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EARLY START

Six Now Confirmed Dead In Bridge Collapse; Trump Ready To Replace H.R. McMaster As National Security Adviser; Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization Documents; Is Russia A Friend Or Foe? Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired March 16, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:32:05] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking moments ago, six people now dead after a bridge collapse in Miami. We are live with the latest.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And the president shopping for a new national security adviser to replace H.R. McMaster when he finds one.

PETER ALEXANDER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Is Putin a friend or a foe of the United States?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that's something that Russia's going to have to make that determination.

KOSIK: The White House stays soft on Russia despite finally leveling new sanctions. And overnight, Russia punches back against those new measures.

Good morning and welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 32 minutes after the hour.

Let's start with this breaking news.

KOSIK: In just the last few minutes an increase in the death toll from the collapse of a pedestrian bridge in Miami.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALVARO ZABALETA, OFFICER, MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Now this has turned into -- from a rescue to a recovery operation. What we can confirm is at this point at least we can confirm six fatalities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Police now saying at least six people died when the huge pedestrian bridge crashed onto a busy intersection near the campus of Florida International University.

BRIGGS: The 15-member Go Team from the National Transportation Safety Board trying to determine what went wrong.

Senator Marco Rubio tweeting overnight the cables on the bridge had loosened and were being tightened when the collapse occurred.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live for us from the scene in Miami. Good morning to you, Rosa. What's the latest?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

As you mentioned, overnight this has gone from a search and rescue operation to a search and recovery operation, which means that the painstaking task of removing the 950 tons of concrete of this bridge begins for these rescuers.

Now, here's what we know from authorities. This bridge was installed on Saturday. It collapsed yesterday at about 1:30 in the afternoon.

When rescuers arrived eight vehicles were pinned underneath this bridge. Now we know that the number of dead has been upped from four to six. Nine others were transported to the hospital.

And what rescuers have been doing is first, trying to rescue all of the people that they could that were pinned underneath this bridge. At this hour they are using heavy equipment to remove the tons and tons of concrete to try to get to -- to try to recover some of the potential bodies that could be underneath.

But here is the other complication that authorities explained to us this morning. They say that this is going to be a very difficult investigation that involves local, state, and federal officials. We have the FBI, the NTSB, OSHA, and of course, the homicide investigation.

So what they're explaining to us is that as they recover some of this evidence they have to take into consideration that all of these investigations will be happening at the same time.

[05:35:00] Now the cruel irony here is that this bridge was constructed for the safety of the students at FIU because a student died last year trying to cross this multi-lane highway and so that is what they're having to deal with now. And then the other painstaking idea here is that this bridge was supposed to withstand a category five hurricane -- Alison, Dave.

BRIGGS: And last for a century. So many questions ahead.

Rosa will have the latest throughout "NEW DAY." Thanks for that report.

Meanwhile, after weeks of speculation, President Trump ready to replace his national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Two sources telling CNN the president has not made a final decision on who will replace McMaster.

The timing's unclear but we're told the president wants it done before direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea. One source says any delay stems from McMaster trying to finalize his next steps.

KOSIK: Trump has privately expressed irritation with McMaster's personality and style. Late last night the White House pushed back against reports of the change.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeting this. Contrary to reports, the president and McMaster "have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the National Security Council."

Now for his part, Trump, yesterday, calling reports of impending staff changes exaggerated and very false.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've gotten to know a lot of people over the last year and I've been in Washington for a little bit more than a year, where some people have been here for 30- 40 years. I've gotten to know great people.

So they'll always be change, but very little. It was a very false story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The president has signaled he is prepared to get rid of his aides he's clashed with. Sources say after a year in office Mr. Trump has become more self-assured and is starting to trust his gut more.

KOSIK: In the latest sign the Russia investigation is picking up steam a source tells us special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed The Trump Organization for business documents. "The New York Times" reporting the subpoena includes records related to Russia.

This marks the first known instance of Mueller demanding documents connected to President Trump's businesses.

BRIGGS: We should note The Trump Organization has already turned over a wide range of documents voluntarily. Our source says the subpoena meant to quote "clean up and ensure all related records are handed over."

The president has said any investigation of his or his family's personal finances though would cross a red line.

Our Jeff Zeleny asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders about just that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Does the president still believe -- does he draw a distinction, do you know, between a red line on family finances separately from family finances or business finances relating to Russia as it pertains to this case?

SANDERS: The president believes very strongly there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. We're going to continue to cooperate with the special counsel, and for questions specific to The Trump Organization I would refer you to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: And an attorney for The Trump Organization said in a statement that the latest reports are quote "old news."

KOSIK: Reports of Mueller's subpoena came after the Trump administration announced it's finally imposing new sanctions on Russia, including against people the special counsel indicted last month. The administration, six weeks late, meeting this mandate to impose punishments on Moscow for its 2016 election meddling.

The White House also lodging a new accusation against the Kremlin that Russian intelligence tried to hack the U.S. energy grid.

In total, the new sanctions apply to 19 individuals along with five companies and government agencies.

BRIGGS: Among them, the Internet Research Agency. That's the Russian troll farm that cranked out divisive political posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Two Russian intelligence agencies and some employees are also on that list.

After the administration announced the sanctions, press secretary Sarah Sanders still would not say whether the Kremlin is an ally or an adversary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER: In simple terms, is Putin a friend or a foe of the United States?

SANDERS: I think that's something that Russia's going to have to make that determination. They're going to have to decide whether or not they want to be a good actor or a bad actor.

I think you can see from the actions that we've taken up until this point we're going to be tough on Russia until they decide to change their behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Moscow.

Any indication, Fred, that they're going to change their behavior?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't think that there's any indication whatsoever the Russians are going to change because they believe that it's the U.S. that needs to work on improving U.S.-Russia relations. They say everything that's happened since the election in 2016 was initiated by the U.S., and they say they regret all of this.

Now it's interesting to hear that question to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. If you asked that same question to the Russian press person for the Kremlin he would probably answer it pretty much the same way.

The Russians, I think at this point of time, would consider the U.S. to be an adversary but not President Trump to be an adversary. The often criticize the U.S. They do, however, Dave, usually take President Trump out of that criticism.

[05:40:10] If you look at these new measures that were taken by the Treasury, the Russians don't seem to believe that they're biting very much. They say they're calm in the face of these new sanctions.

Now, they also say that they're going to hit back. The Russians are saying they're going to expand what they call their blacklist of Americans. It's unclear how they're going to do that -- how many more Americans they might sanction.

And then, at the same time, it seems as though they're kind of laughing off these new sanctions.

The main guy on that sanctions list, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was in charge of that Internet Research Agency -- that troll farm -- he says he could not care less about the sanctions. He says the only thing he's going to do is stop eating at McDonald's, so it certainly looks like a lot of Russian burger places are in for some more business, Dave.

BRIGGS: Good advice for the president too, with that diet the doc told him to go on.

Fred Pleitgen, great reporting. Thank you --

PLEITGEN:

BRIGGS: -- my friend. All right.

The White House can't decide whether Russia is friend or foe. Why can't this president condemn the Kremlin? More on that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:45:47] KOSIK: Sources say the president is ready to trust his gut more after a year in office and now he's prepared to replace his national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

Joining us again, "Washington Examiner" commentary writer Siraj Hashmi. Good morning, again.

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Good morning. Thank you for having me.

KOSIK: So -- good, thank you.

So let's talk about this next replacement of H.R. McMaster.

It's interesting because it's sort of a known thing that Trump and McMaster have clashed on foreign policy issues. But then we know that Trump, last week, said hey, I like conflict. I like different points of view.

So why would Trump be showing the door to somebody who has differing points of view or does he just not like people who differ with him? He likes to watch people kind of disagree with each other.

HASHMI: Well, first of all, we just have to make the distinction that the White House hasn't fully confirmed that the reporting that "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" have been showing --

BRIGGS: Right.

HASHMI: -- is actually accurate that H.R. McMaster is on his way out.

It's kind of the long goodbye that H.R. McMaster was going to be on his way out, it's just a matter of when.

So, right now, we're seeing that McMaster, who has tried to undermine Tillerson. President Trump didn't like that. John Kelly, especially, didn't like that.

And it seems as if that the personality conflict that McMaster and Trump have had has played more of a role in how they can kind of come together and influence matters on policy with respect to national security.

I would be interested to see if McMaster is replaced by the NSC chief of staff Keith Kellogg or former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. And that would really present a contrast in where President Trump wants to go, whether it be a more hawkish or dovish approach to national security.

BRIGGS: Yes, the T.V. cabinet is starting to emerge, right?

Larry Kudlow in for Gary Cohn. He likes John Bolton on T.V. He could be in. And then we hear even a "FOX & FRIENDS" weekend host could in for the V.A.

But let's move on to that notion that he's trusting his gut more and he's more confident now. Lend it to Seth Meyers to put that in its proper perspective late last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SETH MEYERS, HOST, NBC "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Clearly, Trump's aggressive reshuffling of his team comes from a newfound confidence in his ability to do the job and make choices without the constraints placed on him by advisers.

Amid rumors of even more staff departures coming soon, one former White House official told "Vanity Fair," "The president is finally he is the president. He's just making these decisions on his own."

And that is terrifying. That's like in "JURASSIC PARK" when the velociraptors figure out how to open doors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: It is a good visual if you've seen "JURASSIC PARK." Once those raptors can open the doors all bets are off, Siraj.

KOSIK: All hell breaks loose.

HASHMI: And it's terrifying.

BRIGGS: You would think though that this is good news that a president is getting confident, finding his stride, trusting his gut. Is it?

HASHMI: Well, yes. I mean, there's obviously something to say about President Trump being confident with respect to his decision-making. Some of his detractors might say that's a result of the Dunning-Kruger effect where he -- his critics say that he doesn't have as much intelligence but he's exceeding in confidence.

I think with respect to President Trump's confidence it's a good sign that he is showing it but again, we have to make sure that his decision-making is sound.

I mean, what we've seen with this aluminum and steel tariffs -- you know, most conservatives and Republicans don't agree with that considering it's economic protectionism. It, you know, basically trashes the free market and it's something his base might be in support of and also far -- you know, far-left liberals are in support of.

So it's one of those things where he's being himself but he's not really being the Republican president I think a lot of his supporters voted for.

KOSIK: OK, before we go I want you to take out your crystal ball of sorts as Robert Mueller issues subpoenas for Trump businesses.

Where do you think this investigation is as far as the time line goes? It's interesting because many are saying issuing these subpoenas shows that the investigation is ramping up and that Mueller could come out with his findings right around the midterm elections.

HASHMI: Well, the -- I mean, I don't think with respect to the midterm elections that anything that Robert Mueller does is going to impact anyone's vote. I think with respect to the 2020 election we could say -- we can make that argument.

[05:50:07] But with 2018, it's all about two issues, gun control and Trump's performance in the White House.

For a lot of Democrats, they are focused on basically getting any Republican that's up for reelection out of their seat, specifically in the Senate, and presenting as much of a challenge to President Trump from 2018 onwards.

Now, if we want to talk about Trump's chances of winning reelection, right now he's looking like a sure bet of winning against any -- really, against any generic Democratic candidate. I can't say the same will actually happen.

BRIGGS: I think right now it wouldn't be a stunner to say he's definitely the favorite. How's your bracket, man? Doing all right in the NCAA Tournament?

HASHMI: I did pick Arizona but I didn't pick them to go the Final Four, so I'm sorry, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right, buddy. Good luck in day two.

KOSIK: Thanks so much.

BRIGGS: Siraj Hashmi from the "Washington Examiner."

HASHMI: Thanks so much.

BRIGGS: Ahead, a German Shepherd accidentally shipped to Japan instead of Kansas. That shepherd back with its owner this morning. More from Irgo, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:55:37] BRIGGS: Five fifty-five eastern time.

A Defense official says there are likely fatalities in the crash of a U.S. military helicopter in Iraq. Officials say it happened right near the Syrian border. The Pave Hawk helicopter, a variation of a Black Hawk, was carrying seven crew members. It was not on a combat mission.

Defense officials say early reports do not indicate hostile fire and the cause is under investigation.

KOSIK: Some students who walked out of class this week to demand tougher gun control laws are finding out free speech comes with a price.

South Carolina's largest school district issuing reprimands to over 500 students for cutting class. More than 200 others in Allentown, Pennsylvania slapped with Saturday detentions. In Cobb County, Georgia, students who walked out face 5-day suspensions.

BRIGGS: At Park Hill High School in Kansas City, the kids can either attend a half-hour detention after school next week or face a disciplinary meeting after spring break. And at Lindenhurst High in New York, students were given three days of after-school detention. That punishment rescinded after a last-minute request from the governor.

The ACLU says as long as the consequences don't exceed what would be typical for an infraction like cutting class, schools can discipline the students.

KOSIK: A happy ending here. Eleven thousand miles, two dogs later, a dog mistakenly flown to Japan is reunited with his family in Kansas. The Swindle family now back with their beloved dog Irgo in Wichita after United Airlines mistakenly sent the 10-year-old German Shepherd to Japan.

Irgo arriving in Wichita Thursday on a private charter -- nice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARA SWINDLE, DOG MISTAKENLY FLOWN TO JAPAN ON UNITED AIRLINES: It was actually amazing to finally have him back. It's been a long four days. He actually jumped up and was just crying. He's -- when he's super excited he cries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Oh.

BRIGGS: Love that dog.

The Swindles had placed Irgo on a cargo flight as they moved from Oregon to Kansas. When they went to pick him up the Swindles were given a Great Dane instead. The Great Dane now on his way back to Japan.

United has apologized. Both will be on "NEW DAY" this morning.

KOSIK: I can't wait to see that.

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

Global stocks turning higher after slipping overnight. The S&P 500 fell yesterday over all the chaos going on in the Trump administration. It dropped on reports special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed The Trump Organization.

But investors were already nervous about a trade war, especially with China. President Trump wants to impose new stiff tariffs on China. Now, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging him to reconsider, warning that it will hurt American consumers and predicts a trade war could wipe out a third of the savings families will actually get from tax reform.

Walmart's digital business is booming but a new lawsuit claims Walmart fudged its sales data in a race to catch of up with Amazon. The suit alleging the company cut corners to boost results, including mislabeling products, charging excessive commissions, and not processing returns properly.

The suit was filed by a former exec who claims they fired him for complaining about it, but Walmart dismisses those allegations saying they were made by a disgruntled former employee.

If those allegations are true it shows really, the rush against Amazon which seems to be just taking over the world.

BRIGGS: Every industry, indeed.

KOSIK: Thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

"NEW DAY" starts right now. They have Irgo, plus the latest on the Miami bridge collapse -- six fatalities.

We'll see you next week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The president has made the decision to remove H.R. McMaster.

TRUMP: They'll always be change. I want to see different ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone who bragged about I hire only the best people can't seem to keep people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm looking forward to the president having the cabinet that he deserves.

ZELENY: The special counsel is looking now into Trump businesses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's investigation 101 to follow the money.

SANDERS: The president believes very strongly there was no collusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no individual in the United States who is above the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded like a bomb. I looked closely and cars are just squished.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: We all want to do our best to try to find out exactly what happened here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, March 16th, 6:00 here in New York.

Here's our "Starting Line."

Sources tell CNN that the turmoil inside the Trump administration is nothing short of total disarray.