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EARLY START

Trump's Heated Talk With Aussie P.M.; White House: Iran On Notice; Trump to Dems: Don't Obstruct Gorsuch. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 2, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:19] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump losing his patience in conversations with Australia's leader. What set him off and how much of this will fall on Trump's newly sworn in secretary of state?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House says Tehran is on notice in the wake of a missile test. We are live with latest on the growing feud.

MARQUEZ: And the president is holding zero back to get his Supreme Court nominee pick confirmed, even if -- telling the Senate Republicans to invoke the dreaded nuclear option if Democrats don't cooperate.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Miguel Marquez.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Good to be here.

ROMANS: A lot to get through today. I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, February 2nd. Groundhog Day. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East, everyone.

Breaking overnight: word of new tensions between the president and foreign leaders. Sources telling CNN about a pretty heated telephone call on Saturday between President Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Things came to a head when the subject of refugees came up. Many of them from the Muslim majority countries listed in President Trump's travel ban. The Obama administration agreed to take refugees now being detained by Australia which generally doesn't accept refugees over crime concerns.

MARQUEZ: Our sources say President Trump kept telling the prime minister the deal reached with the previous administration was a, quote, "bad deal" and what if the refugees turned out to be the next Boston bomber. A source says that as the Australian leader pressed Mr. Trump on the refugee issue, the president told aides he wanted to end the call and then he did so, abruptly, when the president tried to change the subject to fighting ISIS. A source familiar with the circumstances says Trump -- the president

was fatigued from a long day of conversations with foreign leaders, conversations that included some tense moments on their own. Overnight, after the story broke, Prime Minister Turnbull largely avoided the questions, but said the call ended courteously and said such talks are better conducted, quote, "candidly and frankly and privately."

Now, we also have new information on President Trump's phone call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. That came last Friday right after Pena Nieto canceled an in-person visit to the White House over President Trump's repeated demand that Mexico pay for the border, and excerpt of the transcript from the phone call shows Mr. Trump offered to help Mexico battle its drug carter, and said, according to the transcript, "You have tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to weapon with that big league, but they have to be knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out."

ROMANS: That differs from earlier reporting by the "A.P." and others suggesting President Trump was thinking about a hostile incursion into Mexico by U.S. troops to hit the drug carters. Sources say those reports are based on the inaccurate depiction of the call written by aides. One government official who spoke to CNN described Trump as naive to think he will have great relations with virtually all world leaders, even as he responds with a tantrum when confronted on policy.

MARQUEZ: And the White House is raising the stakes with Iran. National security adviser Michael Flynn lashing out at the Iranians for conducting a recent missile tests, listening to Flynn's warning to Tehran after taking a parting shot at the previous administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: President Trump has severely criticized the various agreements reached between Iran and the Obama administration, as well as the United Nations, as being weak and ineffective. Instead of thankful to the United States in these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Now, Iran's defense minister confirms his country carried out the missile test, but he says it did not violate international agreements and warns Iran will not allow outsiders to interfere with its military affairs.

I want to get the latest from CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, who was recently in Tehran. He joins us live from London.

Fred, where is all this going?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Miguel. Well, it certainly looks as though it might be going towards a larger confrontation between Washington and Tehran over the next couple of years. It's interesting because the Iranians are saying that the reason why they're allowed to conduct these ballistic missile tests is because the missiles that they are testing are not capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Therefore, they say these are defensive weapons and that they have the right to develop them and to test them.

Obviously, the U.S. is taking a very different line on that, saying it's unclear whether or not they could carry nuclear weapons in the future. Obviously, right now, you have this nuclear agreement in place.

[04:05:02] But at this point in time, the future of that seems somewhat cloudy considering the tensions that you have right now.

The interesting thing about this, Miguel, is I was in Tehran about a week ago and I spoke with a lot of government officials there about what they think the Trump administration will bring for them and many of them said they have a wait-and-see approach. They feel that some of the campaign rhetoric they heard from candidate Donald Trump might be different than what he actually does when he is in office.

So, it's going to be very interesting to see how they will react to what Michael Flynn said last night that really isn't very much on any Iranian news agencies this morning. But it certainly looks as though the relationship could be a lot more combative than it has been over the past couple of years. Of course, that calls into question the warming of ties that you've seen between the Rouhani administration and the Obama administration over the past couple of years, and certainly is a great cause for concern for many, not just in Iran, but also in the Middle East as well.

There have been confrontations between the U.S. and Iran over the past couple of years. Both sides shooting at each other in the Persian Gulf. So, certainly, there is the chance that things could escalate in the future, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: And chatting with every day Iranians on the street, there was great hope that the deal would bring -- usher in a new era of relations. What is their sense of President Trump?

PLEITGEN: Well, look, I think a lot of them are quite concerned. I spoke to a lot of people on the streets as well, and they said, what we've been hearing so far is really rhetoric that they didn't want to hear. And you're absolutely right, this nuclear agreement didn't bring a lot of the hope that they hoped would happen.

However, none of them really want to get rid of it because they do have some direct investment now. They hope that ties could improve and they could have a window into the world that they really have not had over the past couple years.

So, no one on the streets really wants to lose the nuclear agreement. There is a lot of concerns that things could escalate again and go back to the time of the Bush administration and the Ahmadinejad administration when obviously the ties were a lot worse. So, there is a great deal of concern. There was that wait-and-see attitude. And so, certainly, after those remarks that we heard last night from Michael Flynn, there is going to be a lot more worry with many Iranians there on the streets in Tehran and other places in the country as well.

MARQUEZ: Interesting times ahead. Frederik Pleitgen, thank you very much.

ROMANS: All right. The White House may be back tracking on aspects of the president's controversial refugee and travel ban. A source tells CNN tweaks to that executive order could be announced in the coming days, including an easing of restrictions on green card holders. That means legal permanent residents from seven banned countries could have their global entry status restored.

The White House is also working on a deal with Canada to lift restrictions on their permanent residents who carried passports from those seven banned nations.

MARQUEZ: Now breaking overnight, the White House seeking steps to eliminate the Obama administration's CVE program. CVE standing for countering violent extremism. The idea behind it was to connect law enforcement officials with cooperative Muslim-American groups.

The Trump administration views the program as, quote, "politically correct" and wants a new approach to shift focus specifically to radical Islamic extremism.

ROMANS: The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch expected to get underway in six weeks. And the president is already warning Democrats not to obstruct his confirmation. He's urging the Senate to deploy the nuclear option if necessary, reducing the number of Senate votes needed from 60 to a simple majority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we end up with the same gridlock in Washington for the last -- longer than eight years, in all fairness to President Obama, a lot longer than eight years. But if we end up with that gridlock, I would say, if you can, Mitch, go nuclear, because that would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was caught up in the web. So, I would say it's up to Mitch. But I would say, go for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Democrats are divided over how to fight the Gorsuch nomination. Progressives want an all out filibuster but fear a backlash if they're too obstructionist. It's worth noting, the first phone call made by Gorsuch after he was nominated was to Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's stone-walled pick for the Supreme Court. Gorsuch told reporters he made that call out of respect.

All right. Violent protests break out in California, forcing a far- right speaker to cancel a speak at U.C.-Berkeley. We have the university's angry response to the demonstrations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:13:30] MARQUEZ: Overnight, a new protest in UC-Berkeley flaring into violence, as peaceful demonstration against the planned speech by a right wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos escalated with protesters lighting fires, throwing rocks, and bottles and smashing windows. Now, the university is responding angrily, holding what it calls outside agitators responsible for the clash.

CNN's Kyung Lah was in the middle of all of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Miguel, amid a wave, a national wave of post-election protests, students here at UC- Berkeley organized one of their own, with a very specific goal. This protest which happened here right outside the student union was to stop right wing speaker and Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos. About 1,500 students gathered here with the goal to stop him, saying that he is not free speech. He is hate speech.

So, at some point, this protest became violent. These barricades were used to smash in the first floor windows of the student union. Protesters set fires and faced off with police who had to use tear gas. The university says about 150 outside agitators of the 1,500 who showed up. That's who they are blaming for this violence. Six people were injured.

And it became so violent that they had to cancel the event. The irony here is that UC-Berkeley in the 1960s was the free speech movement.

[04:15:00] That was for students to have the right to express their political opinions -- Miguel, Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Thanks to Kyung Lah.

President Trump's nominees to oversee both the Health and Treasury Departments are now waiting confirmation votes by the full Senate, after Senate Republicans took unprecedented measure to advance their nominations against the will of Democrats. Finance Committee rules say at least one Democrat must be in the room for a vote to be held.

But when every single Democrat boycotted, all those empty chairs, the hearing for Steve Mnuchin and Tom Price, committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah decided to suspend those rules, allowing Republicans on the committee to move the nominees for Treasury and HHS to a full Senate vote with no Democrats involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: We took unprecedented actions today due to the unprecedented obstruction on the part of our colleagues. As I noted earlier, the Senate Finance Committee has traditionally been able to function in even the most divisive political environment. That all changed yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARQUEZ: Now, Democrats on the Finance Committee say that changing the rules to approve Mnuchin and Price is troubling, given the ethics questions surrounding both those nominees. On Wednesday, Democrats also boycotted a committee vote for EPA nominee Scott Pruitt. It's been rescheduled for later this morning.

The nomination of Betsy DeVos to be education secretary is in serious jeopardy. Two Republican senators now say they won't back here as it currently stands. If no other Republicans depict, it would be a 50/50 tie which means Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote. That puts Senate Majority Leader McConnell in a tough position. He's now indicating he moves the Senate vote for DeVos as early as today before the Senate votes on Trump's attorney general pick, Jeff Sessions. This way, Sessions can vote in favor of DeVos before the Senate loses his vote, assuming he is confirmed.

DeVos is under pressure after a rocky hearing and accusations of plagiarism on a Senate questionnaire.

But one big position is now filled. Rex Tillerson has been confirmed and sworn in as secretary of state. He reports to work at the State Department this morning and will address employees when he arrives there at 9:30 a.m.

And these Texans are ready for the big game. President Bush 41 will do a coin flip at Super Bowl 51, 41 to 51, this Sunday in Houston. Former First Lady Barbara Bush will also be there. The Bushes both in their 90s were recently released from the hospital. Mrs. Bush suffered a bout of bronchitis and Mr. Bush was in ICU during treatment for pneumonia.

The secretary of defense making first trip overseas. What's his agenda in Seoul? We are live there, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Time for money.

Reports overnight say Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook are drafting a letter to the president, opposing this travel ban.

Recode founder Kara Swisher broke the news. This is what she told CNN's Don Lemon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARA SWISHER, RECODE FOUNDER (via telephone): I think what's different here is they are trying to involve not those tech companies but a whole range of companies, CPG companies, consumer product goods, manufacturing companies, media companies. They don't want to make it just tech versus Trump essentially, which has become a little bit. They want to involve lots of U.S. companies in this who are all very supportive of immigration, where immigration is important to their businesses and the core values of the company.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: You heard that there, core values of the company. That's a phrase we've heard a lot over the past few days. Corporate America trying to uphold those values while avoiding the wrath of the president's Twitter act or his regulatory worse. They have the most to gain from his promises to cut taxes and slash regulations. Google, Apple, Facebook have not responded to our request for comment. Microsoft declined to comment.

Newly minted Defense Secretary James Mattis landing in South Korea as he makes his first international trip overseas since assuming the post. His visit meant to listen and get current with leaders in South Korea and Japan.

I want to bring in CNN's Alexandra Field live for us from Seoul.

And the president has been wading into these waters of diplomacy over the past week and a half, hasn't he?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He sure has. That is why you simply cannot overstate the significance of the fact that Secretary of Defense James Mattis has decided to make South Korea his first overseas trip as secretary of defense. And it's significantly really on two fronts. First, it speaks to the seriousness with which the U.S. takes the North Korea nuclear threat and it also under scores the importance of maintaining this longstanding alliance with South Korea.

That alliance which seems to be very tight, which is very longstanding was certainly thrown into question when President Donald Trump was candidate Trump. He had raised the idea of withdrawing some troops from South Korea, suggesting that South Korea should pay more to have U.S. forces here to help with their defense.

That idea seems to have gone off the table. President Trump spoke to the acting president of South Korea earlier this week, saying that alliance remains ironclad. You now have the Secretary of Defense James Mattis on South Korean soil. He has meet with the acting president himself, and he has said that the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder with South Korea when it comes to defending against a North Korean nuclear threat -- Christine.

[04:25:05] ROMANS: All right. Alexandra Field for us in Seoul this morning -- thank you.

MARQUEZ: The President Trump is paying respects to the first U.S. service member killed on his watch. The president, his daughter Ivanka and Delaware Senator Chris Coons made an unannounced visit to Dover Air Base Wednesday to witness the dignify transfer ceremony for Chief Officer William "Ryan" Owens, the Navy SEAL and married father of three who was killed in a firefight during a U.S.-led raid in Yemen over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It was something very sad, very beautiful. Ryan, a great man.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARQUEZ: And we're learning new details about the raid that killed the Navy SEAL. The group was detected upon approach, setting up an intense gun battle which killed three senior al Qaeda leaders. CNN has learned the U.S. team also called in an air strike which likely led to civilian casualties.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump says he will have great relationships with world leaders.

MARQUEZ: Good day.

ROMANS: Well, why he abruptly ended a tense phone call with one key ally then?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)