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AT THIS HOUR
North Korea Slams Trump's "Aggressive" Tweets; Dems To FBI: Revoke Kushner's Security Clearance Now; Dems To Tie Obamacare Payments To Government Spending Bill; Source: Trump Being Briefed On North Korea At Resort; World Braces For North Korea Move; Interview with Rep. Jerrold Nadler. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired April 14, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WILLIAM PERRY, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY FOR BILL CLINTON: -- posing a very great danger in this peace and stability of the region, and ultimately, perhaps a danger to the United States.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The dangers and the risks are great, and we're kind of at this moment where no one exactly knows what North Korea's going to do next, but we do know how the president has responded so far. He's been tweeting veiled threats towards North Korea.
One of them saying, "North Korea's looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great," the president tweeted, "if not, we will solve the problem without them." What do you think of President Trump's approach to North Korea?
PERRY: Well, I think it's important that he faces this problem. It's a serious problem. And everything he has said has indicated that he does take it very seriously. I think that the military action this time would be very dangerous, and I believe we still have room for diplomacy.
So I think military action, while I would not rule it out, is I think premature, because there's still a possibility for significant diplomatic -- particularly if we can team up with China.
The combination -- we've never had this in the past in our diplomacy, but if we can combine with China, between the two of us, we have very powerful both incentives and disincentives to North Korea.
BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about the idea of a preemptive strike. When you were defense secretary, you considered one on their nuclear facility, obviously opting against it, the administration. What would a preemptive strike mean right now? You think it's a bad idea, but what would it mean?
PERRY: Well, preemptive strike right now could be either against their nuclear test facility or against their missile launch facility. One we were considering in the 1994 was against the nuclear test development facility at Yongbyon. That doesn't make much sense today because they already have nuclear weapons and we don't know where they are located.
So we cannot stop their nuclear program just by going after Yongbyon today. But the important thing I think is that we would be looking at very significant diplomatic initiative. I think we have to understand that the regime in North Korea, while they're evil, are not crazy. They are not crazy.
They are not seeking martyrdom. They're not suicidal. Therefore, I do not believe that they are going to be conducting an unprovoked nuclear attack against Korea or Japan or the United States. I don't think that's in the cards at all. The danger is that we'll get into some kind of a military conflict with them, and it could escalate into nuclear war.
BOLDUAN: That is a huge fear, obviously. You mentioned China and the role here of China. I mean, President Trump just met with China's president, and coming out of it, he said that the meeting had gone great, that they've spoken twice since they met in Mar-a-Lago. Are you seeing any change in China's behavior that would indicate to you that they're ready to help, that this is different this time?
PERRY: I think it is different this time, and the difference is not so much what we're saying or doing. The difference is that China now recognizes that the threat from North Korea is very serious. And any war on the Korean Peninsula is going to affect China very adversely.
Therefore, I think they are willing now to work with us in a serious way to try to prevent that war. Therefore, a diplomatic action with China, which we had never succeeded in the past, we now have a possibility of doing that.
So, I favor really United States and China putting together a package of incentives and disincentives that would be very impressive to North Korea. And that would be --
BOLDUAN: Do you think -- sorry, Secretary. Do you think that the threat from North Korea is more serious, more dangerous now than ever before?
PERRY: I think it is more serious and more dangerous than before, but I want to emphasize that the threat of conducting an unprovoked nuclear attack is bluster on their part. That's not what they're planning. They're not seeking martyrdom.
They know very well that an unprovoked attack against South Korea or Japan, that their regime will be destroyed and their country will be devastated. So, they're not going to do that.
The danger, as I said, is not an unprovoked attack, but that we get into a military conflict of any size and that that conflict escalates into a war. If they are cornered, if they see their regime about to collapse, then they might use the nuclear weapons as sort of a last desperate measure. That's the danger.
BOLDUAN: That's what everyone is watching for very closely, especially on this very important holiday over there. Secretary, thank you so much for coming in.
PERRY: You're very welcome. It's good to talk to you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
Coming up for us, Democrats now going after President Trump's top adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Why they want the FBI to step in. One of those lawmakers leading the charge joins me.
Plus, call it deja vu all over again. The government on the brink of a shutdown. Why? Democrats and Republicans can't agree. Yes, I know, that is shocking! What's standing in the way this time? That's coming up.
BOLDUAN: Jared Kushner, he's President Trump's son-in-law, senior adviser, and now the latest target for Democrats. Democrats demanding that the FBI revoke Kushner's security clearance. They say they're concerned after "The New York Times" reported that Kushner failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials on his security clearance application.
Let's discuss this. Joining me now, Democratic congressman from New York, Jerrord Nadler. Congressman, thanks so much for being here.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: It's a pleasure.
BOLDUAN: You signed on in this letter, Democrats sending this to James Comey, to the FBI. Have you heard anything back yet?
NADLER: No, we have not. It was sent a few days ago. We have not heard anything back yet.
BOLDUAN: Is that surprising to you?
NADLER: No, not in that time frame.
BOLDUAN: On this letter, you have concerns. You want his security clearance revoked.
NADLER: Temporarily revoked until these questions are answered.
BOLDUAN: Kushner's people, though, after these reports came out that he didn't put this on his forms, they're trying to clear it up. They're trying -- it was unintentional.
[11:40:10]They're trying to clear it up with the FBI and they said why not let it play out?
NADLER: It's hard to imagine that omitting on -- that when you have a form that says, you answer completely under penalty of perjury, you don't omit anything under penalty of perjury, that you omit dozens of meetings with foreign officials, when they specifically ask about that.
He met with the Russian ambassador, he met with security people, or at least people who had graduated from the security school of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, and he omits that. Now, what is that, absent-mindedness? I doubt that.
Now, can he change that after the fact? Perhaps. But the fact that he submitted a materially false statement to the FBI for security clearance is a very bad thing, and it's potentially a criminal act with a five-year penalty, and pending straightening this up, we're saying his security clearance should be revoked.
If he was in a normal administration, I would say if he weren't the president's son-in-law, this wouldn't be tolerated. I'd say in a normal administration, because the administration's had a pattern of people, whether it's Attorney General Sessions in his testimony before the Senate or Mike Flynn --
BOLDUAN: All says intention, it's hard to get to motivation. Do you think he intentionally misled?
NADLER: I think he intentionally omitted. When you've had dozens of meetings with foreign officials, and they specifically ask you about that and you don't put it down, yes, that's intentional.
BOLDUAN: But when they clear it up, then you're fine with it?
NADLER: No, I'm not fine with it.
NADLER: But we'd have to see a reason, an excuse, some reason why it was omitted. This is -- this is a form that's supposed to be submitted with a complete accounting, that tells you up front there's a penalty of perjury on it, and maybe you have a chance to change, to add things that you've forgotten later, but you don't forget dozens of meetings with foreign officials, especially when that subject has been in the news about other officials.
BOLDUAN: So, we'll see how the FBI responds. I do want to talk to you about health care because there's a lot going on. We know this, the government gives money to insurance companies to help reduce the cost of premiums for low-income Americans. That is part of Obamacare.
Our latest reporting is that Democrats are planning to tie that money to keeping the government -- to the government funding bill that has to be passed at the end of the month. If that money isn't in there, Congressman, are you prepared to shut the government down?
NADLER: I -- it's not a question of shutting the government -- of our shutting the government down. Remember, the Republicans have majority in both houses and the president. If the government's going to be shut down, it's because they can't get the votes on their side of the aisle on an agreement.
What the Democrats do is completely separate. Now, what's going on here is that the president is trying to blackmail the American people and the Democrats by saying that if the Democrats don't suddenly come to the table and negotiate, which we've been willing to do all the time -- I mean, they've never asked.
BOLDUAN: That is not -- that is not true! You are not willing to go sit down at a table if the president says we're going to repeal and replace.
NADLER: Repeal, no.
BOLDUAN: That is fundamentally different.
NADLER: Well, I started saying, if the president wants to improve the ACA, we've always said there are improvements to be made, et cetera. If there are problems with it, which there are. We're perfectly willing to negotiate that. But that offer's never been made.
BOLDUAN: So, it is a bargaining chip. He's going to hold this and you come to the table, are you going to come to the table?
NADLER: We are not going to submit to blackmail in which the president says he will blow out, by ceasing these payments, he will blow up insurance for millions of Americans who need it. I don't really believe he would do that.
BOLDUAN: But if Democrats, Congressman, are tying this money to keeping the government open --
NADLER: We are not --
BOLDUAN: -- when this goes to the Senate, are you not essentially going to be accused of same thing, of blackmailing the country?
NADLER: We are blackmailing nobody. This subject --
BOLDUAN: You're going to be painted as shutting the government down, you know that.
NADLER: No. These payments are part of Obamacare. They are the law now.
BOLDUAN: But it's been caught up in court. Like, it's --
NADLER: It's been caught up in court, but why, by the way? Because Republicans --
BOLDUAN: Republicans challenged it.
NADLER: Yes, but why? Because they don't want to improve service to the American people. They want to destroy it, and that's what they've done here. They've said, hey, the law provides for these payments, but we in Congress, we, the Republican majority in Congress haven't appropriated the money, and therefore, we can stop the payments.
BOLDUAN: Welcome to how Washington works. That's how it begins. NADLER: But they could appropriate the money because the law provides for that money. If they don't appropriate the money and then go to court, what they're saying is, let's blow up the system and deprive millions of people of care. We are not going to do that.
BOLDUAN: Can you guarantee that Democrats will not have any part in shutting the government down? You will not tie this money to keeping the government funded?
NADLER: Well, those are two different propositions. I can guarantee --
[11:45:08]BOLDUAN: They won't be in the end.
NADLER: Yes, they will. I can guarantee Democrats have nothing to do with shutting the government down because that's the Republicans' decision because they have majority in both houses. They can pass a budget or a continuing resolution to keep the government open without a single Democratic vote. It's up to them.
BOLDUAN: When it comes to the Senate, that's not how things will roll.
NADLER: I'm talking about the House. I don't know about the Senate. If you're asking me are the Democrats in the Senate going to filibuster, I have no idea. But I --
BOLDUAN: You have no control over what those senators do as much as they have control over what you do.
NADLER: That's also very true.
BOLDUAN: Thank you very much for coming in. We'll talk about the government shutdown as soon as they come back to work because the government needs to be funded by the end of the month. Thank you, Congressman.
Coming up for us, a merciless response with no survivors. That's North Korea's new warning to the United States as it slams so-called provocations from the American military and reportedly preps for a new nuclear test. Are we headed toward a confrontation? And what would that mean? We're going to discuss.
Meanwhile, President Trump is back on the golf course today, his 17th trip to the course since he took the oath of office, but we're told he is being briefed on all the activities going on in North Korea while he is in Mar-a-Lago. We're going to go to Mar-a-Lago to hear the very latest. That's ahead.
BOLDUAN: President Trump is at the Southern White House right now. His resort in Florida. White house official, though, saying aides from the National Security Council are accompanying him during his trip and weekend at his resort as tensions rise with North Korea. CNN's Jessica Schneider is live there with much more. Jessica, what's the very latest we're hearing from the president?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, President Trump this morning actually went out to his Trump international Golf course here in West Palm Beach to actually spend part of the morning. He's still over there now. He will be headed back to Mar-a-Lago where he'll spend Easter weekend.
But of course, all of this amidst rising tensions in Asia. However, we do know that President Trump will be kept fully informed, fully briefed by his National Security Council staff. We know that several staffers from the National Security Council are here at Mar-a-Lago with him.
They will be keeping him updated as we approach that national holiday in North Korea where tensions are rising and concerns are brewing that they could conduct a sixth nuclear test. It would be the first nuclear test under President Trump's presidency.
So all of that is being very carefully monitored. We also know over at Mar-a-Lago there is a secure room where the president can receive secure briefings, teleconferencing, other security features.
So the president being kept abreast, Kate, all while down here at Palm Beach, at Mar-a-Lago at his resort for the Easter weekend. We do know he's been joined by First Lady Melania Trump as well as their son, Baron, and also President Trump's son, Don Jr. with his family as well.
So an Eastern weekend her, but obviously keeping an eye on the situation and the rising tensions in Asia -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yes, when the president travels, the White House travels with him. Jessica, thank you so very much. Really appreciate it.
Joining me now to discuss further, Gordon Chang is here. He is a columnist for "The Daily Beast," author of "Nuclear Showdown, North Korea Takes On The World." Gordon, it's great to have you.
A lot of statements coming from North Korea. The latest statement coming out from the North Korean military is "We will mercilessly destroy all the provocative choices of the United States with our own toughest response."
And also saying that the "U.S. has to come to its senses and opt for a proper solution to the problem." What should folks take from this as tensions rise and everyone is watching this holiday approach?
GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, "THE DAILY BEAST": The holiday is important because it is actually Kim Il-sung's birthday, 105th anniversary. Most important day of the year for the North Koreans. They need to appear strong because Kim Jong-un has had problems inside his regime especially since the end of January.
We've seen these four instances of instability. So I expect that Kim Jong-Un just needs, to look strong because to do that, that's going to be critical to maintaining control.
BOLDUAN: Do you think -- how good are the chances that there's going to be a nuclear test?
CHANG: You know, it's really hard to say. They're done all the preparations. All that's missing is a decision by Kim Jong-Un to set it off. It can also be the rollout one of their mobile missiles and fire it. That could also get our attention. That would even are more important, but we also know that this is a test for China.
BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about that, Gordon, because you have the president, he has said, President Trump has said that he thinks President Xi is going to work with him. President Trump has even touted that the Chinese turned back boats full of coal. You have an announcement that Air China is going to suspend flights from Beijing to Pyongyang even though they point to lack of interest from passengers. Do you see these as signals?
CHANG: The signal is basically Beijing doesn't know what to make of Donald Trump. I think that they were flat footed because of the missile strikes on Syria and then the dropping of this bomb in Afghanistan yesterday, which I think was a message to North Korea because they were going after underground facilities.
And no country has put more military operations underground than North Korea. So I think that China is going to try to show cooperation with the U.S. at least until we sort of pay attention to something else.
And then they'll probably go back to their old way of doing things which is supporting North Korea. But at least for the moment, I think they are afraid of Trump and so they are willing to accommodate what he wants.
BOLDUAN: It's interesting. Gordon Chang, great to see you. Thanks so much, Gordon.
Coming up for us, from day-to-day, I don't know. That's what President Trump has to say about rumors of a senior staff shakeup. Is Steve Bannon safe? Where do things stand? Who's in? Who's out? Who's going to go? Details ahead.
BOLDUAN: It's been ten years since CNN launched the iconic "CNN Heroes" project to recognize everyday people changing the world. Now some schools are incorporating the campaign in their classrooms including this fifth grade teacher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throughout our school year we will set up several Skype calls with various heroes. They're a celebrity to my kids as they should be. The kids come up with amazing questions.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: How long did it take you --
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: How is it different?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Did you ever feel --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I see how excited that fifth grader is, did makes me realize that we're doing something right in here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: You sure are. To learn more go to cnnheroes.com. Thanks so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kate. Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us. A long Eastern weekend in Palm Beach for President Trump as Washington and the world debate the strategy and the meaning behind two major military strikes --