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EARLY START

Trump Accepts Offer to Meet with Kim Jong-un; Trump Imposes Tariffs. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: How far we've come. President Trump in a stunning move accepting a meeting with Kim Jong-un. It's a decision the South Korean president calls miraculous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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[05:00:01] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president defined pretty much everyone imposing new import tariffs. Allies say they will be forced to respond. How are markets reacting this morning?

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Friday, March 9th, 5:00 a.m. in the East, 6:30 p.m. in Pyongyang.

From fire and fury to face-to-face, that's where we start. President Trump accepting an offer to meet with Kim Jong-un setting up the diplomatic summit of the century. This extraordinary face-to-face encounter expected to happen by May. Kim extending the invitation through a South Korean delegation that visited the White House on Thursday.

President 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.

ROMANS: This announcement took everyone by surprise, including the Pentagon. If this breakthrough does materialize, the president would become the first sitting U.S. president to ever meet with his North Korean counterpart.

CNN's Andrea Stevens tracking the latest developments live from Seoul.

This is really a shocker, Andrew.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolute shocker. I mean, it caught everyone, including many of the senior advisors on the Trump administration by complete surprise.

And also, you've got to put this in perspective for what it means for Kim Jong-un, as well. I mean, his father and his grandfather, Christine, both tried to set up meetings with the United States both failed because negotiations went sour. So, you would think that Kim Jong-un would be trumpeting this at home as well as abroad. But, strangely, we're just getting news coming into us now that the local news bulletins in Pyongyang, across North Korea, are mentioning nothing about the summit. They're talking about commuter shipping and education policy and nothing at all mentioned about this new meeting, which is interesting.

Also new detail on the meeting that set this whole thing in motion. That was the meeting when the two envoys from South Korea actually went to the North to meet Kim Jong-un which led to this message from Kim going to Donald Trump. The envoy was saying that Kim Jong-un was very relaxed and telling jokes about himself and well aware of the little rocket man monikers and the other belittling comments made by Donald Trump about him.

But he tended just to shrug them off and apply his guests by all accounts with lots of alcohol and was a charming host, a charming and relax host. So, that gives you a bit of an idea about the optics, if you like, and what was going on behind the scenes.

But back in Washington, as we say, it's been really, really sort of shocking to many people that Donald Trump actually agreed at this stage of the a meeting because many times a meeting with the U.S. is seen as a carrot and there are fairly strict preconditions to get to that meeting. Although the administration says, look, you've got two very strong and most important decisive leaders meeting. So, those two can actually make decisions there and in a position to make decisions. That is why it is so important for this summit to go ahead, Christine.

ROMANS: How, Andrew, is the rest of the region reacting?

STEVENS: Well, generally very positively. But there's a lot of clear eyed realism here as well. The South Korean president calls this miraculous, almost miraculous to see this meeting coming together. The South Koreans have been cautioning over the last few days about the fact that, temper your optimism, this is very, very early days, indeed, saying that there would be no relaxing of sanctions against North Korea. That was echoed not by just the U.S., but also Japan, who is another key player in this.

The Japanese are saying, you know, treat this in context with history. The North Koreans have done this before. They've done this and offered talks and concessions and nothing happened and more important than that, the nuclear program kept on going at full steam ahead. So, be very, very careful.

And China, meanwhile, they're saying that dialogue is what they always wanted to see. But, again, a long, long road, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Andrew Stevens for us this morning in Seoul -- thank you, Andrew.

BRIGGS: Let's go live to Washington and bring in CNN military analyst, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Good morning to you, sir.

We talk a lot about fire and fury now to face to face. That was a year ago, though. In recent weeks, though, there was talk of a military strike on North Korea. There was reports that the North Koreans were selling chemical weapons to Syria to finance their nuclear program.

How did we go from there in recent weeks to where we are now, a face- to-face meeting, the first ever between a Korean president and a North Korean leader?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Dave, I think it's really because we have Donald Trump in the White House. In this case, what you're seeing is someone who looks at things like the North Korea move of chemical weapons into Syria and their relationship with Iran and some of the other relationships that they have around the world and says, OK, that's one thing.

[05:05:03] Now, let's go for the very big story here and that big story is to get -- to grab the headlines and get a summit going between himself and Kim Jong-un and that very fact, I think, is really, you know, what he is looking for here. He is looking for that big splash and that big splash is more important to him than some of the other things that are really going on.

ROMANS: It's interesting to me that neither party is giving anything up. The United States and the South Korea are still going to have their military drills together and the North Koreans have not promised to end their nuclear program. We have heard this president and other White Houses say that we will not sit down with you. We will never sit down with you unless you promise to end your nukes.

LEIGHTON: That's right, Christine. And, really, what has happened here is the North Koreans have won this particular piece of the pre- diplomacy for this summit. What I mean by that is they have won the part that recognizes them as a separate entity that is a nuclear capable entity. That very fact really makes a big difference because what you're seeing is them being allowed to keep their weapons, them being allowed to actually, in essence, exist as a state. That very existence was called into question before just by the way the United States and South Korea have dealt with the North.

But now we're basically saying, we will keep you as a state. We are making a strategic decision, not necessarily that we have a strategy, but we're making a strategic decision that says North Korea shall remain a state and we may tacitly allow it to keep at least temporarily nuclear weapons, although, of course, we talk about the denuclearization part.

ROMANS: That point goes to North Korea in --

BRIGGS: Right. And part of the reason there has never been a face- to-face is fear of legitimizing the rogue nation, which you could argue South Korea just did by having an all-expense paid trip to the Olympics.

Victor Cha who is set to be the ambassador to South Korea before some last minute objects writing in "The New York Times" this morning: In years of dealing with North Korea, I have learned the regime never gives anything away for free. Everyone should be aware that this dramatic act of diplomacy by these two unusual leaders who love flair and drama may also take us closer to war. Failed negotiations at the summit level leave all parties with no other recourse for diplomacy.

This is not Gorbachev and Reagan, although Reagan was a former actor. These are volatile world leaders. This would be a monumental win for the president if they denuclearize. But what are the inherent risks of taking this meeting?

LEIGHTON: Well, this is -- I think Victor Cha is pointing out important point. This could go one of two ways. It could either go as you indicated, the way of Gorbachev and Reagan where we have in essence peace in our time to borrow phrase from another era, or it could be something very different. It could bring us closer to war.

And the reason it could do that. If the two leaders are disappointed in each other, if one doesn't get what they think they are due, it is going to create even more ridged positions on their part and once those ridged positions are created, it is going to really make it more difficult for these two countries, actually, really, three countries with South Korea involved, it is going to make it more difficult to step back from the brink and that is really the danger here.

We are looking at somebody in Donald Trump who is really somebody who goes, seizes the moment, goes for the deal as quickly as possible. On the other hand, we have a very astute leader in North Korea who is not a maniac. He is somebody who knows what he is doing, who has clearly decided the thing he needs to do is meet with the United States president and the fact that the president has agreed to do that has made him really look very good within the North Korean leadership hierarchy.

And it also secures the base for the future of his nation, and that's really what he wants regime preservation. If any of that is threatened, then these talks can really result in a disaster.

ROMANS: Colonel, come back in 20 minutes and we'll ask you if there is any chance in hell the United States will put out our troops because of the rise of China and the kinds of security alliances we have with South Korea and Japan and others. That's a really interesting part of this, too, because that's something the North Koreans really want. Thank you, sir, come back.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

ROMANS: Days before special election in Pennsylvania, the president plays his base with new tariffs. Despite a revolt in his own party, anger from allies, fears of a trade war. Nice photo-op there for the president. What does the market think?

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[05:13:57] ROMANS: President Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum are a reality. A 25 percent tariff on foreign steel, 10 percent tariff on foreign aluminum. Both take effect in two weeks.

Canada and Mexico are exempt for now. The move rattling U.S. allies and laying bear fault lines within the GOP. The president framed 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 these tariffs, but excluding Canada and Mexico to gain leverage in NAFTA negotiations. That could undercut the national security rationales. Other countries are also able to apply for exemptions but that flexibility did not satisfy House Speaker Paul Ryan.

He is pushing back strongly against these tariffs. And Arizona Senator Jake Flake is threatening legislation to nullify them.

Stock futures right now pretty calm.

[05:15:02] Not much movement. You know, frankly, markets seem relieved about these exemptions. Some are calling it a Swiss cheese kind of tariff that lots of holes that our friends and allies can try to get through.

There are still fears of a trade war, though. The head of the European parliament is promising to respond firmly. China calls the tariffs a serious attack and South Korea says it will respond.

Retaliation against U.S. goods are likely and many industries are caught. Farmers, American farmers in particular could be collateral damage since America exports most what it grows, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's go live to Washington again and bring in Greg Valliere, political economist and chief strategist for Horizon Investments. ROMANS: Great to see you, Greg.

GREG VALLIERE, POLITICAL ECONOMIST & CHIEF STRATEGIST, HORIZON INVESTMENTS: Good morning, guys.

BRIGGS: Good to have you here, sir.

It would be nice in a typical administration if the policy was done when the president throws it out there. But that was eight days ago and here we are Friday with still trying to fill in the blanks. It's still not entirely clear what this policy will end up.

What do you make where we are though today?

VALLIERE: Well, there is some optimism I guess in the markets that it could have been worse. I will make three quick points.

Number one, a lot of our allies are quite angry, Brazil, Japan, Germany, and they're going to retaliate.

Number two, just a temporary waiver for Mexico and Canada. It's not permanent.

Number three and maybe most importantly, we're on the verge, within weeks, on a major trade war with China. They steal all of our intellectual property, I understand that. But we're going to hit them hard, and they're going to retaliate.

So, the idea that a trade -- that we dodged a bullet on a trade war I think is a very premature attitude.

ROMANS: The photo-op I think for the president was very good from a political standpoint. It really was. The president fundamentally disagrees with most economists and people who he would derive as globalists here. The president thinks we're losing $800,000 a year in trade deficits. We're not losing that -- that's like me saying I go to the grocery store and I'm losing $200 every week at the grocery store. I don't run a trade deficit with the grocery. That's just one part of my financial being.

It's finance. We finance this. We buy -- you know, we sell treasury bond that the Chinese buy, by the way. You know, we have to, though, I guess, accept that he has this very simplistic view and markets have to adjust around that.

VALLIERE: Well, I recommend to everyone the lead editorial in this morning's "Wall Street Journal" which talks about Smooth Holly which in the '30s probably exacerbated the Great Depression.

I'd also say, industries are dynamic, they change. The candle industry never recovered from the invention of the light bulb. I mean, you see a lot of industries evolve. Things aren't stable. And I think the president has this nostalgic retro view of the U.S. industrial base which has changed.

BRIGGS: Tariffs still set to be imposed on South Korea. South Korea has been essentially in bringing us to the brink of this face-to-face meeting between the president and Kim Jong-un.

And an interesting element here is, where is the State Department on this? Where have they been?

This is Rex Tillerson yesterday in Ethiopia ahead of this stunning announcement.

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REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: In terms of direct talks with the United States and you asked negotiations and we're a long ways from negotiations. I think we just need to be very clearer eyed and realistic about it.

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BRIGGS: Just a reminder, that was yesterday and then this morning, we have Tillerson in terms of the decision to engage, president Trump with Kim Jong-un, that's a decision the president took himself. Where is the State Department? The Pentagon was surprised by this. And who is our diplomat that would be in charge of his?

VALLEIRE: Well, we're really understaffed, Dave, on Korea, that's well known. I would say this is Donald Trump. I mean, he is very impulsive. Sometimes he gets results.

You have to say, anything that reduces the chances of a horrific war is a good thing. I would assume the markets would be happy about that today. But, you have to worry about him going into these negotiations whether he can really get anything at all. Whether he has enough information to deal with somebody as ruthless as the North Korean dictator.

ROMANS: All right. Greg Valliere, come back in about a half hour. So much to talk about. Thank you, sir.

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, a big scare for the Boston Celtics. Rising star Jaylon Brown taking a nasty fall. Ow.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report", next.

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[05:3:56] BRIGGS: Serena Williams back on the court competitively for the first time since having her first child.

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

Working moms rule, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's certainly true, Christine. Good morning to you, guys. It's been 14 since we've seen Serena play in a professional match and an essay she wrote for CNN, Serena detailed how she almost died giving birth to her daughter Olympia after having an emergency C-section, Serene had multiple other surgeries and spend six weeks in bed.

But after a long recovery, she was looking more like her old self yesterday. Serena has a big cheering section as her new husband Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian was on hand watching. The 23-time major winner beating Zarina Diyas 7-5, 6-3. Serena said after the match, it wasn't easy but felt incredible to be back playing.

All right. Alabama's hope to make NCAA online yesterday against Texas A&M in the SEC tournament. Four second left, down one, Collin Sexson gets the ball and he's going to go coast to coast and finger roll it in at the buzzer. His teammates jump on him. The Tide rolls on to the next round with 70-71 win.

[05:25:02] Selection Sunday just two days away and be seen on our sister network, TBS, at 6:00 Eastern.

All right. Scary moment in the Celtics/Timberwolves game last night. Jaylen Brown slipping off the rim there and falling on the back of his head was down for a while, but was able to walk off the court on his own. Brown then went to the hospital to have a CT scan and other tests.

Later on he tweeted: appreciate, everybody. I'm OK. Got a headache, though. Good team win.

All right. Finally, Tiger Woods continuing to look as the Master's approaches. Hitting a tree as he gets the ball back on the fairway. Tiger, amazingly, able to save par on the hole. Just an incredible shot. You see his club bend around the tree.

Tiger just three shots off the lead heading into today. Guys, I spoke to broadcaster Jim Nance earlier this week, he shared my excitement about the Masters, Tiger on the comeback, Phil Mickelson again. It could be one of the best matches we've seen in a long time.

BRIGGS: Yes, Phil won the first time in 2013. Now, Tiger could win for the first time since 2013. That would be great news for golf.

Thank you, Andy Scholes. Appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Big news, 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.

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ROMANS: Can President Trump, the self-described ultimate dealmaker convince Kim Jong-un to drop his nukes?