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Senate Spat Could Bring Kushner Back to Capitol Hill; Obama Embarks on 5-Day Trip to China, India, France; North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile Towards Japan. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired November 28, 2017 - 13:30 ET
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[13:32:01] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: In the Russia investigation in Washington, a fight between two Senate Committees could bring the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, back to Capitol Hill for more questioning.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, has new information.
Manu, what is happening and what are you learning?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Jared Kushner a range of information, including the contacts he had with the Russians during the campaign that the committee feels they have not received sufficient answers from him. And one of the things they want, Wolf, is a transcription of an interview that Jared Kushner did earlier this year with the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. They want to see if those questions that were answered in that interview we in response to questions that they have as part of their own Judiciary Committee investigation. Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he said he will not provide that transcript over to the Senate Judiciary Committee. What does this turf war mean? It means that Jared Kushner could be back on Capitol Hill having to answer more questions before another committee, this third committee that is investigating Russia meddling. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Committee, Wolf, told me a few moments ago that if they don't get the transcript from the Senate Intelligence Committee, quote, "We will have to do our own interview with Jared Kushner." This comes as Kushner still faces a lot of questions about the contacts and the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr where they meet with Russia operatives. And earlier, I talked to Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat, who said even though Kushner came before the staff, there is a lot more questions the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to pose to Kushner. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: You want Kushner to come back before your committee?
SEN. MARK WARNTER, (D), VIRGINA: I believe there's an awful lot of questions Mr. Kushner still has to answer. RAJU: Has he been straight with your committee so far?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, also said, Wolf, that they do want to bring Donald Trump Jr in for an interview. He said there's been no dates on that. But Kushner still under scrutiny on Capitol Hill from several of these committees. They want to continue to put these questions to him. They don't know if they got all the answers quite yet -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks very much. Manu Raju closely watching the Russia investigation.
Let's discuss this a little bit more. Joining us now, CNN political analyst, Karoun Demirjian.
Karoun, thanks for joining us.
Does this late infighting between these Senate committees undercut the credibility of the congressional investigations into Russia's involvement last year during the presidential campaign?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They have always been running separate investigations and they have been possessive of this at various points in time. You hear the Judiciary Committee members say Intel Committee members are doing their thing and we are doing ours and vice-versa. And House Intel is doing its probe. They've been clear about wanting to keep their other turf, pace, everything like that. Burr had made it clear he is not a sharer. He refused to publicize the Facebook ads when the House Intelligence Committee decided to do so. He's not a sharer when it comes to these transcripts. We've seen the Senate Intelligence Committee playing things very close to the chest. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been dealing with problems the last several weeks. There's infighting between the parties. And it was this unique to see that Grassley and Feinstein joined hands to say, Kushner, you haven't been giving us the documents that we requested of you and we need more from you. The question is that there is always been a frustration with how quickly Kushner has been putting up the material. Is Grassley going to go so far as to say -- tread towards the area of subpoena, pull him back for an interview. That will require cooperation of the Democrats and Republicans on that committee, and that has been in short supply for the last few months.
[13:36:01] BLITZER: Good point.
There is another story developing. We're learning former President Obama is about to embark on a five-day-trip to China, India and France. He'll meet with many of his former counterparts. What do you know about this? Why is the president doing this?
DEMIRJIAN: This is new for me as well. I have been focused on Congress today. President Obama still has a lot of connections around the world and still has a lot of cache with global leaders. Every time he heads out of the United States, it's a reminder of the last administration and the last president. At a time when President Trump has been trying make international jaunts and push his weight around in various crises, you find different receptions. A lot of people are perplexed by the president and some people are happy to be dealing with him and not Obama. But in Europe and Asia, they don't know what they are getting and the question of what the message is coming from the Trump administration and how to deal with him. To have the juxtaposition with Obama going out there is not going to sit that well with the current president. The question is, how does this add to the various processes to try to resolve crisis from NATO to North Korea? Can Obama contribute to that even though he is not working hand and glove with the Trump administration or will it complicate an already complicated message? And you will hear different opinions on that based on where people are on the political spectrum.
BLITZER: We're told he will be meeting with President Xi in China and Prime Minister Modi in India. When he is in Paris, I assume he will probably meet with the French president as well. We'll see all of these developments. Interesting to get his reaction. The former president of the United States, Barack Obama, going on a three-nation tour. We will follow that.
Karoun, thanks for joining us.
DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: New fallout over President Trump calling a U.S. Senator Pocahontas in an event honoring Navajo war veterans. We have more reaction coming up.
[13:42:21] BLITZER: We are following breaking news and just getting word from South Korean media that North Korea launched a ballistic missile.
Will Ripley is joining us from Seoul, South Korea. Will has been to North Korea more than a dozen times.
Will, tell us what South Korean media is now reporting.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): This is a reliable source here, Wolf. This is the news agency, which is often our first line to hear about these North Korea missile launches. They are saying a ballistic missile has been launched from somewhere in North Korea. This is all we know right now. There are lots of questions about the trajectory of the missile. North Korea had waited more than two months since their last missile test in mid- September. You will recall that missile, the intermediate missile fired up over the northern Japanese town of Hokkaido. It was a busy month for the North Koreans, two ballistic missile launches and a nuclear test happened all within the span of a month. Then silence from Pyongyang. In the past couple of days, we have been getting indications from sources in the U.S. and South Korea as well as Japan saying there have been preparations and radio chatter that there could be a ballistic missile launch imminent in the coming days. Wolf, normally North Korea does these things around dawn. However, it's 3:43 in the morning here in Seoul. That would mean it is 3:15 a.m. in Pyongyang. We don't where the missile was launched from. And we don't know if it headed over Japan. Did they fire it in a different trajectory? North Korea has been known to fire a missile in a southern trajectory, towards the U.S. territory of Guam. We don't know if it's still in the air. This is the way it goes when we get these reports.
But we know that North Korea has been preparing for a major test and, with each passing days and silence, there has been growing concern about what they are going to do. In fact, there was a press conference here in Seoul in the last six or seven hours or so, where the minster said they believe North Korea could be finalizing its nuclear program by next year, which backs up CNN's reporting from over the summer. We said that North Korea could have a reliable nuclear- capable intercontinental ballistic missile ready by early 2018. That could be a matter of week away from right now -- Wolf?
BLITZER: That's a significant development. If that South Korean official has accurate information a lot more quickly than earlier anticipated.
I want to go to our senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, over at the State Department.
Michelle, what are you hearing over there? A, you hear South Korea media saying North Korea launched a ballistic missile. And you hear from South Korean officials that they are working on the missile capability and developing a capability more quickly than anticipated.
[13:45:25] MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: We're not hearing anything from the State Department at this point. It usually takes them a little while to respond. We expect to hear from them soon on this. If not with a confirmation, then with a statement that they're watching this.
But the tone from the State Department towards North Korea and on the North Korean issue lately has been one of at least trying to express optimism. There's been at least a couple of months' gap between now and the last launch. With Secretary Tillerson and the president going to Asia, the secretary has been talking about something of at least a possibility of there being dialogue and being open channels of diplomacy being the way to go here. In the past, when we have seen a gap between launches, that gives the State Department some reason to look at least a little bit hopefully at the situation. You have to remember, too, it's a matter of days, Wolf, since the State Department named or we should say renamed North Korea to the list of nations that sponsor terror. Added more sanctions. Over the last several months, we have seen sanctions hit hard with multiple U.N. resolutions. These nations have blocked imports to North Korea of vital necessities like oil, and blocked their biggest exports. And the State Department says that sanctions and diplomacy are working in at least in the sense that North Korea is being affected by them. We will have to see what is the motivation for this launch? Is it being named to the list of state sponsors of terror? Is it another moving forward in the tensions that we have seen? We are waiting to hear from the State Department on that -- Wolf? BLITZER: Stand by, Michelle.
I want to go back to Will Ripley, in Seoul, South Korea.
I'm looking at the North Korean missile launches of this year, starting February 12, and in March again and April 3, May, June, July, August. Since September 15th, this is 2.5 months since a missile launch. Recently, China sent a special envoy to Pyongyang to talk to the North Koreans. Doesn't look like that generated a lot of positive movement now that North Korea, according to South Korean media, launched a ballistic missile.
RIPLEY (via telephone): Yes. When that special enjoy was sent over, President Trump tweeted that he was hopeful that might result in an action that the U.S. administration is hoping for against North Korea. But all indications from Beijing and Pyongyang, is was a cordial conversation, pleasantries exchanged. China letting the North Koreans know Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, has further consolidated his power and restructured the Communist Party of China. It was not the ultimatum that the United States had been hoping for. China continues to say they believe all parties involved, and that includes the United States, need to show restraint on the Korean peninsula. China always condemns the launches, but they don't take the action that the United States feels will be necessary to stop North Korea from doing this. And, yes, sanctions are going to hurt the North Korean economy. The North Koreans are prepared for that. They have been talking for weeks about ways to try to help their economy weather the storm of additional sanctions. But I was in Pyongyang a few weeks ago, Wolf, and there are still plenty of cars on the street and they have a regular flow of electricity, the store shelves are still full, as least the places we were allowed to see. Our movements are always controlled in that country. But North Koreans back then told me defiantly that no matter what China or the United States or the United Nations or anybody else throws their way, they are going to finalize their nuclear program. They have been saying now for months that more tests are coming. Keep in mind, not just missile launches but the North Koreans have threatened to detonate a nuclear device above the Pacific Ocean. How they would do that, and would they go through with it, we don't know. But a North Korean senior diplomatic told me when I sat down and interviewed the ministry of foreign affairs office in Pyongyang, he said they need to take every threat that North Korea has made seriously and literally, which means that we don't know what this launch is, we don't what other tests may be coming.
[13:49:50] BLITZER: Just to recap, North Korea, according to South Korean media, launched, fired a ballistic missile. But we don't know -- and I want to bring in Ryan Browne, our Pentagon correspondent, who is working the story as well.
We don't know, Ryan, whether this ballistic missile launch was a short-range ballistic missile, an intermedia-range ballistic missile or an intercontinental ballistic missile. They have capabilities in all of these areas.
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: That's correct, Wolf, we don't know that. And no official comment from the Pentagon or U.S. Pacific Command which overseas U.S. forces in the region about this potential missile launch. Officials told me in recent days that they had observed North Korea moving some missile equipment around, equipment that could have been used in a launch, and that they maintain to a posture to launch. But again, they do this all the time. There's a lot of movement going on, so it's often hard for intelligence to assess whether or not a launch is imminent or they're just moving equipment around, possibly to deceive, knowing that satellites and other things are watching what's going on, on the ground. So, again, there had been activity in recent days that had been notice by U.S. military officials, however there was no clear sign that a launch was imminent.
BLITZER: I want to go CNN's senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, in Hong Kong.
Ivan, there was some hope that the delay, two and a half months since September 15th, there hasn't been an intercontinental ballistic missile launch from North Korea, that maybe this was the result of pressure on North Korea, especially coming in from China right now, to deal with this emerging crisis. And it is a major crisis right now. What are you hearing over there in Hong Kong?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, I think what's so striking about this is it's coming after this long pause in what had-- the missile launches had been, up to two and a half months ago, an almost weekly occurrence. They were taking place with such frequency, Wolf. Another question in my mind, this is happening in the predawn hours. Usually, the missile launches that we were covering, again, on almost a weekly basis, were around sunrise every day. So this is also quite unusual that this missile be launched this early in the morning, close to midnight. But it's still early and we're trying to figure out what exactly this means and what is the nature of this missile. Clearly, it's going to be a challenge to the U.S. so soon after President Trump made his tour of Asian countries and made a big show of trying to rally support to put pressure on Pyongyang -- Wolf?
BLITZER: And I want to go back to Will Ripley, in Seoul, South Korea.
It comes after a few days that President Trump announced the U.S. was once again putting North Korea on the list of state sponsors of terror. And I'm sure there is going to be speculation that maybe this missile launch is a response at least in part to that decision by the United States.
RIPLEY (via telephone): Sure. The North Koreans were watching closely when this Trump administration was hinting, making that announcement and looking at what happened shortly after he returned to the United States. But, Wolf, I'll say this, the North Koreans stressed to me repeatedly that these launches happened at a time and place of their choice. They are calculated. This is not something where necessarily hair trigger response. This is not something they have been planning. And they choose the timing for shock value. They want to do it when people are least expecting it. But other conditions, technical conditions, they gain scientific knowledge from these launches, whether a success or failure they learn something. And they have to have all the right conditions. Because every time North Korea launches a new missile they have dozens of cameras capturing every angle of it. And at some point, we don't know when it will be in the coming hours or 24 hours from now, but if this launch turns out to be major success for North Korea, they will announce it to their people triumphantly. And Kim Jong-un gets that propaganda win, he projects power internally and also projects a menace externally to the rest of the world. So that's the purpose of the missiles. And whether it's a response to one development or another, the North Koreans have been furious with the United States for a number of things. The state sponsor list was something that was not surprise to them. Certainly infuriating to them, but you add that to the U.N. Security Council sanctions, and this continue push by the United States to isolate North Korea. They said all of those things, all those steps have motivated them to finalize the nuclear program. They said they're going to do it. We shouldn't be surprised this is happening now. We should also brace ourselves for the possibilit6y of more launches, nuclear tests and other provocative activity by North Korea. Perhaps they have decided -- usually, the end of the year is quiet time for them, but maybe not this year.
[13:55:04] BLITZER: We're just getting a statement from the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. I'll read it to our viewers: "North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile early this morning from Pyongyang to the east direction. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff is analyzing more details of the missile with the U.S. side."
I want to bring in retired brigadier general, Mark Kimmitt.
You studied North Korea for a long time. Also told we don't know if it's a short range, medium range, intermediate range or intercontinental ballistic missile, but the missile apparently is still in the air right now. What do you make of all of this?
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, CNN MILITARY ANALYST (via telephone): Well, what it would appear to me, Wolf, they are testing their capacity to get a missile so far up that it could replicate what it would take coming down to ensure that a nuclear device on it would not burn up in the atmosphere. I agree with your earlier guest that said this is a study progression of the North Korean nuclear program, which has been unabated by either diplomacy or anything else up to this point.
BLITZER: These statements are no longer just relying on the South Korean media, General. They're relying on officials at the South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff. Walk us through the process. The cooperation very extensive between the U.S. and South Korean. How do they work the assessment, the analysis of what this missile is all about, the direction it's going, the intended target, if you will? Walk us through that process.
KIMMITT: Well, it's not dissimilar to any ballistic missile, whether we're defending against short-range ballistic missiles, scuds that were fired by Saddam, ballistic missiles intentionally going to be fired at U.S. troops. The physics and capabilities are roughly the same. They don't change that much. We do have an extensive radar capability inside Korea and elsewhere being used for protection of our troops and South Korea troops. So it's not unusual to hear this first come from the South Koreans. But you can expect there will be a follow that comes from our own North American Air Defense Command who have much more sophisticated capability, born their original purpose which was to defend us from Soviet ICBMs.
BLITZER: The South Korean, a statement from the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff saying they are analyzing more details of this missile with the U.S. side. So that's precisely what they are doing. A significant development.
Stand by for a moment, General.
Michelle Kosinski is over at the State Department.
This was certainly anticipated as a possibility. But two and a half months in between launching of these missiles very different than earlier in the year where it was happening every few weeks, at least once a month. What are you hearing from your sources over there?
KOSINSKI: Yes, you look at the flow of this, we went for a time of words back and forth, personal insults, phrases like "fire and fury" and destruction, threats by North Korea hitting United States, threats back at North Korea. Then we go through these periods of time, like we were in right now, even though there was a possibility of another launch, and people watching that closely, where there could be at least a pause and a talk about real diplomacy at work. From the State Department, that sanctions appear to be working. That, yes, not only would the U.S. talk to North Korea under the right undefined conditions, but the U.S. does and is talking to North Korea through channels, through these back channels. So the secretary of state has been saying, yes, we've been talking. Those lines of communication are open. So we go through these little windows, unfortunately, of some optimism expressed by the secretary of state, even if that's at a time where it's tempering some of the rhetoric that's been coming out of the White House.
But the bar, you know, has had to be lowered. That for a while it was, well, the U.S. would only talk to North Korea if there is a real demonstration of a backing away from their nuclear program, or the U.S. won't talk to North Korea with a view that there is going to be a future for them to have North Korea nuclear program. Now the bar is, well, if there is a period of time where it seems like they are not going to launch anything or a period of quiet, that might be a good sign that it's time to sit down and at least talk or get talks under way. And then you have yet another incident like this. So it shows you once again that the tension, that the real threat has not gone away, and now the State Department is going to have to come up with some other response to that.