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Trump Backs Plan to Curb Legal Immigration; Trump's Approval Rating Sinks to Record Low; Trump: Russia Sanctions Bill "Seriously Flawed"; Trump Getting Ready To Go After China On Trade. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:07] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump unveiling an ambitious new plan to slash legal immigration by half. But the bill is already facing an uphill battle in Congress.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: A record low. President Trump's approval ratings plummeting to just 33 percent. We're going to dig deeper into what's behind the sharp decline.

BRIGGS: And the president signing, then slamming the Russian sanctions bill. We'll go live to Moscow for more heated reaction from Russia. We'll also be live in Beijing and South Korea in this hour.

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

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's Thursday, August 3rd. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And President Trump throwing the full weight of the White House behind a new immigration plan, the most far-reaching overhaul in decades. The proposal aims to move the U.S. toward a skills-based immigration system like those in Canada and Australia, while slashing legal immigration to the U.S. by half. And it would cut back on so-called chain immigration by limiting family members immigrants could bring over, mainly to spouses and minor children.

BRIIGGS: The measure by Republican Senators David Purdue and Tom Cotton would award aspiring immigrants points based on age, education, English language test scores, whether they have a job offer with a high salary, or won a top award like a Nobel Prize or Olympic medal or are a major investor in a new business. Applicant spouses would be scored the same way.

KOSIK: So, the proposal is reigniting the debate about national identity and immigration. That was the central theme of President Trump's campaign. The White House on the defensive, almost as soon as the president's backing was announced, quarrelling with reporters, taking fire from lawmakers from both parties slamming the bill.

Let's go to CNN's Jim Acosta with more.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Alison, the White House is bristling at questions over its plan for sweeping changes to the U.S. immigration system that would install a point system for people coming into the country legally. The president's policy adviser, Stephen Miller, sparred with reporters who were asking questions about the president's proposal and seemed to suggest that the Statue of Liberty is not the beacon of hope to immigrants that it's been for generations. An inscription on the Statute of Liberty says: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Here's what Miller had to say about that.

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: I don't want to get into a whole thing about history, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world. It's a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you're referring to was added later is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty. More fundamentally, this history -- but more fundamentally, this history --

ACOSTA: You're saying that does not represent --

MILLER: I'm saying that the notion --

ACOSTA: -- what the country has always thought of --

MILLER: I'm saying the notion --


ACOSTA: I'm sorry that sounds like some national park revisionism.

MILLER: No, what I'm asking you is --



ACOSTA: The Statue of Liberty has always been a beacon of hope to the world for people to send their people to this country, and they're not always going to speak English, Stephen. They're not always going to be highly skilled. They're not always going to be --

MILLER: Jim, Jim, Jim, I appreciate your speech. I appreciate your speech. Let's talk about this.

ACOSTA: Top Republicans are already balking at the president's immigration plan, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who said the proposal would damage his state's agricultural and tourism industries -- Dave and Alison.


BRIGGS: Jim Acosta fighting the good fight there.

The Anne Frank Center, meanwhile, a civil and human rights group took Miller to task for his comments about the Statue of Liberty. Its statement says, quote, Stephen Miller has turned himself simultaneously into a statue of arrogance and a national monument of ignorance. His sub-par knowledge of American history means he couldn't pass President Trump's new immigration test. Therefore, Stephen, please leave.

KOSIK: President Trump's approval rating plunging to a record low. In a new Quinnipiac University poll, the president's job approval number sliding to an all-time low, just 33 percent, with disapproval at 61 percent. Looking behind those numbers -- 62 percent of the thousand adults polled said the president is not honest. Six in ten say he considers himself above the law. Fifty-four percent say they are embarrassed to have Mr. Trump as their president and more.

BRIGGS: And on the question of whether the president should knock off the tweeting, more Americans than ever said yes, 69 percent, including the majority of Republicans, in fact.

The president did slightly better in two other polls out yesterday: 36 percent approval in a new Gallup poll, 38 percent in the latest Rasmussen survey.

[04:05:03] KOSIK: OK, he waited six days, but President Trump is finally or has finally signed a bill imposing new sanctions against Russia. The law gives Congress veto power to block the president from easing or removing the sanctions. And Mr. Trump is not happy about it. He says he signed the measure for the sake of national unity.

BRIGGS: Afterward, he released a statement saying, quote: The bill remains seriously flawed, particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch's authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a health care bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the executives' flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together, end quote.

John McCain, who plans to return to the Senate next month, despite starting radiation and chemotherapy treatments for brain cancer, was quick to criticize the president.

KOSIK: And McCain writes this: The concerns expressed in the president's signing statement are hardly surprising, though misplaced. The framers of our Constitution made the Congress and the president co-equal branches of government. This bill has already proven the wisdom of that choice.

Going forward, he says, I hope the president will be as vocal about Russia's aggressive behavior as he was about his concerns with this legislation.

The Kremlin is none too happy about the sanctions bill either. CNN's Oren Liebermann joins in about 10 minutes with more on that.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, Republican leaders declaring they're ready to move on from their many unsuccessful attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare. But the Trump administration is not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney throwing down the gauntlet.


MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: We're not really sure how you can run for seven years saying if you elect us, we'll repeal and replace Obamacare, then the voters give us the chance to do that and we don't do it. So, we've got that working, which we know that everyone agrees with. So, the question is, why can't the Senate deliver on that?


BRIGGS: So, with more on health care reform and the way forward, here's CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Alison and Dave, good morning. No real progress here on Capitol Hill as it relates to health care, but there is a growing disconnect between the path forward as it relates to the folks here in Congress and the folks inhabiting the White House, namely President Trump. The president and his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, say that Congress should not abandon their goal of repeal and replacement of Obamacare but should instead push forward.

While leaders here in the Senate in particular, Mitch McConnell leading the way, they believe that it's time to move to other issues like tax reform.

Listen to what McConnell said on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Comprehensive tax reform represents the single most important action we can take now to grow the economy and help middle-class families finally get ahead.

NOBLES: And so, it seems pretty unlikely that the Congress is going to be pushing ahead with any sort of grand repeal and replacement plan as of yet. But there are signs that Republicans and Democrats are going to try and work together on this. The Senate Health Committee has hearings scheduled for September where they're going to discuss at least short-term measures to stabilize the Obamacare insurance market, and other Republicans are talking about getting together with Democrats to perhaps strike a grand bargain.

Now, that's not necessarily what the president wants. In fact, in a pretty angry tweet, he suggested that Republicans would be fools if they didn't change the Senate rules to allow for only 51 votes to pass most pieces of legislation. Currently, most of the pieces of legislation require at least 60 votes.

That's another thing that Mitch McConnell brushed off, saying that there's just not the will in the Senate to change those rules, and they're going to have to abide by the rules as they currently exist -- Alison and Dave.


BRIGGS: All right. Ryan Nobles, thanks.

The president of Mexico and leaders of the Boy Scouts both denying they ever placed phone calls to President Trump. Just last week, the president told "The Wall Street Journal," quote, I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.

And here's what President Trump said the other day about an alleged call he received from the president of Mexico.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And even the president of Mexico called me. They said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they're not going to get through our border which is the ultimate compliment.


KOSIK: OK, one small problem. Neither one of those phone calls ever took place. The White House admits it.

Here's how Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to spin it.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: On Mexico, he was referencing the conversation that they had had at the G20 Summit where they specifically talked about the issues that he referenced. In terms of the Boy Scouts, multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership following his speech there that day congratulated him, praised him, and offered quite -- I'm looking for the word -- quite powerful compliments --

[04:10:05] REPORTER: So, he lied? He didn't receive --

SANDERS: I wouldn't say it was a lie. That's -- that's pretty bold accusation. It's -- the conversations took place. They simply didn't take place over a phone call, that he had them in person.


KOSIK: Oh, OK, I see now. All right. So, the office of Enrique Pena Nieto says the Mexican

president actually disputed President Trump's immigration claims when these two leaders talked at the G20 Summit.

Let's talk the Dow. The Dow's latest milestone getting a shout out from the market's cheerleader-in-chief, President Trump.


TRUMP: The stock market hit an all-time record high today, over 22,000. We've picked up substantially now more than $4 trillion in net worth in terms of our country, our stocks, our companies.


KOSIK: OK. While candidate Trump called stocks an ugly bubble, President Trump cites record highs as a sign of confident in his policies. This is the Dow's third milestone since Trump took office. And enthusiasm for things like tax reform did help prompt the initial rally. But as we see that agenda stalled, Wall Street is actually focusing instead on corporate earnings and the economy.

Stocks are thriving under these Goldilocks fundamentals that are just right, including moderate growth, and improving labor markets and big corporate profits. In fact, an earnings filled surge in Apple stock, that's what help carried the Dow past 22,000. And the so-called "Trump bump" is actually the tail end of an eight-year bull market. The Dow is up 21 percent since the election but has risen 236 percent since its 2009 low.

BRIGGS: You mentioned Apple there, boy, are they driving the Dow?

KOSIK: They're driving it.

BRIGGS: "The Wall Street Journal" breaks it down and shows how Boeing, McDonald's, and Apple, three companies essentially driving the Dow in all these gains.

KOSIK: All about corporate earnings.

BRIGGS: No doubt about that.

OK. The Russian government is speaking out about the sanctions bill signed by President Trump. Russia's prime minister slamming this bill and saying the president has been, quote, humiliated. We'll go live to Moscow, next.


[04:16:15] BRIGGS: The new Russia sanctions bill signed by President Trump drawing an angry response from the Kremlin.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev posting on Facebook, quote: The U.S. president's signing of the package of new sanctions against Russia will have a few consequences. First, it ends hopes for improving our relations with the new U.S. administration. Second, it is a declaration of a full full-fledged economic war on Russia. And third, the Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way.

For more, let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann.

That is quite a statement, Oren. Good morning.


There is nothing subtle about what Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in that statement. And it is a sentiment that we've heard multiple times now from a number of Russian lawmakers who've said that, look, we expected relations to improve under the Trump administration, and this effectively is the nail in the coffin. They say any improvement in relations will come far down the road.

We heard that from Medvedev. We heard similarly a few days ago from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He didn't even wait for Trump to sign the bill. His response came after it was passed by Congress.

He also pointed out that he has a number of other measures he could use to retaliate against the U.S., although he says those won't be needed now. And that was echoed by his spokesperson after Trump signed the bill. He did say that they're being considered and pointed out a number of other areas where the U.S. and Russia worked together -- space, Korea, Syria, and a number of areas, those could be veiled threats, ways that Russia could retaliate if it chooses to take other actions against the U.S., on top of forcing the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff here by some 750 and closing two diplomatic missions, two U.S. diplomatic compounds here in Russia.

Dave, it's worth pointing out that the secretary of state and the Russian foreign minister will meet this week in the Philippines. There is little expectations that whatever comes out of the meeting could improve the relations.

BRIGGS: All right. Have the departures of the U.S. diplomatic employees, have those already taken place?

LIEBERMANN: Not yet. Those have to happen by September 1st. The Russians gave the Americans a month to figure out what staff they're going to cut. So, the U.S. still has bit of time to work there until the end of this month.

BRIGGS: All right. Oren Liebermann, live for us in Moscow, thank you, sir.

KOSIK: Breaking overnight, an attack on a NATO convoy in Afghanistan leaving two U.S. soldiers killed and four more wounded. The Pentagon says the attack took place in Kandahar province. The four injured soldiers are being treated at a coalition medical facility. Their wounds are not considered life threatening.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, President Trump threatening to get tough on trade with China. Well, China ready to fight back. We'll go live to Beijing, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:23:33] KOSIK: The president may soon get tougher on trade with China. His administration is moving closer to launching an investigation into whether the country's trade practices are unfair. The action would ramp up tensions between the world's two biggest economies.

But China isn't taking this lightly. They are ready to fight back.

CNN's Will Ripley live for us from Beijing.

So, tell me how is China thinking it's going to fight back on this?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, China is certainly not being taken completely by surprise here. They have been expecting some possible trade action by the Trump administration, especially after meetings on trade haven't gone so well. And, of course, President Trump's very vocal frustration on the North Korea issue, feeling that China has done nothing to rein in North Korea.

So, American companies here in Beijing and other Chinese cities are making large profits. However, they have often been complaining that the odds are stacked against them when they do business here. They're forced to share their trade secrets with Chinese partners. They have to cut the licensing fees for patents and other things that make it difficult for American companies to grow. Meanwhile, China is giving a lot of state money to its own companies trying to foster their growth, protect them from American competition, especially in the high-tech sector which is something China's really focusing on in the coming years.

So, what the Trump administration is expected to do is to launch an investigation, possibly slap very steep tariffs on Chinese imports, possibly pull licenses from Chinese companies, and China can retaliate in a lot of different ways.

[04:25:00] They can crack down very hard on American companies doing business here, much like they did with the South Korean supermarket chain Lotte when they were upset with South Korea over the THAAD missile defense system.

Remember, they shut down 87 of 99 of their stores. They suspended operation of a theme park. So, Chinese regulators can find ways to make it very difficult for American businesses here. A lot of people taking about a trade war, Alisyn, something that could be economically catastrophic for all sides.

KOSIK: And that is something that Wall Street is definitely keeping its eye on. It could really wind up undercutting the rally that we are seeing happen here in the United States.

All right. CNN's Will Ripley, thank you very much.

BRIGGS: A scientific breakthrough could lead to the prevention of genetic diseases in humans before they're even born. A new study showed scientists successfully edited genes in human embryos to repair a common and serious disease causing mutation and produced healthy embryos. The researchers' first attempt at creating genetically modified embryos in the U.S., and while it's a long way from clinical use, the treatment raises the prospect that gene editing could help protect infants from a variety of hereditary conditions.

KOSIK: All right. President Trump playing to his base this morning after throwing his support behind an immigration bill aimed at slashing legal immigration by 50 percent. We have more on the backlash, next.