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President Trump's Many Metamorphoses; Tillerson Bemoans "Low Level Of Trust"; U.S. Says Syrian Military Consulted Chemical Experts; Trump's Warning To Steve Bannon. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 13, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:31:20] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump sounding a much different tone. Three major shifts in a span of just of a few hours. What he changed, and why, and what it means for his presidency right now.

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

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs, and what chocolate cake has to do with international diplomacy?

ROMANS: Everything.

BRIGGS: Everything. We'll talk about that in just a moment with Tal Kopan but first, a stunning display of political acrobatic from President Trump. In a matter of hours, he performed at least three major backflips, leaping away from stances that formed the bedrock of his campaign. So he took the most skeptical position yet on Russia just hours after Secretary of State Tillerson met with the Russian president.

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

BRIGGS: 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 grim assessment.


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


BRIGGS: For more on the fallout from Tillerson's visit let's bring in CNN's Paula Newton, live in Moscow. Paula, good morning to you. A dramatic reversal. How would you describe these relations at this point?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Dave. There seems to be a line and that's what they agree on. They agree relations are pretty awful right now -- pretty much a post-Cold War low. Having said that Dave, I have to tell you we just got off the phone with Dmitry Peskov. He is the Kremlin spokesperson. He tried to give us a little bit more information about what happened during that meeting. He told us that the talks were constructive.

And when you follow up on what Rex Tillerson -- remember, when he made those comments he had just come out of this meeting and, apparently, Vladimir Putin wanted to give Rex Tillerson the back story of how relations have gotten to this point. They said, though, that they agreed to continue talking and you're starting to see the signs of, definitely, a diplomatic emissary between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. That would be one Rex Tillerson. That's likely why the meeting went on for two hours. They certainly discussed Syria. Also said that they touched a little bit on Ukraine. Definitely nothing decided but they agreed that they would keep talking.

I'm sure that Rex Tillerson has already spoken with Donald Trump about this meeting. He will continue talking. He's out of Moscow now, in the air, returning to Washington soon. A lot of work ahead. Everybody working towards the G20 meeting. That's in July. Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, might be their first face-to-face if that happens, and they're waiting to see if any progress can be made during that.

In the meantime, some heated words there at the U.N. The fireworks started when Nikki Haley put a draft resolution on the table condemning that chemical attack in Syria. Russia, quite predictably, vetoed it and they really were at odds how to even come to any kind of a fact-based analysis of if there was a chemical attack in Syria -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Well, the White House says circumstances change. They have dramatically regarding those relations. Paula, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, new overnight, CNN is learning 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 Province. A U.S. official says those intercepts have helped confirm Syria's role in the deadly bombing. We're told the U.S. did not have prior knowledge of the attack and, so far, there are no intercepts -- no intercepts showing Russian military or intelligence officials communicating about that chemical attack.

[05:35:20] BRIGGS: Joining us to discuss the president's slew of U- turns, "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan, live in Washington this morning. Good morning to you, Tal.


BRIGGS: Let's start with the reversal on these Russia relations, and here's what the president had to say yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be wonderful, as we were discussing just a little while ago, if NATO and our country could get along with Russia. Right now we're not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia. This has built for a long period of time but we're going to see what happens.


BRIGGS: Tal, critics would say he's flip-flopped on Russia, on China, on Syria. Supporters would say this is the president we did elect. We wanted someone to talk tough to Putin and to the Russians.

KOPAN: Yes, that's right. you know, speaking of Trump voters, on the campaign trail one thing that really struck me is almost every single one of them you could raise some policy position and they'd said well, I don't really think President Trump will do that when he's in office or I hope he doesn't do that particular thing. You know, I don't know that he had a voter out there who really read every single word he said and thought I want exactly those policies. Rather, they were looking for someone who they felt they could trust that when he got into the room he would make the right decision.

And, you know, that's why we're hearing from the White House circumstances change, you know. This is adaptability, this is flexibility and, you know, on some issues he's certainly claiming that simply by talking tough in the campaign he has already effected changed and thus, can claim a victory now and change positions. So that's sort of the lay of the land in terms of what we're seeing from the White House.

ROMANS: I mean, obviously, we deal in facts and positions, right, and so when he reverses, we report it. But I wonder what his base thinks -- if it's something that concerns them? You know, they -- these are factory workers who feel like China has stolen factory jobs. These are people who are "America Firsters" who feel like NATO is something out there that is, you know, for globalism and doesn't really fight terrorism -- you know, wrongly think that it doesn't fight terrorism -- and they don't really care about NATO. I mean, he really tapped into a vein of anger and if he abandons these positions what does that mean for him and those supporters?

KOPAN: Well, I don't know that we know yet. I think that, you know, a lot of his supporters still feel that's it very early in this administration and, you know, to be fair, it is. We like to talk about the first 100 days as, you know, a really key time. It's when the president has the most political capital to get things done, but it's certainly just the first 100 days and there's a lot more come, you know. What may actually start to turn his base away is if they feel that their lives aren't getting better as they were promised or, in fact, getting worse.

And it's quite possible that that could be the case but at the moment, a lot of what we're seeing from the Trump administration is still in the realm of discussion -- of, you know, talking about directions, and hasn't actually put into place a ton of policy changes outside of perhaps the area of, you know, immigration --


KOPAN: -- and so, I don't know that people's lives on the ground are changing. And so I think, at the moment, a lot of his supporters still really trust him and still really believe that the person they elected is looking out for them. I think it's something we're going to have to keep an eye on, though.

BRIGGS: If you check Twitter right now, the top trending topic in the United States is #roastbannon. That has to do with the back-to-back days of what you might call hit jobs. And "The New York Post" and "Washington Journal" -- "Wall Street Journal," rather, where the president calls Steve Bannon "a guy who works for me." What might all of these shifts have to do with Steve Bannon's lessening role in the White House?

ROMANS: Interesting -- good question.

KOPAN: Well, you know, the message that Trump appears to be trying to send is that this is my White House, not Steve Bannon's. you know, it seems to be a response, in part, to some of the sort of behind-the- scenes dealings that we and others have been reporting about tension between some factions within the White House, including Bannon on the opposite side of President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who of course, has the president's ear very deeply. But it's also a response to the notion that President Trump was somehow implementing Bannon's agenda and not his own. And, you know, we see Trump coming out and saying no, I've been talking about these issues for a long time. Bannon only joined my campaign late, although, as we've reported, they go back quite a ways before Bannon actually joined the campaign.

ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: But, you know, this does seem to be a bit of a brushback. A bit of a 'no, I make the decisions here' kind of move by the president.

[05:40:00] BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: I want to mine (ph) that Fox Business Maria Bartiromo interview, quickly for a moment, that a lot of people have been talking about when the president talked about the moment he made the decision to have that -- the missile strike in Syria and sort of what was happening as he was sitting there having dessert with the Chinese president. Let's listen to that sound.


TRUMP: We finished dinner, we're now having dessert and we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen. And I said, "Mr. President, let me explain something to you." I said, "We've just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq." MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: Headed to Syria.

TRUMP: Yes, heading toward Syria, "and I want you to know that."


ROMANS: A couple of things about that. Dave is now hungry for chocolate cake. But the idea that he's making this military decision over a piece of chocolate cake, with the Chinese president, and he calls it Iraq. I don't -- I don't know what about that whole moment Maria Bartiromo -- Dave loves his props, especially chocolate.

BRIGGS: I heard nothing after chocolate cake but go on -- proceed.

ROMANS: A lot of -- a lot of people -- I mean, tell me about that moment. That just shows you this is the showman president, right? It's weaving the story of the chocolate cake --


ROMANS: -- and sitting with the other president.

KOPAN: Yes. I mean, to be fair, a memorable piece of chocolate cake, you know. Certainly, it sticks in your mind, I guess. But, you know, this is typically the type of thing that reporters get as the sort of behind-the-scenes details you see in a story -- 'and as they were eating chocolate cake he leaned over and whispered.' You know, it's sort of the scene-setting you're used to from the folks who report out what happened. It's a little bit different to hear the president himself retelling the story and using those kinds of details to set the scene.

You know, it also speaks to the fact that there is a lot of international affairs happening at Mar-a-Lago these days.


KOPAN: It reminds me of, you know --

ROMANS: But wasn't this a situation room with the Secretary of Defense, with --

KOPAN: Right.

ROMANS: He would be talking about making that decision at the table. Whether that's embellished, the decision had been made and he was just explaining what was going to happen. I don't know.

KOPAN: Well, and it reminds me --

BRIGGS: And he's going there today --


BRIGGS: -- as North Korea prepares for what could be a nuclear test.


BRIGGS: So we could have another international incident over a $200,000 piece of chocolate cake. Here is the fork.

ROMANS: I know, I know. Oh, you did give me a fork.

BRIGGS: Of course --

ROMANS: There's two pieces and only one fork.

BRIGGS: -- I share.

KOPAN: Where's mine, guys?

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: We'll send you one, my friend.


ROMANS: All right, Tal, thank you so much.

KOPAN: Thank you.

BRIGGS: We appreciate it.

ROMANS: Time for an early start on your money this morning. As wave been telling you this morning, the president also making two significant economic policy reversals Wednesday. First, the president tells "The Wall Street Journal" his administration will not label China a currency manipulator in an upcoming report. He had promised to do that over and over again during the campaign. Labeling China a currency manipulator would trigger an investigation and then allow the United States to seek possible penalties. But now the president is acknowledging 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.

As for Trump's second policy twist, the Fed chief, Janet Yellen, is apparently no longer persona non grata. The president told the "Journal" he likes and respects the head of the Federal Reserve. Only a few months ago Trump said Yellen should be ashamed of herself for keeping interest rates lows, suggesting she was doing that to help President Obama. Now, President Trump says he likes low interest rates and he did not rule out asking Yellen to stay on when her term expires next year.

BRIGGS: And here's where some wonder if it's that Bannon influence that's lessening. These financial evolving flip-flops or whatever you want to call them, dramatically different tone. More CEO, yes?

ROMANS: Yes, maybe -- maybe more CEO. A lot of people in the markets, though, thought hell froze over when he said that in "The Wall Street Journal," you know. They thought for sure that he was, you know -- would never appoint her. BRIGGS: Fascinating. Well, CNN with rare and exclusive access to the American general leading the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. What's the timeline and what are the big hurdles? We're live in Iraq.


[05:48:20] BRIGGS: More fallout this morning from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's stunning Hitler comments. At a town hall Wednesday, Colorado Congressman 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. (APPLAUSE)


BRIGGS: As for Spicer, he's still apologizing, admitting he "screwed up and let the president down." A source telling CNN White House officials believe an apology was the right approach towards fixing things and they want to move on.

ROMANS: All right. The family of the passenger pulled from that United Airlines flight will speak publicly this morning for the first time since it happened. There will be a news conference. Attorneys for Dr. David Dao are seeking to have evidence preserved and protected, including the personnel files of the Chicago Aviation Police who removed Dao from the plane. Three officers have been placed on leave. United is refunding fares to all of the flight 3411 passengers. They also want to preserve any of the cockpit recordings.


ROMANS: They want to hear what the captain was saying and what the gate agents may have been saying back and forth there.

All right, time for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joins us this morning. Hello, sir.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Hello, my handsome friends.

BRIGGS: Morning.

CUOMO: First, might I wish you both rebirth and renewal as we come into this Easter weekend.

ROMANS: Purple.

CUOMO: I got to go -- yes, I see you've got your Lenten purple on -- very nice. You're going to have to shift to pink. So we have a good one for you today. On the heels of what we were just talking about here on EARLY START with this United Airlines debacle, fiasco, what it's worth? What's the lawsuit going to be? How much money could Dr. Dao get because of what happened? We have Joey Jackson coming in today. You're going to be surprised about the different shapes that lawsuit can take and what the dollar signs behind it could be.

[05:50:13] We're also looking at President Trump's travel. What it's costing taxpayers, how relevant is it? And, of course, the big issue of the morning my friends is these shifts on positions abroad. What do they mean in terms of how the president should be graded on them or evaluated? Criticized or praised? We'll take you through it.

ROMANS: I know. Often, when you have a presidency, the first 100 days you look at the campaign promises and then you say whether they were achieved, and some of these promises he's just completely changed his --

CUOMO: Yes, you guys have been talking about it the right way. I was listening to Dave early on talking about the difference between his critics and his supporters. You know, Spicer's right, circumstances do change. It's your principles that have to stay in place in leadership. The question is, have those been expressed enough for people understanding these shifts the right way? We'll talk about it.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Yes. I mean, most people felt there was no ideological core to President Trump, so now he's just learning stuff.

ROMANS: All right, Chris Cuomo.

CUOMO: Just like us.

ROMANS: We'll learn some stuff hopefully a little later this morning. Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: Take care.

ROMANS: Why Tesla's Elon Musk is telling some investors you don't like it, but shares in different care companies. We'll get a check on CNN Money Stream, next.


[05:55:30] BRIGGS: CNN gets an exclusive look into the fight against ISIS, flying above the battlefield with Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who's leading the war in Iraq and Syria. Our Nick Paton Walsh joining us live from Iraq with that exclusive reporting. Good morning to you, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It seems like the offensive for the defacto capital of ISIS is self- declared caliphate. That's the Syrian city of Raqqa is pretty close indeed. And they are looking after, it seems, from isolating the city from the north, west, and east. That's a U.S. sort of backed and assisted coalition of Syrian rebel forces. They're looking at taking the southern air and encircling pretty soon. The question is do they have enough U.S. troops to do that? So far, an indication maybe not. Here's what Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend had to say on the topic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDING GENERAL, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE: Right now, I think we have the resources we need there to isolate -- to do what we're -- the task we're doing right now, which is complete the isolation of Raqqa. After the isolation of Raqqa will come the assault and we're still evaluating what resources we need. If I need more resources I'll go to my leadership -- my chain of command -- and tell them what we need to get the job done.


WALSH: Now, the general leading an increasingly complicated fight. Just weeks ago, Russia and the Syrian regime were kind of neutral, you might say, when it comes to fight against ISIS, but now they are potential adversary after the Trump administration strikes, after that chemical weapon attack in Idlib. Although, pretty clear Lt. Gen. Townsend -- they don't want to pick a fight -- that Syrian regime. He said we're the U.S. coalition here.

One more thing of note from that interview. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi -- remember him, the ISIS leader? He's been lying low but they still think he's running the show. Back to you.

BRIGGS: It should be an interesting evolution in the weeks ahead. Nick, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Money Stream morning. Wall Street futures looking at little bit lower here after a sharp drop in the dollar triggered by comments from the president himself. Stock futures, you can see, pointing down. World markets are also trading mostly lower.

In an interview with "The Wall Street Journal" the president said the dollar is getting too strong and, of course, that caused an immediate drop of seven-tenths of one percent. That's a big move when it comes to the dollar so we'll watch that this morning.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is pushing back on disgruntled investors who want the electric carmaker to shake up its board. He tweeted, "This investor group should buy Ford stock. Their governance is amazing." You don't like it, buy Ford stock. Tesla just passed Ford in market cap, so a bit if a dig there. Five groups of investors sent Tesla a letter this week urging it to add more independent board members not so closely tied to Musk. They argued diversifying will provide a critical check. Tesla says it is actively searching for independent board members and expects to announce new additions very soon. All right.

BRIGGS: The stance you'd expect from him.


BRIGGS: If you don't like it, beat it.

ROMANS: Yes, go someplace else. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

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


TILLERSON: The current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point.

TRUMP: Russia's a strong country. We're a very, very strong country. We're going to see how that all works out.

ROMANS: Intelligence officials intercepted communications discussing preparations for last week's Sarin gas attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ? still remains. Will they come up with similar intercepts indicating that the Russians were involved?

TRUMP: Number one, NATO is obsolete. I complained about that a long time ago and it's no longer obsolete.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad that he's squaring up his philosophy with reality.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: From NATO to China, this is a president who is doing a lot of 180's.


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

CUOMO: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, April 13th, 6:00 here in New York.

Up first, the president doing a 180 on NATO, Syria, Russia, China, and economic policy. We're going to explore what is fueling the breakneck pace of shifting positions.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And, the Pentagon tells CNN that they have new evidence that connects the Syrian government to the chemical attack last week that killed dozens of their own people despite Syria's denial. It is day 84 of the Trump presidency and we have it all coveredfor you so let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live at the White House -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: good morning, Alisyn. The reversals on economic and foreign policy perhaps the most noticeable this morning. More evidence than ever that approaching the end of the first 100 days, this administration is now acknowledging the differences between what sounds good on the campaign trail --