Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump's First State of the Union; North Korea to Display Hundreds of Missiles Before Winter Olympics; Trump Doesn't Mention Russian Meddling; President Touts New Rules in War on Terror; Nick Foles Gets Emotional Talking About His Daughter. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 31, 2018 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: She's an artist with a colorful Instagram account.

[05:00:01] EARLY START continues right now with the reaction from President Trump's first State of the Union speech.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As long as we are proud of who we are and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve.



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It's a new American moment, so says President Trump. He mixed a divisive agenda with calls for unity in his first State of the Union Address and he warned the nation about threats foreign and domestic. We're live this morning for reaction in Moscow, Kabul, and Seoul.

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Wednesday, January 31st. Christine Romans' birthday.

Happy birthday you to, my friend.

ROMANS: Thanks.

BRIGGS: It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We start with reaction from the State of the Union. President Trump walking a fine line in his first State of the Union speech last night. He held fast to the tough-talking populism he emboldened in year one, while making some effort to reach across the aisle. The hour and 20- minute speech, the third longest State of the Union ever, behind two Bill Clinton speeches. The president touting the economy, defending his America first approach, and even taking a bit of a jab at NFL players for not standing during the national anthem. ROMANS: The president pushed for his bipartisan immigration deal that

includes a border wall and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.


TRUMP: As president of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, my constant concern, is for America's children, America's struggling workers, and America's forgotten communities. So, tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed.

My duty and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American dream, because Americans are dreamers, too.


ROMANS: There were emotional tributes. Among those honored, Police Officer Ryan Holets and his wife. They adopted a baby from a mother addicted to heroin. The parents of teenage girls killed by MS-13 gang members, and the parents of Otto Warmbier, the college student imprisoned by North Korea, who fell gravely ill and was released and returned to the U.S. just days before he died.

BRIGGS: The First Lady Melania Trump broke from tradition, arriving alone at her husband's speech to very loud applause. She's been out of the spotlight lately since news broke of a reported payoff to a porn star to keep an alleged affair quiet. The president and first lady did return to the White House together after the speech.

ROMANS: Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts gave the Democratic response. He called out the president on the Russia probe, civil rights, school shootings, and Charlottesville. He also said this --


REP. JOE KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Bullies may land a punch, they may leave a mark, but they have never, not once in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future.


BRIGGS: There were four other Democratic reactions, as well, last night.

Let's discuss all this with Chris Deaton, deputy online editor of "The Weekly Standard." He's in Atlanta this morning.

Good to see you, sir.

ROMANS: Good morning.


BRIGGS: By and large, it was a pretty standard Republican State of the Union speech, solidly delivered.

What was the emotional support peacock in the speech? What surprised you? What made you think, wow, I didn't see that coming?

DEATON: I'm not even going to try to play off of that, man. That's a good segue.

ROMANS: Well done.

DEATON: I think -- I think the emotional peacock, if we're sticking with the metaphor here of what happened last night, was definitely some of these anecdotal stories. I mean, I think one of the things that we have learned about President Trump -- and I think that he's actually captured this relatively well as far as a messaging aspect goes, we saw it last night, was trying to put a human touch on a lot of what it is that he wants to achieve in terms of his agenda.

So, when he talks about the baby who was -- the baby of the heroin addict who was adopted and is singling out how it's a cop's family that did that and talking about Otto Warmbier's family, he's talking about the North Korean defector, all of these things are putting a lot of faces on particular policies that he wants to advocate.

So, it's definitely a lesson I think has been taken from Democratic playbooks. They've always been very good at this in State of the Union addresses where they use some of these human stories to try to relate to what it is the president wants to get out of Washington. So, I think you have to roll those up inside of a larger package of what he accomplished last night.

ROMANS: Just surveying sort of the response this morning. You know, it's the new American moment is what he proclaimed, an appeal to unity and bipartisanship. "The Wall Street Journal" saying this, the president was playing a different role last night, playing the role of optimist.

Do you think this helps him in any of his poll numbers? I mean, I know that our polling right after showed the people who watched the speech, 48 percent, said that it was very positive, 22 percent said somewhat positive. Can he get a bounce? Can he get momentum from this?

DEATON: All depends on how it translates to legislating. Isn't that always the problem with the State of the Union address? We always hear that State of the Unions are laundry lists. First of all, I don't know anyone who keeps a laundry list. It's 5,000 words long. You've been doing something else with your Tide pod, laundry at that point.

But these speeches tend to drag on so long and incorporate so many policies that try to hit them all -- we saw this last year -- is borderline impossible. Health care took up almost the entire year. Tax reform, a massive undertaking, pushed across the finish line at the last minute. So, if you want to get to infrastructure, you want to prescription drug prices, you want to get to attack the opioid crisis, a lot of this requires the passage of bills that meet a 60 percent passage in the Senate.

So, you need partisan buy in. And it takes time. So, that's where the proof is going to be, and that's where the pudding.

BRIGGS: The president does have this very positive economic message to take to the voters. Given that, what do you make of the five different Democratic responses last night and this moment where the president talked about the record low black unemployment rate. And then they cut to the Congressional Black Caucus in a moment. They're really reverberated across social media. There were no applause. There was essentially no reaction, which many people felt was a bit odd. You see a smattering of applause at best.

What do you make of the resistance?

DEATON: Well, I think a lot of members knew what the president was trying to do. I mean, it's unfortunate in this time, but so much of what we see when it comes to rhetoric like this is shrouded in politics, shrouded in partisan messaging. You know, you can say that there are going to be certain wonky economists who make note of a number like it and take it as a positive step in terms of economic progress. If you put it in the robe of politics, it's going to be interpreted a different way. That's kind of the moment of what these State of the Union addresses are.

So, I think that's where the members are coming from, the Democrats giving responses were coming from last night.

ROMANS: Dave and I noticed bright and early when we were talking about the speech together, a Republican president State of the Union, usually you hear something about deficit, debt, about fiscal responsibility. Not in this speech. "The Washington Post" has an editorial about what was missing. Mr. Trump did not mention some of the biggest threats, the fiscal crisis worsened by his tax bill, threatens future generations, economic inequality is high. The world continues to warn Russian meddling poses a threat to U.S. forces.

Sadly, the morning after a long speech, none of that is going to look any different. From your perspective, what was missing?

DEATON: I think the debt and deficit thing is a noted absence, given the fact that this is still Paul Ryan's House of Representatives and a Congress that has this policy imprint all over it. We've heard for the longest time, Ryan talking about the entitlement cliff that's going to come. Actuarial warnings coming from, you know, Medicare and social security trustees for the longest time. The fact the president didn't want to touch that during the campaign and has continued it now definitely a noticeable absence from the speech last night.

ROMANS: Especially if you talk about infrastructure where there's disagreement between the president and even members of his party about how to fund an infrastructure, you know, bill. Would the government take on more debt to have some seed money in there? It's unclear. DEATON: Right.

BRIGGS: All right. Chris Deaton, we'll check back in about 30 minutes. Thank you, sir.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Chris.

DEATON: All right. Thanks, guys.

BRIGGS: President Trump said the U.S. must modernize and rebuild the nuclear arsenal, pointing to North Korea.


TRUMP: Perhaps someday in the future, there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.

North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from ever happening.

Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of past administration that got us into this very dangerous position.


BRIGGS: Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean defector was a guest of honor last night. The president describing how a train ran over his limbs after he collapsed from hunger as a child.

ROMANS: The president says Ji Seong-ho travelled on crutches across China and Southeast Asia to freedom. He brought those crutches with him to Washington.

Now, Pyongyang is promising a new show of force.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Will Ripley live in Seoul, South Korea.

[05:10:02] And I just have to imagine that having the North Korean defector at this very important and visible event with the president of the United States certainly sends a message to North Korea.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And one that the North Korean regime will be very angry about, Christine, because keep in mind, this defector has called for a regime change repeatedly and is not somebody that North Korea would like to see standing next to the first lady of the United States, getting a standing ovation from members of the house and all of the United States lawmakers who were present in the room. That's one thing that was going to irritate the North Koreans.

President Trump also being ambiguous about the possibility of a preemptive military strike. Something that the now-former candidate for U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Victor Cha, said in an op-ed for the "Washington Post", he told the administration he strongly opposes, thinks it would be disastrous, it could cost tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of American lives. And Cha believes that may be why he was dropped from consideration consider that post of ambassador and still no ambassador to South Korea more than a year into the Trump administration.

Also sources are telling me next week, North Korea planning a huge show of force, allowing up to 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 100 missiles and rockets together. This would be a dramatic message on the eve of the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. He sources are also saying it is not out of the question that North Korea may consider a missile test either before or during the Olympics to send the message to the United States that they are unhappy about the tone of the discussions involving the North and south inter-Korean talks and the fact that there are U.S. naval assets and military troops that continue to be assembled in the region, Christine.

ROMANS: That's a reminder of what a dangerous, tricky, and precarious position it is. Thank you for walking us through it. Thanks, Will.

BRIGGS: All right. Meanwhile, the Russia investigation was not addressed in the State of the Union speech, as you might expect, what was the president saying about a controversial memo that could affect the probe? Find out next.



TRUMP: Around the world we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and values.


[05:15:01] ROMANS: The president done mention Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. He did label the Kremlin as a rival on matters of national security, though.

Let's go live to Moscow and bring in Fred Pleitgen.

Fred, there's new reaction from Moscow this morning? Tell us.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTENATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly is. A reaction from the spokesman for Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov. We asked if there was a thaw between the U.S. and Russia, he said unequivocally that is not the case. He said the word thaw or perspective of a thaw doesn't fit the atmosphere of the - current bilateral relations between U.S. and the U.S. the Russians still angry about the list published yesterday with the name of oligarchs and many members of Russia's government on it as well.

Nevertheless, as far as the State of the Union is concerned, there were members of the Russian administration that said yes, it was better that Russia was not mentioned more often than it was, because, of course, all of the issues around the alleged election meddling still going on. We've found out that apparently last week there was a high-level delegation from the Russian intelligence community actually in the United States meeting with the CIA. And, of course, that has a lot of people in Washington asking questions about who exactly went to the meetings and what exactly was said, especially in light of the fact that one of the members of the Russian delegation may have been the head of their foreign intelligence service who has been sanctioned in the U.S. since 2014, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us in Moscow, thank you, Fred.

BRIGGS: All right. When it comes to the war on terror, the president said this in his State of the Union speech.


TRUMP: Our warriors in Afghanistan have new rules of engagement. Along with our heroic Afghan partners, our military is no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies our plans.


BRIGGS: Those remarks come amid a new surge of violence in Afghanistan, in particular in the capital of Kabul. That's where you'll find senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh live for us.

Nick, the longest war showing no end in sight.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly and those tweaks to the Trump administration policy, a start criticism of his predecessor Barack Obama who said when it would be ending. Frankly, I don't think this will transform a difficult task overnight. We've had a bloody ten days in Kabul leaving many insecure.

We're seeing the Trump administration being quite clear that they don't now believe this is the time for peace talks. It was a far- fetched prospect but key tenet of the military strategy that you would pummel the insurgency enough that they would seek a political accommodation of sorts. Now, that isn't likely to happen at this point, but it's certainly off the table in sellers of U.S. policy right now.

What is on the table and publicly announced is the fact that there are going to be hundreds of U.S. trainers coming here, training Afghan troops on the front lines. Imminently, we're seeing elements of the ways you can gauge success or victory being classified. One being the number of Afghan troops killed or injured on the battlefield. Stark, dangerous times ahead -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Sure are. Nick Paton Walsh live for us in Kabul, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Eighteen minutes past the hour.

President Trump touting the economic successes during his first year, soaring stocks, low unemployment, and how some workers benefit from corporate tax cuts.


TRUMP: Roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses. Many of them, thousands and thousands of dollars per worker.


ROMANS: Dozens of companies have given bonuses. A small fraction of the billions in corporate tax savings. Trump also credited slashing regulations for rebuilding industry. Now, he wants to rebuild infrastructure.


TRUMP: We built the empire state building in just one year. Isn't it a disgrace that it can now take ten years just to get a minor permit approved for the building of a simple road?


ROMANS: The president called on bipartisan support for $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending, a planned combination of government and private contributions at home. Abroad, Trump's trade talk once again turned tough.


TRUMP: We will protect American workers and American intellectual property through strong enforcement of our trade rules.


ROMANS: Now Trump did not specifically name China, but the U.S. is currently investigating Chinese theft of intellectual property that could spell more trade measures. Last week, the administration slapped tariffs on Chinese solar panels.

BRIGGS: Well, there's no crying in football unless your Eagles' quarterback Nick Foles. Andy shows what got Foles choked up.

[05:20:00] He has that on "Bleacher Report", next.


BRIGG: All right. Win or loss in Super Bowl, Eagles' quarterback Nick Foles just wants his daughter to be proud of daddy. Something we can all relate to.

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

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, Nick Foles had quite a bit on his shoulders these days. The Eagles go to win or lose the Super Bowl depending how he plays on Sunday. Foles has been stellar since he took over for Carson Wentz whose season ended due to injury.

It's been quite the year for Foles. Seven months ago, he and his wife had their first child, a daughter named Lilly.

And Foles getting emotional when speaking with Coy Wire about playing for his daughter.


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: When you look into your daughter's eyes now, how has she changed the way you see the game?

[05:25:01] NICK FOLES, EAGLES QUARTERBACK: The same -- yes. Everything. That's the most important thing. When I think about this journey and everything, I get home and I -- I get to see her.

No matter what happens, no matter if I play a horrible game, she loves me. She has no idea. We won the Super Bowl, she has no idea. And she's going to love me no matter what.


SCHOLES: The third episode of "Tom Versus Time" dropping on Facebook yesterday. We saw Brady bonding with receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman in Montana during the off season. We also got to see more of Brady the family mom. Brady's mom is from Browerville, Minnesota, two hours from where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday.

Yesterday, Brady told the first time his uncles let him try chewing tobacco.


TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: We were fishing and went sun fishing. And on the way home, I said, I want to try it. They said, look, if we give it to you, you know, you can't spit it out until you get home. It was like a 30-minute ride back to my grandpa's farm.

So, of course, they give it to me, and within five minutes, I'm outside of the car throwing up all over the place. I don't think I've had much chewing tobacco since then.


SCHOLES: And Ron Gronkowski didn't play opening night because of his concussion but he was on hand to play Madden on Xbox against LeGarrette Blount of the Eagles last night, and Gronk was peppered about whether he was going to be able to play on Sunday.


REPORTER: Do you think you'll play, Gronk? Do you think you'll play on Sunday? Do you think you'll play on Sunday?


REPORTER: You think you'll play?


REPORTER: Good. There we go.

GRONKOWSKI: All right.


SCHOLES: There you go, guys. Gronk's going to play on Sunday.

We had a big trade in the NFL. The Chiefs trading quarterbacks Alex Smith to the Redskins for a third-round draft pick. That means that the Kurt Cousins era is over. He's a free agent, will go on to find another team. But big move by the Redskins already replacing Cousins him with Alex Smith.

BRIGGS: Perhaps he's a Denver Bronco. At least this Bronco fan wouldn't mind seeing Cousins on that jersey.

Andy Scholes, thank you, my friend. Good stuff.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. The president says this is a new American moment. He stood by his agenda in the first State of the Union. What's in store for year two?