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Report: Porter Urged To "Stay And Fight"; GOP Senators Release Immigration Plan; Trump Touts Higher Paychecks, Bonuses Due To Tax Bill; Kim Jong-Un Invites South Korea's President To North Korea; WAPO: Washington Willing To Talk To Pyongyang. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 12, 2018 - 05:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this Congress acting fast enough?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congress is not acting.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Even if Congress does nothing, #metoo is here to stay. Revealing chat with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Monday, February 12th, 5 a.m. in the east. We will talk with Josh Rogin shortly. He just traveled to Japan and South Korea with Vice President Mike Pence about the talks that could happen between the North Koreans and the U.S.

But we start with the White House struggling to move beyond this Rob Porter scandal this morning. New tweeting and reporting suggesting Porter was urged not to quit after the accusations arose of domestic violence.

"Axios" is reporting Porter is telling associates some senior White House officials strongly encouraged him to, quote, "stay and fight" to keep his job as staff secretary. That's a key gatekeeper for President Trump. Porter also claiming he never misrepresented anything to Chief of Staff John Kelly.

ROMANS: That does not square with Kelly's version of events. CNN reporter last week, Kelly's defenders in the west wing insist Porter misled him. That story backed up by an unnamed member of Congress who told "Axios" Porter promised Kelly the story concerned verbal and emotional abuse. Not domestic violence.

After days of speculation about Kelly's future, Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway, said this to Jake Tapper.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I spoke to the president last night. I told him I would be with you today. He said please tell Jake that I have full faith in Chief of Staff John Kelly and I am not actively searching for replacements. I saw that all over the news today. I have faith in him and he does.


BRIGGS: The president this weekend also weighing in on the Rob Porter scandal. He did not identify the White House aide by name, but did tweet this, "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true. Some are false. Some are old. Some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career are gone. Is there no such thing as due process?"

No hint that Rob Porter has been falsely accused. That stunning tweet followed by this remark on Friday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As you probably know, he says he is innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he is innocent. So, you have to talk to him about that. We absolutely wish him well.


BRIGGS: The president feels for the accused. We rarely ever hear him feel for the abused. That's a not a new development.

ROMANS: Well, he feels for the accused in this case, in the case of the Central Park Five, he did not feel for those accused --

BRIGGS: The domestic violence abuse. Never apologized for taking out full-page ads in the late '80s.

ROMANS: The president's statement drawing heated response from Jennie Willoughby, one of Porter's ex-wives, who says he abused her. She writes in "Time" magazine, "Everyone wants to talk about how Trump implied I am not to be believed. As Trump is a model of kindness and forgiveness. As if he readily acknowledges his own shortcomings and shows empathy and concern for other. I forgive him. Thankfully my strength and worth are not dependent on outside belief. The truth exists whether the president accepts it or not."

BRIGGS: All right. The latest in memo-gate, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he plans to meet with the FBI to hear concerns about a Democratic memo. The document is a rebuttal to the Republican Nunes memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses.

Last week, the White House barred publication of the Democrats memo claiming it contains numerous classified on especially sensitive passages. Democrats calling that hypocrisy, though, since the FBI warned against releasing the Republican memo, but the White House did it anyway. ROMANS: All right. A group of Republican senators just released a version of President Trump's immigration plan ahead of this week's floor debate. It comes from some of the chamber's most conservative members and resembles the proposal is outlined by the president.

It includes a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million eligible immigrants in exchange for a border wall and enhanced border security plus a number of new laws that will make it easier to detain and deport immigrants.

BRIGGS: Also included tighter immigration enforcement and limited family-based visas even further. This week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expected to allow senators the chance to offer different proposals to compete for the same 60 votes they need to advance legislation.

ROMANS: President Trump this week once again praising the new tax bill as a gift to workers. He tweeted this Sunday, "4.2 million hard working Americans have already received a large bonus and /or pay increase because of our recently passed tax cut and jobs bill. And it will only get better."

We reached out to the White House about that number to find out exactly, you know, what they are counting there. But what we do know more than 300 companies have announced splashy tax cut gifts for workers particularly one-time bonuses.

This seems to be the hallmark here. Household names like Apple, AT&T, Disney, Bank of America and Walmart. Those workers are a fraction of the 125 million who work for a company. In fact, only 13 percent of corporate tax savings will go to workers.

[05:05:05] This is according to a new survey and analysis from Morgan Stanley. Cutting the corporate rate is a gift to companies and investors even more though. Businesses will spend their tax savings on new equipment, buying other companies and on paying back its investors.

Look at that, 43 percent earmarked for stock buybacks and dividends. That was the big criticism of the new tax bill, but economists say workers could benefit more as time goes on. Investment could lead to more jobs and higher wages, but there is no guarantee. It's very clear that investors are the big overall winners.

BRIGGS: What the workers need is wage growth. Bonuses are nice. It's legit, $1,000, but they would rather have --

ROMANS: We will see if wage growth could become the story of this year, 2018.

BRIGGS: Hope so. All right. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the "Me Too Movement" will have what she calls staying power. Here is what she told CNN's Poppy Harlow at Columbia University.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I don't think that there will be a serious backlash. It's too widespread. My concern is that it shouldn't stop with prominent people. It's amazing to me that for the first time, women are really listened to because sexual harassment had often been dismissed as, well, she made it up or she's too thin skinned. So, I think it's very healthy development.


ROMANS: Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee want to know how the office overseeing federal courts is addressing sexual misconduct. A CNN investigation found that just four of more than 1,300 complaints filed during the 2016 fiscal year were referred to a special committee for investigation, just four.

BRIGGS: The sale of Harvey Weinstein's film studio could be in jeopardy. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filing a lawsuit against the disgraced movie mogul and his former company. Schneiderman's four-month investigation revealing, quote, "vicious and exploitative mistreatment of employees that started back in 2005 and continued all the way through October of 2017."

ROMANS: Schneiderman wants any sale of the studio to include compensation for Weinstein's accusers. Weinstein's attorney releasing a statement claiming there was no criminality in his client's behavior.

BRIGGS: All right. Some breaking news this morning, the entire Baltimore Metro subway link system shutting down for up to four weeks for emergency repairs. That came after a thorough safety inspection over the weekend. The system being temporarily replaced by a system of shuttle buses paid for with emergency funding from Governor Larry Hogan.

Coming up, Kim Jong-un's sister, the charmed offensive at the Winter games. Will South Korea accept her invitation to Pyongyang? We are live at the Olympics. We'll speak with Josh Rogin of the "Washington Post," who talked to Vice President Pence on his way back to the U.S. That's next.




JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I know that people are watching for a wedge between South Korea and Republic of Korea and the United States. There's no wedge there. No wedge that can be driven between us by North Korea.


BRIGGS: Secretary of Defense James Mattis on a flight to Rome rejecting the idea that North Korea could hurt relations between the U.S. and South Korea. That suggestion heard more often since the start of the Olympics where Kim Jong-un's sister put on a show extending an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang.

Paula Hancocks live for us at the site of the Winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Good evening to you, Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Dave. It is interesting that it's not just the invitation for the South Korean president to head North. There is also an invitation which apparently has been accepted by the IOC president. So, Thomas Bach, the Olympics Committee president, is expected to go to Pyongyang.

Apparently, this invitation was extended back in January when the North Korean officials wanted to have qualifications for some of their athletes. They were trying to nail down the details for them to come to Pyeongchang.

So, suddenly this charm offensive does appear to be doing exactly what North Korea wants it to do. They have sent Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-Jong down here for the past few days. She's now back in Pyongyang. She has been hailed by the world's media and certainly not much is known about her.

But I did speak to one governor who did meet her a few times while she was here. He said that the talks between the North and South Koreans, the mood was very warm. It was soft. It was like they were brothers and sisters.

Saying about the sister herself that is calm, she doesn't speak very much, but when she does, she is very accurate in her words. It was very clear that she was speaking for her brother, Kim Jong un.

And South Korean officials also talking about whether the U.S. is being left on the sidelines saying that they are still in tandem and they will go towards talks together -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Fast moving development there. Paula, thank you.

ROMANS: Let's bring in CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" columnist, Josh Rogin. Good morning, Josh.


ROMANS: You are the guy who broke this story. North Korean diplomacy news that the United states potentially could sit down with the North Koreans without any pre-conditions? What did you find out?

ROGIN: Sure. Well, I spent five days traveling in Japan and South Korea with Vice President Pence, and while in public, he was sending a very clear message about the brutality of the North Korean regime and that their charm offensive at the Olympics should not work.

Behind the scenes there were something else going on. In two meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, one at the blue house in Seoul on Thursday and one at the speed skating rink during the heat trials in PyeongChang on Saturday night, the two leaders came to an understanding about how they could mutually agree to move forward with engagement with Pyongyang after the Olympics.

[05:15:09] First, with more meetings between South Korea and North Korea and then potentially down the line with direct talks between the United States and North Korea. The agreement was this.

The South Korean president agreed not to release pressure or sanctions on North Korea just for talking. Based on that assurance, Vice President Pence encouraged him to continue with this engagement and said that the United States was open to talking with North Korea.

It is a small window and opening after months and months of tensions and brinkmanship. It is not a path necessarily to negotiations, but it is something that's different and significant that happened privately in South Korea.

BRIGGS: A major reversal. The vice president telling you, quote, "The maximum pressure campaign will continue and intensify, but if you want to talk, we'll talk." What happened to fire and fury and all the rhetoric from President Trump?

ROGIN: Yes, well, two things. One, I would say there's been a lot of different messages coming out of this administration. Last month, President Trump himself said he doesn't see anything wrong with talking to the North Koreans per se. He said talking is fine.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said many time we should have these talks about talks. Talks without pre-conditions. What is new here is now that we've actually worked that out and endorsed that at the White House level in conjunction with the South Koreans.

The break that you were just talking about between South Korea and the United States. This goes a long way to fixing that. That is what Mike Pence was doing in South Korea. He was making sure that the South Korean government and the U.S. government were on the same page.

And they've made progress towards getting there. Now again, there are a lot of pitfalls coming. You know, there's going to be new sanctions. North Korea could shoot up a missile at any time.

They probably don't want to talk about denuclearization, which is what they are going to have to do. They really want the sanctions to come off so all of those are good caveats to say that, you know, we are not at peace yet. If you want to avoid war, at some point, you have to sit down and talk to these guys. That's what Mike Pence is essentially saying.

ROMANS: If you have the North and the South talking and potentially talking again after the Olympics, does that leave the U.S. on the outside? Is that the North Koreans screwing a bit with the Americans?

ROGIN: I think that was the North Korean goal and I think that is exactly what the South Korean president and Mike Pence are trying to avoid. Now there is still some of the game left to be played.

OK. We don't know what's going to happen in the future. But keep in mind that the North Koreans are trying to split the alliance. President Moon is trying to do something very difficult. He's trying to pursue this narrow diplomatic opening to see if he can make progress and avoid war without leaving the U.S. behind.

That is a very difficult thing to do. What Mike Pence is saying is that as long as you are going to keep up the pressure and stay together on really increasing the sanctions on North Korea even while we're talking to them, which again is new.

Usually we put off the pressure and then we talk to them and release the pressure in exchange for talking. Mike Pence says if we keep the pressure and talk to them at the same time, then he is OK with it.

BRIGGS: Extraordinary. Considering these games opened with North Korea putting on a military parade showing off their long-range ballistic missiles. Have they laundered their crimes and reputation through the Olympics?

ROMANS: Interesting.

ROGIN: I mean, it is a really great question because, you know, that was what Mike Pence was doing in public while he was negotiating in private. He is trying to stop them from doing just that. And of course, all of the coverage was Kim Jong un's sister is so nice. She smiles. Look at her. She manages to say a few nice things.

That's out of Mike Pence's control. He cannot make people listen to his mantra of the brutal North Korean regime. It's true. They are a brutal and evil regime. At the same time, you don't make peace with your friends. You have to make peace with your enemies.

So, bouncing those two ideas in your head at once that this is a terrible regime, we should keep that in mind and remember how terrible they are and at the same time, we have to talk to them unless we want to go to war. That is the delicate balance that I think the Trump administration is coming around to and rightly so.

ROMANS: All right. Fascinating. Come back. Thanks, Josh.

It's 19 minutes past the hour. Two American snowboarders taking home the first Olympic gold medal for the Team USA. Coy Wire is there in Pyeongchang. He's got this morning's "Bleacher Report."



BRIGGS: A pair of American figure skaters shine on the team event, but bad weather wreaking havoc on Olympic ski slopes.

ROMANS: Coy Wire is there. You need a hat.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You will get me in trouble with my mom, Christine. She pointed that out. These winds are crazy. It is freezing. It is negative 9 with the windchill. Wicked cold. We'll get to that in a minute. But American figure skaters, another medal for Team USA. It was a sweet redemption for two skaters after missing the cut in of Sochi games. Adam Rippon putting on an inspiring show. He and Gus Kenworthy of the USA's first openly gay men to compete in a Winter Olympics.

And how about teammate, Mirai Nagasaku making history landing the daunting triple axel becoming the first American woman to ever do that at the Olympics. The stellar performance helped get USA the bronze in the team competition for the second straight winter games.

Now these crazy dangerous 45-mile-an-hour gusts delayed the start of the women's snowboarding competition. The best athletes in the world and only 5 of the 25 of them made it down without falling. Mother nature is no match for USA Jamie Anderson who captured a second gold in a second straight winter games.

[05:25:03] Here we go. Team USA just continuing Olympic domination of snowboarding. Let's get an early start on medal count. Norway with eight. Canada has six. Netherlands has five. USA is tied with Germany with four.

NBA action, what a difference a week can make. The Cavaliers have a very different team after last week's trades. They looked better than ever against the Celtics yesterday. Lebron James quieted the Boston crowd who came out to celebrate Paul Pierce's jersey retirement. King James is happy in his court. He said attention to details were at an all-time high. A lot of attention on the Cavs now. Looking sweet.

BRIGGS: That was supposed to be Paul Pierce day in Boston. It ruined his night. Still good to see Lebron back. All right. Thanks, Coy. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. It's 26 minutes past the hour. The White House budget comes out today. Immigration goes to the Senate floor. The president's infrastructure plan goes public, but will the Rob Porter scandal overshadow all of that? He now says White House officials encouraged him to fight for his job despite abuse allegations.