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President Trump's Crucial Week; Administration Warns China On North Korea; Gorsuch Supreme Court Fight; Trump Meets With President Xi This Week; White House Releases Financial Disclosures. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired April 3, 2017 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Russia connection and former national security adviser, Michael Flynn's, 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.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave. We've said this 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.

It's going to be capped with a summit with the president of China, Xi Jinping, at his Mar-a-Lago Estate in Florida. Among the big topics, North Korea, this after an interview with the "Financial Times" where Donald Trump really lays it on the line for China telling them that they need to get involved and coming up with a 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 adviser, 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 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, quote, "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.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you, Ryan. This morning, just days ahead of the president's meeting with Chinese leader, Xi Jinping. Mr. Trump putting China on notice. The president warning that the U.S. will take action against North Korea on its own unless China increases pressure on the regime.

ROMANS: 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, it will be very good for China. 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 am telling you."

Here's the U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, brandishing an equally tough 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: We'll have more on President Xi's meeting with President Trump coming up ahead.

BRIGGS: A critical week ahead for the president's Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch. The Senate committee, the Judiciary Committee, expected to vote today to advance his nomination to the full senate. Three days of formal debate begin Tuesday with Republicans hoping to confirm Gorsuch by Friday.

You know they need 60 votes, that means 52 Republicans and eight Democrats 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 confirmed even if it means changing the rules so only 51 votes are needed.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: All I can tell you is that Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week. How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends, how many of them are willing to oppose closure on a partisan basis, to kill a supreme court nominee 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.

BRIGGS: All right, joining us this morning to discuss all of this, CNN politics reporter, Eugene Scott, before he heads off to the championship game tonight. Good luck to the Tar Heels tonight, congrats to that. Have fun.

But so much to get to and in a huge week for the president with the SCOTUS, in particular that meeting with President Xi of China. Encompassing all of this is the fact that the president desperately needs and wants a win. How can he come out of that meeting with China saying or claiming some sort of victory?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I think right now many people who already support him and who are already frustrated with how China has responded or not really responded with North Korea, it's tough talk, it's already a win, but what we need to see is something to come from it.

Now he hasn't really given details as far as what he would do to hold China more accountable. There's been some testing that perhaps he could approach it with trade, you know, and trade deals with China and make things a bit more difficult for them.

[05:05:00]But he hasn't clarified what he wants them do to be tougher on North Korea. If he can give some example by putting this before them and now they are going to move in this direction, I think people on both sides of the aisle will be encouraged by that.

ROMANS: It's so fascinating to me because nobody has more to lose in the North Korea situation than China quite frankly. So you know, keeping the North Korean's contained is in the best interest of China. Anyway, what is the president putting on the table? Is he talking about a grand bargain? You know, our U.S. troops in the Korean Peninsula, is that something that he could dangle? We just don't have any meat -- policy on this threat in the "Financial Times."

SCOTT: Not yet. All we have is will make trade deals and how he is going to go about that isn't really clear yet. I think it's also important to note that Donald Trump hasn't said what China has done that has been insufficient. And so the whole idea that they're doing nothing right now may not necessarily be as true as the Trump administration is saying. He just wants them to do more.

BRIGGS: All right, let's talk about the SCOTUS nomination, Neil Gorsuch, will clear a hurdle this morning we believe with the Judiciary Committee and Mitch McConnell has been clear, he's going to be confirmed this week. It's up to the Democrats to decide how he's going to be confirmed.

How risky is Chuck Schumer's play here of filibustering this nomination and forcing in a sense Republicans to change the rules for Supreme Court nominees, how risky is that politically?

SCOTT: I actually think it's a good move for the Democrats in terms of doubling down and making it very clear that they're going stand against Gorsuch. Now to the point, Dave, you've been very clear on this, Gorsuch is likely going to get on the bench any way, right, because McConnell has been very clear saying he's going to get on by any means necessary.

BRIGGS: But this isn't about Gorsuch, this is about who is next and the next pick could be a dramatic landscape shifting pick because it could be far to the right and it could shifting the balance in the court and then Republicans would have nothing in their way.

SCOTT: It could, but quite frankly, I mean, we do not know who Trump is looking at based on the list that he's presented during the campaign, as we have seen with the health care debate, he's not this ideologue who has the strict desire to put someone on the far right. So I think it is a bit of a risk.

They don't know what's coming next, but I think what they have to focus on is their base and let them know that they are doubling down on Trump and that they're not going to give any wiggle room with this candidate, nominee.

BRIGGS: And just to be clear, my point was that you could have Kennedy, Ginsburg, a number of justices could retire.

ROMANS: Absolutely.


ROMANS: Let's talk about the "L.A. Times," with this remarkable series of editorials, I think it's four. They had so much to complain bitterly about President Trump that they're rolling it out over four days and this is the "L.A. Times," but correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't they think that Trump could become president?

BRIGGS: They had the one poll that said he was going to win. In fact, President Trump even touted -- listen to what he said at CPAC about the "L.A. Times."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The polls, they come out with these polls and everybody was so surprised, actually a couple polls got it right, I mean, say the "Los Angeles Times," they did a great job. Shocking because, you know, they did a great job.


ROMANS: OK, so maybe the pollsters of the "L.A. Times" did a great job, but the editorial page is going to tear him apart. They have an editorial four parts, "Our dishonest president," and here's part of it, "What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is the man so unpredictable, reckless, petulant, full of blind self-regard, untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead us or how much damage he will do to our nation."

That's just one sentence. There's a whole bunch more just like that and they are going to be rolling it out over four days. Is he going to be tweeting out about "L.A. Times," the dishonest media, fake news?

SCOTT: I would be shock if he hasn't, if he wouldn't. I mean, he will definitely be frustrated by these arguments and disappointed by these arguments. The thing that's most remarkable about him -- I've read quite a bit what's up so far. They're really not new arguments.

They're arguments that people have been putting out since Trump entered the presidential race. What impact it will have just isn't really clear. It will just rehash the problems California voters have had with the president.

ROMANS: That's a good point. I think there are some on these editorial boards who thought he won and he spoke to people who did not have a voice and that's really real, that frustration is real and I think some of these media insiders, he would call them the media leaks, now he can pretend to be presidential. He can be the president that we want him to be, but he's not. He's the president he wants to be.

BRIGGS: But as brutal as that op-ed is, it doesn't hurt him with his core supporters, it actually strengthens his war on the media narrative, which is now going bicoastal. Tar Heel, we'll see you in about 30 minutes.

ROMANS: All right, the White House releasing financial disclosures of 180 staff members in details. Employee holdings as they entered the White House, one big discovery, former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, initially did not include thousands of dollars in speaking fees from three Russian companies.

[05:10:02]They were absent from the forms back in February just before he resigned. He did include them in a second filing. Now Flynn was paid to speak by Russia's state-funded television network for a speech in Moscow.

That is a television network intelligence officials say is a propaganda tool for Vladimir Putin. He's also paid by two other Russian companies for speaking engagements in the U.S. Flynn's lawyer says the first filing was a draft and he has filed extra paperwork since being fired.

The disclosures also show Ivanka Trump owns a large piece of the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Her stake is valued between $5 million and $25 million. It earned her up to $5 million of income in 2016.

These details came from her husband's disclosure. Lawyers say that Ivanka Trump will submit her paperwork later this month now that she is a White House employee. It is unclear if the Office of Government Ethics will require that she divest her interest in her hotel. But you know, the couple is worth something like $700 million, $740 million.

BRIGGS: Yes, that Washington hotel is certainly a focus.

President Trump meanwhile warning China to stop North Korea's nuclear ambitions, what's behind this tough talk? More on that next.



BRIGGS: President Trump meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, but he's already starting to set the table, warning China to get North Korea under control or the U.S. will do it alone.

For reaction from China, let's bring in CNN's Will Ripley live in Beijing. Good morning to you, Will. The president keep saying China can stop North Korea's nuclear program. How much influence do they really have? What's the United States' leverage?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sorry having some issues with the earpiece, but I will tell you that this tweet and now this interview that President Trump gave to the "Financial Times" queuing up this meeting with China is certainly -- well, it's not phasing the Chinese, let me put it that way.

They put out a statement a few hours ago, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, saying that during the overnight hours, Secretary of State Tillerson had a phone chat with China's top diplomat talking about the importance of this meeting between President Xi and President Trump.

And not mentioning at all any specific conversations about North Korea. We know that the United States believes that China holds the key to reigning in North Korea. They believe that China has economic leverage over the country that they have not utilized.

But remember the Bush administration also relied without success on China to solve the North Korea problem, which is why President Trump is saying that the U.S. is prepared to go it alone. What could that possibly mean?

It could mean that the United States would be willing to engage directly with North Korea, which is an approach that has never been tried before. Something that President Trump hinted that he might be willing to sit down with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un over a hamburger and have a conversation. It's something he said on the campaign trail.

Another option could be for the U.S. to punish Chinese companies that do business with North Korea so going around China and the U.S. doing its own enforcement through economic sanctions against Chinese banks and whatnot.

And then, of course, the third option and probably that least likely according to most analysts would be some sort of a military preemptive strike. The United States is not taking that off the table, but that would create a whole lot of problems on the Korean Peninsula.

It would really be a destabilizing event that could trigger potentially a catastrophic event given North Korea's sizable artillery very close to the city of Seoul and its growing nuclear arsenal as well -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Global focus on this meeting this week with President Xi. Will, thank you.

ROMANS: And we're so lucky to have Will. He has been I think ten times he's been to Pyongyang and he's there in Beijing right now.

OK, to basketball, just two teams left standing for the NCAA championship, North Carolina, a win away from number six, Gonzaga seeking its first title ever. How will it play out tonight? Andy Scholes with the preview in this morning's "Bleacher Report" that's next.



BRIGGS: Happy national championship day, everybody. We started with 68. We've got two left, Gonzaga or North Carolina, cut down the nets tonight.

ROMANS: And after that everyone can get back to work. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. You know, in terms of program history, tonight's game is David versus Goliath. Gonzaga has never played in the championship game before while North Carolina has been in it ten times winning five of them.

Tar Heels also have a much bigger fan base. North Carolina's yearly enrollment 29,000 compared to just 7,000 for Gonzaga. The underdog role is something that Gonzaga has embraced for nearly two decades. Our own Cory Wire spoke with coach.


MARK FEW, GONZAGA HEAD COACH: We're not on a one-year mission, we're on a 20-year mission, we've been trying like crazy to build this thing up to the point where we can get it done.

ROY WILLIAMS, NORTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH: You did it last year and turned right around and you've done it again. And so I did, I tried to congratulate them, I get a little cold chills myself, but about what an achievement they already have, but you know, somebody is going to win, why not let it be us.


SCHOLES: The tip-off from Arizona is a late one, 9:20 Eastern. The odds makers are calling this one a near even matchup, North Carolina just a one and a half point favorite.

All right, Mississippi State pulled off one of the greatest upsets in women's college basketball history over the weekend beating UConn in the final four, but they ran out of gas in the championship game losing to South Carolina 67-55.

This is the first even national championship for South Carolina, an extra special moment for their head coach, Don Daily (ph). He went to the final four three times with Virginia as a player, but never won it all.

All right, the world champion Chicago Cubs getting their title defense last night against the Cardinals, down three in the ninth, Wilson Contreras gets a hold of this one, the three-run shot ties the game, but in the bottom of the ninth, Randle Grichuk with the bases loaded. Cardinals beat the Cubs in the opener 4-3.

All right, finally, Giant's Ace Madison Bumgarner showing everyone that not all pitchers are an easy out. (Inaudible) becoming the first pitcher ever to hit not one, but two home runs on opening day. Too bad the Giants play in the national league or Bumgarner would be a great DA on his off days.

The Giants would go on to lose the game to the Diamondbacks. This really is one of the greatest sports week of the entire year. You got opening day for 24 teams today. The masters ramping up on Wednesday and of course, the National championship game tonight.

BRIGGS: Madison Bumgarner has got to DH. That swing is a thing of beauty.

SCHOLES: He needs to be a pinch hitter at least on his off days, right, Dave?

[05:25:10]BRIGGS: And it's Ana Cabrera against Kate Bolduan for the CNN brackets, but a great effort by Romans.

ROMANS: All right, thanks, guy. President Trump entering one of the most crucial weeks of his presidency, Supreme Court confirmation vote, meetings with three world leaders, one of them a very critical meeting with China. More on what the stakes next.


ROMANS: A critical week for President Trump starts today and the president is already putting China on notice to stop North Korea or the U.S. will.

BRIGGS: And today a crucial vote in the Senate on advancing Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour this April 3rd. Nice to see you all this morning.

BRIGGS: And you. ROMANS: President Trump this morning hoping for a reset after weeks of looming questions about Russia's alleged influence over his campaign.