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Trump Slammed For Obnoxious Tweet; Revised Travel Ban Takes Effect; Iraqi Prime Minister Sparks Confusion in Fight Against ISIS. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 30, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:09] REPORTER: Mr. President, do you regret your tweets this morning at all? Mr. President, No regrets over your tweets you sent out this morning?


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: If only he'd shown that kind of restraint before going on Twitter. The president fending off a torrent of criticism after a Twitter attack on a cable news host. The criticism is withering, and his agenda once again a forgotten topic.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm a speechless Christine Romans.


ROMANS: It is Friday --

BRIGGS: Hard to fathom.

ROMANS: It really is. It's June 30th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And in an era of unbreakable political gridlock, there's one thing everyone, nearly everyone seems to be able to agree upon -- President Trump's degrading tweets, regardless of the target, must stop. This issue resurfacing at the top of the political agenda after the president attacked cable news hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.

Now, brace yourself here. This is what he said: I heard poorly rated "Morning Joe" speaks badly of me. Don't watch anymore. Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row around New Year's Eve and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a facelift. I said no.

BRIGGS: Despite the nature of the tweets, the president's backers lining up to defend him. Chief among them, First Lady Melania Trump who is said to be combating cyber-bullying. That's part of her White House platform.

But here is a statement from her office, quote: As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back ten times harder.

The president's strategy is unclear as the tweets pull focus off some very important issues central to his campaign. It also forces lawmakers to once again answer for the president's social media habits.

Let's bring in White House correspondent Sara Murray for more.



Well, if President Trump is having any misgivings about his tweet storm yesterday in which he attacked a female MSNBC anchor and said she was, quote, bleeding badly from a facelift, the White House is giving no indication of that, insisting the president has no regrets.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the American people elected somebody who's tough, smart, and a fighter. And that's Donald Trump. I don't think it's a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire.

MURRAY: Now, the president could have been using the day to talk about health care. There is an important health care vote that's sure to come up soon in the Senate. He could have been talking about his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20. And he did make some mentions of energy policy in what was supposed to be energy week.

But he president's off-color tweets are what set senators on fire yesterday, even members of his own party said the president went too far and was out of line. Now, since then, senators have left town, and President Trump is not far behind. He'll be leaving for Bedminster where he'll be spending the weekend.

Back to you, guys.


ROMANS: All right, Sara.

For the most part, reaction to the tweets has run the gamut from bewilderment to frustration. One New York tabloid tweeting a sneak peek at this morning's cover, "Humiliation," with the note, how did we get here?

We also hard from members of Congress, including some senators critical to passing legislation the president desperately wants. Oh, yes, there's business to be done, by the way.

BRIGGS: That's right. Alaska's Lisa Murkowski tweeting: Stop it. The presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, I think one of the first to come out strong: Please just stop. This isn't normal. And it's beneath the dignity of your office.

Others like Senator Susan Collins and House Speaker Paul Ryan criticizing the president for making a remark so ugly not long after suggesting that everyone should be more kind and civil.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The president did speak eloquently after the shooting of the congressman and others at the congressional baseball game. And that's why I was particularly surprised to see him revert to this kind of language, because he clearly recognized that he has a role to play in uniting and healing the country. And unfortunately, he threw some gasoline on the embers.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Obviously, I don't see that as an appropriate comment. I think -- look, what we're trying to do around here is improve the tone, the civility of the debate. And this obviously doesn't help do that.


ROMANS: Mika Brzezinski herself told the president with the picture of a cereal box and tag line, made for little hands, like -- like a --

BRIGGS: Cheerios.

ROMANS: Cheerios.

And it looks like most Americans would be happy to see all this stop. More than six in ten want the president to stop tweeting, period. Sixty-one percent to 32 percent in a new Quinnipiac Poll.

BRIGGS: So, it seems the only one not commenting on the president's tweet is the president.

[04:05:03] As he awaited the president of South Korea, Mr. Trump ignored repeated questions about whether he regretted his tweets. Today, President Trump and President Moon will give a joint statement to the media but were told they will not answer any questions.

ROMANS: Think about the remarkable day yesterday. It began with the president -- you know, just about 20 hours ago, trolling cable news hosts on Twitter and then ended with him hosting a state visit from an incredibly important ally as we try to figure out what to do with North Korea.

BRIGGS: And let's remember, he set the agenda. The conversation could have been about health care, could have been about that meeting with President Moon.

ROMANS: The travel ban.

BRIGGS: It could have been the travel ban which was a win. It could have been about the --

ROMANS: Two House votes on immigration. BRIGGS: On immigration. But, look, again, to the notion that this is

beneath the dignity of the office, that's not going far enough. This is beneath the dignity of any office. I called some H.R. manager, friends of mine, and said, what would you do if you saw similar statements -- not tweets, these are statements.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: And they said, at the very least, we'd had to suspend. We'd more likely have to fire an employee of ordinary American businesses. But all of them agreed this would make someone unhirable to them.

These are ordinary American companies, unhirable. These are statements. These aren't tweets.


BRIGGS: These are official tweets. A window into the character of our president.

ROMANS: As you might imagine, the late-night hosts also had a say. Here's a sampling.


SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN: She was bleeding badly from a facelift, I said no.

This brings us to a new segment called, I can't. I mean -- I -- I can't.

ANNOUNCER: This has been "I can't."

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: I'm going to say something now that I did not think was possible anymore. I am shocked by something Donald Trump said.


Someone bleeding badly at your door and you say no? It sounds like your health care plan.


Turning them away from your hotel during the middle of winter is literally the story of Christmas, only there wasn't a wise man in sight.


This is shocking and vicious. So on brand.

And the reviews are in. Vulgar. Crude. A new low. No -- no, it's the same low.

(LAUGHTER) And Lindsey Graham tweeted, Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the

office and represents what is wrong with American politics.

Hold it right there, Lindsey. This is not what's wrong with American politics, OK? You don't see Paul Ryan throwing shade at Chuck Schumer over his eye job, OK?

This is what's wrong with the American president. Let's stop pretending.


Let's -- let's stop pretending that Trump is a symptom of something. He's the disease.


BRIGGS: Let's stop pretending that there aren't millions of Americans that are OK with this. They're on my Facebook page right now, millions of Trump supporters. I would wager 75 percent of the comments I saw on my social media support this president, support these comments in the wake of all this.

ROMANS: I just don't know how the president could have time to be irritated by cable news hosts. He's running the country or should be running a country with some major governing issues at the moment. It just -- I just don't know what it shows about his priorities and his attention span honestly.

BRIGGS: We've said enough, but we will have guests throughout the next couple of hours. Brian Stelter joins us in the 4:00 hour.

ROMANS: Great.

BRIGGS: And again, a reminder, this was a pivotal day for the president because the travel ban is now in effect. There's a last- minute change on who can enter, a last-minute legal challenge on the administration's rules. We're live in the Middle East ahead on EARLY START.


[04:13:24] ROMANS: The scaled down Trump administration travel ban now in effect. It includes a last minute change. Fiances will now be allowed to enter the country after the State Department originally said they did not qualify as a bona fide relationship.

BRIGGS: Just before the ban restricting travel from six Muslim majority nations took effect, the state of Hawaii filed a court challenge over the definition of bona fide, asking a judge to clarify that the Supreme Court ruling can't be interpreted to limit which family members can and cannot come into the U.S. As for now, how this ban is affecting travelers coming to the U.S. from six countries, CNN diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins us live with more on that.

Good morning to you, Nic. Where are we in all of this? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, when you

look at the airports through which some of the travelers are coming through, take the United Arab Emirates here, they have flights coming in from Iran, for example, Sudan, two of the countries out of that six of the Muslim majority countries that are banned, they're not encountering problems as they were last time the ban was in force back in very late January. Why? Because there seems to be better foreknowledge of what's happening. It's been better managed, if you will. There is more information for the airlines to deal with.

And from their perspective, anyone that's showing up who has the right documentation, the right travel visas to get on the aircraft, they are being allowed on the aircraft. There's -- there is -- there isn't the situation where people are getting on aircraft and finding when they get to the other end that the documents they have aren't sufficient. Even refugees who face 120-day ban from these six Muslim majority nations, even refugees who have travel documents that are good until the 6th of July issued by the State Department are being allowed to travel.

[04:15:13] That perhaps isn't the problem. The problem that's being felt in this region is the interpretation of who is allowed to come -- spouse, parent, son, daughter, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, but not grandparents, not aunts and uncles, not cousins. And that broader extended family here in this region at least is very much a close-knit family.

You have today a tweet coming from the Iranian foreign minister, very critical of the travel ban. And he says this: The United States now bans Iranian grandmothers from seeing their grandchildren in truly shameful, blind hostility to all Iranians.

So, politically, this is not going down well. Administratively better than the last time this was implemented -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Hard to imagine it being worse. But yes, thus far, pretty quiet.

Nic Robertson, live for us, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Sixteen minutes past the hour this Friday morning.

Senate Republicans are planning to keep at it through the holiday weekend as they fine-tune a health care reform bill they hope will pass muster with their skeptical GOP colleagues. The latest government analysis may not help the efforts. The Congressional Budget Office, the CBO, now predicting a 35 percent drop in Medicaid spending in 2036. A steeper decline than the 26 percent decrease expected in 2026.

BRIGG: Now, it's based on the bill's call for Medicaid spending to grow at the rate of inflation in 2025, a pace less generous than the current law or recently passed bill in the House. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insists negotiations are making good progress despite the expected failure to meet today's self-imposed deadline to hammer out a framework on this bill.

ROMANS: It's so interesting at the beginning of the day yesterday, there was a brief moment when the president and those around him were starting to talk about there wouldn't be Medicaid cuts.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: It would be a slowing of the growth of Medicaid. So, you could see that there was this effort to reframe the debate in the media. Then the president with his tweets totally knocked the discussion off the front page.

BRIGGS: But therein lies the heart of the issue with this health care plan. When it's crafted behind closed doors, not by a committee but by one person, Mitch McConnell, you can't get people behind even the narrative or language that you want to use.

ROMANS: Right.

Drastic cuts to Medicaid is one reason critics blast the Senate bill as reverse Robin Hood, taking money from the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich. Up to an estimated quarter million dollars each year. Look at that.

So, to save the bill, several GOP senators are considering keeping a tax on investment income. Let me say it again -- several GOP senators are thinking about keeping a tax on investment incomes. That's, you know, counterintuitive to the Republican strategy and world view.

The 3.8 percent surtax on investment income helps pay for Medicare and disproportionately, this is a tax that affects wealthy people. Both versions of the health care bill repeal it. So, it would be tax cuts for the rich in this health care bill. But now, some Republican senators want to leave it in to help offset costs for low income households.

The GOP has long opposed these taxes. So, this move could hurt the conservative support it needs for tax reform, which the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says that support for tax reform is on track for this fall.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: We are very committed to get tax reform done this year. It is one of the president's top priorities for economic growth. I think the people of America understand that, that we need economic growth and we're committed to doing that.


ROMANS: The treasury secretary also defended the administration's goal of 3 percent economic growth, arguing that if Congress passes health care and tax reform, that 3 percent target would be conservative, he says -- something that other progressive economists disagree with. That looks like they are still working at it. But the optics are so

critical here because if you are going to slow the growth of Medicaid, which would deny coverage perhaps or limit coverage for some people, you can't give tax cuts to the rich, can you? I mean, the optics of that are very, very difficult.

BRIGGS: Well, it's also about the balancing act. To your point there, you keep in that tax, would you lose some of those conservatives? Paul, Lee, Cruz.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: All right. We shall see.

A surprise move by a House committee could force Congress to take up one of the thorniest issues on its agenda. Who authorizes military force in the war on terror? Details ahead on EARLY START.


[04:23:54] ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back.

The law granting the U.S. military authority for the war on terror could be up for a new debate in Congress. House Appropriations Committee has voted to strip the authorization that the Pentagon has relied on since 2001 to fight ISIS and al Qaeda. The move approved by a voice vote surprised leaders of both parties and provoked quick opposition, setting the stage for a floor fight next month.

BRIGGS: Critics claim the authorization is too broad and gives the president the power to wage war in perpetuity. The repeal leaves open the question of what would replace it, though. It is still a long way from becoming law since leaders have plenty of time to strip the language from any final spending bill.

ROMANS: A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS says he expects Mosul to be liberated within days. That statement comes after the Iraqi prime minister sparked confusion saying the military had retaken a critical mosque, effectively declaring victory. But crews on the ground say it's not exactly the case yet.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has more for us this morning from Irbil, Iraq.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Dave, the major issue with the announcement from the Iraqi prime minister that they have taken the al Nuri mosque from ISIS and therefore effectively liberated Mosul from the terror group is that as far as we could see late until yesterday afternoon, that isn't really true.

[04:25:11] The forces we were with, have been with the last couple of days, have been fighting hard to get their vehicles to encircle that mosque. And they hadn't managed to do it. Now, there is nobody, as far as we understand, inside the mosque compound because it's rubble, because it may still be booby trapped, but simply because it's empty doesn't mean they control it. They themselves accepted that.

So, we're into political territory here. Iraq's government desperate for rhetoric that makes it sound like they're winning at this point. The problem is, there are still thousands of civilians trapped in parts of the old city, with ISIS frankly willing to die simply to make the most amount of bloodshed possible and to make life as hard as possible for Iraqi special forces.

There's still potentially a bloody chapter ahead, but the Iraqi government seems keen to sweep that under the carpet and move on.

The problem is, the declaration of victory won't solve Iraq's problems. There's still the deep rift between the Shia who are predominantly in the government here, and the Sunnis who used to be but are now, frankly, disenfranchised some of the extremists close to ISIS. There's still bloodshed ahead.

Announcements of victory partially backed up by the U.S. A few days of nasty fighting ahead. And the broader question still of how does Iraq heal unanswered.

Back to you.


ROMANS: All right. Nick, thank you for that.

BRIGGS: All right. President Trump's team on defense after a tweet about a cable news host that drew near universal condemnation.


SANDERS: It's kind of like we're living in the twilight zone. They do this day after day after day, and then the president responds and defends himself, and everybody is appalled and blown away.


ROMANS: More on the president's day shuttling between degradation and diplomacy.