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EARLY START

Dramatic War of Words; North Korea Threatens Guam; Korea Tension Unsettles Global Markets; Patriots Become 1st NFL Team to Buy Team Planes. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 9, 2017 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A stunning public threat to an American adversary. What is President Trump's next move after North Korea defied him with another threat to the U.S.

We have full coverage this morning from Washington and from Seoul.

Good evening, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Miguel Marquez, in for Dave Briggs this week. It is Wednesday, the 9th, 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

This morning, high stakes, a game in North Korea is threatening an attack on the U.S. territory and President Trump warning of fire and fury. Pyongyang with a major escalation warning of what it calls a preemptive retaliatory operation of justice.

[05:00:04] ROMANS: In a statement, the North Korean military threatens to strike the U.S. island of Guam and it specifically mentions Anderson Air Force Base on Guam, which is home of two American bombers that flew over the North Korean peninsula, prompting the latest North Korean rhetoric.

MARQUEZ: The North Korean threats came hours after we also learned U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded Pyongyang has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead. That news prompted a harsh response from President Trump.

Our coverage begins with CNN national security reporter, Ryan Browne in Washington -- Ryan.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: The latest development is coming as you mentioned this intelligence assessment made by the Defense Intelligence Agency which determined that North Korea now has the ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons and fit them on to a ballistic missile. Now, this hasn't been tested yet. And again, this is just an

assessment. But it would mark significant development in the country's nuclear weapons program following last month's test of two ICBMs that theoretically could reach the U.S. mainland.

Now, again, this is just one development. We also saw that warning from Pyongyang directed at Guam in response to the flight of the B-1 bombers. You know, Pyongyang ratcheting up the rhetoric there, a routine bomber flight, but Pyongyang threatening a retaliatory strike against Guam. But this was also kind of -- this all kind of came and was followed shortly there after by this stark warning from President Donald Trump against any additional provocations by North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWNE: Now, those are strong words but not exactly clear what President Trump's red lines are. He talked about North Korea's threats. And again, you know, North Korea issuing one against Guam yesterday in response to that B1 fly-over. So, this is not very clear what the next steps are from a term of action.

All of this coming after a successful U.S. efforts to get sanctions implemented against North Korea for its nuclear program. Now, this new rhetoric, quite unclear where things will go next -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Well, that really is the big question, that he would threaten to use military force against North Korea for their threats, not for them doing something, is certainly new. That's something the Defense Department, I'm sure, is going to be digesting today.

Ryan Browne for us in D.C., thank you very much.

ROMANS: Great to have him reporting for us so early this morning. Thanks, Brian.

This is hardly the first time North Korea has made harsh threats against the U.S. Some of them sounding just as deadly and dangerous. So, why is this threat being taken more seriously?

CNN's Alexandra field joins us live this morning from Seoul, which is just after 6:00 p.m.

Good morning. Bring us up to speed.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, Christine, if somebody misspeaks, if somebody missteps, if somebody makes a mistake, it could cost Seoul and South Korea dearly. Don't forget, we are in the middle of a major metropolitan city. The greater area here has some 20 million people, and we're just 35 miles away from the DMZ, where North Korea has a range of weapons that they could use to frankly unleash fury on the city of Seoul. That's why officials in Seoul want to see the temperature come down when it comes to this escalation in a war of word, a clash really between Washington, D.C. and Pyongyang.

They are, in fact, used to hearing bellicose language from Pyongyang. And that language is being taken seriously. It doesn't always raised alarm in South Korea because it is so often repeated. But South Korea is looking at what they can do to up its defenses given the current climate.

Take this into consideration. Just last month, North Korea proved it could launch two intercontinental ballistic missiles. Now, you've got this latest piece of intelligence suggesting that they have a nuclear warhead they can miniaturize and fit on an ICBM. Again, that's not the total equation. That doesn't mean they have the capability to marry those two parts and do reliable reentry. But certainly, there is a strong, clear, present threat that is there.

Officials in South Korea are condemning Pyongyang for the latest statements. But this part is a little more unusual. No one in the world is used to hearing the U.S. commander-in-chief use the kind of rhetoric that is usually reserved for North Korea, talking about things like fire and fury that the world has never seen before.

Officials here haven't commented directly on that. Remember, South Korea is an ally with the United States. They've got a decades old relationship, same thing for Japan and the United States. And these are two countries that face a grave security threat, given the proximity of North Korea, and they need to know they can rely on the United States for the security and the defense that they so badly need right now.

[05:05:05] No one here seems concerned that the United States would abandon these long-standing allies. The big concern again, and we can't say it enough, is that when the temperature gets this high, the big question is whether or not something can get misinterpreted, sparking some kind of conflict. It's a real fear here, Christine.

ROMANS: There's just no margin for error here. And you've got the American secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who's in the region, he has been pursuing what, you know, State Department watchers called peaceful pressure to get this temperature down, very different words from the president yesterday.

All right. Alexandra Field, thank you for that.

MARQUEZ: And we want to bring in CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He is joining us from the lovely town of San Antonio, Texas.

ROMANS: Good morning.

MARQUEZ: Very early. Thank you very much for being with us.

On that -- look, this has been an odd week for North Korea. You get a 15-0 vote at the U.N., with both China and Russia agreeing with the rest of the world that they have to be stopped, that this program has to be stopped. The president takes the rhetoric to this level later on, threatening the North Koreans that if they continue to threaten the U.S., not that they do something, if they continue to threaten the U.S., the U.S. will act.

Does this undo, undermine, stop any sort of diplomatic abilities that the U.S. and its allies have in the region?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Miguel, it certainly limits them. And that's a huge problem because you want as much room for maneuver as you possibly can get when you engage in diplomatic activities, specially with a regime like the North Korean regime.

As to the type of rhetoric, you know, that would have been best employed at a time when the North Koreans had actually done something or were threatening to do something. The fact that it happened on the basis of a press report of an intelligence document of an intelligence assessment makes this a very unique challenge for the State Department and for Secretary Tillerson, because now, they have to actually work through this kind of rhetoric before they can begin to get the North Koreans to start to talk or to start to at least minimize some of the actions they have been taking up to this point.

ROMANS: On the president's fire and fury comment getting an awful lot of attention, and then he said, the likes of which the world has never seen, I think it's important to put it in context. He was speaking at a press availability at Bedminster in New Jersey about the opioid conflict. He used that like the world has never seen before, a phrase, when talking about something else a few minutes earlier.

So, it may be a turn of phrase from the president. It made it sound so much stronger, but it may be a turn of phrase. This president uses words in nontraditional ways in terms of the presidency. That fire and fury warning, does it derail what Secretary Tillerson has been doing in the region, his peaceful pressure to get the North Koreans to the negotiating table?

LEIGHTON: Well, I hope it won't. But it certainly has the potential for doing so, Christine. And that, I think, is the huge issue here, because the kinds of efforts that the secretary of state has been engaging in are very difficult to work. Madeleine Albright famously went to Pyongyang after many efforts during the Clinton administration. That took a lot of doing to get there.

It was one of those things where you work very hard to get to certain areas. And all of that work can disappear usually because of what the adversary has been doing. But in this particular case, the timing of the remarks do threaten to derail some of the efforts that the secretary of state has been working. I think there is a way back from this. But it also provides for a few more challenges than had been anticipated by the folks at the State Department.

MARQUEZ: "The Washington Post" editorial board wrote this about the president's remarks. North Korea's steadily advancing nuclear weapons and missile programs are serious. Dealing with that will require patient, pressure and skilled diplomacy, perhaps for years. Indeed, Mr. Trump has strut into the arena with a jarring rhetorical grenade.

Obviously, the president and the administration has to be careful in what it says and how it goes about this, but how does it play out in the real world? I mean, I think the concern is that this goes to a nuclear confrontation immediately. But it sounds to me like there would have to be other things that the North Koreans would have to do before we get into a shooting match with the North Koreans.

LEIGHTON: Most definitely, Miguel. One of the key things we have to see is either a direct action on the part of the North Koreans or the intent, the clear intent to act in a specific way and to target a certain area, such as Seoul, such as Tokyo, such as the West Coast of the United States.

[05:10:07] If any of those happened, then it would clearly be game on. The other area, of course, we have been talking this morning about is Guam. If there were to be an attack as the North Koreans have threatened against Guam, that would have a significant consequence and the United States would absolutely be forced to respond to something like that.

ROMANS: Yesterday, James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, was speaking to Anderson last night about this rhetoric, about the temperature rising in this situation. And this is the warning he had.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I would also appeal to those in the media to tone down the rhetoric as well, because the rhetoric itself now is becoming quite incendiary. And I just don't think it is very productive to engage in this dueling banjo rhetoric back and forth, which is quite provocative.

(END VIDEO CLI)

ROMANS: The challenge for the media is that you have the president of the United States, whose words matter, what he says matters. You have a conflict that is very dangerous. So, we are obviously reporting this out.

But what do you make about what James Clapper said?

LEIGHTON: General Clapper has a lot of experience in the region. And I actually know him personally. The big issue he brought out here is a very critical one.

General Clapper has been to Pyongyang. He helped to get the release of one of the Americans that the North Koreans had held prisoner for a while. He has been very instrumental in formulating not only intelligence policy but overall policy toward North Korea. It has been a challenge that has really plagued us since the early 1950s.

The issue that General Clapper raised is one that really gets to the heart of the matter. We have to be very careful with how we discuss these kind of things. The fact of the matter is, we are talking about something that is a report of a capability. It is not the use of the capability and it is not something that results from that use of the capability.

So, we are at risk of engaging in overheated rhetoric at a time when they haven't specifically done the kinds of things or met the kind of thresholds that we would require another nation to meet before we went to attack them.

MARQUEZ: Cedric Leighton, thank you very much, Colonel. You'll see you again in a little bit.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

ROMANS: Thank you so much.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are not pleased with the president's threat to Kim Jong-un.

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SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: This is so irresponsible, I can't -- I can't even believe that he did this.

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ROMANS: More on how all of this is being received on Capitol Hill, next.

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[05:17:06] SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I take exception to the president's comments because you got to be sure that you can do what you say you're going to do. And I think that the rotund ruler in Pyongyang is not crazy, but he certainly is ready to go to the brink. The great leaders that I have seen, they don't threaten unless they are ready to act. And I'm not sure that President Trump is ready to act.

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ROMANS: Democrats and Republicans slamming President Trump for escalating the crisis with North Korea. Many lawmakers raising concerns about the president drawing a line in the sand and not being able to back it up.

Joining us to discuss that and the rest of the day's political news, Zach Wolf. He is a digital director for CNN Politics.

Good morning.

Let's first talk about this. You know, they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. "The Daily News", no big fan of this president, talking about Armageddon, play on words there about the president's threat. You know, presidential language matters, but was this hyperbole or a

diplomatic stroke by this president? What's the view in Washington?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: I think it is a little too early to say whether it was a diplomatic stroke. I am not sure there is anybody I have heard talking on TV or reading about it who knows exactly what the diplomacy of this is, who follows exactly what he is doing if it is a diplomatic stroke. It seems a little bit more like he is kind of talking maybe before he potentially should have, before North Korea has a nuclear weapon, before you are to the brink of this nuclear situation. He is really ramping up the rhetoric.

I mean, John McCain, we heard the sound from him there. He is no shrinking violet when it comes to the use of U.S. military power. And he is not somebody who would say, don't use it if you absolutely need to. If he's the guy saying, whoa, put on the brakes, that's something you need to listen to.

MARQUEZ: The latest polling out of CNN and SSRS shows that Americans see North Korea as almost as big a threat as ISIS. Sixty-two percent of Americans saying North Korea is a threat, 64 for ISIS, hand in hand with that, is that they see the president's handling of the North Korea situation as overall bad. Those disapproving of his handling of the situation, 50 percent, those approving only 37 percent.

I mean, what is -- you have covered this White House. You have maybe a sense of things. I don't -- I take it this is not going to be received well among both Democrats and Republicans for him to come out this strongly. Is there a sense that this is just more of the same from the president, just an ill-timed and ill-thought out remark in the moment? And it will blow over and people will just move on?

WOLF: I'm not sure. I mean, it was so different and so striking that it's something that I think could change the -- you know, the way people perceive this threat.

[05:20:06] Those numbers you just mentioned, those were all conducted before Trump ratcheted this up with the very striking language he used yesterday. Could that change this in the public's mind? I think it's possible it could.

ROMANS: What is the next move then here? I mean, we're -- the next move, I guess, I mean, you've got the North Koreans threatening Guam, the U.S. just recently sent a B1 over the peninsula. We've had war games with the South Koreans.

You know, what is -- who has got the next move here?

WOLF: Well, I think we are in situation where President Trump has essentially drawn this line and, you know, moments later, you know, not very long later, the North Korea is issuing a threat, kind of contradicting exactly what he said not to do. So, I think we will have to see how he reacts, what his body language and his voice and, you know, the next opportunity we have for him to say something is going to be very important.

But the next time we can see him say something publicly, I think, will be very important as the next step of this.

ROMANS: And from the secretary of state. I mean, Rex Tillerson is in the region, right? That he has been what many people have said, pursuing this, you know, peaceful pressure on the North Koreans. One wonders if he was looped into this kind of change in rhetoric from the president.

WOLF: Yes, what President Trump did was essentially go against what Tillerson has been trying to do, which is kind of to quietly work things over in the region. So Trump certainly, if Tillerson is the good cop. Trump is the bad cop in this scenario.

MARQUEZ: Where Russian sanctions are concerned, we saw Congress act and they passed a law that put the president basically in a box on it. Is there any discussion or any possibility that they will try to do something in a similar fashion? After all, this is one intelligence agency making a call based on an assessment and then leaked to a newspaper. It's not exactly the stuff that wars are typically fought over.

WOLF: No, and I think it is a little bit too early for Congress to be acting based on one thing the president said. They have all left town essentially for the summer. So, this is kind of the time when these things sort of fester.

I am not sure if there is anything they can do right now. There are so many sanctions already on North Korea, including one just recently enacted by the Security Council. So, you know it -- I'm not sure exactly what the step for Congress would be. Although, you know, if you have people like John McCain, and Dianne Feinstein, people on both sides of the aisle suggesting he should dial it back, that's something I'm sure his advisers will make him listen to.

ROMANS: All right. Zachary Wolf for us in Washington, we'll talk to you again in a few more minutes.

MARQUEZ: Intrigue ahead.

ROMANS: Thanks. A lot of headlines to get to this morning.

MARQUEZ: Thanks.

ROMANS: Thank you, sir.

President Trump fiery warning to North Korea unsettling global markets. Global stocks and U.S. futures falling overnight as tensions rise between the U.S. and North Korea. Markets in South Korea and Japan fell, you could see, by about 1 percent there. And the dollar lost almost all of its earlier gains. It's now down about 8 percent this year, near a 15-month low.

Meanwhile, investors are piling into so-called safe havens like gold and bonds. Trump's promise of fire and fury like the world has never seen also triggered a selloff on Wall Street, snapping the DOW's winning streak after nine straight days of records. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 also closed lower. You know, stocks have largely ignored geopolitical tensions. Hitting

new highs up, big corporate profits. All three major U.S. indices, really important context here, they are up double digit percentages this year.

Still, millions of Americans haven't felt the roaring rally. Stock records are a measure of company's well-being, not worker well-being. Fifty-four percent of the country is invested in stocks. So, you've got a whole lot of folks who do not have a 401(k) or not feeling the stock market records. They are paid through their paycheck, not through their stock investments.

MARQUEZ: And those paychecks need to go up.

ROMANS: Yes, yes.

MARQUEZ: To the victors go the spoils and to the Super Bowl champion Patriots, they are going to where no NFL team has gone before. The space?

Andy Scholes will tell us in the "Bleacher Report", coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:28:31] ROMANS: Civil rights groups are planning a rally in New York to show their support for Colin Kaepernick who remains without an NFL team.

MARQUEZ: Without a team.

Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, there is less than a month to go before the NFL season gets going.

And many think that Colin Kaepernick is being black balled by the NFL team because of its stance for not standing for the national anthem last season. Many civil rights groups are organizing a protest outside of NFL headquarters two weeks from today. Spike Lee promoted the rally on his Twitter with a flyer that has Kaepernick misspelled on it.

Lee later qualified that he is not organizing this protest but fully supports Kaepernick and his fight for social justice.

New York Giants owner John Mara meanwhile told ESPN Radio in New York yesterday that he doesn't believe Kaepernick is being black balled by the owners, and he thinks Kaepernick will be on a team this season.

What do you do when you are the premier franchise in the NFL these days? You buy your own Boeing 767. The New England Patriots are the first NFL team to buy their own plane. And they bought two of them, because they needed a backup. According to ESPN, the team retrofitted them with all first class

seats, some of which recline completely. It must be nice to travel as a Patriot. These planes can cost upwards of $200 million each.

All right. Finally, tough night for Braves rookie shortstop Johan Camargo. Check this out. Camargo was jogging on the field to start the game against the Phillies. You see him right behind the pitcher, He reaches down to grab some dirt on the first baseline. His knee locks up awkwardly and he goes down.

This is the very start of the game. Camargo ended up having to be helped off the field.