Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

Trump Says Armed Conflict with North Korea Possible; No Health Care Reform on Trump's 100 Days; President Trump's Foreign Policy Challenges; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 28, 2017 - 04:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:31:55] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump with his most direct warning about North Korea today. What's the administration's plan to minimize the threat?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A new fallout from Michael Flynn's decision to accept payments from Russia and Turkey. But why is the White House now shifting some of the blame to the Obama administration?

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

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs and it was an eye-opening interview with Reuters.

ROMANS: Sure was.

BRIGGS: Regarding North Korea, regarding Kim Jong-un.

ROMANS: We'll play you some of that sound in a few minutes there.

BRIGGS: We will break it all down.

ROMANS: Let's begin with the breaking news overnight about North Korea. An urging warning from President Trump on North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs. The president suggesting a military face-off with Pyongyang is within the realm of possibility. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, there's a -- there's a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Now the president telling Reuters the U.S. would prefer to achieve a nonnuclear North Korea through diplomacy, but he said that's very difficult.

BRIGGS: In this interview, Mr. Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for trying very hard to resolve the crisis after previously criticizing Xi for not doing enough. In fact, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that China threatened sanctions against North Korea if it attempted another nuclear test.

Tillerson is set to chair a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea later this month with the House of Representatives set to vote on new sanctions on Pyongyang next week.

For the latest let's bring in CNN's Alexandra Field live in Seoul. Great to have you this morning.

Alex, a lot to unpack here including the president suggesting South Korea is not doing enough to pay their fair share. What's the reaction there from Seoul?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think this whole interview has left a lot of heads spinning. Let's start from the beginning, though. It doesn't get much more blunt that the president warning there'd be a major, major conflict with North Korea. And that certainly seems be a shift in tone from what seemed to be a much more in tone just the day before. You have the secretary of State, with secretary of Defense instead really saying that it is the priority and the goal of the Trump administration to denuclearize the peninsula and to do this through economic sanctions and diplomatic measures.

Of course the president is still saying that he would prefer to do it diplomatically. We know that the president is looking at China for help with reining North Korea in and you heard him say that -- in this interview that he believes that that's something that President Xi Jinping wants to do, that Xi Jinping wants to help with this situation. But then he went on to say perhaps China can't do it.

Now you've got officials in China reacting saying that this whole situation could spiral out of control. The Chinese and the Russians are again calling for more dialogue. Now the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who has now said that if the agenda is right maybe the doors are open for some kind of dialogue. He'll host the meeting of the U.N. Security Council later today. He'll be calling on all participants to fully enforce sanctions against North Korea.

He was also speaking on another interview on another cable news network saying he doesn't believe that Kim Jong-un is insane, saying he's a murderer and ruthless perhaps, even irrational, but not insane.

[04:35:10] And beyond that more from the Trump interview, he is now talking about this defense system that has been a major priority for the U.S. and a major source of controversy right here in South Korea and in the region. That's the installation of THAAD, this missile defense system, which is being rushed into place which should be operational in a matter of days. Well, now President Trump is saying that South Korea should pay for the billion-dollar system.

That does of course echo some of the comments that he made on the campaign trail, that allies should pay more for their defense. We haven't heard anything like that. We've only in South Korea seen assurances of the strength of the alliance and U.S.' commitment to South Korean security. Well, the president is still saying that the U.S. is fully committed to South Korea's security. They're just saying that South Korea should pay for this billion-dollar system.

It seems to have caught South Korean officials by surprise. They are saying it's their understanding that the U.S. pays for the operation of the system that they wanted to put here and that South Korea just provides the site and infrastructure -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, that is the system that fits United States interest.

ROMANS: Wow.

BRIGGS: Alexandra Field, thank you so much for trying to break -- doing so well to break all this down. It is a doozy. We'll check back with you in a bit.

ROMANS: That is a doozy.

BRIGGS: And, you know, the geography here needs a reminder. Seoul is about 30 miles from the North Korean border. There's where 25 million sit. And the psychology is also interesting on this story.

ROMANS: That is 28,000 American troops there and 15 different bases, that THAAD system put it at the behest of the United States for more influence honestly in the region as well. So to say now that they have to pay for it when -- I mean, it was basically America's idea.

Let's listen to what he said also about Kim Jong-un because in that Reuters interview it's getting a lot of attention this morning, how he seemed to almost humanize this dictator.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: This maniac and this murderer according to the State Department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's 27 years old, his father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want, but that's not easy especially at that age. I'm not give him credit or not giving him credit. I'm just saying that's a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he's rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he's rational.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Gosh, I would love to be a fly on the wall at the North Korea desk at the Defense Department.

BRIGGS: Why?

ROMANS: What they're saying about this comment.

BRIGGS: Why humanize a killer, a murderer, someone who kills his own family members, who puts millions of innocent people in prison camps in North Korea?

ROMANS: It's so interesting, Donald Trump's musings about strong men. From the very beginning of the --

BRIGGS: Putin.

ROMANS: Of the campaign, and Assad and others.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: It's just -- it's a fascinating window, I guess, of how this commander-in-chief thinks. Another fascinating, how do America -- how Americans think. Do Americans see North Korea as a threat to the U.S.? Most do not. At least not right now. A new CNN-ORC poll released overnight shows 37 percent, about 3 in 8, say Pyongyang is an immediately threat. Just under half say North Korea poses a long-term threat.

BRIGGS: Thirty-seven percent is actually a drop from the share of Americans who called North Korea an immediate threat four years ago. In 2013 41 percent said that was the case. We asked the people about President Trump's handling of other foreign policy challenges during his first 100 days, more on that later this half-hour.

ROMANS: A lot in store for President Trump. On day 99 of his presidency he is expected to sign an executive order his administration hopes will pave for the way for offshore drilling. The president will then travel to Atlanta with Vice President Mike Pence to speak at the Annual Leadership forum. This as Mr. Trump shares some interesting thoughts about his time as president ahead of his 100-day mark. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I loved my previous life. I loved my previous life. I had so many things. You know, I actually -- this is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a -- I'm a details oriented person. I think you would say that. But I do miss my old life. This -- I like to work, so that's not a problem. But this is actually more work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Hardest job in the world, by the way.

BRIGGS: Now again I don't think any president goes into office and says yes, this is about what I expected. But he expected to be the same amount of work as running a real estate empire or am I misinterpreting that?

ROMANS: I don't think you are. But he also recently said to AP and he said that, you know, he seemed sort of surprised and amazed that each different agencies is as big as a big, big company. And there are all these agencies, so he is trying to get his hands over the scope of the federal government.

BRIGGS: Terrific interview with the Reuters.

One of President Trump's biggest campaign promises will remain unkept as he reaches his 100th day in office. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announcing there will be no vote on health care reform this week. Translation, Republicans simply don't have the votes. New concessions to conservatives resulting in too many moderates now jumping ship.

ROMANS: But the threat of a government shutdown is now off the table short term.

[04:40:03] A stop gap spending bill expected to pass. Democrats threatened not to support it if a vote on health care had taken place.

Let's get more this morning from CNN's Phil Mattingly.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine and Dave, despite a furious last-minute, last few hour lobbying effort trying to get the requisite number of votes to get health care repeal and replace to the House floor and pass it, Republicans have fallen short.

Now on some level that's good news in the sense that the Democratic threat to hold up the House spending bill with the deadline of the government shutdown tonight is now officially off the table. They will pass a short-term continuing resolution to make sure that the government stays open. But on a broader sense healthcare is now in very, very dire straits again. That even after this optimism from the speaker earlier on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: I think we're making very good progress. We don't have -- we're going to go when we have the votes. But that's the decision we'll make when we have it and something tells me you'll probably be the first to know when that happens. I would argue that this is a bill that a moderate would more likely want to support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now the question is what happens next. Obviously House leaders meeting trying to figure out a pathway forward, their members going home trying to figure out what actually happens next. There's no question this was as close they've gotten to actually getting across the finish line on the bill. The real question is, can they resurrect it? They put a major, major effort in at the White House request towards the end, now on the government funding side of things, while they were having a short-term deal, there are still negotiations going on behind the scenes for a longer term deal.

According to Republicans and Democrats in both chambers I'm speaking to, they feel very confident they will get there. There will be no shutdown neither in the near term or in the longer term. So some positive news there. But when it comes to healthcare at the moment it looks like once again Republicans have fallen short -- Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right. Phil Mattingly, working hard there on Capitol Hill.

New trouble this morning for former National Security adviser Michael Flynn over his decision to accept payments from Turkey and Russia after he retired from the military. We have new information that the Pentagon inspector general has opened an investigation into the retired army general and that the Defense Intelligence Agency warned Flynn back in 2014 against accepting foreign payments.

That is according to documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee, some of which were released by Ranking Democratic Elijah Cummings.

BRIGGS: He says these documents raised grave questions about why Flynn concealed the payments after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon. And Cummings took the administration to task.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn. I don't get it. After the president fired him. For lying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The Republican chairman of the Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, is not happy with Cummings. His spokesman said the Democrat broke with long-standing protocol, releasing those documents without consulting Republicans.

ROMANS: Asked about all of this Press Secretary Sean Spicer says he thinks it's, quote, "appropriate" for the Pentagon to look into Flynn if they think there is wrongdoing. But questioned by our Jim Acosta why Flynn wasn't more thoroughly vetted, Spicer pinned that on the Obama administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was issued a security clearance under the Obama administration in the spring of 2016. The trip and transactions that you're referring to occurred in December of 2015. All of that clearance was made by the Obama -- during the Obama administration and apparently with knowledge of the trip that he took.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: One source familiar with the case admits Flynn did make a mistake, failing to fill out the proper forms seeking permission to get paid by a Russian state TV channel for a 2015 trip to Moscow. But the source strongly denies any effort to conceal that payment. He says Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency before and after that trip.

What does this mean for the White House? We'll try to unpack that in the 5:00 hour. But first President Trump's about-face on NAFTA. What was it that led him to agree to renegotiate instead of pull out? New details straight from the president, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:48:24] ROMANS: President Trump offering new insight into why he decided to renegotiate NAFTA rather than pull out like he promised. The president telling "The Washington Post" he was prepared to announce a full withdrawal from the trade agreement tomorrow, the 100th day of his administration. Quote, "I was all set to terminate," Trump tells the "Post," adding, "I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it."

So what changed?

BRIGGS: Well, it turns out the president's staff was deeply divided. News of a possible U.S. withdrawal was rattling markets in both Canada and Mexico. And Cabinet officials showed the president a map that highlighted regions of the country which would be hardest hit by a NAFTA pullout. And most of them were in pro-Trump territory.

The president claimed his administration is already beginning to renegotiate NAFTA but that's actually possible. The president must first provide notice of his intent to re-work the agreement, kicking off a 90-day consultation period with Congress and industry groups were now told that process will begin next week.

ROMANS: All right. The president swept into office with the promise of creating jobs and keeping American jobs, pledging $25 million over the next 10 years. But on the eve of his 100-day mark where does he stack up? On job creation, he's actually doing pretty well compared to the past few presidents.

Look at this, 317,000 jobs added in the first 100 days. It's better than Obama but remember he took office during a recession, Obama did, he was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs, 1.5 million in just two months. In fact Trump's numbers are the best since Clinton and you remember Clinton went on to create 22.9 million jobs during his eight years in office.

[04:50:01] However the '90s economic boom was due to the advent of the Internet. And the U.S. signing major trade deals. Remember, it was a huge push toward globalization. We're moving away from globalization. If Trump wants to reach that 25 million goal he's a little behind. He needs to create about 280,000 jobs per month.

The numbers just aren't there yet. And despite the rhetoric and executive orders coming from the White House, American companies, they do continue to shift job overseas. A CNN Money analyst of Department of Labor data shows more than 4,000 jobs have left the country in the first 100 days of Trump's presidency. Another 2,000 set to leave in coming weeks.

And it's not just to Mexico and China. The data from the government shows more jobs headed to, Dave, India than any other country. There you go.

BRIGGS: Not surprising to me.

ROMANS: Yes. India.

BRIGGS: Very interesting. All right. The city of brotherly love was the star in a big primetime welcome to the NFL.

The first round of the 2017 NFL draft now in the books. The Browns taking Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the top pick. The Chicago Bears traded up one spot to grab North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick.

The festivities this year outside Philly where Commissioner Roger Goodell got a true Philly welcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: Good evening, and welcome to the NFL draft.

(CROWD BOOING)

GOODELL: Come on, Philly. Come on. There you go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He handled it very well.

BRIGGS: He did handle it well.

ROMANS: That's like an executive class in how to be graceful under fire.

BRIGGS: Philly's tough, man. Rounds two and three of the draft will be held tonight. Final four rounds tomorrow.

And that's good preparation because Goodell says he's going to New England for the season opener next year. If you think Philly was hard on you, Commission, just wait until you hear Patriots fans.

ROMANS: Hello, Boston.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: All right. If you have money in the stock market, President Trump's policies are making you richer. How do the game stack up against past presidents? I'm telling you the guy who won the White House by championing the little guy is making the big guy really rich.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:56:23] BRIGGS: President Trump facing a number of foreign policy challenges during his first 100 days in office. Chief among them Syria and Russia. A new CNN poll shows increasing anxiety among Americans about the crisis in Syria. 51 percent saying they are very concerned, with another 38 percent somewhat concerned. Compare that to a 2013 CNN police when only 36 percent of Americans were very concerned about Syria.

ROMANS: And turning to Russia, nearly 3 out of 4 Americans now believe it is at least somewhat likely that improper contacts took place between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

For more on the global challenges facing President Trump moving forward, want to bring CNN's Nic Robertson live from London.

And when we say global challenges, it's actually a pretty long list, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There is. How to deal with Russia, certainly the international community viewed United States' position on President Trump striking the Syria, the Assad regime for using chemical weapons gave him a greater distance from President Putin. Indeed it seemed in many ways the international community that President Trump had been heading towards a friendship with President Putin. They all warned against that. Now he seems to be an enemy.

But over the issue of North Korea President Trump seemed to be on a collision course China calling a currency manipulator, but now he seems to understand that China can actually be a friend when it comes to dealing with North Korea. So, you know, for the international community's perspective, President Trump appears to have learned many things in his 100-day journey so far as president. But whereas he came in as on unknown, untested, it made the international community uneasy if you will, they still feel that way because they still feel that he is unpredictable in some circumstances.

They don't quite know what he's going to do. They recognize that he's done an about-turn on his views on NATO, on the European Union, but still there's the issue of, you know, European community, others feeling that free trade is a good thing. But the protectionism of America first, that President Trump espouses, is something that, you know, the international community by and large is still at odds with.

So, you know, as President Trump looks ahead to the issues that he has to deal with the international community still looks at him with a certain amount of trepidation. They don't quite know how things are going to go with North Korea, and that certainly seems to be reflected by the polls in the United States as well.

ROMANS: It's so interesting, Nic, because it wasn't long ago the president was saying that the Chinese needed to do more, that they could do more, should do more, and weren't. But now they're saying, oh, no, the Chinese are doing what they can with North Korea. He said he would gut NAFTA. Now he's saying no, I'm not going to gut NAFTA. He said, you know, we're going to get funding for the border wall, then no, we'll get a continuing resolution in the U.S. without funding for a border wall.

A lot of these things that really unnerved the international community the president has backed away from so we'll see if that trend continues.

Nic Robertson, thank you so much for that, in London, this morning.

Let's get a check on CNN Money stream right now this Friday morning. Stocks futures and global markets mixed. Another record high for Nasdaq. Earnings simply amazing for many of the tech household names. Look at Google, parent company Alphabet. Amazon, Microsoft, showing great profit growth. The rest of the market finished flat after questions about Trump's tax proposals weighed on Wall Street like when will it happen?

Still it's been the strongest earning season in years. Corporate America is rolling in profits. The Trump administration is invigorating business with the promise of tax cuts and deregulation. The most visible winner from this administration, an administration that championed the little guy on the campaign trail, is the investor class. Big business, big money, investors are winning big in the first 100 days of the Trump president.

(END)