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EARLY START

Trump to Meet with Kim Jong-un; Trump Imposes Tariffs. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:00:13] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: How far we have come. President Trump in a stunning move accepting a meeting with Kim Jong-un. It is a decision the South Korean president calls miraculous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The workers who poured share souls into building this great nation were betrayed, but that betrayal is now over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president defying pretty much everyone, imposing new import tariffs. Allies were saying they'll be forced to respond. How are the markets reacting this morning?

Good morning, everybody, on a monumental day perhaps. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is a big day. It is Friday, March 9th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East, 5:30 p.m. in Pyongyang.

Up first, President Trump accepting an offer to meet with Kim Jong-un, setting up what could be the diplomatic summit of the century. This story face to face encountered expected to happen by May.

Kim extending the invitation through a delegation that visited the White House on Thursday. The president himself confirming in a tweet the historic meeting is in the works, saying a commitment by North Korea to discuss denuclearization was the catalyst to move forward.

BRIGGS: The announcement took everyone by surprise, including the Pentagon. If this breakthrough does materialize, Mr. Trump would become the first sitting U.S. president to ever meet with his North Korean counterpart. There has never been a phone call between the two. Historic really.

CNN's Andrew Stevens tracking the latest for us live from Seoul. Good morning to you, Andrew. What is the reaction in the region?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reaction in the region as Christine just said, it was absolutely miraculous. That's -- or near miraculous, that's according to the South Korean president, President Moon Jae-in. And it really is. There is -- here in Seoul, there is this sort of palpable relief that the South Korean government has managed to get this over line.

I mean, this is what they've been pushing for. It's always been about a meeting between the U.S. and North Korea. There's also going to be a summit between the two Korean leaders. But this is the really big one.

So, there is -- there is relief here but also tempered with realism that there's a long way to go. Interestingly, we had Japan -- the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was speaking and thanked Donald Trump very quickly after that announcement. And Abe says that we've got to continue to put this maximum pressure on. This economic noose around North Korea stays while we lead up to and during these negotiations until we see some concrete movement.

That plan has been agreed also by the U.S., also by South Korea. So, the sanctions all stay in place. The Australians are saying, yes, we hope that there's good faith in these negotiations, but we have been down this path before. North Korea has spoken, has tried to speak, has tried to do deals. They ended in failure. North Korea reneging, didn't get any further towards denuclearization.

So, it's going to take something extraordinary this time to push it beyond that.

BRIGGS: Yes, it's really miraculous when you consider in recent weeks, there was talk of a military strike on the North. There is talks of the North selling chemical weapons to Syria to finance their nuclear program. And then consider the history of statements between these two world leaders.

Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There's a 10 percent or a 20 percent chance that I can talk him out of those damn nukes because who the hell wants him to have nukes.

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

REPORTER: Are you willing to engage in phone talks with Kim Jong-un right now?

TRUMP: Sure. I always believe in talking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Of course, Kim Jong-un had his insults for president, dotard among the many things he's called him. Can these two erratic leaders put aside all their differences?

STEVENS: Well, when you see those clips there, it just makes you realize what a monumental move in this is, what a complete flip this is on both sides. Donald Trump obviously prides himself on "The Art of the Deal", being able to make deals with people. This is not personal, this is business. This is the way he's seen his dealings with Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-un, likewise, I mean, it's been said very widely now that the reason that Kim Jong-un is changing his tune is that these sanctions are hurting. He's looking at his own longevity, his own -- and his own legacy as well. He wants to be seen as a statesman. He wants to be seen as a world leader who can meet Donald Trump on the world stage.

[04:05:03] Remember, his father and his grandfather wanted to meet U.S. presidents. It never happened. This time, it is going to happen.

But there is an ocean between them when it comes to what they're going to actually agree to because is the U.S. really going to give up its alliance with South Korea? Is it going to move troops off the South Korean peninsula? Is it going to withdraw its nuclear shield of this region?

This is what the North Koreans have always wanted. So, to get actually some sort of deal, is Kim Jong-un prepared to actually take unilateral steps to begin with, to actually start dismantling something that's seen to be the core of the regime's survival. So, massive gulf between the two. But there is talks.

BRIGGS: Yes, one of the reasons we've never done this is because it would legitimize the North Korean leader just by being in the room with the president of the United States. But again, like you said, many questions. We'll check with you again next half hour.

Andrew Stevens live for us, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Our other top story this morning, President Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are now reality. A 25 percent tariff on foreign steel, a 10 percent tariff on foreign aluminum will take effect in two weeks. Canada and Mexico are exempt for now.

The move is rattling U.S. allies and laying bare fault lines within the GOP. President framed it the decision as keeping a campaign promise. And he railed against the trade practices he blames for the decline of American manufacturing.

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TRUMP: The American steel aluminum industry has been ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices. It's really an assault on our country. It's been an assault.

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ROMANS: The president is using an obscure national security provision to impose tariffs, but excluding Canada and Mexico to gain leverage in NAFTA negotiations could undercut that national security rationale. Other countries are now also able to apply for exemptions.

But that flexibility didn't satisfy House Speaker Paul Ryan. He is pushing back strongly against the tariffs and Arizona Senator Jeff Flake is threatening legislation to nullify the president's tariff. Stock futures are pretty calm right now. Markets seem relieved that tariffs allowed for exemptions. In fact, some traders talking about a Suisse cheese kind of a trade policy that, you know, blunts some of the president's biggest intentions here.

There are still fears, though, of a trade war. The head of the European parliament is promising to respond firmly. China calls the tariffs a, quote, serious attack. South Korea says it will respond, as well. That's fascinating geopolitically. This came just a few hours after the South announced the U.S./North Korea talks. Retaliation against U.S. goods is likely with many American industries preparing caught in the crossfire here. U.S. farmers in particular could be collateral damage since America exports most of what it grows.

BRIGGS: All right. Before his announcement on tariffs, President Trump offered kind words for his outgoing chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, same Gary Cohn who quit after he was overruled on the tariffs. President Trump suggesting Cohn's days in his administration may not be done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This is Gary Cohn's last meeting in the cabinet and of the cabinet and he's been terrific. He may be a globalist but I still like him. He is seriously a globalist. There's no question.

But you know what? In his own way, he's a nationalist because he loves our country. And where is Gary?

You love our country.

GARY COHN, OUTGOING ECONOMIC ADVISER: I do.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: He's going to maybe come back. He might come back, right?

COHN: Absolutely.

TRUMP: We'll be here another seven years hopefully. That's a long time. But I have a feeling you'll be back.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: Trump says if Cohn does come back, he would not return to the same position because he's not strong on tariffs. Certainly, that doesn't bode well for Larry Kudlow and other free traders being considered to replace Cohn.

Defying a request from the House Oversight Committee, the White House has failed to provide details about Rob Porter security clearance fiasco. Representatives Trey Gowdy and Elijah Cummings sent a bipartisan letter to the administration last month asking for a detailed timeline of Porter's background check by the FBI. They also want to know when White House officials became aware of the domestic abuse allegations against Porter.

ROMANS: Answers were expected by February 28th. Instead, there was a brief response last night from White House aide Marc Short, pointing to changes Chief of Staff Kelly made to the security clearance process, while ignoring the question about Porter. It's not clear how Gowdy and Cummings will respond.

BRIGGS: Anxiety levels rising in the White House over the Stormy Daniels scandal. Multiple sources telling CNN some officials are worried the salacious accusations and thorny legal fight could wind up dwarfing some of the president's past transgressions. Lawmakers on both sides trying hard to distance Congress from this mess.

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REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I haven't put -- I haven't put a second of thought into this. Just not on my radar screen.

[04:10:01] REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I don't know that we necessarily have to get involved. You can sure if any of that were happening with a Democrat, the Republicans would be very involved in it. But our time should be spent making the future better for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: There was no White House briefing on Thursday. President Trump is upset we're told with his press secretary, Sara Sanders, for her handling of the Stormy Daniels saga on Wednesday. Sanders told reporters an arbitration case was won, quote, in the president's favor. That marks the first time the White House admitted the president was involved in any way with Daniels.

BRIGGS: The Interior Department defending the nearly $139,000 price tag to upgrade the doors. Yes, doors to secretary Ryan Zinke's office. A spokesperson says the project is necessary to replace old doors in disrepair and pins the high cost on the historical nature of the building which was built in the 1930s.

The spokesperson says the work was driven by career facilities and security officials. Zinke himself was unaware of the expense.

Several government agencies are being scrutinized for excessive spending. Last month, you might remember, HUD Secretary Ben Carson withdrew an order for $31,000 of dining room furniture. I believe that was just a price --

ROMANS: I'm going to say it again. I know that (INAUDIBLE). That's a really lovely, lovely line of furniture. But Costco has really good -- I mean, a lot of American companies and businesses --

BRIGGS: What do $139,000 doors look like though? We need to see that.

ROMANS: I don't know. That must be a big old crumbling building.

A light-hearted guff by President Trump at his tariff announcement came steelworker Scott Sarge (ph), president of a local union in Pennsylvania, shared a story about his father Herman who lost his job in the steel industry in the 1980s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Your father Herman is looking down, he's very proud of you right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he's still alive.

TRUMP: Oh, he is? Well, then he's even more proud. Then even he's even more proud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That moment -- but, you know, the president -- I'll say thing about the president. There's a reason why he just one-on-one he gets along so well with so many people because he handled it so well, you know? He handled it so well.

BRIGGS: He did.

It was a good political moment for him. People are wondering if yesterday was more about a political photo-op for the special election in Pennsylvania than it was really about tariffs.

ROMANS: Look, it was a good photo op for the president. No question. But, you know, he talked about the past. He talked about the '50s and '60s and post World War II. He didn't talk about automation. He didn't talk about moving forward and globalizing.

BRIGGS: No mention of automation.

ROMANS: It's interesting. He's going to Pittsburgh. You know, Pittsburgh is the steel city. But there's no steel mills anymore in Pittsburgh.

And Pittsburgh is proud of how diverse its economy, education, medical facilities, a lot of very highly skilled defense contracting. So, that's an interesting juxtaposition.

BRIGGS: Interesting race there. All right. Ahead, the Florida teachers union wants the governor to veto a key section of a new bill addressing guns and school safety. That's next.

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[04:16:57] BRIGGS: Florida's teachers union urging Governor Rick Scott to veto funding for a program that would allow some teachers and school staff to be armed on campus. The program is part of the gun and school safety bill the lawmakers approved it in the wake of the Parkland school massacre. The union is not asking Scott to veto the bill, just to use his line item veto power to cut the program that would allow school employees with training to carry guns.

ROMANS: Governor Scott has said he's not interested in arming teachers. The governor now has two weeks to decide whether to sign the bill. Among other things, it would raise the age to purchase the firearm to 21 from 18 and give law enforcement more authority, to seize weapons from people being mentally unfit. Governor Scott will meet families of the Parkland victims today.

Meantime, the final patient from the school shooting is back in the ICU. Fifteen-year-old Anthony Burgess (ph) who was shot five times has been downgraded from fair to critical condition. I think this is the young man who stood there in front of the door holding the door shut against the shooter protecting everyone else in his classroom.

BRIGGS: A glitch in the 911 system being blamed for the death of a Missouri police officer who was dispatched to the wrong house. Officer Christopher Ryan Morton was shot and killed Tuesday at a home in Clinton, Missouri. He was somehow sent there by 911 operators who could only hear two women screaming during an emergency call. Well, it turns out Morton should have been dispatched to a different house about 15 miles away.

The error is being investigated by the state highway patrol. Two other officers were injured in the shoot-out. SWAT team members later found the gunman dead inside the home.

ROMANS: Emergency crews in San Antonio, Texas, finally able to reach a student trapped in a cave for some ten hours. The 18-year-old girl was on a school field trip to the robber baron cave in San Antonio Thursday when she became wedged in a narrow passageway. About 70 responders were on the scene chiseling rock to free her. They were finally able to get her out overnight. She is said to be fine but at a hospital for evaluation.

BRIGGS: Former President Barack Obama said to be talking with Netflix about a TV production deal. He might appear on camera as a moderator of a new series or produce a show that features inspiring American stories. The source characterized the deal as a production partnership and says it is not yet final. If it happens, both the former president and Michelle Obama will be involved in a series of original shows for Netflix.

ROMANS: Interesting. BRIGGS: Fascinating development there.

ROMANS: It really is.

All right. The Russians are the main suspect in that nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in the U.K. But they're laughing it off. One news anchor there says bad things happen to traitors. We're live in Moscow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:24:05] ROMANS: The probe is widening in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy living in Britain. Police revealing 21 people received medical attention after that incident. Three of them, Sergei Skripal, his daughter and a police officer remain in the hospital. Western intelligence services say all signs point to Russia as a prime suspect but the Kremlin appears to be laughing it off.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen live in Moscow with the very latest.

Bring us up to speed here.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's interesting, Christine. They appear to be laughing it off at the same time, they still say they have nothing to do with it. But now, the Russians are also naming this man, Sergei Skripal, who was poisoned, and claiming that he's a spy for the MI6, which is, of course, the intelligence service of Britain.

Now, we got some information from Russia's intelligence service, the FSB, and they say that they believe that Skripal was recruited by MI6 sometime in the 1990s and then, of course, worked for them for a long time until he was arrested and then later deported back to the United Kingdom here by the Russians.

[04:25:07] And at the same time, you know, you have them gloating about what happened.

Let's just listen in to what that Russian TV anchor said about this man who was poisoned. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSIAN TV ANCHOR (through translator): The traitor's profession is one of the most dangerous in the world. According to statistics, it is much more dangerous than being a drug courier. Those who choose it rarely live in piece to a venerable old age. Alcoholism, drug addiction, stress, severe nervous breakdown and depression are the inevitable occupational illnesses of the traitor. And as a result, heart attacks, strokes, traffic accidents, and finally, suicide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: And this we have to keep in mind, Christine, comes as the Russians are still saying they have absolutely nothing to do with this. They say they want more information from the U.K. You know, the wife of another spy killed by the Russians, the Brits say, Alexander Litvinenko, she has now come forward and she's demanding of the Brits to do more to protect former Russian spies who are living in the United Kingdom, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Such a mystery.

All right. Thank you so much, Fred Pleitgen. Let us know if there are any new developments.

A historic summit in the works between the U.S. and North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUNG EUI-YONG: President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Can President Trump, the self-described ultimate dealmaker, convince Kim Jong-un to denuclearize?