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Budget Watch: Potential Government Shutdown; Final Two Candidates in French Presidential Race; Historic Low on Trump's Approval Rating; Detained American in North Korea; Woman Commander in Space Station Sets Record. Aired at 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2017 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Just days now until a potential government shutdown. The budget watch now takes over Washington. President Trump is weighing in as focus grabs up on one of his most controversial proposals, funding that border wall.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN AANCHOR: And two candidates fight on in the most critical presidential race France has seen in years arguably ever. We'll break down who's taking sides in the race that could re-shape France's role on the world stage.

Good morning everyone, welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs. A bit under the weather but thrilled nonetheless. Good to have you back, my friend.

ROMANS: It's good to be back. A week off but I am back.

I'm Christine Romans. It's Monday, April 24th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the east, and a lot going on this morning folks.

A big countdown clock faces lawmakers today as they return to Washington with only a few working days to strike a budget deal. The orders from President Trump are clear. Avoid a government shutdown when federal spending authority runs out at the end of this week.

It is true that the message coming from some of the president's top aides is a little muddled. More on that in a moment, but senior White House and Republican officials say the president has made it clear the government will not shutdown. The most likely scenario they say is a short-term band-aid deal to continue spending at current levels for a week or so until they have a deal can be reached.

BRIGGS: Much of the debate here hinges on President Trump's promised border wall and how exactly to fund it. Just how far is the president prepared to go to get that funding? Well, it depends on who you ask. And the wall is just one item on the president's bulging agenda for the week ahead of his 100th day in office.

With everything the White House has cooking, one key policy item has suddenly moved to the back burner. Our coverage begins this morning with Athena Jones at the White House. ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Christine

and Dave. A big week ahead here in Washington, a lot on the agenda and an important deadline looming. That of course is Friday. Friday is the deadline for congress to pass a bill to keep the government open. Now, folks here at the White House insist the White House won't allow the government to shut down. But they also said they made their priorities very clear to the folks on Capitol Hill for what they want to see included in the spending bill -- this must-pass spending bill.

Among those items, money for hiring more immigration agents and money for the border wall -- huge campaign promise for the president. The problem is both of those things are nonstarters for Democrats. We've already heard as much from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. So, the big question is whether the president will insist on that border wall funding and whether he'll sign a bill that doesn't include it. Take a listen to what Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said about this border wall funding.


JOHN KELLY, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I think it goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall. So, I would suspect he'll do the right thing, for sure but I will suspect he will be insistent on the funding.


JONES: I should mention we've heard some mixed messages depending on which administration official you talk to. And the president himself, in an interview with the Associated Press, was asked directly, would you sign a spending bill that doesn't include this money? And he said, I don't know. So that is a big question mark hovering over what is sure to be a very busy week. Back to you guys.

ROMANS: All right, Athena, thank you.

You heard Athena mention mixed messages on the border wall for the administration officials. There was Homeland Secretary Kelly saying that President Trump would "do the right thing but insist on funding." Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stopped short of saying the president would shut down the government if the spending bill did not have money to start work on that wall.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We want our priorities funded and one of the biggest priorities during the campaign was border security, keeping Americans safe and part of that was a border wall.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Will he sign a government funding bill that does not include funding for the border wall?

PRIEBUS: We don't know yet. It will be enough in the negotiation for us to forward with either the construction or the planning or enough for us to move forward through the end of September to get going on the border wall and border security.

I think that as long as the president's priorities are adequately reflected in the C.R. and allows us to get moving with an increase in military spending and rebuilding of our military as he promised in one of your bullet points, and there's enough, as far as flexibility for the border wall and border security, we'll be okay with that.


BRIGGS: There's no clear answer on that just yet. President Trump on Sunday, meanwhile, insisting that Mexico will pay. But acknowledging that won't happen anytime soon.

[04:05:00] He tweeted, "Could eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early. Mexico will be paying in some form for the badly needed border wall.

ROMANS: Right. So like a possible government shutdown7 And president Trump's 100th day in office, both looming. There's a lot for the White House to get done and not much time.

Vice President Pence cutting his overseas trip short by a day so he can return to Washington and work on major policy issues including the federal funding bill and healthcare.

BRIGGS: I mean, the president himself has an extremely busy schedule this week trying to demonstrate action in the absence of significant legislative accomplishments ahead of that 100th day milestone. Some highlights -- today he host a working lunch for Ambassadors in the U.N. Security Council.

On Wednesday, he lays out his principles for tax reform. Thursday the president of Argentina visits the White House, Friday, the president makes remark on the NRA. And on Saturday, hold to rally to mark his first 100 days, same night as the White House correspondent's dinner.

ROMANS: He said he's not going to.


ROMANS: That rally in Pennsylvania happens at the same time as that dinner. You know, the president traditionally attends that. Senior officials say there's also a flurry of executive orders coming this week, but as many as six, we're told, but at least four, including on veterans, energy, agriculture and on trade.

BRIGGS: So, what's missing in all of that? Any kind of house vote on health care. Despite all the activity on the subject last week, and as much as they'd like to see movement on Obamacare repeal, senior Republicans and White House officials say there's no expectation. Anything will actually happen before Friday.

ROMANS: So we just mentioned the tax cut plans. The president is promoting his tax cut plans with this tweet, "Big tax reform and tax reduction will be announced next Wednesday," that has Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says it will be an outline of the president's priorities. Details Dave are still scarce here.

There are two big questions leading up to Wednesday's big reveal. First, how deep will the tax cuts be? Here are the proposed tax brackets the Trump administration updated after the election. It reduces -- it shrinks the current seven tax brackets down to just three. The knock from tax experts on this plan, is that it gives a bigger relief to the rich than it does the middle class.

The corporate tax rate is also expected to be slashed. To the second big question, what will the tax cuts do to the debt? Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin says the administration will use dynamic scoring to evaluate the tax plan. That basically assumes that the cuts will boost growth. That growth will create more revenue for the federal government through income tax, and that increased revenue will offset the cost of cutting taxes. There are some budget experts and third-party tax analysis that shows dynamic scoring is not really -- it doesn't give you the relief that you think.

BRIGGS: And impossible to estimate.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BRIGGS: And the questions the business people have, are these short- term or are these long-term changes to our tax code, because they want certainty. They want long range plan --

ROMANS: Is it tax cuts or tax reform? And that is a big difference.

BRIGGS: Right. Big difference.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: If you're a business who wants to plan for 10 years, you need long-term.

Meanwhile, a new national poll shows President Trump nearing his 100th day in office with the lowest approval rating in modern history. But, among his supporters, absolutely no sign whatsoever of buyer's remorse.

Take a look at this ABC News/"Washington Post" poll, the president's approval rating slumping to 42 percent putting that in perspective. At the 100-day mark of his presidency, John F. Kennedy's approval rating was 78 percent, Lyndon Johnson, 77 percent, Reagan, 73, Obama, 27 points higher than Mr. Trump.

ROMANS: The president's supporters are still solidly behind their man, though. Look at this -- 96 percent say voting for the billionaire businessman was the right thing to do. Only 2 percent regret it. Check this out. A significant percentage of Americans slamming both parties for being out of touch, 67 percent giving negative marks to Democrats, 62 percent critical of the Republicans. That is such an interesting set of polls. BRIGGS: One show that he would win the popular vote today, which he

did not do of course on election day. So despite all the knocks, his supporters still very much onboard. President Trump have been laying low for months, but today, Barack Obama makes his first public appearance since leaving office. This should be huge.

The former president, scheduled to speak with students at the University of Chicago, as part of his mission to encourage and support the next generation of leaders. Three hundred students from universities in Chicago were invited to attend.

On Sunday, Mr. Obama met with young at-risk men in a jobs skills program. We're told he does not intend to comment on President Trump or his policies at today's appearance. But the students have not been told what to ask him. Six students will get to ask questions. So it's anybody's guess what they want to talk about. Certainly, policy will come up.

ROMANS: After a month in the French Polynesia, he returns to public life and we will all be watching.

BRIGGS: And that (INAUDIBLE) would get some nice trip.

[04:10:00] ROMANS: Yes, back to Chi-town.

All right, a programming note, don't miss "AMERICA UNITED OR DIVIDED?", a special live CNN town hall tonight at 10:00 eastern. Our guest, Ohio governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, John Kasich. Our Anderson Cooper hosts this. It is tonight at 10:00 only on CNN. Stay up late.

BRIGS: No chance. We'll catch it on the DVR in the morning.

ROMANS: The establishment options are out. Now, two candidates remain in the race to be the next president of France and the result could reshape how France deals with the U.S. and the E.U. We are going to go live to Paris after this break.


BRIGGS: Voters in France turning up their nose at the political establishment.

[04:15:00] The race for president now down to two candidates with wildly different visions for the country's future.

Political novice Emmanuel Macron and far right populist Marine Le Pen finishing first and second in Sunday's first round of elections. It was a stunning win for Macron, a 39-year-old former banker who now becomes the favorite to become France's next president.

Let's go live to Paris and bring in CNN's Melissa Bell. Melissa, good morning to you. What is the reaction there? And what does it tell us about the political climate there in Frrance?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, France is really waking up this morning to the day after a political revolution. For a start, the mainstream parties that have shared power in France since 1958, Dave, are licking their wounds and trying to work out what went wrong. It is the first time that neither of them are making it through to the second round.

That is a measure of the change that France is going through. You mentioned also the vastly different programs now. And one of the far rights, Marine Le Pen, independent centrist, Emmanuel Macron's opposite proposals. What unite them though is that they are both political outsiders.

She because she represents the far right. He, because just a few months ago, he set off on this political adventure, aiming to get (INAUDIBLE) without the benefit of an established party behind him, having never been elected to anything before. Everyone thought he was mad. It could go absolutely go nowhere. And yet, here we are, a few months later, he is as you say, the favorite to go in.

And I think it is a measure of the thirst for change we've been following for months in the western world, Dave. So far, we saw the old (INAUDIBLE) between left and right seemed no longer to be answering to the electorate's desire for change. The populist seem to have the answer.

I think what France has shown last night through the candidates (INAUDIBLE)of Emmanuel Macron his success, is that there is a progressive alternative to that desire to look beyond the old cleavage of left and right and towards something else. So, the French will have to choose between a woman who wants to withdraw from the European Union, close France's borders, end immigration and retreat to protectionist economic measures. And a man who wants all those policies diametrically opposed it.

BRIGGS: A massive election for the country and the E.U. as a whole. We'll check back with you in just a bit. Thank you, Melissa Bell.

Meanwhile, the whole nation of Israel, coming to a standstill. This morning in remembrance of the 6 million Jewish victims of the holocaust. A two-minute siren wailed across the country. The ritual takes place every year, marking holocaust remembrance day. Hours earlier, President Trump addressed the World Jewish Congress by video saying, quote, "we must stamp out prejudice and anti-Semitism everywhere it is found." The president will speak at the National Holocaust Museum tomorrow.

ROMANS: With this as a backdrop (INAUDIBLE) says Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States are up sharply since the November election. The Anti-Defamation League says research shows an 86 percent increase in bullying and vandalism and other incidents. Many of those were the bomb threats phoned into Jewish Community Centers.

The heated rhetoric from North Korea not cooling down. Pyongyang's latest threat coming as a U.S. citizen is detained there. We have a live report, next.

[04:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: Welcome back. We have now learned the identity of the U.S. citizen detained in North Korea, taken into custody at the Pyongyang airport as he tried to leave the country. This comes as tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula. Of course North Korea is threatening to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier in a single strike. President Trump talking to the leaders of China and Japan about the situation last night.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is following developments and joins us live from Seoul, South Korea. Bring us up to speed, Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine. Hello. There's an awful lot going in the Korean Peninsula at this point. Tony Kim is the man, we understand, that has been detained by North Korea. This is -- we've believe, a professor. He was teaching at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

We have a statement from that school. They say that he was trying to leave the country and was detained at the airport. They also say that they don't believe his teaching had anything to do with the investigation into why the regime wanted to detain him. They don't give any indication as to what was the reason for his detention.

So, we're still trying to get some clarity on that. The Swedish embassy which works on Washington's behalf in North Korea as Washington has no diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, say that he was trying to board a plane, and that is when he was taken. Of course, that makes him the third American citizen to be held in the country right now. You have a student and an also a man who is accused of espionage. Both serving many years for hard labor.

We also know that Pyongyang has threatened to sink the "USS Carl Vinson." This is the 97,000 ton aircraft carrier which is currently in the western pacific area doing military drills with two Japanese destroyers. The South Korean military says they also want to do military drills with the USS Carl Vinson.

We're expecting it to come closer to the Korean Peninsula by the end of this month, as a show of force against North Korea. And we also know that President Trump, as you say had a meeting on the phone -- a phone call with President Xi of China and Prime Minister Abe of Japan, both supporting him.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that, Paula. Keep us up to speed on any developments there. Thank you.

BRIGGS: She was not the first woman in space. But she's been there the longest. This is a landmark day for astronaut and Space Station commander Peggy Whitson, setting a new record for the most accumulative days in space, 535.

[04:25:04] Wow! Whitson's the first woman to command the Space Station and this is her second go round. This morning she will get a congratulatory call from the president and first daughter. Whitson is due to return to Earth in September.

The White House pulling out all of the stops to finish the president's first 100 days strong. First order of business, the budget. Can it get done by the Friday deadline?


BRIGGS: With battles looming over the budget, health care, tax reform, and more, Congress returns to Washington. We'll tell you, which key policy issue is at the forefront as the president looks to avoid a potential government shutdown.

ROMANS: And two candidates in a hotly-contested presidential race in France. We'll explain a race that could redefine France's relationship with the U.S. and so much more.

[04:30:00] This is probably, I mean, a lot of folks say the most consequential French election in my lifetime for sure.

BRIGGS: Yes, but not just for France. For the future of the E.U.

ROMANS: That's right. That's right. It's fascinating.

OK, welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 30 minutes past the hour on a big Monday.