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EARLY START

President Trump Fired HR McMaster and Replaces Him with John Bolton Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 23, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Of course the parent of CNN. A lot of folks watching that case.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: It's hugely impactful.

All right. EARLY START continues right now. John Bolton is in, HR McMaster is out. What does it mean for our national security?

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: An exclusive CNN interview with former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal. She says her affair with the president lasted nearly a year and at one point he offered paying 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 -- the name of a nature preserve.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't run for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Don't you believe that. He loves being president.

BRIGGS: I think so.

ROMANS: Yes. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is finally Friday. It's March 23rd, it's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Christine, the president said he'd run it like a business, but it's more like McDonald's at this point. He has a 48 percent turnover rate in 500 days among senior staff.

ROMANS: That stinks.

BRIGGS: That is unprecedented in modern political times.

In 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 a 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 adamantly denied stories about pending staff shakeups.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have (INAUDIBLE) Bolton, sir?

TRUMP: A very exaggerated and false story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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 back in 2006 and 2007.

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 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 even afterwards are now behind him.

ROMANS: Yes. Let's bring in Philip Wegmann, commentary writer for the "Washington Examiner."

I want to get your thoughts quickly on the John Bolton news. McMaster out, Bolton in, and Bolton saying he is going to reflect what the president wants. Is this a president who is now comfortable 14 months into it, surrounding himself by people he sees on television who he thinks are going to be able to be the architects of what he wants to do on North Korea, Iran and other things?

PHILIP WEGMANN, COMMENTARY WRITER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think the easy analysis is John Bolton got the job because John Bolton is on television a lot. And I think that there is some truth to that. But like you say this does reflect that about 14 months on the job President Trump is more comfortable. I think this is a significant shift not only in his foreign policy thinking, but also in his own psychology.

He is willing to make these spur of the moment decisions and even go against some of his most long held beliefs. Remember back in 2015, Trump became prominent when he shut down Jeb Bush over the Iraq war and now he is elevating Bolton, who's one of the architects of that war. So yes, it definitely does have something to do with the fact that Bolton is on FOX News a lot, but I think the larger truth here is that this is a shift to the way that the president is going to be doing business going forward.

BRIGGS: All right. So let's look at the past positions that are on your screen now, calling for a preemptive strike on North Korea. This wasn't years ago. This was February 28th, Phil, on the pages of "The Wall Street Journal." He is also, though, a Russia hawk. He is fiercely against Russian moves and has been very clear about that.

What does it mean overall, do you think, for our national security?

WEGMANN: Well, I think what it shows first of all is that, you know, Bolton is, you can say a lot about him, but you can't say that he's a patsy when it comes to the Kremlin. It's a very significant shift from where President Trump was earlier on.

[05:05:04] Bolton has straight up said that if the Russians have lied to our faces, that they're meddling in our election, was, you know, a cause of war. So expect, you know, the mustache to start haunting the dreams of Putin.

But as far as, you know, North Korea, Iran and Iraq, this is an old- school Bush guy who still believes in that Axis of Evil. And, you know, like you've said, he was advocating for a preemptive strike in North Korea not long ago, so if you are, you know, a dictator in Iran or in North Korea, this puts you on notice because now Trump has a guy who is as brash and as bold as he is.

BRIGGS: You mentioned the mustache. It's not insignificant. Many close to him said it was one of the reasons --

WEGMANN: Yes.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: -- he did not select John Bolton originally for this Cabinet.

ROMANS: Yes. Let's talk about this big spending bill. What's going on with this Republican Party that it has the White House, the two branches of Congress spending $1.3 trillion, starting to throw tariffs on China, and in general acting not like the fiscally conservative, globalist Republican Party that I know?

WEGMANN: Well, so this is what's fascinating about what's happening during the Trump era. You know, these news cycles are getting so short that we aren't able to look at the long picture. And not long ago, in fact for the last decade, the Republicans promised that they were going to do two things, that they were going to repeal Obamacare and that they would get serious about spending. And we saw last night that Republicans aren't serious about that.

The last significant bill that President Trump is going to sign before the midterms is a $1.3 trillion omnibus. So I think that voters, they have to be wondering as they go into the polls whether or not Republicans are going to live up to the promises that they've been making for more than a decade.

ROMANS: Donald Trump was elected -- on the campaign trail he said again and again in eight years he could get rid of the national debt.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: He is adding to the national debt.

BRIGGS: Massively. A process Bob Corker calls juvenile, ridiculous and equates to extortion. But I want to ask about the legal team changes.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: As dramatic as what we saw with national security, really, when you see John Dowd, a moderating influence, out and Joe DiGenova in, what does that mean for the direction of this president? Is he going to the mattresses legally speaking?

WEGMANN: I think that this could be a foreshadowing of something more significant, something that could define this presidency going on forever, and that is the idea that President Trump is going to get more aggressive with the special counsel and perhaps fire Robert Mueller. Now of course, you know, he has the constitutional authority to do that under Article II, but it would be political suicide because that would stir up the Democratic base.

And I don't think that he would be able to come back from that. Now if you are a Republican who wants to see the special counsel run its course without Dowd, there is one less person to stop President Trump from pulling the trigger.

ROMANS: All right. Phil Wegmann, commentary writer, "Washington Examiner," come back in a few minutes with this Friday edition of your expertise for us in Washington. Thank you, sir.

BRIGGS: That's right.

ROMANS: Now a CNN exclusive. Explosive claims from former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal about the affair she claims she had with Donald Trump. This alleged affair from 2006 to 2007 came to light shortly before the presidential election. McDougal tells CNN she traveled to meet Trump that he would reimburse her for her flights and she claims one time he offered her money for more than just her expenses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY MODEL, CLAIMS HAD AN AFFAIR WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: McDougal says her relationship with Trump was consensual and loving, and claims he sometimes compared her to -- hope you haven't eaten yet -- his own daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCDOUGAL: He's very 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. And there's been a lot of comparing. But there was some -- yes, I heard a lot about her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: McDougal got emotional when Anderson Cooper asked about First Lady Melania Trump. She said she was sorry. A spokesperson for the first lady did not respond to our request for comment. The White House has said the president denies the affair.

ROMANS: Just days ago McDougal filed a lawsuit against American Media, that's the publisher of the "National Enquirer." She sold her rights, the rights to her story to American Media. American Media is run by a close friend of the president. McDougal says now she thinks they bought her story to bury to protect the president.

[05:10:01] We should also note Stormy Daniels' "60 Minutes" interview airs this Sunday.

All right. China showing it's not afraid of a trade war. The country will 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 new tariffs yesterday on about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. The president blames, quote, "a tremendous intellectual property theft situation," and the U.S.-China trade deficit, and he signals there is more to come.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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ROMANS: And Wall Street believed him. The Dow plunged more than 700 points in response. The biggest losers all have significant exposure to China. Caterpillar, 3M, Boeing. The VIX, which measures volatility, soared. Futures down again right now and Asian markets plunged 3 percent to 4 percent before they closed. Europe opened lower as well.

And yet overnight a contradictory move by the president 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 six other countries while they discuss ways to reduce excess production capacity.

And the president has seen Wilbur Ross, Peter Navarro have been on the business television programs, business news networks, saying again and again the consumer prices in the U.S. will not rise. There will not be a trade war. The economy is very big and can handle it. This is fairness that we have been so abused -- used and abused by the Chinese that America has to do something.

BRIGGS: But also that those exemptions are subject to negotiation, right? They're not permanent.

ROMANS: Here's what's fascinating.

BRIGGS: We're trying to renegotiate with all of those allies.

ROMANS: Right. At a time when the TPP, remember, was meant for the United States and its closest allies to be a blunt against China.

BRIGGS: Yes. ROMANS: Now the U.S. is going it alone against China.

BRIGGS: Would have helped right about now.

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

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[05:16:33] ROMANS: Protests erupting in Sacramento, California, four days after police gunned down an unarmed black man in his grandmother's backyard. Demonstrators marching into Sacramento's city hall and later on to an interstate highway, demanding the arrest of the 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.

Again, he was in his grandmother's yard.

BRIGGS: Yes. Protesters also blocked the entrance at 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. Quite an image there. Some fans expressing outrage online. The Sacramento Kings' owner taking to the court with this compelling message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: All right. Crowds dispersing as the night wore on. Police made no arrests.

Students and celebrities already arriving in Washington ahead of Saturday's the 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 in the February 14th massacre in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

And check this out, five Stoneman Douglas students who spoke out after the massacre, on the cover of this week's "TIME" magazine. The caption, "Enough." Among today's events in Washington, a March for Our Lives prayer vigil at 7:00 p.m. Eastern at the National Cathedral.

You might think, Christine, one of the reasons they wanted to get out of town because of Congress.

ROMANS: Maybe. Maybe.

Students at Stoneman Douglas pushing back against this. A new rule requiring them to carry their belongings in clear plastic backpacks. This is among new security measures being ordered by the Broward County school superintendent. While students have been demanding security upgrades, the clear bags rule not sitting well with many of them. One tweeting, "Great. Those clear backpacks are going to fix everything. I appreciate the attempt, but I'd rather have commonsense gun laws."

I think it's so interesting that, you know, the person who came on to that campus did not go to that school anymore. He came on to that campus gunned up.

BRIGGS: Right. This --

ROMANS: It wasn't a student there going to class with something hidden in their backpack. I mean, they are trying to fix a problem that wasn't a problem.

BRIGGS: But they're tying to -- look, it's going to be tough for students. They're going to make some sacrifices to keep people safe.

All right. Ahead, even Sister Jean did not think her Loyola-Chicago team was this darn good. She is loving their dance moves. Even her bracket busted.

Coy Wire has the stunning entrance to the Elite Eight when we return with the "Bleacher Report."

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[05:23:56] BRIGGS: Well, if your March Madness bracket wasn't destroyed already, it is now. Loyola-Chicago and their 98-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean dancing off.

ROMANS: I guess the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Coy Wire, because she did not a go in this fire. What do you got for us?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, Christine and Dave. Sister Jean was taking a lot of heat from some people for her brackets. She picked her own Loyola-Chicago to lose in last night's Sweet 16 game. And I talked to her yesterday and she talked about her very special second bracket list. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SISTER JEAN DOLORES-SCHMIDT, LOYOLA-CHICAGO TEAM CHAPLAIN: I have Loyola in my second one, which I call them the -- a Cinderella dream bracket. And they're going to the top.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: The Cinderella dream bracket of the team's chaplain, and perhaps her prayers with the team before the game led to that moment. Marcus Townes from three. The dagger in the hearts of the Nevada Wolfpack so clutch. And like Sister Jean's Cinderella bracket afterwards, Marcus said that that's the type of shot you dream about.

We caught up with the 98-year-old star after the game. And we found out the players knew all about her original bracket that had them losing. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[05:25:07] DOLORES-SCHMIDT: Hastert said to me as he got off the court, we broke your bracket, Sister Jean. I said that's fine with me. Let's keep going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: in the match-up between Kentucky and Kansas State, you could bet the farm that wildcats were going to win but maybe (INAUDIBLE) would come out on top. The drive from Barry Brown put Kansas State up for good, laying the game. Kentucky would have one last chance to win, but that shot would fall short.

That sets up the dream Cinderella match-up between Loyola-Chicago and Kansas State. That's tomorrow in Atlanta.

How about Florida State? Taking on the runner-up in last year's tournament Gonzaga. The Seminoles (INAUDIBLE) imposing. They are weaving their way through their bracket after taking down one seed Xavier last weekend. They beat this team by 15 points. They now have a date with Michigan in the Elite Eight who also dominated beating Texas A&M by 27.

Now the madness continues tonight on CBS and our sister station TBS. The last two number one seeds left in the tournament starts the night off with top seeded Kansas takes on Clemson, and number one ranked Villanova faces West Virginia.

You have that all ATC match-up with Duke taking Syracuse and Texas Tech taking on Perdue. We'll see who survives to dance yet another day. Good thing for us, Sister Jean still has her glass slippers on.

BRIGGS: And a good omen, that Christine Romans wore Duke Devil Blue on a Friday ahead of the 'Cuse game. Let's go, Devils.

ROMANS: There you go. There you go.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Coy.

ROMANS: All right. Heads spinning in Washington. A new National Security adviser, a new trade war with China, a "Playmate" discusses an alleged affair with Donald Trump and a senator threatens to derail government spending over the name of a nature preserve. Stay with us.

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