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Trump Faces Global Crises; Busy Agenda on Tap for Congress; Winter Punch; Georgia Tops Oklahoma to Win Rose Bowl. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 2, 2018 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House with a foreign focus as 2018 begins, expanding anti-government protests in Iran and in a twist, potential talks between -- next week, between North and South Korea.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president ready to tackle an ambitious agenda as 2018 gets under way, no shortage of domestic issues with another showdown looming over government funding.

ROMANS: And one thing with bipartisan agreements, it is cold, very cold. And it's going to stay that way at least through the weekend.

EARLY START's coverage begins right now. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

The president coming up from Mar-a-Lago where it's like 75 --

[05:00:03] BRIGGS: Yes, 75.

ROMANS: Three degrees or something in D.C.

BRIGGS: That's a wicked change of pace there. If you saw those shots of Niagara Falls there, just spectacular.

I'm Dave Briggs. It's Tuesday, January 2nd. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. It's 1:30 in Tehran. We'll check in on those protests shortly, 6:30 in Pyongyang.

President Trump, though, back in Washington this morning, facing a full and challenging agenda. January alone, what to do about DREAMers, infrastructure, entitlements, children's health care and keeping the government funded.

Four weeks from today, President Trump gives his first official State of the Union.

ROMANS: Four weeks from today. Forty-four weeks from today, the midterm elections that will hang over many of the political decisions you'll see this year. At his annual New Year's Eve bash in Mar-a- Lago, the president made this prediction for the year ahead.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have a great 2018. It's going to be something, very, very special. It's all kicking in. Everybody's going to love what's happening with our country because we're taking this big beautiful ship and we're slowly turning it around. I'd like to do it faster.


BRIGGS: Before he can get to work on domestic issues, though, President Trump facing some international crises. And topping that list: the antigovernment protests in Iran, which had been going on for nearly a week. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urging national unity, but rebuffing President Trump, saying an American president who once called Iranians terrorists has no right to sympathize with them now.

ROMANS: Rouhani's statement, a reaction to President Trump tweeting this: The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. Adding, time for change.

The White House approach being closely watched because when protests erupted in Iran in 2009, President Obama responded cautiously. He was concerned about blowback to aggressive intervention by the U.S. Of course, Iran calls the United States the Great Satan.

BRIGGS: Yes, at the time, the Obama approach was seen as foreign policy realism. But now, some even Obama era national security officials believe President Trump is striking the right tone.


DENNIS ROSS, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: In retrospect, I think we made a mistake. I think that we should have -- we should have made it clear that, in fact, the world was watching.


BRIGGS: Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh monitoring the protests for us this morning.

Nick, state TV reports nine more killed overnight, bringing the death toll to 21. Any sign of this slowing down anytime soon?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at this point, no. You have to be concerned at how it's near doubling in about the last night or so. I should point out, most of those people, though, seemed to have died around one incident. It appears to have been some sort of incident involving setting fire to a police station. Weapons also involved in neighboring incidents responsible for that nine or so new death. Four hundred-plus, though, arrested as well over the past few days, it appears too.

So, the real issue being when does that moderate government of President Rouhani. You have repeatedly talked about how the protesters, how the grievances, whose spokesperson has just come forward and referring to this, quote, being inside the family, reminding people there's difference between protest the and rioting. When is that moderate part of the government just won substantial election victory clashed with perhaps the instincts of the hardliners in Iran's government who more traditionally used more repressive methods to crack down on protests like this.

The Iranian's government's response so far, despite those 21 tragic deaths comparatively measured compared to what we've seen in the past, to be honest. And I think that is partially because of these grievances on the streets are recognized by top Iranian officials, saying indeed of course, these are economic, these are political but at the same time, too, this is a movement without a key leader. It makes it hard to negotiate with the figurehead, makes it hard to calm things down through negotiations. Some might say the hope being cooler heads prevail and we see the slow down, peter out in the days ahead.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: All right, 1:30 there in Tehran, 10:00 in the morning in London. Nick Paton Walsh, thanks.

PAUL: Also confronting President Trump in the New Year, the nuclear threat from North Korea. Even as he threatened the U.S. again, Kim Jong-un extended an olive branch to South Korea and it appears Seoul is ready to talk with Pyongyang.

Let's go live to Seoul and bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks.

The significance here.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, Christine, it is significant because North Korea has suggested talked and South Korea has said yes. They have even suggested a date. We just heard from the government this afternoon saying that they're happy with January 9, so next Tuesday.

They have suggested a high level talk between North and South Korea, within Panmunjom. This is the border village with the DMZ, half in North Korea, half in South Korea.

Now, we don't know whether North Korea will agree to those terms. But the South Korean government has also said if they don't, then they are willing do look at other times, other dates, other context. So, they really are trying to bend over backwards in order to be able to say yes to North Korea to start this conversation.

[05:05:04] We heard from the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, he said that he believed that this could lead to actually talking about more than just the Olympics. This is what they want to talk about to start with, but says it could go on to denuclearization.

We've heard a positive response from China as well. They have long said they want dialogue between North Korea and the other parties, saying it is a good thing.

But, of course, it really depends what North Korea wants to do. They still have that nuclear defiance when it comes to the United States, a very different message to the U.S., saying that North Korea is able to hit mainland U.S., all of the cities with nuclear weapons. But they won't use those nuclear weapons unless there is aggression against them -- Christine.

ROMANS: Certainly, a tricky and dangerous start to the New Year. Paula Hancocks in Seoul, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us live this morning, Philip Wegmann, who's a commentary writer for "The Washington Examiner".

Good morning to you, my friend.

ROMANS: Good morning. Happy New Year.


BRIGGS: Look, we all get back from vacation and get overwhelmed by our to-do list. That is nothing compared to the agenda facing President Trump. But let's start with all the foreign policy crises he is facing this morning.

He's going to try to tweet about these, but you need to lead with an overall foreign policy. What do you think his approach is first on South Korea?

WEGMANN: Well, on South Korea, it's encouraging when you have an irrational actor acting somewhat rationally. So, it's very good that South Korea has agreed to let North Korea come to the table.

Well, let's not confused for what this is. Obviously, this is an attempt to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. After all, Kim Jong-un talked about the Olympics in the same speech where he's talking about that big and nuclear button that's on his desk.

ROMANS: Right.


WEGMANN: So, we need to know what this is and expect you're probably not going to have that big of a diplomatic breakthrough. The only thing that seems certain right now is if North Korea does send an Olympic delegation, those athletes will generally do poorly. After all, (INAUDIBLE) economies don't turn out the best Olympians.

ROMANS: For those of you out there who were not watching the Sunday shows, this what Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said about what is still a very dangerous moment with North Korea. Listen.


ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN (RET.), FORMER CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We're actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we've ever been and I just don't see how -- I don't see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I bring that up because I wonder how the president has started the New Year, much as he did last year with talking about these very critical and tricky issues via Twitter. You know, he was talking about Iran this weekend via Twitter, talking about Pakistan in Twitter.

What do you make of the president's strategy here for diplomacy and foreign policy?

WEGMANN: Well, diplomacy by nature is a tricky business. You need to be careful and moderate in your statements knowing you can't extend too far. Obviously, these are things that President Trump doesn't do too often.

But specifically on Iran, we've seen that this is a big contrast to what President Obama's Middle Eastern realism was, you know, where President Obama was mostly silent, Trump's been very vocal early on. President Obama was slow to condemn some of the human rights abuses in Iran, Trump has immediately come out and condemn them.

And then also, where President Trump tried to remove the United States from the situation early, President Trump has inserted us into that situation over there. So, as a general rule, I would expect President Trump to do the inverse of everything President Obama did in this situation.

ROMANS: But the president has been kind of selective in calling out regimes for human rights abuses. You know, whereas his commentary on other regimes, right?

BRIGGS: Has been generous.

ROMANS: I mean, he's calling out human rights abuses in Iran, but he has not necessarily done that in many other countries where he's been asked to do so.

WEGMANN: Right, right. Correct. The silence on Iran -- excuse me, the silence on Russia and then also on China and some of these other actors, the president is definitely picking and choosing who to go after. But again, let's remember that Iran has been actively engaged through some of their funding of terrorist networks to destroy and come after United States. So, I think this is a more pertinent immediate threat.

BRIGGS: Yes, Turkey and the Philippines comes to mind when you talk about human rights abuses.

But let's switch to the domestic agenda, which is action packed. You've got 19 days or I guess January 19th was the government funding deadline. So, now, we're at 17 days. Really DACA is at the center of everything.

How do you expect the president to handle that specific issue and how will it play into government funding and loom over everything else? WEGMANN: Well, you know, when Trump returned from sunny Florida, he

returned to I think a frigid streak here in D.C. Like you say, there's 17 days for Republicans to figure out how to fund the government. Obviously, Democrats see this as their opportunity to get a permanent DACA fix.

[05:10:00] The arithmetic favors them there because Republicans are going to need 60 votes in the Senate. And then, President Trump wants funding for his border wall. So, congressional Republicans are going to have to weigh and balance both of those.

But the reason this is so important is because while Republicans were able to get Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and while they were able to get tax reform to the finish line, their base is going to remember a vote over DACA. And, you know, we're in an election cycle, as crazy as it sounds. We're now in 2018 election cycle, and those voters, they will remember what happens here and any bipartisan agreement, the base might see that as diminishing Republicans earlier efforts.

And that's the last thing up want to do if you're the GOP trying to hold to your majorities.

ROMANS: Yes, Senator Lindsey Graham says he thinks there's a deal that can be done on DACA. But I'm hoping that in 2018, if we can put that tweet up again, that I'm going to understand the punctuation rules of the president's Twitter handle. I don't know why lottery system is upper case. I don't get it.

BRIGGS: Don't try to do that. You're just begging for problems.

Philip, maybe you can help us figure out the president's punctuation rules at 5:30, all right?

ROMANS: Trump's tweet (INAUDIBLE) coming at 5:30.

All right. Phil Wegmann, nice to see you. Come back in a few minutes.

All right. When we talk about high temperatures this week, it's a relative term at best. How long will deep freeze --

BRIGGS: All caps.

ROMANS: Yes, deep freeze with a capital F. That's next.

BRIGGS: Exclamation, exclamation, exclamation. Cold.


ROMANS: Temperatures are climbing, climbing to a balmy 25 degrees here in New York today. This cold snap won't go quietly. Twenty-five degrees actually on the warmer end of what we'll see through the weekend.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins us live from the CNN weather center.

When is this going to loosen its grip?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I don't know, sometime in the spring maybe at this point. It is what it looks like.

I tell you, mid January is when it looks like it will begin at least to finally warm up a little bit. That's relative because we're talking about wind chills still at this hour, 30, 40 below zero.

[05:15:01] And, in fact, wind chill advisories, I'm showing you things on this map we can go decades without seeing here. Especially a winter storm watch posted for Florida, wait until I show that and what's going to be happening here.

So, the frigid temperatures continue. Again, you can drive from Canada to Mexico, and we'll seeing wind chill advisories to continue, minus 24 Minneapolis. It's minus one in New York. It feels like minus 11 in Boston.

As you step out, you know, T, my goodness bundle up for the train arrives. Five in Atlanta is what it feels like, and even down in Orlando, it's in the mid 30s. Now, we're not just talking about, of course, the wind chill but the actual air temperature will remain very frigid, teens and, of course, it will feel that way, with the wind, it will feel much colder. But high temperatures only into the 20s and 30s, running a good 15 as much as 20 degrees below average to this time of year.

This is what I was alluding to. Again, winter storm watches just posted from North Florida, these extend along the coast along 95, and into Delmarva, and the reason for that, the potentially for some freezing rain and wintry mix that begins tonight. And then heading into Wednesday as well, and then effect on Thursday for the mid- Atlantic and there's the moisture associated with it.

It's just so cold to get this moisture dropping on that cold air and you're going to have some frozen precip here across north Florida and through portions of the Southeast. This spins up with some significance snow potential across the mid-Atlantic and northeast for Thursday.

So, that is the way it's going to be looking over the next few days, cold, snowy in places that should not be. Talk more about that when I see you in a few minutes.

ROMANS: There is significant snow potential for the Northeast. You think?

CABRERA: Yes. The snow potential anywhere from four to six inches right now. But even some flurries and snowflakes could be dropping in Florida. That's the big story here.


BRIGGS: Florida.

CABRERA: Yes, Florida not escaping. ROMANS: Ivan, thank you. Thank you.

CABRERA: You got it.

BRIGGS: All right. All systems back up and running this morning after the computers at Customs and Border Protection went down for two hours. The outage forcing holiday travelers arriving from overseas to stand in long, long passport control lines at airports across the country. JFK, San Francisco, Dallas Fort Worth and Denver among the hardest hit airports.

CBP officials say they had access to national security-related databases during the system outage and there is no indication the disruption was malicious in nature, but an awful way to start 2018.

ROMANS: It was 100 percent confirmed that it was a pain, a big pain for a couple of hours.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

ROMANS: All right. Some big names in entertainment rolling out a wide-ranging plan to fight sexual harassment. The group's called "Time's Up" was unveiled in "The New York Times" story on Monday. It started to form shortly after the first round of allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein fall. Now, more than 1,000 women in entertainment want to use their high profile to help women in all fields.

BRIGGS: They say, quote, we want all survivors of sexual harassment everywhere to be heard, and to be believed and to know that accountability is possible. Among the early donors of the group's $13 million legal fund, Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg.

ROMANS: All right. Eighteen minutes past the hour.

Millions of American workers will ring in 2018 with a pay raise. As of January 1, 18 states and 20 cities boosted their minimum wage. Some hikes are part of a multi-year process to move closer to $15 an hour. That's what advocates call a living wage.

For example, in New York state, fast food pay rose to $11.75 an hour. The plan is to hit 15 bucks an hour by the year 2021. In Washington 2018's increase is one of several designed to reach $13.50 by the year 2020. Not every state is aiming as high as $15. Some remain close to the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. That has not been raised since 2009.

Now, higher wage is at the center of a hot political debate. Advocates say $7:25 is simply insufficient, right? Critics argue that if you raise the minimum wage, it kills jobs, so far, early studies on the effects have shown mixed results.

But a minimum wage hike is critical for many workers. Overall wage growth is sluggish and has been for years. It's been the one weak spot in otherwise strong jobs market.

Front page of the "Wall Street Journal", though, shows something I think is good news for workers. It shows in some metro areas in the United States., the unemployment rate is only 3 percent.


ROMANS: And that employees are having to raise wages to get the workers that they need. So, simple supply and demand will tell you if you're running out of workers, you got to start raising wages to get them.

BRIGGS: Let's hope wage growth is what we need. But that federal minimum wage certainly needs.

ROMANS: $7.25, $7.25 an hour. So, the states are taking it into their own hands.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, it's a double overtime but Georgia survives in the college football playoffs after a comeback for the ages. Coy Wire has one of the greatest games in college football history in the "Bleacher Report" next.


[05:23:12] BRIGGS: All right. College football's national championship all set after a pair of bowl games for the ages.


BRIGGS: At least one of them.

ROMANS: Quality time with the TV yesterday.

Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave.

It's going to be Georgia and Alabama in an all SEC national title game Monday right here in Atlanta. So, come on down, Christine and Dave. UGA, they punched their ticket in one of the greatest Rose Bowl games ever. I had the great fortune of playing in one, it's special. This one was magnificent.

They're battling Oklahoma, and their Heisman trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield who's battling the aftermath of a flu, but he still looked like Drew Brees 2.0 out there. He had the Sooners up 17 points in the first half but Georgia kept hitting at it. Nick Chubb game-tying touchdown with about a minute to go. That went into overtime.

And in the second overtime, look at UGA's Lorenzo Carter, stretching and blocking the field. On the next drive with any sort of points, UGA would win. Senior Sony Michel takes off 27 yards into the end zone and Athens. And Georgia lore forever, one of four touchdowns on the day for that young man.

Now, that 17-point come from behind win is the greatest in Rose Bowl history. Dogs advanced in the title game with 54-48 win in the thriller. Here's the post-game sound.


KIRBY SMART, GEORGIA HEAD COACH: Our kids are so resilient. They never stopped chopping wood. They kept fighting. They believed there was offensive players and defensive players. And they keep fighting. We didn't play the way we were capable of, but the best news is, we get a chance to play again.

BAKER MAYFIELD, OKLAHOMA QUARTERBACK: I can't believe it's over. It's been a wild ride.


WIRE: So, the Sugar Bowl, roll, Tide, role. Alabama cruising to the national title game against Georgia with a bruising defensive performance against the high powered defending champs Clemson. Three hundred-plus pounder (INAUDIBLE), interception, he plays later, they put him on offense and he scores a touchdown with this incredible reception, keeping the toes in bounds.

And the Clemson fans, they can't believe it. The Alabama looks fresh. Their defense vicious. Unpredictable in offense.

Look out UGA in the title game. Nick Saban taking Alabama to its sixth national title in nine seasons. Title game, rather. Da'Ron Payne, he played a big man's dream of a game.


DA'RON PAYNE, ALABAMA DEFENSIVE TACKLE: I think -- I have been talking to the coach lots about it. He says keep going you might get it. Tried to do my best and work hard. And finally gave it to me.

NICK SABAN, ALABAMA HEAD COACH: When he made the interception, there was no doubt they were going to throw the ball in the goal line. I think it speaks volumes of the quality of programs we have. Especially two programs, two teams in the national championship game, and I think sometimes people try to put a little hate on the SEC because of some of the success we have, and I don't think that's really fair.


WIRE: Hey, look at this. Coming into those games SEC was two and four in bowl games. And now the only two that matter are SEC teams playing in that national championship.

BRIGGS: In Atlanta where UCF went undefeated to cap a perfect 13 and 0 season. Congrats to Scott Frost who says it's unfair there was a conscious effort to keep them out in the playoff.

Good season for Central Florida.

Coy, we want wait for in a national title game. Thanks.

WIRE: You're welcome.

BRIGGS: All right. Big domestic agenda facing the president this year, but before he can tackle that, flare-ups with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan demand attention. We've got live reports on our top stories, next.