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President Trump's Crucial Week; Administration Warns China On North Korea; Will Democrats Support SCOTUS Pick Gorsuch?; White House Releases Financial Disclosures; Russia Slams Deadly Mosul Airstrikes; Judge OKs Assault Lawsuit Against Trump Campaign; Tesla Delivers 25,000 Cars In Q1. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 3, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A critical week for President Trump starts today and the president already putting China on notice to stop North Korea but the U.S. is going alone.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And today a crucial vote to the senate on advancing Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Day 74. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. A fascinating interview in the "Financial Times" with the president, we'll get more on that later on. But first President Trump this morning hoping for a reset after weeks of looming questions about Russia's alleged influence over his campaign. Today, the president kicks off a crucial week dominated by diplomatic meetings with three world leaders and the fate of his Supreme Court nomination.

ROMANS: White House open to turn the narrative, flip the script from last week's big story, the Russia connection and Former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn's offer to tell his story in exchange for immunity. Let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles with the very latest.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave and we've said this is a lot during the Trump Administration but this could be one of the biggest weeks of Donald Trump's Presidency. He has a lot on the table this week including a whole host of meetings with important foreign leaders that's going to be capped with a summit with the President of China, Xi Jinping at his Mar-A-Lago State in Florida.

Among the big topics, North Korea, this after an interview with the "Financial Times" where Donald Trump really laze it on the line for China telling them they need to get involved in coming up with the solution to deal with the problems in the Korean Peninsula. It's also the opportunity this week for a big win for the Trump Administration as Neil Gorsuch, their nominee for the Supreme Court, is expected to get a vote sometime this week.

Republicans confident that they're going to be able to get him confirmed. The question is will they do it with the 60 votes that is customary for a vote like this. All this though as the cloud of Russia continues to overshadow this administration, Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the house Intel Committee reacted to the news that Former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn is willing to take an immunity deal. Schiff said his committee may not be interested. Take a listen.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We don't want to do anything that will interfere in any case that the Justice Department may decide to bring. We also have to determine whether he really can add value to our investigation whether we need him to learn the information we can't learn from other sources, so it's very early I think even to be considering this.


NOBLES: Meanwhile, even though Russia continues to be a big issue for the Trump Administration, the president himself is not backing down tweeting on Sunday morning, "The real story turns out to be surveillance and leaking. Find the leakers." All this as the president has a very busy week in front of him starting this morning, Christine and Dave?

BRIGGS: Thank you, Ryan. This morning, just days ahead of the president's meetings with Chinese Leader, Xi Jinping, Mr. Trump is putting China unnoticed. The president warning that the U.S. will take action against North Korea on its own unless China increases pressure on the regime.

Speaking to the "Financial Times", the president said, "China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won't. If they do, that will be very good for China and if they don't it won't be good for anyone. If china is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I'm telling you."

ROMANS: OK, here is U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley Brandon Shannon equally text message for China.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS.: No longer take the excuses from China that they're concerned too. They need to show us how concerned they are. They need to put pressure on North Korea. The only country that can stop North Korea is China. China has to cooperate. This is now down to do we want to continue to see these ballistic missile attacks from North Korea or does China want to do something about it?


ROMANS: So, let's go to China. I want to bring in CNN's Will Ripley, live in Beijing for us. Good morning, Will. You know, President Trump keeps saying China can stop North Korea's nuclear proliferation. We know they have a great deal of influence. We also know that no one gets hurt more than China if North Korea gets stabilized. I mean, millions of poor brainwashed people flowing over its boarder putting pressure on China stability.

[04:35:00] WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is the number one thing, Christine that the Chinese Government wants to avoid is destabilized situation on the Korean Peninsula because of exactly what you mentioned, it have a humanitarian crisis on their hands if millions of people needing aids started flaring across the border.

And so that is why China continues to trade with North Korea by some estimates, 70% to 90% of North Korean trade is with China. China is the reason why people at least in Pyongyang, a North Korean Capital, have a higher standard of living than really they ever have Smartphones and other types of technology that they wouldn't have if weren't for Chinese trade.

So, the United States is correct that China does really hold the key here in terms of having the ability to really hurt the North Korean Regime led by Kim Jong-Un financially if they chose to do so. But if they hurt them too much that could destabilize the situation. So, you see the catch 22 (ph) that China is involved with.

As, for this tweet -- and as for this interview that Donald Trump gave at the "Financial Times", at least publicly the government officials here in Beijing are not indicating that they're particularly flustered or surprised. They understand now after monitoring the president's tweeter feed...

ROMANS: Right.

RIPLEY: ...that this is just his style. A few hours ago, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs put out a statement saying that there was a conversation that happened overnight between Secretary Tillerson and China's top diplomat talking about the importance of this meeting.

Even President Trump in the interview talked about respecting Chinese President Xi Jinping. So, it's much less severe rhetoric than what we heard from him on the campaign trail. In the end, the United States needs China to work with them on North Korea because any other options aren't really feasible.

A pre-emptive military strike would be really disastrous and yes the U.S. could sanction, you know, could just impose its own sanctions on Chinese companies, banks for example, that do business with North Korea, but the impact really would be minimal without Chinese cooperation.

So, there is so much to discuss not only North Korea but also the complicated trade relationship...

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

RIPLEY: ...this is a very important meeting happening in fourth of this week, Christine...

ROMANS: It really is and a golf course and Dave Briggs tells me we'll replay that the, you know, the Chinese President has been kind of war... BRIGGS: War on gold.

ROMANS: ...against golf -- war on gold, all right.

RIPLEY: He does not golf.

ROMANS: He does not golf.

RIPLEY: Yes, he doesn't golf.


ROMANS: All right, when you're in Trump Land you do a...


ROMANS: ...the president wants to do it. All right, thanks to see you. Thanks Will.

RIPLEY: Right.

BRIGGS: He closed hundreds of golf courses in China. Meanwhile a critical week ahead for President Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch. The Senate Judiciary Committee expected to devote today to advance his nomination to the full senate. Three days of formal debate begin Tuesday with Republicans hoping to confirm Gorsuch by Friday.

He needs 60 votes. That's means all 52 Republicans and eight Democrats are needed for confirmation. So far though, only three Democrats are supporting Gorsuch with Indiana Senator, Joe Donnelly the latest to get on board dozens of Democrats backing a filibuster.

ROMANS: Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell is vowing to get Gorsuch to get confirmed even if it means changing the rules, so only 51 votes are needed.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: What I can tell you is that Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week. How that happens really depend on our Democratic friends? How many of them are willing to oppose closure on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee? It never happened before in history.


ROMANS: If Republicans are able to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed by Friday, he would be able to join the Supreme Court this month in time to participate in the final cases of this year's term. We get more from CNN's Ariane de Vogue.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPRE COURT REPORTER: Christine and Dave, today is a big day for Neil Gorsuch. The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on his nomination. He's expected to advance on party lines but we will also get a glimpse of how Democrats who have so far been on the fence will vote when he reaches the full senate. It all comes down to the math. Has thing stand it takes 60 votes to confirm him and more than 30 Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer said they plan to filibuster the nomination.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: It looks like Gorsuch will not reach the 60 vote margin, so instead of changing the rules which is up to Mitch McConnell and the Republican Majority why doesn't President Trump, Democrats, and Republicans in the Senate sit down and try to come up with a mainstream nominee.


DE VOGUE: Three Democrats from states that voted for President Trump however state they will support Gorsuch. They're furious that Merrick Garland never got a vote, but they say Gorsuch is well qualified. Republicans on the other hand say that if the Democrats vote to filibuster then they'll do something historic.

They will change the rules of the senate to make it easier for Supreme Court nominees to get through as thing stand Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has said Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed by Friday. Christine, Dave?

BRIGGS: Thank you, Ariane. President Trump resurrecting the fight to repeal and replace ObamaCare, he's been blaming the House Freedom Caucus for its initial failure to get healthcare reform passed. Now, he seems ready to refight this battle telling the "Financial Times," I don't lose. I don't like to lose. They are negotiating as we speak. If we don't get what we want, we will make a deal with the Democrats and we will have in my opinion not as good a form of healthcare.

President Trump spent Sunday on the links in Virginia and what a fascinating force than it was, the president golfing with Rand Paul. Senator Paul was an outspoken critic of the First Republican Healthcare Plan and says he remains hopeful a better bill will be passed.

[04:40:00] SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We had a great day with the president today. We did talk about some healthcare reform. I think the sides are getting closer and closer together and I remain very optimistic that we will get ObamaCare repealed.

BRIGGS: After his rounding golf, the president tweeted that he promised the American people great healthcare. In one way or another, he's going to deliver.

ROMANS: President Trump will host Egypt's President at the White House today the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria expected to top the agenda. It's the first official visit to Washington for Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The Egyptian Leader was denied a White House invite under the Obama Administration which viewed him as a dictator.

It's just the first of several major diplomatic encounters for the president this week. On Wednesday, he meets with Jordan's King, Abdullah. Then on Thursday, he travels to Mar-A-Lago to sit down with the Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

The White House is releasing financial disclosures of 180 staff members of detail employee holdings as they entered the White House. One big discovery Former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn initially did not include thousands of dollars of speaking fees from three Russian Companies. They were absent from form (ph) filed on February just before he resigned.

He did include them in a second filing. He was paid to speak by Russia's State Funded Television Network for a speech in Moscow. That is an organization that frankly intelligence officials consider propaganda tool of Vladimir Putin. He was also paid by two other Russian Companies for speaking engagements in the U.S. Flynn's lawyer says the first filing was addressed and that is he's filed extra paperwork since being fired.

One of the wealthiest members of Trump staff is Former Goldman Sachs, President Gary Cohn. He reported $75 million of income last year most from Gold net income -- most from Goldman before he stepped down in December. In total his financial assets are worth between $252 million and 611 million. He also disclosed a number of stockholdings including big names like Intel, McDonald's, Facebook, and Twitter.

Cohn is Director of the National Economic Council and a very close advisor to President Trump. You know, for years covering business in government -- they called it Government Sachs -- Goldman Sachs...


ROMANS: know, like when you have all that money...


ROMANS: ...when you have all that money, the next step is government, you know.

BRIGGS: And this is the wealthiest cabinet in the history of this great country, a lot of money there. Russia is stepping up criticism. Meanwhile of the U.S., what's behind all the tough talk? We'll go live to Moscow next.


[04:45:00] ROMANS: Just a few hours, the Senate Intelligence Committee will begin hearing testimony behind closed doors about Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election. It comes that the Kremlin steps up criticism of the U.S. condemning coalition airstrikes that killed scores of Iraqi civilians in Mosul last month.

One of our CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow. Matthew, on Friday, a Kremlin spokesman told the ABC News that of the U.S. relationship with Russia is worse than the Cold War, what's behind this?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well I think it's a general end of the hopes that were held by many people here in Russia that the relationship between Washington and Moscow under President Trump was going to get better. The mini-Canada (ph) that Trump promised to build better ties with Moscow, he said he would look at recognizing Crimea as being part of Russia which they access from Ukraine.

He said he would work with them on the conflict in Syria along the issue of international terrorism but of course none of that has come to pass mostly because of the political situation and the investigations underway about collusion in the U.S. right now. The Kremlin call that a "Witch Hunt". They say it's a poisonous atmosphere and toxic and of course it's meant that there hasn't been the kind of coordination that many people in the Kremlin and many people in the White House expects had hoped for.

The latest sort of crisis or latest step in that deteriorating relationship is this criticism is coming from the Russian Defense Ministry of U.S. Military action in Iraq, the schools or civilians that were killed last month of course by U.S.-led Coalition Airstrikes in Mosul explained by the Pentagon as being because ISIS are using buildings full of civilians and then baiting the U.S.-led coalition to strike.

If that's the U.S. said the Russian Defense Ministry, why is the U.S.- led Coalition making strikes with that smart bombs on buildings with civilians dooming them to a terrible death. So, it's not the kind of foreign relations that many people...


CHANCE: ...both here and the U.S. were expecting.

ROMANS: No, not at all. I see in fact. All right, thank you so for that, Matthew Chance for us in Moscow this morning.

BRIGGS: The Russian criticism of the Coalition Airstrikes comes amid growing concern about civilian casualties and the fight against ISIS, more on than that next.


[04:50:00] BRIGGS: The Russian criticism of the Coalition Airstrike in Mosul comes amid growing concern at home and abroad about civilian casualties and the fight against ISIS. Meantime, Syrian fighters backed by U.S. Forces are closing in on the Eastern City of Raqqa, ISIS' self-proclaimed Capital.

CNN's Muhammad Lila is monitoring developments from Istanbul, Turkey and joins us live. Good morning to you, Muhammad. Much of the focus has been on the civilian casualties, what about the progress by the Coalition in Mosul?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Dave. You know, the progress is ongoing but of course it's a very slow battle. Right now on the ground, Iraqi Special Forces backed by the United States with intelligence and logistics are taking the battle to the old city of Mosul and that becomes a challenge because the old city is close quarter's combat. There are a lot of small alleyways and sometimes the fighting is house to house and of course one of the biggest challenges with that is the accusation that ISIS has been using human shields as part of its defence. In fact, earlier we know, there was a talk about, you know, airstrikes that had led to civilian deaths. Well, that's where the accusation first came out that ISIS was using human shield.

What's interesting is that the Pentagon came out during the time of those airstrikes or shortly thereafter and said that there's video evidence of ISIS taking civilians from their homes and forcefully taking them to other locations where there's an ISIS sniper on the rooftop knowing that if there were an airstrike on that location, the ISIS sniper would dive but so with all the civilians in that building.

There is a push right now for the Pentagon to release some of that video evidence effectively to show the rest of the world that these are the tactics that ISIS is using and this is important because the coalition says there are 400,000 people -- 400,000 civilians -- innocent civilians -- innocent to this conflict that are still trapped inside Mosul that are desperately trying to leave, Dave.

BRIGGS: Muhammad, thank you. Meanwhile, a federal judge allowing three anti Trump protesters to proceed with the lawsuit accusing the Trump Campaign and two of his supporters of assault. One of the plaintiffs, can be seen on video being pushed out of a Trump rally last year by one of the defendants. And at one point, Mr. Trump can be heard saying, "Get him out of here." The judge says the plaintiff's claim that President Trump incited a riot is plausible.

[04:55:00] ROMANS: An eyewitness says, the driver of a pickup truck that collided last week with a church minibus in Texas admitted he was texting while driving. Thirteen seniors died in that crash. Twenty- year-old, Jack Dillon Young, the driver of pickup remains in the hospital. Here's new video this morning showing him weaving between lanes right before the fatal collision.

Let's get more this morning from CNN's Polo Sandoval.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine and Dave, good morning to you. You know, the members of the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels have been struggling to cope with what has been a tremendous loss. Just yesterday, they were able to come together for the first Sunday service. It's a deadly collision in Southwest Texas that took place on Wednesday.

You can see that the mangled metal that left behind after this accident, 13 of the 14 seniors aboard this bus were killed during last Wednesday's collision. They are in Southwest Texas. Cell phone video that surfaced this weekend seems to show the pickup truck that was involved in the accident just moments before it collided with the church bus.

This video has been provided by Jody Kuchler, a Good Samaritan, who had reported the driver of that pickup truck driving erratically just moments before that collision happened. He eventually came upon the scene and according to him the driver of that pickup truck told him that he was texting and driving. That is a claim that the state crash investigators have not yet confirmed. If anything, they are still following up on that, ruling out -- absolutely, nothing as they continue to move forward with this investigation.

Texas DPS Troopers do hope to speak to the 20-year-old driver of that pickup truck in the coming days as for the second survivor of the accident. A woman who was aboard that bus she continues to recover at this hour, Christine and Dave. So, as you can imagine, this is some of that positive news that the congregation there Texas so badly needs.

ROMANS: Absolutely. I wonder if they can charge him with anything if they have any lose the books against that...


ROMANS: ...I mean, that is a horrific loss of life and injury because of texting while driving is something we all know is dangerous.

It's 37 minutes past the hour. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. Stock Futures ticking higher on the first trading day of the second quarter over in Europe. Stock markets are mostly higher shares in Asia closing those games overnight.

Three things investors want to see as we start Q2, first progress on tax reform, this is the big price and has really made the Trump Rally what it is. Second, an economy that keeps coming, we'll get a monthly jobs report this Friday and a look at GDP for the first quarter of later this month. Finally, strong corporate profits, the expectations here are really high for companies making a lot of money in the Trump presidency. Earnings growth is forecast to be the fastest in five years.

Today also marks the start of H-1B Visa season. Applications for the worker visas could be in very high demand a bit of a possible White House push to change the program. Last year, the cap was 85,000 H-1B visas, was reached in less than a week. During that span, 236,000 petitions were submitted when demands leave (ph) the price of visas are voted (ph) to a lottery system.

There are also expected to be a flood of extension request and applications for H-4 Visas, those covers spouses of workers of the H- 1B Program. Proponents of the visa say they need high-skilled workers and this is the fastest way to hire. Critics say companies simply abused this program to hire cheap foreign labor. There are even some CEOs who say, if you're hiring on H 1B visa, it means you're not a very good leader that you haven't been able to develop your own talent pool.

All right, TESLA says it's delivered a record number of cars during the first quarter. Total deliveries jumped 69% from a year ago, totalling about 25,000 vehicles. The majority were the model "S" more than 11,000 of the model "XSUVs" also hit the road. Will that be enough for investors? Look at the sash (ph), Dave TESLA is up 30% this year. Shareholders have been patiently waiting to see TESLA ramp up production gets through the thousands of pre orders that currently has on the book. The stock is certainly delivered. BRIGGS: Performing and back to your economist wanting to see progress

on tax reform...


BRIGGS: ...the president was asked about that but a "Financial Time" said, "He doesn't want to talk about when. He doesn't want to talk about timing. He's focused on healthcare." Probably, not what economists wanted to hear this morning?


[05:00:00] BRIGGS: EARLY START continues right now.

A critical week for President Trump starts today. President is already putting China a notice to stop North Korea or the U.S. will go it alone.

ROMANS: And, today a crucial vote in the senate on advancing Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Good morning everybody, welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. That vote should be fascinating...

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: see if they can eight Democrats on-board. It is April 3rd, 5:00 a.m. in the east and President Trump this morning hoping for a reset after weeks of a looming questions about Russia's alleged influence over his campaign. Today, the president kicks off a crucial week dominated by diplomatic meetings with three world leaders and the fate of his Supreme Court nomination.

ROMANS: The White House hoping to term them way from last week's big story the Russia connection and Former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn offer to tell his story in exchange for immunity. Let's go to Washington, let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles with the latest.

NOBLES: Good morning, Christine and Dave.