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President Trump Backs Plan to Slash Legal Immigration in Half; Trump's Approval Rating Sinks to Record Low; Trump: Russia Sanctions Bill "Seriously Flawed"; State Department Not Using Funds to Fight Russian Propaganda; North Korea Missile Tests Could Pose Risk to Passenger Planes; Dow Hits 22,000 Milestone. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 04:30   ET




[04:30:27] 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.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump unveiling an ambitious new plan to slash some legal immigration by half, but the bill is already facing an uphill battle in Congress.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Record low. President Trump's approval ratings plummeting to just 33 percent. We'll dig deeper into what's behind the sharp decline.

KOSIK: President Trump signing and then slamming the Russia sanctions bill. We're going to go live to Moscow for heated reaction from Russia.

Good morning and welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

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. It would cut back on so-called chain immigration by limiting family members immigrants could bring over, mainly limited to spouses and minor children.

KOSIK: 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. BRIGGS: The proposal reigniting the debate about national identity

and immigration. That was a 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 and taking fire from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, slamming this bill.

Let's get 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 -- well, he had a good fight there with Stephen Miller in the briefing room.

KOSIK: He said that he had a cosmopolitan bias. I think I saw him --

BRIGGS: Son of Cuban immigrants, mind you.

KOSIK: Yes, and I saw him I think on Instagram saying that he wouldn't mind a cosmopolitan right now.

BRIGGS: Yes, it was a wrong day for Jim (INAUDIBLE). He's fighting a good fight.

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. Inside those numbers, 62 percent of adults polled said the president is not honest. Six in ten say he considers himself above the law. Fifty-four percent say they are, quote, embarrassed to have Mr. Trump as their president.

KOSIK: And on the question of whether the president should knock off the tweeting, more Americans than ever said yes. Sixty-nine percent said, knock it off, including a majority of Republicans.

The president did slightly better in two other polls out yesterday. Thirty-six percent approval in a new Gallup poll and 38 percent in the latest Rasmussen survey.

[04:35:04] BRIGGS: All right. He waited six dates days -- six days, but President Trump 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. Mr. Trump is not happy about that. He says he signed the measure for the sake of, quote, national unity.

KOSIK: The president afterward released a statement saying this: 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 executive's 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.

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

BRIGGS: He writes, quote: 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, I hope the president will be as vocal about Russia's aggressive behavior as he was about concerns with this legislation."

KOSIK: 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?


KOSIK: And 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 Justice Department is disputing a "New York Times" report that it's planning to target college affirmative action policies to make sure they don't discriminate against white people. "The Times" obtained an internal Justice Department document that revealed its Civil Rights Division was looking for staff lawyers to investigate, quote, intentional race-based discrimination at universities. But the DOJ claims "The Times" report is inaccurate, suggesting the document was referring to a case dating back to the Obama administration.

KOSIK: They put out this statement: "The posting saw volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May of 2015 that the prior administration left unresolved.

A spokesperson for "The New York Times" tells CNN, we stand by our story.

The president of Mexico and leaders of the Boy Scouts both denying they ever placed phone calls to President Trump. Last week, the president told "The Wall Street Journal," 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.

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.


[04:40:05] KOSIK: One small problem -- neither one of those phone calls ever took place. The White House even admits it.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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 --

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: OK, that clears it up. The office of Enrique Pena Nieto says the Mexican president actually disputed President Trump's immigration claims when the two leaders talked at the G20 summit.

BRIGGS: New information this morning about embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He's been told he can keep his job. Two sources tell us that the new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Sessions earlier this week to assure the attorney general his job is, quote, safe.

KOSIK: President Trump has been critical of Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from any Russia-related investigations. The president has called Sessions weak, beleaguered, and has said time will tell whether Sessions would remain as A.G.

Senate Democrats are getting tough on trade, but their rhetoric sounds pretty familiar.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Now, nothing, nothing is more central to creating jobs and increasing take-home pay than rewriting our backward trade laws that have put foreign workers ahead of American workers.


KOSIK: That's Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday introducing policies to protect American workers from foreign competition. The challenge here -- the proposal essentially echoes Donald Trump's ideas.

The plan is built on two main concepts -- preventing unfair foreign competition and supporting domestic industries. Highlights include harsher punishments on incumbents that outsource and crack down -- and a crackdown on currency manipulation. The last one is directed right at China just as the Trump administration considers launching an investigation into Chinese trade practices.

However, Schumer counters their plan is about action, not investigation. This is the second phase of the Democrats' new economic platform called A Better Deal. It aims to appeal to the blue-collar workers that helped President Trump get into office.

BRIGGS: It fell very flat the first time around they unveiled the better deal. So, they're taking another pass at this?

KOSIK: But if ideas are merging, maybe there can be a bipartisan agreement.

BRIGGS: Do you think, though?

KOSIK: I mean, don't ask me.

BRIGGS: It would be hard to imagine. We shall see.

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


[04:47:28] KOSIK: The new Russia sanctions bill signed by President Trump drawing an angry response from the Kremlin.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev posting on Facebook: 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 new U.S. administration. Second, it is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia. 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 to Moscow and bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann.

Oren, you know, those are kind of fighting words there. There were expectations under Trump that there could be an improvement of U.S./Russian relations, but this seems to be the end of that.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As the foreign ministry statement makes clear and as we've heard from other Russian lawmakers, those expectations that Trump could improve U.S./Russia relations are effectively dead. We've heard a number of lawmakers here and officials accuse the U.S. of starting a trade war and not helping to improve the relations. And that's how Russia sees this.

It's important to note that a number of statements here have pointed out that Russia has options, and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, also pointed this out, that Russia has options for further retaliations. That would be on top of Russia closing two U.S. diplomatic compounds here and forcing the U.S. to cut some 750 members of its staff here. That's more than half its staff.

What those options are hasn't been clear. What is clear is that they don't want to use the options now, it seems. But they certainly have left the door open. Alison, it's important to point out also that the secretary of state

and the Russian foreign minister will meet this weekend in the Philippines. I think the expectation is they'll talk about sanctions and talk about the relations, but there's little hope that they can improve those relations, especially with where they stand now.

Tillerson had said, Rex Tillerson had said relations are as bad as they've been since the Cold War, and actually getting worse. So, certainly, it doesn't seem like there's hope for improvement in the short run here.

KOSIK: Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that meeting this weekend.

All right. CNN's Oren Liebermann live from Moscow, thanks.

BRIGGS: All right. Congress has given the State Department $80 million to combat Russian propaganda and disinformation. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly is reluctant to use that. And word that those funds are gathering dust at the State Department not sitting well with lawmakers.

We get more now from CNN's Elise Labott in Washington.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, Alison, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is reacting angrily to reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not spending money at his disposal to counter Russian fake news and propaganda put out by violent extremists including ISIS. We're talking about $80 million that was appropriated months ago for the State Department's global engagement center. That money's been set aside but not used, $60 million of that expires in two months.

Now, a report in "Politico" suggests Tillerson is avoiding spending the funds because he doesn't want to enflame tensions with Russia. His aides say that's simply not true and that the reason for the delay is that there's a broader policy review intended to give the secretary more time to figure out what policies are best pursued and where the money is best sent.

Now, lawmakers are frustrated that Tillerson had singled out when he came to office countering violent extremism as a major priority. But they say his State Department has yet to produce a coherent policy or strategy, and that a lack of staff to execute such programs really is compounding the problem -- Dave, Alison.


KOSIK: OK, Elise. Thanks very much.

BRIGGS: You hear a lot about a hollowed out State Department, empty halls, empty offices, not what this country needs at this point.

KOSIK: OK. Stocks are continuing to reach new highs. The Dow notching a new milestone. That's next on CNN "Money Stream." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:55:40] KOSIK: There's growing concern about North Korea's nuclear provocation, but Pyongyang's stepped up missile testing could pose a more immediate threat to passenger planes in the region. Last week, an intercontinental ballistic missile flew within miles of a flight path that an Air France jet had just completed.

CNN's Alexandra Field joins us live from Seoul now with more.

You know, this sounds like a really scary incident. What are experts saying about how close a call this was?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and this is a concern that has been raised before. There was another incident even as far back as 2014 when North Korea fired off a rocket, and a Chinese airliner was in the vicinity.

Look, the likelihood of an incident happening extremely low, according to estimates. But there are concerns certainly that the missile program has posed. You've got North Korea launching two ICBMs in the space of the last month, both times after each of the launches, a Pentagon spokesperson has come out and noted that this does pose a potential risk to airliners that are using that airspace. Also to the vessels that are in the ocean.

This is a missile landed about 93 miles northwest of a Japanese island. If you look at flight data, there was an Air France flight that was in the skies, about 60 miles away at the same time, that's about seven minutes flying time. There was no incident involving the flight, of course. Air France has said that North Korea's missile test zones don't interfere with their flying routes, but they say they closely monitor potentially dangerous airways, and they adapt their flight plans accordingly.

Certainly, that's something that all airliners do. But yes, the fact that this airplane was so close to the splashdown site at the time has again raised the level of concern about this missile program. Under international agreements, states are required to give notice when they conduct tests like this or when they do things that could disturb the airways or waterways.

North Korea, they don't do that, not to mention the fact that are violating international sanctions by conducting these launches in the first place -- Alison.

KOSIK: All right. CNN's Alexandra Field, live from Seoul, South Korea, thanks very much.

BRIGGS: So, before making his successful run for the White House, President Trump almost played the commander in chief in "Sharknado 3." According to the "Hollywood Reporter," negotiations went pretty far for the plum role in Sci-Fi's "Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No," a contract was even drawn up. But then, weeks of silence led producers to offer the role to -- who else? -- Mark Cuban, who accepted. The casting director said Trump lawyer Michael Cohen threatened to sue and shut the production down, but Cohen tells the "Hollywood Reporter" he doesn't remember getting angry.

KOSIK: I like how it went to his arch nemesis Mark Cuban.

BRIGGS: Oh, such a good story line. Delicious. If only we'd have gotten a glimpse of what President Trump would have been like.

KOSIK: What would his hair have been like?

BRIGGS: I don't know.

KOSIK: All right. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning.

Global markets lower after the Dow hit a new milestone, 22,000, as we saw the Nasdaq and S&P close flat. A nearly 5 percent surge in Apple stock. That's what carried the Dow past the milestone. It is one of the Dow 30 stocks on the average. So, when Apple moves, it really has the impact to move the entire index.

Other big point contributors, companies like Boeing, McDonald's, and United Health. But the rally may not continue today. Right now, we are seeing futures are lower. Everybody kind of taking a breather.

The waiting list for Tesla's new Model 3 is growing fast. During its latest earnings report, the company says it now averages more than 1,800 reservations a day. But strong demand could be a mixed blessing for Tesla. It's currently scaling up production to make good on those deliveries, but Tesla saying it remains on track.

Tesla also posted almost $3 billion in sales for the quarter. And its losses were smaller than Wall Street expected. The stock did rise, though, 8 percent overnight.

Experts say Facebook's minority work force gains are disappointing. The company releasing its 2017 diversity report. And while it shows a 1 percent increase in its Hispanic and black workforce overall, the numbers for its coders, developers, and engineers are actually the same.

In response, Facebook says it isn't where it wants to be or where it would like to be. Since 2014, tech companies like Facebook have voluntarily released these reports. The aim is to counter the industry's diversity problem. However, advocates say the results are still largely underwhelming.