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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Promises "Big, Big Trouble" If North Korea Targets Guam; Trump: Millions Are "So Happy" With My Warning to North Korea; Trump: I Won't Rule Out Military Option in Venezuela; Interview with Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID). Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 11, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OutFront next, breaking news, President Trump issuing another grim warning to Kim Jong-un saying, make one more threat and you will truly regret it. Could all the fiery talk actually lead to war?
Plus, what a shooting war between the United States and North Korea would look like. We're going to show you what the U.S. military would bring to bear.
And loyal supporters reacting to Trump's fire and fury threat against Korea. What's the one thing they all agree on about President Trump?
Let's go OutFront.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, breaking news, big, big trouble. Those are President Trump's words moments ago lobbing a new threat at North Korea. Trump for the fifth time this week, the fifth time, using fiery language to make it clear the United States stands ready to strike North Korea militarily.
Speaking from his New Jersey golf resort, here's the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If anything happens to Guam, there's going to be big, big trouble in North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So is this situation heading to war? Well, the president was directly asked that question today. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We think that lots of good things could happen and we also could have a bad solution. But we think lots of good things can happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would be a bad solution, sir?
TRUMP: I think you know the answer to that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell us more, Mr. President, please. When you say bad solutions, are you talking about for war? Is the U.S. going to go to war?
TRUMP: I think you know the answer to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The problem is, nobody actually knows the answer to that. And for over four days, just over four days, the president has issued threat after threat. It is now become the question frankly every American is asking because of this.
(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.
The people that were questioning that statement, was it too tough. Maybe it wasn't tough enough. North Korea better get their act together or they're going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world, OK?
He's not getting away with it. It's a whole new ball game and this man will not get away with what he's doing, believe me. Or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The bellicose words follow Trump's tweet this morning which suggested American military forces are ready to go at a moment's notice. The president borrowing a catch phrase from an old John Wayne movie writing, quote, military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong-un will follow another path.
Trump then retweeted this photo of two Air Force B-1B bombers in flight. The original tweet from the U.S. Pacific command said it was, quote, standing by for orders.
As for North Korea, the response has been almost exclusively from state media which has threatened to turn the United States into a, quote, sea of fire and saying the United States would suffer its, quote, final doom.
But here's a very important point. Kim Jong-un himself has not said a word. Even the regime's threat to test a missile off the coast of Guam was actually issued by a North Korean general. And Trump tonight asked about North Korea's repeated threat against the United States made the point loud and clear, that he wants to hear the tough talk from him himself.
He said, quote, let me hear Kim Jong-un say it, OK? He's not saying it. He hasn't been saying much for the last three days. You let me hear him say it. Perhaps giving North Korea an off ramp.
Athena Jones is OutFront near where the president is staying in Bedminster, New Jersey. And Athena, is anyone inside the Trump inner circle worry about the president's continued ramp-up of rhetoric against North Korea?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin. Well, if anyone in the president's inner circle is worried about his fiery rhetoric, they're certainly not saying so publicly. And if they're expressing that concern to the president privately, he clearly isn't heeding it because we continue to hear this rhetoric several times this week. As you mentioned, five times this week, whether it's on Twitter or statements to the press. We just heard it again.
And what was interesting is that during that gaggle, that brief appearance before reporters at his Bedminster golf club, the president was asked about whether he was on the same page as some others in his administration who have been taking a more diplomatic approach. Folks like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and the president said, totally, we are totally on the same page. And he pointed to Secretary Tillerson to weigh in.
Secretary Tillerson said that he felt that there needed to be a combined strategy to try to urge movement on the part of North Korea. And so there is a diplomatic approach that he says the president has made clear he prefers. But that it was also important for the president to help them with that by making sure North Korea is aware of the stakes in this conflict. So that was an interesting answer.
[19:05:09] But as you noted, two things were interesting about part of that exchange, one was this idea of the president talking about a potential bad solution in North Korea but not, expanding on that. And also in his statement earlier in the day, he talked about how if North Korea utters a threat in the form of an overt threat, you know, they're going to regret it.
The bottom line is that that threat has already been issued by North Korea in terms of sending missiles off the waters of Guam. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Athena.
And Will Ripley is OutFront in Beijing. Of course China at the center of this.
Will, obviously you've been to North Korea more than a dozen times. New threats from President Trump aimed at North Korea but you also just heard what the president said. Basically, I hear the threats coming but they're not coming from Kim Jong-un. And either upping the ante to dare him to do it or basically giving Kim Jong-un an off ramp saying, OK it's not you who said it, we could still stop this. How do you think Kim will respond?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, it's very unlikely that Kim Jong-un would come on television in North Korea and make a conciliatory statement, and very unlikely that he would respond directly to these comments because aside from giving major speeches, most of Kim Jong-un's message is delivered, as we've seen this week, from his generals, from his ministerial level officials in these KCNA, Korean Central News Agency releases.
And so perhaps what the president is -- the message he's trying to say is that the warnings that we're hearing repeatedly from North Korea are diminished in seriousness because they're not coming directly from North Korea's supreme leader himself. However, it doesn't mean that North Korea will no try to back up the warnings that they made with action, and that's what we really need to watch in the coming months.
According to intelligence, while there are no imminent signs of a missile launch in North Korea, some U.S. analysts have said that they have seen missiles being moved around in the country, which is not unusual. North Korea often moves its missiles from one location to another but it was just a couple days ago, Erin, that North Korea threatened to simultaneously launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles, fire them over Japan and put them down within 20 miles of Guam.
All of this unfolding on a very tense month in the peninsula because of the regularly scheduled joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea due to kick off just in a matter of weeks towards the end of the month. It was just one week after these exercises last year that North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test.
These exercises always enrage Pyongyang and that is why China and Russia are asking the United States to suspend the military exercises which most analysts say is highly unlikely if not impossible. There is that phone call coming up perhaps within the hour between President Trump and President Xi. We'll have to see if they discuss that. We should get a readout from the foreign ministry here in Beijing shortly after that call. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, obviously, that's going to be a crucial call between the president of China and President Trump. As you said, perhaps within the hour. Thank you very much, Will Ripley.
And OutFront now, Republican Senator Jim Risch, who is a member of the foreign relations and the intelligence committees. I appreciate you taking the time, Senator.
Look, the president was asked directly today if the United States was going to war. His response, quote, I think you know the answer to that. Most Americans don't know the answer to that and most Americans are really worried about what that answer might be.
Senator, are we really talking about war between the United States and North Korea?
SEN. JIM RISCH (R), IDAHO, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, that's up to North Korea. The United States isn't going to do anything other than respond to whatever North Korea does. So the difficulty is with the guy that's running North Korea don't know what he's going do.
Something happened today that seems to have slipped through the cracks in the media and that is that China stunningly said they would not defend North Korea if indeed they took first action and the U.S. responded. I mean, that's something that nobody has ever heard before and if I were North Korea and part of that regime, boy that would make you run for cover because they've always been under the Chinese umbrella and they've said you're on your own.
BURNETT: Yes, they did. They also said, the Chinese state-controlled newspaper, the Global Times said, if the U.S. and South Korea strike first against North Korea, China will take action. And the Global Times newspaper also said that, if North Korea launch missiles first, this is again China-controlled newspaper, China would remain neutral which is obviously different than what you just said.
Are you confident that China is really playing ball on -- really on the U.S. side here?
RISCH: Well, I think if indeed they launch first and China remains neutral they got a big problem. They will cease to exist after a very few minutes of that war and this is dangerous territory. There is no question about it.
BURNETT: So I want to play a little bit more of the threat that the president issued to North Korea. One of the threats that he issued just this afternoon. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:10:06] TRUMP: This man will not get away with what he's doing, believe me. And if he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat which, by the way, he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years, or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now Senator, of course North Korea issues threats on a regular basis, we know that, right. You know, the president said fire and fury would ensue if that happened again but today he used a different word.
A couple days ago, right, it was, if he threatens the United States, fire and fury. Today he sort of paused and he said if it is an overt threat. What does overt threat mean? Do you feel that you understand very specifically what the president's red line is tonight?
RISCH: Well, I'm going to let you guys parse those words. He wasn't speaking from a prepared text which is always best when you're talking about these kinds of things.
But I think that -- look, from my perspective, this is how I view this. If North Korea does something very stupid, they're going to regret it quickly and bad things are going to happen. I know that there's a lot of people worked up about the president using the adjectives he does and the demeanor he does and that sort of thing, but it would be worse if he didn't and didn't telegraph to the North Koreans what was on his mind. Because the North Koreans as you know push the envelope, have been for years and years, there's nothing new there. But when you do that and you're engaged in that activity, it is really ripe to make a mistake.
They need to know exactly what's on President Trump's mind. I've talked with President Trump, he's passionate about defending this country. The North Koreans need to understand that.
BURNETT: The question everyone has, though, is of course they do tests and the United States has not militarily responded to tests before, OK? So when the North Koreans threaten Guam, and by the way, they're threatening to test missiles that they could prove, right would land near the coast of Guam, right. They're not threatening to bomb Guam.
Would you support for that or any other test? All these tests that have gone by with no response, do you now support a change in that? That the United States would have an actual military strike on any -- after any test from North Korea.
RISCH: You know, Erin, in this format I can't really answer that question because there are other things that are going on and it's too simplistic a question to answer. There is no question that if indeed they attack United States citizens and do a kinetic attack, I would absolutely support a response to that.
RISCH: Beyond that --
BURNETT: But that's different than a test?
RISCH: Yes. There are things that are happening that I can't talk about here.
BURNETT: But let me just quickly ask you, when you say things that are --
RISCH: -- would modify mine.
BURNETT: I know you can't get into the details but if you could indicate -- obviously you're in a position on your committees where you're being briefed. Are there conversations, back channels -- is there any diplomacy going on other than the president's threats? Are you at least able to tell us that?
RISCH: I cannot tell you that. But what I can tell you is that generally, any time you see any issues between any two countries whether they're mortal enemies or not, other countries frequently get involved as messengers, as negotiators, as carriers of proposition, so. But I cannot confirm or deny any of these things are going on but anyway, history is history.
BURNETT: History would give you a precedent for assuming that.
All right, before we go, I must ask you one other thing because the president obviously said he's locked and loaded for war in the Pacific. He struck Syria, he says he will do it again and up the ante if he needs to if Assad crosses his red line there. And now, he has threatened another country on another continent and he did so twice. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Senator, that would theoretically be war on three fronts, in three continents, and we're not even talking about Afghanistan. Is the president warmongering or are you all right with all this?
RISCH: Well, as you said theoretically, and it is all theory right now. We get briefed on this stuff regularly.
The United States is always ready to respond to whatever the situation is but as far as anything that anybody needs to get real worked up about at this point, everybody needs to stay calm, we're safe in America. We've got the best military in the world. We know how to respond, we know how to defend ourselves.
[19:15:01] I sleep well at night but I can tell you as far as the North Korea situation is concerned, it is a dangerous situation.
BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Senator. Thank you for coming on.
RISCH: You bet, thank you.
BURNETT: All right. And President Trump of course warning North Korea that it will pay steep price if it threatens Guam. Now, there's obviously a question as to whether a threat is a test or whether it's actually killing American citizens, there is a lack of clarity.
But here is something we know. Guam is home to two military bases and nearly 200,000 Americans. And it is the center of North Korea's latest threat.
Martin Savidge is there, OutFront live in Guam. And Martin, I know that there are -- I guess lack of a better word, preparations where you are.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are really kind of two levels of preparations going on. There is of course the physical ones that would be people stocking up food, water, the essentials that which they might need say for a typhoon or a hurricane. Then there is the mental preparedness and that is much more difficult.
Let me just show you the Saturday morning headline because this (INAUDIBLE) in the local paper. We're under a "Missile Watch" as the main headline says. For the one that's more troubling is the one at the bottom of the page here and it says officials, quote, do not look at the flash.
That's a direct warning to the population here that if there is some sort of nuclear flash or fireball don't be looking at it because you could go blind. This goes to the other aspect of the preparation here because the governor is telling people that they should go on with their lives as normal, keep calm, carry on, that saying.
However, the civil defense and the Homeland Security, they issued a sheet of sorts as it were just to how to prepare for a nuclear blast. Including not looking at that flash, getting under cover, getting beneath something substantial, covering your head as the old duck and cover. But then on top of that, afterwards stay inside your home for up to 24 hours to avoid the fallout and go into a shower and wash yourself thoroughly with soap and water. And oh, by the way, don't use conditioner, apparently that attracts the radiation.
That kind of information, though very important, is also very disturbing to a lot of people because it makes it seem so very real. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Martin Savidge. It certainly does. And I know obviously everyone should be prepared but I mean, I think maybe it was that conditioner line that may bring it home to all of us who, of course, are sitting far away from Guam, how real this threat is.
So what does President Trump's threat mean? When he says "locked and loaded" and you have flyers like that going around Guam, about not using conditioner because it attracts radiation, what does this really mean?
Tom Foreman is OutFront. And Tom, the big question, what options does the United States military have?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they actually have a lot of them, Erin. Look, if North Korea were to launch one of these Hwasong missiles down toward Guam where our friend Martin and all those thousands of other people are right now, immediately, even though this flight may take 14 to 18 minutes, immediately the U.S. would trigger something called the THAAD missile defense system.
This is a very advanced radar system. There are ground based systems here, as it moved over the water you would have sea-based stations involved. Japan even has a different system that they're going to try to kick out in all of this. And there would be assets from space, all trying to track how big this thing is, how fast it is, and precisely where it is headed.
Because if they believe it represents some kind of significant threat, then the THAAD system would trigger these countervailing missiles from Guam which would come in and try to intercept it and tear it apart in flight. This has been tested. They've shown that this can work.
Even if it misses however, there are also patriot missile batteries in Guam that could also be fired in an effort to stop this if they think one of these threats is actually coming toward people there or assets there that need to be protected. Erin?
BURNETT: Right, of course, and raises a lot of questions though because what they've said is they would strike 15 to 25 miles off the coast sort of to prove that they can but not kill people which raises a big question as to does the United States accept that or not? If the defensive part of the locked and loaded equation is how you laid it out, what then is the offensive part? Something happens and the United States then responds.
FOREMAN: Right. And we don't know if the U.S. would respond or would want to respond. We're not advocating it in any way shape or form. We're just saying that when they say they're locked and loaded, that's because they have a lot of assets in the region if they want to respond.
On Guam, there's a naval base in Guam which is a big facility that been there for a long time, and Andersen Air Force Base. This is home to the some of the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. arsenal. For example, the F-22, the F-35, the B-2, these are all stealth aircraft which could be sent very quickly into North Korea to try to take out radar facilities and North Korea's robust anti-aircraft system.
They could then be followed by the B-1 which is a heavy bomber that can carry the heaviest munitions in the U.S. arsenal. Not nuclear weapons but everything else which could be used to break up fortified nuclear facilities and missile facilities there.
[19:20:05] And beyond all of that, Erin, there are about a dozen destroyers and cruisers in the water out there almost all the time and they could launch a very healthy barrage of Tomahawk-guided missile which is would go streaking toward targets in North Korea at more than 500 miles an hour. If U.S. Officials want to do that, that's what they mean when they say they're locked and loaded. They have what they need to get that part done.
BURNETT: All right, Tom, thank you very much.
And of course just to remind all of you, the president retweeted today pictures of B-1 bombers in the Pacific in action.
OutFront now, retired U.S. Army Major General Spider Marks, former Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, and our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto, who also served as chief of staff and senior adviser to the U.S. Ambassador to China. Obviously the perhaps crucial player in all of this is not going to be in Pyongyang or Washington but in Beijing.
General Hertling, let me start with you. The reality of the situation is the United States can hit North Korea. That's the easy part, right?
I mean, technically speaking. It can not, though, eliminate its military power in a single strike. And we don't know where all their missiles are located.
They've got 1.1 million people in their military, the United States isn't that much big with 1.4 million and they have thousands of rockets pointed directly at Seoul. And we've all heard the estimates, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans could die in the first few hours of any kind of combat.
My question to you, General Hertling, does the United States have the ability right now to have a military conflict and prevent that kind of slaughter?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN ANALYST: This would be a major theater war. Erin, this is not something that is what we've seen in the last two decades with Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though those have been devastating conflicts, they have taken up a lot of energy and resources. This is a major theater war and it would take a lot of equipment that's currently not on the peninsula and nowhere in the area.
We have equipment there, we can fight there, we are prepared to fight there but we would need reinforcement. And so far there's been no deployment.
The thing that I'd say, though Erin, I spent a lot of time in the military, I've learned a lot of lessons, the two most important ones I've learned is number one, these are universal truce. When soldiers go some place, they can never pronounce the names of the towns they're fighting in. And number two and most importantly, it's easy to start a war, it's a whole lot harder to stop it.
What does this look like at the end? What is the president's end game going to be and what is he trying to do?
As you have just mentioned, there are 52 million people in South Korea. There are 26 million people in North Korea. You know, I just heard Senator Risch say, well, we're just going to take them out.
What are we taking out and how are we doing it? It's going to be a difficult problem set and I'm not sure we're ready for the type of conflict that it's being advertised right now.
BURNETT: And General Marks, on that front, the president says if the United States strikes, he gives a totally different perspective. He says it's going to be successful and done quickly which of course harkens back to maybe words that we heard in Iraq, which very different situation and we're still not done. Here he is today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have no choice but to take it on and I'm taking it on and we'll either be very, very successful quickly or we're going to be very, very successful in a different way quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Our Barbara Starr reports though, General Marks that there's no evidence of deployment as General Hertling just referred to in the region. Yet you have tonight a possibility of a major theater war that the president has put on the table. And he's now added a military option in Venezuela that he brought up by himself in comments just moments ago. And, of course you got Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Can the United States military do all that?
RET. MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, as Mark just laid out, look, this is a major regional conflict if we were to be engaged in Korea. The United States over the course of the last 15, 20 years has walked away from the notion of maintaining readiness for two major regional conflicts simultaneously and to reserve a bit of a strategic reserve.
Here's what happens on the peninsula. We have -- as Tom Foreman laid out, we have the ability, the United States in concert with allies both in South Korea and in Japan to strike very quickly and very precisely with munitions over the horizon and take out targets in North Korea. We can do that and we can do that immediately. Immediately.
The challenge is, again as Mark laid out, what happens then as you have an action followed by a reaction which would be a devastating blow in South Korea by way of artillery, dumb rockets, missiles that would pour down on Seoul, Tokyo would be under that type of attack as well. You would have tens of thousands of people dying.
Then there would be a counteraction which means the United States now has to stop either the potential of an invasion or to continue to move forces. We have assigned forces in Korea and we have allocated forces which means they have to start to flow.
Again, those have not begun to deploy or get ready to deploy. So the intended consequences of a strike will be as we've just described which is going to be incredibly devastating to the South and the region. And Beijing, Beijing is going to have a role to play.
[19:25:11] BURNETT: So Jim, let me ask you about this because we're moments away from a call between President Trump and President Xi of China. I don't know if you heard Senator Risch but his take was, look, China's completely on the U.S. side because they're saying they're going to remain neutral which he interpreted as taking the United States' side.
If North Korea launches missiles first, China says it will remain neutral according to the state-owned newspaper or state-controlled, I'm sorry. But if the U.S. and South Korea strike first, China will take action. How do you interpret China's stance right now?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That was a calibrated message by China delivered via the Global Times as they often do at editorial in a state newspaper. Their message being, listen, North Korea if you strike first unilaterally on the U.S., we're standing out of this. We're not your friend on that. But to U.S., if you strike North Korea first preemptively, we're going to stand by our ally.
In effect, telling both players, you know, watch out which is an interesting and somewhat calibrated considering they're saying the North Korea as well and they are allies, you know, decades old relationship, you know, telling them their limits but also telling the U.S. its limits.
I would disagree with the senator on saying China is on our side on this because remember China has different interests. They do not want to go to war, no question but they view the end of the North Korean regime, a reunification of Korea, a U.S. ally on its border assuming that might very well happen if there was reunification, they view that as a greater national security threat to them than a nuclear North Korea.
So, they could be friendly, we could have some common interests, wanting to avoid a war, for instance, keeping North Korea under wraps but doesn't mean we have the same interest. And it would be a misinterpretation from the president side or the U.S. side to assume that.
BURNETT: General Hertling, the big question, though is, you know, it seems that there are maybe some expectations of how things operate if somebody strikes first. But what there doesn't seem to be any clarity on is what the president keeps saying which is a threat or an overt threat, right? If that's just a test of a missile, right, off the coast of Guam and the U.S. responds, it doesn't seem like anybody knows in the world of a test. And right now the world of a test is what we're talking about.
HERTLING: Right. Well, what I'd say, too, is even the use of the THAAD or the PAC-3 missiles, those operators are trained to watch not only the point of origin, the POO as they call it, but also the potential point of impact, where it's going to land. So if there's no threat to a population, if it just going to land 20 miles outside of Guam, would you fire a defensive shot against it or would you just let it land in the ocean and say, it didn't hit.
BURNETT: Right. Nobody knows, right? Nobody has made that clear at all. He says, well, if you do anything to Guam, well, that's 20 miles off the coast of Guam.
HERTLING: Right. So you have to be prepared for something like that. And are those individuals manning those platforms going to be told, hey, we don't care where it lands, take it out of the sky because we want to prove a point. Which is possible but you have to be within range to do that. And that's sometimes is difficult.
So there's a lot of -- you know, this is not a video game, Erin, as you well know. This is not just shoot the laser and knock something out of stock. This is hard, hard military business and the commanders on the scene are going to be faced with some real conundrums as they potentially fight this conflict.
And again, what Jim just said a minute ago about how long does this last, we still have forces in the Balkans, we still have forces in the Baltics. We still have -- you know, we've got --
SCIUTTO: Germany, Germany.
HERTLING: -- in Germany. We have people training in Ukraine, we have potential now to go to Venezuela. And, you know, we've been in Iraq and Afghanistan now for 17 years. It never ends fast and we have to be aware of that.
BURNETT: And General Marks, a final word to you. What do you make of these now additional threats to say Venezuela?
MARKS: Well, that just puts additional pressure on the Department of Defense and our ability to respond. But -- I mean, let's be frank about the level of readiness on the peninsula. It's always at an extremely high level and all of the capabilities that we've talked about are in place and are ready to be deployed to include the THAAD missile system. And absolutely correct, none of these technical solutions are foolproof yet there is a level of redundancy within those that gives you a sense of comfort. The challenge that we have is, what is the level of provocation that we're going to be able to take and withstand. And, again, those are human judgments, there's a man, there's a person in the loop all the time to ensure that we don't let that get too close to where we think we have to be. We can't afford to have a nuclear tip missile coming close to Guam and then we make a miscalculation like, oh, my God, there is going to be a challenge and we find out too late.
[19:30:10] MARKS: So this level of readiness is always non- negotiable.
BURNETT: All right.
SCIUTTO: If I could just -- I don't think lost in this, we shouldn't forget that the president just held out the possibility of military intervention, undefined, in another country tonight, Venezuela, apparently to the surprise of his own commanders. The Pentagon telling us tonight they've received no orders from the White House and referring all questions on Venezuelan military action back to the White House.
BURNETT: Which is a pretty stunning statement.
All right. Thank you all very much.
And next, the president just saying millions of Americans support his rhetoric towards North Korea. What about his most ardent supporters? What do they think?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is concerning, I would step back just a little bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And a power struggle inside the West Wing getting uglier. New details about how Trump's own national security advisor is being undermined.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Breaking news, new threats tonight as President Trump warns North Korea of big trouble, his words, should the rogue nation threaten the United States or its territories. What that threat means very unclear. Over the past several days, the heated rhetoric between the president and North Korea nearing a boiling point. The president insisting that millions of Americans want him to keep up the verbal attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will tell you, we have tens of millions of people in this country that are so happy with what I'm saying because they're saying finally we have a president that's sticking up for our nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:35:04] BURNETT: So what to do Trump's core supporters think?
Jason Carroll went to North Carolina to speak with them. It's a story you'll see only OUTFRONT.
TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's comments on North Korea drawing condemnation from critics, some of whom have called his words inflammatory or reckless. That has not deterred Trump, who tweeted Friday: The U.S. military is fully in place, locked and loaded.
It's comments like that that have raised eyebrows with Trump supporters like Jason Olsen.
JASON OLSEN, OWNER, MOODY'S BAR: And it is concerning. I wish he would step back just a little bit and have advisers on things of that magnitude.
CARROLL: Olsen own Woody's Bar in Robeson County, North Carolina. He opened it after retiring from the Army, where for a short time he was stationed in South Korea. He still supports Trump but when it comes to North Korea, Olsen says Trump should tone down the rhetoric.
OLSEN: I know he doesn't -- I'm almost sure he doesn't want, I know the American people don't want a war and I think sometimes that can be pushed to that type of environment. Nobody wants it. We've been at war for, what, the last 20 years. And so, we don't need to fight with anybody else.
CARROLL: There's a lot of support for Trump here in these parts. After all, Robeson County helped Trump win North Carolina by having the greatest percentage of voters in the state who flipped from Democrat to Republican during the presidential election.
Robeson is also noted for being the poorest county in the state, boarded up store fronts not uncommon here. Sentinel Fence factory is a metal manufacturing company. Its CEO Matt
Feeko comes from a family of Democrats but he has voted Republican. Feeko says he can accept Trump trash talking North Korea, for now, if he can help struggling businesses like his and improve the local economy.
MATT FEEKO, CEO, SENTINEL FENCE: Do I like he tweets all the time and some of the stuff he says and does? No, but you know what? I'm not going to agree with everything he does. But I do want him to just keep -- you know, he keeps saying he's going to work for the American people, that's what I want him to do. Just keep doing it.
CARROLL: Trump's North Korea talk and tweets too tough for some, maybe not tough enough for others, so says Susan Walker, the owner of Candy Sue's.
SUSAN WALTER, OWNER, CANDY SUE'S: I think he might have been on target on a lot of it. I mean, he should let him know we mean business.
CARROLL: And back at Jason Olsen's bar, Terry Tyndle shares the same sentiment.
TERRY TYNDLE, ROBESON COUNTY RESIDENT: We have tried to hamper North Korea for the last 20 years and it got us nowhere. Nice sweet words won't solve this problem. I wish it would, but it won't.
CARROLL: So, Erin, the overall sense that we got from those folks to down in North Carolina is that they're willing to give Trump some wiggle room in terms of how he expresses himself but there's also gray area there that we noticed and got a real sense that many people we spoke to have some real concerns over why six months into this presidency, President Trump hasn't learned to choose his words more carefully -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jason.
And OUTFRONT now, Brian Lanza, former deputy director communications director for the Trump campaign, and Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager.
Robby, let me start with you. The president says tens of millions of Americans are, quote, so happy with what he is doing. Now, in that piece mixed emotions, but you heard two people who seemed to express exactly what the president said at the end of Jason's report. They say talk tough, someone has to do it.
ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR HILLARY CLINTON'S 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, look, I think as Americans, any time our leaders are talking tough with foreign dictators, it's easy to feel pride and to feel supportive, you know, of statements like that. But the fact of the matter is, in this case, it's just not the smart thing to do. Again, Kim Jong-un is a terrible person. And I hope that every
president will speak out against him but the problem here is he -- the president's threatening, first of all, a war that we don't want. The figure I heard today is there are a quarter million Americans in that region, not to mention more than 20 million people. This war can't happen.
And when the president does the saber rattling and threatens violence, we know he'll never come through. And so, in fact, he's going to degrade his own credibility and our credibility and when we do need to make threats that we need to follow through on, that credibility won't be there. And the other thing I would add is this president is threatening one dictator in Korea, in North Korea. This week, he thanked Vladimir Putin for kicking our ambassador staff out of Russia.
[19:40:06] So, I just think the president needs to be consistent and he's not doing that.
BURNETT: So, Brian, the person in that report who said the president is making a mistake, the person who is the strongest on that is the veteran, right, the one who actually was in the military and stationed in South Korea. Is that something that should make the president listen, when one of his hard core supporters, a vet, says this is a big mistake?
BRIAN LANZA, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM: You know, I think the president listens to a lot of voices and if what we're seeing with North Korea and the rhetoric, President Obama used tough rhetoric against North Korea as well and he had a policy of strategic patience where sort of the rhetoric didn't match the policy. I think what the president is doing, he's articulating his position.
I mean, the American people, and he's been very transparent in the campaign, that he viewed protecting them a priority, and that's what he's doing. You know, it's a serious situation. It's a shame politics comes into the dynamic but there has to be a Republican and Democrat in this fight, was there really should just be an America in this fight, in dealing with it as Americans, rather than being split apart by politics.
BURNETT: All right. The question here though -- both of you are raising a point, OK, in different ways. But Trump is right about something. He is saying past presidents have failed when it comes to North Korea, right? And there's a truth in that.
In fact, after North Korea's fifth nuclear test last September, it was candidate Hillary Clinton, Robby, who made it clear she felt United States policy wasn't working and had to change course. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's clear that the increasing threat posed by North Korea requires not only a rethinking of the strategy but an urgent effort to convince the neighbors, most particularly China, that this is not just a U.S. issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Robby, I know you must have spent time talking with her about that issue, you were her campaign manager. Would she do -- maybe not exactly the same words, but would she do what Trump is doing now?
MOOK: Well, I don't want to ever speak for her on this matter but, look, I think there's one thing that had broad support and that was further sanctions and that has happened.
BURNETT: Which Trump just got, a big victory, right? I mean, 15-0, China and Russia on board, that was a big victory for the president.
MOOK: I think it was important the entire world came together and did that, absolutely. But I think the second part of what she said was working with the Chinese to get them to change their posture and this president has insulted the Chinese, he has ridiculed them over Twitter, I think he would have seen Secretary Clinton or frankly a more responsible, more thoughtful Republican work more collaboratively with the Chinese, not just to get those sanctions, but to cool off the situation and get real negotiations going on.
And violence is not an option here. I think we've been hearing people say that all night. Eventually, people need to come to the bargaining table and I think that would happen a lot faster if the president was more responsible.
BURNETT: So, Brian, you worked with him, you know him, everyone said violence isn't an option. By the way, the generals on this program, everybody says that, right? You're talking about possibly millions of people dying. You know, that -- this is -- we're going back to World Wars sort of talk here.
Does the president actually think, Brian, that that is an option? Is he willing to do that, do you think?
LANZA: You know, here's what the president wants to do. He wants to have a discussion with the American people about North Korea and can they be a nuclear country in this world stage? I think that's an important conversation --
BURNETT: They are already a nuclear country on this world stage. So, to stop that, you have to have a war. You can't stop it from happening. They've already gotten there.
LANZA: Yes, but they haven't gotten the technology to hit most of the cities in the United States. So, what you is you have a moment where they're having discussions. I mean, we've heard diplomacy is taking place on the back channels. The president doesn't want to comment on it, but that's going on.
That is what happens when you have these situations and that's the way the process works. You have the president putting a marker out there saying -- no different than when President Reagan put out the marker against the Soviet Union when he called them the evil empire. Presidents use these rhetorics all the time and they strengthen their position because the American public wants to feel safe at the end of the day. They felt safe under President Reagan and they'll ultimately feel safe against president Trump.
BURNETT: If that happens ultimately. Obviously, right now, I think there's a lot of questions about what's going to happen, people are pretty nervous.
I think we all can admit that.
LANZA: We all hope for the best.
BURNETT: Thank you both.
And OUTFRONT next, as the Trump White House faces threats from North Korea, there's an ugly and internal fight brewing among his top security advisers.
Plus, just who is Kim Jong-un? The North Korean leader, a former CIA director calls calculating.
[19:48:04] BURNETT: Breaking news: President Trump threatening North Korea for the fifth time in four days, saying it will be in, quote, big, big trouble if it targets Guam. The president making those comments flanked by top advisers, including H.R. McMaster, as you see there, as national security adviser, the one or the far right who has been at the center of a fierce, fierce rift inside the White House, coming at frankly a horrific time for a rift in the national security apparatus.
Athena Jones is OUTFRONT with more.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A controversial memo by a former national security official argues that bankers, globalists and establishment Republicans are trying to undermine the president. A national security official would neither confirm nor deny the document. The seven-page memo obtained by "Foreign Policy", describes a larger power struggle within the White House.
That divide is symbolized by the tension between chief strategist Steve Bannon, a populist, and the more establishment minded H.R. McMaster, tapped by the president in February to replace disgraced NSA head Michael Flynn.
TRUMP: He's a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.
JONES: The three-star Army lieutenant general has increasingly found himself in the cross hairs of right wing media and Bannon's allies. Bannon has been laser focused on helping the president fulfill his campaign promises on the domestic and foreign policy fronts. In February, he touted Trump's early decision to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. STEVE BANNON, TRUMP ADVISER: He got us out of a trade deal and let
our sovereignty come back to ourselves.
JONES: Bannon supporters say they believe McMaster is pushing the foreign policy Bannon and Trump opposed during the campaign.
JOSH GREEN, AUTHOR, "DEVIL'S BARGAIN: STEVE BANNON, DONALD TRUMP AND THE STORMING OF THE PRESIDENCY": I think that Bannon believes that Trump ran as a non-interventionist, as a nonmilitary hawk.
JONES: The feud between Bannon and McMaster is getting noticed and raising concerns.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I would also resolve this internecine strife that seems to be going on in the White House between Bannon and McMaster.
[19:50:02] Look, you can't run a train with two engineers.
JONES: The president said Thursday McMaster has his full confidence.
TRUMP: Absolutely. He's our friend. He's my friend and he's a very talented man. I like him and respect him.
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Good morning, everybody.
JONES: And "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page came to McMaster's defense this week, too, saying of Bannon, the former "Breitbart" publisher has been a White House survivor, but his warring habits have also been responsible for much to have White House dysfunction.
Still, conservative outlets like "Breitbart" continue to slam McMaster, angered over his firing of aides close to Flynn, including the memo's author, Rich Higgins. And his decision to extend the security clearance of Obama's final national security adviser, Susan Rice, a practice a White House aide described as routine.
Athena Jones, CNN, Bridgewater, New Jersey.
BURNETT: And now, Mark Preston joins me, our senior political analyst.
Mark, look, I mean, this is problematic at any time, but you now have infighting between the top members of the president's inner circle, talking about national security. H.R. McMaster, Steve Bannon. You have this happening at a moment in time when the president is talking about possible war with North Korea.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A possible war with North Korea, and just opened a rhetorical front against Venezuela, right, talking about sending in troops. Look, we should tell our viewers that there are always infighting in a White House, but it's never to this level and it's never this public and it's never too successive, meaning we've seen so many battles. This is a bad spot to be.
We saw John McCain just say right there that there needs to be some kind of resolution. In some says, it seems like he was asking for the ouster of Steve Bannon from the White House there.
BURNETT: And what does happen here? Steve Bannon slammed by the president, stripped of some of his powers, but he has survived. In fact, he has survived, when many others when they have lost the president's favor have been out. Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus among them.
Does Bannon survive now?
PRESTON: I think he does for the time being. Rock and a hard place for Donald Trump, having him on the inside as "The Wall Street Journal" says causes -- is creating all of this chaos. Having him on the outside, would it be worse, because would he be able to marshal up these forces even stronger than what we've seen so far from "Breitbarts" and other alt-right news organizations?
I think he's a survivor for now, but who knows in this Trump administration?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Mark Preston.
BURNETT: And next, Kim Jong-un, the man at the center of all of this now. The new details we are learning about the mysterious 30- something, because we don't even know his exact age. The dictator accused of killing his own family members.
[19:56:37] BURNETT: Breaking news: President Trump upping his fiery rhetoric aimed at the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un tonight. Trump saying Kim, quote, will not get away with what he's doing.
Now, Kim is known as brash. He's known as temperamental and he is young. He's also been unpredictable.
The question is though, is he a madman? Is he crazy? Or is he a mastermind?
Brian Todd is OUTFRONT.
TRUMP: This man will not get away with what he's doing, believe me.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A stern warning to the 30-something dictator, Kim Jong-un. But experts say heated rhetoric to the man worshipped as a living god in North Korea may only force him to escalate the crisis even more. The heir to almost 70-year-old dynasty, Kim Jong-un swept into power in his late 20s when his father Kim Jong-il died. From that moment in late 2011, Kim has moved swiftly and ruthlessly to
cement his power. He's believed to have executed about 140 top officials, including his own uncle, sometimes with anti-aircraft guns.
JONATHAN POLLACK, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: We know he's violent. We know he listens to no one, so far as we can tell. He certainly doesn't listen to the Chinese.
TODD: Kim's ambition is dizzying. He's conducted three nuclear bomb tests, and in less than six years in power, he's overseen about 80 missile tests. More than twice as many as his father and grandfather combined.
U.S. officials tell CNN Kim Jong-un grew up with few limits. After studying at a private school in Switzerland and developing a passion for basketball and "James Bond" movies, he leapfrogged his two older brothers to be placed in line as supreme leader.
South Korean intelligence believes Kim Jong-un ordered the assassination of his older brother who was killed with a chemical nerve agent in the middle of Kuala Lumpur's airport earlier this year. Kim's regime denied it, but former CIA Director John Brennan told Erin Burnett, the leader will do anything to become a nuclear power.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: A megalomaniac. Calculating. I wouldn't say he's reckless at this point.
TODD: It's his grandfather, North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, who the young tyrant is believe to most want to emulate, from the clothes he wears, to his hairstyle.
Key questions tonight: is Kim Jong-un under threat internally? And if so, could that cause him to flex his muscles against the U.S. in a show of strength?
MICHAEL MADDEN, U.S.-KOREA INSTITUTE, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Kim Jong-un's leadership appears to be solid. He has insulated himself and protected himself from any threats to his leadership, whether those be physical or political threats.
TODD: Analysts say it's possible the elites may get nervous and against Kim if he keeps taking his country from one crisis to the other. But one expert points out, Kim keeps his elites and generals under such close surveillance, it's tough for them to gather forces against him -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brian Todd.
An interesting look at former CIA Director John Brennan said. He said, he's a megalomaniac, he's calculating, and then that pause when he said, I wouldn't say he's reckless at this point. That was the end of last September.
Is Kim reckless now? Big question for the world tonight. And thanks so much to all of you for joining us. Don't forget, you
can watch us any time, anywhere on CNN go. Have a good weekend. We'll see you Monday. "AC360" with Anderson begins right now.