the American people, America, to take care of itself, for other countries to take care of themselves. He's focused on outcomes, not on sort of the global ideals that we've heard former American presidents talk about at the United Nations. And it's a very different vision than the one we've seen before. And I think his object in his speech was really to sort of drive that home.

[12:05:11] But the toughness here is what I think the president wanted everyone to take away. And, you know, he certainly didn't mince words and he obviously didn't back away from that rocket man tweet that he issued over the weekend. And I think really sort of enjoys the idea that the world is going to see him making fun of Kim Jong-un and he's OK with that.

MICHAEL BENDER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, he's definitely got -- he's definitely coming away with the headline here, very -- using very Trumpian language. And if there's a -- if there's a success immediately from the speech is that he's going to get the exact headlines that he wanted out of this. It's just tough talk on North Korea.

And they have kind of seen the ark now after eight, nine months in office where he came into officer very, very tough on North Korea. Sort of -- you know, then met with Xi down in Mar-a-Lago and sort of took a different tact. Thought maybe diplomacy was the way forward on this. Then after a few rockets now, now we're -- now we're back to rocket man. Not back to rocket man, but that signals sort of back to a -- you know, a very tough rhetoric from this president.

SAHIL KAPUR, "BLOOMBERG": At a certain level it felt a little bit like a campaign speech. You know, I think his supporters would have loved that bellicose talk about North Korea and about Iran and about Assad. But what was missing, I think, was the connective tissue towards a strategy. What is the path forward? How do you achieve the things you're talking about?

With North Korea, is he going to follow through on this talk of the threats he's making and the potential for war? That would be a disaster in many ways. And also talking about potentially escalating pressure on China. Possibly even a trade war. That's not going to help his promises of economic growth. He's talking tough about Bashar al Assad in Syria, while he -- while he wants to pull back and, you know, move U.S. troops out of the Mideast. He's also talking about resettling refugees in their home while wanting to cut foreign aid. So there just -- there are a lot of questions and there's some conflicts, I think, that have yet to be resolved.

ELIANA JOHNSON, "POLITICO": I almost think that the headlines about North Korea are overshadowing what Julie alluded to, which is the emergence of the sort of Trump doctrine that we saw between the inaugural address, the president's speech in Warsaw, and the speech today. I think if you put them together, you are getting a sense he's give his most coherent statements in these big addresses that are watch by and listened to countries around the world.

And I think the thrust of it is the health care scholar, Youval Ivini (ph), I think put it best when he's telling nations that building up walls around them and reasserting sovereignty is the best way to kind of break down the walls between people. And he is reasserting a sense of American identity and encouraging other nations to do the same. That's what he told the Pols when he went to Poland, encouraging all other countries around the world to reassert their patriotism as well.

KING: Now, Kim Jong-un is not there. The North Korean delegation was. He would assert -- the North Koreans would assert they're doing what they think is best for their sovereignty. That's where the conflict comes in, that they want to be accept in the world community. They think the way to do that -- I'm not excusing their belligerence, defying United Nations resolutions, defying their own past agreements.

But that's where the push comes to shove when you have a president of the United States saying totally destroy, at some point is the president going to have to back up those words?

JOHNSON: Well, I think what you heard him say here is no talk about spreading democracy the way you heard a President Bush or even a Bill Clinton talk, you know, 10 years ago, but that there are certain nations that threaten the well-being of the community of the nations. You're not hearing him talk about a global citizenship or a global community, but a community of nation states. That is why the U.N. was founded. And that people may need to act if there are nations that threaten the well-being of the wider -- wider community. What's unclear is how and when.

KING: Right, do your business, just don't cross certain lines. That's sort of the way the president's (INAUDIBLE). What's interesting is the reaction. You don't see this every day, Mitt Romney praising the president of the United States. Other people out there in the conservative media saying, thank you, Mr. President, for laying out, to your point, a clear, coherent, set of standards of how you will go forward in the world.

Democrats not so. This is Dianne Feinstein. The goals of the United Nations are to foster peace and promote global cooperation. Today the president used it as a stage to threatened war. He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality only further isolates the United States. So now that he -- the president has been more clear about his doctrine, if you want to call it that, in front of the global community, now we're going to have a fight about it.

KAPUR: The lack of nation building, the talk against national building and focusing on the United States I think has a lot of support on the left and the right. I think as far as the Iran deal goes, this is another area where I think his actions remain to be seen how he's going to go forward with it. He attacked it pretty strongly. He said it was an embarrassment. But he has not withdrawn from the deal yet because I think he has adviser who say the risk if you do that is that Iran's path to a bomb begins more quickly if you --

KING: Right, you may not like Iran's behavior under the deal, but you might get a much more aggressive Iran outside of the deal, which I found that interesting. Yes, by his language, it sounds like, you just wait. You know, the language makes you -- sound like you wait, now I'm going to back -- pull out of it. The Israelis certainly wanted the president to do that in this speech. The president has said that repeatedly, though, and every deadline that has come up during his presidency, they have recertified Iran. So we don't know where that one's going. That tug of war continues, right?

[12:10:10] DAVIS: Well, absolutely. And, I mean, I think one of the reasons you're hearing some Republican praise for this speech, you know, from mainstream Republicans who have criticized the president in the past especially is because, you know, he did do what he did in his Afghanistan speech. He did do what he did in his joint address to Congress, which is, he read the speech. He didn't go off script that much. I don't know whether rocket man was on the teleprompter, but he pretty much stuck to what he -- what he wanted to say.

KING: I'm told they added -- I'm told they added that today.

DAVIS: Right.

KING: Of course the president added that because the president tweeted out over the weekend (INAUDIBLE).

DAVIS: Right. And -- but he -- you didn't -- you didn't hear these long rambling diversions that go into territory that has -- that has Republicans sort of clutching their pearls. So I, you know, in that regard, I think they thought he succeed.

I do think there is an issue here, and the Iran deal is an example, but certainly North Korea as well, of the president laid out very clear kind of lines in the sand and this is my limit and I won't tolerate this and I won't tolerate that and this deal is horrible. But we didn't get a very good sense of like, OK, so so what and how -- what is -- what is his philosophy for resolving those issues. And I think that's what really remains to be seen.

KING: And let's just listen a little bit more to the point you made at the beginning of the conversation about this -- you know, we've -- a lot of us here, if you followed the campaign, if you followed the news in the United States every day, you've heard the president say this before, but this is his first time speaking to the General Assembly, a gathering of the global community. The president taking what was a campaign slogan, America first, and making it a foreign policy principle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will always put America first. Just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.

We can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Clever use of words by the president there. A lot of people around the world, they said that's arrogant, you know, it's isolationist, it's too, you know, Trump trying to push the world around. He said, that's what I'm elected to do. That's what you're elected to do. You know, you should put your own people first. And a very well -- way to get his point across but in a way that's hard to object to.

BENDER: Yes, right. And this is sort of like the gift that Donald Trump had talked about it before, is that you can kind of listen to Trump and take out what you -- what you like and hear what you want to hear with this president.

I'd agree that this is a very Trumpian speech, the -- you know, the adding of the rocket man in there, I mean it gives -- the Trump flourishes are undeniable. But this is where the confusion is going to come up and what he means in the details, right? I mean what is -- and he essentially puts his -- is framing himself as the moral arbiter here and do best what's for your country and we'll decide if that's -- you know, if that's appropriate.

KING: We want to put in one other thing about -- mostly what was not said. We were looking for and told by some people in the administration, they had hoped the president, in the part about North Korea, would, yes, thank China and Russia for their support of the Security Council, but then ask them to do more. Now it's now, thank you for that, but now you need to step up. Stop the open trade. Stop the black market trade with North Korea. The president did not do that. But he did elsewhere in the speech take a bit of a shot at both Moscow and Beijing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We must reject threats to sovereignty from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Relatively gentle language, but he put it on the record there. This from a president, again, if you go back and look at, what did he say in the campaign and what did he say in his first speech to the world community at the United Nations. You know, he has not labeled China a currency manipulator. He has not ripped up NAFTA. He's trying to re-negotiate it. He's adding troops in Afghanistan as opposed to withdrawing from that part of the world. But there he did at least go on the record on some of the other issues that can get prickly in those two big relationships.

KAPUR: The general tone he stuck -- he struck is very consistent with the talk of, you know, how he viewed the world and how he talked about foreign policy during the campaign. And he's playing to this notion that many Americans have that the United States is overextended around the world, that it does too much, that it's trying to police things and protect too many people at a cost that is not beneficial to them. Whether that is true is certainly a matter for debate and a lot of people don't agree with that. But I think there is -- on a -- I guess a gut political level, a lot of Americans feel that and I think that's what he was playing to.

As far as his warnings to China, China is -- you know, as North Korean experts know, the biggest point of leverage the United States has, because it does about three or four -- I think North Korea has about $3 billion to $4 billion per year in exports and imports, most of it with China. It's already the most isolated nation around the world. So there's limited amount that can be done. But if anything can be done, it's China.

JOHNSON: I think the major shift that we're seeing, in terms of ideology, especially, I think it actually began with Obama, with the whole notion of the post-World War II international era when the U.S. replaced the U.K. as the major international power was that taking on outside responsibilities in the world, paying the vast majority of dues at international organizations like the U.N. was actually in the U.S. interest and it was good for the U.S. to do that sort of thing, even though it happened to benefit other countries as well. And Trump is saying that's not the case. I think you heard some of that with Obama as well.

[12:15:08] And that's a huge shift. And if it actually plays out, you know, you heard people like George W. Bush argue that spreading democracy abroad was actually in the U.S. interest. We had to do that and it was a self-protective measure. And if we see Trump pull back and continue the rollback that began with Obama, that will really be an enormous shift in strategy and in strategic thinking.

KING: What --

KAPUR: With an undoubted repudiation of neo-conservatism, or at least what we've (INAUDIBLE).

KING: That's a good point. The question now is, what comes from it? And front and center for me at least in the (INAUDIBLE) is how does Pyongyang responds to the tough words of the president today. We'll see that.

Up next, mind-boggling damage. That's what Dominica's prime minister says after Hurricane Irma slammed -- Hurricane Maria, excuse me, slammed the island overnight. Now Puerto Rico bracing for a hit as well. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:20:04] KING: Wow, dramatic pictures there. Hurricane Maria already battering islands in the Caribbean like Guadeloupe. That video shows the aftermath, including some flooding. You see that picture there. Overnight, the powerful storm also slammed into Dominica, causing widespread devastation.

Hurricane Maria now on track to pound Puerto Rico as early as tonight. All of this less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma devastated some of the same areas.

Let's get to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, I love you, but I'm seeing too much of you lately.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know, John. I'm sorry, buddy. And the people of Puerto Rico don't want to see me either because this is a brutal storm that moved over, as you said, Dominica and Guadeloupe overnight.

This thing went from a category one to a category five in 15 hours. We call that rapid intensification. It can happen anywhere.

The threat is that it happens in the Gulf of Mexico. When you go to -- you go to bed one night in Houston or Galveston or wherever and you're looking at the TS and by morning you've got a cat three. That's what can happen and that's what happened here.

The water is very warm. There was no sheer. There was nothing to tear this storm apart. And it got all the way to a 160 mile per hour storm.

Now, the forecast is here, Puerto Rico, also for Colebran (ph), Veacas (ph), and even into St. Croix for a category four, 155 mile per hour storm making landfall tomorrow morning.

Now, the cone is still over the entire island of Puerto Rico. It could be north or south. It could be Pulmsay (ph). It could be up toward the Conquistador (ph) resort. It could essentially miss the northeast corner of Puerto Rico still, but that would take it right into the U.S. Virgin Islands. So you really have to watch what you ask for. The U.S. Virgin Islands already so significantly torn up.

The threat here, John, there's 3.4 million Americans living on this island right here. Already 70 percent were without power with Irma, and Irma was a miss. Irma missed the island. This I don't see it missing at all. And if it's a cat four or a cat five, right in that ballpark, they may be without power for a very long time. And without water as well.

If you're watching in Puerto Rico right now, you have a couple things you can still do. You can put water in every vessel you own, any pot, pan, bathtub, because you may need it for a long time. And also be prepared to live without electricity for a long time. And also washing your hands. I find the most important thing I can do when I'm covering a hurricane is have some kind of handy wipes because after days without water, all you want to do is clean your hands off. And those handy wipes are quite handy. John.

KING: Important help from Chad Myers. Chad, we'll stay in touch throughout the days ahead, obviously. Appreciate it very much.

Guadeloupe, hit. Dominica, hit. Puerto Rico hasn't seen landfall by a major hurricane since 1998. The last time a category five storm hit the island, back in 1928.

Let's bring in CNN's Leyla Santiago. She's in Louisa (ph), Puerto Rico.

Leyla, what are you seeing and what are local officials telling you to prepare for?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now they're actually saying some of the same thing you just heard, get ready because this could be big, could be catastrophic, could be devastating.

The rain has been coming and going. You can see behind me, the ocean. This is the ocean. We are in the northern part of the island. And this is pretty typical right now.

We are in Noesta (ph). This is an area that is known for its food, its night life. As a matter of fact, you can see some of the buildings are pretty much empty. There's not much of a line there.

Where you see the line here is for ice. All of these people are in line for ice right now. And they're actually limiting the amount of ice that people can take back home. This is what they need to keep their food in their refrigerators.

Now, this is Mida (ph). She's been in line for quite some time.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

SANTIAGO: She's been in line for two hours.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

SANTIAGO: She has power at home. But many of the residents here actually don't have power. That is one of the biggest concerns given that Puerto Rico's power system is lacking maintenance.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

SANTIAGO: She's going to take two bags of ice.

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

SANTIAGO: So she needs that in order to conserve to use the food.

They're telling us to go because everyone's in line waiting for the exact same thing. But you'll see the ice comes here.

And everybody I've spoken to in this line tells me that they're coming here after having been to several stores, several pharmacies anywhere on the island where they can try to find ice, generators, those basic supplies that you need to get through a hurricane and a hurricane like this where, again, officials, the governor, the head of emergency management, are using words like catastrophic, devastating and one that will hit hard, making direct landfall.

John.

[12:25:03] KING: Hitting hard and hitting too soon after Irma also sent a scare through the region.

Leyla Santiago in Louisa (ph) for us. Leyla, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting.

Coming up, extraordinary new CNN reporting on the Russia investigation involving a high-ranking Trump official. That CNN exclusive up next.

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KING: Welcome back.

Let's turn now to new CNN exclusive reporting on the Russia meddling investigation. We're learning U.S. investigators wire-tapped Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman. Sources telling CNN that surveillance was approved under secret court orders both before and after the election.

Shimon Prokupecz is on the CNN investigative team that broke this story. He joins us with the details.

A stunning development, the campaign chairman wiretapped. Tell us what we know about when this happened and why it's so important to the investigation.

[12:29:56] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. So for -- take the second part of that. It's important for the investigation in part because this has all now been shared with the special counsel's team, with Bob Mueller and his entire team has this. And it's essentially become part of the investigation and it's certainly the intelligence that they -- that they've been working off and some of the intelligence