Return to Transcripts main page


John Bolton Out As U.S. National Security Adviser; Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) Is Interviewed On Trump Publicly Sharing Intelligence; Poll: Trump Approval Drops To 39 Percent; Poll: Majority Of Americans Say Trump Doesn't Deserve Re-election; North Korea: Kim Jong-un Oversaw Test Firing Of Super-Large Multiple Rocket Launcher. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired September 10, 2019 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Comparing it to a stovetop, a coconut and even the Three-Eyed Rave. Both iPhones will be released on September 20th. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: Bolton for the exit. President Trump said he fired national security adviser John Bolton, leaving another critical post in limbo amid heightened global tension.

While Bolton claims he resigned, tonight we're learning new details of what may have been the final straw for the president.

Falling approval: an exclusive new CNN poll has just been released and it shows the president's approval rating is down. But another number should be of even greater concern for the White House, how many Americans now say the president should not get a second term.

Bellwether race: all political eyes are on North Carolina's special election tonight with President Trump heavily invested in the contest that could set the stage for the 2020 race for the White House.

Can Democrats maintain their 2018 momentum in a state that President Trump won?

And missile diplomacy: hours after saying it's ready to resume talks with the United States, North Korea launches two more missiles. Experts say Kim Jong-un is engaging in a type of blackmail diplomacy.

Is it working for him?

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news. BLITZER: We're following breaking news: President Trump's third national security adviser out of the White House tonight. John Bolton said he resigned although the president tweeted his dismissal just before Bolton was to take part in a White House press briefing.

Also breaking right now, an exclusive new CNN poll showing the president's approval rating down and 60 percent of those asked say he doesn't deserve to be re-elected. We'll talk about all of the breaking news and more with Congressman Adam Schiff, he's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

And our correspondents and analysts are standing by. First let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, you're getting new information from your sources about John Bolton's departure.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. President Trump is searching for a new national security adviser this evening after he abruptly announced John Bolton had been fired.

In a tweet earlier today, the president gave Bolton the boot after the two men had clashed over key foreign policy decisions, including Mr. Trump's scrapped plan to invite the Taliban to Camp David for peace talks.

I'm told the president was upset that Bolton had tried to create the impression that vice president Mike Pence was opposed to those Camp David talks as well. But as one top administration official insisted earlier today, the president's national security team is not a mess, despite an obvious clean-up job.


ACOSTA (voice-over): For now-former National Security Adviser John Bolton, it was an unceremonious firing by tweet. Standing outside of the West Wing just hours before he was scheduled to join secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to answer questions from reporters, Bolton was suddenly gone, with his former administration rivals ...

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm never surprised.

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- all smiles.

POMPEO: The president is entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment. This is a staff person who works directly for the president of the United States and he should have people he trusts and values and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House insists Bolton was fired with the president announcing in a tweet, "I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions as did others in the administration. "And therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I'll be naming a new national security adviser next week."

But Bolton essentially tweeted that's not true, claiming, "I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, 'Let's talk about it tomorrow.'"

Despite the fact that Mr. Trump has now gone through three national security advisers, administration officials say there is no insecurity when it comes to the president's foreign policy team.

ACOSTA: Is this national security team a mess?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Absolutely not. That is the most ridiculous question I've ever heard of.

Let me say, the national security team, which is what you asked, consists of the national security adviser, the Secretary of Defense, the secretary of state, myself, the chief of staff and many others.

ACOSTA: Can you disagree with the president without the risk of being fired?

MNUCHIN: Of course.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Sources tell CNN, Bolton had clashed with the president over a number of critical issues, including Mr. Trump's scrapped plan to invite leaders of the Taliban to Camp David just days before September 11th.

The president and vice president, Mike Pence, believe Bolton's team was leaking stories that top administration officials were questioning the idea of a Taliban meeting.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think the view that there is some public discussions about Bolton being on the other side of meeting with the Taliban probably was a bridge too far. And I don't know what happened there.


ACOSTA (voice-over): A foreign policy hawk, Bolton disliked the idea of sitting down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Aides say Bolton's contrasting views and outspoken style had irritated the president for months.

TRUMP: He has strong views on things but that is OK. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Bolton also found himself at odds with Pompeo, who's much more willing to tout the president's foreign policy views.

POMPEO: I know everyone has talked about this for an awfully long time. There were definitely places that Ambassador and I -- Bolton and I had different views. ACOSTA (voice-over): But with Bolton out of the way, the administration is sounding much more open to the idea of Mr. Trump sitting down with Iran's president at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.

MNUCHIN: The president has made clear. He's happy to take a meeting with no pre-conditions but we're maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.


ACOSTA: Now, as we just mentioned a few moments ago, the former national security adviser John Bolton said in a tweet that he offered his resignation yesterday evening. But if we could put this up on screen, this is John Bolton's resignation letter to the White House. It is dated today and, according to a senior White House official, the president asked for and received that letter of resignation from the national security adviser.

As one source close to the White House put it, this may be the least surprising firing from the Trump White House as of yet. As one top White House official put it to me earlier today, Wolf, this was a long time in coming.

BLITZER: And Bolton in his letter simply said, "Dear Mr. President, I hereby resign effective immediately as assistant for the president for national security affairs. Thank you for having afforded me this opportunity to serve our country. Sincerely, John R. Bolton."

Jim, not much there from John Bolton.

ACOSTA: That is right, Wolf. This was somebody who clashed with top administration officials including the president on a number of occasions on a whole range of subjects. There was -- there was no mystery as to where John Bolton stood on Iran and North Korea and everything under the sun.

But he was a man of few words in that resignation letter, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you very much.

Let's get some more on the president's firing of his national security adviser. Our national security reporter, Kylie Atwood, is joining us and our CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel is with us.

Kylie, the White House suspected Bolton was actually responsible for leaks, particularly when he strongly disagreed with the president.

What are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY ANALYST: That's right. So we are learning today that the straw that broke the camel's back here was national security adviser John Bolton disagreeing with the president's decision to invite the Taliban here to the U.S., to U.S. soil, to Camp David to have meetings. National security adviser John Bolton didn't think it was a good idea and voiced his disagreement. Reporters then found out about that disagreement and we have reported

on it. But that's not the only policy issue that President Trump disagreed with Bolton on. There also North Korea.

Bolton thought that the Trump administration should be more muscular in its approach and not sit down with the North Korean officials. Iran, similar thing. Bolton thought that a strike against Iran should have happened but President Trump cancelled that strike hours before it was supposed to happen.

So these tensions have been bubbling for quite some time. And there is a very, very far distance between these two when it comes to foreign policy. Someone close to Bolton describing the two to me today as a round hole in a square peg from the beginning.

BLITZER: Certainly was complicated.

Jamie, this relationship between the president and Bolton, I never understood it to begin with, given their very public disagreements on U.S. troops overseas and war overseas; they clashed in policy, certainly clashed in personality. They even clashed as far as facial hair is concerned.

His exit, though, it was not unexpected.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not at all. For anyone who missed it, Donald Trump never liked John Bolton's mustache. But that was the least of their problems. Look, these two men not only clashed but behind the scenes, I am told by sources very close to the situation, John Bolton was not supporting the president.

A couple of weeks ago in late August, he was supposed to go on the Sunday talk shows. He did not go on. And my source said that it was because he said he couldn't support the president's position.

When Trump found out about it, that was yet another blow in the relationship. But I think overall, all of these problems, friends of John Bolton will tell you, he's a bull in a china shop. They were surprised he lasted as long as he did -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I was surprised as well.

Kylie, Bolton was scheduled to appear at a White House press briefing with the secretary of state, the Secretary of the Treasury just 90 minutes before he was fired. That is when the White House put out the announcement. This was rather awkward.

ATWOOD: That is right. So these departures from the Trump administration are never very ceremonious.


ATWOOD: We've seen President Trump fire members of his national security team, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, via tweet before. So this is not necessarily shocking news. But instead of John Bolton showing up there in the Briefing Room

alongside the other members of Trump's cabinet, it was secretary of state Mike Pompeo defending President Trump's decision to fire John Bolton, saying that the president is entitled to have the team that he chooses.

BLITZER: Jamie, the -- Bolton was growing increasingly reluctant, as you point out, to go on television and defend some of the president's policies.

What more are you learning about the tension between these two men?

GANGEL: Just as one example, a group from Congress had gone up earlier this year to discuss and try to convince President Trump not to withdraw from Syria. The president stepped out of the room at one point to take a call.

And Bolton was reported to have rolled his eyes and said, "Welcome to my world."

These kinds of stories were building up. But I think at the end of the day, one of the things that we're going to find out very quickly is John Bolton is telling reporters that he is going to explain more in due course. He is not going quietly.

So I think we're going to find out more of the details from his point of view. But it was -- it just had become untenable between the two men.

BLITZER: I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more from him in the coming days and weeks. He used to by a FOX News contributor before joining the White House so he might go back there or someplace else. Jamie and Kiley, thank you very much.

And let's get more on all of this. Joining us now, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman, Adam Schiff of California.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good to be with you.

BLITZER: You were never a big fan of John Bolton so are you happy the president got rid of him?

SCHIFF: Well, I am until we find out who comes next because the story of this administration is one of going from bad to worse. But he was always a poor fit for national security adviser, someone who ideally has the judgment and temperament to bring people together, to be an honest broker for the president, to allow the president to hear conflicting points of view and help the president along to a decision.

In Pompeo's statement that the president is entitled to someone he values and trusts, he was basically saying the president didn't value Bolton, didn't trust Bolton. Ironically, though, on a couple of key issues, this failed idea for a summit at Camp David and these colossal failures with North Korea, Bolton was right.

That kind of unprepared high-stakes summitry, that reality TV kind of diplomacy isn't going to work with North Korea. It didn't work with the Taliban. It hasn't worked with the Iranians and I think it is -- it has been a mistake and a costly one for the United States.

BLITZER: The turnover among national security advisers, secretary of state, Secretary of Defense, this national security team, how much concern does that raise?

SCHIFF: It raises a lot of concern. There has never been much process in this White House in terms of getting to a good decision on matters. And so we see just more of the dysfunction.

But even in the best of circumstances it was chaotic. Just to give you one illustration of that tweet that the president sent out, purportedly of a photograph of this Iranian missile site, with a vague or ambiguous language about whether he had any role in it, what was the point of that?

That certainly didn't come out of any comprehensive or comprehensible national security process. And so it just leaves people baffled.

BLITZER: Here is that tweet. You could see the picture.

Was that classified information that the president -- he has the right; he could declassify whatever he wants.

SCHIFF: Well, I can't comment on that. But I can say there doesn't seem to be any process for guiding the president on what he says, on what he does, on the international repercussions of it, on the repercussions in terms of our intelligence agencies.

And so that is one of the real costs of a lack of a workable National Security Council. And here, with this latest departure, who knows when we'll have one of those.

BLITZER: I can only assume you can't comment because it was classified. If it hadn't been, never been classified, then obviously you could have commented.

SCHIFF: Well, I can't comment either way because that may implicate when this comes up again, if it comes up again. Indeed, this is part of the problem with the president's statement, which is does that mean when there is another Iranian failure and the president doesn't tweet, that that is saying something about U.S. involvement?

So there was just nothing to be gained by what the president did. And we see this time and time again. You see it in the president's statements, for example.

"I'm not worried about these North Korean missile launches," something he has said in the past.

[17:15:00] SCHIFF: That statement, I can promise you, was never vetted by any national security official in the White House. And that is the problem with a broken process.

BLITZER: He keeps suggesting these are just short-range missile launches. They have a range of 1,000 kilometers, 600 miles. They could hit South Korea or where there is 35,000 U.S. troops; Japan, a lot more troops there. Short-range is not necessarily 5 miles.

SCHIFF: That is exactly right. I mean, they could kill a lot of Americans and a lot of our allies and if he's not worried about that, maybe he should spend some time worrying about North Korea's continued nuclear program, even as he exchanges love letters with Kim Jong-un.

BLITZER: Let me get to some of Jim Sciutto's excellent reporting here on CNN. As you know, he first reported yesterday that the U.S. back in 2017 extracted what was seen as a Soviet -- as a Russian asset working in Moscow, somebody who was valuable and may have been potentially at risk so they brought him here to the United States.

I know there is a limit to what you can say about this.

But what are your thoughts?

SCHIFF: Well, I can't comment at all on the veracity or lack of veracity of those allegations. I can say that there is a concern about the president, about whether foreign intelligence services can trust what they provide to us, whether they'll give us their most sensitive intelligence.

I think sources themselves, often who are motivated, yes, by money but by an ideological belief in what the U.S. stands for, when they see what this president stands for -- and it's so much at odds with our legacy of support for democracy and human rights -- those sources tend to dry up.

The continuing attacks on our intelligence professionals, this coziness with Russia, I was frankly just as disturbed with the reporting about the president questioning whether human intelligence is even valuable.

Why is the president afraid of what human intelligence may --


BLITZER: When you say human intelligence, you mean from foreign sources. The president is suggesting, according to Jim Sciutto's latest reporting today, that maybe that kind of sources, foreign sources are not reliable.

SCHIFF: Well, if this is what the president is communicating to our intelligence community, these are people risking their lives for the United States, risking their lives because we have got hardworking people in the intelligence agencies, recruiting these assets.

And that just makes their work so much more difficult and it makes it more dangerous for any foreign asset. So this is just singularly unhelpful without getting to the merits of these particular claims.

BLITZER: Important point indeed. Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for coming in.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Adam Schiff of California.

We'll have much more on breaking news. A exclusive new CNN poll shows President Trump's approval rating dropping with six in 10 Americans now saying he doesn't deserve to be re-elected. Stand by, we have eye-opening numbers for you.





BLITZER: Breaking news: a newly released CNN poll shows President Trump's approval rating has dropped and six in 10 Americans say he doesn't deserve re-election. Let's bring in our political director David Chalian.

David, these aren't good numbers for the president.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No. It shows he's got a steep climb here for re-election. Let's look at the approval rating that you mentioned: 39 percent of Americans in the poll say they approve of the way Donald Trump is handling his job; 55 percent disapprove. This is definitely on the lower end of that range.

We've seen him -- take a look at the approval number over the course of the year. We haven't seen him this low since back in January, when he was at 37 percent. That was during the government shutdown.

And you know that the economy has been one of his strongest suits. But look at this. It is now not such a huge advantage. It is still his best issue but 48 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove and this is the first time in seven months we've seen in our polling Trump's approval on the economy drop below 50 percent.

BLITZER: Interesting.

How do voters feel about re-electing President Trump?

CHALIAN: This number is the one that I think will send a chill down the spine of folks at Trump re-election headquarters: 60 percent of Americans in this poll say that Donald Trump does not deserve re- election; 36 percent say that he does.

Wolf, this score -- Barack Obama was in the low 50 percent don't deserve re-election. George W. Bush was actually at 52 percent or 53 percent that said he does deserve re-election. So this is a tough number for him.

And then take a look at this question we asked. Donald Trump we know is a change agent. Eight in 10 Americans say he has changed the country. But look at how they split. More people say he has changed it for the worse, 45 percent. Only 33 percent say he's changed the country for the better.

Again, that is going to be a tough challenge for him to flip around in perception of voters' minds as he head into his re-election year.

BLITZER: Yes, a lot of bad numbers right now. But as you correctly point out, a lot of time between now and November of next year. David Chalian, thank you very much.

And stay with us. President Trump announces he fired his national security adviser John Bolton. But Bolton said he resigned.

So which is it?





BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including the fallout from President Trump's abrupt announcement that he fired his national security adviser, John Bolton. Bolton said he quit and wasn't fire. Either way, he is out.


Let's bring in our political and national security experts to discuss.

Gloria, the President's tweet was very simple but stark -- I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions. Bolton, 12 minutes later, said he resigned.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, this whole -- this whole scenario is a little Sessions like, and maybe even ruder. I mean, he might have even been more rude to Bolton than he was to Jeff Sessions, if that's possible.

Our reporting -- my reporting, Dana's reporting, and our White House team reporting -- is that this was kind of the final straw, this question of the meeting with the Taliban which Bolton opposed. He didn't want it at Camp David. He had a very bitter, I was told, conversation with the President, and that kind of exploded the whole thing.

But it doesn't come as a surprise to any of us. I mean, these two people disagreed on everything -- on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on North Korea, on Venezuela. That wasn't a surprise either when he hired him. We could've told you that going in. Then finally, it just got to be -- it just got to be too much.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, the President's strong language as far as getting rid of Bolton, what does that tell you?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It puts into the public's sphere what our team has been reporting for over a week, even longer -- Kylie Atwood at the State Department, Kaitlan Collins -- about the tension there. And now that it is in public, neither man is hiding their, you know, sort of irritation with one another, both Bolton and the President.

But like Gloria was talking about, what I was told, even though there has been tension for a very long time on a policy level and on a personal level, meaning the fact that -- I have been told, that John Bolton was perceived by the President and other senior aides as somebody who's style was too brash, that he had too much bravado, that he took trips with too many staffers.

He took his own plane instead of being with the President as a staffer, which is what the national security adviser is, which is different from a cabinet member like the Secretary of State or otherwise.

But the leaking, the perception by the President that it was John Bolton who leaked bad information about the President following the Afghanistan summit that was supposed to be at Camp David that didn't happen, saying that the President basically, you know, didn't know what he was doing.

The fact that the President believed that that was John Bolton, who obviously did disagree, thought the notion of bringing the Taliban to American soil, never mind Camp David, a couple of days before 9/11 was a terrible idea. Bolton was not alone in that at all, but the notion of leaking, I'm told, even for a president who clashed with somebody, that was the bridge too far.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Yes. When you say bad information, you mean information the President didn't like, not --

BASH: Negative information about him.

BLITZER: Not necessarily incorrect information --

BASH: Thank you for --

BORGER: It was about --

BLITZER: -- right?

BASH: Yes.

BORGER: It was about the story.

BLITZER: Right. BORGER: It is about the story.

BASH: Negative information.

BLITZER: Right, that --

BORGER: Right, not false --

BASH: That the President is wrong about this.

BLITZER: Yes, because the President was not happy --

BASH: Right.

BLITZER: -- happy about it.

BASH: Precisely.

BLITZER: You know, over these past several months, you know, Susan, the President has often acknowledged, publicly, his disagreements with Bolton on several major issues. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have John Bolton and I have other people that are a little more dovish than him. And ultimately, I make the decision. He has strong views on things, but that's OK. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing, isn't it?

Because I have John Bolton, who I would definitely say is a hawk, and I have other people that are on the other side of the equation. And ultimately, I make the decisions, so it doesn't matter.

He takes generally a tough posture, but I have other people that don't take that posture. But the only one that matters is me.

John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it's up to him, he'd take on the whole world at one time, OK? But that doesn't matter because I want both sides.


BLITZER: I was surprised when he hired Bolton, and I was surprised he lasted this long.

BASH: Yes.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so it's been clear for a long time that John Bolton was not -- not trusted by White House staff, was not trusted by the President, that this was not a tenable position for the national security adviser to be in. Certainly, his foreign policy instincts do not align with the President's, and we're seeing that clash.

That said, the issue here is not John Bolton. The issue here is Donald Trump. The job of the national security adviser is to ensure that factual actual -- actionable information is going out to the President.

He's coordinating inner agency policies, ensuring that the President of the United States understands what the CIA is thinking, what the -- what the National Security Agency is thinking, what the U.S. military is thinking, so the President can make wise and informed judgments.

That involves telling the President information that is inconvenient to him, things that he doesn't want to hear. He's not a P.R. spin. It's not a P.R. spin position. And so, at the end of the day, whether it's John Bolton or H.R. McMaster or anybody else, anyone who is in that position and willing to do the job of telling the truth to the President is going to clash with the President.


Once again, ordinarily, you know, it's fine for a president to have a national security adviser they want to rely on. It's important that they have that role. That said, tweeting that he's fired, pretty clear that there was no -- no next in line.

They hadn't vetted anybody. They hadn't thought about who the next national security adviser will be. So this impulsive decision, once again, throws a really important element of the national security apparatus into complete chaos.

BLITZER: This is the third national security adviser in the Trump White House, Sabrina, who has now come and go. There seems to be a near constant bit of turmoil undergoing right now. There you see Michael Flynn, H.R. McMaster, John Bolton, all out.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, Bolton's departure comes at a time when this administration is grappling with a number of foreign policy challenges.

Whether it's negotiations on how to end America's longest war in Afghanistan, ongoing talks with North Korea about denuclearization, his escalating global trade war with China, how to engage with Iran at a time of simmering tensions between Washington and Tehran, political unrest in Venezuela, the list goes on and on.

And so, to have this level of turnover leaves the administration without a sense of continuity or a clear sense of direction. It certainly projects instability to both allies and adversaries alike.

And to Susan's point, when it comes to potential replacements, the biggest problem is going to be that people can come and go, but, ultimately, what the President expects is loyalty and for people to tell him what he wants to hear. And if you don't, you might be out of the job.

BORGER: I don't think we can emphasize enough -- and I heard from a senior Democratic foreign policy maven, if you will -- the amount of dysfunction in the foreign policy apparatus.

And this person said to me, this is a thoroughly dysfunctional operation. It is important to reflect on the fact that Pompeo is the last person standing and that everyone else -- McMaster, Mattis, Coats, Tillerson, John Kelly, Kirsten Nielsen -- found it impossible to work with the President and are bitter about their experience.

BLITZER: Exactly.

BORGER: And I think that's where we are.

BLITZER: That's a good point, a lot of bitter people out there.

Everybody, stand by. A lot more on all the breaking news right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with our political and national security experts.

Dana Bash, the dismissal of Bolton -- the firing, resignation, whatever it was -- earlier in the morning, it was announced that Bolton would be at a White House press briefing with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. Ninety minutes later, the President tweets he has been fired, doesn't happen.

Listen to the reaction of the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to a question on whether or not he was surprised.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, let me ask --

POMPEO: And I don't mean that on just this issue. And I think Secretary Mnuchin would say the same thing. We work very closely with the President of the United States. We -- I think we have a pretty good understanding of how he's thinking about things.


BLITZER: He certainly doesn't seem disappointed about Bolton's departure.

BASH: Right, neither surprised nor disappointed. Look, part of the reporting and part of the reality is that Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, and John Bolton clashed on a lot of issues, very very important policy issues. Which, again, people who have worked in administrations, Democrat and Republican, argue that healthy debate on really important issues is a good thing so that's not necessarily a bad thing.

But they also had a personality clash and a clash about how they approached the jobs, about process and so forth. So that's why there was no -- there were no tears being shed there by the Secretary of State Pompeo.

But I also thought it was really, really telling but -- that both him and Steve Mnuchin -- Mnuchin who has known President Trump for a very long time -- had to laugh. Nervous laughter but very telling laugher about the fact that they can't be surprised, nobody is surprised, by the notion that the President, despite how much this has been building up, at the end, made an impulsive decision to fire John Bolton.

BLITZER: Yes, very, very quickly. Does this mean, Susan, that Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, has even greater power now because he clashed often with Bolton.

HENNESSEY: I think it does show that Mike Pompeo is one of the most influential figures in the Trump administration right now. He has shown that he has staying power, right? A lot of people are sort of the flavor of the month with Trump. Mike Pompeo has really persisted in this administration.

While some reporting suggests he's done that by adopting an incredibly sycophantic posture toward Trump, really sort of flattering him, something that is quite effective in Trump world, one thing we have seen the President do, though, is he tends to sour on people whenever they start to see their own political star rising, thinking about their own futures.

Mike Pompeo has been playing coy about suggestions that he might run for Senate in Kansas while doing an awful lot of local Kansas media for a Secretary of State. And so, one thing that remains to be seen, as Mike Pompeo turns his focus to his own future, how the President responds to that.

BLITZER: This turmoil --

BORGER: He would like Trump's endorsement, there is no doubt about it.


BLITZER: This turmoil, Gloria, the national security upheaval --


BLITZER: -- that's going on right now comes as we have a brand-new CNN poll. Sixty percent of Americans now say the President does not deserve to be re-elected.

BORGER: I mean, that's a -- that's a striking number, Wolf. Right now, if I were working for the President -- the President's re- election, I would look at that, and I would say, OK, it's early, but we have an awful lot of work to do. This summer hadn't helped.


And I -- digging into the poll, I would look at the number of independent voters here. Because the question was asked, you know, has the country changed for the worse, and 47 percent of independent voters now, almost half of independents, say it changed for the worse. And that shifted from 35 percent in February.

Those voters -- those voters -- are the key in this election, and they are changing their minds pretty dramatically, I think, about Donald Trump. And by the way, 71 percent of Americans do not believe what they hear from the White House. Think of that.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There is more news we're following.

Coming up, more on the breaking news. North Korea just announced it tested, and I'm quoting now, a super large multiple rocket launcher. Is Kim Jong-un engaging in blackmail diplomacy with President Trump?



BLITZER: There's more breaking news tonight, North Korea just revealing new details of its latest missile launches. The regime now says it used what it's calling a super large multiple rocket launcher and that Kim Jong-un personally supervised the test.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a tactic the North Koreans often use to agitate their way back to the bargaining table. Threats, ultimatums, missile launches, all of which the Trump team has basically let them get away with. This is a form of extortion which might just be working for Kim Jong-un.


TODD (voice-over): Just hours after Kim Jong-un's regime issued a statement saying it was ready to restart nuclear talks with the U.S., the North Korean dictator once again ordered the firing of two short- range missiles into the Sea of Japan.

A U.S. official telling CNN the missiles are the same types of missiles North Korea has repeatedly tested in recent weeks. Tonight, experts tell CNN North Korea is using what it's called blackmail diplomacy, and they say it's working for Kim Jong-un.

MICHAEL GREEN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR ASIA AND JAPAN CHAIR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: North Korea's negotiating style is to threaten destruction, to launch missile tests, as a center (ph) for diplomacy. There's not a cost. It incentivizes Pyongyang to keep doing what they're doing.

TODD (voice-over): There's been no cost for Kim, analysts say, because President Trump has repeatedly downplayed the nearly two dozen North Korean short-range missile tests since May.

TRUMP: He likes testing missiles, but we never restricted short-range missiles.

They are short-range missiles and very standard missiles.

TODD (voice-over): But missile experts say that's not true. They say while Kim Jong-un sends letters to Trump and talks about a grand bargain, he's been perfecting three types of short-range missiles that pose a major threat to U.S. forces in Asia and their allies.

RICHARD FISHER, SENIOR FELLOW, INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND STRATEGY CENTER: Two are capable of maneuvering, meaning that they can complicate interception by American missile defenses and South Korean missile defenses. And eventually, all of these missiles will contribute to North Korea's ability to produce solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed at the United States.

TODD (voice-over): One group of missile analysts estimates that the short-range missiles Kim has tested recently can strike six U.S. bases in South Korea and two in Japan. And the threat doesn't end there.

FISHER: Eventually, it could be armed with a nuclear -- tactical nuclear warhead.

TODD (voice-over): Experts tell CNN Kim Jong-un may not have the grand nuclear deal he wants from the Americans yet, but the deal he has right now with Trump allows him to use all of these threats to his advantage.

GREEN: It allows them to keep expanding their missiles, expanding their capabilities. They are moving the ball two yards, three yards, four yards down the field, and there's nothing we're doing about it. So they're going to play the ground game and keep expanding their arsenal.


TODD: And during all of these diplomatic overtures, North Korea has been perfecting its threat capability against the U.S. in other ways. U.S. intelligence officials have estimated that since that Singapore summit in June of last year, North Korea has produced enough fuel to make several new nuclear weapons -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Brian, I understand you're being told tonight that the firing of John Bolton as the President's national security adviser could give the North Koreans yet another advantage.

TODD: Right, Wolf. We spoke to former White House officials today, other analysts who say that John Bolton's departure is a cause for celebration in Pyongyang tonight. Remember, it was Bolton's influence that was widely seen as being a driving force between -- behind President Trump walking away from a deal with the North Koreans in Hanoi this past February.

The -- with Bolton out of the way, experts say the North Koreans now feel they've got a better chance to get President Trump alone in a room with Kim Jong-un and a better chance of Trump giving away the store in a nuclear deal.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you. There's more breaking news. Coming up next, new details emerging of national security adviser John Bolton's sudden departure from the White House and how simmering conflicts boiled over in one final heated argument with President Trump.



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Bolton cut loose. The President reveals his national security adviser is out after their long simmering tensions and disagreements boil over. How might Mr. Trump's erratic form of policy change? Now that Bolton is out, how will that be implemented?


Declining approval. CNN's exclusive new poll shows the President's job rating has dipped.