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Democrats Dominate 2017 Elections; Trump to North Korea: "Do Not Try Us"; Former Pitcher Roy Halladay Dies in Plane Crash. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired November 8, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats with a series of big wins on Election Day. Exit polls show anti-Trump frustration is at least partly to blame. Can the Democrats carry momentum into the midterms?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do not underestimate us, and do not try us.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A direct message from the president of the United States, Kim Jong-un. He says provocations from the North would amount to a fatal miscalculation. The president arrived in Beijing overnight. We're going to take you there live.

EARLY START's coverage from China, Virginia, and Pyongyang continues right now.

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

BRIGGS: It is indeed. I'm Dave Briggs. Wednesday, November 8th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East, 6:00 p.m. in Beijing.

Some really fascinating pictures of the president in the Forbidden City as we speak, the first-ever president to eat dinner there. We'll get to that in a moment.

But, first, a blue wave crashing ashore for Democrats last night, giving them a much-needed moral boost. Election night, a strong indeed for the Dems, with key wins in Virginia, New Jersey, New York City, and other local races. The Virginia race closely watched as a national referendum on the Trump presidency.

ROMANS: Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam beat former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie by a wider than expected margin. Democrats now looking to build on their momentum as the countdown begins to next year's midterm elections.

CNN's Brianna Keilar has more from Northam headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam winning and winning in a much earlier evening than expected. They were biting their nails and expecting a very late night. But in the end, that's not what happened. And they're saying that this is an indication of a bigger picture of anti-Trump sentiment.

Ralph Northam spoke about that to the crowd here.

RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA GOVERNOR-ELECT: Virginia told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry and to end the politics that have torn this country apart.

KEILAR: So, a lot of confidence the Democrats across the country are feeling coming out of this Virginia governor's race. They are definitely looking at the bigger picture, saying that in 2018, it is going to be difficult to run as a Republican. As One Democrat very deeply involved in this campaign said, there's a big Democratic turnout right now. If you are up in 2018, that's got to be scary if you have an "R" next to your name -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: Brianna Keilar, thanks.

The state of New Jersey also going blue, Tuesday. Democrat Phil Murphy will take over for Chris Christie as New Jersey's next governor, scoring a double digit win over Christie's lieutenant governor.

ROMANS: In New York, New York City, no contest in the mayoral race. Democratic incumbent Bill de Blasio easily cruising to victory over three challengers.

Danica Roem making history in Virginia. The 33-year-old former journalist elected the nation's first openly transgender lawmaker, she defeats a 13-term incumbent Robert Marshall who proclaimed himself Virginia's, quote, chief homophobe.

BRIGGS: Also in Virginia, former television anchor and Democrat Chris Hurst winning the 12th district House race. You might remember Hurst, his girlfriend Alison Parker was tragically killed on live television in 2016.

And in Maine, voters approved an expansion of the state's Medicaid program under Obamacare. It's a major setback for Republican Governor Paul LePage, a staunch ally of President Trump who vetoed expansion bills five times.

ROMANS: President Trump weighing in overnight on the election results from the other side of the world.

Our White House reporter Kaitlan Collins is there with the president in Beijing.

Kaitlan, what are we hearing from the president and the White House this morning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the president is trying to distance himself from Ed Gillespie's loss. Just minutes before he gave his speech in South Korea this morning, the president was on Twitter talking about this race, saying Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don't forget, Republicans won four out of four House seats and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win even bigger than before.

Now, the president is distancing himself from this candidate that he not only endorsed but recorded robocalls for and told his followers that he would be tough on crime if he won, while his opponent Ralph Northam would be weak on crime and the president claimed was anti- Second Amendment.

Now, this is a president who often demands loyalty from those who surround him, but we rarely see him offer it in return, especially in terms of these endorsements. You may recall Christine back in that Alabama Senate primary race, he not only endorsed Luther Strange but came down to Alabama to campaign for him. However, after Strange lost, the president got on Twitter and deleted his tweets, supporting Strange and telling his followers to go out and vote for him.

Now, the White House often says the president is more popular than a lot of these Republican lawmakers. But what we're calling into question here is whether the president's support can help those vulnerable Republicans really come across the victory line here.

[05:05:00] And it doesn't seem to be the case so far, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Christine for us following the president on his trip to Beijing here, thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: President Trump also delivering a pointed message to North Korea last night. In a speech to the South Korean parliament, the president made it clear he is more willing than past U.S. presidents to use military force against Pyongyang if it continues to threaten America and its allies.


TRUMP: The regime has interpreted America's past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation. This is a very different administration than the United States has had in the past. Do not underestimate us and do not try us.


BRIGGS: Let's go live to Beijing and bring in CNN's Matt Rivers.

The president is there now. Good evening to you, Matt. The president will need Xi Jinping's help if he's going to stop this North Korean nuclear program. Will he get it?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Probably not in the way he would hope for. You know, Xi Jinping has been willing to move incrementally towards what the Trump administration wants. They want China to use its economic power over North Korea to force North Korea to stop developing its weapons program.

But at this point, most of the analysts that we're speaking to, if not all, do not think that the next 36 hours of diplomacy will result in China fundamentally altering its strategy when dealing with North Korea, a strategy that's been in place for decades now and likely won't change. This part of the trip, though, is the easy part that Donald Trump is engaged in right now. He took a tour of the Forbidden City with his wife and with Xi Jinping's wife.

There's going to be a formal dinner inside the Forbidden City tonight, an honor no U.S. president has ever received in the days of communist China, and then really tomorrow is where we get down to the more hard core diplomacy, the bilateral meetings.

But really the big thing today was what happened in South Korea, the speech that Trump gave to South Korean lawmakers. A tough speech, you heard it there off the top. That's the kind of tone he's going to bring to his meeting with Xi Jinping.

The other thing we know the North Koreans is looking for, does the United States put North Korea back on the state sponsors of terrorist list. It's a possibility that Trump has brought up before. A senior administration officials say that he will make that decision by the end of this trip.

And, finally, a photo op that did not happen in South Korea, the president was set to make a surprise trip to the DMZ, the border between North and South Korea, he was actually on his helicopter, Marine One, flying towards the DMZ early this morning but fog that rolled in actually caused the president to turn back, cancel what would have been very dramatic photo op.

BRIGGS: Would have indeed. Mother Nature with better ideas. Matt Rivers, live for us in Beijing -- thanks.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump also issuing what he called a direct warning to the North Korean regime.


TRUMP: The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face. North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned. It is a hell that no person deserves.


ROMANS: So, how are those words being received in Pyongyang? We have someone there.

CNN's Will Ripley is the only Western TV journalist reporting from inside North Korea, he joins me right now live from Pyongyang.

A direct -- a direct warning to the North Koreans, the president using the word you over and over again, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And a really pointed attack, laying into North Korea's human rights records, which according to multiple United Nations reports is deplorable. However, North Korea denies that. They say this is not a hell.

They say it's a collective society, a safe society and even though the United States has accused North Korea of using its secret police to crack down on dissenting voices, anybody who criticizes the government allegedly thrown in this network of gulags that North Korean doesn't necessarily deny the existence of. They do say criminals are punished appropriately. When you walk the streets, you never hear anybody criticize the government which is telling.

But North Korea says that for the most part, people who live in this society or a part of this society have a good quality of life. So, they strongly dispute what President Trump said. In fact, there's a new article out in North Korea's leading newspaper, this was published before President Trump's speech at the U.N.

But the context is important because this is North Korea's long standing resort against the United States when it comes to human rights. I've had officials throw this argument back at me as an American citizen when I asked them about human rights.

[05:10:01] I'll read you an excerpt of it.

It says: The U.S. should not impudently style itself as a human rights judge but mind its own poor human rights in its land where racial discrimination, gun-related crimes and all other social crimes prevail.

And that's something that North Korea says about the United States. They look at mass shootings like the one that just happened in Texas and point out something would not happen here. People are not allowed to carry weapons for the most part, unless you have a special job and special permit.

North Koreans also talking with President Trump's speech. We spoke with two officials just after the speech and they really are trying to downplay the significance of his words. They reiterated a statement that they gave to us even before he spoke, which said, we don't care what that mad dog may utter because we've already heard enough.

And they also point to the large gathering of U.S. warships off the Korean peninsula, those three aircraft carrier strike groups. They say it's justification for them to keep testing their weapons of mass destruction -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. The president in the middle of the lengthy trip to Asia. We'll be talking about this with you, Will, in the coming days for sure. Thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: A lot to talk about this morning. So, in Los Angeles, CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, senior editor at "The Atlantic", and here with us in New York, CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, historian and Princeton University professor.

Good morning to both of you. Good evening I suppose to you, Ron.


BRIGGS: So, we'll start with you staying up late. The president has largely stayed out of human rights, after all. He is in China, not exactly sterling human rights record. What do you make of the sudden shift towards the human rights record of North Korea?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it's kind of situational argument, right? And you see essentially taking any arrow in the quiver to use against your opponent, the regime that you are opposing, but being silent on the same questions with your supporters.

There's an analog on the domestic violence issues where when ever there is a mass violence attack, a mass shooting that involves a native-born American, a white American, immediately the argument is gun control is not applicable. It's a mental health problem. There's evil in the world.

When we have the attack in New York that was linked to ISIS, there was an immediate call for changes in immigration laws.

So, it's essentially a kind of very situational ethics that is a characteristic of the way the administration approaches a number of issues.

ROMANS: You know, Julian, you got the president with this direct threat to North Korea, warning to North Korea. He's in the middle of a lengthy Asia trip. Last night, he's also -- exactly a year since his election, also doing a victory lap of sorts, touting his one-year performance while he was on the world stage.



TRUMP: Like Korea, and since my election exactly one year ago today, I celebrate with you.


The United States is going through something of a miracle itself. Our stock market is at an all-time high. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. We are defeating ISIS. We are strengthening our judiciary, including a brilliant Supreme Court justice and on and on and on.


ROMANS: Julian, Dave makes a really good point, the president was speaking those words just about the time they were calling Virginia for the Democrats and there was the Democratic sweep last night.

What do you make of that? JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It's maybe not a

surprise he was giving this speech overseas rather here where many Republicans were not feeling so giddy. They were seeing big losses in Virginia, losses in many mayoral races. They are certainly not feeling that politically this is a victorious year, and many are feeling in terms of policy they have nothing to show.

So there's a big disconnect, I think, between the speech he was giving last night and the news we were getting here in the States.

ROMANS: I've been watching as he has been cheer leading the stock market and cheerleading the economy, I've been noticing as he talks about those all-time highs, his own approval ratings tick a little bit lower. It's almost as if the people maybe -- Ron Brownstein who elected him are not feeling what he is doing this victory lap over.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, in fact, that is a very good point because the low approval ratings are happening against a backdrop of a strong stock market which helps voters in the upper middle class and low unemployment, right, which kind of radiates across society.

This is a very personal judgment about the president. You do have the situation and we saw in Pew Polling just yesterday, even though Americans say the job market is better where they are, as many as in 2016, say that their own income is not keeping up with their cost of living.

[05:15:04] But that -- I think that is not the core problem he faces because he is doing, as you saw in the exit polls yesterday, he is still strong approval among those blue collar whites where he is being hurt is and where Republicans are absolutely annihilated in Virginia and for that matter did very poorly in New Jersey and Washington state is on those white collar suburbs where the objection to President Trump is much more personal.

And what you saw yesterday was I think almost the worse case scenario for white collar Republicans in suburban districts, because you saw that voters are willing to take that out on other Republicans and that they showed up in big numbers. I mean, Northam won 335,000 more votes than Terry McAuliffe did in the governor's race in 2013. That is a very big number.

If you look at where it came from in northern Virginia, it's a very ominous number for other Republicans in white collar districts.

BRIGG: These races, though, Julian, can be very difficult to read, especially in a complicated state like Virginia that is relatively purple with an establishment candidate who didn't initially embrace Trumpism as "The New York Times" put it, found it an ill-fitting suit. Scott Taylor, Republican congressman from Virginia last night did say he blames in part the president's divisive rhetoric and also says, I do believe this is a referendum on the administration.

Is he right?

ZELIZER: Yes, I think he is. I do think off year elections are not always a great measure of what's going to happen in the midterms. In the '97, a Republican won in Virginia and they didn't do well in '98.

That said, we're getting close to midterms. Part of this was about turn out and the Democrats are enthused and they energized and is not necessarily because they love their party but they certainly don't like the president of the United States. And that was a big part of the story.

And second is what Ron said, President Trump has this strategy that you play to the base and you win elections. The reality is he needs to win a broader part of the Republican Party. He needs that partisan loyalty to carry the GOP through.

And that's not what happened last night. Many Republicans are not enthused. So that's a problem for the GOP.


ROMANS: Go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I just add real quickly, you know, I think what was most important about Virginia was that you saw that many of the fundamental things apply, as they would say in Casablanca, that many of the rules of politics held, which was, some Republicans I believe because Trump is such a singular figure, the voters are unhappy with him, would be less likely to take it out on the Republicans. In fact, roughly 85 percent of the voters who disapproved of him in both Virginia and New Jersey voted for the Democrat, which is what we have traditionally seen.

The strong disapproval of President Trump is much higher than the strong approval historically that has met a turnout advantage for the other side. In fact, you saw a shift towards the Democrats in the composition of the electorate. Then as I said to you many times before, the most conspicuous difference between Trump and typical Republican president is how low his approval is among college educated white voters in those affluent suburbs.

And you saw that translate not only into incredible margins but incredible turnout. Yesterday in an off year election, Ralph Northam won Fairfax County, the prosperous, biggest county, suburban county in Virginia than more than Barack Obama did in 2012 in a presidential year. He won it by twice as much in 2014 and twice as much as Terry McAuliffe in 2013.


BROWNSTEIN: So, all of these things that should have happened based on the polling did happen. And I think that kind of sets a marker for Republicans, particularly voting for this tax bill by the way that were hurt upper middle class voters in many of those same kinds of districts.

ROMANS: But moving forward, you can only be enthused by your hatred for the president so far.

BRIGGS: To a point. ROMANS: You have to be enthused by who you're backing and you have

this battle of the Democrats between the Bernie wing and the Hillary wing, what kind of Democratic leadership is there going to be.

Can the Democrats capitalize on this momentum? That is the really big question.

ZELIZER: I think they can and I think the Democrats can actually survive the divisions and even survive a general lack of enthusiasm about their party. President Trump looms really large over our democracy right now, and I think there's a way in which the outparty can capitalize on the dislike of the president just as the Republicans capitalized on the dislike of President Trump. That goes far way in midterm elections. I'll say that tweet at the end of the night or when ever it actually came out where he went after Gillespie is going to make Republicans shutter because they want some kind of loyalty from the president as they stick their necks out. That's the kind of tweet that makes them nervous. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a couple retirements as a result of that kind of tweet, which is not what the Republicans can afford.

BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say --

BRIGGS: That is an interesting interpretation. Keep in mind that 37 percent favorability for Democrats according to CNN, a 25-year low.

[05:20:05] They can easily over-interpret what happened last night.

Gentlemen, we'll talk more about this in 30 minutes.

ROMANS: Thanks, guys.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Ahead, the vice president head to Texas today in the wake of church shooting. And now, a staunchly pro-gun senator says he's ready to take action when it comes to background checks. That's next.


ROMANS: Vice President Mike Pence heading to Sutherland Springs, Texas, today. He will visit with the victims of Sunday's deadly church massacre and he plans to speak at a prayer vigil. This morning, we have new details about the gunman who killed 25 people and an unborn child. Devin Kelley escaped from a behavioral health facility in New Mexico back in 2012, months after he was accused of abusing his ex-wife and her child.

[05:25:03] BRIGGS: Documents show he was sent there for pretrial confinement. Law enforcement was advised he was a danger to himself and others after he was caught sneaking firearms on the Holloman Air Force Base. The suspect's phone has been sent to an FBI lab but so far they have not been able to break into it.

ROMANS: Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas says he's working on federal and state level to make sure information that could stop dangerous people from buying guns is reported to the National Criminal Background Check system in a timely fashion.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: This seems to be an area where there is bipartisan support to come in and fix the background check system, to make sure that we keep firearms out of hands of convicted felons, people with mental illness, people who commit domestic violence and the like. If we can address that and close those gaps, I think that would be a big improvement.


BRIGGS: According to an ATF official, there is no evidence that bump stop was used by the Texas gunman. We are learning the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on bump stocks. That, of course, in response to the Las Vegas massacre last month.

ROMANS: Ten victims from the Texas church shooting remain in critical condition. Families of those killed will receive $6500 each to help cover funeral services from a state fund. Officials say a company stepped forward to donate all the caskets.

BRIGGS: Sports world mourning the loss of former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay this morning who died on a plane crash.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, buddy.


You know, Roy Halladay was one of the best pitchers of his generation, winning two Cy Young Awards and he's one of only two pitchers ever to throw a no-hitter in the post season. Authorities say Halladay was piloting a small single engine aircraft when it crashed in shallow water off the coast of Florida on Tuesday in shallow water. He was the only person on board the two-seater plane and police say they received no distress calls. The NTSB is investigating the crash.

Halladay retired from baseball in 2013 from baseball and his former teammate Cole Hamels says he will be dearly missed.


COLE HAMELS, HALLADAY FORMER TEAMMATE: To be able to see that it's cut short for somebody that was such a good, good person, it's really hard to think about what's really going to transpire. He means a lot to all of us, and, you know, this is -- we're really, really going to miss him.


SCHOLES: Halladay was 40 years old and leaves behind a wife and two children.

All right. Three UCLA basketball players including Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball's brother LiAngelo face up to 10 years in prison for allegedly from shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store in China. Now, the three players were released on bail earlier this morning, according to ESPN and the Bruins are there to play their opening game of the season on Friday. LaVar Ball, LiAngelo's father, is also in China with the team and he told ESPN, quote, it ain't that big a deal.

Well, it could be because China has a near 100 percent conviction rate and, guys, right now the Chinese police are requiring those three players to remain at the hotel there in China until the legal process plays out and that could take days, weeks, if not months according to ESPN.

So, not a good situation for the UCLA basketball team right now.

BRIGGS: Of course, the president is in China as well. This has nothing to do with one another, you wonder if he somehow intervenes at all. That is a major story.

ROMANS: It sure is.

BRIGGS: Thanks a lot, Andy Scholes. We appreciate it, man.

ROMANS: All right. EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: All right. Democrats with a big series of wins on Election Day. Exit polls show anti-Trump frustration is at least partly to blame. Can the Democrats carry momentum into mid-term?


TRUMP: Anyone who doubts the strength or determination of the United States should look to our past and you will doubt it no longer.


BRIGGS: President Trump arriving in Beijing overnight after issuing stern warning to Kim Jong-un. He says provocations from North Korea would amount to a fatal miscalculation.

EARLY START's coverage from China, Virginia, and Pyongyang continues right now.

Lot going on. Thanks for getting a start with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.

Let's begin with politics at home here. A blue wave crashing ashore for Democrats last night, giving them a much-needed morale boost. Election night, a strong one for the Dems with key wins in Virginia, in New Jersey, New York City and a bunch of other local races. The Virginia race closely watched as a national referendum on the Trump presidency.

BRIGGS: Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam beat former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie by a wider than expected margin. Democrats now looking to build on that momentum as the countdown begins to next year's midterm election.

CNN's Brianna Keilar has more from the Northam headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia.


KEILAR: Christine and Dave, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam winning and winning in a much earlier evening than expected. They were biting their nails and expecting a very late night. But in the end, that's not what happened. And they're saying that this is an indication of a bigger picture of anti-Trump sentiment.