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Trump to Face the Media; Senate Health Bill May Keep Obamacare Taxes; Remains Found in Pennsylvania Missing Men Case; One Trillion Ton Iceberg Breaks Off Antarctica. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:09] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has arrived in Paris. A busy two days ahead, including facing reporters on camera. What will he say about his son's emails and his meeting with a Russian lawyer?

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Dave Briggs. It is Thursday, July 13th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East. This should be a fascinating meeting between Macron and President Trump.

ROMANS: Bon jour, Mr. Trump.

BRIGGS: Oh, we eagerly await the optics of this one. Just hours from now in Paris, President Trump holds a news conference alongside the French president, Emmanuel Macron. It will be the first chance for reporters to question the president publicly since the revelation Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer hoping to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

In advance of the news conference, President Trump tells "Reuters" he was unaware of the meeting Don Jr. agreed to, only learning about it a couple of days ago.

ROMANS: A Republican public source says the president has privately expressed dismay his son agreed to the meeting, but believe Don Jr. did nothing illegal. The source also says the president is annoyed, annoyed that the story has become a distraction from the overseas trip last week to Poland and Germany, and now a trip that the White House sees as a success.

So, how will it affect the president's trip right now to France?

CNN's Melissa Bell joins us from our Paris bureau.

Good morning.


No doubt this is what is likely to overshadow what was already going to be a very closely watched visit by the American president from the European perspective. I mean, European leaders, Emmanuel Macron, first and foremost amongst them, are really looking for a sign that Donald Trump is willing to work with Europe on a number of key issues, on a number -- in a number of key areas.

And the visit today is going to be extremely interesting to see whether Emmanuel Macron, who's been so forthright, so obvious through handshakes, through what he's had to say in English and in French over the course of the last few weeks, in his opposition to President Trump's world view, still believes that this is an American president he can try to work with. So, Emmanuel Macron -- and this is the big difference between he and other European leaders -- has extended this invitation in the hopes that some common ground can be found, and that Donald Trump can be convinced to remember that the alliance between the United States and Europe is a historic one, is a military one, is a crucial one, Christine. That is what Emmanuel Macron wants to get out of this visit. Clearly, the American press is going to be focused on something entirely different.

ROMANS: Absolutely. Well, they'll talk about Syria, they'll talk about security, we're told. There's a bulk of this meeting, their meetings will be about Syria. We know -- about security, rather. We know that they will dine this evening at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Eiffel Tower with their wives.

But what's so remarkable is that on climate change in particular, the French president was very critical of the American president, in fact going so far as to issue a statement on video saying, make the planet great again, which is a real -- a real -- a real pointed jab at this president.

BELL: It was. It was definitely. And he did so, Christine, in English, which is extremely unusual for a French president, twisting that campaign's slogan, sort of send it back Donald Trump's way. And there has almost been a mocking tone from the French president. How will Donald Trump feel about standing next to a man who so clearly have those jabs at him -- and not only on that occasion but others, as well, who so clearly explained the differences between their two positions, and who yet hopes to be able to make some progress even on the question of climate change.

So, I think one of the things that will be interesting is to watch the body language between these alpha males as they square up to one another today in Paris.

ROMANS: Yes, two remarkably different political animals, no question.

All right. Melissa Bell, we know you'll be there for us. Thank you so much.

BRIGGS: Yes. And sometimes it's the media that makes too much of optics. Well, Macron called that handshake in Brussels a moment of truth. He said that was a very important moment.

I love your point about the food, though, because you know why, I mean, blue lobster and caviar is what they're said to be dining on tonight. The president of the United States is a well done steak and ketchup kind of guy. So, that's an interesting dynamic. All right. Joining us to help break down the politics, not to menu, CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, historian and professor at Princeton University.

Although you planned, sir, break down the menu, that will make for an interesting food exchange. But let's talk about this relationship. How do you characterize the relationship between a 49-year-old Macron and the 71-year-old President Trump?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Macron's a pragmatist. And so, here, you see him flexing that pragmatic muscle and meeting with who he has to meet. It's an effort to get on to the world stage for him. And this is, you know, a little bit of what we often see from our own leaders, when they reach out to other leaders who might not be on the same page and try to find agreement.

[04:05:05] But it will be awkward for sure. There are fundamental differences between what they stand for.

ROMANS: Oh, I mean, absolutely. One thing I think is interesting about this meeting is that in normal political times, which we are not in, this would be a reset from the domestic conversation. But the president is going to a place where this president of Russia -- of France has complained about Russian bots and fake news intervening in elections there, as well. One wonders how much of the Russia discussion they'll have.

ZELIZER: Yes, this is not an example of an overseas trip that changes the conversation. As we've seen every time the president leaves, the Russia issue follows him. And in this case, other countries are dealing with the same threat and the same problem. So, it's on his agenda, as well. And so, he won't be able to escape this.

BRIGGS: Yes, Russia did everything they could to sink Emmanuel Macron to no avail. The Russia story follows, and in particular, in light of an interesting interview with "Reuters" last night, in which they asked the president about Don Jr. taking that meeting, given the context of this was part of a greater effort to impact the election.

And here's what Donald Trump told "Reuters": I think many people would have held that meeting. And you have to understand when that took place, this was before Russia fever. There was no Russia fever back then, and that was at the beginning of the campaign. More or less, there was no Russia fever.

But, Julian, let me get back to the beginning of that, I think many people would have held that meeting?


BRIGGS: Can you believe the president of the United States said that?

ZELIZER: It's astounding. There are not many people who would have held that meeting. And if he is watching the news or reading the news as he does, I don't know exactly who he's heard say this. That's simply not the case. Everyone has recommended or said almost that this was not the proper thing to do. They've disagreed on how bad it was. But there's not many people that are out there saying this is normal or this was wise.

So, this is the president spinning the news rather than reporting on what we've at least heard from a majority of --

BRIGGS: No remorse, though.

ZELIZER: There's no remorse, and that is President Trump. No remorse. Fight, never concede.

ROMANS: Fight. You fight. Don't back down. That's why yesterday, when we heard from Don Jr., when he said in hindsight I would have done things differently.

BRIGGS: But at least he had some remorse, right.

ROMANS: That surprised me. That is not the Trump, Inc., way. It is to fight, fight, fight, which makes me wonder if they can get this behind them and get a White House that's less paralyzed. You know, a lot of the reporting is that this is a paralyzed White House, a bunker mentality, and that's something that Sebastian Gorka, who is, you know, on behalf of the administration last night, was fighting with Anderson Cooper saying that's just not true. But from all the reporting, we can tell it is true.

As a historian, when you look at what's happening in this West Wing right now, how difficult is it going to be to get an agenda done?

ZELIZER: Well, we're already in the summer. The agenda isn't really there. On executive action, he's had an agenda. And he is pushing forward with it.

But on legislation, we're still on health care. It's unclear if health care will pass. And it's clear that the president has not been helpful at this point to congressional Republicans. He's been a hindrance.

So, it's very hard. You know, time is the most valuable commodity in politics.

ROMANS: Are they getting stuff done because there's all this distraction in the White House -- is Congress working on legislation and so -- or no?

ZELIZER: No. Congress isn't. They're working on legislation, but they're not getting it passed. The record is clear. The scorecard is bare on legislation.

And so, this is not considered by any measure a success in terms of the legislative agenda. And again, it's now the summer. You only have so much time before those midterms start to become the central concern of legislators, and he's losing that time.

BRIGGS: Well, hence, Mitch McConnell extending their legislative term, and wiping out two weeks. But the president did say the White House is functioning beautifully to "Reuters" last night, pushing back against that notion.

ROMANS: They fight a hoax made up by the Democrats. A hoax made up by the Democrats.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: All right. Julian Zelizer, come back. We'll talk to you again very, very soon. Thank you.

Let's stay on the subject of health care, with the Senate expected to unveil its updated version of the health care bill today. It looks like it might not cut Obamacare's taxes on the wealthy. Critics blast it as a reverse Robin Hood, cutting health care coverage to help pay for tax cuts for the rich. So, keeping those taxes, those taxes on the wealthy, may help the Senate get the votes it needs to pass.

The two taxes disproportionately affect the wealthy. One is at 3.8 percent tax on investments. The other is a payroll tax on high incomes. Not repealing them will inject $230 million into the bill. That could lower premiums for older Americans and lower income consumers.

The GOP, of course, has long opposed these taxes.

[04:10:01] They hate these taxes -- hated them. And they claim they strangle economic growth, keeping them could hurt the conservative support the Trump administration needs for tracks reform.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says reform is still on track for this year. He said he -- this week -- he hopes to have a full plan in December --

BRIGGS: We all simultaneously --

ROMANS: Coughing.

BRIGGS: -- got a bit of a cough there.

ROMANS: Oh my gosh, 4:10 in the East.

BRIGGS: From what we understand, there could be as many as three versions of the health bill. There could be Mitch McConnell.

ROMANS: Is Lindsey Graham working on another one, too?

BRIGGS: Lindsey Graham is the third. Mitch McConnell, plus Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz amendment, just throwing a lot of stuff out there in the atmosphere.

ROMANS: I think the tax cuts, the optics, if they had revealed taxes on the wealthy and then cut Medicaid, cut -- raised premiums for older Americans and women, for example. I think the optics would have been very, very difficult. I mean, it could still happen, but the optics could be hard, right?

BRIGGS: Optics are getting important with 28 seats drawing here. ROMANS: Giving tax cuts to rich people is not going to fly.

BRIGGS: That will be tough.

OK. Some devastating news for families of four missing men in Pennsylvania. Remains of one found after an extensive search. What police are saying about the suspect, next.


[04:15:18] BRIGGS: Sad discovery in the search for four men missing in Pennsylvania. The body of one of the four has been identified, found buried on a property in Bucks County about an hour from Philadelphia. Additional human remains were also found in the common grave.

ROMANS: Joining us this morning with the latest, CNN's Brynn Gingras.

Good morning. This has been a mystery, these four young men missing. And now, it's sort of a sad turn here. What do we know?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, you saw the authorities on that property. This has been an exhaustive search. The Bucks County district attorney said, make no mistake, this is a homicide. The remains were found in a 12.5-foot-deep grave.

The D.A. says the body that was found has been -- is of Dean Finocchiaro. He says the 19-year-old's family has been notified. There are additional remains in the common grave that have not yet been identified.

The worst fears, of course, are that they belong to other three men that are still missing. Jim Patrick, Thomas Nio (ph), and Mark Sturgess (ph). All four went missing last week, and police have made an arrest. Twenty-year-old Cosmo Dinardo. The bodies were found after police brought in equipment to dig through concrete recently poured on land owned by his family, the Dinardo family.

Now, Dinardo had been arrested Monday on an unrelated gun charge, released on a million dollars bail, and arrested again on Wednesday after police say he tried to sell a car belonging to one of the missing men.

Bucks County D.A. Matt Weintraub says he hopes this arrest will give them enough time to bring homicide charges.


MATT WEINTRAUB, BUCKS COUNTY, PA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I feel that we bought ourselves a little time in charging Mr. Dinardo with the stolen car case today and getting that $5 million bail. It is my hope that he does not post that, but that's his prerogative, of course, if he can post it. We're going to start looking seriously at the homicide charges, and, in fact, we already have pursued that option.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GINGRAS: Now, this was a midnight press conference. That D.A. was very colorful, saying it took cadaver dogs to locate those remains even in 12.5 feet below the ground, under concrete.

Of course, now, the big question that remains, it's still unanswered, is what is the motive for all these killings. We still don't know, you guys, this morning. We do know that there are more news conferences scheduled for later today and this afternoon. So, hopefully, we'll get answers.

ROMANS: The suspect in custody on unrelated charges.

GINGRAS: Unrelated charges. Again, he says that gives them a little bit more time to look into this, hopefully get those homicide charges. But we still have those bodies or remains rather to be identified, too.

BRIGGS: Right. Sold a car belonging to one of these men. Hard to believe.


BRIGGS: Brynn, thanks. You'll be with us all morning.

ROMANS: All right. Eighteen minutes past the hour.

How did an iceberg the size of Delaware manage to break away from Antarctica? Maps will even have to be redrawn after this event. We'll explain next.


[04:22:36] BRIGGS: Welcome back.

Twenty-two minutes past the hour this Thursday morning.

Scientists are examining the causes and effects of an enormous iceberg breaking away from the Antarctic Peninsula. Twenty-two hundred square miles floating block of ice represents one of the biggest calving events ever reported. It's giving global attention for its significance in climate studies and its potential impact on sea levels since it holds twice the water volume, twice the water volume of Lake Erie.

CNN's Kyung Lah has more.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A crack more than 120 miles long on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula explain finally breaking off, creating a spectacular iceberg weighing more than a trillion metric tons, roughly the size of Delaware.

ARADHNA TRIPATI, PROFESSOR, UCLA GEOCHEMIST: It's one of the largest icebergs in human history. LAH: UCLA Professor Aradhna Tripati has spent years studying

Antarctic ice, traveling to the very peninsula where the ice shelf Larsen C broke off. Professor Tripati has seen two other big sections of the peninsula break off and dissolve. The first in 1995, and then another in 2002. She watched as this crack grew for years, caught off-guard that the break happened so soon.

What the break means is something scientists aren't agreed on. Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, is a continent covered in ice. And icebergs have been breaking away from ice shelves for millions of years. But at the end of the 20th century, the peninsula was one of the fastest warming places on the planet. That warming has slowed or reversed slightly in the century.

(on camera): You learn all of this just from samples of ice.

TRIPATI: You learn it from samples of ice and samples of rock.

LAH (voice-over): This geochemist says the overall trends in the Arctic point to global warming.

TRIPATI: The fact that we've had seven of 12 ice shelves on Antarctica collapse in the last few decades, and this one appears to be ready to go with the breaking off of this major iceberg, that -- it's hard to attribute to anything else.

LAH: For now, scientists will track the new iceberg to see if and when it melts. And maps -- they'll have to be redrawn for the ever- changing geography in Antarctica.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


[05:25:00] ROMANS: Wow.

BRIGGS: That's incredible.

ROMANS: Pictures are cool.

BRIGGS: And now, Emmanuel Macron has another timely reason to bring up climate change with President Trump, perhaps.

OK. Rock the vote. Twice over, musician Kid Rock expressing interest in politics, tweeting that the Website is for real and tweeting a major announcement in the future. He's been floated as a potential opponent to Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who's up for re-election next year.

This happening as an official campaign committee is set up to draft actor/wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for president. The 26-year- old fan formally creating the Run the Rock 2020 Committee.

ROMANS: That's the fan saying that.

BRIGGS: Yes. ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: And these are extraordinary times. No one's going to knock either for experience. That's how extraordinary the times we are.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: It's good stuff.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump preparing to face reporters for the first time since his son's Russian lawyer scandal caused chaos at the White House. A news conference at noon. Will the president have any answer, or will he just invite more questions? We are going to go live to Paris.