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EARLY START

Trump Slams "Shithole" Countries; Trump Touts Good Relationship with Dictator; Trump's False London Excuse. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 12, 2018 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:00:01] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: They're amazing but they come from a shithole. The president's own words during immigration negotiations capping off a staggering day in Washington, D.C., including tweets, putting a national security program potentially at risk.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president also with some bizarre claims in a new interview. Apparently, he says he has a good relationship with Kim Jong-un. What does that mean? And he thinks an FBI agent committed treason by texting about him during the campaign.

BRIGGS: And a late night tweet amid all this drama. The president falsely claims he cancelled a London trip because the embassy was moved. Massive protests awaiting him may have had something to do with that.

We'll have reports this morning from the White House, from Nairobi, from Seoul and, of course, from London.

Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, January 12th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And today, the president, President Trump signs a proclamation honoring Martin Luther King Day. Neither that proclamation nor any amount of spin is likely to quiet comments of racism stemming from the president's latest comments. This is a man who has defended white supremacists, mocked a disabled reporter, called Mexicans rapists, said a judge could not be fair because of his Mexican ancestry, that judge is from Indiana.

Don't let these or any other examples normalize these latest comments from the United States. Quote: Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? We should bring in more people from places like Norway. He later added, why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.

BRIGGS: Remarks came during a Thursday Oval Office meeting with lawmakers. Sources telling CNN when the subject turned to immigrants from Haiti, the president asked why we want Haitians and more Africans in the U.S., "The Washington Post" was first to report these comments which "The Post" says shocked lawmakers who were there. The Haitian government summoned the top U.S. diplomat there to discuss the president's remarks. ROMANS: If you are expecting an on camera response from the White

House, it may not be today. There is no briefing on the schedule before the president leaves to spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago. We're told the news about the president's remarks broke just as he was recording a video message for Martin Luther King Day.

BRIGGS: Perhaps a touch of irony there. King's daughter Bernice weighed in with this tweet. Only in a country still haunted by white supremacy and hounded by racism would a sitting president feel comfortable degrading Africa and Haiti while praising Norway. There's an ugly history that preceded Trump's comments today. Don't pretend as though America hasn't been racist.

ROMANS: Administration sources say the president told his aides he thought the media was blowing his comment out of proportion. A White House official tells CNN the view there is that this story may enrage Washington, but will likely resonate with Trump's base.

For more, let's go to CNN's Sara Murray at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave and Christine. President Trump setting off a fire storm on Thursday when in a private meeting with lawmakers, he was discussing immigration and the issue of restoring temporary protected status came up particularly from people from African countries as well as Haiti.

As for the White House, they responded. They did not deny that the president made these remarks. Instead, a spokesperson, Raj Shah said in part, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.

Back to you, guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Sara Murray, thank you.

The outcry over the president's remarks global. Former Mexico President Fox tweeting at President Trump, your mouth is the foulest shithole in the world. With what authority do you proclaim who's welcome in America and who's not. America's greatness is built on diversity or have you forgotten your immigrant background, Donald.

As for reaction in Africa, let's go to CNN's Farai Sevenzo live to Nairobi, Kenya.

Farai, good morning to you. We know you are a reporter and you have to stick to the facts. But what was your personal reaction being from Zimbabwe when you read these comments?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Dave, this is a continent in which I am fiercely proud to have been brought up. I am an international citizen. I live in London. And I live in Harare, and I'm based in Nairobi.

And my personal reaction was shock really and a little bit surprised that this kind of foot and mouth kind of verbal accidents keep coming out from the leader of the free world. Now, bear in mind, Africa is not the country that anyone might have recognized from the first time (INAUDIBLE) went to see John F. Kennedy on the White House steps way back in the 1960s. This is a young country full of vibe and complete energy where China, one of the biggest powers in the world, is everywhere, present everywhere because they don't talk in south.

[05:05:01] They talk money first.

So, my reaction was, here we go again, and indeed, my background as a filmmaker, I am fiercely proud of Africa's traditional literary and artistic roots. We have five Nobel laureates that come from this continent. They're not just black people. They're from Nigeria. We're talking about South African writers, former Zimbabwean writes.

So, it's a shocking thing and indeed, when I put all this to the information minister in Somalia whose countries is on that list, only three countries, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, he said he thinks that it sounded fake news, that if it were true, those comments do not deserve any response.

BRIGGS: Farai, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. Let's talk more about this with CNN political reporter Gregory Krieg. He joins us on the set to break all of this down.

Good morning. Welcome to the program.

GREGORY KRIEG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning.

We just got --

BRIGGS: Picked a heck of a morning to join us.

KRIEG: Sort of lazy Friday here, yes.

ROMANS: Yes, exactly. We just got Mar-a-Lago Friday as Dave calls it. We got "The Daily News". No surprise there.

This is what they say about this. "The New York Times" in vulgar terms. Trump disparages some immigrants. And you know, it's been called unpresidential. It's been called undiplomatic, offensive.

Mia Love, the child of Haitian immigrants herself, called it elitist and demanded an apology from this president, the congressman demanding an apology from this president.

How do you think the White House is going to respond?

KRIEG: I mean, I think we've seen it already. They're not going to apologize. That's not what they do. That's not what he does. That's not what he's ever done in his life. And we saw it from that comment from the White House official that told us, you know, we think this is going to play great with the base.

You know, it's two different things. I mean, to think that we'd be naive to not think that certain some Trump wouldn't enjoy this.

ROMANS: Right.

KRIEG: But it's another thing to say those words out loud to a reporter, you know, with the knowledge that that's going to be out there after that. I mean, be comfortable with that. And --

ROMANS: Back to the this whole thing is he president of his base or president of the United States, and it's comments like these and reactions from the White House like that I think show a different -- a different occupant in the White House than we've ever seen.

BRIGGS: Sure, but really what does it change? Most of these stories that come out of the White House just push both sides further to their corner. To your point, this president won't apologize.

He once said of apologizing: I hope to apologize someday if I'm ever wrong.

I don't think he thinks he's wrong here. I talked to many Trump supporters last night who had no problems with these comments. They either don't listen to them or they enjoy them.

Here's what Tucker Carlson said on Fox News defending these remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Today, as you doubtless heard, during immigration talks, President Trump said something that almost every American agrees with. An awful lot of immigrants come to this country from other places that aren't very nice. Those places are dangerous, they're dirty, they're corrupt and they're poor, and that's the main reason those immigrants are trying to come here and you would too if you lived there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Your thoughts and what does this change?

KRIEG: To your point, I think, not very much. It's another episode of the Trump show. A lot of people are going to be upset and outrage.

I think the bigger question is, there's a difference I think between outrage and backlash. So, we're clearly in an outrage moment right now. But does it last? Is there backlash?

And I think based on what's going on in Capitol Hill right now, you know, they're trying to get a DACA deal done, they're trying to do a handful of things to fund the government, you know, in the next week, I don't think it's necessarily, I'm sure some Democrats are thinking, well, I need to denounce, obviously, first and foremost, but I need to make a deal with this guy in the next week.

ROMANS: Right. They're trying to get a deal done and managing what appears to have been impulsive behavior or appears to be comments that are outside the norm. Speaking of impulsive behavior, because something happened yesterday via Twitter that got a lot of attention. The House of Representatives voting to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act over the objection of civil libertarians. U.S. intelligence agencies call this law a critical tool for protecting the country.

The measure was expected to pass easily with support from the White House, that is until the president started tweeted.

BRIGGS: Yes, the president had backed the FISA extension, but chaos broke out on Capitol Hill with this. This tweet, this is the act that may have been used with the help of the discredited and phony dossier to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump campaign by the previous administration and others.

Not surprisingly, that tweet came moments after this Fox News segment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't understand why Donald Trump is in favor of this. His woes began with unlawful foreign surveillance and unconstitutional domestic surveillance of him before he was the president of the United States. And now, he wants to institutionalize this. Mr. President, this is not the way to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Judge Napolitano said later that evening he was flattered by the fact the president was watching and tweeting about his very segment.

[05:10:00] Make no mistake, that's exactly what happened.

So, does the president not understand the FISA Surveillance Act, or does not listen to his own intel community and National Security Council and briefings or both?

KRIEG: I was going to say, all of the above. Obviously, we don't really know. He doesn't take that many questions from us. I would have to bet he doesn't have a deep and intricate understanding of it.

BRIGGS: Which many people don't. It's a very complex situation.

KRIEG: Of course many people are not --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Many people -- and then you have your team that tells you what your strategy is, what you're going to do, the president clearly disregarded what the plan was. And let's listen to what Adam Schiff, Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California said about what the president should be doing in the morning instead of watching Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If I could make one national security recommendation to the president it would be stop watching Judge Napolitano on Fox. This may be the only time where the country would benefit from a national security point of view if the president of the United States were watching cartoons in the morning instead of something else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Sorry, that's funny.

ROMANS: Dave giggles every time he says that. I don't think that's going to happen. I don't think that's going to change.

BRIGGS: You don't think he's going to watch cartoons?

ROMANS: I don't think he's going to stop -- this is the way he -- you know, he's a 71-year-old man. This is how he operates, how he processes information.

KRIEG: Yes, I mean, pipe in the bear channel or whatever it was for him.

ROMANS: The gorilla channel.

KRIEG: The gorilla channel, sorry.

This is what it is at this point as far as these things go and as far as the FISA issue. I mean, it's interesting that he had some understanding of what was going on. Certainly, the White House did the night before kind of made public what their position was. Maybe he was confused about there was an amendment on the table, they were voting on which would have kind of reformed the program a little bit. That didn't happen.

I think the more likely scenario was he was maybe a little confused what was happening on Fox News which can kind of ping a lot of different messages in his direction and he sends out this tweet. Everybody is running around for 101 minutes I think was the exact time.

ROMANS: True. I think Washington kind of like --

BRIGGS: John Kelly had to go to Capitol Hill to reassure lawmakers.

KRIEG: You picture John Kelly running up the stairs in the thick of it. And, you know, trying to settle everything down. And then obviously, you know, this kind of after this long break you have, you know, but I'd like to add, you know.

ROMANS: After he talks to Paul Ryan in the interim, talk to Paul Ryan and sort it out.

BRIGGS: All right. Judge Napolitano called the shithole remarks a new low from this president.

KRIEG: He did.

BRIGGS: Gorilla channel, check your local listings, or Google. Greg, we'll check with you in 30 minutes.

ROMANS: Two of the president's show just getting underway now.

All right. The president has touted relationships with authoritarians in the past. So why should Kim Jong-un be any different? Have these two spoken? How does the president know they have a really good relationship? The president's answer, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:16:59] ROMANS: All right. Another story developing at the White House. The president refusing to confirm whether he has talked directly to Kim Jong-un. The president teasing the possibility he did in an interview with the "Wall Street Journal."

He says this: I don't want to comment on it. I'm not saying I have or haven't. I just don't want to comment.

But he did say he probably has a, quote, very good relationship with the dictator.

BRIGGS: The president has recently expressed an openness to negotiating with North Korea. He's also promised to destroy the Kim regime with fire and fury. Kim's missile tests continue.

When we ask senior administration officials, President Trump has spoken to or contacted Kim, he told CNN that's not something we would discuss, but we are not aware this contact has occurred.

ROMANS: So, what is the view from Pyongyang regarding relationship, relationship with the United States?

CNN's Will Ripley with more on that from Seoul, South Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, President Trump's remarks to the "Wall Street Journal" that he probably has a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un certainly took a lot of career watchers by surprise. Yes, there are back channel communications between the U.S. and North Korea. At the United Nations in New York and elsewhere, for example.

But every source that I've spoken with in the U.S. and North Korea over the last several years and certainly in recent months has given zero indication of any remote possibility of direct communication between the leaders of the United States and North Korea and there are plenty of reasons for that. Tensions between the two countries are at some of the highest levels they have been in years. Just last week, President Trump was taunting Kim Jong-un about the size and strength of his nuclear button. Three months ago, he told his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson via Twitter that he was wasting had his time trying to engage with the North Koreans.

And then, of course, who can forget little rocket man and the other insults President Trump has hurled at Kim Jong-un. Of course, the North Korean leader hurled them back, calling President Trump from a mentally deranged dotard to an old lunatic.

Every source I have, every indication I am getting, it is highly unlikely there is communication between President Trump and Kim Jong- un. Nobody who follows the Korea situation would describe the relationship between those leaders as good -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Will Ripley, thank you, sir.

BRIGGS: Major protests were set to greet president during a planned visit to London. Now, the visit is off. The president's claim as to why, this might have you shaking your head.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:22:43] ROMANS: Trying perhaps to distract from coverage of shithole remarks, President Trump posted tweets on a series of topics late last night. Among them that he dropped a working visit to Britain next month.

Reason I cancelled my trip to London is that I'm not a big fan of the Obama administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for peanuts, only to build a new one in an off- location for $1.2 billion. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon, no.

BRIGGS: All right. Fact check, that is not true. The decision to move the embassy was made in 2008 under President George W. Bush. Also, the President Trump was expected to draw huge protests when he visited London.

Let's go live to the new U.S. embassy in London, check in with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.

Nick, good morning to you. What have you learned? What was your reaction to this tweet?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, there is a lot factually to address with that tweet. You dealt with the first issue. That decade-old decision was under the Bush administration. The health of the deal is not necessarily a real estate -- former real estate magnate President Trump suggests.

Now, the building behind me, according to the U.S. State Department, was built entirely using the funds of the sale of the old U.S. embassy. Still also partially in use as well. The old building is in Mayfair Central London, a plush part of town. It's a listed building but it was sold to a Qatar sovereign wealth funds and they are developing it into a hotel for a project worth a billion pounds, $1.3 billion or so, more than enough to develop what is behind me you might argue. But this is not an awful location really. The apartments around me

are going about a million pounds themselves. So, quite an extraordinary judgment in terms of how London's property market functions.

But many I think in London are waking up reading this bizarre announcement that he's cancelling a trip that was never officially announced as in fact, a way of him getting out of what the mayor of London has said likely to have occurred, which is mass peaceful protests in the event of him coming here.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, saying perhaps this is Donald Trump finally getting the message. This is not a city really with a lot of love for the kind of divisive rhetoric, according to the mayor, that Donald Trump has espoused, particularly in the last 24 hours or so.

[05:25:01] So, some may in fact be looking at this and saying he's simply dodging a bullet because he wasn't going to get the standing ovation he hoped he would in the event he had come here. Back to you.

BRIGGS: Nick Paton Walsh live for us in London.

The president changed the conversation just maybe not in the way he intended. Thank you for that.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-five minutes past the hour. Don't be fooled. We are stunned by this program this morning as you are. One of the craziest days of the Trump presidency capped by remarks being roundly criticized as racist.

BRIGGS: In a lighter note, it's been a good start to 2018 for Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin. Here's her mindset heading into the Pyeongchang Olympics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKAELA SHIFFRIN, SLALOM CHAMPION: Skiing is not who I am and skiing, I'm going to have ups and downs, but at the end of the day I'm still me. As long as that stays true, then I can't be lost.

Winning always sounds really good and it's the thing that I dream about. But once it happens, I'm like, I just want to go to bed.

My biggest fear is disappointing people and that's where the external pressure comes into play when I think if I don't win I'm going to disappoint the media or I'm going to disappoint my fans or my family or my coaches and the people on my team who work so hard day in and day out to help me achieve my goals. And that's where I get in the starting gate. I'm like, ooh, here we go, I don't want to disappoint anyone. And that's when I feel the pressure.

But I'm starting to be able to separate the two and that's really important for me to actually be able to enjoy the sport. I'm going into the games with a similar mind-set that I had in Sochi, which was I have the capability of winning a medal if not multiple medals. And my best shot at doing that is to act like I'm chasing and that's when I ski my best when I sort of act like I'm chasing the world instead of the one who is being chased.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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