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Trump's Diplomacy Shifts; Cabinet Nominations in Polarized Washington. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 3, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Big diplomatic shifts from White House after all the divisive rhetoric of the campaign. Would you believe the Donald Trump foreign policy is aligns in areas with President Obama? Major developments in key hot spots. We are live with the latest developments.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Miguel Marquez.


MARQUEZ: Happy Friday.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Miguel.

I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, February 3rd. Super Bowl weekend. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin, though, with this remarkable, remarkable turn of events at the White House. After more than a year campaigning against almost every part of Barack Obama's foreign policy, President Trump post- inauguration seems to now be adapting or at least accepting some of those very policies. The administration is taking a tougher stance on Israeli settlements, issuing a stern warning to Russia, blaming it for surging violence in neighboring Ukraine, threatening new sanctions against Iran without directly targeting that nuclear deal.

MARQUEZ: This amid diplomatic efforts to soothe rattled nerves in Asia. And to patch things up with Australia, after a heated call between Mr. Trump and that country's prime minister. All this on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's first day on the job.

We have live coverage this morning from Europe to the Middle East to Asia.

We begin with Ian Lee in Jerusalem with that surprising White House pivot on Israeli settlements -- Ian.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. For those of us who cover Israel, this came as a bit surprise I'm sure for Israeli officials waking up this morning, digesting this news. It surprised them as well. Up to now, it seemed like the Trump administration had given them a green light to build settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They have announced 6,000 of them so far. But that green light looks like it's turning a shade of yellow with

this recent announcement from the White House which says, "While we don't believe the existence of settlements are an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal."

So, we haven't heard officially from any Israeli government officials so far. But "Reuters" is reporting that the Israel's ambassador to the United Nations is saying that it is too early to tell how this will affect future building. And he doesn't believe that it is a U- turn. This comes as Rex Tillerson takes the reins, though, of the State Department as secretary of state. He talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Netanyahu will be traveling to the United States on February 15th to meet with President Trump, expect them not only to talk about settlements, but what Israeli/United States relations will look like going forward.

MARQUEZ: Ian, it does sound like the president is asking the prime minister to hold on to things until that meeting on the 15th. Yes?

LEE: That's right. And we've heard before that Prime Minister Netanyahu didn't want any surprises, at least from his government, from officials in his administration because he did not want any from the American, the Trump administration. This does look like it has them on their heels a bit. But we did hear from the council which is an umbrella organization of the settlement movement that welcomed the statement in part saying that it still shows commitment to the settler movement.

But right now, this is the hot topic issue in Israel, settlements in the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Definitely a point they're going to be talking about later this month.

MARQUEZ: All right. Ian Lee for us in Jerusalem -- thank you very much.

Now, Thursday, also marked the first appearance of the United Nations Security Council by the new U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley took the opportunity to pivot away from President Trump's cordial rhetoric toward Russia, going right after Moscow in its renewed aggression in Ukraine.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This escalation of violence must stop. The United States stands with the people of Ukraine who had suffered for nearly three years of Russian occupation and military intervention. Until Russia and the separatists it supports respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, this crisis will continue.


MARQUEZ: Haley also disappointing Kremlin hopes that sanctions would be curbed under the new administration. CNN's Clare Sebastian joins us now from Moscow with the latest.

Good morning.


Yes, Nikki Haley definitely pivoting away from the turn that we've had from Trump all along. At one point, yes, sanctions -- U.S. sanctions on Russia remain clearly in place for Russia. That was despite a modification that happened yesterday that allowed U.S. businesses to continue to do business in Russia to make payments to trade and customs to the Russian intelligence service, the FSB.

[04:05:08] And the White House saying that that is not an easing of sanctions. They also said that they knew about Nikki Haley's speech in advance of that happening. So, another sign there that this hope for Russia warming of relations with the U.S. is not yet materializing.

Russia, though, putting a positive spin on those comments from Nikki Haley at the U.N. The Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, saying that, you know, he actually saw that as a fairly friendly speech given the circumstances and this is the start of a road, one that he hopes will lead to a more constructive relationship with Russia.

Very important fact to this, though -- as you mentioned, a serious escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine. One monitor on the ground told me it was a staggering escalation in shelling. We heard more shelling overnight according to those monitors. Reports of civilian casualties. So, that is something that both sides agree on, that this is an escalating humanitarian crisis and a major challenge for the U.S. administration just in a second week in office.

MARQUEZ: All right. Clare Sebastian for us in Moscow -- thank you very much.

ROMANS: Turning now to Iran. The White House is expected to announce new sanctions, possibly as soon as today. These additional sanctions are response to Iran's ballistic missile test on Sunday, even President Trump campaigned hard against the nuclear deal. Sources say these new sanctions are not expected to affect that agreement.

Iran vowed Thursday it would not vow to threats from United States and would continue with missile activity. A senior advisor to Ayatollah Khomeini said the Iranian supreme leader criticized the extremism of President Trump who has declared Iran is on notice and says no options are off the table. We'll have a live report from Tehran in just a few moments.

Australia's ambassador to the U.S. meeting with top officials at the White House, trying to smooth things over after the heated phone call with their respective bosses. Ambassador Joe Hockey sitting down with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and top strategist Steve Bannon for what the administration is calling a productive meeting. Senator John McCain stepping into the dispute. He also spoke to Ambassador Hockey to express America's unwavering support.

The President Trump is still questioning a deal the Obama administration made to bring in over 1,000 refugees. The president says he has a lot of respect for Australia, but feels he still has a right to ask, why we are doing this.

MARQUEZ: President Trump wants to speed up talks for a trade deal in Mexico and Canada. Trump says NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement has been a catastrophe for American workers and companies. He wants the deal renegotiated and says his nominee for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, will head up those talks.

Leaders from the European Union meeting for the first time since President Trump took office, 27 E.U. leaders taking part in a summit. How are they responding to the upheaval, and what is on the agenda?

We want to bring in CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, he is live at those meetings in Malta.

Nic, good morning. What are we likely to hear?


Well, there's going to be a lot for them to discuss. You know, big change of position listening to what Nikki Haley said at the U.N. Security Council on Russia. That even leapfrogs in this stronger position on Russia than the European Union.

Theresa May, the British prime minister, obviously, meeting last week in Washington with Donald Trump. She'll be here. She'll be explaining to European leaders, you know, the meetings she had. She'll be coming with that message that they need to pay more into NATO, that they need to pay up. This is important to President Trump.

But they're also going to be here talking about migration. Malta is on the path of so many of those tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of migrants coming from North Africa into Europe. That obviously, a key concern for President Trump as well.

You know, one of the big narratives here is going to be that President Trump, the European Union feels is hostile to the European Union. There's been a letter written from the European parliament from the main political parties there from the left and right and center of the political spectrum, saying to the president and the European Council and European Commission that they don't want President Trump's pick Ted Malloch as U.S. ambassador to the E.U., because they say he is openly hostile to the E.U., that he is quoted in the past in this letter they say that he has said about the Soviet Union, that he helped bring down that union and he wants to tame this union.

So, the position so far is, one, for the European Union, those leaders gathering here feeling that they do not have a friend in the White House right now. So, I expect to hear more about her today, John.

MARQUEZ: Nic Robertson for us in Malta, thank you very much. ROMANS: I forgot to tell Nic that you're Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Well, I sound just like John. I'm aping John this morning.

ROMANS: You are both very, very dashing men on a Friday.

All right. Secretary of Defense James Mattis with a stern warning to North Korea on his first trip to the Far East. Pyongyang responding harshly overnight.

[04:10:02] We are live in Tokyo, next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back.

Defense Secretary James Mattis arriving in Japan overnight. His mission to calm nerves. Japan has been a key ally on matters involving China, North Korea. Pyongyang issued a stern warning to the U.S. and South Korea overnight after Secretary Mattis had strong words of his own following his visit to Seoul.

I want to go live to Tokyo and bring in CNN's Muhammad Lila.

Bring us up to speed, Muhammad.

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, right now, the secretary of defense is meeting with Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe. But it comes after visiting Korea, as you mentioned, with some after strong words for North Korea specifically.

Here is what the secretary of defense had to say.


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Any attack on the United States or on our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons will be met with the response that would be effective and overwhelming.


[04:15:01] LILA: Now, of course, many are calling this visit both to South Korea and Japan, a visit of reassurance that the United States specifically, that Donald Trump -- President Trump's administration is seeking to reassure to its key allies in the region, South Korea and, of course, here in Japan that the United States continues to maintain and work on these relationships, these longstanding military alliances with Korea and Japan.

But, of course, here in Japan, the secretary of defense is meeting tonight with the prime minister. Other high level meetings scheduled this evening and again tomorrow morning. And here is why this is key -- the United States has more than 50,000 service members stationed here in Japan. During the campaign, President Trump talked about how Japan and South

Korea should possibly have their own nuclear weapons as deterrent or if they didn't, they should pick up more of the financial cost for having American troops stationed in these two countries. Now, of course, Japan wanting to make it clear they are picking up their end of the tab for this. Japan coming out and saying that they are spending almost about $5 billion a year just to maintain the U.S. presence here.

So, these meetings tonight are key to both solidify this relationship and hammer out some of these concerns that the Japanese side has in terms of what Donald Trump, President Donald Trump's position will be as far as the relationship goes moving forward.

ROMANS: And what will the role be of the United States in the region with a rising and ever more powerful China, especially since the U.S. is withdrawn from the TPP, years of work on that.

Muhammad Lila, thank you so much for that. Keep us up to date on of those meetings.

Sixteen minutes past the hour.

Tesla founder Elon Musk is heading to the White House today and he is ready to carefully, carefully criticize the president's travel ban. Musk is a member of the president's advisory forum. That's a group set up to talk jobs in the economy.

Musk says, quote, "I and others will express our objections to the recent executive order on immigration and offer suggestions for changes to the policy. I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good."

Those comments landing just hours after the Uber CEO quit the same advisory council. He said he spoke to President Trump and expressed his concerns about the travel ban and then he told President Trump he would not be able to participate in the council. This is what he said. Quote, "Joining the group was not meant to be endorsement of the president or his agenda, but unfortunately, it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that."

It's an interesting tight rope so many of these CEOs and companies are walking, Miguel, because they want a seat at the table, maybe to try to smooth out the rough edges of what they think are Donald Trump's some of Donald Trump's policies, but their shareholders and their customers in some cases don't want them to do that.

MARQUEZ: It is amazing how effective the customers are being with regard to Uber and the people who are getting rid of the Uber app and Nordstrom dropping the Ivanka Trump line because of poor sales.

ROMANS: Interesting.

MARQUEZ: Now, it was not your typical national breakfast, prayer breakfast. President Trump using the event to get political, vowing to destroy the Johnson Amendment, a law the limits the ability of religious tax exempt groups to endorse or oppose a political candidate. He says voices of faith should be allowed to speak freely.

The president also gloating over the ratings of "The Apprentice", fading without him and he did it in right in front of the show's executive producer, Mark Burnett.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The ratings went down the tubes. It has been a total disaster and Mark will never ever bet against Trump again. And I want to pray for Arnold if we can for those ratings, OK?


MARQUEZ: Well, it didn't take long for Arnold Schwarzenegger to fire back. Listen to his proposition for the president.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, HOST, CELEBRITY APPRENTINCE: Donald, I have a great idea. Why don't we switch jobs? You take over TV because you are such an expert at ratings and I take over your job, and then, people can finally sleep comfortable again. huh?


MARQUEZ: Now, one more eyebrow-raising moment for the president at the prayer breakfast. Mr. Trump clearly impressed with keynote speaker, Senate Chaplain Barry Black.


TRUMP: Is that an appointed position? I don't know if you are Democrat or if you're a Republican. But I'm appointing you for another year.


ROMANS: I watched that live as it was happening. It was the most bizarre prayer breakfast I have ever seen. Usually, it is subdued and somber and just the gravitas and it's meaningful.

It took two minutes for Donald Trump to start talking about himself, to get off-script, start talking about himself. He announced that he was going to be there for seven more prayer breakfast in a row, saying announcing that he was going to run for reelection and he was going to be, you know, the president for the next --

MARQUEZ: He filed for re-election on day one.


ROMANS: It was really bizarre.

MARQUEZ: It's a different day in America.

ROMANS: It certainly is.

All right. Nineteen minutes past the hour.

Another day of bizarre turns on Capitol Hill, as Republicans try to jam through the president's cabinet nominees.

[04:20:02] More from Capitol Hill, next.


ROMANS: President Trump's cabinet is starting to take shape, but not without some push back from Democrats. Trump's pick to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is the latest nominee to get the nod from Senate committee. He's the third one this week to move to a floor confirmation vote after Republicans changed the rules to get around a Democratic boycott.

CNN's Manu Raju has more on the political gamesmanship on Capitol Hill.



Some drama in the Senate yesterday as Republicans changed the rules of the key committee to advance a nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA to the floor without any Democrats present at the meeting.

[04:25:06] Republicans said Democrats boycotted that meeting for a second straight day and to circumvent the committee rules that require Democrats to be present at committee. They decided to change the rules and say that it's been this one particular instance, it was OK to vote on strict party lines without any Democrats present to advance his nomination to the floor.

Now, this happening after earlier this week, when two other nominees had followed a similar route to their eventual confirmation. Tom Price for Health and Human Services and Steve Mnuchin to lead the Treasury Department. And next week, expect those to be a final vote on the floor of the Senate.

Now, later on Friday, we are expecting the Senate to try to break a filibuster of Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department. But that will be of the narrowest of margin on a 51-50 vote. That's because Senator Jeff Sessions has not yet been confirmed as attorney general. They kept him in the Senate a little while longer to vote to help Betsy DeVos and also, Vice President Mike Pence coming to Senate to break a tie and pass and confirm this nomination by the narrowest margins. So, Donald Trump is getting nominees in place, but maybe it's not in the time he wanted -- Christine and Miguel.


ROMANS: All right. Manu Raju, thanks, Manu.

President Trump suddenly embracing some of the positions he criticized President Obama for through the campaign. We'll tell you which ones.