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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

North Korea Improving Nuclear Capabilities?; Deadly California Fires. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 12, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:31:59]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: New satellite images now cast grave doubt on President Trump's claims that his negotiations with North Korea are working.

These satellite photos show that Kim Jong-un's regime is making improvements to at least a dozen hidden ballistic missile bases.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon.

Barbara, of course, the Trump administration has been adamant that progress is being made towards denuclearization, but these photos seem to show the opposite.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's be very clear. Kim Jong-un hasn't declared anything, other than a vague intention, and that satellite imagery that we're looking at shows one of these undeclared sites. By all account, the U.S. intelligence community knows about it.

But the imagery shows us that Kim Jong-un is still working on his program. No quick intention to give it up, it appears. The satellite imagery showing underground tunnel entrances, barracks areas, all the kinds of things where you would expect North Korean military forces to be.

And this is just a small part of it. A map that we can show you as well shows a number of sites across North Korea where Kim Jong-un is continuing to work on his weapons program.

The big concern are the mobile missiles, of course. They can be on launchers in these underground bunkers. The North Koreans can wheel that launcher out, fire the missile very quickly, pull the launcher back in, and it's all over and done with before U.S. satellites may get an idea of what is going on. That's when the crown jewel capabilities for Kim Jong-un, to retain the surprise attack capability.

And as long as he has that, that is a significant concern to the U.S. -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, no irreversible changes. That, of course, the standard set by the Trump administration itself. The president, will, though, cite the suspension of North Korean nuclear bomb tests, as well as missile tests.

In return, the U.S. has suspended major military drills, large-scale military exercises with South Korea. Only the smallest ones have begun. Is that right?

STARR: Well, that is right. And there is some small-scale training going on right now. The North Koreans already very loudly objecting to that.

But the U.S. did suspend with South Korea the large-scale exercises in the so-called interest of diplomacy. But it was a concession, clearly. The North Koreans did not like the exercises. They never liked them. They thought they were provocative, and they got the U.S. to back off and suspend two major large-scale exercises in recent months.

So now it is really coming down to it. What, if anything, is Kim Jong-un ever going to give up, Jim?

SCIUTTO: And those exercises matter to the confidence of South Korea and others in the region.

Barbara Starr thank you very much.

Want to bring back our panel.

Turn to another top story in our world lead, the president's trip to France. We heard President Trump declare himself a nationalist a few weeks ago. Over the weekend, he heard I suppose you could say the retort to that from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, as the president sat there, just yards away. Have a listen.

[16:35:07]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.

By saying our interests first, who cares about the others, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential, its moral values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: So the French president, Amanda Carpenter, there taking kind of a double whammy shot at the president, both arguing against nationalism, but also this kind of America first thing.

I imagine the president could not have taken that speech any other way as directed at him.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

To me, broadly speaking, let's talk about this and North Korea together for just a second, is that world leaders have tried the carrot approach with President Trump. And now we're getting the stick. Right?

France, they all celebrated. Brotherly love. They went on that tour, warm embraces all over the place. Trump, you know, made overtures to North Korea. Members of the administration were pretty much demanding our thankfulness for this great, historic achievement in reducing nuclear capabilities, when they never had an agreement to denuclearize to begin with.

People were talking about putting President Trump on Mount Rushmore. And it was all fake. It's falling apart. It was not real. And so the goodwill that he had is exhausted. And this is a time, especially when it comes to North Korea, the president needs good people all hands on deck.

Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador was a great public servant. She had a hard line on North Korea and she could communicate it clearly. She could go to the U.N. and say there will never be a nuclear North Korea. I'm worried about who he can find to fill her footsteps.

And Pompeo can't do this all on his own. He's got to have more people on this problem.

SCIUTTO: Doug Heye, the other source of criticism for the president on this trip is the number of World War I ceremonies that he missed, famously not going to the French cemetery, where Americans, by the way, who died in the war are buried, because of rain.

He also missed this moment. And this is one of the most powerful one, Emmanuel Macron and the other leaders walking quietly with their umbrellas there, together as bells marked the exact moment that the fighting in World War I ended. The president, he drove instead.

I don't like to play the game of imagine if Obama did this, how would Republicans react? But you're a Republican. How do you feel watching this and watching your president absent?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, I was very saddened.

In fact, on Friday, I tweeted imagine if Republicans had said this, because I know Republicans who would have said terrible things about Barack Obama if he had skipped these ceremonies. And it's troubling to me for two reasons.

One, these are the easy things to get right if you're the president. It's very easy to come to these ceremonies. And the military by and large supports Donald Trump, so he would be demonstrating strength to his own community.

Two, it's another sign, especially when you look at what Emmanuel Macron said about Trump and nationalism, that we talked so long about the Trump-Macron bromance. The reality is, they're frenemies.

And Macron right now isn't just trying to be the leader of Europe, with Britain attached. He may be taking a step to be the leader of the free world with the United States taking a step back as well. And that should be troubling.

SCIUTTO: So, Abby, who does the president look to for international support?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's exactly I think why Macron said what he said, because it seemed that President Trump seems to be veering toward some of the very people who Europe counts as adversaries, Vladimir Putin, other strongmen around the world.

And that is contributing to his isolation in this context.

What makes this visit so much more damaging to President Trump was that he went there. He went on to their turf, only to be repudiated there. And I think that's what is so humiliating about this moment for him at this time in his presidency, especially coming after last Tuesday, those midterm election losses.

SCIUTTO: Karine, you get the final thought.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes.

Well, Donald Trump left a disaster here, in a domestic disaster, and created a foreign disaster, and all on his own, and for no reason at all. I mean, Donald Trump talks about veterans, he talks about the military. And from this trip, it just seems as if he only truly cares about himself.

And I agree with Amanda and Doug. This was easy for him. And he chose to just embarrass us, to really make America alone.

SCIUTTO: And he's missing two major summits in Asia as well, sending the vice president, ones that other world leaders are attending.

Thanks to all of you.

HEYE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Trapped inside a deadly inferno, several killed, dozens, perhaps a hundred still missing, and desperate search teams are about to receive more bad news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:44:13]

SCIUTTO: In our national lead today, 31 people are dead, as multiple fires rage in California.

In the north, the so-called Camp Fire is the most destructive now in the state's history. And to the south, very near Los Angeles, intense winds are fueling two other wildfires. You can see them there.

That is where we find CNN's Nick Watt.

Nick, we have seen absolute destruction, just devastation in so many communities. And, unfortunately, we're hearing the conditions could get worse.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim.

I mean, listen, where we are, the Woolsey Fire, just outside Los Angeles, this is a pretty densely populated area. Just a couple hours ago, authorities told us that they estimate as many as 57,000 structures might still be in danger.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): Ferocious flames burning in the north and south of the Golden State scorching an area larger than all five boroughs of New York City since Thursday forcing 300,000 people from their homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God.

WATT: Some --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God.

WATT: -- through the flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so hot.

WATT: In the north the Camp Fire now the most destructive in California's history. Around 6,500 homes destroyed. Scores of firefighters working to contain the inferno as many learn they've lost their own homes. This blaze now tied as the deadliest ever in the state with more than two dozen dead. The town of Paradise, home to 26,000 is now no more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole town was wiped off the face of the earth in a matter of eight hours.

WATT: The dead found in their homes or in their cars trying to escape but too late. Coroner's search and rescue teams trying to identify charred remains, roughly 100 people still missing.

JAKE HANCOCK, INVESTIGATOR, BUTTE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We're just going door-to-door, house to house, looking for families, loved ones that are missing.

WATT: Here in Southern California, the Wolsey Fire tearing through Malibu. Two lives lost and around 370 structures destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything was coming over the fence onto our property.

WATT: Malibu Screenwriter David Franzoni ignored evacuation orders and was able to save his own home with a hose, a pump and the water from his pool.

DAVID FRANZONI, SCREENWRITER: I had the choice, do we stay and save our house or do we no leave. So we stayed.

WATT: In Malibu Park, Craig and Stacy Clunisross owned two properties, now a little more than ash.

CRAIG CLUNISROSS, RESIDENT, MALIBU PARK: It was a hundred foot wall of flames. I mean it was roaring. It was like a --

STACY CLUNISROSS, RESIDENT, MALIBU PARK: A tornado.

C. CLUNISROSS: -- tornado. It was just not defendable, not without putting my life in serious jeopardy.

WATT: What sparked these flames still under investigation but more than half of California's most destructive wildfires in the past century have burned since just 2015. Many pointing to climate change as fanning these flames.

GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is not the new normal. This is the new abnormal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now, up there in Northern California, the winds have dropped a little bit today. But you know what, it might be the end of the month before that fire is completely extinguished. And down here in Southern California we're going to get these gusty winds through at least tomorrow night. And Jim, no rain in the forecast.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: If that, where will the next one be? Nick Watt, thanks very much. Turning now to our "HEALTH LEAD." 26 states have now confirmed cases of a rare polio-like illness which paralyzes mostly children. That according to information collected from State Health Departments by CNN. The disease called Acute Flaccid Myelitis. Now, parents are accusing the Centers for Disease Control of hiding the deaths of children afflicted with AFM as it's known. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen met with one family who lost their son to the illness.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Carter Roberts, three and a half years old.

ROBIN ROBERTS, MOTHER OF CARTER: Just the epitome of what any happy little kid should be, just very charming boy.

COHEN: But then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job.

COHEN: Doctors from three different medical centers diagnosed Carter with Acute Flaccid Myelitis or AFM. He was paralyzed below his neck by the polio-like illness.

ROBERTS: His sister Macy chose to put the cherub on top. Those are his ashes.

COHEN: Carter passed away in September at the age of five and he's not the only child to succumb to AFM this year. At least one other six-year-old Alex Bustamante lost his battle with AFM in May.

But the CDC says no AFM deaths in 2018.

ROBERTS: That's not true.

COHEN: If you could be in a room with the Director of the CDC what would you say to him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just wake up and do your job. Tell us what you're hiding.

COHEN: We asked Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC why the agency is reporting zero deaths in 2018. T

These parents want to know why haven't these deaths been recognized by the CDC.

ANNE SCHUCHAT, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CDC: The reporting of the diseases has a lot of steps so there may be a lag. We are working 24/7 to increase recognition to get the reporting into the system. Every one of these episodes is difficult and the deaths are really tragic.

COHEN: The parents think the CDC is hiding something.

SCHUCHAT: OK, I'm so sorry to hear that. I'm just very committed on behalf of the agency to share what we know when we know it.

COHEN: The CDC's own medical advisors on AFM who spoke to CNN say the lag in reporting the deaths is too long but the turnaround should be faster. Parents have also criticized how the agency has handled the outbreak.

If you could give the CDC a grade for how they've handle the AFM, what grade would you give?

[16:50:06] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: F, failure.

COHEN: Carter's family worries, how will the CDC learn from these deaths if they don't recognize them.

ROBERTS: I'd hate to think that there would be another parent crying their eyes out because their child's in an urn.

COHEN: Now they're left to remember their son who had just started kindergarten when he died.

ROBERTS: He was super smart and I think his backpack is probably the hardest thing to see.

COHEN: They hope that his death will be recognized and make a difference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN: Parents and doctors say they're frustrated by what they perceive as a lack of transparency and responsiveness from the CDC, but they do say that it's gotten better in the a week or so and they're hoping you will get even better in the future. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Goodness, that poor family. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much. Superheroes in mourning today remembering the man and who gave the world Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, and Black Panther just to name a few.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. As we observe Veterans Day, we want to thank those who have bravely served our country we will never forget. For Veterans Day this year, THE LEAD traveled to Montana stunning setting to provide a peaceful antidote to the trauma and the chaos of war. Jake takes a look at one organization determined to make a difference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Big Sky Country, a world away from war zones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy smokes, I love it.

TAPPER: These veterans former bomb techs, medics, and infantrymen are still though here on a mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're out here to catch fish. It gives you a relief to be thinking about something other than maybe your past experiences in a deployment.

TAPPER: But catching fish is not really the only point of this escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is awesome.

TAPPER: Warriors and Quiet Waters, a combat veterans program in Bozeman, Montana combines the sport with the state serenity to provide camaraderie for those healing from physical and emotional battle wounds.

DAN MCGUINNESS, NAVY VETERAN: It's hard for people who haven't served to have been in combat to really understand the whole depth of the experiences that you have.

TAPPER: Dan McGuinniss was an explosive disposal technician in the Navy. He moved to Montana a few years ago in part to get away from crowds. But he's hardly alone.

MCGUINNESS: There's deaths everywhere and I think Montana draws a lot of folks out here for the solitude.

TAPPER: More than 13 percent of Montana's adult residents served their country, the second highest per capita percentage in the country. Veterans programs are crucial here because the state also has one of the highest veteran suicide rates in America, more than 15 percent higher than the national average.

KARL ROSSTON, SUICIDE PREVENTION COORDINATOR, MONTANA: In the Rocky Mountain region, we really have a perfect storm when it comes to suicide.

TAPPER: Karl Rosston, the state's suicide prevention coordinator says the isolation that initially attracts people to the region can also make it hard for them to find help.

ROSSTON: Plentywood, Montana which is up in the northeast corner of our state, for them to get to the to the nearest V.A. clinic is the same as driving from Toledo, Ohio to Washington D.C.

TAPPER: But distance is not the only problem. We have major issues with stigma so that's kind of a cowboy up mentality, sense of Independence, we take care of our own, we don't talk about our problems. In the East Coast, it's cool to have a therapist. Everybody has a therapist, not in Montana.

CHRIS BOGNER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, WARRIORS AND QUIET WATERS: It can get really tough for guys out here or in areas that are pretty remote.

TAPPER: Chris Bogner is a retired Marine and native Montanan. He participated in the Warriors and Quiet Waters Program five years ago and values it so much he now works for the organization.

BOGNER: People don't even know like that this is therapy until they do it and then you know, they go home they think about it and they're like wow, that was awesome. And I was -- I was thinking about fishing, I was thinking about the surroundings around me, I wasn't thinking about any of the other stuff that gets you in a -- in a bad spot.

TAPPER: Participants have come here from 49 states spending their days in natural beauty with a brotherhood of staff, volunteers, and new friends. Though the week-long program is not specifically aimed at suicide prevention, Executive Director Faye Nelson says it has saved lives.

FAYE NELSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WARRIORS AND QUIET WATERS: There has been a warrior that's told us the day he got home from his Warriors and Quiet Waters fishing experience, he sold the gun he'd been looking at every day and contemplating using it to take his own life. And there was another warrior who participated that said they went home and tore up their suicide note that they'd already written. It's really nice for them just to be able to have a place to go to get it all out and be surrounded by a group of people that understands.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: One small program there trying to make a difference and boy there are so many veterans in need. We will continue to watch that story and efforts around the country to help veterans in need on this day after Veterans Day. I'm Jim Sciutto in for Jake today. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, ballot brawl.