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The President's Speech; Trump Delays Signing New Travel Ban; 19 Tornadoes Hit Missouri, Illinois. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 1, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:12] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment, believe in yourselves, believe in your future, and believe once more in America.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A dramatic change in tone, as President Trump lays out ambitious agenda in his first address to Congress. How far did he go on immigration, health care and other issues affecting American families?

All that, plus the emotional high point everyone will be talking about today.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

Would we prefer a 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time speech next time, Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's almost like watching the big sports games. I'm so tired the next morning.

I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesday, March 1st. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And even some of his critics this morning are saying that was the presidential tone --

BRIGGS: Indeed it was.

ROMANS: -- they've been waiting for from this president. The White House hoping this morning the president's big speech provides a reset of sorts.

In the address to a joint session of Congress, the president casts a more presidential image than we have seen from him so far, after about an hour spent mostly sticking to the teleprompter, as he ran through his policy goals, he got a lot of answers how to pay for them.

The president offered up this challenge to lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts, the bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls, and the confidence to turn those hopes and those dreams into action.


BRIGGS: Now, there were some polarizing aspects as President Trump recapped many of the greatest hits from his campaign promises. At several times, we saw all Republican lawmakers standing and all of the Democrats stuck to their seats. Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night came in a tribute to one of the president's special guests.

CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House with more.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, President Trump put the divisive rhetoric of the early days of his administration behind him and embraced a moderate more softer tone in his speech to a joint session of Congress. During his address, the president sounded open to immigration reform, back Obamacare's protection of covering patients with preexisting conditions, and even voiced his support for NATO, an alliance he has criticized in the past.

The most striking moment of the space came when he paid tribute to Carryn Owens, the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens who was killed in a military raid in Yemen at the beginning of the Trump administration.


ACOSTA: But the president did not tone down his rhetoric across the board, using the term "radical Islamic terrorism" in his speech, despite advice from his new national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, who said he should not use the phrase -- David and Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Jim Acosta.

Look to having some specifics of the topics Jim has teed up for you there.

First on immigration, President Trump striking a new note of compromise. Hours before the speech, he surprised many when he said he wants Congress to take up an immigration reform bill that could grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.


TRUMP: I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: To improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation's security, and to restore respect for our laws. Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.


ROMANS: Now, while stopping short of a path of citizenship, the president's proposal would offer legal status to undocumented immigrants who are not serious or violent criminals. The president drew big applause from Republicans when he repeated his pledge to build a wall. Although this time he did not insist, Dave, that Mexico pay for it. That was missing.

BRIGGS: He did call it a great, great wall.

The president is not backing down from his campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. And Mr. Trump outlining his goals for a new health care system during last night's address. He wants to keep coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, the key there and he's calling for a guaranteed transition for Americans insured through exchanges.

He also wants to help Americans purchase their own insurance instead of relying exclusively on government-mandated plans and says bringing down costs including the price of drugs is critical.


TRUMP: Action is not a choice; it is a necessity. So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.

[04:05:06] With reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time provide better health care.

The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we are going to do.


BRIGGS: Later today, Republicans will try to get on the same page on Obamacare, when House leaders brief their Senate counterparts on repeal plans at a meeting called by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Action on repeal bill should come as soon as next week.

ROMANS: All right. The president also calling on Congress to fund a $1 trillion infrastructure bill which would make good on another Trump campaign pledge, invoking Dwight Eisenhower as the last president to launch such a huge infrastructure program. Mr. Trump says his program would be financed by both public and private capital, and would create millions of new jobs.


TRUMP: America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East, all the while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With the $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country twice, and

maybe even three times, if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.



ROMANS: Infrastructure may be one of the rare areas of bipartisan agreement. Bernie Sanders also ran on a pledge to spend $1 trillion on roads, airports, bridges and other infrastructure.

BRIGGS: America's NATO allies perhaps relieved after the president's address. Mr. Trump gave his biggest show of support yet for the alliance whose nations he slammed repeatedly during the campaign for refusing to pay their fair share. And in his one of his few unscripted moments of the night, Trump took credit in turning that around.


TRUMP: We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two world wars that dethroned fascism and a Cold War and defeated communism.


But our partners must meet their financial obligations. And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that. In fact, I can tell you the money is pouring in. Very nice.



BRIGGS: Now, per the claim that the president succeed in pushing allies to, quote, "pour money into NATO", so far, the administration has not offered proof of that. Other countries in the alliance have agreed to increase defense spending, but some of that was in the works before Mr. Trump took office.

Former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear delivering the Democratic response to President Trump. Speaking from a diner, said that the president is not helping the working class, calling him Wall Street's champion, also attacking the efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.


STEVE BESHEAR (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF KENTUCKY: You and your Republican allies in Congress seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it. Does the Affordable Care Act need some repairs? Sure, it does. But so far, every Republican idea to replace the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of Americans covered.


BRIGGS: Many of the Democratic women in attendance wore white in a nod to the women's rights movement in the early 1900s which encouraged supporters to dress in white as a simple of purity.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump repeating one of his favorite claims about the labor market last night.


TRUMP: Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited: 94 million Americans are out of the labor force.


ROMANS: He likes to talk about that 94 million, 95 million Americans out of the labor force. It's technically true. It's actually 95 million Americans, a little higher than his 94 number. They are not part of the labor market.

But of those 95 million people, they don't all want a job. They're not all looking for work. They're not out of the labor market because they've been sidelined, 44 million of them are retired. Baby boomers, by the way, a huge bubble here that's going to add to those numbers.

More than 15 million are in college or on job training. So, they're not technically part of the labor force. Another 15 million are disabled. They are not part of the labor force. Nearly 13 million are home, out of the workforce because they're taking care of a family member, either a child, by the way, child care in some states is more expensive than college -- either a child or an elderly parent or a grandparent.

There are some people that want a job and can't find one. When we distill those numbers and look at the people who want a job but can't find one and they're out of the labor market, we're talking about 5.5 million people who have looked for work in the past year.

[04:10:07] They're not part of the labor force. Another 7.6 million search for a job in the last month. Of those that are unemployed, they are considered part of the labor force.

We saw during the election that many Americans feel that the economy has left them behind, the president capitalized on that angst masterfully. But these are factual measures of the labor market, not a survey of feelings. It is misleading at best to bend the numbers to prove that point. Ninety-five million people, the president has said there are 94 million who want a job, that is not true.

BRIGGS: Clearly, the most dubious claim he made in the night, one that you would expect him to walk back, don't you think in the days ahead?

ROMANS: You know, I think he's trying to put his finger on the fact that people have been sidelined. That is how he got elected, you know? But the 95 million, it's just not -- in fact, when you're talking about the big infrastructure bills, when I talk to CEOs, they're worried about finding the labor to do that.

So, Mr. Trump, the president is talking about the 95 million people who are ready, willing, and able to work, but CEOs are worried about finding people to do work because the labor as a matter of fact so tight.

BRIGGS: They're talking about, what, 300,000 plus manufacturing jobs, high-tech manufacturing jobs still open.

ROMANS: Open and ready to go right now.

BRIGGS: So, perhaps walk that one back.

President Trump paying tribute last night to the Navy SEAL who died in January during the raid on al Qaeda in Yemen. Carryn Owens, the widow of William "Ryan" Owens openly sobbing as the president honored her husband's sacrifice. It was by far the most emotional moment of the evening.


TRUMP: Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation.

Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you.



BRIGGS: What a brave woman.

ROMANS: Two long ovations. David, it was 2 minutes and 11 seconds total. Owens was the first member of the U.S. military to die in combat under President Trump, who once again called the deadly mission a success during last night's address, citing the important intelligence the president says it generated. That was by far the most emotional of the night.

BRIGGS: It was indeed. And Van Jones called it the moment that he became the president.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: And that was a moment that really resonated with all sides.

ROMANS: Again, even critics of this president is saying the way he started with condemnation of hate of all kinds, the way he talked about the Kansas City attack last week, the way that he honored this woman, the widow of Mr. Owners, all of those things were incredibly moving --

BRIGGS: Yes, right out of the gate, started with the message condemning the hate that we've seen. Probably should have come earlier, but nonetheless, nice to see last night.

President Trump willing to go where his predecessor would not, on the terror threat. How is the Middle East reacting to the president's call to fight radical Islamic terror?


[04:17:58] ROMANS: All right. President Trump was scheduled to sign a reworked travel ban today. But last night's congressional address was so well-received, the White House is scrapping the plan so they can capitalize on the positive buzz this morning. The new travel ban will be signed later this week and CNN has learned it will exclude green card and visa holders, while revising or eliminating language that prioritizes certain religions.

But last night, President Trump used language his own national security adviser will not use when it comes to combating terrorism.


TRUMP: Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States. We are also taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism.



ROMANS: So, how is the president's speech playing in the Middle East?

I'm going to live to Amman, Jordan, right now and bring in CNN's Jomana Karadsheh.

At least over here, I will tell you this morning, he's getting even high marks even from some of his critics for sounding presidential, for laying out his America first policies very clearly and sticking to the prompter.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Christine, we haven't had any specific reaction when it comes to the speech in this part of the world. But I can tell you there has been a lot of concern when it comes to the Trump administration and how its policies are going to impact the Arab and Muslim world. And, you know, we saw that happen last month with the travel ban that really increased those fears and concerns in the region.

When it comes to the term "radical Islamic terrorism", you can't expect people in this region to accept this or be happy with the use of such a term. We've heard so many American allies, for example, King Abdullah of Jordan for the past couple years has really been speaking out about this, saying that the West needs to make this differentiation. They need to separate between the religion and the ideology, saying that this extremist jihadist ideology is not a true form of Islam, that they are the enemy of Muslims.

[04:20:04] And also, you have others who will tell you in this region over and over again that the biggest victims of this kind of extremism, terrorism, are Muslims themselves. If you look at countries in the region, for example, like Iraq and Syria. And Iraqis are very proud of the fact that they are at the forefront of this war against terrorism. They, as Muslims say they are in the front line in the fight against terrorism with the support of the United States.

So, there's always this concern, Christine, that jihadist extremists will exploit this kind of terminology to try and exacerbate those feelings that United States is fighting Muslims in Islam.

ROMANS: All right. Jomana Karadsheh for us from Amman, Jordan, with that perspective -- thank you so much.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, deadly tornadoes tear through two states. We'll have the details -- next.


[04:25:27] BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, a wintertime wrath of deadly tornadoes breaking out on the lower Midwest, 19 twisters tearing across Missouri and Illinois.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest this morning.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

A wild day certainly on Tuesday across parts of the country with a significant amount of severe weather reports. We're talking over 250 of them, and, of course, 21 of which were reported in tornadoes there.

I want to show you some video that shows you the damage left in place and we know a large number of fatalities in the region. And you get a large outbreak of tornadoes and that's precisely the case. And not much as what we saw in the month of January. In fact, in January, about 141 reports of tornados, 36 is what is normal. That is almost a 400 percent spike from what is a normal and then in February now, 76 tornadoes tallied where 29 is normal. That's over 250 percent of normal.

So, you put that together, it has been very active. We're certainly not out of the woods just yet. And you take a look, severe weather concerns inline here for 100 million today, includes Nashville, includes Cincinnati, into Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and even New York. The highest concerns a little back towards the West here for some afternoon storms that could certainly have more gusty winds, large hail and even isolated tornadoes, guys.


ROMANS: All right, Pedram. That will be a tough day for some of those folks here today. I wish them well as they get out there and survey the damage.

BRIGGS: Indeed. ROMANS: Twenty-seven minutes past the hour.

President Trump goes before Congress for the very first time this morning. We're going to bring you the reaction to what he said, how he said it and what he didn't say. We'll explain.