Return to Transcripts main page


Ginsburg's Diagnosis; Trump Announces Retaliation Against China on Twitter; Sen. Ben Cardin (D) Maryland Interviewed About Trump's Trade War With China; Justice Ginsburg Undergoes Fourth Treatment for Cancer; NRA Fires Longtime Lawyer, Two Others Resign as Turmoil Inside Gun Rights Group Intensifies; North Korea Launches Scathing Attack on Secretary of State. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 17:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.

Ginsburg's diagnosis. The Supreme Court announces that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been treated for pancreatic cancer saying that there is no evidence the cancer has spread. It's the 86-year-old's liberal's fourth bout with cancer. What will it mean for the divided court?

Escalation. China answers President Trump's tariffs with more of its own, punishing U.S. farmers and manufacturers. President Trump then orders U.S. companies to look for alternatives to China, sending stocks into a nosedive.

Ready to respond. With tensions rising like it's the Cold War all over again. Russia's Vladimir Putin orders his military to prepare a symmetrical response to a U.S. cruise missile test. Where is this headed?

And poisonous plant. North Korea launches a scathing personal attack on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling him impudent and a poisonous plant. What is behind this insults?

I'm Brianna Keilar. Wolf Blitzer is off. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KEILAR: We have breaking news.

The Supreme Court announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been treated for pancreatic cancer, completing radiation therapy. The announcement says there is no evidence the disease has spread. This is the 86-year-old fourth bout now with cancer. The liberal icon recently said that she'll stay on the job as long as she can do it full steam.

Also breaking, President Trump goes on a rampage as his trade war with China spirals out of control and stocks plummet. China has answered the president's tariffs with more of its own announcing penalties on U.S. goods, ranging from soybeans to seafood and cars to crude oil. China struck as the Federal Reserve chairman noted the growing risk of an economic slowdown but ignored pressure from President Trump for a further cut in interest rates.

In a fury, the president tweeted that American companies, quote, are "hereby ordered to look for alternatives to China" and he suggested the Fed chairman could be a quote, "bigger enemy to the U.S." than the Chinese leader.

I'll be speaking with Senator Ben Cardin and our correspondents and analysts have full coverage of the day's top stories.

We're going to get to Justice Ginsburg's health in just a moment.

But first, stock markets plunging today. The Dow dropping more than 600 points, as China hit back against the president's tariffs with another round of its own.

Let's turn to CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip. What's the latest, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, just moments ago, President Trump just tweeted his response to those new tariffs from China as this tit-for-tat escalates. President Trump saying in a series of tweets just now that he's going to increase tariff levels on an existing amount of goods. Chinese goods that had already been expected to be tariffed going in to September.

Let me just go through to the main point here. He says, "Starting on October 1st, the $250 billion of goods and products from China, currently being taxed at 25 percent will be taxed at 30 percent, additionally the remaining $300 billion of goods and products from China that was being taxed on September 1st at 10 percent will now be taxed at 15 percent.

So the president is upping the ante here in response to China announcing today that they are going to tariff $75 billion of American products coming in to their country. This is a tariff war that seems to have no end in sight, and this new announcement from President Trump just moments ago coming after he scrambled with his aides earlier today to figure out how exactly they were going to respond.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Tonight, as President Trump lashes out about the economy, a scramble is unfolding behind the scenes in the West Wing about how to respond to China's tariff retaliation.

Amid fears of an economic slowdown, Trump today held an unpopularity contest between his hand-picked Fed chairman and the communist leader of China, asking, "who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?"

Trump adding that American companies are quote, "hereby ordered to look for alternatives to China." This after China announced retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion in American goods. The markets at one point appearing to tumble with each tweet by the president, dropping more than 300 points after his attacks on the Fed and even further after he promised a response to China's latest retaliatory moves.

Powell today, issuing a veiled warning about Trump's trade wars, telling bankers and economists that "Fitting trade uncertainty into this framework is a new challenge."

One of Trump's top trade advisers Peter Navarro says the president won't back Down to China.

[17:05:01] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: My reaction to this is when China reacts like this, what they simply do is strengthen the resolve of this president and they signal once again that the American public that China wants to buckle our knees so that they can keep having their way with us.


According to "The Washington Post" inside the White House, aides have briefed President Trump on the possibility of an economic slowdown before the 2020 election. And White House advisers have bring some possible options to juice the economy, including steps that would weaken the U.S. dollar.

All this coming just hours before Trump is set to leave for the G7 summit with world leaders in France. A meeting that sources say he has been dreading. Trump has been questioning his aides about why he should attend this year's summit and complaining that during past summits, too much time has been spent discussing the oceans and the environment and not enough time has been devoted to letting him brag about his achievements and of America's economy.


PHILLIP: And Briana, after earlier today teasing that he would have a response to China's new tariffs on the United States, moments ago President Trump did just that essentially announcing that tariff levels are going to increase on Chinese products but we should note also, this announcement came right at the top of this hour, 5:00, about an hour after markets closed, a notable effort on the part of the White House not to further rattle markets that had been tumbling all day today. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Abby Phillip, thank you.

And now to the announcement about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's latest bout with cancer, I want to turn to CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue. Tell us about this.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. Supreme Court announced today that she has just completed a three-week radiation therapy for a treatment that began - sorry, August 5th for a tumor in her pancreas. It was first detected at July 31st, and it's called a localized malignant tumor.

Here is what's interesting. She has canceled her annual vacation to Santa Fe but she's going to appear Monday night at a long planned speaking engagement in Buffalo, and we learned that during this treatment, she actually went on Broadway and she saw Kate McKinnon, who plays her -- the actress who plays her in "Saturday Night Live." And on top of that, last night, she was on Broadway taking in a production of "Moulin Rouge." She's tough.

KEILAR: This is the fourth time that she has had cancer. I mean, she is someone, she's a fighter. She defies odds.

DE VOGUE: Yes. She's 86 years old. 1999 she had surgery for colon cancer. 2009 early stage pancreatic cancer. She had a heart procedure in 2014. In 2018, she had, as we know, those two cancerous nodules removed from her lung. That was the first time that she ever missed oral arguments. So she's tough as nails.

And we saw earlier this week -- month, when she was talking about the death of her colleague, John Paul Stevens, she recounted a story that she had said to him, I'd like to stay on the bench as long as you have. He stayed into his 90s. And she said, he told her, "Stay longer." And then she said, she was asked about her retirement. She said, I've always said I'll stay on the job as long as I can do it full steam. That means at my age, you have to take it year by year. I was OK this term. I expect to be OK next term. After that, we'll just have to see. But she's hired clerks well into 2020.

KEILAR: Very interesting. Ariane de Vogue, thank you so much for all of the update on that. We needed it.

So with the collapse of a Cold War nuclear treaty, the U.S. and Russia are back to Cold War style saber or missile rattling.

Let's go live to CNN senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen. He's in Moscow. Tell us the latest in this very quickly developing story.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is a quickly developing story. It certainly was, Brianna, a giant news day here in Russia, when basically no warning. Vladimir Putin came out and gave a national televised address blasting the United States for a recent missile test and essentially saying there could be a new nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Russia, just as President Trump is on his way to the G summit where he is trying to convince other leaders to take Russia into that group again.

Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Tonight, as President Trump heads for the G7 summit, with hopes of once again admitting Vladimir Putin to the exclusive club of world leaders, it appears the two countries they lead are moving even closer to a new nuclear arms race. During an angry announcement on national TV, the Russian president slammed a recent test by the U.S. of a new type of cruise missile, vowing to match American fire power with his own.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I instruct the ministries and relevant departments to analyze the level of threat posed by the actions of the United States to our country, and take comprehensive measures to prepare a symmetrical response.


[17:10:02] PLEITGEN: Russia and the U.S. are blaming each other for killing the intermediate-range nuclear forces or INF treaty, Putin reiterating today that Russia already has new super weapons in the works.


PUTIN (through translator): We were simply forced and we're obliged, of course, to ensure the security of our people and our country. We are doing this now, and will certainly do in the future.


PLEITGEN: But as Russia vows to develop new weapons, it's still reeling from the malfunction of a nuclear powered missile it was already testing, causing an explosion and a radiation spike in the north of the country, and killing five nuclear specialists. Russian opposition media is reporting two died of radiation poisoning, even though the Kremlin is downplaying any dangers posed by the radiation.

But authorities in Arkhangelsk where the explosion took place acknowledged today, one of the doctors who treated the victims now has the radioactive isotope Cesium-137 in his body. Officials strangely claiming the contamination didn't come from treating blast victims but from eating seafood.

"Cesium-137 has the feature of accumulating in fish, mushrooms, lichens, and algae," an official statement says, "With a certain degree of probability, we can assume that this element got into the human bod through the products of food."

On Monday, Putin told reporters, no background radiation had been found, but analysts are skeptical. Moscow has a history of covering up nuclear incidents, including the meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986, the history of that incident now the plot of an HBO series.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To burn and spread its poison until the entire continent is dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PLEITGEN: It's unclear if the leaders of the G7 summit will discuss the nuclear incident or Trump's interest in readmitting Russia to the group.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I think it is much more appropriate to have Russia in.


PLEITGEN: What is clear tonight though is that despite President Trump's interest in building a bridge to Russia, Vladimir Putin says he is gearing up for a possible new confrontation.


PLEITGEN: And, Brianna, Vladimir Putin didn't give any details of what that new confrontation would look like and whether or not the Russians may be poised to deploy new missiles close to the borders with NATO. Of course, one of the things the U.S. has been saying is that the Russians are already doing that. And that's one of the reasons why America got out of the INF treaty, but certainly when you saw the Russian president today, you saw the general messaging here today. You can see that this is certainly something that has upped the ante between the U.S. and Russia. Brianna?

KEILAR: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thank you so much.

And joining me now is Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Sir, thanks for joining us.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Brianna, it's good to be with you.

KEILAR: I want to start with the president's escalation of the trade war with China. Are you worried that this is going to push the United States economy into a recession?

CARDIN: I am very concerned about this trade war. It's certainly hurting our economy, the way the president's handling these trade negotiations is not in our economic interest. It is clear that China has violated trade rules but the United States has isolated ourselves with our traditional trading partners. So it's just the U.S. versus China rather than having the market economies - major market economies on our side. Going into G7 it would be good to have the G7 leaders on our side dealing with China. I doubt if we will.

KEILAR: I mean that may speak to my next question that I have, which is that you have a lot of Democrats who actually agree with the president on the fact that China needs to be confronted when it comes to some of their trade practices, intellectual property, for instance. How would you want to see the president take on China without harming the economy?

CARDIN: Brianna, you're right. There's major concern about what China is doing on the economic front. We need to work with our traditional market trading partners to isolate China, rather than isolate the United States. When the president led with tariffs against Canada and Europe on steel and aluminum, he alienated our traditional partners. He used a national security waiver to impose those tariffs which was ridiculous. Canada does not pose a national security risk to the United States. So what the president should have done is worked with our market economy partners to develop a strategy to confront China. Instead, he led with the U.S., and we do not have the support of our traditional partners.

KEILAR: The president also tweeted today, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell, who is the Fed chairman, or Chairman Xi? So when you look at that, and he's likening chairman of the Federal Reserve to really an enemy of the United States, how do you react?

[17:15:00] CARDIN: Well, you know this is so disturbing. The Federal Reserve is set up to be independent from the president, for good reason, and has served this nation extremely well, and provides confidence globally about the American economy, that it won't be subject to a political whim of a president or a Congress that the Federal Reserve system is there as a balance. The president has really demeaned that independence to compare the Federal Reserve chairman with the president of China is ridiculous, and it's offensive to our economy, and to our Democracy.

KEILAR: I know you've seen the news about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We just learned she has been treated once again for pancreatic cancer. She said in the past that she's going to continue working, if she can go full steam. Do you worry that she may have to retire before the end of President Trump's term, and what that would mean?

CARDIN: Justice Ginsburg is a fighter. She's a fighter in the court. She's a fighter in regards to her own personal health. She's a giant on the Supreme Court. We need her to be on that court. She's great in her interpretations of cases that she has had a major impact on. She's a great balance on the court. I am convinced that she will continue to fight as long as she possibly can and I think we all wish her well and hope that she'll be strong, and can stay on the bench for many years.

KEILAR: Let's talk Russia, because after the U.S. tested this new type of cruise missile, it would have been banned in the INF nuclear pact, were it still in place. Vladimir Putin says he's ordering his military to develop new weapons of their own. Do you think we're looking at another Cold War?

CARDIN: Here we go again. Clearly Russia violated the INF nuclear treaty. They did, but the way President Trump handled that, he started now potentially an arms race. That is not in the U.S. interest. It's not in Russia's interest, and certainly not in the world security interest. We need to continue as we did with new start to find a ways that we can reduce the nuclear forces in the world, not increase them and give other countries excuses to start in the arms race. So no, I think the president's handled this wrong. Clearly Russia provoked us and the president fell into that trap, now allowing Russia to go forward with more testing.

KEILAR: Senator Ben Cardin, thank you so much for joining us and have a great weekend.

CARDIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Up next, we have breaking news, wrapped up in an escalating trade war. President Trump uses Twitter to announce retaliation against China for its new tariffs.

And North Korea launches a sharp personal attack on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling him a poisonous plant. What's behind that insult?


[17:22:40] KEILAR: We're following breaking news, President Trump rattling Wall Street with new threats to escalate his trade war with China, and that sent the Dow plummeting more than 600 points.

So, let's dig deeper now with our experts and our analysts. And Jackie, there is quite the meltdown by President Trump today sparking also a meltdown on Twitter that prompted a meltdown of the markets. There was a series today of meltdowns. So, after the markets closed he then had another tweet.

I want to read this. This was just like minutes ago. "Starting on October 1st, the $250 billion of goods and products from China currently being taxed at 25 percent will be taxed at 30 percent, additionally the remaining $300 billion of goods and products from China, that was being taxed from September 1st at 10 percent, will now be taxed at 15 percent. Thank you for your attention to this matter!"

You know, the economy is hugely important to the president. Knowing that, and knowing that this is so imperative for him to be reelected, why is he playing Twitter roulette with it?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, because being strong is also important to this president, and he's kind of boxed himself into a corner with China at this point. The negotiations aren't going well. There's no way out, and what does this president do? He doubles down.

So we'll probably see more of this, perhaps we'll see if it goes forward, right, come October. But I think then you're going to see a blame game which we're seeing blaming the media, blaming Jerome Powell, blaming China, blaming everybody but his own policies that are affecting the economy on you know any number of sectors.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And that's the big question. The big question to me is will it go forward?

KEILAR: Is there an off-ramp he'll create like he does? BORGER: Exactly. The president cries wolf all the time, and backs down, finds that off-ramp, and then declares victory in one way or another, because he's such a tough negotiator, so you see this, the Chinese see this. Let's see how they react to this, and whether it ramps up.

And of course now, he's going to be at the G7. Let's see how our allies react to this as well, because a trade war is the last thing in the world they want, but the president is going to be talking about that when he's there.

KEILAR: The market meltdown, Joey, was prompted by other tweets where he said, "Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China."

[17:25:00] He is not - I mean just to be clear on even on legal grounds here, it's not like he has the authority to do this, Joey.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He does not, so there's a legal issue and then there's, of course, a practical issue. From a legal perspective, right, we are a Democracy, and as a Democracy, companies do what they want, right? They generate business, and they operate in markets, markets that are in their best interests and they're not to be dictated by a president or otherwise to suggest who they should do business with, when, why, how and under what terms, and so certainly from a legal perspective, there's no basis or authority. I find it wholly ironic you know calling Obama a socialist and all of these things about socialism as it relates to Democrats, and you're now telling businesses what to do.

From a practical perspective, right, not that I'm an economist, but I do know that market stability is everything, and if you're a president and there's so much uncertainty and instability based upon your pronouncements, that's problematic.

And also from a practical perspective, final point, and that is that listen, you have 1.4 billion consumers in China, so should American companies just walk away from that, because the president says so? I mean, certainly it's a problem that needs to be solved. It's a problem that needs to be solved with cooperation, not edicts from the president, who I guess envisions himself as the chosen one.

KEILAR: And David Chalian, I want to mention you were at the DNC summer meeting, that's why you have so much going on behind you, that you are going to be reporting on. You saw this tweet where the president, this was another one, this prompted the meltdown as well, he attcked the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who he appointed. He said, "Who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?" What did you think when you saw that?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's pretty typical Trump behavior, right? But as Jackie was saying, it's two-fold. One, the president needs an enemy. He needs to point to someone and say this is the person responsible for anything that's going awry for him. So that's one. And two, it is yet another indication, there is no part of the United States government that the president seems to think is independent from his authority, which by the way, the Federal Reserve is supposed to be an independent body, and the president just once again demonstrating he clearly doesn't see it that way.

KEILAR: If you all can stand by, we actually have some news about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We're going to talk about that. She's in another health battle. What this could mean for her and for the court. We'll be right back.


KEILAR: We have much more breaking news that we're following. The Supreme Court announcing that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been treated for pancreatic cancer for the second time in a decade.

The 86-year-old was previously treated for colon cancer. And then just last December, she had two cancerous nodules removed from her left lung. Let's talk about what all of this means with our panel here.

Joey, the Justice has said -- she said, I'm going to, basically, stay at it if I can go full steam. That's what she said, full steam. She's making this decision as she has before. And, you know, perhaps in other times, she might decide to step down from the court. She is not going to, she's going to keep going. What is at stake?

JACKSON: You know, Brianna, the answer to that question, very simply, is everything. We are in different and perilous times, and I think moving forward, everyone needs to be concerned. Why? Let's talk about that.

Now, we know that there's a five-four split, right, just by way of 101. We have nine members of the -- on the U.S. Supreme Court. It takes five in order to implement policies. There's no filibusters or supermajorities necessary, right, so it's not like we're having a discussion about the Senate.

And so just imagine, in the event that she left, there was a vacancy. You know, we're -- we would be talking about not a five-four split as it is now but a very solid six to three split. And I know that Chief Justice Roberts had said, look, there's no Republican justices, there's no Democratic justice. Now that may be true, but you have ideologies which are in keeping with a Republican philosophy and a Democratic philosophy.

And here is the point. The point is that, in these times, you look at Roe v. Wade, it's not only personal autonomy that is at stake. And if there's a six to three of the majority, what would happen with that?

We're talking about immigration issues and what's to become of immigration policy and entries into the country and what -- you know, there's so much talk about who should immigrants be and where should they immigrate from. That's going to be decided by the Supreme Court. People of color and voter registration will be decided, gay and lesbian rights -- I could go on.

And so, everything is at stake with regard to her staying on the court or with regard to President Trump having yet another appointment to be made. And you know that in the event it becomes a vacancy, that appointment is being made, election or no election.

KEILAR: Well, and so that's my question because listen, Gloria, to what the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Lindsey Graham, had to say about that very issue in October of last year.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump's term and the primary process has started, we'll wait until the next election. And I've got a pretty good chance being the next --



GOLDBERG: All right.

GRAHAM: Hold the tape.


KEILAR: Hold the tape. Well, the tape is held, right? And so, we're looking at it now because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked this same question in May of this last year, so this is closer in proximity to now. Oh, we'd fill it, he said.

[17:35:02] BORGER: Right, and he said the complete opposite. First of all, we should all say that Justice Ginsburg -- we hope she's doing well. We know she went to go see --

KEILAR: Yes, of course.

BORGER: -- "Moulin Rouge" last night and --

KEILAR: On Broadway.

KUCINICH: That's right.

BORGER: On Broadway. We know she's given a speech -- she's keeping a speech appointment next week. This is a tough lady who intends to remain on the court.

But what you just showed there is that should there be a retirement, should there be a vacancy, it would clearly rip the country apart. Because you've got Lindsey Graham saying one thing, you've got Mitch McConnell saying another thing --

KEILAR: Who would you put stock in?

BORGER: -- you've got the Democrats saying another thing, and it's --

KEILAR: Who wins this fight, though, Lindsey Graham or Mitch McConnell?

KUCINICH: Mitch McConnell.

BORGER: Yes. Well, Mitch McConnell is the leader, although with -- you know, with Lindsey Graham these days, you never know --

KEILAR: Oh, well --

BORGER: You never know who he's -- who he's going to -- who he's going to side with. And I think it would be -- it would be an -- it would be an epic battle, which is why I believe that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to remain on that court.


BORGER: She knows what would occur.

KUCINICH: Well, I mean, you could you create a YouTube channel with all the things Lindsey Graham said about the President before he was president, and now he says the exact opposite. So I'm a little bit skeptical that he would continue to say, we're not going to fill the vacancy should there be a vacancy this or next year.

So -- and Mitch McConnell has known one speed when it comes to judiciary -- judicial nominations, and that's fast. He has completely reshaped the judiciary from his perch, and he looks as -- at it as much of a legacy issue as President Trump, so there's no reason to think why they would stop. And he doesn't care if he looks hypocritical because of what happened with Merritt Garland. That's not his concern.

KEILAR: David, traditionally, Republican voters have been more motivated than Democratic voters by the idea that if they pick their candidate, if their candidate wins, they're going to have a shot at changing the face of the Supreme Court. Could we see that change for Democrats?

CHALIAN: Yes, it's definitely going to be a motivating issue for both bases, right? I mean, it really does generate enthusiasm among both the Republican and Democratic bases.

But, Brianna, I will tell you, walking around this hotel with all these Democratic activists during the lunch break here when the news was out about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there were a lot of nervous Democrats, of course, wishing her the best with her health but concerned that if there's a vacancy before they have the chance to rile up the voters and make this on the ballot next year, that it could really drive the court in a more conservative direction for generations.

KEILAR: David, Joey, Gloria, Jackie, thank you so much.

Coming up, new skirmishes in the civil war rocking the National Rifle Association. Tonight, three top lawyers are out.


KEILAR: The turmoil is in intensifying inside the National Rifle Association. Three top lawyers are out tonight just days after the departure of three of the organization's leaders.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman. He is here with the details. And this is all part of a -- I guess you could call it a civil war that's rocking the NRA.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, those are pretty good words for it. These latest upheavals in the National Rifle Association involve powerful players, they're coming at a critical time, and clearly, some people in the group want new leadership but the current and longtime leader is fighting back fiercely.


DANA LOESCH, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: We are done with your agenda to undermine voters' will and individual liberty in America.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The NRA channel is gone. So is a top NRA lawyer, fired with two more attorneys tied to the group resigning. The nonprofit second-in-command is out. And the raging turmoil of this summer may not be over as chief executive Wayne LaPierre appears to be conducting a purge of all opponents within his group.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The Second Amendment is not the government. It's your individual right, and that's what it's all about.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The "New York Times" says the fight truly is about lawyers, guns, and money. Earlier this year, NRA president Oliver North fired a heavy salvo at LaPierre laced with accusations of lavish spending on clothing, foreign travel, makeup and hair services for his wife, legal fees.

And the "Wall Street Journal" says a plan was even floated for the group to buy him a $6 million mansion. The NRA says the expenses were all valid and the house deal fell apart.

But LaPierre accused North of cashing in on an NRA deal with an advertising agency, and North was pushed out. There have been denials all around, lawsuits and inquiry in New York into the group's tax- exempt status, and plenty of unpleasant headlines.

STEVE HILTON, FOX NEWS HOST: For years, Wayne LaPierre has taken NRA members' money to live the life of a king. Wayne LaPierre is an odious little grifter, and it's time for him to go.

FOREMAN (voice-over): But even as some high-profile mass shootings have spurred gun control advocates, LaPierre has rallied his base of support. When President Trump started talking about more extensive background checks for gun purchases, LaPierre called him and the message changed.

TRUMP: It's not the gun that pulls the trigger. It's the person that pulls the trigger.

FOREMAN (voice-over): LaPierre, in office for almost three decades, knows the truth of the group's finances better than, perhaps, anyone, whatever that may be. He also has deep ties to the 76-member board of directors, even as six had resigned amid the controversy.

[17:44:59] MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: When all of these problems sort of spilled out into the open, Wayne LaPierre was in a position to protect himself. Anybody that got in his way is now gone.


FOREMAN: The NRA is characterizing much of this as a malicious smear campaign aimed at the group and its leaders, saying Wayne LaPierre chose the difficult but principled path while others opted for the back alleys of, quote, greed, lies, and betrayal.

KEILAR: That is a dramatic statement.

FOREMAN: It is. Sounds like a Netflix teaser, doesn't it?

KEILAR: It definitely does. CNN's Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

FOREMAN: Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up, North Korea's Foreign Minister personally slams Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Why is the Kim regime going after America's top diplomat?


[17:50:19] KEILAR: President Trump and Kim Jong-un may have an on- again-off-again bromance but the communist regime has no love for Mike Pompeo, launching a scathing personal attack on the Secretary of State.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into that. Tell us what you've been learning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, just moments ago, the State Department responded to that personal attack on Pompeo with stunning restraint despite the fact that the Secretary of State has, once again, had to endure a taunting, vicious insult from Kim's Foreign Minister.


TODD (voice-over): America's top diplomat is no stranger to Kim Jong- un. They've met several times, exchanging handshakes and smiles. But tonight, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears to have drawn Kim's ire and another of his colorful insults.

In a new statement, Kim's Foreign Minister, Ri Yong-ho, who also knows Pompeo, calls him impotent, a troublemaker, a wicked stooge of the CIA, and the die-hard toxin of U.S. diplomacy. Translated into English, a poisonous plant.

Analysts say this is part of the dictator's new playbook to try to jolt President Trump's team into giving him what he wants.

PATRICK CRONIN, ASIA-PACIFIC SECURITY CHAIR, HUDSON INSTITUTE: Kim wants to saber rattle because he wants to show, if you don't give me what I want, I will unleash war.

TODD (voice-over): Pompeo himself hasn't responded to the insult, but the State Department said they're still prepared to engage in negotiations with North Korea.

But this isn't the first time the Secretary has absorbed these barbs. In April, North Korea's Foreign Ministry called Pompeo reckless and demanded he be removed from nuclear negotiations. Is there something about Mike Pompeo's style, his manner, that rankles the North Koreans?

FRANK AUM, SENIOR EXPERT ON NORTH KOREA, UNITED STATES INSTITUTE OF PEACE: Secretary Pompeo, certainly, has tried to bring a lot of swagger to the State Department. But I think, more so than that, it's his positions that North Korea is opposing. The North Koreans recognize that Pompeo has been very hard line about negotiations. Pompeo has said, basically, that they will not provide sanctions relief until North Korea denuclearizes.

TODD (voice-over): It's not like Kim Jong-un doesn't have his own top diplomat who rubs his counterparts the wrong way.

Kim Yong-chol, the brutal former North Korean intelligence chief who's often been Kim's point man with the Trump team, is said to be so arrogant and abrasive as a negotiator that, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, he once told South Korean diplomats, quote, do you have another briefcase with you? Maybe you have another briefcase of proposals.

EVANS REVERE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: He's a character straight out of Central Casting when it comes to being the tough hard-nosed North Korean negotiator. If I were Kim Jong-un, Kim Yong-chol is precisely the guy that I would want at the table dealing with the Americans because he gives virtually nothing.

TODD (voice-over): There's a pattern, tonight, of Pyongyang not aiming for the top target with its put-downs. Lately, they've been leveling taunts and aspersions at South Korean President Moon Jae-in. This spring, they called Trump's national security adviser John Bolton a, quote, defective human. But more recently, Kim's regime has avoided insulting Donald Trump personally.

AUM: They see President Trump as a decider. They see him as someone who is willing to engage directly with North Korea. They see him being a little bit flexible on making, you know, certain concessions. And so, they think he is the person to work with rather than the other officials. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, all of this contributes to a growing perception that Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are investing too much, almost everything, in their personal one-on-one relationship to strike a nuclear deal. Analysts warn of the dangers of that.

One veteran diplomat told us he is openly worried that President Trump is deluding himself, in his words, into thinking that his relationship with Kim is going to lead to a groundbreaking deal -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And, Brian, Mike Pompeo has, at times, had to endure these attacks, but not just attacks, face-to-face insults.

TODD: That's right, Brianna. It's -- one episode is really noteworthy, an account of a meeting in Pyongyang after the summit in Singapore last year where Pompeo was pressing the North Koreans again on denuclearization. Observers said that that one top official that we talked about in our story, the abrasive Kim Yong-chol, held up a cell phone and taunted Mike Pompeo saying, why don't you call your boss and ask him what we agreed to?

KEILAR: Wow. Brian Todd, thank you so much.

And coming up, we have some breaking news. Caught up in an escalating trade war of his own making, President Trump uses Twitter to announce retaliation against China for its news tariffs.

And the Supreme Court announces that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has undergone treatment for pancreatic cancer.


KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news. Retaliation. After China slapped new tariffs on U.S. goods, President Trump is hitting back in kind tonight, waiting until the close of trading on Wall Street where stock prices just plunged. Mr. Trump on a new tirade as the trade war worsens.

[17:59:58] Ginsburg cancer scare. The 86-year-old justice just was treated for a malignant tumor in her pancreas. We'll have the latest on Ruth Bader Ginsburg's condition and how it could impact the Supreme Court.