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Trump's Eyebrow-Raising Trade Remarks; Students Protest Against Gun Violence; Haley Blasts Russia Over Spy Poisoning; Toys 'R' Us Closing All U.S. Stores. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 15, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:20] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Making up stuff about trade and threatening to pull troops. Leaked audio suggesting the president is willing to go to great lengths if he feels slighted in trade disputes.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Could the confirmations for the most important cabinet post and the next director of the CIA be in jeopardy? One key Republican says he will not get behind Mike Pompeo or Gina Haspel.

BRIGGS: And students nationwide refuse to go quiet. Powerful rallies coast-to-coast demanding action on guns. Today, that surveillance video from Parkland expected to be released at noon.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: Could that change the entire conversation?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

Some eye-popping comments from President Trump on trade suggesting how far he is willing to go in talks with American allies. Two major admissions at a private fundraiser in St. Louis last night according to audio obtained by "The Washington Post."

BRIGGS: First, the president said he made up facts during a discussion with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau retelling a story he's told before with a new anecdote. The president insisted the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada even though he admitted he didn't know if that was the case.

ROMANS: For the record, the U.S. has a trade surplus with Canada.

The president also launched a scathing attack on close Americans allies including South Korea, accusing that country of ripping off the U.S. for decades and poaching America's workforce.

The president appeared to threaten pulling American troops from South Korea if Seoul does not make the concessions he wants on trade.

BRIGGS: Trump reportedly said quote, "We lose money on trade and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let's see what happens."

For more on that part of the story let's bring in CNN's David McKenzie. He's live for us in Seoul.

David, is that not the fear in the region if the president walks in there with Kim Jong Un and negotiates away our U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if that's the specific fear Dave, but it certainly is a fear that President Trump might get into that meeting and take those discussions in a direction which becomes a kind of wildcard situation.

As we have seen the president is -- makes -- often changes his mind and brings up things like trade when the primary concern many would say right now is foreign policy and national security when it comes to South Korea because South Korea is a key partner in trying to figure out how to bring stability back to the region and end the nuclear program of Kim Jong Un.

You know, everything's being done backwards in a way. Normally you have low-level diplomats who make discussions and then it moves up the chain until finally the commander in chief signs something with the other side.

But these meetings that Trump has agreed to would be the first time that Kim Jong Un is meeting with an American president certainly and it's unprecedented that it would go to such a top level so quickly. So diplomats will be scrambling to try and figure out how to make this happen.

Of course, no secretary of state right now. The South Korean foreign minister is on her way to D.C. to meet with the acting secretary of state and Ivanka Trump today.

BRIGGS: South Korea has no comment this morning, as they usually don't react to reported comments or tweets like this.

David McKenzie live for us in Seoul. Thank you.

ROMANS: So usually problems like this are worked out by diplomats but there's no ambassador to South Korea and a big transition is underway at the State Department right now.

Outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson set to sit down next week with the man nominated to be his successor, CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Senior State Department officials tell us there's no bad blood between the men. They say Tillerson assured Pompeo in a call Wednesday he will work to make sure the transition is a success.

But the path to confirmation is complicated for Pompeo and the woman named to replace him at the CIA, Gina Haspel.

BRIGGS: Two Democratic senators who supported Pompeo for CIA director, Tim Kaine and Jeanne Shaheen, both say they have concerns about him being elevated to the head of the State Department. Republican Sen. Rand Paul opposes both Pompeo and Haspel.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I'm perplexed by the nomination of people who love the Iraq War so much that they would advocate for a war with Iran next.

My opposition to her is over her direct participation in interrogation and her gleeful enjoyment at the suffering of someone being tortured.


BRIGGS: Senator Paul's announcement does not necessarily block their paths to confirmation. If Paul votes no on Pompeo, Republican leaders could move the nominations directly to the Senate floor without committee approval.

Some breaking news now. The Pentagon forced to acknowledge U.S. troops came under attack a second time last year in Niger. It happened in December, two months after an ambush by ISIS militants killed four American personnel.

[05:35:09] The Pentagon says 11 militants from a different ISIS- affiliated group died in the December firefight. No Americans were killed but the attack raises some questions about why American personnel were still vulnerable after one deadly Ambush. The U.S. has about 800 troops in Niger training and advising local forces.

ROMANS: A vote on a new authorization for use of military force could come as soon as next month. Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he is hopeful they're close to an agreement.

Lawmakers have been struggling for years to redefine the country's legal authority to fight terrorism. Many Democrats want restrictions on those war efforts while the majority of Republicans prefer not to make changes.

BRIGGS: All right, to some breaking news.

Two Navy pilots have died after their fighter jet crashed off Key West during a training flight. The Navy says the aviators attempted to land, they ejected, and crews recovered them from the water. The cause of the death is under investigation.

Overnight, the president tweeted quote, "Please join me with your thoughts and prayers for both aviators, their families, and our incredible U.S. Navy."

ROMANS: Now to a CNN exclusive.

Records show Defense Department employees charged more than $138,000 at Trump-branded properties in the first eight months of the Trump presidency. The charges are the most recent evidence that taxpayer money flows to Trump's businesses. Critics say it violates ethical norms and possibly the U.S. Constitution.

BRIGGS: Personnel spending close to one-third of it on lodging and food at what appears to be Mar-a-Lago. Most of the expenses align with the 25 days the president spent at his Palm Beach club from February to April of 2017.

The White House and The Trump Organization have not responded to requests for comment.

ROMANS: HUD is struggling to explain newly-released e-mails that contradict claims Sec. Ben Carson and his wife Candy had no involvement in the purchase of a $31,000 furniture set.

A HUD spokesman initially blamed the purchase on a career staffer. New e-mails obtained through a Freedom of Information request show Carson and his wife Candy selected the furniture themselves.

ROMANS: An August e-mail from a career staffer to Carson's assistant mentions quote, "printouts of the furniture the secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out."

Confronted Tuesday with the discrepancy the HUD spokesman said simply, "When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles."

ROMANS: President Trump crediting the Democrats' apparent victory in a Pennsylvania special election to what he called a Trump-like campaign.

According to "The Atlantic" the president said at a fundraiser in St. Louis that Democrat Conor Lamb ran a pretty smart race in the deep red district because he sounded a lot like a Republican. GOP leaders echoing the president's remarks.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The candidate that's going to win this race is the candidate that ran as a pro-life, pro- gun, anti-Nancy Pelosi conservative. That's the candidate that's going to win this race.


BRIGGS: Republican Rick Saccone's campaign, meanwhile, instructing the four counties in Pennsylvania's 18th District to preserve ballots and voting machines. That's the first step in a potential recount following an apparent razor-thin win for Lamb.

With three days to go until his retirement former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe faces the prospect of getting fired and losing his pension. The FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility has recommended termination.

The decision stems from an internal Justice Department watchdog report. The watchdog says McCabe misled investigators about his decision to authorize Bureau officials to speak to the media about a Clinton Foundation probe.

ROMANS: A representative for McCabe declined to comment. The final decision belongs to Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. A politically perilous choice for him since President Trump repeatedly bashed McCabe on Twitter before McCabe went on leave in January.

All right, it's official. CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow will replace Gary Cohn as head of the White House Economic Council. President Trump offered him the job Tuesday.

Kudlow informally advised the president during the campaign but he's also a free trader. He has spoken out against Trump's tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. Both were the main reason for Gary Cohn's resignation. But Trump said Kudlow has come around to believing in tariffs as a quote "negotiating point."

Kudlow also champions Trump's other economic achievements -- deregulation, tax cuts. But a new study finds a trade war would erase all that -- erase all the economic benefits from those tax cuts. That's according to the University of Pennsylvania, the president's alma mater.

It says a trade war would hit major U.S. exporters the hardest -- companies like Boeing. In fact, the president visited a Boeing facility in St. Louis yesterday. There he is taking a tour.

That was happening as the stock tanked shaving about 100 points from the Dow. Boeing is down nine percent from its high. It is seen as the proxy for a trade war.

Boeing particularly vulnerable to a trade war. Not only does it import lots of steel it also sells 80 percent of its plane abroad in China. But most U.S. manufacturers face higher costs due to Trump's metal tariffs.

[05:40:07] That juxtaposition really got me yesterday -- the president using Boeing as an example of how great the U.S. economy is and how great the tax cuts are --

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: -- at the very moment that Boeing shares are falling sharply because they're worried --

BRIGGS: Because of his policies.

ROMANS: They're worried about the president's policies.

BRIGGS: Not good optics. All right.

An emotional and powerful day as students nationwide take to the streets demanding changes to gun laws. What can they do next to get some action from Washington, D.C.? We'll discuss, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BRIGGS: Surveillance video from outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School expected to be released today. It will show the actions of responders as the shooting there unfolded last month.

[05:45:07] It comes a day after a powerful statement from students nationwide. Huge walkouts from coast-to-coast demanding action on guns.

ROMANS: Students at Stoneman Douglas had not planned anything more than to walk out of class for 17 minutes to honor the 17 killed, but then as crowds swelled nationwide some students decided to keep it going -- to continue rallying.

In New York City at LaGuardia High, students filled up nearly half a city block building-to-building during their 17-minute sit-in and lie- in.

BRIGGS: At the White House, teenagers started the day holding up the names of the 17 Parkland victims. Protesters also turned their backs on the White House.

Students in Burlington, Vermont so determined to participate in the walkout not even heavy snow stopped them. And all the way across the country in L.A. County, students at Granada Hills Charter High School spelled out the word enough on the football field.

ROMANS: From Israel to London to Tanzania, students around the world walked out in solidarity with American students. It was really remarkable. This London picture is great.


ROMANS: Joining us now, Erin Delmore, senior political correspondent for Good morning.

And you wrote a piece about this. You were out there with some of these students yesterday.

This feels different to me. This feels like activism and it feels different than it has -- some of the protests have recently.

ERIN DELMORE, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSTLE.COM: I agree with you and the students who I speak with will tell you exactly that.

If you ask them what made Parkland different some will tell you that they can imagine this happening in their schools. That they have a renewed fear now. We have seen 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook with more than 400 people shot.

But the most interesting thing to me is that these students are telling me that they see themselves in the activists -- the student activists who have emerged from Parkland.

Instead of sitting back and saying that could have been me when they see violence in schools, they're jumping into the conversation, they're seeing these student activists, they're raising their hands, making signs, shouting at the top of their lungs and saying that could be me, too. I could be the force for change here. That's a big difference from what we've seen over the last few years.

BRIGGS: OK, so what's next? The surveillance video we mentioned released today --


BRIGGS: -- at noon from outside could show what that officer did not do.

March 24th is everything. That's the "March for Our Lives" in D.C. Some half a million people expected -- kids from across the country.

I'm the skeptic. I'm not in the Romans camp. Look, Congress, the White House, they can and they always do wait these things out.


BRIGGS: We saw the school violence policy will put more guns into the system.

How do they turn this into action? They did in Florida, how do they do it across the country?

DELMORE: Right. It's important to remember that they are working with some important coalitions here. The adults call themselves allies. They don't want to be taking the spotlight in this movement.


DELMORE: But the main group that's backing these students and helping to train them and helping to coordinate for them is the Women's March Coalition. Now that matters because when you look at the goals that that group has spelled out -- and they're uniting student groups across the country -- they're saying universal background checks, assault weapons ban. That's what we want.

Those are political non-starters in Congress. We all know that.

BRIGGS: Right.

DELMORE: Right. When I asked students what do you want to achieve, what's your end goal here, they tell me -- most are pretty pragmatic. They're in your camp. They say we want to become a counterforce to the NRA. We want to sign people up to vote.

They're not going all in on changing congressional legislation. They seem to know the limits of the political vote will here.

ROMANS: And this Erin -- this split -- the NRA. With all those students outside peacefully protesting, the NRA tweets this. "I'll control my own guns, thank you. #2A #NRA" which infuriated some of those students. It really did, especially when you're talking about honoring 17 kids who were killed by that very weapon. Look, I think companies already know this is happening -- this activism that you're talking about. Kids and companies are the next leader.

And I think when you look at the Conor Lamb election -- a younger, 33- year-old --

BRIGGS: A Second Amendment supporter.

ROMANS: A Second Amendment supporter.

But when you look at some of these activists they think -- they want younger people in Congress. They've rejected the grownups who are there right now. And I think that you're seeing a difference. I think this younger generation is going to make a difference.

DELMORE: Not just on guns.

Think about the Dreamers. Think about how Congress said on September 5th, we're going to take this up with urgency. Democrats forced to shut down on it. We're not even talking about that now.

And the last big bill to leave the Senate floor and the House floor this year is going to be the spending bill at the end of March. Don't expect much to happen before the midterms.

That matters, too, to young people. They're seeing inaction --


DELMORE: -- by the congressional representatives and they're angry about it.

BRIGGS: Well --

ROMANS: I would say one thing though. I think you could be a Second Amendment supporter and also support getting guns out of school. I mean, you -- you know --

BRIGGS: Well, Brian Mast of Florida is -- says that. He's an Army vet.

ROMANS: You know, you can -- you can be both. Being a Second Amendment supporter doesn't mean I don't want to touch anything, you know?

BRIGGS: But single-vote issues -- single-voter -- single-issue voters on guns and immigration, they tend to go the other way.


DELMORE: And very few people are single-issue voters. You make a great point.

BRIGGS: We shall see.

Erin Delmore from Thanks for being here. A good conversation.

DELMORE: Thank you, both -- thanks.

BRIGGS: All right.

The sister of the Charleston church shooter charged for having drugs and weapons at school. Authorities say Morgan Roof was caught with a knife along with pepper spray and marijuana. They say she also posted a disturbing message on Snapchat alarming students.

[05:50:09] South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says the swift reaction of students and teachers avoided a potential tragedy.

ROMANS: United Airlines apologizing again for another blunder involving a pet on one of its flights. Kansas resident Kara Swindle says United mistakenly flew her 10-year-old German Shepherd Irgo to Japan instead of Kansas City.

Swindle was traveling with her two young children when she tried to pick up Irgo from a United cargo facility. The dog was nowhere to be found. In its place, a Great Dane that should have been on the plane.

BRIGGS: Swindle says Irgo was flying for the first time and had no food or water on a 16 1/2 hour flight.

United is flying Irgo back to Wichita through Denver with a human escort. The airline concedes an error and is following up with the vendor kennel where the two pets were kept overnight to find out what went wrong.

And John Kennedy, senator from Louisiana, he's on "NEW DAY." He wants to hear directly from United what's going on.

ROMANS: And that kid in the John Deere shirt is cute. That is one cute kid.

BRIGGS: You can't argue that.

ROMANS: Kara Swindle, thumbs up.

After 70 years, Toys 'R' Us is shutting its doors. The iconic toy store closing all U.S. stores. No more Toys 'R' Us kids, next.


[05:55:44] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent. We take no pleasure in having to constantly criticize Russia but we need Russia to stop giving us so many reasons to do so.


BRIGGS: Some strong words from Ambassador Nikki Haley after the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom. Now she went much further than the president, indeed.

Russia and the U.K. locked in a bitter dispute. Prime Minister May retaliated and breaking moments ago, the Russians now responding in- kind.

Nic Robertson is live for us in London. Nic, good morning. What's the latest?


Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was speaking at a press conference in Moscow.

He was asked the question are you going to expel British diplomats? His answer, absolutely. The question, when? His answer, soon.

There are elections in Russia -- presidential elections coming up this week so I think we can expect that the Russians are going to continue to take a very tough position on this. No one's expecting Vladimir Putin, the president, to fail to win a fourth term but at the moment you can expect Russia to play a very strong and tough role.

And here in the U.K. the Prime Minister is speaking to the French president today, getting more support. Her chief national security representative will go to NATO to put -- to put Britain's opinion forward there.

Meanwhile, several thousand British troops will be vaccinated against the agent Anthrax, not because they fear a threat but because they want to be more ready and more prepared. Also, putting millions more dollars -- tens of millions more dollars into chemical weapons defense here in the U.K.

BRIGGS: We watch now to see if any Russians assets are frozen in the U.K.

Nic Robertson, thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Global stocks higher today after U.S. stocks fell on trade fears.

You know, the Dow lost almost 250 points mainly thanks to Boeing. It fell more than two percent, now down more than nine percent from its high. Boeing is vulnerable to a trade war. It's actually become the proxy, really, in the market for concerns about trade especially with China, Boeing's second-largest market.

President Trump wants to impose new steep tariffs on China.

All right.

Kids love iPhones and that's created some problems for Apple. Major investors have been criticizing Apple for not doing more about children's smartphone use and addiction. But Apple already offers parental controls so it's debuting a landing

page to list them all. The new families page rounds up all the ways parents can control how kids use Apple devices, like tracking their location, monitoring their purchases, filtering what they see.

Now it's not rolling out any new features or controls at this time, it's just putting it all together so you parents can make sure you know how your kid is using the phone.

Speaking of kids, remember this?




ROMANS: Sadly, there will never be another generation of Toys 'R' Us kids. After 70 years the iconic toy store will close or sell all U.S. stores. It hasn't made a profit since 2012, losing sales to big-box retailers Walmart, Target and, of course, Amazon.

It declared bankruptcy in September. It tried to shed debt -- too much debt. It tried to reinvest in its stores but the turnaround just didn't work. Thirty-three thousand jobs are at risk here.

It's also bad news for toy companies. Toys 'R' Us is the last megastore dedicated to toys. Analysts say without it, 10 to 15 percent of all toy sales will be lost forever.

That jingle just doesn't -- doesn't it just --

BRIGGS: I'm a Toys 'R' Us kid.

ROMANS: It just brings me back to braces and bubble gum.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. I don't want to grow up but I'm going to watch "NEW DAY" right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now our closest allies will not know whether the president is speaking from facts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking for solutions for paths forward.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why did the ban together to screw the United States on trade?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: These documents suggest that The Trump Organization has been intimately involved in the effort to keep Stormy Daniels quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're talking about a president engaged in the anger that is a) immoral, b) that's possibly illegal.

STEVE CORTES, LEADER, TRUMP HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL: Is any Trump voter surprised that he wasn't Mother Teresa?

KARA SWINDLE, DOG MISTAKENLY FLOWN TO JAPAN ON UNITED AIRLINES: I probably burst into tears just wondering where my dog was.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: This has happened on more than one occasion on United flights.

SOPHIA CEBALLOS, 11-YEAR-OLD WHOSE DOG DIED IN UNITED AIRLINES OVERHEAD BIN: He was a really special dog and this is sad the way he has to just leave.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.