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North Korea Launches Projectile Into Ocean Off Korean Coast; Deadly Chemical Attack In Syria; McConnell Starts Clock On Nuclear Option; Companies Dump Ads On "The O'Reilly Factor." Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 5, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:40] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A White House official says all options are on the table with North Korea and Pyongyang launches a new projectile, anyway. We have the details and the unusual response from the U.S. Secretary of State.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And there's growing anger around the world after a suspected chemical attack that left dozens dead in Syria. The blame game escalates here. Why is the White House pointing the finger at President Obama?

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

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. A major foreign policy test for President Trump this week. It is 31 minutes past the hour. The White House facing renewed threats on two fronts this morning from two of the world's most serious trouble spots. A new launch from North Korea and a suspected chemical attack targeting civilians in Syria.

First, North Korea, which fired a big projectile into the waters off its coast. The U.S. believes it was mostly likely a ballistic missile. This, just ahead of President Trump's Florida summit with Chinese President Xi.

ROMANS: The launch came just moments after a senior White House official issued a dire warning about North Korea's nuclear program, declaring "The clock has now run out and all options are on the table." For the latest we want to bring in CNN's Matt Rivers, live for us in Beijing. Good morning, Matt. Bring us up to speed on, I guess, the concern about this particular missile launch.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Well, and we are hearing from the Chinese for the first time this afternoon, saying that this launch clearly violates U.N. resolutions and that they reject any notion that the North Koreans launched this missile ahead and in response to the upcoming meeting between presidents Trump and Xi set for later this week in Florida.

But as for this missile, it's the second intermediate range ballistic missile that U.S. and South Korea defense officials believe the North Koreans have launched so far this year. And what makes these two launches -- these two missiles different is the way they're being launched as opposed to previous iterations. These are intermediate- range missiles that are launched from the back of trucks. That means that they are mobile. They can be hidden easier and they are harder to detect because they can be launched on short notice, so the North Koreans are making progress.

That said, this is not a missile that can reach the United States. This is not an intercontinental ballistic missile, something the North Koreans are working on, and it is not a nuclear test, something that they have done five times before that experts were suspecting might happen sometime soon. So progress being made but, perhaps, not as serious of a test as many were expecting, Christine.

ROMANS: So Matt, reaction from the U.S. to this launch was interesting. The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, he issued this abrupt statement. "North Korea launched yet another intermediate- range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment." A lot of people wondering what he means by this. Is this a way of denying Kim Jong Un anymore oxygen, anymore reaction -- you know, anymore headlines after his saber rattling?

RIVERS: Well, the Trump administration says it wants to deal with North Korea differently than past administrations and this is a different sort of statement. One expert I spoke to here in Beijing said maybe this is the administration's way of not taking the bait from North Korea.


RIVERS: This is the kind of missile launch that, frankly, we have seen before and that the administration doesn't want to give the attention that the North Koreans are seeking. Two senior U.S. officials told CNN that the statement wasn't meant to be provocative, it was just meant to send a message that the U.S. isn't going to respond in-kind every single time the North Koreans do something.

That said, the Trump administration has not given any detail on how it plans to deal with North Korea specifically, and critics will say that this is the most tense situation in the world. To be vague in your wording when it comes to this kind of diplomacy is really playing a dangerous game with the North Koreans, Christine.

ROMANS: It certainly raises the stakes at the meeting with the Chinese President Xi on Thursday, no question. All right, thanks so much for that, Matt Rivers, in Beijing for us.

BRIGGS: And now to Syria where a suspected chemical weapon attack killed at least 70 people, at least 10 children. The pictures we'll be showing are incredibly difficult to look at so a warning if you need to leave the room or children to leave the room, you have a moment.

Overnight, Russia backed up Syria's claim the rebels are responsible despite global leaders blaming the Assad regime. The U.N. Security Council takes up the massacre in an emergency session today. For the latest let's bring in CNN's Muhammad Lila, live for us. Muhammad, Rex Tillerson saying about this, "Anyone who uses chemical weapons to attack his own people shows a fundamental disregard for human decency and must be held accountable." What are the Syrians saying about this attack?

[05:35:20] MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Syrians are effectively saying that it wasn't their fault. They're backed up by a statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry today saying that Syrian airstrikes targeted a chemical weapons depot, a storage facility, and in the process of targeting that storage facility that's how this chemical weapon was released into the air and that's how so many people died.

Now, that's the Russian and the Syrian version of events but we know there is a very loud and growing international chorus of condemnation against the Syrian government for what happened. Just a short time ago the secretary general of the United Nations coming out very openly, stopping short of blaming one side or the other but pointing out very clearly that yesterday's attack amounts to a war crime and a complete violation of international law. So now what we have is the U.N. secretary general with a very condemnatory tone.

We have leaders in the U.K., in France, and, of course, in the United States blaming the Syrian government for what happened, and this all comes on the heels of this emergency United Nations Security Council meeting that's supposed to take place this morning. We understand there's going to be a draft resolution put forward that aims to put limits on the Syrian government. Specifically, aims to demand an international investigation asking for things like potential flight logs or proof that the Syrian government wasn't behind this, and if it is proved that they were behind it there could be very serious consequences -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Indeed, there should be. Muhammad Lila live in Istanbul. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, let's break down the politics of these conflicts. I want to bring in Zach Wolf, managing editor of "CNN POLITICS DIGITAL," live in Washington this morning. And it's inevitable that young presidencies are tested by international events and you learn a lot about an administration and its priorities by how they respond.

I want to first read a "Washington Post" editorial on the president and the challenge he has now, with Syria in particular. "The horrific assault Tuesday on a rebel-held town will test whether President Trump will tolerate flagrant crimes against humanity by the Assad regime. So far, the signs are not good. It is Mr. Trump's turn to decide whether to stand up to Mr. Assad and his Iranian and Russian sponsors. So far he is ducking."

In fact, the response from this president has been to blame Barack Obama, his predecessor, for what he says is allowing a red line to be crossed and not doing anything about it, but what is the Trump administration going to do? That's what we don't know yet, right Zach?

ZACH WOLF, MANAGING EDITOR, "CNN POLITICS DIGITAL": That's right and it -- we should note it comes just a few days after they signaled a new willingness to essentially deemphasizing getting Assad out as a priority of the U.S. and focusing instead on ISIS. So, you know, you can -- you can see -- you can feel the sea change here on Syria policy between these two administrations. And it's interesting, I think, that they keep looking back at the Obama administration. That's something I think, in the future, they're going to have to stop doing as events progress forward.

BRIGGS: And to your point, here is that statement from the White House yesterday. "These heinous actions by the Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 he would establish a red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing." Does this, Zach, undermine the whole use of any red line with any administration?

WOLF: Well, you know, the entire problem with the Obama administration is that when they drew a red line and then they were unable to sort of follow through --


WOLF: -- in doing anything about it, it sort of speaks to if you're going to say something you have to, you know, put your words behind it. At the same time, you know, if you have chemical weapons killing children throughout the Middle East, that's a -- that's a huge problem that, you know, demands world attention.

ROMANS: In the meantime, I wouldn't say that the Trump administration has drawn a red line on North Korea but it has really sort of changed the tone and changed the language this week on North Korea before this launch when it said, you know, hey, you know, we're going to fix this ourselves if China doesn't do it. China has the ability to do this.

This is what Rex Tillerson said about North Korea. And interesting, also, a brand new sea change in the language from the State Department. "North Korea launched yet another intermediate-range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment." Well, what does that mean?

WOLF: Exactly. I think you can -- you can draw from that what you will. Is he being intentionally provocative of the North Koreans? Is he trying to frustrate them somehow or is this really a message to China? President Trump meets with the Chinese leader later this week. Is this a message to them that they have to step up and take more of a role here?

BRIGGS: So major foreign politics to test for this administration but, domestically, it seems to the focus remains on health care despite the failed attempt the first time around, Zach. So now you've got the White House meeting with the House Freedom Caucus. Also, the Tuesday, the moderate group in the House. Where is this headed? Do you think they can get something on paper before the recess?

[05:40:10] WOLF: Well, I'm not going to believe they can get votes for anything until I see something on paper and we haven't seen that, so count me amongst the skeptical that they can, you know, thread this needle this time around. But, you know, don't overlook the idea of a little pressure from constituents back home. Failure might end up being the, you know, the thing they needed to get this going.

ROMANS: We're back to, I guess, on the table, getting rid of the essential health benefits. We're back to even this preexisting condition thing --

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: -- that states would have an ability to opt out of the preexisting -- that would be health care that would look nothing like Obamacare and the whole point of health care reform in the first place.

WOLF: That's right, and if -- once you start moving in that direction, the things that make the health care reform more palatable to those Republicans members in the House makes it less palatable to some of the moderate members in the Senate. I just don't see how the math has changed here yet.

ROMANS: The president is still interested in talking about and working on it, isn't he?

BRIGGS: One of the consequences of a second health care failure, let us know @EarlyStart. Zach Wolf, thank you, sir. We appreciate it.

WOLF: Thanks.

BRIGGS: The clock is ticking down to a vote that could change the Senate forever. Democrats, even at 5:40 in the morning, doing all they can to stop the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch. Yes, Jeff Merkley still going this morning, almost 12 hours.


[05:45:45] ROMANS: One of the top bankers at the Federal Reserve abruptly stepping down. Jeffrey Lacker was the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond for the past 13 years. He resigned after admitting he shared confidential information with a financial firm -- a financial advisory firm back in 2012. He has since been questioned by several law enforcement agencies. No charges are expected.

An incredibly rare situation here. Lacker apologized in a statement issued by his lawyer. The leak occurred as the Fed was taking extraordinary steps to revive the U.S. economy after the financial crisis. Its every move was being watched closely around the globe, especially by investors trying to profit from finding out the specifics of the Fed's actions.

As for today, stock futures are flat. Wow, that's a whole lot of nothing going on. Investors are waiting on Friday's jobs reports. They'll be watching the health care talks closely for any clues about what it means for tax reform.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell starting the clock on the nuclear option in the showdown over Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch. Right now, Democrats have the 41 votes they need to filibuster to block a full vote on the Gorsuch nomination. Senator McConnell has now scheduled a vote for tomorrow to test that filibuster. As Democrats hold the line, McConnell plans to declare filibusters of Supreme Court nominees can be stopped with 51 votes instead of 60.

BRIGGS: McConnell needs a majority of the Senate support to make that happen so Vice President Pence will be standing by to break a potential tie it not all 52 Senate Republicans support the nuclear option. A full Senate vote is expected Friday.

ROMANS: (Video playing) And there's still Jeff Merkley on the floor still talking. He -- before he took the floor yesterday he tweeted that this was a stolen seat and if this theft was allowed to go through it would perpetuate a crime against the Supreme Court for decades.

BRIGGS: He's been going 11 hours. He just tweeted, in fact, that refusing to consider Merrick Garland was the real nuclear detonation. So they are all in on stopping Neil Gorsuch.

ROMANS: Or it's a publicity stunt.

BRIGGS: Yes, that's exactly what it is and it cannot possibly work.

ROMANS: Well, you know, they have -- they're making a stand, I suppose, for the base, making a stand for their donors, making a stand for --

BRIGGS: Some might argue playing the short game --

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: -- or ignoring the long game.

ROMANS: A stunning prediction from an influential Democrat on the House Intel Committee. Congressman Joaquin Castro telling CNN some key players in the Trump camp could be in big trouble for their contacts with Russia. Castro's comments coming after Democrats were briefed on intelligence reports that their embattled chairman, Devin Nunes, reviewed at the White House two weeks ago. I want you to listen for yourself to Congressman Castro sounding this warning to the Trump administration.


REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: My impression is I wouldn't be surprised after all of this is said and done that some people end up in jail.


ROMANS: That's a big charge.

BRIGGS: Yes, that is major. We are told the House Intel Committee has agreed to call FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers back to testify again. No date has been scheduled. Perhaps they can dial down the rhetoric on this one in the days ahead.

ROMANS: All right. The Department of Homeland Security targeting planes coming from eight Muslim-majority nations for additional screening at U.S. airports. The TSA is using dogs and bomb detection equipment to screen luggage in the cargo hold on flights arriving from the same Middle Eastern and North African countries covered in a ban on large electronics announced last month. Fourteen U.S. airports are affected -- JFK in New York, O'Hare in Chicago, LAX in Los Angeles, and many others. Those are just some of them.Interesting -- the same eight countries. You wonder what that intelligence is behind all of that.

BRIGGS: We sure would like to know.

ROMANS: Twenty-one companies pulling out from "The O'Reilly Factor" as Fox News deals with advertiser blowback following reports of sexual harassment settlements involving Bill O'Reilly. Our senior media correspondent Brian Stelter drops by.


[05:53:40] ROMANS: All right. A growing advertiser revolt at Fox News. A long list of companies pulling commercials from "The O'Reilly Factor" amid a scandal involving the host, Bill O'Reilly. It stems from a report claiming there have been five settlements with women who alleged sexual harassment or verbal abuse by O'Reilly. CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" Brian Stelter joins us now. These advertisers don't want their brands affiliate with Bill O'Reilly who is arguably one of the most successful people in cable news.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the highest-rated host on cable news. He has a million more viewers than anybody else on the Fox News channel on normal nights, so that's a premium place for advertisers.

But a lot of these kind of A-list or blue chip companies are saying they don't want to be associated with the program right now. These are companies like BMW and Hyundai. I can see the list here. About 20 advertisers that have told CNN they have pulled their ads for now. There's more companies that have also done so but not said so publicly. We'll see if this number grows today. You know, this time yesterday the number was two advertisers, now it's 20, so at least in the short-term --


STELTER: -- this is a problem for O'Reilly and Fox.

ROMANS: It started with a couple of car companies, I noticed. The car companies are saying, you know, look, we want to appeal to everyone and that's our mission, and then suddenly it spiraled into some of these other companies, too. BRIGGS: Right, right. So, you've told us, though, they're not necessarily pulling their ads from Fox, they're -- it's a shell game. They're moving them to other programming on the network.

[05:55:05] STELTER: Right, right.

BRIGGS: So given the context that, again, Billy Bush doesn't have a job but Donald Trump has the most important job in the world, can Bill O'Reilly survive this?

STELTER: You could make the case that O'Reilly is the Donald Trump of Fox News. That he is this unique figure. That people certainly look past his off-camera or off-air behavior. Some of this had been known in the past, others -- other settlements are new, reported by "The New York Times" over the weekend. O'Reilly says all these claims are meritless but his reputation was not a shock to some of his colleagues inside Fox. This was not a total surprise. So, when you think about what viewers know or care about this is something that I think is more a P.R. problem for the Murdochs -- for the family that runs Fox -- more so than a viewer issue. Viewers are not leaving O'Reilly because of this controversy.

ROMANS: Well, it's not in a vacuum. I mean, that's the thing if this were just this issue. But you have Gretchen Carlson who left the network. You have Roger Ailes who lost his job at the network. I mean, there's something going on there or has been.

STELTER: Well, what makes it really interesting is that there's a federal investigation underway here in New York. The Southern District of New York is looking into whether Fox was doing anything improper with the settlement payments with the Roger Ailes scandal. So, Ailes resigned last summer amid sexual harassment allegations.

ROMANS: Hiding them from shareholders and hiding them -- hiding them in the --

STELTER: Well, right.

ROMANS: -- in the books.

STELTER: Did the company not do enough to disclose these settlement payments? So that's going on. There's agrand jury that's been empaneled. There are reports that there was testimony being taken this week, so there's that front. And then there's new lawsuits from staffers at Fox allegedly racial discrimination and new lawsuits against Ailes, even though he resigned last summer, alleging harassment. So there are all these different fires that Fox is having to contend with right now. Some of them are semi-related to each other but when you take them all together it's a real problem for the company.

BRIGGS: So, from advertisers pulling their spots on O'Reilly to widespread calls for an advertiser, Pepsi, to explain what was going on with this 10-minute Jenner ad.

STELTER: Oh, please. BRIGGS: This thing --

ROMANS: It broke the internet.

BRIGGS: -- is erupting on social media, trending for about 24 hours. Explain the backlash here --

ROMANS: Yes, look at the ad --

BRIGGS: -- and the ad.

ROMANS: -- and tell us what in the world is going on here.

STELTER: This is Kendall Jenner beginning her brand new Pepsi sponsorship. She's the big new spokesperson for the brand. But she's in this ad sort of walking through a protest, then showing up, handing a Pepsi to a police officer, bringing everybody together, showing how the soda brand can unify the whole world.

You can see, maybe, how in the conceptual meetings this sounded really smart but the backlash on the internet has been so fierce, suggesting that a soda brand can bring together everybody and heal social justice issues. "Black Lives Matter" activists feel they are -- that they're movement is being appropriated and exploited by Pepsi. And I would say there's an almost 100 percent universal criticism of this ad.

BRIGGS: Total unification on this one.

STELTER: Pepsi has brought the world together by everyone hating on this --

ROMANS: I watched it --

STELTER: -- ad. It's remarkable.

ROMANS: I watched it on Lemon's panel last night. They played the ad and everyone was just speechless. They just laughed and they were speechless.

STELTER: And sometimes there's some cynicism saying oh, maybe that's what Pepsi wants. They want us to stop talking about it. No, I don't -- I don't think in that case this is --

BRIGGS: They succeeded in that regard, right? I mean, it got shared --

STELTER: You could say they did.

BRIGGS: -- it's saturation.

STELTER: It did, yes, but I think it's so uncomfortable to see the ad and I think now it's associated in a very negative light so let's see if it actually airs much.

BRIGGS: All right, let us know what you think about the Pepsi ad @EarlyStart on Twitter. Brian Stelter, great job today. ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Thanks for joining us.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, April 5th, 6:00 here in New York.

And the breaking news we begin with is that President Trump is facing international crises in Syria and now North Korea. North Korea firing another ballistic missile, this one just a day before Trump is set to meet with China's president. The White House reaction confusing at best. A dire warning from the White House, the clock has run out. All options are on the table. But then an odd 23-word statement from the Secretary of State saying nothing.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump White House also facing tough questions about the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The evidence points to his regime carrying out the worst chemical attack in years, killing dozens of people including children. It's a very busy day -- day 76 of the Trump presidency. We have it all covered for you. Let's being with senior international correspondent Ivan Watson, live in Seoul with all of the breaking details on the missile launch -- Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. This is a missile launch from North Korea interpreted very much as a provocation not only against U.S. President Trump but also against the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, since both leaders are due to sit down for the first time for a sit-down meeting at Trump's golf resort in Florida on Thursday.

Now, the U.S. military says that this was a medium-range land-based missile that was launched from the North Korean submarine port of Sinpo.