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THE SITUATION ROOM
North Korea Crisis; Authorities Update Las Vegas Mass Shooting Investigation; Republican Senator Attacks Trump; Mattis: "Army Must Stand Ready" on North Korea; California Wildfires Damage, Destroy 1,500 Structures; Source: Trump Staff Knows Feud with Corker 'A Disaster'; Trump: 'Only One Thing Will Work' with North Korea. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 9, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: adult day care. The Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who, once supported Trump, says the White House has become an adult day care center, and he warns the president's behavior is setting the U.S. -- quote -- "on the path to World War III."
How many other Senate Republicans share his concerns?
Be ready. The defense secretary says Pentagon planners are preparing more military options to use against North Korea. And President Trump is taking to Twitter to taunt Kim Jong-un, saying 25 years of diplomacy has failed and -- quote -- "Only one thing will work." Will the president decide to strike North Korea?
Russian talking points. CNN has obtained e-mails about the setup to a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a return lawyer. The documents are raising new questions about the purpose of the meeting. Do they provide cover for key members of the Trump team in the Russia investigation?
And raging inferno. At least 1,500 structures burning in multiple fires across California's wine country. More than a hundred people are injured and thousands are being forced to evacuate as firefighters battle the wind-fueled flames.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: All that coming up, but right now we're standing by for a live news conference from Las Vegas.
The sheriff there of Clark County, Joseph Lombardo, about to come to the microphone, we're told, and make a statement and then answer reporters' questions.
We will see if there are new developments in this massacre investigation. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, we're told. Kyung Lah has been covering all of this. She is in Las Vegas with us
Kyung, as we await Sheriff Lombardo, we do know there have been major developments behind the scenes going on right now. We will see if the police, if the sheriff is willing to disclose those developments.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we're waiting for is to see how much further investigators have gotten in building this profile. As you know, Wolf, the overall narrative that we keep hearing from investigator after investigator is there is still no cohesive motive.
So what they have been focusing on is trying to work on building that profile, talking to people who knew him, retrace the steps. What was he doing in the years leading up to this gruesome act? And so we know that his brother has now arrived here in Las Vegas.
We are hearing that from "The Las Vegas Review-Journal," reporting this morning that the brother, Eric Paddock, has arrived here. He's working with the FBI. He wants to make sure that they are on the right path, that they understand his brother. And understanding this act has been extraordinarily difficult.
We want to remind our viewers that the person we are talking about is a 64-year-old person who has been retired. So we're hoping to learn much more in this news conference.
BLITZER: All right. Here is the sheriff, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, Clark County.
JOSEPH LOMBARDO, CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA, SHERIFF: Thank you, Ken.
For those of you who may or may not know, I'm Sheriff Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Today, I'm going to give you an update on where we currently with are the investigation and then I will give you some insight to where we're going with the investigation and then I will be happy to answer a small number of questions. OK.
So in the days since our last briefing, investigators from the LVMPD along with many agents from the FBI and ATF have continued working around the clock on the 1 October shooting.
Today, I will provide you some more information, but mostly I hope to clarify or provide more updated information on some of the details that have been reported in the media.
A number of you have already reported that the brother of the suspect is in town. And, yes, he is. We are in contact with him, along with other family members. I will not discuss what came out of those interviews, but every piece of information we get is one more piece of the puzzle in this case. Last week, we talked about the single person whose action helped
pinpoint the location of the suspect, and that was the Mandalay Bay security guard Jesus Campos.
As you might imagine, Mr. Campos was not only injured when he was fired upon as he did his room check about the door alarm down the hall, from the suspect's room, but he was extremely shaken up by what happened to him.
He was able to confirm for us exactly what he heard and saw in the moments before he was shot.
Marilou Danley, the suspect's live-in girlfriend, we are still speaking with Ms. Danley about the suspect's movement, gun purchases and anything else we need to know about him and how he planned his assault.
We also -- and who he came in contact with during the planning phase.
We have uncovered no evidence to show there was a second shooter. We have uncovered over 200 instances of the suspect's traveling throughout Las Vegas, and he has never been seen with anyone else.
We have no evidence or intelligence that the suspect was linked or had affiliation with any known terrorist groups or ideologies.
In coordination with the FBI's Behavior Analysis Unit, a comprehensive picture is being drawn as to the suspect's mental state, and currently we do not believe there is one particular event in the suspect's life for us to key on.
We believe he decided to take the lives he did, and he had a very purposeful plan that he carried out.
So, where are we at with the property retrieval? As of yesterday, the personal effects of concert-goers, as well as items that belonged to the victims, are now being returned at the family assistance center located at the Convention Center.
They have located items from lots A, B, C, and D. They have placed them in those categories. And if you go to FBI.gov and click on the banner associated with the 1 October shooting, it will define which lots are being available as we speak.
As far as I know from visiting there earlier today, lots A and B are available and C and D are yet to be determined.
First and most important is I want to say the FBI, the Red Cross and city and county fire are doing an amazing job. This is not an easy task to undertake, but their process is efficient. And even though we have been talking about the numbers of people who attended the concert and the number of victims injured or killed, you really don't understand the magnitude until you see the rows and tables of personal belongings left behind as the people fled the venue. So, moving forward, we anticipate being at the Route 91 site for at
least another week, along with the room at the Mandalay Bay. As I have said from day one, we want to figure out why -- the why to this and we'd like to know the motive. That is our most important goal, to prevent any further action associated with another individual who is contemplating this or what exactly went in the suspect's mind to enable him to pull off such a complicated event.
So, moving forward, barring any critical information obtained during the week, the next press conference will be conducted at the end of the week Friday.
So at this point, I would be happy to answer any questions.
LOMBARDO: We have found some evidence of medications. I'm not at liberty to discuss that.
QUESTION: Can you tell us about the note? Was that to cause damage?
LOMBARDO: What note?
QUESTION: The note that was (OFF-MIKE)
LOMBARDO: There was not a note in the suspect's room. We recovered a document that had numbers associated to it. And I'm not at liberty to make a guess on what that was for. It could be. We're figuring that out.
QUESTION: Sheriff, also in the suspect's room, according to accounts we heard last night, there were drills. According to other accounts, the guard, Jesus Campos, heard drilling in the room. What drilling was done and what do you think it was to accomplish?
LOMBARDO: So, the question is, what drilling was done or what was the intent of the suspect?
There was drilling done. It was to the doorway -- adjacent wall to the doorway. And just an assumption would be to either place a camera or to place a rifle.
QUESTION: Can I follow that...
LOMBARDO: But the drilling was not completed.
QUESTION: Did officer Campos hear drilling?
LOMBARDO: Yes, he did.
QUESTION: How is Mr. Campos doing?
LOMBARDO: Can I finish his question, sir?
QUESTION: He knocked because of the drilling?
LOMBARDO: No. There's never been anything out in the public forum about knocking. He was investigating an open door. He -- became a drilling sound.
LOMBARDO: Bear with me while I get that for you. It's fairly simple for me to obtain.
What was the question, ma'am?
LOMBARDO: What was the original question?
QUESTION: What time did he sustain injury?
LOMBARDO: 21:59. That would be 9:59.
QUESTION: Sheriff (OFF-MIKE)
LOMBARDO: No, I can't confirm that.
QUESTION: Sheriff, are you saying that the security guard was injured, Mr. Campos was injured before 10:00 p.m., and the shots would have been fired at 10:00 p.m.? (OFF-MIKE)
LOMBARDO: No, that's not what I'm saying.
I don't know where you're getting your numbers, but you're correct. He was injured prior to the mass volley of shooting.
QUESTION: To follow that. He's shot at just about 10:00. The shots into the crowd began at 10:05. They go on for, you said at one point, 11 minutes or 10 minutes.
LOMBARDO: Ten minutes.
QUESTION: So can you give us what you think...
LOMBARDO: OK. I don't want to in -- I appreciate what you're saying, Ken.
LOMBARDO: Ma'am, ma'am, that's not how we conduct this. If I'm presented with a question...
QUESTION: Because the FBI reporting...
LOMBARDO: That's not how I conduct press conferences, ma'am.
QUESTION: Has the official timeline changed?
(CROSSTALK) LOMBARDO: Please stop asking your question. There's a decorum that we have here.
And I will finish Mr. Ritter's question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
So, if officer Campos or security guard Campos was shot at 9 -- just before 10:00 and the shots out the window, as you described them, there were two...
LOMBARDO: So, let me help you with that, Ken, because you picked up on it.
Yes, the timeline associated with the original shot and Mr. Campos has changed through investigation. As I have conveyed to you from the very beginning, in your zest for information and my zest to ensure the public safety and the calming of their minds, is some things are going to change.
Now, they are minute changes. OK? There's not this all-encompassing answer associated with the information that we presented before. In other words, it's not completely inaccurate.
But what we have learned is Mr. Campos was encountered by the suspect prior to his shooting to the outside world.
QUESTION: Sheriff, you referenced the comprehension profile that's being drawn up. Can you talk about what (OFF-MIKE) the shooter's mental condition and how important that is to your investigation?
LOMBARDO: I'm sorry. I don't understand what you mean by threat.
QUESTION: Like, what avenue are you guys going down looking at his mental (OFF-MIKE)
Well, as you can imagine, anything that he -- any mental health or mental or medical help he's had throughout his life, we're attempting to obtain any and all information associated with that.
Additionally, the Behavioral Analysis Unit from the FBI is on the ground here locally, and we're attempting to utilize their expertise in discerning those matters. What I will provide with you is behavioral analysis is in L.A. also, Los Angeles, while interviews with Ms. Danley are being conducted.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea why Mr. Campos was near that room (OFF-MIKE)
We had an left arm associated with an open door. It was not the suspect's open door. It was another.
QUESTION: Were there any other writings discovered in the room, either numbers or otherwise?
LOMBARDO: I'm not aware of any. I personally am not aware of any.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you can share anything about (OFF-MIKE) the medical (OFF-MIKE) part of the investigation. Is there anything he was diagnosed with or was taken that you can comment on?
LOMBARDO: Say that again. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Was he diagnosed with any conditions or was he taking any...
LOMBARDO: No. We don't have a complete, comprehensive evaluation of his mental condition. We will provide that as we become aware of it.
QUESTION: After Mr. Campos was shot before the mass shooting happened, did he alert security? Did they know? I'm just wondering if there -- was there any delay in his reporting?
LOMBARDO: No, no.
He immediately upon being injured notified security of his situation. In close proximity of Mr. Campos being shot, there was also a maintenance worker that presented himself on the 32nd floor, and Mr. Campos prevented him from receiving any injuries.
QUESTION: Sheriff, do you think the suspect's engagement with Mr. Campos maybe sped up the timeline of the shooter?
LOMBARDO: I would not make that assumption. I'm not privy to that.
QUESTION: What was Mr. Paddock doing before the shooting? Was there any evidence he was gambling that same night or (OFF-MIKE)
LOMBARDO: We have a pretty comprehensive timeline prior to the shooting, but, more importantly, we are -- it's up in the public forum. He was gambling the night before.
I do not want to disclose his actions up to the shooting, because that's part of the investigation.
QUESTION: Mr. Paddock's actions, what caused him to stop shooting out the window? Do we know?
LOMBARDO: We don't know at this point.
QUESTION: And then to follow up, you had said earlier you believe he had an escape plan. Do you still think that?
LOMBARDO: Yes. That's been a matter of discussion out there whether what I said is accurate or not. And what I am comfortable saying is what I believe.
Mr. Campos -- or not Mr. Campos. I'm sorry.
The suspect -- I don't want to say the suspect's name. I will call him the suspect. We know that he attempted to shoot at the fuel tanks. We know that he had some personal protection equipment in the room. We know that the car that was down in the parking garage still contained binary explosives.
So I would be comfortable in saying -- which I believe, depending on the dependent on the splash he made during the shooting, would it enable the first-responders to be directing their attention to other locations, which would enable Mr. Paddock to just leave the hotel?
And we do not know whether he had planned to cause additional harm outside of what occurred at Mandalay Bay.
QUESTION: Was there ever a trigger mechanism found that would have led to the car?
LOMBARDO: A trigger mechanism.
QUESTION: We talked about finding electronics in the room. We talked about...
LOMBARDO: Oh, you mean something that would -- no, the explosives were not set up to detonate with a trigger.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) And when did the police know that the security guard was shot? Before the gunshots (OFF-MIKE)
LOMBARDO: They weren't aware of him being shot until they met him in the hallway after exiting the elevator.
QUESTION: Sheriff, when did he check into the hotel? What date did he check into the hotel?
LOMBARDO: To the best of my recollection, we have information on the 25th. I had told you previously the 28th. We're trying to confirm his actions between the 25th and the 28th.
I'm under the belief that he was not occupying the room between those days.
QUESTION: What medications specifically was he taking?
LOMBARDO: I already said that, ma'am. I can't answer that question now.
QUESTION: Can you address (OFF-MIKE) can you just briefly talk about why that is.
LOMBARDO: Why? Because I don't want to sensationalize his actions.
I believe, if he doesn't have a name, nobody can relate to him.
Yes, sir, in the back.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) reports about the cell phones found in the suspect's room. How many cell phones were found and was there any sort of indication (OFF-MIKE)
LOMBARDO: Any of you have that information?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE) give that out.
LOMBARDO: OK. No, we don't have that number. I don't know the number personally.
LOMBARDO: No, I can't.
I wish I could give you a comprehensive timeline and his movements. That would assist us in developing possible witnesses, but we're still running that down. It's still a really comprehensive evaluation of all the electronic equipment associated with this individual, and that's going to take quite some time.
What I am proud of is how far we have gotten to this point. And, yes, I'm frustrated. If you look in the public media, the perception that I am frustrated at the speed of this investigation, yes, I am. It isn't because nobody is not doing their job.
It's because this individual purposely hid his actions leading up to this event. And it is difficult for us to find the answers to those actions. And that's why it's important for you to give me some deference, the FBI some deference, and the police department some deference to ability to run down these leads.
Now, I have noticed in the public forum several assumptions, unconfirmed statements and actions of this individual put out there, and it makes it very difficult for us to follow the leads that we currently have, when we're trying to chase our tail in other directions.
And I have said this to you before. I appreciate all your help. You're a force multiplier for us, because there's a lot of hidden pieces to this puzzle. But there's also a happy medium associated with that.
And I will answer Mr. Ritter's question, and that will be the last question.
QUESTION: We learned yesterday that the FBI went again to the Mesquite house. Did the FBI also go back to Reno, that house there? And the vehicles, are we recombing for evidence? (OFF-MIKE)
LOMBARDO: Yes, we are. The question was, is the FBI, along with LVMPD, revisiting the crime
scene -- or the personal property of the suspect? Yes, that is accurate, along with the behavioral analysis detectives. They are also present, and maybe we can discern some additional evidence as a result of that revisit.
OK, thank you very much. And, like I said previously, we anticipate the next press conference to be Friday. Barring any key evidence that we have become aware of, we will plan on Friday.
Thank you very much.
BLITZER: All right, there he is, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo updating us, and providing some new information on the timeline and new information on other aspects of this investigation into the massacre in Las Vegas.
I want to bring in Kyung Lah, who was listening very, very closely.
You're there. You have been there for days now, Kyung. Walk us through the new information you heard from the sheriff.
LAH: Well, for me, Wolf, that was the biggest timeline out of this -- the biggest headline out of this -- excuse me -- the timeline has shifted.
Up until this point, all the information from the sheriff and the LVMPD has been that the security guard was responding to the shooting, that the security guard here in effect took on the gunfire that was being directed at the crowd.
That has now changed. And as these investigations, you know, grow further, as they are able to interview more people, that does happen in these investigations. But this is certainly a significant change. At 9:59, according to what the sheriff is saying. And this happened a full six minutes before security cameras saw the volley of fire coming from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay.
So, between 9:59 and 10:05, when those shots were then captured on the security camera being fired into the crowd below of those 22,000 innocent concert-goers, what was happening during that time? Now, the investigators have got to focus on these minute-by-minute details, because they need to understand what was happening, what the intent of the shooter was.
The other headline about this was there was personal protection equipment found in the room, that the suspect was drilling something, and that's the reason and that's part of the reason why the security guard heard something and turned his attention to that room.
So was there a bigger plan? What we heard from the sheriff here is that his belief, his gut belief is that there was something else that he was planning, perhaps trying to escape, given the items that were found in the car, the Tannerite that was found in his car in the Mandalay Bay parking garage, the fact that he tried to shoot at some of the tanks, even though the airport has told us that you couldn't make those tanks explode. The fact that he did direct his fire to the tanks, all of this for the
sheriff means that he was trying to escape, perhaps trying to get the officers to respond to the crowd first, and then the gunman was going to try to make his escape somehow. So was he planning something else?
So, all of this, Wolf, very disturbing questions. We don't have the answers. And you can hear the frustration again in this unvarnished sheriff. What he is saying is, they are working as hard as possible. The ATF, the FBI, the sheriff's department, investigators are hitting the crowd. There are about 1,000 investigators combing through this man's history and he hid it so well.
They don't have a motive. They don't have an idea. So a lot of frustration here, but these little details are coming out with each of these press conferences and each day as they get deeper into this investigation, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. And other information, the interviews that the FBI conducting with Marilou Danley, his girlfriend, in Los Angeles, those interviews are continuing. She's still speaking with the FBI.
His younger brother Eric is now in Las Vegas. He's being interviewed by police authorities as well.
Brian Todd, you're just back from Las Vegas, so you were listening very closely. Some fascinating new information.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A few things strike out.
In addition to what Kyung just said, Wolf, I think it's extraordinary that he said they observed or they have had evidence of 200 incidents of him traveling in Las Vegas and they do not have any indication that anyone else was with him.
They were saying to us all last week that it was hard for them to believe that he didn't have help at some point. There were some reports of possibly other people with him. Those were never corroborated, but him saying tonight 200 incidents that they have observed of him traveling in Las Vegas in the days and weeks leading up to the shooting and they do not have any indication that anyone else is with him.
That really went against their gut instinct that they were telling us all last week that it was hard for them to believe, Wolf, that he didn't have any help.
Also that they said they still do not -- when we speak about motive, they have not discovered any one event in his life that would have triggered this. They are still extremely frustrated in trying to find an electronic trail, anything else in his life indicating a possible motive.
And as we have all been saying for the last several days, they are extremely frustrated they haven't been able to establish... BLITZER: They haven't found any evidence yet, Phil Mudd, a second shooter, no evidence linking him to any terror group or any specific ideology, hate group, anything along those lines.
The drilling, as Brian points out, was significant. This is the first time we have heard he had drilling equipment, apparently, in that hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay. He was apparently, according to the sheriff, drilling through the doorway or someplace else either to get a camera through that hole or a rifle through that hole.
But that's a potentially significant development, in that maybe he was planning some sort of escape.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: If you keep looking at the details of the investigation, anybody who looks at the outside draws a conclusion.
There's no way he could have anticipated escaping. But then we look at someone who is methodical. We see extra weapons, we see extra ammunition. We see shots at targets that never exploded. The most significant for me, we see a vehicle filled with explosives that he never used.
You have got to look at a methodical human being and say despite what we think as rational people to say he never could have escaped, when he's trying to see the security guards coming down through the corridor with his video, when he's drilling, when he has a vehicle with explosives he never used, for one this methodical, there is only one conclusion you can draw.
Regardless of what a rational human being thinks, this man looked at other targets and this man at least anticipated that there was some way he could escape. I don't see any other way to look at this, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we also learned from the sheriff that he did have personal protection. I assume body armor or something along those lines.
MUDD: That's what I'm thinking about. But if you combine that, the comments about personal protection, remember, early on, the sheriff was talking about maybe this wasn't the only target, that the sheriff was talking about maybe there was something to follow on.
And then again we find that he's got a tremendous amount of explosives in a vehicle. For a man who planned everything, to believe that he didn't plan something else to me is not rational. He's got to have thought that he could have gotten out.
BLITZER: And, Kyung, it was also intriguing that the sheriff said that maybe this killer checked into that hotel three days earlier than originally thought, on September 25, as opposed to September 28.
You heard him say that. Have you heard that before?
LAH: We have heard that the dates are fluctuating. And it's been very confusing because they're trying to narrow down exactly which room. Did he expand to another suite? So all of this has been part of some of the investigative documents I have been able to, you know, hear from various law enforcement sources.
So, we don't know -- we know that they are keying in on those exact dates, the timeline. Again, when did he check in? What was he doing in the days and the hours before this? So all of this is a part of it, but at this point, the way I took it from what we're hearing is that they're still trying to nail it down. And that's very much reflected in what the sheriff said.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stand by. We're going to have much more on this story coming up, major new developments unfolding in the investigation into the Las Vegas mass murder.
But we're also following other developments in another significant story, the stunning feud that has developed between President Trump and a prominent Republican senator, Foreign Relations
Committee Chairman Bob Corker.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's over at the White House.
Jim, the president is said to be very frustrated by all these late- breaking developments.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Frustrated, Wolf, but silent for a pretty long time.
This could be the calm before the tweetstorm, you might say. Both the president and the White House have yet to respond publicly to Senator Bob Corker's comments to "The New York Times." It's been almost 24 hours now.
The battle between the president, though, and this powerful GOP lawmaker, it could create powerful, real problems for this White House agenda moving forward.
[18:30:06] ACOSTA (voice-over): As the president was hitting the Trump golf course in Virginia with Senator Lindsey Graham, all eyes are on another top Republican who's teeing off. Escalating his war of words with the president, Senator Bob Corker issued a dire warning, telling "The New York Times" that Mr. Trump is treating his administration like a reality show that could put the U.S. "on the path to World War III," adding "He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation."
And Corker is making the case he's hardly alone, adding, "Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we're dealing with here."
The interview followed this Corker tweet: "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day-care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning."
The White House is not amused.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: I find tweets like this to be incredibly irresponsible. It adds to the insulting that the mainstream media and the president's detractors -- almost a year after this election they still can't accept the election results. It adds to their ability and their cover to speak about a president of the United States, the president of the United States in ways that no president should be talked about.
ACOSTA: But Corker, who's retiring, was firing back at the president, who tweeted, "Senator Bob Corker begged me to endorse him for re- election in Tennessee. I said no, and he dropped out. He also wanted to be secretary of state. I said no thanks. Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn't have the guts to run."
Corker's office said that's not true, adding, "The president called Senator Corker and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he said many times."
The ongoing feud flared up last week when Corker praised Rex Tillerson after tensions between the president and secretary of state spilled into public view.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and chief of staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos. And I respect them very much.
ACOSTA: It's not the first time Corker has sounded the alarm. After the president's controversial handling of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nazis go off our streets!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nazis go off our streets!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nazis go off our streets!
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very fine people on both sides.
ACOSTA: ... Corker was far more critical than many of his GOP colleagues.
CORKER: The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.
ACOSTA: The question is whether the back and forth will damage tax reform and other items in the president's agenda, which need all the GOP help it can get.
REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: I think the president is a little bit frustrated that his own team is taking shots at him, and he's fighting back. So I get the president's frustration, but I don't think that's the best strategy.
ACOSTA: Now, there seems to be a bit of a battle inside the White House as to how the president should respond to all of this. An adviser to the White House blew off the Corker controversy as noise and catnip for the media. But aides say the president is likely to respond to Corker's latest comments, saying Mr. Trump is not finished with the Tennessee Republican just yet.
Earlier this afternoon, Wolf, the vice president did put out a statement defending the president, but it only responded to critics in general, not directly to Senator Bob Corker. So at this point, it seems there is no clear strategy as to how to deal with this very stinging criticism coming from Bob Corker, who after all, carries a lot of weight here in Washington.
BLITZER: Yes, he does. Jim Acosta at the White Houses, thank you.
Defense Secretary James Mattis says Pentagon planners are preparing more military options for President Trump to use against North Korea while the president dismisses diplomacy and alludes very strongly and repeatedly to the war option.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working this part of the story for us.
Barbara, the president rebuked Pentagon leaders for not giving him options, military options fast enough.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Wolf, here's the reality. The president of the United States has all the military options all the time. Are they being updated? You bet. And that is what is going on now.
But make no mistake: Defense Secretary James Mattis still equally focused on diplomacy.
STARR (voice-over): It's as if Defense Secretary James Mattis seemed to almost be speaking directly to Donald Trump.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: It is right now a diplomatically-led, economic sanction buttressed effort to try to turn North Korea off this path. Now, what does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say.
STARR: More North Korean missile launches, possibly an ICBM next, are expected. Mattis's call for diplomacy may not satisfy the president, who tweeted, "Agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the one thing that will work with North Korea?
TRUMP: Well, you'll figure that out pretty soon.
STARR: The drama didn't stop. Republican Senator Bob Corker, already at odds with President Trump, publicly suggesting what some already believe.
CORKER: I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and chief of staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.
STARR: But that kind of high profile puts Mattis and the Pentagon potentially in Trump's cross-hairs. The president already is making mystifying comments in front of his commanders.
TRUMP: Maybe it's the calm before the storm.
STARR: And this blunt criticism.
TRUMP: I also expect you to provide me with a broad range of military options when needed at a much faster pace.
STARR: But just last month, Trump said this about military options for North Korea.
TRUMP: I am more confident than ever that our options in addressing this threat are both effective and overwhelming.
STARR: Mattis making publicly clear the president knows the options and the risks.
MATTIS: We have many military options, and the president wanted to be briefed on each one of them.
STARR: The head of the U.S. Army cautioning of the horror of a Korean war.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: The damage to infrastructure, the economic effects, the casualties, the humanitarian impacts would be enormous, yes. It would be horrible. There's no question about it. But so would an intercontinental ballistic missile striking Los Angeles or New York City.
STARR: And reminding the world it will be a presidential decision about what to do next.
MILLEY: We're not going to make the decision. That decision will be made by it the duly-elected representatives of the United States of America.
STARR: And a reminder from the U.S. Military that it will be President Trump who makes the decision about what to do about North Korea -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He is the commander in chief. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very, very much. By the way, we reached out to all 52 Republican senators here in
Washington to join us today in THE SITUATION ROOM. They either declined our invitation, or their offices didn't respond.
We are now joined, though, by a Democratic senator, Chris Coons of Delaware. He's a member of the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, tells CNN that North Korea could easily, his word, easily construe the president's comments as a declaration or threat of war. How concerning is that?
COONS: Well, I'm concerned, Wolf, that at this time that we are in a rising possibility of confrontation with North Korea, that the president is distracted by a Twitter war with one of the most important Republican leaders in the Senate, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. And last week a disagreement with his secretary of state.
I would like to, instead, see the president focused on pursuing a diplomatic solution to the conflict with North Korea. And I think this is an important time for the president to show a steady hand rather than to be firing off tweets at all hours of the day.
BLITZER: Is it true, as Senator Corker suggested, that President Trump's tweets actually derailed some of these back -- back-channel negotiations with North Korea?
COONS: Well, I've been concerned about ways in which the president's tweets undermined efforts by Secretary Tillerson. That has to puzzle our allies and embolden our adversaries, for them to see that sort of a gap emerging between the president and his top diplomat.
I'm also concerned about what signal it sends to those who might partner with us in trying to confront North Korea's reckless nuclear program if the president, in fact, takes further action this week to step back from the JCPOA, from the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by the previous administration.
BLITZER: You serve on the Foreign Relations Committee. The chairman is Corker, as we know. Do you believe Senator Corker -- do you believe, as Senator Corker has suggested, that nearly every one of his Senate Republican colleagues shares his very deep concerns about President Trump?
COONS: Well, I respect Chairman Corker. We've traveled together. We've legislated together. He's a conservative Republican but a successful businessman and a clear-eyed former mayor of Chattanooga. I think he's given voice to concerns that are widely shared in his caucus. I don't think it advances our national security interest for this to
go on much longer. I do think it's important that the president be mindful of his very narrow margin in the Senate, and if he has any hope of making progress on his legislative agenda, continuing to pick fights with senior Republicans, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, the majority leader, is not going to advance the president's interests this fall.
BLITZER: Why are those conversations that Corker is talking about, the deep distrust, the anger by so many Republican senators, he suggests, only happening -- happening in private conversations, not public conversations?
[18:40:05] COONS: Well, I was going to say you'd have to ask them, but I know, Wolf, in the run-up to this section you mentioned that you asked all 52 Republican senators to consider coming on tonight, so they're not here for you to ask them.
I do think there's real concern about pushback from President Trump and his supporters among my Republican friends. I think their own base is deeply divided between those who strongly supported President Trump in the campaign and those more establishment or traditional Republicans who are gravely concerned about some aspects of his presidency, of his unpredictability.
Look, Donald Trump ran as a candidate ran on the idea that he would be unpredictable. That he would be an unconventional president. And in his conduct of foreign policy, he's certainly demonstrated that unpredictability.
BLITZER: Is it dangerous to America's standing in the world to have a leading Republican -- we're talking about the chairman of the Foreign Relations -- Committee characterize the White House as an adult daycare center?
COONS: Well, I am concerned about the level of back and forth. You know, last week there was a prominent story about what Secretary Tillerson did or didn't say about the president in private. What concerns me is less those sort of private spats than a public disagreement, and I am concerned about the tone of the exchange.
Look, it wasn't Chairman Corker who started this dispute with the president. I think he was quite offended by some of the things the president said about his courage and willingness to serve, but I don't think it helps our national security for these things to be laid out for all the world to see.
BLITZER: Do the new White House principles just revealed overnight, as far as the DREAMers, the 700,000 or 800,000 young people, the DREAMers here in the United States, do they mean that a deal that the president may have worked out with the House and Senate Democratic leadership may be off right now, because of the new conditions that have been attached, including the building of the wall along the border with Mexico? COONS: Well, Wolf, this is part of what has made the Trump
administration so far unsuccessful in getting major legislative accomplishments through. Last week on the floor, I had conversations with a number of Republican senators who are working to try and find a balanced compromise on how to deal with DREAMers and how to get legislation done to clarify their status quickly.
This latest abrupt shift by the White House makes it harder for there to be any sort of responsible negotiating between Democrats and Republicans on this important issue. So I do think it makes it much harder for there to be any bipartisan compromise. Look, doing immigration reform is already hard enough without abrupt shifts in position by the president and the White House.
BLITZER: All right. Senator, we're going to have to leave it on that note. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. Thanks so much for joining us.
COONS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, Kim Jong-un promotes his sister to an even more powerful role in the government of Pyongyang. Could she be in line to lead that regime someday?
And there's more breaking news we're following. Wildfires burning out of control in Northern and Southern California. More than 1,500 homes and buildings already have been burned.
[18:48:20] BLITZER: We're following ominous developments in the standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs today.
The U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told the U.S. Army to, quote, stand ready in case diplomacy fails. This comes after President Trump warned over the weekend that only one thing will work with Kim Jong Un's regime.
Meanwhile in North Korea itself, Kim Jong Un is tightening his family's grip on power.
CNN's Brian Todd is back with us with more.
His sister, Kim Jong Un's sister apparently now getting a significant role.
TODD: That's right, Wolf. That younger sister, her name is Kim Yo- jong. Well, her star is really rising. She is now one of the most powerful people inside the regime, maybe the most powerful person from Kim Jong Un himself. Her portfolio is enhancing today and experts say she now has a crucial added responsibility, that of counterintelligence. She's now got to watch her brother's back in case anyone tries to plot against him.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Tonight, Kim Jong Un is making those he completely trusts more powerful, and that means his bloodline. Kim has just promoted his young sister, Kim Yo-jong, to a position in the politburo, the senior body of the communist party in North Korea. The sister now emerges from the shadows, to even have her name announced by the regime's news reader.
Her star has been rising for a few years, even though she's often been seen in the background, taking notes, or even trying to avoid the camera. Analysts say Kim Yo-jong, who's only about 30 years old, is now among the top 20 officials in her brother's entire regime.
BALBINA HWANG, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: She's probably one of the most influential people on Kim Jong Un himself, precisely because he has very few people he can trust.
[18:50:05] TODD: Kim Yo-jong has been a top official in the so-called propaganda and agitation department, which U.S. officials say enforces censorships. She's a crucial gatekeeper for her brother, according to North Korea watchers. A meeting with him doesn't happen unless it goes through her.
KEN GAUSE, NORTH KOREAN LEADERSHIP EXPERT, CNA: She keeps his schedule. She works with his security detail, making sure that he is protected when he goes out on his guidance inspections.
TODD: Analysts say Kim Yo-jong also likely has ties to North Korea's counterfeit and black market operations. And now, experts believe she will have the most critical of responsibilities, counter intelligence, becoming her brother's eyes and ears. Helping him identified those plotting against him in Pyongyang's treacherous halls of power.
GAUSE: In time, she will become the final or last line of defense for him, telling him about the loyalty of his most trusted associates.
TODD: Like her brother, Kim Yo-jong is believed to have gone to boarding school in Switzerland. She's the only full sibling of Kim Jong-un. They share the same mother. Experts say that maybe a key reason she's been elevated while Kim had his older half brother, Kim Jong-nam was assassinated this year.
But Kim Jong-nam had also been seen as a threat to his brother, something analysts say is a cautionary tale for the younger sister.
HWANG: It is certain that her oldest brother's death is absolutely not far from her mind, in everything that she does and she plans, because you know that she is also thinking that at any given time, if she is to make one mistake, her brother could have her killed.
TODD: Conversely, could Kim Yo-jong rise to become the supreme leader if her brother dies prematurely. Experts on the Kim family are divided on that. Some say it would be difficult because she's not a male heir. But others believe with this dynasty, bloodline is paramount, and Kim Yo-jong may actually have to take a leadership role until Kim Jong-un's very young children, one of them is ready -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, there's another sibling, another sister, very mysterious, who may have some real influence, right?
TODD: That's right, Wolf. We have the family tree here. That sister's name is Kim Sul-song. She is an older half sister of Kim Jong Un's. She does operate mostly in the shadows. There aren't any verifiable pictures of her, but she's believed to be a mentor to both Kim Jong-un and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong, crucial to helping them develop relationships inside those dangerous halls of power.
And as you see, you know, the family tree here, and the five siblings, we know, of course, Kim Jong-nam was assassinated earlier this year. He had already ran afoul of the family back in 2001 when he was caught sneaking into Japan on a false passport, admitted he was trying to go to Disneyland in Japan. The father also passed up this middle son, Kim Jong-chul, because according to analysts, the father thought he was too effeminate. He makes just a habit of going to Eric Clapton's concerts all over the world. He was seen at one a couple of years ago. That's left to Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo-jong. He, of course, turning out to be the ruthless of all of them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting. All right. Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting.
Just ahead, raging fires sweeping through northern California's wine country, destroying 1,500 homes and businesses, and forcing 20,000 people to evacuate.
[18:57:57] BLITZER: We're following breaking news.
Multiple wildfires burning across Northern California's wine country tonight. Officials say 1,500 and other buildings have been damaged or destroyed.
CNN's Dan Simon is in Santa Rosa for us.
Dan, many of these fires, they seem to be burning out of control, even as we speak.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this fire has been so explosive, pushed by high winds at one point. We saw the winds at 40, 50 miles per hour. You can see this one subdivision. This is the Sky View Subdivision. It is completely leveled. You can see some of the burned out vehicles over there.
This fire, for the most part, is just smoldering, but there is still active fire in the area. We saw a storage business that was up in flames and we saw a fast food restaurant, a McDonald's that burned to the ground, a furniture store, the scope of the devastation is just unbelievable.
We know that there have been 20,000 people who have been evacuated. A couple of hospitals actually had to be evacuated. We saw streams of ambulances heading south towards Marin County, in San Francisco, trying to get some of those critically ill patients to safety, in terms of where we are now at this point, this fire is zero percent contained. Hopefully, we'll get a break in the fire, but one fire officially telling me that at this point, the fire is outpacing any resource they can throw it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Separate fire going in Anaheim, not too far from Los Angeles, right?
SIMON: There are some fires in Southern California, as well. We did see some houses go up in Anaheim. Crews trying to do what they can to put those fires out as well. Again, pushed by strong winds. So, they're hoping they get a break in the weather there as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What's the forecast for weather where you are in northern California?
SIMON: They say that it's going to be another difficult night. And part of the problem is, it's so smoky here, that during the day, normally when you have wildfires like this, they try to bring in aircraft, of course, to make water drops, drop flame retardant. They have not been able to do that, because the sky is just so smoky -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan Simon on the scene for us -- thanks very much.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.