Return to Transcripts main page


Trump: Worldwide Threat Requires Global Action; Air Force Didn't Report Conviction; State & Local Election Day in America. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 05:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea is a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says pressure on North Korea has resulted in some movement on the nuclear issue, but all options remain on the table, including options he says he hopes to God to never use.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And the Air Force acknowledges it did not relay a court-martial conviction of the Texas church gunman. Now, the Pentagon is investigating the failure which allowed that gunman to buy his weapons.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Tuesday, November 7. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. It is 4:00 a.m. in Sutherland Springs.

We will have the latest on the shooting and what the Air Force did not do, shortly.

[05:00:02] It is 7:00 p.m., though, in Seoul, and that's where we begin this morning because just a short time ago, President Trump holding a news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

President Trump saying, quote: It's time to act with urgency and great determination against the North Korean nuclear threat.

ROMANS: The president calling Pyongyang a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action. Ahead of all of this, just hours ago, North Korea welcomed President Trump's arrival in Seoul with a fresh nuclear provocation.

Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Seoul with us, where it is evening time. He is traveling with the president.

Bring us up to speed, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine, good morning. President Trump was delivering some very strong words again toward

North Korea, but I can tell you, they were different words, a much more measured tone than we've grown accustomed to him, at least towards North Korea. When he was holding a news conference with South Korean President Moon here, just a short time ago, in Seoul, he called on world leaders to step up and take their role, do their part to confront the North Korean regime.


TRUMP: North Korea's sixth test of a nuclear device and its missile launches are a threat, not only to the people of South Korea but to the people all across our globe. We will together confront North Korea's actions and prevent the North Korean dictator from threatening millions of innocent lives. He is indeed threatening millions and millions of lives, so needlessly.


ZELENY: So, of course, his words there, so different than the words we heard from the president at the United Nations when he was giving a speech, of course, calling Kim Jong-un rocket man, talking about, you know, North Korea is going to see fire and fury unlike the world has ever seen. A different time, a different moment, but more importantly, perhaps, a different place.

President Trump visiting the Korean peninsula here for the first time as president, about 35 miles or so from the North Korean border. So, that may explain a more measured tone here. But certainly interesting in the sense that he is trying to urge other world leaders to come together to impose sanctions also on North Korea. The question is, will any of this work? North Korea obviously following this very carefully. They're following his Asia trip carefully here.

So, it's unlikely that Kim Jong-un is going to stand down that. In fact, that is not possible, really. But the president's words toward Russia and China, he'll be meeting with leaders from both countries later this week. You can bet North Korea is still on the agenda, first and foremost -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jeff, thank you so much for that, for us, in Seoul tonight.

BRIGGS: Let's talk more about all of this about CNN political analyst Josh Rogin, a columnist for "The Washington Post". Joining him, Julian Zelizer, also a CNN political analyst and a historian and professor at Princeton University.

Good morning to you, gentlemen.


BRIGGS: All right. Let's talk about a surprise the president talked about today. There's been progress made given the North Korean nuclear threat. Here's what he said about some success.


TRUMP: North Korea is a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action. We call on every responsible nation, including China and Russia, to demand that the North Korean regime end its nuclear weapons, and its missile programs and live in peace as the South Korean people know so well, it's time to act with urgency and with great determination. It is unacceptable that nations would help to arm and finance this increasingly dangerous regime.

I think we're making a lot of progress, I think we're showing great strength. I think they understand we have unparalleled strength. There has never been strength like it.

You know, we sent three of the largest aircraft carriers in the world and they're right now positioned. We have a nuclear submarine also positioned. We have many things happening that we hope, we hope -- in fact, I'll go a step further. We hope to God we never have to use.


BRIGGS: Julian, many presidents have tried and failed to contain the North Korean nuclear threat. But do you see progress? Do you see success?

ZELIZER: I think at this point we can't reach the conclusion there's progress based on the president's promise that there is. We can understand in this setting, he might move in a different direction, and feel a little bit more of the pressure to be diplomatic, and to engage in discussions, but this is the same situation we were a week ago. And so, I think this is where the words of the president and the failure of credibility matters when you hear a statement like this.

[05:05:06] BRIGGS: Josh?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, the question, which wasn't in the clip was, what is the evidence of the progress? That was the question. The first he said, well, I don't like to say if I see success or not. Then I changed his mind and said no, no, no, no. We're making a lot of progress.

And then to come up with the evidence, he said, well, we've got ships here, we got submarines here, we got this and we got that, which is not evidence of any progress. So, he's -- it alike a word salad that basically gets you back to, we can't show any signs of progress, and if we can't show any signs of progress, especially on the North Korean side, it's probably not there.

ROMANS: The president said -- I like to play the sound if we have it. He basically said, you know, this is not the right time to be doing this. I shouldn't even be having to do this because of the failures of all the predecessors we're at this moment. It's not -- I'm trying to fix something that's not my problem that was created.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: This is a problem, by the way, that should have been done over the last 25 years, not now. This is not the right time to be doing it. But, that's what I got. That's what I got.


ROMANS: Julian, did every other president simply utterly fail and that's why we are here, or did every other president do careful diplomacy that prevented a nuclear war until now.

ZELIZER: Well, first of all, this is what presidents do. They handle the problems that face them and they're often problems that were not resolved. Many presidents have tried to resolve this. President Clinton certainly tried to resolve this through a diplomatic package. President Bush has tried, both tracks with North Korea. It's the problem itself rather than simply an absence or unwillingness to try.

So far, there's no evidence he's made great progress. In fact, you can argue the situation has become worse. And the big fear is that he thinks of this like a game of checkers, moving from one moment to the other, while everyone else in the region thinks of it as a game of chess.

And so, the fear is what's going to happen with this scattershot approach compared to previous presidents.

BRIGGS: The president of South Korea talked repeatedly about North Korea coming to the dialogue table. We go next, the president does, to China. He talked about China. He talked about Russia. And he loves some deliverables from either one.

What might he seek? What might he get from either?

ROGIN: Well, talking to administration officials just before the trip, they said, don't get your expectations set too high on deliverables, OK? And the way they say it is listen, the progress will come over time. We're not trying to make the trip about a deliverable. They'll announce a couple of things here and there, some business deal that Wilbur Ross cooked up on the side.

On North Korea, there's nothing that the Chinese are going to say that's going to move the ball forward over the next two days. If they say the same things we've been saying, that represents sort of a status quo. Listen, you know, the proof is in the pudding, OK? They have to either ramp up their pressure on North Korea, cut off their life line, or not. They've gone to, you know, medium pressure. Not maximum pressure.

Most people don't think the Chinese will ever go to maximum pressure. President Trump seems to believe, he said he's trying very hard to solve the problem. He seems to believe he can do more.

I'm not going to say he can't do more, like, let's wait and see, but so far, it's not looking that great.

ROMANS: There's going to be a speech tonight. So, tonight, our time, tomorrow, the president's going to give a speech basically, sort of a State of the Union of this alliance. What does he need to do in that speech?

ZELIZER: Well, we're at the point where he has to basically demonstrate credibility and he has to demonstrate his ability to speak words about this issue without simply becoming provocative. I think we're there, rather than looking for a road map of policy.

It would be great, if the president could provide some sense to the country, to the world, where this is going? What the agenda is between moving from provoking and threatening, to talking about restraint. I don't think we're going to get part two. So I think at this point in the presidency, we're just seeking to see if he can be presidential, if he can be diplomatic. And more important, if he can resist a tweet a couple hours after the speech is over.

BRIGGS: As Josh has pointed out, he can tweet from China. The Chinese can't read it. But we can tweet there, we can read it.

The other common thread is trade imbalance. And what the president continues to talk about reciprocal trade, talk about it with China, South Korea and certainly will with China. Is there any optimism there? Is any hope for progress on narrowing a $70 million gap with South Korea?

ROGIN: Well, I think you saw in the press conference that there is mutual enthusiasm for starting the renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and getting it done quick.

[05:10:08] This is an irritant in an otherwise happy alliance and they want to get past it. And both sides realize that they can avoid, so they're just going to do it. Now, when Trump gets to China, it's going to be a different situation. When he's standing next to Xi Jinping, it's going to be smiles and hand shakes.

But then he's going to have an event with business leaders where he's going to make some very tough statements about Chinese predatory trade practices, intellectual property thief, that's baked into the speech already. And then when Trump gets home, his White House will make a series of decisions that will ramp up the economic pressure on China.

There's a consensus inside the administration that Trump has to deliver on the China economic trade piece, the big part of his campaign. OK? He promised that.

So, you know, Japan, there's not going to be any progress. Japan a little. China, that's something that they can't go back on. So, you might not see the tough measures while he's standing there having fun with his best friend, Xi Jinping, but sooner than later, a tougher China trade policy is coming.

ROMANS: On the South Korea front, that parade surplus is autos, electronics, steel -- these are all places where there are Trump supporters who helped him elected, jobs in this country, the United States --

BRIGGS: Central campaign promise.

ROMANS: All right. Guys, stick around. Thank you so much. Nice to see this morning.

Eleven minutes past the hour.

He helped bring down the gunman in the Texas church. Next hear from the man who shot Devin Kelley, helping to bring an end to his rampage.


[05:15:43] ROMANS: Investigators say they have recovered more than 15 empty magazines of 30-round capacities from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, where 26 people were killed Sunday. That's just some of the evidence painting an angry and violent picture of that gunman.

BRIGGS: Retired Air Force chief prosecutor Don Christianson telling CNN Kelley fractured his stepson's skull in an incident that led to his bad conduct discharge. And now, the Air Force acknowledges it failed to properly relay Kelley's court martial conviction to civilian law enforcement, a move that could have prevented him from buying weapons.

CNN's Alex Marquardt has more from Sutherland Springs.



Well, we are learning a lot more from the authorities about the attack. We are learning a lot more about his dark and angry past, specifically a chapter that might explain how he was able to accumulate such a formidable arsenal with which he was able to carry out this horrific attack. It happened in 2012 when the attacker was in the Air Force and he was convicted on two counts of domestic assault against his then ex-wife and stepson.

But it appears that the Air Force never communicated that information to the civilian authorities. He's never entered into what is known as the National Criminal Information Database. So, when he went to buy weapons, he wouldn't have popped up in the regular FBI background checks as someone with that kind of criminal record would have.

The Air Force is now saying they're going to carry out an investigation into what went wrong along with the Pentagon -- Christine, Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Alex, thanks for that.

Arizona Senator John McCain promising rigorous oversight by the Armed Services Committee as the military investigates what led to the Air Force's failure to relay Kelley's conviction to civilian law enforcement. And McCain chairs the Armed Services Committee.

BRIGGS: We're also learning the gunman originally faced multiple weapons charges at his 2012 court-martial. That included two charges of pointing a loaded firearm at his then-wife. Kelley was also arrested on animal cruelty charges in 2014 in Colorado after witnesses reported he punched a dog several times in the head and neck.

ROMANS: As for why he targeted the Sutherland Springs, Texas church, evidence points to a personal dispute. Police say Kelley had a contentious relationship with his former mother-in-law who was a church member. We know he sent her threatening texts that morning. She was not at the church at the time of the shooting, but his ex- wife's grandmother, Lulu White, was there and she was killed.

BRIGGS: President Trump says it would have made no difference if the Texas shooter had undergone tougher screening. At this morning's news conference in Seoul, South Korea, the president was asked whether he would back extreme vetting for gun purchases. And this was his response.


TRUMP: There would have been no difference three days ago. And you might not have had that very brave person who happened to have a gun or rifle in his truck go out and shoot him and hit him, and neutralize him. And I can only say this. If he didn't have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.

REPORTER: Going forward --

TRUMP: The city with the strongest gun laws in our nation is Chicago. And Chicago is a disaster. It's a total disaster.


ROMANS: The mass shooting in Texas reviving calls for tougher legislation against gun violence.

BRIGGS: We're now hearing from the church neighbor who shot and chased after the Texas gunman. Stephen Willeford says he heard gun fire at the church, grabbed his rifle, and exchanged gunfire, hitting the shooter twice.


STEPHEN WILLEFORD, SHOT AND CHASED TEXAS GUNMAN: These people at that church, they are friends of mine, their family, and every time I heard a shot, I knew that that probably represented a life. I was scared to death. I was. I was scared for me, I was scared for every one of them and I was scared for my own family that just lived less than a block away.


ROMANS: Wow. After the gunman jumped in his SUV and sped away, Willeford flagged down the driver of a nearby pickup, Johnnie Langendorff.

[05:20:03] The ten-minute high speed chase ended when the shooter turned the gun on himself.

BRIGGS: Sixteen of the 26 victims of the Texas church massacre have now been identified. They range in age from just 17 months old to 77 years old. The Holcombe family left devastated. Substitute Pastor Bryan Holcombe, his wife Carlo, their son Danny and Danny's 17-month- old daughter Noah all killed.

Also among the dead, Bryan and Carla's daughter, Crystal, who was two months pregnant, along with three of her five children, Emily Hill, Megan Hill and Evelyn Hill.

ROMANS: Robert and Shani Corrigan of Harrison, Michigan, also lost their lives on Sunday. Robert was retired Air Force. He and his wife leave behind two sons, both on active military duty. The couple lost a son last year. His memorial service was held at the church.

BRIGGS: Fourteen shooting victims remain hospitalized. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife will visit Sutherland Springs tomorrow.

It's also Election Day here in the United States and a big race in Virginia, shaping up to be a bellwether for President Trump. More on that ahead on EARLY START.


[05:25:36] ROMANS: It is Election Day across the U.S. The most closely watched race in this off year is for Virginia governor. It's seen by many as a referendum on President Trump.

Republican Ed Gillespie, a former lobbyist and long time GOP strategist, now neck in neck in the polls, with Democrat Ralph Northam.

The president has been tweeting to push Gillespie over the top. A win by Northam would be a big first step toward rebuilding the Democratic Party.

BRIGGS: In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy squares off against Republican Kim Guadagno in a race to succeed Governor Chris Christie. Guadagno is Christie's lieutenant governor.

ROMANS: And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is favored to win a second term. He faces a challenge from Republican State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and former NYPD detective Bo Dietl.

Top White House aides are selling Democrats on Trump's tax plan just as lawmakers begin marking up that new tax bill. Economic adviser Gary Cohn and legislative affairs director Marc Short head to Capitol Hill today. The plan, sources say, is to woo Senate Democrats. The administration thinks it needs their support to pass the tax bill.

GOP lawmakers laud the bill as a middle class tax gift, but Democrats say cutting popular deductions proves otherwise. So, who wins and loses unto the tax cuts and a jobs act?

Early analysis finds while the wealthy still benefit the most, every income group gets a tax cut. But look at how its balance here. Income for the top 1 percent of earners grows 7-1/2 percent next year. The bottom 80 percent would see their income increase just about 2.4 percent.

Of course, the tax writing committees are still fighting over the bill. Right now, the proposal reduces taxes by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years.

BRIGGS: President Trump's former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, set to face questions from the House Intelligence Committee today. Schiller worked for the president for 20 years. Congressional investigators will be grilling him about Trump's 2013 visit to Moscow, as well as the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

ROMANS: And we've learned former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page asked for input from the campaign regarding his 2016 remarks in Moscow. Page always maintained he visited Russia as a private citizen, unrelated to the Trump campaign.

But this e-mail to campaign officials suggests otherwise. Page writes in this email: Please let me know if you have any reservations or thoughts on how you'd prefer me to focus these remarks. The e-mail was provided to the House Intel Committee last week and relayed to CNN by a Democratic member of the House Intel Committee.

BRIGGS: Page has claimed the email was purely a courtesy. And so, the response from the campaign was they wanted to remain involved. Meanwhile, former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort and his aide Rick Gates will stay under house arrest with GPS monitoring. The judge refusing to make a decision on their bail until she gets more information about their finances.

ROMANS: All right. The man charged with assaulting Senator Rand Paul, Rene Boucher, was not motivated by politics. That's according to his attorney. He calls the indent a regrettable dispute between two neighbors over something most people would consider trivial.

According to another neighbor, Senator Paul and the neighbor had a long running dispute over grass clippings and leaves blowing on to each other's lawns. And it's not clear that that led to the attack. Paul sustained five rib fractures and bruised lungs.

I believe he was riding his lawn mower at the time. Am I right? He was moving his lawn.

BRIGGS: He was indeed. A landscaping quarrel. Can you believe that?

All right. Day two of jury deliberations in the federal corruption of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. He's accused of abusing the power of his office by pressuring government officials to help his friend, Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. Prosecutors say in exchange, Menendez accepted more than a half a million dollars in political contributions, private jet flights and a Paris hotel suite. The senator telling reporters Monday he is very confident that jurors will return a not guilty verdict, saying his defense team did an extraordinary job of dismantling the government's case.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.

EARLY START continues right now.



TRUMP: North Korea is a worldwide threat that requires worldwide action.


ROMANS: President Trump say there is some progress on the North Korea nuclear issue, thanks to American pressure. But all options remain on the table, including options, he says, he hopes to God to never use.

BRIGGS: And the Air Force acknowledges it did not relay a court martial conviction of the Texas church gunman. Now, the Pentagon is investigating the failure, which allowed the gunman to buy his weapons.