Return to Transcripts main page


Donald Trump Jr to Testify Before Congress on Russian Meddling; Trump: New Sanctions for North Korea; Hawaii Preparing to Test a System to Warn of Impending Nuclear Attack; Sen. Hirono Talks Tax Bill; Soon Trump Remarks After Retweeting Anti-Muslim Videos. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 13:30   ET



[13:32:14] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOSWT: The stage is now set for a highly participated development in the Russia investigation here in Washington. Sources say Donald Trump Jr has agreed to meet with the House Intelligence Committee as early as next week. The president's son faces questions about his Russia contacts during the presidential campaign.

Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, tell viewers what you've learned.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Donald Trump Jr has agreed to sit down before the House Intelligence Committee, we're told, on December 6th. This will be the first time that lawmakers themselves will have a chance to interview Mr. Trump Jr about his contacts that he had with Russians during the campaign season, his correspondent with WikiLeaks, which was recently revealed, as well as that Trump Tower meeting from June 2016, in which Donald Trump Jr was promised dirt from the Russians on the Clinton campaign. Now, he has Trump Jr has met separately with the Senate Judiciary Committee staff in September. But he has not met with the House Intelligence Committee or members themselves as they continue to try to explore exactly what happened particularly in that Trump Tower meeting. Wolf, that same committee, the House Intelligence Committee did meet with someone else at that June 2016 meeting. That was the Russian translator who was there. They met with him yesterday as part of their efforts to the investigate exactly what happened. And we're also told by Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wolf, that Donald Trump Jr is expected to come in December before his committee. So it shows that the president's eldest son still facing significant scrutiny on Capitol Hill -- Wolf?

[13:34:00] BLITZER: This Russia investigation in Congress and with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller moving full speed ahead right now.

Manu, thank you very much.

The state of Hawaii, meanwhile, is preparing to test a new system designed to warn residents in the event of an impending nuclear attack. The move comes as North Korea launches another intercontinental ballistic missile, a part of its aggressive nuclear ambitions. We'll go live to the region when we come back.


BLITZER: Following the dramatic launch of its most advanced missile yet, President Trump is putting North Korea on notice, tweeting earlier today, "Just spoke to President Xi Jinping of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled."

Let's bring in our CNN international correspondent, Will Ripley, joining us from Seoul, South Korea right now. Will has traveled to the region to North Korea I think about 17 times over the past few years.

Will, North Korea had its own antagonistic message for Trump today. Tell our viewers first of all what he said.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's a new North Korean propaganda message citing a military officer. And there's this swagger that I sensed when I was in Pyongyang within the last few weeks, this real confidence on the part of the North Koreans and this antagonistic tone towards the U.S. president, kind of matching his rhetoric for much of this year, although he's been dialed back lately. Let me read you a portion quoting this officer. Quote, "I seem so see old lunatic Trump and riffraffs making a great fuss downed about I our new gift package," referring to the ICBM that was launched. He goes on to say, "The more desperate the old lunatic remains in such provocations as relisting the DPRK as a sponsor of terrorism, the stronger self-defensive counter measure of the DPRK they will meet."

Interesting that North Korean propaganda is now mentioning the state sponsor of terrorism. Perhaps this is some indication, Wolf, that this missile launch was, at least in part, a response to the North Korean outrage over being put back on that list that they were taken off nearly a decade ago when there were negotiations about their nuclear program. We know how that turned out.

[13:40:31] BLITZER: Yes, this was a really significant achievement for the North Koreans, the launch of this latest ICBM.

How worried is the South Korean government? You're in Seoul, South Korea right now. How worried are they especially the upcoming Olympic games?

RIPLEY: There is great concern. You know, they tried to demonstrate their own capabilities to shoot down this intercontinental ballistic missile by launching their own precision missile exercise within six minutes of the North Korean provocation. The reality is ICBMs are quite difficult to shoot down. This is the kind of weapon that could pose a real threat to the region.

And in just a couple of months, we do have the winter games, the Olympic games, happening relatively a short distance from North Korea. As far as we know no North Korean athletes qualified for the games. And there is growing concerns the north could use the publics as a time to perhaps conduct even more provocative missile tests or nuclear tests as a way to embarrass South Korea, to try to make people afraid of attending the Olympics in South Korea. Remember, back in 1987, North Korea was believed to be, by the CIA, behind the bombing of a Korean airliner. More than 100 people killed. That was just before the summer games, the 1988 summer games here in Seoul. Many observers believe that was an attempt by the regime of North Korea to frighten people away from flying here to South Korea for the Olympics.

BLITZER: South Korean military believes the North Koreans are moving much more quickly in the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead than earlier thought.

Will Ripley, joining us from Seoul, South Korea, thank you very much.

So, North Korea one step closer to becoming the nuclear threat many people feared. North Korean state media touting the latest intercontinental ballistic missile launch, claiming it can reach anywhere in the United States.

Senator Lindsey Graham issued this warning.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If we have to go to war to stop this, we will. If there's a war with North Korea, it will be because North Korea brought it on itself. We're headed toward a war if things don't change.


BLITZER: Let's bring in Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: What's your reaction, first of all, to Senator Lindsey Graham's comment about potentially a war involving the U.S. and North Korea?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, (D), HAWAII: As General Mattis said, war is not the first line of defense, that we continue to push for a diplomatic resolution, at a time though when President Trump is cutting the funding and resources for State Department. This is very much the wrong thing to do.

Just a little while ago, I met with the nominee for the number-three position in the Department of Defense. He has experience in the State Department. Certainly has been -- has experience with North Korea. And so he said, of course, we need to be militarily ready, but at the same time, if the diplomatic aspect of our approach is not going hand in hand, then this is not a good situation.

So we continue to look at our sanctions. We'd better make sure the sanctions we've put in place are actually being implemented. And I think the president definitely should tone down his rhetoric because that is not helping at all. And at the least, he should be supporting his own secretary of defense in his efforts to resolve this diplomatically. And at the same time, we obviously need to make sure that our relationships with our allies and our support and understanding with our allies in this part of the world remains very, very strong and firm.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, Senator, about how close North Korea might it be right now to developing a full-scale intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach anywhere in the United States with a nuclear warhead? Is it a year away, six months away, two years away? What are you hearing?

HIRONO: I'm not hearing that kind of time frame because I think the intelligence -- and I used to serve on the Intel Committee -- out of North Korea is very, very skimpy. So I wouldn't be able to hazard a guess. But there's no question that will Kim Jong-Un is totally intent on becoming a nuclear power. And at the same time, we need to keep up our diplomatic approaches. And China needs to be right in there. And to the extent that Russia also plays a role here, they need to also step up and step in.

BLITZER: For the first time since the Cold War, as you well know, Hawaii, your home state, will be testing its nuclear warning sirens. Do you feel like a strike is imminent? And why has Hawaii decided to reactivate those sirens?

HIRONO: Well, these are not reacting of the sirens as far as I know. It's a new kind of siren to forewarn us in the event of an attack from North Korea. But it's part and parcel of the civil defense system of our siren system that we've always had in place, because Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific, can be hit by tsunami, et cetera. So this is in addition to the warning systems that we've always had in place. And I do keep in touch with our emergency response people in Hawaii. Just met with them to make sure that all of that is in place. At the same time, when I met with the nominee to the number-three position of the Department of Defense, said that there is a new radar that is supposed to come into Hawaii to enable us to detect missile launches from North Korea, that that should be speeded up. And at the same time, I'm working with Dan Sullivan, of Alaska to make sure that we have in place the surface to defense -- surface missile defense systems.

[13:46:14] BLITZER: Let me get your quick reaction to the Republican Senate tax bill, which passed the Senate Budget Committee yesterday. Later this week, there will be a full-scale vote on the Senate floor.

Listen to what Senator John Cornyn, one of the Republican leaders said this morning. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R), TEXAS: We would love to have a bipartisan bill. But that's really up to them. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: If they can't get any of their amendments,

which means they can't get anything changed in the bill, why would you expect them to cooperate with something they think is fundamentally a fraud?

CORNYN: Because that's the way our legislative process works.


BLITZER: What's your reaction, Senator?

HIRONO: I characterize this bill, this tax bill of the president and the Republicans as a solution in search of a problem because they're solution is we should give the richest people and the richest corporations in our country huge, huge tax breaks. And that is a solution. What is the problem? The problem is that they're doing this on the backs of middle class people. So it's a solution in search of a problem. The real problem is what's happening to the middle class, the fact their wages have not kept up. College costs are going up. Health care costs are going up. That is a real problem. And this bill does nothing to address it. So when Senator Cornyn says that's how our legislative process works, no, the way our legislative process should work is regular order where we have actual hearings, none of which has happened with regard to the tax bill.

BLITZER: As you know, the Republican majority in the Senate, 52 Republicans, 48 Democrats, in the Democratic caucus, they could lose two, they can't lose three. What do you think? Will they get this Senate bill over the finish line?

HIRONO: My hope is on behalf of all the middle class people and others in our country, and not the top 1 percent of the richest people or the corporations -- by the way, that are already holdings over a trillion dollars in assets overseas, they're not using it to create more jobs or increase earnings of employees -- that this is a sucker of a bill and we should kill it and start over, to really help the middle-class families that are taking it in the neck with this bill.

BLITZER: Do you think they have the votes?

HIRONO: So far, perhaps not, because we're hearing different things about members of the Republican caucus having concerns. Believe me, the president has every intention of shoving this down America's throat. And we Democrats are going to stand firm to make sure that doesn't happen.

And one of the other huge dangers to this bill is the elimination of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act. That is tantamount to repealing the Affordable Care Act. Didn't we just have this battle and saved health care for 13 to 33 million people just in July. And they're trying to do it again. When does this all stop? When does the middle class get the kind of help they deserve and need?

BLITZER: Senator Hirono, thanks as usual for joining us.

HIRONO: Thank you. [13:49:01] BLITZER: Right now, President Trump is en route to Missouri where he will be pushing the Republican tax plan. The speech later this afternoon around 3:30 p.m. eastern. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the site there. Will he address his controversial retweets? Will he double down? Much more coming up.


BLITZER: President Trump is on his way to Missouri right now to sell the Republican tax plan. The question is, while doing so, will he also address a number of controversial retweets he fired off this morning.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Abby Phillip, joining us from St. Charles, Missouri, where the president is scheduled to speak fairly soon.

Abby, any word on whether the president plans to address these anti- Muslim videos he retweeted earlier today?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president left the White House just a couple of minutes ago and on his way here, but still hasn't said anything about these videos. He left under a cloud of controversy. This morning, he retweeted several videos from an -- unvetted videos from a woman who is leader of a far- right British group that is very controversial back in her own country. Those retweets are getting pretty negative reviews back home as well. But the White House is not saying a whole lot how the president came to see these videos and then send them out again to nearly 40 million Twitter followers. These depict Muslims carrying out violent acts. It's not clear if the videos are even real. Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling reporters earlier this morning that whether they are real or not, the threat is real. But, Wolf, no word on what that threat is, and if the president, from this podium later today, will address the controversy at all or elaborate further on what kind of threats specifically he was trying to bring awareness to with those retweets this morning -- Wolf?

[13:55:20] BLITZER: We'll stand by to hear what the president of the United States has to say. I'm sure he'll speak at length on the tax cut legislation. Let's see if he gets into some of these other very controversial issues at the same time.

Abby, thanks so much. Abby Phillip on the scene for us in Missouri.

NBC News fires long-time anchorman, Matt Lauer. The move comes after a female employee accused Lauer of inappropriate sexual behavior towards here. So what his firing means for his colleagues from the top-rated morning show here in the United States. All that and a lot more straight ahead.