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EARLY START

Democrats May Withhold Votes on Spending Plan Unless DACA Fixed; Trump: Durbin "Totally Misrepresented" Comment, Blew DACA, Hurting Military; 13 Siblings Rescued in California, Parents Arrested; Palestinian Leaders Call on PLO to Suspend Recognition of Israel; New U.S. Embassy in London Opens. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 16, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


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[04:00:13] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: Hopes for an immigration deal facing long odds after the president's comments on African countries. Now Democrats are giving real thought to shutting down the government if demands are not met.

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SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D), ILLINOIS: I stick with my original interpretation. I am stunned that this is their defense.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: The bewilderment grows as Republicans engage in a game of semantics. Top GOP Senators hiding behind the difference between derogatory terms about African nations.

BRIGGS: And 13 siblings rescued in California. Some of the kids chained to beds. Their parents now facing serious charges.

We have reports this morning from Capitol Hill, from Jerusalem and from London.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans.

Nice to see you.

BRIGGS: Morning.

ROMANS: Nice to see all of you this morning. It is Tuesday, January 16. Bright and early, 4:00 a.m. in the east.

Let's being on Capitol Hill where, this morning, lawmakers will return to face a complex agenda and a ticking clock. They must agree on a spending plan by Friday when government spending authority runs out. The main issue on the table remains a deal on DREAMers, further complicated by the president's racially charged comments last week.

BRIGGS: Usually, cooler heads prevail and a spending deal is reached, but GOP fiscal conservatives don't want another short-term solution. This is the first time in memory Democrats are seriously considering withholding their votes. Some want to use this moment to fight for a long-term DACA fix.

Phil Mattingly sorts through all of it on Capitol Hill.

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PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, there are now four legislative days that lawmakers have to try and figure out some way to keep the government funded beyond Friday. Things are in a difficult position. The issues are complex. And in terms of the pathway forward, as it currently stands, you talk to Republican and Democratic aides, one doesn't exist at least at the moment. The dynamics here aren't new. Democrats say they don't want to vote on any bill to keep the government funded if there is no DACA resolution included with it or around the same timetable. Republicans now have made very clear that resolution, any deal on a potential DACA bill, will not exist by the end of the week.

Here is the dynamic as it currently stands right now. Republicans in the House, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, need to find 218 Republican votes of their own. They can't rely on Democrats. House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, made that clear. So that is one issue on the plate of Paul Ryan. Now the plate of Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. In the Senate, Republicans can't pass a government funding resolution on their own. They need Democratic support. Where are Democrats on that? Take a listen to what Senator Chris Coons said on Monday.

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SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D), DELAWARE: A majority of my caucus, myself included, we will not fund the government without a DACA deal. The Republican majority and Republican president, to put a very sharp point on it, have failed to come up with a way that we can fund the government and address the vital needs of states and territories, of families and children all over this country.

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MATTINGLY: Guys, that's where the dynamics stand. That is not considering or taking into play the comments of the president in the private Oval Office meeting last week, something Democratic aides tell me has only served to harden the resolve of Democrats who say they are not going to move forward on anything if there is no DACA resolution. The reality, they say right now, is there's no trust with the White House. And more importantly, there is a bipartisan deal. It's one Republican leaders, certainly the president rejected. But it is what Democrats say is the only thing that's currently on the table. If there's no vote on that, if there's no considering on that, they may be willing to withhold votes. Right now, there is more confusion than there are answers. There are more questions than there are pathways forward. That leaves a lot of work and four days to get it all done -- Christine and Dave?

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS: All right, Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill for us.

President Trump accusing Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of distorting the comments he made last week to describe immigrants from Africa. The president tweeting, "Senator Dickie Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can't get made when there is no trust. Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our military."

That only makes sense if "totally misrepresented" means "shithole" and "shithouse" are completely two different things.

BRIGGS: Oh, yes.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: A Senate GOP source tells CNN some Republicans in the room thought the president called Haiti and African nations "shithouse" countries. That could explain why Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen all insisted they did not hear the president say S-hole but then tap danced when asked what they actually heard. The White House and Republicans playing a high-stakes game of semantics.

ROMANS: Whichever expletive the president used, the racial implications of taking fewer black and brown immigrants and more people from Norway remain unchanged.

Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who was at the immigration meeting, will not say what was said.

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[04:05:06] REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART, (R), FLORIDA: And, again, I will not comment on what may or may not have said publicly. But I am committed to -- look, the easy thing to do would be to --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- answer that question.

DIAZ-BALART: Because the easy thing for me to say this person said that, this person said this.

(CROSSTALK)

DIAZ-BALART: The bottom line is I will not be in a position to solve this problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Political putt.

The one Republican Senator in the meeting to call the president out, Lindsey Graham, usually an ally of the president. He now says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. President, close the deal. Eighty percent of Americans want to give the DACA kids a better life and 80 percent of Americans want to secure our border and change a broken immigration system. It's going to take you, Mr. President, working with Republicans and Democrats to get this done. It's not going to be done on Twitter, by tweeting. It's going to be done by talking and understanding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The "Washington Post" reports before Thursday's meeting, hardliners, including Perdue and Cotton, were so concerned the president would agree to a bipartisan DACA deal, they went to the Oval before the planned discussion. The aim was to convince the president not to sign off on a deal he was about to see.

ROMANS: "The Post" also says Chief of Staff John Kelly convinced the president the plan Durbin would outline was not good for the president politically.

The S-hole or S-house discussion clearly wearing thin for some Senators. Listen to what Louisiana Republican John Kennedy said.

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REP. JOHN NEELY KENNEDY, (R), LOUISIANA: It's starting to look like a bunch of kids in the back of minivan or at least in a junior high school cafeteria.

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BRIGGS: After all this, a source familiar with the president's think says Mr. Trump still believes his comments will play with his base and that he was right to reject the bipartisan immigration deal that he was presented.

ROMANS: For the record, my kids would be in trouble if they were in a minivan talking like that.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

ROMANS: A middle school cafeteria is a little cleaner than Capitol Hill at the moment.

A trio of Trump campaign officials set to testify before Congress in the Russia investigation. Former campaign chief and top White House strategist, Steve Bannon, goes before the House Intelligence Committee this morning. Corey Lewandowski, who served as Trump campaign manager, is expected to testify before the committee this week as well.

BRIGGS: The House panel will also hear from White House Communications Director Hope Hicks as early as this week. She will be one of the closest Trump confidants to be privately interviewed. Hicks was in frequent communication with other top campaign officials as they plotted strategy to win the White House. ROMANS: Meantime, former campaign official, Paul Manafort, and Rick

Gates will be back in court today. Prosecutors have asked for a trial to start May 14th. Roughly six weeks before the midterm elections -- six months, rather. Manafort and Gates face 12 total charges of money laundering and lying on federal records. Both have pleaded not guilty of all charges.

BRIGGS: We are expecting to hear later today from the White House, Dr. Ronnie Jackson, on the results of President Trump's physical. The president had the exam last Friday. The White House issued a statement afterwards saying that it went exceptionally well and the president is in excellent health.

ROMANS: Millions more Americans were uninsured in 2017, the first yearly increase since Obamacare began. The uninsured rate rose to 12.2 percent last year, 3.2 million more Americans without health insurance. This jump reverses the trend of the past few years. The uninsured rate had been falling after hitting a peak in 2013, thanks largely to Obamacare, the Medicaid expansion and the individual mandate that required all adult have insurance or pay a penalty, and was repealed under the new tax bill. One big reason for the rise in uninsured, the Trump administration officials repeatedly trying to repeal Obamacare, many Americans believe the penalty would no be enforced and they dropped their coverage. It wasn't just policy. Rising costs also caused many to forego health insurance. Multiple insurers withdrew from the Obamacare markets in 2017, causing the remaining carriers had to hike premiums.

BRIGGS: A long road to recovery now beginning for 13 siblings, ages 2 to almost 30. They were rescued from awful conditions in a California home. Basically, kept prisoners. The community outside Los Angeles left outraged. That story still ahead on EARLY START.

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[04:09:19] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were that many kids in there? I wish there was something this community could have done.

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BRIGGS: A southern California couple facing charges of torture and child endangerment after police say they found the couple's 13 children held captive in their Riverside-area home. Bail set at $9 million each for David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin. Police say one of the daughters, a 17 year old, managed to escape and call 911 from a cell phone she found in the house.

ROMANS: Officials say the victims range in age from 2 to 29. They were kept in filthy conditions. Some of them shackled to beds with chains and padlocks.

Here is how a neighbor who saw the Sunday arrest described the children.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were very, very pale skinned. Almost like they have never seen the sun. I have seen the older ones. It was mostly girls. And then kind of small framed. I would say tiny. Almost looked a little malnourished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The victims were treated for a variety of medical issues. David Turpin, the father, listed as the principal of the Sandcastle Day School operated out of the home where the 13 victims were found. It was not immediately clear if the couple has an attorney.

ROMANS: A lot of questions still about that disturbing case.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Olympian Simone Biles alleging she was also sexually abused by former team doctor, Larry Nassar. In an online post, the four-time gold medalist says she will not carry the guilt, it belongs to Nassar. USA Gymnastics says it is absolutely heartbroken, sorry and angry about Biles and other athletes being harmed, insisting its support for those who come forward is unwavering.

[04:15:07] BRIGGS: Nassar's sentencing for criminal sexual conduct begins later this morning in Michigan where 90 people are expected to deliver victim impact statements over the next four days. Formal sentencing likely Friday.

Another of Nassar's victim, teammate, Aly Raisman, says she will not attend. The three-time Olympic gold medalist says going would be too traumatic, but her impact letter will be read in court.

ROMANS: A sad news from the music world. Delores O'Riordan, lead singer for the Irish rock band the Cranberries, has died.

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(SINGING)

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ROMANS: That voice unmistakable.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Sound of the mid to late '90s. Her publicist says "Riordan died suddenly Monday while she was in London for a recording session. No word on the cause of death.

BRIGGS: The Cranberries rose to fame in the '90s with a string of hits, including "Zombie" and "Dream," selling more than 40 million albums worldwide. The band released a new record last year, but had to cancel much of its tour due to O'Riordan's recurring back problems. She is survived by her three children. Delores O'Riordan was 46.

You nailed it there. That voice.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: One of the few in that era that you don't have to ask, who sang that song. You hear it and you know it was the Cranberries.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Ahead, top Palestinian officials say Israel should no longer be recognized. Why now? And what would be enough to change their minds? We're live in Jerusalem.

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[04:21:06] BRIGGS: It's 4:20 eastern time.

Palestinian leaders are calling on the PLO to suspend recognition of Israel. The PLO Central Council declaring the Palestinian Authority should no longer be bound by the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords after President Trump announced America's recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

CNN's Ian Lee is tracking the latest for us live from Jerusalem.

Good morning, Ian.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

A lot came out of the late-night Central Council meeting. A few of the things we're watching, as they reaffirm their commitment to having a Palestinian state alongside with an Israeli state, that Palestinian state being within the 1967 borders, having East Jerusalem as the capital and for all settlements to be halted and removed.

And we also heard from the Palestinians, they say they want the United Nations to fill the void that was left by the United States when the Palestinians said the United States can no longer be neutral arbiters to the peace process. They want the United Nations to take the lead on that.

They also called for a halt to security cooperation. This is something that Israelis and Palestinians have been able to work on closely. That has really lowered the tension and violence. That is something they asked for a halt to.

Now these are all recommendations. Dave, it has to go to the executive committee of the PLO. That is the organization that will make any decision regarding any of the recommendations.

But we heard from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, the day before. He came out fiery in a speech condemning the international community and the United States and Israel and Europe as well as parts of the Arab world. Although, he did not specify. And this is a new shift we're seeing from the Palestinians, coming out strong, really trying to find their way forward after saying the United States is no longer part of this negotiating process. We did also hear from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He said that the Palestinian president has torn off the mask and that it shows the root of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been that the Palestinians will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state -- Dave?

BRIGGS: Just past 11:00 a.m. there in Jerusalem. Ian Lee, live for us, thank you.

ROMANS: North Korea finally responding to President Trump's boast about having a bigger, stronger nuclear button. State media issuing a statement calling the president's claim a bluff and, quote, "just a spasm of a lunatic." The statement also says that President Trump's hostile policy towards North Korea is, quote, "crazy."

Meantime, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Canadian counterpart are co-hosting a foreign minister's meeting on North Korea today. The meeting in Vancouver aimed at diplomatic efforts toward a secure, prosperous and denuclearized Korean peninsula, as the State Department put it.

BRIGGS: Eighteen countries sending delegations, including South Korea and Japan. Some analysts are skeptical much will come from the meeting. Diplomatic attention has been absorbed by direct talks between North and South Korea. Those negotiations initially aimed at North Korea's participation in the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, though they have since broadened. More talks are scheduled for tonight.

ROMANS: The new U.S. embassy in London opening its door to the public today -- there it is -- just days after the president, President Trump announced he was cancelling a trip to the U.K. to formally unveil this state-of-the-art facility. The president called the embassy move a bad deal. He blamed the Obama administration, wrongfully, because the decision to move this embassy was made earlier by the Bush administration.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin live outside the new embassy in London.

Erin, we were told this was a necessity. There needed to be better security and there needed to be updated facilities. This is it.

[04:25:08] ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. The doors to this billion-dollar brand new embassy opened this morning to very little fanfare. That is not surprising considering what President Trump had to say about it on Twitter late last week, saying it was a product of a bad deal made by the Obama administration. But the decision to move to the site was made by the Bush administration. Although, the sale of the actual building, the old embassy, was finalized under the Obama administration.

All of this putting the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., Woody Johnston, in the awkward position of having to defend the new embassy, which he did in an op-ed, saying this is bigger and better than the old location. Also adding it did not cost the U.S. taxpayer a single penny, that it was funded by the sale of the proceeds from the sale of other U.S. properties here in London.

British politicians, critics of President Trump, taking the opportunity to call him out, saying it he didn't cancel his trip to London as a result of any bad deal. He cancelled it because of his lack of popularity in the U.K. -- Christine?

ROMANS: Yes. There has been some concern securing the president against lots and lots of protesters would have been difficult. That would bring be the optics of the embassy opening.

Erin, thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: Prospects for a deal on immigration are dimming. Lawmakers left reeling after failed proposals and the president's S-hole or S- house remarks. Now both parties are at risk of shutting down the government on Friday night.

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