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Trump: "I Am Not A Racist"; Changes After False Alarm In Hawaii; North And South Korea Hold Second Round Of Talks; Vikings Headed To NFC Championship Game. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 15, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:31:20] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Astounding words from the President of the United States after reportedly using an expletive to describe African nations. Now, who can and who can't remember what was said in that meeting. Suddenly, like everything else, a partisan issue.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president is blaming Democrats for bringing the government to the verge of a shutdown. Can talks on the immigration deal be salvaged before Friday's deadline?

BRIGGS: And changes in Hawaii after a false alarm about an inbound missile. The warning sent the entire island's population, not to mention some tourists, running for cover, fearing the worst. A terrifying ordeal in Hawaii over the weekend.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour and this is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


ROMANS: A lot of folks out there are going to be doing a day of service in your communities. We wish you well. Thank you for that.

The president, this morning, defending himself after days of controversy over his remarks denigrating Haiti and African nations. He is said to have used an expletive to describe African nations while talking immigration with lawmakers Thursday. But last night, the president pushed back against accusations his words reflect racist beliefs.

Now, lawmakers, even within the GOP, disagree on whether the president used the explosive term.

BRIGGS: The president also talked about the possibility of a government shutdown. With the clock ticking to Friday's deadline, the sides remain far apart on a deal for Dreamers.

White House correspondent Boris Sanchez, traveling with the president, has more from West Palm Beach.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the president taking a few moments before dinner with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday night to answer reporter's questions, and he made news on a variety of fronts.

For one, having to answer that uncomfortable question that came up this week after the president reportedly made some disparaging remarks about African nations and Haitians during a meeting with lawmakers at the White House.

Here's the president answering the reporter's question, "Are you a racist?" Listen to this.

TRUMP: No, no, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.

SANCHEZ: And getting back to the question of whether the president said those controversial remarks at a meeting with lawmakers on Thursday, Sunday night the president asked reporters, "Did you see what senators said about that meeting?"

The interesting thing about that is that are very many different answers, even just from Republicans about what the president said -- Christine and Dave


ROMANS: All right, Boris for us in West Palm Beach. Thanks, Boris.

The partisan wrangling over exactly what the president said in the immigration meeting becoming increasingly bitter. Listen to two Republican senators and the Homeland Security secretary.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS, ANCHOR, ABC "THIS WEEK": Are you saying the president did not use the word that has been so widely reported?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: I'm telling you he did not use that word, George, and I'm telling you it's a gross misrepresentation. How many times you want me to say that?

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I didn't hear that word, either. I certainly didn't hear what Sen. Durbin has said repeatedly.

JOHN DICKERSON, HOST, CBS "FACE THE NATION": So you're saying in that room you didn't hear any of this sort of lumping everybody together? Is that what you're saying?

COTTON: I did not hear derogatory comments about -- DICKERSON: But the sense --

COTTON: -- about individuals or persons, no.

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I don't recall him saying that exact phrase. I think he has been clear, and I would certainly say undoubtedly, the president will use and continue to use strong language when it comes to this issue.

GEORGE WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": And to say I don't recall seems implausible. If the President of the United States used the word "blank hole" talking about countries in the Oval Office, or didn't say it, I would know.

NIELSEN: I understand the question. It was an impassioned conversation. I don't recall that specific phrase being used.


[05:35:05] ROMANS: Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen appears tomorrow at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing and that sets up an interesting possible face-off with committee member Dick Durbin, a Democratic who says the president definitely used that vulgarity.

BRIGGS: Senator Lindsey Graham, the only Republican in the meeting, with a different answer. He did not directly confirm or deny Trump's comments in a statement Friday, but "The New York Times" reports Graham told the president, quote, "America is an idea, not a race," adding that he, himself, is a descendant of immigrants who came to the U.S. from "s-hole" countries with no skills.

An initial statement from the White House did not deny the president made the reported comments, although the president later said he did not use that specific expletive.

ROMANS: All right. Joining us this morning from Washington, "CNN POLITICS" reporter Saba Hamedy. She's a -- she's the co-author of CNN's "The Point" newsletter.

Good morning. Nice to see you bright and early this morning.

SABA HAMEDY, REPORTER, "CNN POLITICS," CO-AUTHOR, CNN "THE POINT": Good morning. Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: Let's just for a moment absorb the fact the president stood there in the evening at a dinner availability with --

BRIGGS: With his Nixonian like charge --

ROMANS: We're in the midst of really important historic negotiations on immigration and keeping the government open, and we are hearing from the president who is assuring everyone he is not a racist.

How does the White House move forward from this? HAMEDY: I mean, I think as they move forward with everything else they just try and avoid answering the questions that are being asked, including the tough one, are you racist, which has been asked multiple times in -- you know, obviously, in the last week but in general, through the last year.

ROMANS: How does it affect the DACA negotiations, do you think, or doesn't it? Is this all happening -- it's just four days. They're off today.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: The president's still in Florida.

And you've got these DACA negotiations and you have the president actually saying that it's the Democrats' fault -- listen.


TRUMP: We're ready, willing, and able to make a deal on DACA but I don't think the Democrats wants to make a deal. And the folks from DACA should know the Democrats are the ones that aren't going to make a deal.

I don't know if they'll be a shutdown. There shouldn't be because if there is our military gets hurts very badly. We cannot let our military be hurt.


ROMANS: So, Dave and I -- you know, I would think this is like sort of "Art of the Deal" when he goes way out there and takes an extreme position.


ROMANS: You wonder if that is the beginning of --

BRIGGS: That is the playbook of Trump.

ROMANS: If that's the way he's going to negotiate. But they don't have much time to move forward on this and the president's saying it's the Democrats' fault.

HAMEDY: Well, listen, I mean, I think there are enough people and lawmakers out there who are fighting to get this done. Jeff Flake, in an interview recently with "ABC NEWS," said that Democrats are also working in good faith, so I don't think it's Democrats holding it up.

I think it's just maybe Trump's comments, but also just maybe the lingering deadline will help --

ROMANS: Right.

HAMEDY: -- push it.

BRIGGS: John Lewis, on the Sunday shows yesterday, said he would not vote to fund the government without some sort of deal on DACA.

Is that the sentiment in the Democratic Party? Are they willing to risk a government shutdown on Friday?

HAMEDY: I mean, it's a -- you know, it's a tough question because if they -- if they do let it happen then the Republicans will spin that the Democrats --


HAMEDY: -- are the shutdown party.

But, you know, at the same time, again, a lot of their constituents are immigrants and some directly, obviously, are Dreamers. And so, if you don't -- if you allow this to go through without something in place then you're at risk of --

ROMANS: Right.

HAMEDY: -- impacting your constituents in a negative way.

ROMANS: Sama Hamedy, "CNN POLITICS" reporter, thank you so much. Nice to see you.

HAMEDY: Thank you.

ROMANS: Nice to see you. Have a great Monday.

HAMEDY: You, too. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right, 38 minutes past the hour.

In Hawaii, the emergency management officer who sent a false alarm about an inbound missile has been reassigned. The mishap that sent Hawaiians scrambling for cover came during a routine drill following a shift change.

Officials say an officer in the Emergency Operations Center mistakenly picked the wrong message template, one for sending a warning to the public, not just internally. Then, the officer clicked OK to confirm that incorrect message.

Here's what it said. "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

That warning sent to T.V.s, radios, every single cell phone in Hawaii. It took 38 minutes to send a follow-up alert that the first message was a false alarm.

Meantime, emergency officials and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard sent tweets saying there was no missile threat. But, Gabbard says the alert, itself, is not the main issue.


REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: What makes me angry is yes, that this false alarm went out and we have to fix that in Hawaii. But really, we've got to get to the underlying issue here of why are the people of Hawaii and this country facing a nuclear threat coming from North Korea today and what is this president doing urgently to eliminate that threat?


[05:40:03] ROMANS: Officials say it took so long to cancel the false alarm because they had no template for that, an omission that's now been fixed. They say a manager on duty will also have to confirm any future alerts.

President Trump calls it a state issue. The White House says he was briefed although he did not mention the issue for more than a day while tweeting on other topics.

Meantime, CNN's Barbara Starr reports the Pentagon is about to issue its nuclear posture review. A draft leaked to "Huff Post" shows senior Defense officials not only want to modernize the aging U.S. arsenal, they also want to add new ways of waging nuclear war as Russia, China, and other adversaries bolster their own arsenals.

All right, time for an early start on your money.

President Trump loves to take credit for good economic numbers and it has been a great first year for him on that front -- low unemployment, a booming stock market. But there is one statistic he used to mention all the time.


TRUMP: Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.

So, 95 million people out there that aren't working.

Ninety-six million really wanting a job and they can't get it. You know that story -- the real number.


ROMANS: That real number is 95 million people. It's the number of Americans out of the workforce. It's a number that hasn't budged at all, even as the jobless rate has gone down to a 17-year low.

Who are all these people? The number can be a little bit misleading. It's not as if 95 million people just disappeared.

About half of them are retired -- about 44.5 million. They're, obviously, not looking for a job. They are retired.

Most of the remaining 50 million, they're either in school, they are taking care of a loved one, they're a stay-at-home parent, they are physically unable to work.

What about the rest? Well, 1.6 million have looked for a job in the past year, and there's six million people listed as other. These six million, we don't know much about these workers. They're out of the labor market.

Now, so the majority of these 95 million missing Americans are out of the workforce, many of them because they want to be. They aren't looking to get back in.

But still, that missing from the workplace is something the president, when he wasn't the president, used to show as a weak spot of the economy. It has not improved at all.

All right. North and South Korea back at the negotiating table, their second round of talks in a week about the Olympics and more. We're live in Seoul.


[05:46:42] BRIGGS: North and South Korea returning to the table. They held a second round of talks overnight focused on next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea. The talks are taking place in the truce village of Panmunjom.

Let's go live to CNN's Paula Hancocks live in Seoul, South Korea for us. Paula, good morning to you.

Twenty-four days now away from the Olympics. Where are we in these talks?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, these talks have just ended between North and South Korea -- working-level talks -- and we have some agreement, we're being told, by the fact, at least when it comes to the cultural aspect.

North Korea has agreed to send about 140 members of one of their main orchestras. They're going to send those to the fact. They're going to have concerts also in Seoul, in the capital, so not just in the area where the Olympics is taking place.

North Korea also saying they're going to send a delegation down here to sort out logistics in advance, if you like. And the South Koreans have agreed to security for this delegation -- for the cultural delegation.

And also, agreed to the convenience -- assuming the convenience, which you can only assume means they'll probably pick up the tab for this group coming down. So we have some agreement, at least when it comes to the cultural side.

South Korea is pushing for an inter-Korean women's ice hockey team. They want North and South Koreans on the same team competing under the same flag for the first time ever at the Olympics.

It all depends, though, on what the International Olympics Committee decides. That happens on Saturday. They'll be meeting with North Korean officials in Switzerland, certainly hoping that they can get more wild cards for these North Korean athletes.

Back to you. BRIGGS: There will, undoubtedly, be a lot of focus on this North Korean delegation. All right, Paula Hancocks live for us. Thanks.

ROMANS: An investigation is underway after a commercial airliner skidded off a runway in northern Turkey this weekend, coming to a rest on a seaside cliff with its nose just yards from the water. Officials say if that Boeing 737 jet had gone any further down the slope the plane would likely have plunged back into the Black Sea.

One hundred sixty-two passengers and crew were on board the Pegasus Airlines from Ankara. The airline, in a statement, says everyone was able to make it off the plane uninjured.

BRIGGS: A rare interview with Queen Elizabeth to mark the 65th anniversary or her coronation. The Queen sharing her memories from the 1953 ceremony in a documentary on the Smithsonian channel.

She recalls her father, King George VI, was so determined to prepare for her coronation that he had her write a complete review of his coronation when she was 11.

ROMANS: Queen Elizabeth also revealing she has only worn that St. Edwards crown once in her six-decade reign. And riding in that gold state coach to the coronation wasn't enjoyable.


QUEEN ELIZABETH: Horrible. There is no (INAUDIBLE) traveling at all. There is just not -- it's only sprung on leather.


QUEEN ELIZABETH: Yes, not very comfortable. It can only go at a walking pace and the horses couldn't possibly go any faster.


ROMANS: The Queen says the coronation was going to be so long guests snuck food, strong drink, and even smelling salts into Westminster Abbey. Wow, what an image.

All right. Amazon's grocery business getting a big boost from its latest acquisition. We'll get a check on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:54:25] ROMANS: The death toll from the California mudslides now at 20 people. Four others are still missing. The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department says it is now a search and recovery operation.

A vigil was held last night in Montecito for the victims.

The 101 Freeway, the main coastal artery connecting northern and southern California was supposed to reopen today but officials say it's still not cleared for travel. Fifteen people suffered injuries in a fire on a casino shuttle boat in Port Richey, Florida.

Authorities say the 50 passengers on board the Island Breeze jumped into the water -- the frigid water to escape the flames. The boat was about a half mile from the shore. All 50 have been accounted for.

[05:55:03] Fire officials say it likely started in the engine room and spread quickly.

BRIGGS: All right.

In sports, a rough start for the American women at the Australian Open. Fifth seed Venus Williams shocked on day one. She was beaten by Switzerland's Belinda Bencic in straight sets. Venus lost to her sister, Serena, in the Australian Open final just last year.

And the reigning U.S. Open champ, American Sloane Stephens losing her opening match. Stephens lost in three sets to Shuai Zheng of China.

Since winning her first grand slam title in September, Stephens has been in a prolonged slump. She's now lost eight straight matches.

To the NFL. The Vikings heading to the NFC championship game after a miracle in Minneapolis. Minnesota with a stunning last-second victory over New Orleans.

But first, the Vikings dominated this game -- 17-nothing, they led at the half. The Saints really fought back. The lead back and forth in the fourth quarter with the teams trading field goals.

New Orleans goes up one with 25 seconds left right there, so the Vikings down to their final play with the clock and their season about to expire.


ANNOUNCER: Keenum steps into it -- pass is caught. Diggs, sideline, touchdown, unbelievable.


BRIGGS: A remarkable play. Case Keenum to Stephon Diggs -- 61-yard score -- 29-24 Vikings.

The Skol chant rocking U.S. Bank stadium which, by the way, hosts the Super Bowl.

The Vikings head to Philadelphia next week for the NFC title game.

The Eagles beat the Falcons Saturday.

Over in the AFC, the Jacksonville Jaguars stunning the football world by putting up 45 points on the Steelers. Forty-five-42, your final there. Jacksonville in the AFC title game for the first time since 1999. The

Jags head to New England next week, a big underdog, taking on Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Patriots.

The Pats beat the Titans Saturday to advance to their seventh straight conference title game.

ROMANS: All right, it is that time of the morning. Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Stock markets are closed today in observance of the Martin Luther King holiday but investors will return tomorrow with some solid gains to start the year.

So far, the Dow is up 4.4 percent. The Nasdaq up five percent. The S&P 500 up more than four percent.

The Dow climbed, what, 228 points to another record high on Friday. The S&P and the Nasdaq also record highs all around.

Two high-profile tech executives are leaving Disney's board of directors over potential conflicts of interest. The Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey both stepping down from their positions on Disney's board. That's according to an SEC filing from the company.

A Disney spokesman says it has become increasingly difficult for them to avoid conflicts relating to board matters. Dorsey had been on the board since 2013 and Sandberg had served since 2010.

Amazon's multi-billion bet on Whole Foods seems to be paying off. Whole Foods brand items have helped boost Amazon sales -- online grocery sales on its delivery service. AmazonFresh up 35 percent to $135 million in the last four months of last year compared to the previous four months.

That's a big improvement. That's according to "The Wall Street Journal."

Amazon acquired Whole Foods back in August for $13.7 billion. This is an interesting play to really watch here as --


ROMANS: -- consumers really change how they're consuming -- how they're using the Web, first of all, and how they're getting items delivered. My --

BRIGGS: Groceries --

ROMANS: -- basement is full of boxes all the time -- my garage.

BRIGGS: So are you a holdout on the online grocery thing? I'm hesitant there.

ROMANS: So, I buy a lot of like bulk and staple items online. But the food, I haven't really -- I'm not an adapter yet.

BRIGGS: Well, I'm reading that coconut water, frozen blueberries, and your personal favorite, bacon -- our personal favorite -- are leading the surge.

ROMANS: You're making me hungry.

BRIGGS: I suppose I could buy those things online.

ROMANS: You could try it.


ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us this morning -- MLK Day. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


TRUMP: I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.

PERDUE: I'm telling you he did not use that word. It's a gross misrepresentation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He rejected a bipartisan deal brought to him by his own Republican senators because he wants to make racial politics here.

TRUMP: The vote for DACA should go. The Democrats are the ones that aren't going to make a deal.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The Democrats are negotiating in good faith.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We have a shutdown looming. We have to make sure this government runs and operates.

COTTON: If it really is the case that a single employee could hit the wrong button then, obviously, that system needs to be redesigned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to stay calm when you don't know what's happening.

GABBARD: That really highlights the stark reality that the people of Hawaii are facing.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your new day. It's Monday, January 15th, 6:00 here in New York. Alisyn is off. The one and only Poppy Harlow here -- thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Did you see the Vikings last night?

CUOMO: I did -- amazing.

HARLOW: It just made my week.

CUOMO: Amazing, although a long-time agonizing Vikings fan. Is this your year?

HARLOW: Yes, it is.

CUOMO: We'll discuss.

Here's our "Starting Line."