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President Trump Fired HR McMaster to be replaced by John Bolton; Senate Passes $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill; 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 23, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump now has his third National Security adviser in fewer than 500 days. The latest shakeup brings in John Bolton at a critical time ahead of talks with North Korea.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If Melania Trump was watching this, what would you want her to know?


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: An exclusive CNN interview with former Playboy model Karen McDougal. She says her affair with the president lasted nearly a year and he offered to pay her for it.

BRIGGS: And breaking the Senate votes overnight to fund the government through September, one senator threatened to stop it all over his biggest concern -- a name of nature preserve.

ROMANS: And a trade war has commenced. China saying overnight it will respond to the new Trump tariffs. The move sent the Dow and the Asian markets plummeting in the latest headache for President Trump.


CHARLIE KIRK, FOUNDER, TURNING POINT USA: What advice would you give to the 25-year-old Donald Trump knowing what you know today?



ROMANS: And that millennial forum. Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Friday, March 23rd. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

We just got four stories here, Christine, we haven't even mentioned the exchange of physical threats between the vice president -- the former vice president and President Trump.

ROMANS: That was yesterday. BRIGGS: Happy Friday, everybody. That was yesterday. It's going to

be a wild Friday.

A move as predictable as it was haphazardly rolled out, National Security adviser HR McMaster is out, John Bolton is in. The former U.N. ambassador will be the new National Security adviser effective April 9th. For the second time in as many weeks the president announced a major personnel change on Twitter. And it comes just one week after he denied stories about his pending staff shakeups.


TRUMP: So there'll always be change, but very -- it was a very false story. It was very -- a very exaggerated --


TRUMP: A very exaggerated and false story.


ROMANS: White House officials tell us the president's sudden announcement was unexpected. One official saying the president was eager to get ahead of other news. Perhaps that news includes Karen McDougal's exclusive CNN interview last night about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump.

As for Bolton, the president once again turning to a supporter from FOX News. Someone more likely to share his views than to challenge them.

BRIGGS: Bolton was on FOX less than an hour after the announcement, going to president's stance on a matter of frustration to him -- White House leaks.


JOHN BOLTON, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's completely unacceptable. You cannot conduct diplomacy. You cannot expect other foreign leaders to be candid and open in their conversations with the president if some munchkin in the executive branch decides they're going to leak the talking points or the transcript or any -- or any other aspect of it.


BRIGGS: Wait, there's munchkins in the White House?

ROMANS: Apparently.

BRIGGS: Bolton says he looks forward to addressing complex challenges and that any past comments at odds with the president including fiercely supporting the Iraq war still today are behind him.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more from the White House. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and

Dave, President Trump starting a Friday morning with another staff shakeup. Last evening, the president naming a new National Security adviser, John Bolton. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Bush administration, now a FOX News contributor, he'll be coming in as National Security adviser, of course replacing General HR McMaster, a 34-year military veteran who was brought in a year ago to right the ship after the firing of the first National Security adviser, Michael Flynn.

This has been in the works, but it came much quicker than people thought it would. In fact officials here at the White House last week, the White House press secretary stood and said there would be no change in the National Security adviser role.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Has the president spoken directly to either McMaster, Carson, Shulkin, to tell them that their jobs are in fact safe?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I spoke directly to the president last night. He asked me to pass that message along to General McMaster.


ZELENY: The question here now is what does it mean for foreign policy? General McMaster was leading the charge in setting up those negotiating talks between the U.S. and South Korea, of course, over the North Korea nuclear program. So having someone who has a much harder line view will certainly change the shape of the talks and could indeed interrupt them.

We'll have to see how that goes. But no question we're seeing a pattern here as the president certainly reshapes his foreign policy teams, his economic teams and others. We'll see what that brings for today when the president meets with his Defense Secretary James Mattis.

This is a key development. Secretary Mattis of course now essentially standing alone after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson out of the picture. General McMaster out of the picture. So that relationship is so critical with all the challenges on the foreign policy front -- Christine and Dave.

[04:05:10] ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

Now a CNN exclusive. Explosive claims from former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.


KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY MODEL, CLAIMS HAD AN AFFAIR WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP: We saw each other at minimum five times a month, up to bigger numbers per month. So we -- ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Over the course of how long?

MCDOUGAL: Over the course of 2006 through -- I think I ended the relationship April of 2007. So we were together 10 months before I chose to end it. So we saw each quite other frequently.


ROMANS: McDougal's alleged affair came to light shortly before the 2016 election. She tells CNN she traveled to meet Trump and he would reimburse her for the flights. And she claims one time he offered her money for more than just her expenses.


MCDOUGAL: After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me. And I actually did not take that.

COOPER: Did he actually try to hand you money?

MCDOUGAL: He did. He did and I said -- I mean, I just had this look of -- I don't know. Just -- I don't even know how to describe it, the look on my face must have been so sad because I have never been offered money like that before, number one. But number two, I thought, does he think that I'm in this for money or why I'm here tonight or is this a normal thing? I didn't know but I looked at him and I said, that's not me. I'm not that kind of girl. And he said oh, and he said, you're really special. And I was, like, thank you.


BRIGGS: McDougal says her relationship with Trump lasted from 2006 to 2007. She describes it as consensual and loving, and claims -- we hope you haven't eaten yet -- he sometimes compared her to his own daughter.


MCDOUGAL: He's proud of Ivanka, as he should be. I mean, she is a brilliant woman, she's beautiful. She's -- that's his daughter and he should be proud of her. He said, I was beautiful like her and, you know, you're a smart girl. There's been a lot of comparing. But there was -- yes, I heard a lot about her.


BRIGGS: Anderson Cooper asked McDougal about First Lady Melania Trump. That's when the former "Playboy" model got emotional.


COOPER: If Melania Trump is watching this, what would you want her to know?

MCDOUGAL: That's a tough one.

COOPER: Or say to her?

MCDOUGAL: Yes. What can you say except I'm sorry? I'm sorry. I wouldn't want it done to me. I'm sorry.


ROMANS: A spokeswoman for the first lady did not respond to our request for a comment. The White House has said the president denies the affair. No further comments tonight from the president on Twitter or otherwise.

Just days ago McDougal filed a lawsuit against American Media ,the publisher of the "National Enquirer." She sold the rights to her story to them. But now says they bought it to bury it in order to protect the president.

We should note Stormy Daniels' "60 Minutes" interview with Anderson Cooper airs this Sunday.

BRIGGS: So look out for the president's Twitter feed Sunday night.

Breaking overnight. The U.S. Senate passing a $1.3 trillion spending plan keeping the government funded through the end of September. Before the early morning 65-32 vote, Republican Senator Bob Corker expressed frustration with the process that forced yet another late- night vote on Capitol Hill.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I mean, this is ridiculous. It's juvenile. This is a juvenile process that we go through every time we do one of these. I would respectfully ask our leader who's been dealing with a lot today, and I'm glad that he has the job that he has and I don't, but could you explain to us what has occurred over the last -- 11 hours that keeps us here voting on a bill that we all know is going to pass regardless of how we vote on it.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I would say to my good friend from Tennessee, by the way, I'm very sorry. He's decided to leave the Senate given how much he's obviously enjoyed it today.


MCCONNELL: I'm going to say after a long and intense day of such discussions with several of our members who had legitimate concerns, I'm relieved rather than depressed that we might be able to actually finish tonight.


BRIGGS: One of those members McConnell referred to is a Republican senator who threatened to shut down the government over the renaming of a nature preserve. Believe it or not.

For more we turn to Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine,

about 28 hours after lawmakers unveiled the more than 2300-page spending bill, $1.3 trillion, major increases for both defense spending and non-defense domestic spending, it was passed and cleared and sent to the president's desk.

A major accomplishment for lawmakers who've really been careening from budget crisis to budget crisis for what seems like years.

[04:10:03] Now the government is funded through September. But not without a little bit of drama first and what that drama be? Well, Senator Rand Paul like he did in February had some objections, didn't like the process, clearly didn't like the policy, but he ended up coming in line before Senator Jim Risch, the Idaho senator, the junior senator from the state. His problem? The name of a nature preserve. In fact, a name that was from one of his former adversaries when he was the state's Senate majority leader, the governor of Idaho at the time.

Senator Risch was so upset about his one-time rival getting the preserve named after him that he almost short circuited the entire process. Now he wasn't going to stop the bill, but he certainly was willing to string it out a lot longer, potentially until Saturday morning after the government shutdown deadline. Eventually he acquiesced.

It was one of those moments where you sit there looking at the Senate floor, the senators, the chamber itself, and wonder, what on earth is actually happening right now? Turns out political rivalries, guys, they are very real. The bottom line is, the spending bill, $1.3 trillion, is now clear for the president's signature. Doesn't have the $25 billion that President Trump wanted in wall funding. It does have $1.6 billion in border security that will lead to more fencing along the border. So that's somewhat of a win for him.

But when you talk to lawmakers on both sides, they say two things. One, everyone agrees this wasn't a pretty process. No one is exactly happy with how it ended. But they also agree that this was a compromise and one that was needed to try and clean up a process that for months if not years has been severely problematic -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Phil, just starts to get more and more interesting, doesn't it?

And now this. China showing it is not afraid of a trade war. The country could slap $3 billion in tariffs on U.S. imports. It's planning a 25 percent tax on American pork and recycled aluminum. Also a 15 percent tax on fruit, nuts, wine, steel pipes and 120 other products from the U.S. The tariffs won't take effect until at least next month after the public weighs in.

China says the move is a direct response to President Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and it comes hours after yesterday's tariffs on about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. The president blames, quote, "a tremendous intellectual property theft situation," and the U.S. trade deficit and signals there is more to come.


TRUMP: It is the first of many. This is number one but this is the first of many.


ROMANS: And so the Dow plunged more than 700 points in response to that. The biggest losers all have significant exposure to China. Caterpillar, 3M, Boeing. The VIX, that's how we measure volatility, soared. Futures are down again today. Asian markets are plunging 3 percent to 4 percent. Those are big moves for one day, folks.

Yet overnight a contradictory move by President Trump showing that he is willing to dodge a trade war with some allies. Trump is suspending steel and aluminum tariffs on imports from the EU and these other countries here on your screen while they discuss ways to reduce excess production capacity.

BRIGGS: Interesting with the exemptions, right? Peter Navarro said initially there would be no exemptions.

ROMANS: There would be no exemptions.

BRIGGS: That was too slippery a slope.

ROMANS: And now there are exemptions for some and it looks as though we're really zeroing in on China here.

BRIGGS: OK. Stay tuned.

Tensions rise after police shoot and kill an unarmed black man in Sacramento. Protesters block thousands from getting into an NBA game. Next, hear the powerful message on the court from the Kings' owner.


[04:17:39] BRIGGS: 4:17 Eastern Time. Protests erupting in Sacramento, California, four days after police gunned down an unarmed black man in his grandmother's backyard. Demonstrators marching into Sacramento city hall and later on to an interstate highway, demanding the arrest of officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark. Police said the officers believed Clark had a gun but investigators say they did not find a weapon, only a cell phone.

ROMANS: Again a cell phone in his grandmother's yard. Protesters also blocked the entrance at the Golden One Center where the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks were about to play. Most ticket holders were not able to get inside. The game was played in front of a largely empty arena. Some fans expressed outrage online. Sacramento Kings owner took to the court with this message.


VIVEK RANADIVE, OWNER, SACRAMENTO KINGS: We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform. It's a privilege, but it's also a responsibility. It's a responsibility that we take very seriously. We recognize that it's not just business as usual and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place starting with our own community.


ROMANS: Crowds dispersing as the night wore on. Police made no arrests.

BRIGGS: The 16-year-old girl shot by an armed student at a Maryland high school this week will be taken off life support. The mother of Jaelynn Willey making the announcement Thursday night. Jaelynn was one of two students shot by 17-year-old Austin Rawlingss on Tuesday in a hallway just before classes began at Great Mills High School. Police say Rawlings had a prior relationship with Jaelynn that just recently ended. The other victim, a 14-year-old male student, was shot in a leg and discharged from the hospital. The next day Rawlings was shot and killed by a school resource officer.

ROMANS: Our thoughts go out to her family.


ROMANS: Students and celebrities already arriving in Washington ahead of Saturday's March for Our Lives. Up to half a million protesters are expected at the anti-gun violence rally in downtown D.C. The event planned by survivors of the February 14th massacre in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

Tonight at 7:00 Eastern a March for Our Lives prayer vigil will be held at the National Cathedral.

BRIGGS: George and Amal Clooney will be among the celebs there.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland are pushing back against the new rule requiring them to carry their belongings in clear backpacks.

"It's among the new security measures being ordered by the Broward County school superintendent while Stoneman Douglas students have been demanding by the security upgrades. The clear bags rule not sitting well with many students. One tweeting, "great. Because clear backpacks are going to fix everything. I appreciate the attempt. But I'd rather have comments since gun laws, than a clear backpack."

Yes, hard to imagine that going over well in terms of the invasion of pure privacy.


BRIGGS: Are you willing to give that away to protect students. It's a tough decision.

Ahead, Sister Jean. She was wrong. Loyola-Chicago is moving on. That and more upsets on a wildly unpredictable March Madness. Don't miss that next.

ROMANS: The Lord works in mysterious ways.


[04:25:18] BRIGGS: Boy, did you miss some great basketball if you went to bed early. From sweet to elite, Loyola-Chicago continues its remarkable Cinderella run at the NCAA tournament with a thrilling 69- 68 win over Nevada. Marques Townes hitting a clutch three-pointer with six seconds left sending the Ramblers on to the Elite 8. They have three tournament wins now by a total of four points.

And that's not enough. Their 98-year-old super fan Sister Jean probably never so happy to be wrong. She had Loyola-Chicago losing in her bracket in the Sweet 16. Other upsets as well, though, Kansas State punching its ticket to the Elite 8 with a 61-58 win over blue blood Kentucky.

K State and Loyola-Chicago will meet on Saturday. Who on earth had that in their bracket? The winner goes for the final four. Let me say that again, Kansas State or Loyola goes to the Final Four. In the West region, Florida State beat up on Gonzaga 75-60. That was a shocker. FSU will face Michigan tomorrow. Wolverines routing Texas a &M 99-72. The most improbable NCAA Tournament in my 41 years. You can believe. You never know what's going to happen next my friend.

ROMANS: My husband went to Loyola. So my children have been decked out in Ramblers gear for the past --

BRIGGS: Good for them. Let's send them on to the Final Four.

ROMANS: That's right.

All right, even by current standards there's a lot going on. A new National Security adviser, a new trade war with China, a playmate discusses her alleged affair with Donald Trump. And a senator threatened to derail government funding over the name of the nature preserve. All that and more. Don't go away.