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EARLY START

President Trump Slapping Tariffs on Foreign Steel and Aluminum; Russia's Vladimir Putin Boasts of Resurgent Military Might; Boko Haram Storms Another Boarding School; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 2, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:35] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Turmoil in the White House now stretching around the globe. The White House announces new tariffs on steel and aluminum that could raise prices and cost jobs. The policy not yet ready, but allies are already angry and global stocks are tumbling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I miss every one of you every day. I went --

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That is --

BRIGGS: Anderson Cooper-like.

ROMANS: That's the chief of staff. He misses his old job. The National Security adviser appears headed out the door and one of Ivanka Trump's business deals now under the FBI's microscope.

BRIGGS: And a day after appearing to back gun reforms favored by Democrats the president has a surprise sit-down with the NRA. The group now says the president does not want gun control. The president tweeted he had a good, actually great meeting with the NRA. Presumably you don't have a great meeting with the NRA telling them you're going to increase the minimum age.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour this Friday morning and the big story today, Trump tariffs.

President Trump slapping tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. It's a controversial move sparking fears about a trade war. The plan here, impose tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum to help those struggling American industries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to a time when our country can't make aluminum and steel, and somebody said it before and I will tell you, you almost don't have much of a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Trump gave no further details. In fact, he said the policy is still being written. And while this decision makes good on his campaign promise to get tough on trade, it was made against the wishes -- against the wishes of his top advisers. It's against the orthodoxy of the free trade Republican establishment and basically all of our trading partners don't like it.

It could bring a host of negative consequences. Traditional wisdom is that tariffs are bad for the U.S. economy. "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board slamming this as Trump's, quote, "biggest policy blunder" that will punish American workers, invite retaliation that will harm U.S. exports, divide his political coalition at home, anger allies abroad, and undermine his tax and regulatory reforms.

If you drive a car, if you fly in an airplane, you drink beer, prices could go up. Anything made with steel or aluminum will become more expensive forcing companies to raise prices or cut jobs. In fact one beer industry group predicts this will cost 20,000 American jobs.

Now it's not clear if these tariffs will exempt key U.S. allies. A lot of it is not clear, frankly. There's no proposal on paper yet. It's a president's comment yesterday raising all these concerns. Experts think this could spark retaliation especially from China. Farmers, American farmers are very concerned here. China could slap tariffs on soy. China is the top client for U.S. exported soy.

That damage, though, all of this still theoretical but global stocks are already feeling it. Asian and European markets falling overnight. Trump's announcement sent the Dow 420 points lower Nasdaq and the S&P fell about 1.3 percent. Shares of plane and carmakers, though, hit especially hard. Boeing, GM and Ford. Stocks don't like uncertainty. And again there are very few details about what this looks like.

BRIGGS: The president's tariff talk drawing condemnation from U.S. trading partners around the world. The president of the European Commission denouncing the move as blatant intervention to protect American industries. In just the last few hours China weighing in.

Let's go live to Beijing and bring in Matt Rivers.

Matt, what's the reaction there?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not surprisingly, Dave. We heard from the Chinese today and they're not in favor of this. They say that it's protectionist, they say it hurts global trade. They say that global economic recovery has been slow and that this will only serve to get in the way of that. Not surprising that the same message that we hear from the Chinese any time some sort of protectionist measure is floated in the United States.

What we're more interested in in terms of how the Chinese are going to respond is what they do down the road. How if any will they retaliate directly to this tariff proposal by the president? They could join other countries, maybe file a grievance with the WTO. Analysts say that's less likely. What's more likely is what you heard Christine talked about there just a couple of minutes ago with unilateral action against U.S. industry that relies on the Chinese market like soy bean.

[04:35:04] Billions and billions and billions of dollars worth of American soy beans are purchased by Chinese buyers each year. That supports tens of thousands of jobs in the United States.

The Chinese government knows that. They know that most of those jobs are in states that make up Trump's base. Eight of the top 10 exporting states for soy bean in 2016 voted for Donald Trump. The Chinese government knows that. Do they restrict access to those farmers to this market? They could do that.

They could also focus on the company like Boeing. The Chinese aviation market growing faster than any other in the world. They could focus on Boeing and restrict market access there. They've got a lot of tools in their toolkit to be able to hurt U.S. business. The question is how will they do that if at all?

BRIGGS: Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing. Thank you.

Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, says, "This is terribly counterproductive. I'm not very happy."

Elsewhere, the NRA claimed it has the president on its side after huddling at the White House last night with the president and vice president. The head of the NRA's lobbying arm Chris Cox tweeting a blunt message afterward, insisting both men oppose gun control. Asked if the White House agrees with Cox's assessment, a senior official would only say the president, quote, "believes in the second amendment."

ROMANS: Wow. It's a real spotlight on the access the NRA has to the Oval Office, too, right?

BRIGGS: Yes. Twice.

ROMANS: Two big meetings in less than a week? Last night's meeting with the NRA follows Mr. Trump's freewheeling meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss gun reform. A lawmaker at that meeting, Florida congressman and Army vet Brian Mast still believes the president will take action on gun violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BRIAN MAST (R), FLORIDA: Well, he said very clearly that if we get him a bill that addresses bump stocks, background checks, and buying age that he's going to sign it.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN "AC 360": The NRA met tonight with the president and the vice president. Do you think the president may tack back to his original positions which were more in line with the NRA positions?

MAST: I certainly hope not. You know, he's had a great deal of strength in this issue, you know, telling all the other lawmakers, look, you've got to be strong in this, you can't be afraid. You've got to go with your gut and got to do what you think is right. You can't say that and then walk away from that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Does appear to be where this is headed, though. Many of the president's suggestions at the meeting were more in line with Democratic positions. In fact to the left of them. Now with officials scrambling, sources say the rollout of new measures to curb gun violence will not be released today as planned. Majority leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will take up a banking bill next week, dashing hopes of quick action on guns in the wake of the school shooting in Florida.

Chances are you're happy it's Friday. Now imagine if you'd be working at the White House. Well, certainly you would be damaged. Trump administration struggling to turn a corner after a chaotic week. CNN has learned National Security adviser H.R. McMaster is set to leave by the end of the month. The West Wing is denying his departure is imminent, but multiple sources say it is likely McMaster will retire as a three-star general instead of returning to the military. Two sources say McMaster has spoken to top officials at the Hoover Institution about a job there.

ROMANS: Sources also telling CNN one of Ivanka Trump's international business deals is now under scrutiny from U.S. counterintelligence officials. The FBI looking into Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver. It is one of the few Trump branded properties to open since the president took office. The timing of negotiations, the timing of financing for this deal could be of special interest. FBI attention could create a hurdle for Ivanka as she tries to obtain a permanent security clearance.

BRIGGS: A spokesperson for the first daughter's ethics counsel claims no red flag or problem has been raised with her clearance application. This on the heels of reports several countries discussed ways to use Jared Kushner's business deals to manipulate him and that his family real estate business got half a billion dollars in loans after lenders met with Kushner at the White House.

ROMANS: CNN has also learned the president was fuming after Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushed back against him. Remember a rare gesture of defiance from the attorney general after the president called Sessions disgraceful in his latest Twitter tirade. Asked about Sessions, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not exactly give a ringing endorsement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the president want to get rid of the attorney general?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not that I know of.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: That was brief. After nearly a week of this drama, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly vented a little bit at a Homeland Security event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: I miss every one of you every day. I went --

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Truly, six months, the last thing I wanted to do is walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of Homeland Security, but I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:40:02] BRIGGS: Going from the DHS to the White House. God punished the chief of staff.

Trump allies in Washington describe a feeling of meltdown at the White House. They say the president wants to do something to turn the tide, but it's not exactly clear what that would be.

A $31,000 dining room set ordered for HUD secretary Ben Carson has been canceled. That request coming from the secretary himself and the interior design firm that sold the set tells CNN they are waiving their restocking fee so taxpayers will not pay a dime. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says the agency is looking for another option that's much more responsible with taxpayer dollars. Apologies for the chuckle there.

Earlier this week, a HUD employee alleged she was demoted for refusing to spend more than legally allowed in order to redecorate Carson's office.

ROMANS: Drain the swamp with green velvet hickory chairs. No, no, no, no.

BRIGGS: They're good, isn't it right?

ROMANS: No. Forty minutes past the hour. U.S. officials say they are skeptical about Vladimir Putin's claim to have a missile so powerful it can penetrate NATO defenses. We're live in Moscow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:45:22] GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR, FORMER NSA DIRECTOR: Let's not hyperventilate over this. He's got some weapons that I think our Department of Defense knew he was developing. All right? And some of them may be, as he suggested, further along than others. But I don't think any of them, even if they were fully operational changes the strategic equation, the strategic balance between us and the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That was former CIA and NSA director, General Michael Hayden. He and a lot of other intelligence experts actually skeptical about Vladimir Putin's claims of resurgent Russian military might. One U.S. official calling Putin's announcement cheesy, insisting U.S. defense and military capabilities remains second to none.

BRIGGS: The Russian leader claiming his country has developed invincible nuclear weapons systems with unlimited range. Mr. Putin's address featuring video clips of nuclear warheads hitting Florida. The site of President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, mind you. Top U.S. officials un-amused and unconvinced as well.

Let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Matthew Chance.

Matthew, is this the equivalent of Putin on a horse with no shirt on?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is, isn't it? I mean, it's just another example of how Vladimir Putin likes to present himself as this macho, kind of superhero defender of Russian interests. I mean, he was speaking first and foremost I think to a domestic political audience. I mean, he's got 16 days left before he faces re-election in this country.

Now there's no question that he's going to win the election hands down. But he loves taking every possible opportunity that he can to present himself as this, you know, kind of, you know, horseback riding, you know, bare-chested leader who has the interest of the Russian military on his mind and he is the man who can defend the national interests here in Russia. I mean, the election slogan that Putin has actually is "Strong president, strong country." And so that's the message he was trying to put across to the voters of Russia when he made that speech yesterday.

BRIGGS: At least he kept his shirt on and wore a suit, though, so we can thank Mr. Putin for that.

Matthew, appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. It has been more than a week since 110 girls were abducted from their boarding school in Nigeria. Armed militants thought to be members of the terrorist group Boko Haram storming their building with weapons firing. Nigeria's president calling the incident a national disaster.

This is a road we've been down before with Boko Haram.

CNN's David McKenzie live from the scene of the kidnappings, speaking with some of the Nigerians who escaped capture here.

And, you know, we heard from the government right away that they would be diligent, that they would bring these kidnappers to justice and bring these girls home. But, you know, the past is not very optimistic in terms of their ability to do so. DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it isn't,

Christine. And there is a real tragedy now in Nigeria more than 10 days after this horrific abduction. We went to that boarding school where 110 young girls and women ages 11 to 19, Christine, were taken from there by suspected ISIS-linked Boko Haram militants. They came into that school pretending to be Nigerian military.

Some of the girls noticed that they had flip flops on their feet and so they ran, hiding in bushes, hiding in homes near that school. Many of them lost sisters who were taken and they survived. Here are some voices of the survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I haven't seen my sister since it happened. I tried to call her number and it didn't go through. In the morning, I looked for her at the school, but I just couldn't find her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I worry that I have lost her for good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKENZIE: We can imagine the fathers that we met, a small community group who talked to us, said that they want the world to care about their situation. And it's just, as you say, some four years after that horrific abduction of the Chibok girls that caught the world's imagination. A hundred of those girls still missing.

I just got off the phone with the Nigerian military spokesman. He says they are turning all stones. They're trying to find these girls. We've seen military jets overhead today. No indication yet whether the U.S. military which has a significant presence here and particularly next door in Niger is using their intelligence capability to help find and get these girls back home safe -- Christine.

ROMANS: Remember hashtag "bring back our girls." It's just so sad.

MCKENZIE: Yes.

ROMANS: All right. Keep us up to speed, keep us posted on any developments there. Thanks, David.

[04:50:06] All right. Another big corporate move. Following the footsteps of Wal-Mart and Dick's, Kroger, the nation's largest grocery chain, will no longer sell guns to anyone under 21 at its Fred Meyer stores. Details on CNN Money next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: A nor'easter today into tomorrow with a much cooler temperatures and a coastal flooding threat. The National Weather Service in Boston calls this a life-or-death situation for coastal residence. The town of Situate is urging residents to evacuate. More than 1500 flights have already been canceled for today so first check. [04:55:02] We've now learned federal offices in Washington, D.C. are

closed for the day.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam with the soggy weekend forecast.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A deepening nor'easter continues to strengthen off the East Coast and there are several hazards associated with this particular storm system, one of which will be the extremely strong winds through the course of today and tomorrow.

Look out, you've got a windy day ahead of you for Boston, New York, Philly, as well as D.C. Easily expecting wind gusts, tropical storm force, if not hurricane force, especially along the coastal areas of Massachusetts and into Long Island, as well as Maryland.

We have this storm coinciding with several high tide events. It's a long duration storm system so the potential for coastal erosion exists. Coastal flood warnings in effect for many of the areas. And you can also see winter storm warnings for Upstate New York and into parts of Pennsylvania where over a foot of snow will fall by the time this system departs on Saturday. Look at the snowfall totals just west of Albany. We're expecting 12 to 15 inches of snow. Forty-six degrees for the nation's capital today, 42 for Detroit, 42 in New York City.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: Looks lovely. Thank you, Derek.

There is surge pricing, then there's passed-out-drunk pricing. Kenny Bachman was partying with friends last Friday in Morgantown, West Virginia. Afterward local reports say he ordered an Uber to take him back to where he was staying near West Virginia University's campus. When he woke up in the car, he was headed home to New Jersey, more than 300 miles away.

The price tag for the ride? More than $1600. Well, it turns out it was extra expensive because Bachman accidentally ordered an Uber XL, which can carry six passengers. Bachman challenged the charge claiming he never entered his New Jersey home address for the Uber. But after talking it over with Uber Bachman ultimately agreed to pay the fare. Presumably that was just a drunk dial and a very pricey bar tab.

ROMANS: A lesson maybe learned.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN Money this morning. President Trump slapping tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. Wall Street worried about the beginnings of a trade war. Trump's announcement sent the Dow 420 points lower. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 both fell 1.3 percent. Global stocks, when they woke up to trade, they all went down, too. Asia and the European markets falling overnight.

Shares of U.S. plane and carmakers were hit especially hard like Boeing, GM, and Ford. Stocks don't like uncertainty and Trump provided few details, although the -- all those products would be more expensive if those tariffs go through.

These tariffs, will they exempt key allies? We just don't know. What does the plan look like? We just don't know. Will it spark a trade retaliation -- a trade war? Remains to be seen.

All right. It has been six months since Equifax's huge -- Equifax's huge data breach. Now it says the hack affected millions more than originally reported. Previously it said it leaked the info of 145 million Americans including names, addresses, Social Security numbers. Now, oh no, there's more. 2.4 million more.

The company says it will contact you directly. The credit bureau still does not know who is behind the hack. The investigation is ongoing. The public relations fallout is just beginning. It's just an absolute shame.

Another retailer taking a stand on drugs -- guns, rather, sorry. Kroger will no longer sell guns to anyone under 21. Kroger is the nation's largest grocery chain. It sells weapons at 46 Fred Meyer stores. It raised the age of sale in response to the Parkland shooting. Wal-Mart and Dick's made similar announcements.

Meanwhile, retailer REI pausing its relationship with the Vista Outdoor. Vista owns 50 brands including one that makes guns. It did not issue a public statement after the Parkland shooting so REI will stop selling some of Vista's outdoor apparel until it does. So REI also taking a stand in its small way.

BRIGGS: Continues to spread, do you think?

ROMANS: I think kids and companies are going to take a stand on this. I think Congress is going to punt. Right? Doesn't even -- and they're going to do Dodd-Frank reform next week.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: They're not going to do guns. So I think you're going to see corporate America is going to take a lead on this at the behest of kids who are a huge market.

BRIGGS: Congress can follow.

EARLY START continues right now with this fascinating move from the White House affecting world trade.

Turmoil in the White House. Now stretches around the globe. The White House announcing tariffs on steel and aluminum that could raise prices, cost jobs. Policy rollout came before policy was actually ready.

ROMANS: A day after appearing to back gun reform favored by Democrats, the president has a surprise sit-down with the NRA. The NRA says no, the president does not want gun control. BRIGGS: And get ready for a messy day in the northeast. Evacuations

in Massachusetts and federal offices closed in D.C. We'll have the full forecast for you. It is ugly.