Return to Transcripts main page


Secretary Rex Tillerson Meets with Russian Leaders; President Trump's Many Reversals from Key Campaign Promises; North Carolina Introduces Boycott Bill; Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 13, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:03] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A series of significant policy shifts coming at a rapid pace from President Trump. Big changes on key issues including Russia, NATO, China. His new outlook and what it all means right now.

Good morning and thanks for getting EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs. Flip-flopping goes back to the late 1800. This is nothing new in the White House or in U.S. politics.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Flip-flopping or real politics. You get in.

BRIGGS: Right. You learn.

ROMANS: And conditions on the ground mean there are a different set of facts to work with.

I'm Christine Romans, it's Thursday, April 13th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. So let's talk about this stunning display of political acrobatics from President Trump. In a matter of hours, he performed at least three back flips. Flipping away from the stances that performed -- formed, rather, the bedrock of his campaign. He took the most skeptical position yet on Russia just hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with the Russian president.

BRIGGS: Mr. Trump also performed the complete reversal on NATO proclaiming its new relevance, as he stood alongside NATO's secretary- general and a sudden twist on China with the president suddenly full of praise for President Xi, hoping for his help in dealing with North Korea. More on those reversals in a moment.

ROMANS: President Trump's abrupt turn on Russia echoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's frosty tone following meetings in Moscow with President Putin and his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Lavrov, Tillerson offered this assessment.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I express the view that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point and there is a low-level of trust between our two countries. The world's foremost two nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.


ROMANS: For more on the fallout from Tillerson's visit, I want to bring in CNN's Paula Newton. She has been, as you know, the last few days for us live in Moscow, sort of walking us through these very important meetings.

Paula, if we're at this low, low level, the question is, how do they dig out of it?


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that is the question, isn't it? I mean, look, they both said that they had -- both sides said we had frank, candid discussions and that is how this begins to take place. I mean, everybody put aside the pleasantries. They each looked at each other and really put in on the table.

Sergey Lavrov, really, though, setting the tone in the beginning of those meetings. You know, coming in and basically blasting Rex Tillerson saying look, these airstrikes are not legal, you have no idea who perpetrated the chemical attacks. We want more proof. And then he even chided in and saying, we don't even know who to talk to at the State Department because you haven't hired people in the proper positions yet.

What was really interesting here, though, was the meeting, two hours, very substantive, between Vladimir Putin and Rex Tillerson. We are waiting now a Kremlin spokesman to tell us a little bit more about what went on during that meeting but you can bet they tried to get to the bottom line positions that each side has on Syria.

You know, what's so interesting, Christine, is whether or not they would have brought up issues like a ceasefire. Humanitarian corridors. Any kind of no fly zones. These have all been incredibly difficult decisions to deal with. While all of this was going on in Moscow at the U.N. heated words again between the ambassadors from both Russia and the United States. Nikki Haley putting on the table, a draft resolution asking Russia to vote to condemn those chemical strikes in Syria, is again vetoed it.

What's maybe more interesting, Christine, is that China abstained. And Donald Trump taking the opportunity to say, look, Russia should read into that, that we will isolate them on this issue. We continue to find tune we are trying to do this so that we can nudge them away from Assad regime.

ROMANS: All right. Paula, keep us posted on any new developments. Thank you.

BRIGGS: Overnight, CNN learning that U.S. military and intelligence officials intercepted communications between Syria's military and chemical experts discussing preparations for last week's Sarin gas attack in Idlib.

A U.S. official says those intercepts have helped confirm Syria's role in the deadly bombing. We are told the U.S. did not have prior knowledge of the attack. And so far no intelligence intercepts show Russian military or intelligence officials communicating about this chemical attack.

ROMANS: All right. Joining us to discuss the president's U-turn, CNN political reporter Tal Kopan live in Washington this morning.

You know, I have to say when you get into the office of the presidency and you are sitting next to, you know, NATO leaders and you're sitting next to the Chinese president and your -- you know, your secretary of State is in Russia, it is normal the conditions are different than on a campaign trail but this is pretty stunning, I mean, the things that he ran on he's now running away from.

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. You know, the line we're getting from the White House is that circumstances change, so their position is that he's not necessarily flip-flopping or reversing but he's adapting to situations on the ground. You know, of course, folks who've been paying attention to some of these issues a long time would say not really that much has changed except that Donald Trump has taken the seat at the White House and is now sort of more exposed to some of these issues.

[05:05:06] You know, on Syria there were certainly chemical weapons attacks that the U.S. had accused the Syrian government of conducting before that, you know, outraged sensibility so it's interesting to watch as President Trump sort of adapt as he would say to the situation, but you're right, campaigning is very different than governing and we are getting a crash course in that right now.

BRIGGS: Especially when you're talking about someone who's a private citizen versus someone who was a congressman.

ROMANS: Right. Right.

BRIGGS: Or a governor or a Cabinet member, and they are used to intelligence briefings. But you could argue, with Syria, with Russia, with China, the White House says circumstances change, but with NATO that's a little more difficult to argue. Here is what President Trump said as a candidate and what he's saying now with regards to NATO.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Number one, NATO is obsolete. Number two, the countries in NATO are not paying their fair share. It's obsolete and we pay too much money. NATO is obsolete. In my opinion NATO is obsolete. So here's the problem with NATO, it's obsolete. NATO is obsolete. It was 67 years or it's over 60 years old. It is -- many countries doesn't cover terrorism.

I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete.


ROMANS: NATO has been fighting terrorism for at least a decade. BRIGGS: Donald Trump has changed, right? But has NATO changed?

KOPAN: Well, yes, didn't you hear? He fixed it.


KOPAN: But, you know, one of the interesting things was that, you know, Stoltenberg standing next to President Trump didn't necessarily refute anything that President Trump said. He certainly let Trump claim a victory if he wants to go ahead and claim some sort of victory here rather than just admit it's a complete change in position, but if you listen to his opening remarks he actually talked about, you know, going to Arlington Cemetery and laying a wreath, sort of in memoriam, to soldiers who lost their life in Afghanistan, which is a subtle way of saying we have been fighting this fight for a very long time before your presidency so that was in there and, you know, it again when you take office when the president sees how much NATO is actually essential to our military posture overseas, it's impossible to not say it is no longer obsolete and now take this position.

ROMANS: I want to talk a little bit about Chinese President Xi Jinping, and, you know, a lot of the energy among the working class voting for Donald Trump was this idea that China is winning, America is losing, and Donald Trump is the only man who can fix it, and now the president is saying, maybe he can trade in exchange for North Korea. And I don't think that is what -- what many people who voted for him, you know, factory workers who want their jobs back, It's not necessarily what they want.

Let's listen to what the president said about how President Xi wants to do the right thing. He had all these nice things to say about him. Let's listen.


TRUMP: President Xi wants to do the right thing. I think he wants to help us with North Korea. We talked trade. We talked a lot of things. And I said the way you're going to make a good trade deal is to help us with North Korea, otherwise we're just going to go it alone.


ROMANS: So this is what every president has always said, right? During the campaign, they say that China, China, China, we're going to hold them accountable, we're going to talk to them, we're going to make sure that we're not going to get hurt and lose factory jobs and then you get into it and, you know, you have to be partners on the global stage.

KOPAN: Yes, you know, one of my colleagues who has covered trade for quite some time commented yesterday after reading some of Trump's comments on trade. This is like, you know, being a Duke fan all your life and waking up and being a North Carolina fan. I mean, some of his position changes are extremely stark in that way.

ROMANS: This is fake.

KOPAN: But -- yes. But credit to Eric Braden there, but, you know, the thing is, I spoke with a lot of Trump supporters on the campaign trail all over the country and one thing that I really noticed is that they weren't necessarily married to specific policy positions, but they like what Trump said in the sense that it made them trust that in the moment he would make the right decision, and that's what they really believe in terms of being an expert negotiator, is they really feel that he is really good at reading a room.


KOPAN: Understanding the situation, bluffing when he needs to, so I don't think that his supporters are looking at his words and saying, literally you said one thing and now literally you're saying another. They still trust his gut.

BRIGGS: I'll tell you what, I think you're right on there. The Trump supporters I've talked to love his strong, tough talk, and he's not getting pushed around by world leaders. They love to see that aspect of it.

But, Tal, we're going to talk about what this has to do with chocolate cake at 5:30.


BRIGGS: International diplomacy and chocolate cake.

ROMANS: We're having chocolate cake for breakfast with you in 30 minutes so come back. Thanks, Tal.


ROMANS: Time for an EARLY START on your money this morning.

[05:10:02] The U.S. dollar struggling to recover from a sharp drop triggered by comments from the president. In an interview, President Trump told the "Wall Street Journal" the dollar is getting too strong. That caused an immediate drop of seven tenths of a percent. That's big move when it comes to the dollar.

The dollar did hit its highest level in 13 years shortly after the election, why? It's a sign investors are betting on a stronger U.S. economy. It's a vote of confidence in the U.S. economy. But that confident strong dollar does have a downside. It makes American goods more expensive compared to European or Japanese products and that can hurt U.S. manufacturers competing on the global arena.

As we've been telling you this morning President Trump also made a significant reversal on economic policy with China. He told the "Wall Street Journal" he will not label the country a currency manipulator, it's something he promised to do during the campaign. But the president acknowledged that China is no longer manipulating its currency. In fact China has actually been propping up the Yuan lately in an effort to try to get wealthy Chinese investors to keep their money at home.

BRIGGS: A Republican congressman joining a chorus of calls to oust Sean Spicer as White House press secretary. Fallout from those Hitler comments when we come back.


[05:15:31] BRIGGS: There's more fallout from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's stunning Hitler comments. In a town hall Wednesday Colorado Mike Coffman became the first Republican lawmaker to publicly call for Spicer's removal.


REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: Spicer made a terrible mistake yesterday and he admitted it. If you're not familiar with what he did, is that he -- I mean, he needs to go, you know.



BRIGGS: As for Spicer, he's still apologizing admitting he, quote, "screwed up" and let the president down. A source telling CNN White House officials believed an apology was the right approach for fixing things and they want to move on. Will they be allowed to? That's another question.

ROMANS: All right. Steve Bannon's future at the White House is in his own hands. Several sources say the president's chief strategist wants to keep his job so he's keeping a low profile and rebuilding his relationship with first son-in-law Jared Kushner. Our source says the president is unhappy with the suggestion he is implementing Bannon's agenda and not Bannon implementing the president's agenda.

A source also tells CNN President Trump's, you know, tepid endorsement for Bannon this week was a warning the president has grown tired of Bannon's open conflict with Kushner and other infighting among his staff.

BRIGGS: Tepid endorsement or hit job, because he told "The Wall Street Journal" that the guy who's labeled the great manipulator was the brain of Trump, he is a guy who works for me in an interview with "The Wall Street Journal." That is a day after another you might argue a hit job in the "New York Post." It's tenuous for Steve Bannon.

ROMANS: Also there was reporting that, you know, the president is irked that Bannon was getting so much credit as the architect of his populist policies.


ROMANS: And the president has been populist for years.

BRIGGS: Stay tuned to that one. Questions meanwhile growing after the body of a New York State appeals

court judge washed up in the Hudson River. 65-year-old Sheila Abdus- Salaam was discovered Wednesday, a day after she was reported missing. Now police say there were no signs of trauma. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death. Salaam was the first black woman and first Muslim to sit on the state's highest court. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appointed Abdus-Salaam in 2013, called her a, quote, "trailblazing jurist."

ROMANS: The family of the passenger pulled screaming from that United Airlines flight will speak publicly this morning for the first time since it happened at a news conference. Attorneys for Dr. David Dao are seeking to have evidence preserved and protected, including the cockpit voice recording for United Express Flight 3411 and the personnel files of the Chicago Aviation Police Department who forcibly removed Dao from the plane. Three officers now have been -- all three officers have been placed on leave. United now says it will refund fares to all of the Flight 3411 passengers.

A really expensive mistake.

BRIGGS: Still hard to watch no matter how many times you've see that video.

So what could force UNC and NC State to leave? The story of Atlantic Coast Conference. Coy Wire with the details in this morning's "Bleacher Report" next.


[05:23:08] BRIGGS: North Carolina lawmakers introducing a so-called boycott bill that would actually pull college teams out of conferences like the ACC won't host the events in the state.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hi.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave. This move stems from the ACC's decision to pull championships out of North Carolina. Eight were pulled from the state just last season and that's before the controversial bathroom bill was repealed. Now supporters of the bill say the conference went too far, others say this one goes too far.

Basically the stat trying to make conferences think twice whether they should boycott the state from hosting events in the future due to political reasons. The state of course makes millions of dollars from hosting these championship type events in their state.

Now neither universities -- we're talking big ones here like North Carolina, a big dime dollar maker and brand power awareness maker, and also North Carolina state. That's who we're talking about here, who would be affected. Neither universities or ACC has commented on the proposed legislation. So we're talking about the potential here for a predicament for the ACC to determine whether or not they're going to agree to allow their schools to be pulled from the conference. Let's move to Dortmund and Monaco. The soccer teams planned their

makeup match just two days after Dortmund's bus was attacked in what state -- the police call an act of terrorism. Ramped up security was everywhere outside the stadium which included a heavily armed police presence and an armored tank. Now inside stadium fans and players were paying tribute to Dortmund player Mark Barta who's hospitalized and had to have surgery after the attack. A special moment all around for players and fans to come together.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very special moment. It was a very special moment this night, incredible because of the special situation. It was a bit better than normal.

[05:25:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think at the beginning it was a little bit weird here because of things that happened yesterday but I think during the match we were really into the match, I must say. If I would have been in the bus and this would have happened I think I would have been terrified I must say.


WIRE: Let's go to the diamond. Yankees' Brett Gardner springing to first base. The threat of first puts Rickie Weeks Junior in Gardner's path. That causes that violent collision. Really scary moment as Gardner is running full speed. During the hit these guys aren't wearing any equipment other than their helmet there. It's not even strapped on. Both men laid on the ground for a while but get up and walked off under their own power. Gardner ended up with a bruised jaw and a strained neck. Weeks reported both neck and shoulder soreness.

Here is some fun for you this morning. Marlins striker Giancarlo Stanton sporting King Tut underwear? This is before the game against the Braves last night. Why? Well, he decided to do something different. He's the highest player in the league, home run king from last year, and he hasn't hit a homerun all last season. Well, this may have worked, he not one homerun, he hit two. He goes deep, deep twice and check out the fan goes all in by jumping in the pool in which the ball landed on the stands. His second homerun ball, a little bit of magic ran off on him, too. He ended up having a great night, guys.

We have to show you that, and Christine, I apologize you may have that image of Giancarlo Stanton burned in your head.

ROMANS: I do, I do.

WIRE: Dave, I bought you a pair of those so we can be twins. It's going to be a good weekend for both of us.


ROMANS: Those images more than I can handle.

BRIGGS: Sign me up, friend. ROMANS: Too early. Too early.

BRIGGS: I'll wear those.

WIRE: Good morning.

BRIGGS: What goes on behind the desk.

ROMANS: Can you get a King Tut pocket square to match?

WIRE: We'll be twinsies. I'm actually wearing them right now. You just can't see them. And we'll save you from that.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Coy.

WIRE: You're welcome.

ROMANS: Good morning, America. You're welcome.

Campaigning has given way to governing with new realities setting in, as President Trump pulls back on some of his key campaign promises. We'll take you through the series of reversals next.