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North Korea Nuclear Crisis; Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Trump on Nuclear Arsenal; Harvey Weinstein Investigation; Death Toll Rises to 21 As Wildfires Scorch California. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 11, 2017 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump saying today -- quote -- "It's, frankly, disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it."

Well, I have looked into it. And you might want to start looking into it, too, Mr. President.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news, North Korea making a direct threat to the U.S., saying an insane President Trump -- quote -- "lit the wick of war," and now the world braces for the next tweet.

How do powerful accused sexual predators such as Harvey Weinstein keep getting away with their despicable acts? Well, the author of the possibly culture-changing "New Yorker" expose will join us live.

Plus, one victim said it looks like Armageddon. Winds are now threatening to spread wildfires that have now killed 21 people across the state of California, as families frantically search for the hundreds reported missing.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin this afternoon with our world lead.

The nuclear standoff with North Korea reaching another alarming level just a short time ago. North Korea's foreign minister declaring today that President Trump's -- quote -- "insane warning" at the United Nations -- quote -- "lit the wick of war."

Moments ago, President Trump denied that he wants to increase the U.S. nuclear stockpile, as had been reported, but he did say the stockpile must be in perfect condition.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We won't need an increase, but I want modernization and I want total rehabilitation. It's got to be in tiptop shape.


TAPPER: Last night, Mr. Trump was briefed yet again by Defense Secretary James Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, on a range of military options in North Korea.

Meanwhile, American B-1 bombers conducted mock missile launches along the Korean Peninsula yesterday.

CNN's Barbara Starr begins our coverage live from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): B-1 bombers flying in a show of force over the Pacific, sending the message just one more time to Kim Jong-un that the U.S. is ready to move against him if it comes to that.

President Trump met again with national security officials to review what the White House calls "a range of options to respond to any form of North Korean aggression or, if necessary, to prevent North Korea from threatening the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons."

But when asked if he is on the same page as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson:

TRUMP: I think I have a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have. And I listen to everybody, but ultimately my attitude is the one that matters, isn't it?

STARR: The North Korean foreign policy minister telling the Russian state-run TASS Agency President Trump lit the wick of war when he spoke to the U.N.

TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

STARR: Pentagon officials say there will be more U.S. military shows of force. Three aircraft carries could be training together in the region as early as next month, as president-elect Donald Trump called for expanding the nuclear arsenal in a tweet last December: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

But increasing the nuclear fleet would be hindered by arms control limits and the billions of dollars in costs, and many say it's just not needed.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: There is really no difference between delivering one nuclear device or 10 nuclear devices on the same target. That target will be obliterated regardless.

STARR: Experts say it's more important to fix the weapons on hand.

LEIGHTON: What should have been addressed by the president is the quality of the nuclear weaponry that we have right now. Our nuclear armory does have some issues when it comes to sustainability, reliability, and, quite frankly, usability.

STARR: And cyberspace is now the unseen battle with North Korea. Several defense officials tell the CNN the Pentagon is working on highly classified cyber-war plans against the regime.

North Korea may already be fighting back. The North allegedly hacked into South Korean systems holding the critical war plans involving the U.S., including destroying the North's regime leadership. The Pentagon will only say current war plans are secure.


STARR: And also in cyberspace, a U.S. cyber-security firm is reporting that hackers affiliated with North Korea tried to get into the U.S. electric power companies last month.

The reports are that they were not successful in disrupting the power supply, but it does underscore the path North Korea is on -- Jake.


TAPPER: Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

This all comes as we're learning new details about a tense meeting over the summer between President Trump and his national security team, after which sources say Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the president a -- quote -- "moron."

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has that story from the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump welcoming Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the White House today.

TRUMP: Thank you all very much. I very much appreciate it. We are here with a man who has become a friend of mine.

ZELENY: The president and the prime minister were all smiles, unlike Mr. Trump has been with some of his own top advisers, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

It's been one week since reports first surfaced that Tillerson referred to the president as a moron after a national security meeting this summer. CNN has learned the president was infuriated when he learned about the remark and has been fuming behind closed doors ever since.

Today, the president had this to say about his top diplomat.

TRUMP: We have a very good relationship. The press really doesn't understand that, but that's OK. We actually have a very good relationship. ZELENY: Yet, in the next breath, the president also made clear he

sees the nuclear threat with North Korea differently, particularly in balancing a diplomatic and military response. Asked if he was on the same page with Tillerson, the president said this.

TRUMP: I think I have a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have. And I listen to everybody. But, ultimately, my attitude is the one that matters, isn't it? That's the way it works. That's the way the system is.

ZELENY: It's that attitude that worries some of the president's advisers and members of Congress, like Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who said he fears Trump was leading the U.S. on a path to World War III.

TRUMP: I think I might have a somewhat different attitude and a different way than other people. I think perhaps I feel stronger and tougher on that subject than other people.

ZELENY: The president also dismissed an NBC News report today that said he called for increasing the U.S. nuclear arsenal by 10 times the amount of current levels.

TRUMP: No, I never discussed -- I think somebody said I want 10 times the nuclear weapons that we have right now. Right now, we have so many nuclear weapons. I want them in perfect condition, perfect shape. That's the only thing I have ever discussed.

ZELENY: But CNN has learned the July 20 meeting at the Pentagon that led to the moron comment was difficult and tense.

Today, the president said he hasn't called for expanding nuclear capacity, which he actually has done several times. During the transition, he tweeted: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."


ZELENY: Now, Jake, that is one of the underlying issues here. Some White House advisers and advisers elsewhere throughout the government wonder if the president has a grasp on nuclear weapons, among other things, particularly what would be involved in increasing them.

Of course, those are guided by international guidelines, and they have been reducing them, you know, over the last decades or so, but the president in that meeting in the Oval Office today said, I understand this, was making clear that he knows them.

But, Jake, that tense meeting at the White House, that is -- or the Pentagon this summer on July 20, that is one of the reasons here that led to that comment. It's one of the reasons that people still question his grasp of all of this -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us, thank you so much. So should Congress be concerned about President Trump's -- quote --

"different attitude" on North Korea from his own administration officials? We will talk to one Republican lawmaker next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

And let's stay with our world lead now, the escalating nuclear showdown between the United States and North Korea.

Joining me now to discuss this all is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and he fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congressman, good to see you, as always.

So, this week, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, Senator Bob Corker, questioned the president's fitness for office essentially and he said Mr. Trump, in his view, is taking us, the nation, down the path of World War III.

He also suggested that this is a sentiment privately expressed by almost every senator. Is this something you have heard from your colleagues in the House?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: No, actually, I haven't, to be honest with you.

I think this Trump/Corker feud is weird to me. I don't really know what it sparked from. I don't agree with Bob Corker, though, that we're on a path to World War III.

I actually said that I think the president's handling -- I don't agree with all his statements and tweets necessarily on this, but I think the way he's handling North Korea is actually really good, because you finally have a stick being shown, a stick option to back up the potential for a carrot and to get a diplomatic solution to this thing.

Up until now, and his audience, frankly, isn't Kim Jong-un. The audience is the Chinese, the Russians, the people that use basically the slave labor from North Korea, that import material to them and buy goods from them, is that this is serious. We're taking it seriously. And we need to handle this diplomatically.

TAPPER: We have heard Republicans say that there really isn't a military option that is viable without tens of thousands, if not millions of people being killed in both North Korea and South Korea.

Steve Bannon said something like that to "The American Prospect" on his way out the door from the White House. The chief of staff of the U.S. Army, General Mark Milley, said this week -- quote -- "There are no good, easy, you know, risk-free options here."

You have served in combat. You have visited South Korea recently. At what point do you think any, if any, military intervention would be justified? Just a threat to the U.S. or its allies, an actual attack? What would North Korea need to do for you to think that it was OK for there to be military intervention by the U.S.?

KINZINGER: Well, I think it's tough, like, what's the trigger point?

I think firing rockets over Japan, we can, you know, figure out their trajectory when it's shot. Putting rockets over our allies, then saying you have the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead now, and they do.

[16:15:00] They haven't perfected reentry on intercontinental ballistic missiles yet, but that's coming. So, what you have here is different than, you know, like what you had in India and Pakistan. You have nuclear weapons. You have a regime that says they're going to use them and a regime that throws them all over the place, making us think they might be willing to use it.

So, what is that trigger point? It's hard to really put out there. I think the national security establishment that knows way more details than I do can pick that.

But I'll tell you, the very worst case scenario, military is a really bad case scenario, the worst case scenario is a nuclear North Korea with the ability to shoot more missiles than we can handle in terms of defending an intercept. And they have claimed their desire to use it.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: CNN has learned that North Korean hackers or hackers affiliated with North Korea stole classified military documents from a South Korean defense ministry database in September 2016. The stolen documents included the South Korea/U.S. wartime plans and a document that includes procedures to, quote, decapitate the North Korean leadership. That must be very concerning for you.

KINZINGER: Yes, absolutely. You know, all of these hacks, whether it's into our security establishment, South Korea, the North Koreans are good at cyber, cyber attacks, cyber offense. We saw this with the stealing of -- or the hacking in Hollywood they did. Yes, it's very concerning.

We can move war plans, we can change them, we can put new plans in place, and I assume that's been done and being done. But it does give the enemy an insight into, you know, how we would go about a military option potentially. And so, I think, look, on all of these things, you know, why we continue to have hacks and how adversaries can continue to get into this very -- what should be very secure servers and information storage is something that a government, we've got to quit saying we're going to look into it, we've got to really do something.

I'm not a security expect, so I don't know what that thing is, but we've got to do something to make sure we're not going to continually have our national security apparatus of us or our allies interfered with.

TAPPER: Tomorrow, President Trump's expected to decertify the nuclear deal with Iran. The chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Ed Royce, says that the deal, although he had issues with it when it was started, it should stay in place. It just needs to have it be enforced.

What's your position? Do you agree with Chairman Royce or are you ready to vote for new sanctions on Iran, thus invalidating the whole deal?

KINZINGER: Well, it will be -- so the president from what I understand is not going to tear up the deal and pull out. He's going to decertify and that gives us an opportunity even to re-impose sanctions or hopefully bring the Europeans or potentially Iranians on board for a better deal that makes sense.

You know, the IAEA right now sometimes is getting soiled samples from Iran that they send in themselves. The Russians are demanding that they be present, otherwise, we can't inspect military sites. So, there's a lot of loopholes to this. But I think -- I want to see what the president actually lays out. I've been briefed on some of it.

But I think you're going to see a comprehensive strategy for Iran that's more than just this nuclear deal that I think is going to make sense. From what I understand, think actually the whole thing makes sense. But I'll be interested to see how the president articulates that when he does. And then I think we can have real conversations. Right now, it's just pieces that are coming out that aren't bigger picture.

TAPPER: All right. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, always good to see you, sir. Thanks.

KINZINGER: Yes, anytime. See you.

TAPPER: A growing death toll, hundreds reported missing and entire neighborhoods turning into piles of charred wreckage. And now, high winds could ignite more danger. The wildfires of California, that story is next.


[16:22:22] TAPPER: And we're back with some breaking news in the national lead.

Hundreds are now reported missing. Home after home almost vaporized. Shifting winds making it difficult for firefighters to get the upper hand as they battle those horrific wildfires in California.

The state of California now reporting 21 deaths related to these fires. Just look what first responders are up against. This is the view from a deputy's dash cam earlier this week in Sonoma County. This is what's left of some neighborhood, practically nothing.

This is the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California. The fire destroyed everything that wasn't steel, concrete or brick.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live for us in Napa.

And, Miguel, as evacuations expand, are Californians heeding the warnings to leave?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are heeding the warnings, and those warnings are only getting bigger. You were talking about Coffey Park in Santa Rosa. That's about 30 miles from where I'm standing right here. This is Signorello vineyards. This is one of 3,500 businesses or homes that have been destroyed across a swath of California from just north of San Francisco to the Oregon border.

I want to give you a sense of what it sounds like as I walk through this stuff. It is terrible the way all of this stuff has been absolutely destroyed. And here's the problem, 607 people in Sonoma County alone, this is Napa County, Sonoma County is just over there, 607 people reported missing there. They reported that they found 110 so far.

But the problem is people had to get out so quickly. The winds blowing around 75 miles per hour. People didn't have time to think. They grabbed what they could and left.

The police are only finding people who have died because they happen to be in the neighborhood, not when somebody has called, not because they got a call, or heard someone is there, they happened upon them. There is great concern the death toll in this fire will go up and up.

Here is even the bigger problem, while we had a respite yesterday, look like winds were coming down, this afternoon, they are predicting winds up to 45-mile-per-hour gusts in this area.

The fire is just in the hills back there. It is coming this way. Any place that is south of those fires, they are starting to evacuate now. There is great concern that the lines they've been building, that those attempts to protect structures in the area will not hold. They are completely in this part of the world at the mercy of the wind tonight -- Jake.

TAPPER: Horrific story. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.

Multiple women have now come forward accusing Harvey Weinstein, the film producer, of everything from sexual harassment to rape. We're going do talk to the reporter who talked to several accusers about why this story didn't come out sooner. That's next.


[16:28:56] TAPPER: We're back with our pop culture lead now.

The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal continues to widen today as we hear from even more accusers whose allegations suggest a staggering wide-ranging reign of harassment and even rape by the film producer. This afternoon, the New York district attorney is defending his

decision not to press charges against Weinstein in 2015 after actress Ambra Battilana Gutierrez accused him of groping her and then she wore a wire to record another encounter with Weinstein the next day.

District Attorney Cy Vance telling reporters today that wire was not enough.


CY VANCE, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I understand that folks are outraged by his behavior. I understand that there are many other allegations that have surfaced, but in our case, we really did I think what the law obligates us to do. If we had a case that we felt we could prosecute and my experts felt we could prosecute against Harvey Weinstein, we would have.


TAPPER: Weinstein's wife, moreover, has issued a statement say she is leaving him, while the board of the Weinstein Company says it will soon have a new name for the company.

Bob Weinstein, in addition, gave a statement to TMZ, calling his brother Harvey, quote, a very sick man and a, quote, world class liar who is looking to blame others.