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Trump's Global Vision; Russia Probe Deepens; Afghanistan Attack; Golf World Reacts to Tiger's Arrest. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House tried to lay out a foreign policy vision. The president sees the world not at the global community, but an arena of competitors. The world view bound to rattle America's allies.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Flynn ready to cooperate with subpoenas in the Russian investigation. But White House tight lipped on back channel overtures to the Kremlin.

BRIGGS: And a huge explosion in Kabul's diplomatic corridor killing nearly 100 people. Hundreds more injured. It comes as the president weighs deeper troop deployment in Afghanistan.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is the last day of May, everybody.

[05:00:01] Wednesday, May 31st.

That went fast, didn't it?

BRIGGS: It did indeed.

ROMANS: Five a.m. in the East.

All right. This morning, the White House taking new steps to reclaim the narrative on two big stories, the president's foreign trip and Russian investigation.

Let's start with the global view here. On the foreign trip, two top aides looking to puncture the idea that the president left foreign leaders nervous. National security adviser H.R. McMaster and economic adviser Gary Cohn out with a new "Wall Street Journal" op-ed this morning. If you read nothing else this morning before you head into work this is the piece to read.

It's titled "America first doesn't mean America alone." Both of them were on the overseas trip with the president.

BRIGGS: Definitely a must read, folks. They offer a staunch defense of Mr. Trump's global vision. They say in part: The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a global community but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.

ROMANS: We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny the elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it. Their clear message, American strength will keep America first.

BRIGGS: Yes, some interesting omissions here. No mention of the climate agreement or of climate change. It does say: Simply put, America will treat others as they treat us.

So, this will be interpreted over the next several days from world leaders and certainly members of the media. It comes hours after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave this take on the president's trip abroad.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It was an unprecedented first trip abroad, just four months into this administration, and it shows how quickly and decisively the president is acting to strengthen alliances to form new partnerships and to rebuild America's standing in the world. We've never seen before at this point in the presidency such sweeping reassurance of American interest and inauguration of a foreign policy strategy designed to bring back the world from growing dangers and perpetual disasters brought on by years of failed leadership.


BRIGGS: All this comes amid what looks like a diplomatic feud between the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Whether there's actually a rift between the U.S. and Germany, that depends who you ask. For the third day in a row, Chancellor Merkel hammered at her view that Europe must, as she put it, take our fate into our own hands.

ROMANS: The president back in the Oval Office after his European trip escalating the rhetoric with a tweet. He wrote: We have a massive trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay far less than they should on NATO and military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.

BRIGGS: Adding a third view, Press Secretary Spicer then downplayed any clash between the two leaders.


SPICER: I think the relationship that the president has had with Merkel he would describe as fairly unbelievable. They get along very well. He has a lot of respect for her. They continue to grow the bond that they had during their talks at the G7.


BRIGGS: So, for the latest on how this is all going over with European allies, let's bring in senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen live for us this morning in London.

There's a lot to unpack here in this "Wall Street Journal" op-ed and I know Americans and world leaders will all start to decide what it means to them. But one part I want to ask you about, it says, while confirming America's commitment to NATO and Article 5 and goes on, do world leaders see what President Trump see as reconfirming their commitment they have NATO allies back?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I'm not sure that other leaders within the NATO alliance really see it that way. That certainly was one of the gist that you got from some of the things that Angela Merkel was saying, where she was saying, look, we're not sure we can fully rely on the United States, also as far as security is concerned as well. I think one of the things that they were missing was a real commitment to security in Europe regardless of Article 5 or not because Article 5 itself, you know, is a little bit unclear as to what sort of response there would be if there's an attack on another NATO nation. But certainly, they were missing some of that.

The other big thing, Dave, what you mentioned before was the global community. I don't think many European leaders really believe that there's a global community, but I do think that they thought or they think that there's a transatlantic community and I think that this one that's very important to them.

If you look at some of the things that Angela Merkel is saying, she's saying, look, we're still committed to the transatlantic alliance, but we're not sure we can fully rely on the White House in its current state on this presidency and that's something she reaffirmed. She said it several times and other European leaders are saying the same thing. She didn't just say once in an election campaign. She said it several times.

And other European leaders are saying the same time. You have, for instance, the Italian prime minister saying the same thing. So, while Sean Spicer says the relations are very good, European leaders are asking about American leadership, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Fred Pleitgen live for us in London -- thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump with a Twitter glitch overnight. Take a look at this tweet from just after midnight.

[05:50:03] And the president writing, despite the constant negative press covfefe. That's right. It appears to be an unfinished tweet with a typo. But who knows?

If it is a mistake, no one seems to be noticing at the White House. It has not been taken down. By the way, covfefe is trending number one on Twitter overnight.

It's, of course, not a word. I'm assuming --

BRIGGS: Worldwide, not just the United States.

ROMANS: -- that was some adaptation of coverage --

BRIGGS: That's what Urban Dictionary assumes when you want to say coverage and all your hands are too small to hit the letters on the keyboard that's covfefe, says the Urban Dictionary. But --

ROMANS: Missing that subject of urban predicate, too. It's that little dangling claws out there. All right.

BRIGGS: More than 118,000 retweets.

Joining us to break down the meaning of covfefe, CNN political commentator, Shermichael Singleton, a Republican strategist, and political analyst Ellis Henican, author of Trump's America" column for the "Metro Papers".

Good morning to both of you. And thanks for being here.

We'll have you decide what that means towards the end of the segment.


ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: I'll use it three or four times if that's OK, if you don't mind.

BRIGGS: First, think about this in the "Wall Street Journal," basically describing the foreign policy of the Trump administration in part, Gary Cohn and H.R. McMaster write, America will not lead from behind. This administration will restore confidence in American leadership as we serve the American people. America first does not mean America alone. It is a commitment to protecting and advancing our vital interests while also fostering cooperation and strengthening relationships with our allies and our partners.

Ellis Henican, let me start with you. Is that the sense that you got from this nine day trip abroad meeting with foreign leaders.

HENICAN: Well, it's landing like a thud in Europe, I'll tell you that, right?

Angela Merkel and others saying, hey, the day when we can count on America to cement this ally, to stand with us in difficult times seems to be past. We got to go it alone. That is, you know, there maybe an argument for it but I say it goes against 70 years of American policy, which was to encourage the unity of Europe to hold back the expansion of the Russians. And we may be coming to in and of that.

ROMANS: I don't mean to be too simplistic or too much of a history major here, Shermichael, but when the United States has not been closely allied with Europe, really bad things happen. And when you hear these two architects of this world view with the president in this op-ed say that the world is not a global community, that is a rejection of the direction we've been going for 70 years.

However, President Trump was elected, Shermichael, because he wanted America to be winners and he sees America losing against all these other folks.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it would behoove us to learn from history. But I think to your point, a lot of people who voted for President Trump do believe that we need to have a self-interest first versus -- over the interest of others. I think -- I was reading some data yesterday that indicated that Americans regardless of political parties believe by and large that the United States cannot continue to be the world's police, if you will.

So, I think there's a legitimate case to make that the two gentlemen made in the article that's coming out today. But, again, I think many Europeans have relied on United States of America as being that beacon of hope, being the nation of leadership, of guidance, of conscience, to sort of help and guide them on the right path to make sure that we protect them against the Russians, against terrorism, et cetera, and I think -- go ahead.

ROMANS: They make this point also the moral beacon of the United States.


ROMANS: If the president has embraced, you know, tyrants and adversaries of the United States and so far, and stiff-armed our allies. So, some don't kind of see how that goes together.

SINGLETON: You're right. It sends the wrong message. Look, I can't -- I'm not exactly sure what the foreign policy is of this current administration. I think one could argue the previous administration definitely took a more soft power approach.

With this one, I'm not sure what it is and that's honest as I can and can be. But I do think for many of our allies who look at the president and many of his positions as it pertains to Putin and other dictators, they are beginning to wonder, can we continue to rely on the United States and that is not the message we want to send and I think many hawkish Republicans will want to tell the president, you got to begin to change the tune here.

BRIGGS: This, Ellis, is less an op-ed than it is the Trump doctrine that everybody has been waiting for. And to Shermichael's point, if you're a Trump supporter, if you're in the 35 percent to 45 percent that still support the job he's doing in the White House, isn't this exactly what you want to hear?

HENICAN: Well, there's an audience for it. I don't think there's any denying that. But I mean, I hope we start to think it through a little bit and try to get our heads around with some of the implications, are like, does it really -- I understand, we're America first. Does it make sense to take the people who are standing by us reliably through thick thin and thumb our nose at them and tell them they don't matter to us anymore?

[05:10:07] You know, I think we may need them again.

ROMANS: Quick to both of you, I'll ask you first, Shermichael, do you think Donald Trump pulls out of the Paris climate accord?

SINGLETON: You know, that's a good question. I think the president has to walk a careful balance here because a lot of Republicans never believe the United States should have ever entered into that agreement. However, I think what the president could do, stay in the agreement but not be an active participant. That's what I would advise.

BRIGGS: There's an interesting read in the "New York Times", Ellis, that basically sets the stage for the climate debate which is Bannon and EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, against the other camp, which is Gary Cohn, Ivanka Trump, Rex Tillerson, they want to stay in. What will it tell us about the spheres of influence inside this White House whether or not they stay in?

HENICAN: Well, it's a really good thing to watch. I have to say, the signals from the president, though, have been very mixed. I mean, he seemed to signal to some people at the G7 that, you know, he was evolving, might be open to finding a way to stick with it and then kind of veered in the other direction.

If you ask me right now, I think we'll bail. That could change in 20 minutes.

ROMANS: It feels like TPP to me. It really does.


ROMANS: I mean, business leaders saying stay in. Some Republicans saying, stay in.

You know, look, the known for American business is Paris climate and that this is how you manage, weaning off fossil fuels. The unknown is if we get out, the rest of the world keeps going. That's not good for business.

Shermichael, finally, covfefe.


ROMANS: Use it in a sentence for me.

SINGLETON: You know, I don't know if I could use that in anything in college and actually passed an English course. So, I'm not sure what the president meant there. I hope it was a typo. Maybe he's feeling creative and decided to create a new word.

BRIGGS: Ellis?

HENICAN: Well, you know, I have to say it reminded me -- I assumed it was a spell check problem, because for a while, when I was typing text, they changed every word to ferret.

ROMANS: Ferret?

HENICAN: You can cause all kind of problems when you invite people to ferret.

BRIGGS: It is still the number one trending topic worldwide, not just here in the United States.

I'd say you grab another coffee, a cup of covfefe.

ROMANS: Yes, yes, I like my covfefe with milk and sugar.

All right. Come back in a few minutes, guys. Thank you.

Nice to meet you, Shermichael.

SINGLETON: Nice to meet you as well.

ROMANS: One major decision the president has on his plate thrust into the headlines, major attack in Afghanistan, as the president weighs more troop deployment. We'll live with more on that, next.


[05:16:35] BRIGGS: Breaking news: a huge explosion rocking Kabul's diplomatic quarter. An Afghan official describing it as a suicide attack near the German embassy.

National security reporter Ryan Browne joining us live from Washington this morning with the latest.

Good morning to you, Ryan.

This comes at a pivotal time regarding troop deployment to Afghanistan. What do we know?


This bombing killed at least 80 people and injured hundreds we're being told and as you said, it took place near the German embassy. Now, official from the military mission, the U.S. led military mission to Afghanistan said that the Afghan security forces prevented the vehicle borne IED from entering the, quote, Green Zone, which is where most of the embassies are based.

But that being said, some German embassy officials were injured. We're learning from the German foreign ministry, one Afghan security guard was killed.

And this all coming as the White House is weighing whether or not to send potentially thousands of more soldiers to Afghanistan to kind of boost training efforts for the Afghan military as they fight both the Taliban and ISIS.

Now, it's not clear who conduct this bombing, the Taliban and ISIS have both struck Kabul before. This is a quite large bombing. There hasn't been one this big in quite some time in the capital of Afghanistan.

So, this is a major -- represents a major kind of an uptick in violence in the capital which comes as the Afghan fighting season kind of starts off in full speed in the warmer summer months. So, something that, again, will factor into this decision of whether or not to boost the U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan and whether or not to conduct additional air strikes potentially against the Taliban. That's something tells military is weighing.

So, this could factor into the decision-making process going on in the White House right now.

BRIGGS: I think it would. Ryan Browne, live for us in Washington, thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right. Eighteen minutes past the hour.

President Trump vows the replacement health care bill will be more affordable than Obamacare. What do Americans think? Many of them do not agree. Nearly half of consumers think costs will be worse under the American Health Care Act. That's according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. That percentage is an increase from Kaiser's last survey in December.

Also up significantly, concerns over quality of care. More than one- third of those polled think access to care will get worse under the new bill. Also, 49 percent gave Obamacare a favorable rating over the GOP bill passed by the House, currently the Senate. That's the highest rating for Obamacare since it became law in March 2010.

BRIGGS: All right. Does Tiger Woods need help? Golf legend Jack Nicklaus thinks so.

Andy Scholes with this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:45] BRIGGS: All right. Golf's greatest player ever, Jack Nicklaus, says Tiger Woods needs our help after his arrest in Florida.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


You know, new details emerge on Tiger Woods arrest. Jack Nicklaus is voicing his concern for Tiger.


JACK NICKLAUS, GOLF LEGEND: I feel bad for Tiger. Tiger is a friend. He's been great for the game of golf. I think he needs all our help. And we wish him well.

JIM FURYK, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: More than anything else just concern. Hopefully he's OK. And kind of want to find out more about the story and hope all is well.


SCHOLES: Now, police in Jupiter, Florida, said Tiger's 2015 Mercedes had two flat tires and rim damage on the driver's side when they arrested him early Monday morning. There was also damage to the rear bumper.

Now, according to the police report, Woods was found on the side of the road asleep with engine running. He had to be awakened by officers and his speech was slurred. No alcohol was found in the system. Tiger has a July 5th court date with the DUI charges.

All right. Major League Baseball handing down suspensions for Monday's brawl between Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland. Harper getting four games for throwing some punches in his helmet, while Strickland was handed six for instigating the fight. Strickland apparently had been holding a grudge after Harper homered off of him twice three years ago.

[05:25:05] Both players are appealing their suspension.

All right. The long awaited NBA finals between the Cavs and Warriors get started tomorrow night. LeBron looking to win his fourth NBA championship. Once his playing days are done, LeBron says he wants to continue to win titles as an owner.

LeBron telling "The Athletic": Why do I want to own a team? I think it will be cool. I stay a part of the game and still be able to put people in positions of power. I always loved that, putting people in position of power to feel like they can make a change and make things happy.

All right. Finally, a Predators fan is facing up to six years in prison for throwing a fish during game one of the Stanley Cup Finals. Jacob Waddell smuggled in a catfish in his underwear --


SCHOLES: -- at PPG Paint Arena in Pittsburgh.

And when Predators down 3-0, he threw it on the ice. It's kind of a tradition in Nashville to throw catfish on the ice. It worked. Predators rallied to tie this game before losing, but Waddell is being charged with disorderly conduct, disrupting a meeting and possessing instruments of a crime.

Now, the instrument of crime is, of course, the catfish. Carrie Underwood, a Predators fan, called Waddell a hero. And, guys, there are multiple of lawyers in state of Tennessee willing to represent Waddell and help him go up to Pittsburgh and face these -- fight these charges.

ROMANS: You had me at catfish in his underwear. That is --

SCHOLES: And it gets better.

ROMANS: Catfish in his underwater. SCHOLES: Guys, he sprayed the catfish down with Old Spice to try to mask the smell and he ran it over with his truck to flatten it, to fit it in his underwear. The story is beyond amazing.

BRIGGS: Nothing so luring as the scent of catfish.


ROMANS: Very well done. All right.

BRIGGS: Scholes, thank you.

Catfish taking on a whole new meaning.

ROMANS: Catfish in his underwear.

All right. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour this morning.

Can President Trump put America first without leaving the rest of the world behind? The president's top aides say he can with major decisions ahead on big global issues.