Return to Transcripts main page


Tillerson Meets With Russian Foreign Minister; Spicer Draws Fire Comparing Assad To Hitler; United Airlines CEO Apologizes Again; White House Sends Warning To North Korea. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 12, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:15] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting with Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. This visit at a critical time as U.S. officials accuse Russia of a cover-up of Syria's use of chemical weapons.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And the Trump administration doing something it rarely does, issuing an apology after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made shocking comparisons between Adolph Hitler and Bashar al-Assad. The comments making a lot of people uncomfortable.

We'll get to that and the apology in a moment but first, I want to thank you for joining us on EARLY START this morning. I'm Boris Sanchez.

ROMANS: Nice to see you here, Boris. I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, April 12th. It is 30 minutes past the hour this morning and it's 12:30 in the afternoon in Moscow for a meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is now underway. Syria in the spotlight in Moscow. In opening remarks, Lavrov denouncing the U.S. missile strikes launched in response to the Syrian regime's chemical weapon attack on its own people. Lavrov calling it "fundamentally important" that there be no more U.S. strikes on Syria.

President Trump warning Vladimir Putin directly against backing Assad in this new interview.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person. And I think it's very bad for Russia, I think it's very bad for mankind, it's very bad for this world, but when you drop gas or bombs or barrel bombs -- they have these massive barrels with dynamite and they drop them right in the middle of a group of people. And in all fairness, you see the same kids with no arms, no legs, no face -- this is an animal.


ROMANS: For the latest, let's go live to CNN's Paula Newton in Moscow. What else are we hearing from this meeting between Sec. Tillerson and the Foreign Minister Lavrov?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Christine, the conciliatory tone right out of the window the minute that Sergey Lavrov started speaking. As you said, very, very harsh words and actually calling out Rex Tillerson and saying look, we have no idea what your stand is on Syria. We think that the U.S. policy, right now, continues to be a mystery, and that is how the meeting started.

Now, both sides agreed that it was -- the meeting was timely and that they wanted to have frank discussions, but we just heard from President Trump there. Vladimir Putin out with his own very harsh T.V. interview will be released in full later day but, basically, saying that look, we don't have any evidence about what happened on the ground in Syria that, you know, was in any way close to what you say happened. We think either the rebels are responsible for this chemical attack or, in Vladimir Putin's words, that it was faked.

Now, this interview will come out later today and it's the same one where Vladimir Putin accuses the United States and its allies, basically, nodding their heads like bobble heads just expecting -- basicallyparodying anything that the Pentagon is saying. All of this really not really good atmosphere for the meeting. One thing, though, that we have just learned,Christine, which is highly significant, is that the Kremlin now saying that a meeting between Rex Tillerson and Vladimir Putin is likely and so, we will wait for that in the next few hours.

ROMANS: Wow, a meeting is likely, all right. Thank you so much for that. Keep us posted if we get any new information. Thanks, Paula.

SANCHEZ: Back in the States, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in hot water today, repeatedly apologizing for comments he made Tuesday comparing Bashar al-Assad to Adolph Hitler. In cringeworthy comments, Spicer arguing that at least Hitler did not use chemical weapons, something that is not only factually incorrect but also offensive since Hitler, in fact, had millions of people, mostly Jews, murdered in gas chambers. Then as reporters pressed him, Spicer's successive attempts to clarify only dug the hole deeper.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, you had a -- you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to the -- to the -- to using chemical weapons. I think when you come to Sarin gas there was no -- he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. There was not in the -- he brought them into the Holocaust center and I understand that, but I'm saying in the way that Assad used them where he went into town, dropped them down to innocent -- into the middle of towns it was brought, so the use of it.


SANCHEZ: Rough. Finally, Spicer made, for what this White House is a rare straight-up apology on CNN's "SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer.


SPICER: I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week using chemical weapons and gas. But frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust for which, frankly, there is no -- there is no comparison and for that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.


[05:35:05] ROMANS: All right. We want to bring in a new face for EARLY START this morning. "Bloomberg News" White House reporter Shannon Pettypiece. Good morning. Thanks for joining us again this morning. So nice to see you bright and early. All the best people come on really early in the morning, you know? Get your day started, right? Let's talk a little bit about the Sean Spicer issue yesterday. I don't -- I don't want to relitigate it again but the first rule in politics is you don't compare the Holocaust to anything else. The Holocaust is the Holocaust.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Right, and the second rule, don't compare anyone to Hitler.


PETTYPIECE: You know, let's -- can -- you know, can we get that straight? And, you know, and someone should -- who should have known this. You know, Sean Spicer has been in Republican communications for a long time. This isn't someone who, you know, sort of stumbled into this job. And all of us in the White House press corps, we were, you know, taken aback by this.

After the press conference ended that was the first thing everyone said to each other was, did he really say that? We went back and looked at the transcript. Was that -- was that what just happened? And he issued a statement shortly after that didn't really apologize. It tried to back walk the statement. It wasn't until about four hours later that he actually came on CNN and gave a real clear I'm sorry, I'm apologizing, it's a mistake and I'm owning it.

SANCHEZ: And Shannon, we want to play some sound for you -- this meeting that's going on in Russia right now between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. I want to play for you his opening remarks just a few moments ago.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our meetings today come at an important moment in the relationship so that we can further clarify areas of common objectives, areas of common interests even with our tactical approaches may be different, and to further clarify areas of sharp difference so that we can better understand why these differences exist and what the prospects for narrowing those differences may be.


SANCHEZ: Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, did not take that diplomatic of a tone with the United States. At one point, a Russian foreign minister said that the American position on Syria was a mystery to the Russians. Do you that's because over the past couple of days we've seen this administration give mixed messages when it comes to the fate of Bashar al-Assad? Is it time for them to get very specific when it comes to their goals in Syria?

PETTYPIECE: Yes, I think the president's position on Syria is a mystery to, you know, many members of Congress, probably people -- viewers watching right now. The president said he's not going to telegraph what he's going to do, you know. He's not going to put out there his strategy for the world to see but there are certain people who need to know his strategy. And, you know, Russia needs to understand, our allies need to understand and I don't know if that's been clearly articulated yet.

The president does have a press conference today and -- you know, with the head of NATO, and so that's an opportunity where he could really clearly publicly state his position on this issue and give a little bit of clarity to everyone.

ROMANS: The president in that interview with "FOX NEWS," calling Assad an animal, saying it's sad that anybody would support him. But when you look at the long relationship between Syria and Russia it is -- you know, I mean, Russia's going to be involved in Syria long after the United States is.

PETTYPIECE: Right, yes, and I think the geopolitical dynamics of Syria are much more complex than the -- you know, the -- some in the administration, at least, initially realized. Someone compared it yesterday saying that Syria makes Iraq look like Switzerland when you look at ISIS and Russia and the Syrian government and the other Arab countries involved in this. It's a very complicated, very touchy area and they're going to have to tread very lightly and thoughtfully there.

SANCHEZ: Now, Shannon, shifting gears to something that "Bloomberg" reported yesterday that came out of the G7 meeting that Rex Tillerson said, a controversial remark where he asked the other G7 leaders why American taxpayers should care about the Ukraine. Obviously, there's a lot of implications when it comes to his meeting in Russia today about the Ukraine and the American policy there. A spokesperson for the State Department was asked what he meant by that after and the response was it was a rhetorical device, but what message was he trying to send by saying that?

PETTYPIECE: Yes. You know, it was one of those statements that raised a lot of eyebrows and, again, I don't know if the intentional strategy is to keep everyone on their toes to, you know, have this approach of you don't know where we're going to go so you have to, you know -- you know, you can't predict us, if that's the approach they're going for. But, I mean, whether it's North Korea, China, you know, now Russia, Ukraine, Syria, the international community is really looking for some clarity. Even our allies are seeking more clarity and they're not getting it at this point on a lot of fronts.

ROMANS: All right. Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter, "Bloomberg News."

SANCHEZ: Thanks for waking up early for us.

ROMANS: Thanks for getting up early for us. Nice to see you this morning. Have a great day.

[05:40:00] SANCHEZ: Well, we've been talking about this for two days now and United Airlines has apologized for a third time after this unsettling video comes out of a passenger being dragged off his airplane. We have new details, next.


SANCHEZ: United Airlines cannot seem to wake up from this public relations nightmare. The airline's CEO has apologized yet again for this passenger that got dragged off a sold out United flight so that crew members on standby could make their trip from Chicago to Louisville. Chief Executive Oscar Munoz saying, "I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right." This is a shift from the first apology that he put out.

[05:45:00] Now, the passenger identified as Dr. David Dao is being treated at a Chicago hospital. His attorney says that he appreciates the outpouring of support. Rene Marsh has more for us now.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Boris, United Airlines CEO sent out his third message and Oscar Munoz finally got his tone right. But it took two days of viral video and fierce outrage from just about everyone who saw that video before the airline made a direct apology to the passenger who was dragged off of that oversold United Airlines flight on Sunday. He called it "truly horrific" and pledged a thorough review of how the airline handles oversold flights and how it works with law enforcement. He said the review would be completed by April 30th.

Now, this new statement comes after Munoz doubled down in an email sent to employees actually defending the flight crew and calling the passenger disruptive and belligerent. And in Munoz' first statement, he only apologized for having to reaccommodate passengers. This has been a disaster for the airline. The press office has not really been responsive and today lawmakers are demanding the Department of Transportation launch an investigation. We know that the agency said that is was reviewing the incident to determine if the passenger's rights were violated. Back to you.


ROMANS: All right, thanks, Rene. You know, the P.R. nightmare for United has a price tag, a quarter of a billion dollars. That's a hit to the value of the company in the stock market yesterday. The airline's stock was down about four percent during trading. It could have been even worse. Early in the day, $1 billion was knocked off the company's market cap. By late afternoon the stock had recovered from the worst levels. Shares are currently down about four-tenths of a percent in premarket.

All right, let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY" this morning. Alisyn Camerota joins us. Good morning.

SANCHEZ: Good morning.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Hey, guys, good morning. There are some mornings that so much has happened I don't even know where to begin, and this is one of those because as you know, right now at this hour, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russia's foreign leader Sergey Lavrov are meeting. There's all sorts of headlines already coming out of their talk and their meeting so we will be bringing you all of those developments as well as what it means for U.S.-Russian relations.

And then, there's still fallout from that ugly scene onboard that United Airlines flight. Now, the CEO is releasing yet another statement, this one more of an apology. So we're going to have Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on because he thinks that he has a solution for how to keep this from happening to any other passenger, ever. We're going to talk to him about all the fallout.

ROMANS: Interesting, all right.

SANCHEZ: A lot of stuff to get to, Alisyn, not to mention Sean Spicer's comments from yesterday. We look forward to "NEW DAY" --

CAMEROTA: And there's that.

SANCHEZ: -- yes -- later on today.

ROMAN: Oh yes, and there's that. All right, and there's this. The president issuing a stark warning to North Korea that the U.S. is sending an armada to the region. We'll go to Seoul, next.


[05:52:10] ROMANS: President Trump sending a warning to North Korea after Pyongyang threatened a nuclear attack on the U.S. for any "reckless acts of aggression."


TRUMP: We're sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. And we have the best military people on earth. And I will say this, he is doing the wrong thing.


ROMANS: All right, let's go to CNN international correspondent Paula Hancocks in Seoul. These are provocative statements back and forth between President Trump and North Korea. What is the response where you are?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, it's interesting. On the streets of Seoul you really wouldn't know that this is going on. The South Koreans have been going through this for decades. Of course, they're technically at war with their northern neighbor but, of course, the officials are more concerned. They are happy to see that there is more U.S. military hardware coming to the region. The USS Carl Vinson should be arriving in Korean waters at any time now it is expected and that is something that South Korea and Japan is pleased about.

Now, we know that President Trump also had a phone call with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping. We know they talked about North Korea. China still wanting the U.S. to negotiate for peace on the Korean Peninsula but as we've been hearing from U.S. officials it is not the time for talks. And we are hearing an increase in the rhetoric we often do from the North Korean side but, of course, we are also hearing that increase in rhetoric from President Trump at this point, as well.

But certainly, South Korean officials I've spoken to -- a former national security adviser -- says that they are happy to hear that all options are on the table and they're also happy that there is military hardware arriving at the same time that that is being said so that it does show Pyongyang that these threats are credible -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Paula, thank you for that. Keep us posted on any developments. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: President Trump raising eyebrows and some new questions about Steve Bannon's future this morning with comments he made about his chief strategist. When asked by the "New York Post" about the tense relationship between Bannon and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who's also a top aide, the president said, "I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn't know Steve. I am my own strategist. Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will."

ROMANS: Republicans in North Carolina still reeling from the bathroom bill controversy are now -- they're not entertaining another controversy. Three Republican lawmakers have filed House bill 780, also called the Uphold Historical Marriage Act, in an effort to somehow outlaw same-sex marriage. They claim the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds by ruling those marriages legal nationwide. The lawmakers say that if their bill passes, same-sex marriages either -- whether officiated in or out of the state would be invalidated.

[05:55:10] SANCHEZ: There are cooler temperatures coming for the Northeast, just in time for the holiday weekend and just in time for me to get back to Miami. Let's get to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Boris and Christine. Pretty widespread coverage here of seventies and eighties all over, though still well above norm for this time of year. St. Louis with 75 degrees and that's high pressure building right there over the next couple of days. But notice, there is a front that's skirting across the Southeast all the way around parts of the Mid- Atlantic into the Northeast. It will bring in with it some showers and the big difference here are going to be the cooler temperatures. From the eighties to the seventies for New York City. From the mid- eighties to the sixties in Boston. Even Washington made it up to 84, 77 today.

So still above normal, still very comfortable, but could include some clouds and some showers with this later this afternoon as the front comes by. But again, really not a washout. The best we're seeing here, generally about one-quarter of an inch to half an inch as far as rainfall is concerned. Again, just a light go-around of rainfall.

But notice 19 record temperatures even tied -- either tied or set yesterday across the Northeast and again, in no such way -- in any way records for this afternoon. You notice we cool it off again into the seventies for New York City and then eventually by this Sunday we get one more rebound back into the eighties here before cooler weather but still above normal returns for Monday afternoon next week in New York -- guys.


ROMANS: All right, that's your weather. Here's your money this morning. Taking a look at stock futures, they're pointing higher. Investors awaiting the start of corporateearnings reports. They're expected to be strong. We're going to be hearing from banks today. That's going to be really critical to the health of the market. Stock markets in Europe and Asia are mixed right now.

President Trump touting the number of jobs he says he has created as he was at this meeting with top CEOs at the White House yesterday.


TRUMP: I've created over 600,000 jobs already in a very short period of time and it's going to really start catching on.


ROMANS: Not quite. Three hundred seventeen thousand jobs have been created since Trump took office. We track these things with "CNNMONEY" Trump jobs tracker. Our figures include how many jobs the Labor Market reported were created in February and March. The White House explains Trump is including all the jobs added in January as well. If you add that in then you've got about 533,000 jobs, so not quite there. You know, the president has misstated job statistics many times exaggerating the jobless rate and he falsely claims that people who stop looking for work are counted as having a job. That's just not true. You can track along those claims with us at Ridesharing company Lyft is flying high. The company says it has

raised a fresh $600 billion from investors. The new funding bumps up Lyft's valuation to $7.5 billion, still far short of competitor Uber's estimated worth of $68 billion. The news comes as Uber's ethics and company culture are being sharply criticized. Lyft says it saw a 60 percent increase in new passenger sign-ups the week after that #deleteuber movement began.

So there you go, watching those there this morning. I think the markets are going to be a little bit -- you know, they're not -- they haven't been really forging forward lately.


ROMANS: I think they're waiting for tax reform, health care reform, and these other infrastructure reforms.

SANCHEZ: There's just been a bit of a slowdown, right?

ROMANS: Right.


ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Boris Sanchez. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


TRUMP: Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rex Tillerson face-to-face with his Russian counterpart.

TILLERSON: The Russian government have aligned themselves to an unreliable partner.

JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the attacks.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Quit having your head in the sand. Putin's a war criminal, Assad's a war criminal. They're birds of a feather.

SPICER: Someone as despicable as Hitler didn't even sink to using chemical weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if he needs to be fired. He certainly does need to get better at his job.

SPICER: It was a mistake. I shouldn't have done it.

ROMANS: That P.R. nightmare for United has a price tag, a quarter of a billion dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: United Airlines is tail spinning. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, April 12th, 6:00 here in New York.

And we do have some breaking news because at this hour Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart are meeting and that is generating a lot of headlines, so we will bring you those. Also, there is a possibility of Rex Tillerson meeting with Vladimir Putin, we've just learned. The White House accuses the Kremlin of helping Bashar al-Assad cover up that chemical attack.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And we have major developments in the Russian interference investigation. Exclusive reporting that shows a very different conclusion about surveillance than what Devin Nunes tried to sell and a big blow to Trump's claim that Obama officials broke the law unmasking individuals. Also, an exclusive new report about one of Trump's campaign aides being investigated as a possible Russian agent.

A big day 83 of the Trump presidency. We have it all covered. Let's begin with Michelle Kosinski live in Moscow.