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Trump: Military Solutions Locked and Loaded on North Korea; Japan Deploys Missile Interception System; Official: 14 Minutes for Missile to Reach Guam; Tensions Between McConnell And Trump Escalate; Trump To Senator McConnell: "Get Back To Work". Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired August 11, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- not have been tough enough. President Trump is declaring the U.S. military now fully prepared for action in a statement this morning. The President writing, military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong-un will find another path.
Now, this tweet from the President just moments after Pyongyang declared it was President Trump who is driving the peninsula, quote, to the brink of nuclear war and vowed strategic nuclear weapons will hit the United States' mainland at the first sign of any preemptive move by the United States.
Now, yesterday, the world heard from President Trump directly in two really remarkable news conferences. He said this about North Korea's dictator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody's seen before, what will happen in North Korea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you say that, what do you mean?
TRUMP: You'll see. You'll see. And he'll see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: And take a look at this. This is the chilling headline on the front page of the newspaper in Guam that residents there woke up to this morning. Fourteen minutes, the time officials estimate it would take a missile launched from North Korea to reach that U.S. territory. Now, a North Korean general warned yesterday a plan to send four missiles within 25 miles of Guam is being prepared for Kim Jong-un's review within just days.
We are covering all of this all across the globe. Let's begin with Will Ripley in Beijing.
Good morning, Will.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. So within the past few hours, there is a brand new statement out of North Korea directly responding to President Trump's comments yesterday. And what we're seeing now is a more familiar message from North Korea.
They did not talk, for example, about upping the ante or did not detail any further their plan that they laid out earlier this week to launch those missiles coming within 20 miles of the U.S. territory of Guam.
But what they are saying, and I'll read you two portions of the statement, is, quote, Trump is driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war, making such outcries as the U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK.
And then this statement. Instead of focusing on what President Trump said, they talked about the history because history influences so much of what North Korea does. They talked about the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 when 3 million people, mostly civilians, died on the Korean Peninsula.
They talked about the fact that the United States, they say, came close to dropping atomic bombs back then. And they say the United States is ready to do it again, which is how the regime justifies spending so much money on developing nuclear weapons and missiles.
The second part reads, quote, all these facts go to prove that the U.S. is indeed the mastermind of the nuclear threat, a heinous nuclear war fanatic. But, Poppy, this is a familiar message. We've heard words like this from North Korea before.
HARLOW: We have indeed, you know. And, Will, the fact that less than 48 hours ago, the statement we got from North Korea was this very detailed plan about a potential strike right near Guam, something you said you've never seen the likes of before, what concerns you most as someone who has spent so much time in North Korea speaking with people high up in this regime?
RIPLEY: Well, we certainly need to watch, very closely, North Korea's actions in the coming days. Because if they do go through with that plan to launch four Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missiles simultaneously, fly them over Japan, put them down very close to 160,000-plus U.S. citizens along with Anderson Air Force Base and marine base in Guam, that would be their most provocative missile test ever.
And they -- there's very well a chance they could do that. They say they'll have a plan ready for their leader, Kim Jong-un, to sign off on perhaps in a matter of days. And if they did that, that really would escalate tensions here on the peninsula.
But this statement this morning, to me, feels like a bit of dialed back rhetoric from North Korea.
RIPLEY: They didn't personally attack the President. They didn't go into greater detail about this plan.
They said that the President is a nuclear war fanatic, but that's something that they have said about U.S. presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton. I mean, this is North Korean much more standard propaganda. This is not the kind of message that we saw earlier this week.
But again, actions speak louder than words. Right now, this is a war of words. But we do know that the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises regularly scheduled are due to take off later this month.
That is always a tense time in the peninsula, often a time when North Korea demonstrates its military force by launching missiles. So it could still get -- the situation could still very much escalate. It's still quite sensitive here at the moment.
HARLOW: Will Ripley, really appreciate the reporting and perspective. Thank you very much. Let's go to the Pentagon now. We find our Barbara Starr there.
The words from the President this morning, locked and loaded, saying our U.S. military is ready should Kim Jong-un act. Any sense that there has been an escalation, though, in the military preparedness or what is locked and loaded?
[09:04:56] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, not at this point. I think what you are seeing again -- and I'm very much in agreement with Will on the interpretation on all sides. You are seeing words. You're not seeing the actions yet.
Now, when the President says locked and loaded and ready to go, the U.S. military has been ready to go to defend itself and to counter North Korea for months now, if not years, because of the escalating threat.
U.S. forces are in the region. They have aircraft. They have personnel. They have missiles. They have bombs. All of that very much ready to go at any point.
They are looking at North Korea's words about this potential North Korean launch of four missiles against Guam. They have the THAAD missile defense on Guam. They have ships in the region that can defend.
So you see several -- you -- what you begin to see are several scenarios and preparedness for those scenarios that has been unfolding for some time. All of that missile defense has been in place for a while because of the continuing threat, ready to shoot down if North Korea were to fire. And there are aircraft and other missile ships in the region.
So what officials here are saying is they are always ready to go. They don't have to raise the alert level. They don't have to raise the readiness level at this point.
For now, as we stand here this morning, they say they see no imminent signs of North Korea preparing for a missile launch. But the bottom line is the Pentagon, the intelligence community, watching around the clock, Poppy.
HARLOW: Yes, absolutely. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thank you very much.
Also to Japan now where the Japanese are deploying their land-based missile interception system to four different locations throughout the country. That is where our Senior International Correspondent Kyung Lah is, in Tokyo.
Kyung, what else can you tell us about this?
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this movement is happening in these overnight hours here in Tokyo. They are expected to be in place and ready according to the Ministry of Defense by tomorrow morning Tokyo time, Friday evening U.S. time.
These are ground-based PAC-3 missile interceptors, and they are being moved to four different locations according to the government. Those four locations, they are being specifically picked because there are military bases there. They are moving from central Japan, further southwest, and they are pointing to the sky because of that very specific threat from North Korea about missiles flying over Japan to Guam.
Now, these are really for the protection of Japanese homeland. These are more of a just in case, but it certainly is, Poppy, a strengthening of the defense posture. This is a direct response by Japan from that very specific threat from North Korea, Poppy.
HARLOW: Kyung Lah in Tokyo. Thank you so much. Now, if a North Korean missile were fired at Guam and got through U.S. defenses and intercepts, an official there says it would only be in the air for 14 minutes before reaching the target. And that is the chilling headline that people are waking up to in the newspaper this morning in Guam.
Let's go to Ivan Watson who is with us for more. Ivan, what else can you tell us?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Poppy. That's right. That chilling piece of information coming from Guam's Homeland Security advisor, an estimate that it would only take about 14 minutes for North Korean missile to reach this U.S. island.
That is, if everything goes right on the North Korean side, and granted, they've never really fired a missile in this direction to that distance. And second, if it penetrates the different layers of U.S., South Korean, and Japanese missile defense.
But nonetheless, something quite chilling to learn, certainly, for the more than 160,000 U.S. citizens living on this island. Also on this island, of course, two military bases. And some of the local media got an example of how the B-1 bombers that operate off of U.S. Anderson Air Force Base, how they conduct their missions.
And a lieutenant colonel spoke briefly to the press about combat preparedness from these warplanes. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LT. COL. CHRIS OCCHIUZZO, DEPUTY OPERATIONS GROUP COMMANDER, ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE: We obviously have a vested interest in here, and we feel safe here right now. And that's what this continuous bomber presence does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: The Lieutenant Colonel is saying their families -- the Lieutenant Colonel is saying their families and children live on this island, and they want to protect it as well.
Finally, the Governor of the island is advising residents this weekend to go about life as usual despite the fears, to go to the beach, to relax. That is his advice to the people and tourists on this island, Poppy.
HARLOW: And echoing what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, right, Americans, as well, should sleep well at night. Ivan Watson in Guam. Thank you for the reporting.
With us now to analyze all of it, Kimberly Dozier, CNN global affairs analyst, and Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, our military analyst. Thank you both for being here.
[09:10:01] Mark, Lieutenant General, let me begin with you. So this exchange of words yesterday.
The President says he may not have been tough enough in his initial statement. Then North Korea comes out and says that it is the President driving this to the brink of nuclear war. And then the President responds, saying if they make a misstep, an aggressive move, the U.S. military is locked and loaded. Your take?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. My take is, first of all, that phrase, locked and loaded, he heard that from someone. That's a typical military phrase that folks say when we're ready. So he's repeating something he's heard, probably from one of his military advisers around him, and it sounds tough.
Secondly, the military has been locked and loaded, if you will, or ready for any kind of action on the peninsula and the area around it for, as Barbara Starr said, several years.
Now, there's a layered defense system of not just the THAAD missile, the terminal high altitude air defense missile, which can shoot both inside and outside the atmosphere for long range launches. But they all have -- also has something, an army system called a PAC-3. It's a Patriot missile system which gets something as a terminal missile that's going on.
And then what we can't forget is our brothers and sisters in the Navy, on both the Arleigh Burke and the Ticonderoga-class cruisers which have the Aegis missile systems that can also knock ICBMs and medium range ballistic missiles out of the sky as well.
So this is a layered system, Poppy, and it surrounds the island of North Korea, Japan, and there are some defending the island of Guam too because there are military bases there.
Kyung Lah's reporting that she's seeing the PAC-3 missiles, the Patriot missiles, roll out, that would be terminal if a missile was going into somewhere in Japan where it would strike the missile before it actually struck the ground. But here's an important point, if I can say just one more thing before you turn to Kimberly.
HERTLING: You know, when these missiles are launched, they are intercepted by the radar. If there's an indicator through the flight pattern that they are going to hit a target, then a defensive missile is launched against it.
But if it looks like it's just going to fall into the sea, the commander on the ground will say, why should we strike that missile? Why do we knock that out of the sky if it's not going to hit anything? So you may see -- if missiles are fired, they may land in the middle of the ocean with no effects, but that doesn't mean they haven't been tracked or haven't been looked at in terms of incoming strikes.
HARLOW: Certainly. So, Kimberly, to you, a few questions, the first being the message from the Secretary of State is sleep -- Americans should sleep well at night. The President has clearly ramped up his rhetoric as has North Korea to match it or exceed it, certainly.
The White House says there are not mixed messages. For Americans at home, that may be hard for them to get their head around, but we've seen some of this in history, right? I mean, Kissinger, Nixon, good cop, bad cop. Is there a lesson in that here?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think what you're seeing is the strategy they've previously articulated, to try to pressure China, to pressure North Korea to get to the negotiating table, but sort of echoed through each person's personal style.
Donald Trump does not walk softly, softly and carry a big stick.
DOZIER: He speaks with heavy rhetoric, whereas you've got Mattis who has said essentially the same thing but in a much quieter style. And then you've got Tillerson. He is the one who's having to talk to worried diplomatic leaders in the region and reassure them that, yes, we really don't want to go to war.
The surprising thing is the majority of people that I've spoken to, people who've lived and been deployed in the region, military, diplomatic and intelligence officers. They've said nothing else we've done has checked North Korea's nuclear weapons' growth.
HARLOW: That's a good point.
DOZIER: So maybe this will be the thing that shows China we're not a paper tiger, and messages to North Korea that we're serious about using force. HARLOW: Yes. I mean, there's been more than 25 years of attempts at
diplomacy, and this program has steadily advanced except for a few sort of momentary halts.
Kimberly Dozier, thank you. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you as well.
A war of words this morning continues. And we are continuing to follow the fast moving developments on North Korea. We'll bring you the latest.
And praising Putin but slamming Mitch McConnell, just one of the President's eyebrow raising answers to over 30 questions he took yesterday in two remarkable press conferences. We're breaking it down.
And the President declares the opioid crisis a national emergency. What does that mean for the millions of Americans addicted?
HARLOW: So this morning the president says the U.S. military is, quote, "locked and loaded" if North Korea acts unwisely. And in hours he's sitting down for a meeting with U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. They will undoubtedly be talking about North Korea.
It's unclear if we'll hear publicly from the president today, but yesterday he took more than 30 questions. Joe Johns reports.
TRUMP: I'm very disappointed in Mitch, but if he gets these bills passed, I'll be very happy with him.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump ramping up his criticism of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, suggesting he may want the top Republican to step aside if he doesn't deliver on the president's agenda.
TRUMP: If he doesn't get them done, then you can ask me that question.
JOHNS: The stunning public spat escalating after the two leaders exchanged jabs in recent days over the failure of the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: Our new president, of course, had not been in this line of work before and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.
TRUMP: They should have had this last one done. They lost by one vote. For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace. [09:20:05] JOHNS: President Trump delivering harsh words for the Republican Senate leader, but offering his thanks rather than condemnation to Russian President Vladimir Putin over his decision to expel 755 U.S. diplomatic staff from the Russian embassy.
TRUMP: I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on payroll, and as far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.
JOHNS: The president also sounding off on the Russia investigation hanging over his administration.
TRUMP: There is no collusion. You know why? Because I don't speak to Russians. Look, I won because I suppose I was a much better candidate than her.
JOHNS: Dismissing the probe while denying that he has plans to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
TRUMP: No, I'm not dismissing anybody. I mean, I want them to get on with the task.
JOHNS: Mueller's investigation accelerating amid news that the FBI conducted an early morning raid at the apartment of Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, last month.
TRUMP: To wake him up, perhaps his family was there, I think that's pretty tough stuff. I thought it was a very, very strong signal or whatever. I know Mr. Manafort. I haven't spoken to him in a long time, but I know him. He was with the campaign as you know for a very short period of time.
JOHNS: As for his current staff, President Trump gave high marks to his national security advisor and new chief of staff, but offered a far more lackluster endorsement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions when asked about their relationship following the president's public attacks.
TRUMP: It's fine. It is what it is. It's fine.
JOHNS: On top of all that, President Trump also reversed his administration's decision on the opioid crisis declaring it an emergency just a couple days after the health secretary said it wasn't going to happen.
And, Poppy, as you said at the top, he is expected to sit down and talk with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley who was instrumental in getting both Russia and China onboard with the sanctions against North Korea. No doubt North Korea is going to be at the top of the list today.
HARLOW: Yes. She is responsible for the biggest diplomatic win certainly right now on the North Korea front. Joe Johns, thank you.
With us, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana, a lot to take through here. On McConnell, a clear threat to his job if he does not get repeal and replace on Obamacare through and tax reform through.
But couple that with the president taking on Mitch McConnell in a way that he doesn't even take on Vladimir Putin. I mean, he had nicer confusing things to say about Putin than McConnell. Do you understand it?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not really. And actually the way that "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page this morning described it is that that President Trump is giving Mitch McConnell the Kim Jong-un treatment.
And of course, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page is kind of a key place to look we know conservative ideas at least historically, but for the more establishment wing.
Look, this is a very kind of understandable tactic if you're Donald Trump, came in kind of swinging against the establishment as the outsider, but he is now the president. He's not a candidate anymore.
And he's a president who desperately needs the Republican-controlled Congress to get his agenda through. So that's number one. It is dangerous to, you know, to take on the Congress in particular the Republican leader who no question failed when it comes to health care.
But might potentially have better luck on tax reform and other issues that this whole Republican Party needs to show some successes, and there's one more thing on this.
BASH: When you attack the Republican Congress, you're also talking about the House, despite the fact that he specifically calling out Mitch McConnell who's in the Senate.
And what that could mean another thing that the "Journal" pointed out this morning, Poppy, is there is much more of a likelihood that that could -- the House could switch hands if the Republican base is really depressed.
Thanks in part of the Republican president saying that they don't know what they're doing. What could that mean? A Democratic House. And where do impeachment proceedings start? In the House.
HARLOW: Great point. So, I was just wondering if you think that this new CNN poll that's out showing how bad frankly Republicans are faring public opinion wise and Congress has anything to do with giving the president a little bit of oomph here to just lambaste Mitch McConnell. I mean, they have 24 percent approval rating, Republicans in Congress, lower than the president's 38 percent.
BASH: Yes. I mean, the answer is yes. There's little question to me that he understands that as bad as his popularity is historically, and it is at a historic low when you look at presidents, it's still better than his brethren in Congress, those who are leading Congress. [09:25:01] And so, when it comes to the view of the American people, he has the upper hand, but that is, again, looking at it as a one-on- one sort of fight as opposed to the fact that they're all in it together when you're talking about needing to pass a big-ticket agenda items.
HARLOW: So interesting comments about his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster. So much has been made of this west wing feud between his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and McMaster, a lot of talk about whether the president frankly likes or respects McMaster at all.
But asked about McMaster yesterday, he said, yes, I like him. I respect him and he's very talented. Telling?
BASH: I think it is and I think this is telling about a couple things. I think the most important is the at least short term initial role of the new chief of staff, General Kelly. And why is that?
Because General Kelly wants to try to tamp things down, calm things down in terms of the fiefdoms inside the White House. So, when I take about fiefdoms, it is the McMaster wing on foreign policy, which is a more traditional internationalist point of view.
When it comes to everything from the Iran nuclear deal to Israel to other issues versus Steve Bannon and the conservative media likeminded to Steve Bannon, ala Breitbart, which he used to run.
They have been going after McMaster in a vicious, vicious way for the past week or so, and so by having the president to come out and give a nod to McMaster again, it is a signal, everybody just needs to calm down.
And that to me looks like the work of the new chief of staff having some sway in this particular area.
HARLOW: Before we wrap up just quickly, you know, this president has been criticized by a lot of folks about not taking a lot of questions from the media, not sitting down with more independent media outlets. Took more than 30 questions yesterday, I think that's welcome to see.
BASH: Yes. Isn't it nice? We welcome that. Mr. President, if you're watching, please, keep doing it. It is interesting that he seems to feel so much more comfortable, Poppy, doing it away from the White House.
Bash: For him it means at his own properties because that's where he goes when he leaves the White House. It tends to happen more there than at the White House.
HARLOW: Interesting observation. Dana Bash, thank you so much. And Dana is on tomorrow. Be sure to watch Dana's special, "Badass Women of Washington." It's a great series. You'll see it all tomorrow afternoon 2:30 p.m. Eastern right here. Ahead for us, the brink of war and military solutions that are locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely, strong words from both the United States and North Korea this morning. Will either side lower the heat?