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Russian Diplomats Expelled. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2018 - 05:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, HOST: ...fantastic film.

ROMANS: I know, I'm going to take the kids.

BRIGGS: You must see it in the theater to get the -- the sound.


BRIGGS: All right, Early Start continues right now. The U.S. moves against Russia, expelling diplomats.

ROMANS: How will Vladimir Putin respond after a global, coordinated effort to oust Russian diplomats, including 60 booted from the U.S.?

BRIGGS: Democrats suddenly have a new concern about 2020. The U.S. Census will ask about citizenship status. The change could have a big impact on federal funding and Congressional lines.

ROMANS: And international intrigue building in Beijing. A train shrouded in secrecy under heavy security, motorcades in the street overnight. A possible answer is Kim Jong-un in China.

Good morning and welcome to Early Start, I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Tuesday, March 27th, it is 5:00 AM in the East, noon in Moscow, 5:00 PM in Beijing. We'll go live to both shortly. And we start, though, with this big move from the U.S.

60 Russian diplomats have 1 week to pack up and leave the United States, President Trump ordering the expulsions as part of a coordinated effort with European and other allies, the move a response to the poisoning in the U.K. of a Russian double agent and his daughter. More than a hundred Russian diplomats expelled worldwide. Senior officials say all those the U.S. is expelling have been identified as intelligence agents.

ROMANS: The president also ordering the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle, which happens to be near a U.S. submarine base. This is the president's most forceful action against Russia so far, although not related to election meddling. And the announcement came from the press secretary, not the president himself.

Whether sanctions against Russian President, Vladimir Putin, could be next, the White House would only say this.


RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: The United States has issued sanctions on key Russian oligarchs in response to the -- to the meddling in the 2016 election.

QUESTION: What about Putin himself (ph)?

SHAH: So I wouldn't close any doors, or I wouldn't preclude any potential action. But the president doesn't telegraph his moves.


BRIGGS: We should note only one person even arguably considered an oligarch has actually been sanctioned by the United States. Still, this is the biggest group expulsion of an alleged Russian intelligence officers ever. Also note, were the hearing incoming (ph) National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and Secretary of State nominee, Mike Pompeo, have both called for tougher sanctions against Russia.

ROMANS: Now Russia is responding to the expulsions, sort of, by trolling the White House. The Russian embassy in Washington sending out a tweet asking followers which U.S. Consulate they would like to see shuttered. It's a multiple choice with three options included.

For more on what the Russians might have in store, we go live to Moscow. Bring in CNN's Phil Black. And in situations like this, I think we can expect the Russians will expel American diplomats. I mean, 60 is a big number from the U.S.

PHIL BLACK, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, it is, certainly. And yes, they will retaliate. Yes there will be expulsions. You can be absolutely certain of that. Russian officials are drawing up the options, Christine, and we're told that President Putin will ultimately decide how to proceed.

The only indication we've been given so far, by President Putin's spokesman, is that the response will be reciprocal. So "tit for tat," one for one, is what that normally means, and that was how Russia responded when Britain was the first country to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the Salisbury nerve agent incident. Russia then responded by evicting 23 British diplomats.

But, Russia doesn't always play it that way, and sometimes goes for what it calls "an asymmetrical response." We saw an example of that after 35 Russian diplomats were expelled by the United States at the end of 2016 by the Obama administration over alleged election meddling. Russia responded eventually by saying that the United States must cut down its total diplomatic staffing here by 755 people. So, a long way from one for one. We'll be looking to see just how robust that Russian response will be.


ROMANS: All right, Phil Black for us in Moscow. Thank you. Keep us up to speed when we get a response.

BRIGGS: All right, joining us this morning, CNN Politics Multiplatform Editor Brenna Williams, live in D.C. this morning.

ROMANS: Hi, Brenna.

BRIGGS: Good to see you, my friend.


BRIGGS: It's going well. Let's talk about this new, strong response on (ph) the United States. Certainly stronger than the Obama administration in punishing Russia. Stronger than the U.K.; more than twice as many diplomats expelled here. Does this represent a new direction in terms of how the Trump administration responds to Russia?

WILLIAMS: It certainly seems so. I mean, you -- you would remember that this comes kind of on the heels of that really noteworthy call that Trump had with Putin the other week. The "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" call. So this is coming on the heels of some pretty bad PR in terms of relations with Russia, and Putin in particular.

So now it looks the Trump administration, as we've said, is really taking some strong action towards Russia. Those sanctions -- not super strong on oligarchs, but this might seem to be kind of the first step and, as you've said, we're -- we're partnering with our international allies. And this is a really big step forward.

ROMANS: I think that's what's really important here is because this is an international allies coming together in defense of the United Kingdom, arguably our strongest ally. This isn't about election meddling. This is specifically about the U.K.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. I think it's also interesting and important that all of these people who are being expelled were identified as intelligence officers. It is not too crazy if, in fact, you know, Russia was behind this attack in the U.K. It's not crazy to think this could happen in the United States.

And I think the final number in the U.K. they said over 100 people could have been -- 100 British citizens could have been affected by this attack. And it's not crazy to think that could happen here. So I think that this is a step in the Trump administration's mind of protecting the U.S. citizens as partnering with allies overseas.

BRIGGS: We equally await Russia's response. We already have the Democrats response to a move by the Department of Justice to include a citizenship question though in the 2020 census. Eric Holder tweeting this overnight that this is purely political.

The Trump administration is trying to rig the 2020 census by intimidating people. He goes on to say we will sue. There seems to be good reason for including that question for at least knowing how many illegal's are here in the United States. ROMANS: People would argue with me (ph) about that though, because

the point of the census is to count who lives in America. Not the status.


BRIGGS: You don't think -- isn't there a compelling desire in the united states to know how many people are here illegally? Regardless, this is being seen as purely political as Eric Holder said. Where is it headed?

WILLIAMS: Well I did a little reading of the constitution this morning. And it -- as it turns out, populate districts in congress are determined by population of both citizens and non citizens. If large numbers of people are not participating in the census then could affect redistricting in the future and people could go unrepresented. As a D.C. resident, I know a thing or two about lack of representation. Not great, not good. So it's really important, then census --

ROMANS: It's also about funding too, right? So you could talk about schools would get less money.


ROMANS: Police department, I think people who rely on knowing how many people are in your district.

BRIGGS: But this is about congressional maps, right?

ROMANS: That too.

WILLIAMS: It could be. But I think the one thing that's interesting is this question was part of the census for a really long time but it was taken out in the 1950s. Another time when we were thinking about voting rights, and civil rights, and people being represented equally, and it's not just citizens who pay taxes, right. It's immigrants, legal and illegal, who pay taxes and should be represented.

And as you said, it's kids, right? The kids could be affected. Schools. The population is everyone, right, it's the census should taking everyone into account regardless of immigration status. And it's certainly interesting. And I know that the California attorney general is also suing or has promised to sue her.

So this is not last we'll hear about it. And the census has, you know, really long effect. It happens every 10 years. And this is how we make a lot of decisions, this is how researchers study the U.S. population. So it's not just the government. It has a long lasting and wide impact.

ROMANS: Prior commerce departments have spent a lot of time and effort trying to make sure that the numbers are pure and legit, right. Going door-to-door and getting people comfortable to telling them -- answering all kinds of questions about where they live and what they do and you just wonder how this would poison that data. BRIGGS: If they don't respond accurately. Assuming that--

ROMANS: Or they don't respond at all.

BRIGGS: Right. Let's ask you quickly about polling. The president's favorable rating up among republicans and independents. That's despite the Stormy Daniels scandal swirling and the Karen McDougal, all this White House chaos and the people coming in and out of the administration. Several noted departures. How do you explain it?

WILLIAMS: Well it's been a month, right? One interesting thing we pointed this out in the point news letter last night is that his approval ratings are nipping at the heels of both Obama and Reagan this point in their terms. And obviously they both went on to reelection.

They did have huge losses in the mid terms though for their parties. So that's something to think about heading into these midterms. It's really interesting because, yes, Trump's approval rating overall is up. Near, you know, his level after his first 100 days.

But the places that he's not doing hot are the places that are really interesting. He's doing really well when it comes to the economy even after all of the controversy over the tariffs he imposed. Where he's not doing so well is that foreign trade and things like that.

Also people aren't really hot on his response to gun control measures. So some things in that are in the news are really impacted. But I think one of the things that was also interesting about our poll was that 2/3 of those polled believe the women who are bringing allegations against the president, yet at the same time, his numbers are up. So it kind of shows what's important, what's not when it comes to overall approval ratings.

BRIGGS: All right. Brenna Williams, good stuff. We'll check back with you in about 20 minutes. Thank you.

ROMANS: I think the jobs -- the availability of jobs is something that is a--

BRIGGS: No question.

ROMANS: It's a -- it's a -- you know, it's a (inaudible) for this president.

BRIGGS: Republicans want to run on that.

ROMANS: Yes, they do.

BRIGGS: Ahead, rumors swirling (inaudible) amid heavy security in Beijing and what appears to be a train belonging to North Korea's ruling family. Both fueling speculations that a high level representative from Pyongyang is there for talks. In overnights (ph) some clarity on who that may be. CNNs Andrew Stevens, live in Beijing with the intriguing possibility. Good morning, Andrew. ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Dave. Intriguing is the

word. And still not a lot of clarity. One of the contacts of CNN has said that there is a strong possibility it is Kim Jong-un. This contact has a deep knowledge of North Korea.

But other than that, certainly no official line. In fact, the spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs just an hour or so ago was asked point blank is Kim Jong-un in Beijing? And she replied, I have no idea, Dave.

But if you look at the level of security here, the fact that train came to Beijing and this train, we think, is the same train or one of the trains that Kim Jong-un's father used when he came to Beijing back in 2010. That could be a clue.

Also just the level of security. What we know at this stage, whoever was in Beijing has now left. The train is on its way back to North Korea. We won't know officially, at least that's we suspect if the -- if the past is any guide, until that train, that person has cleared the border with China who actually was here. Because Chinese won't say anything while the person is still in China, Dave.

BRIGGS: Good stuff, Andrew Stevens live for us in Beijing. Thanks.

ROMANS: It's a mystery train. All right., 12 minutes past the hour, the father of the Pulse Nightclub shooter was an informant for the FBI and now he is being investigated for payments overseas just before the attack.


BRIGGS: The FBI now has possession of several suspicious packages sent to the CIA and military locations in the D.C. area.

A law enforcement official telling CNN more than ten devices are involved, all of them crudely made with black powder, none powerful enough to cause fatalities had they been detonated.

At least one package sent to the National Defense University at Fort McNair contained explosive material. All of the packages now being examined at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.

ROMANS: Health officials are warning parents about a second wave of the flu. The more dominant strain, the A strain, is winding down, but more than half the case now being diagnosed are being caused by the B strain.

The CDC warns Influenza B can be just as severe as Influenza A, and even more severe in young children.

133 children have died nationwide in this flu season.

BRIGGS: The defense expected to rest today in the trial of Noor Salman, widow of the Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen.

The judge Monday denied a motion by her lawyers to dismiss the case. They claim the government failed to disclose Mateen's father was an FBI informant who's currently under investigation for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan in the weeks before the shooting.

Noor Salman has pleaded not guilty to charges including providing material support to terrorists. Closing arguments could begin tomorrow.

ROMANS: The woman who lent her name to the Civil Rights History as the lead plaintiff in Brown versus Board of Education has died.

Linda Brown was nine years old in 1951 when her father tried to enroll her in an all-white elementary school in Topeka, Kansas.

When the school blocked her enrollment her father sued. Four similar cases were combined and went to the Supreme Court.

In 1954 the high court ruled separate educational facilities are inherently unequal, desegregating American schools.

Linda Brown was 75 years old.

BRIGGS: All right. You're never too old for trash-talk, folks. The grandmother of former Michigan star Jalen Rose has a message for Loyola's (ph) Sister Jean.

Coy Wire with the bleacher report and the granny battle brewing in the final four.



ROMANS: Oh man, I love it. You know what this -- that story tells me? It tells me being around young people, and being involved with young people, keeps you young.

BRIGGS: Invigorated. She's 100!

ROMANS: Keeps you young. Yes. (ph)

BRIGGS: Granny battle on Saturday...

ROMANS: Love it.

WIRE: In a way, (ph) Christine, you said it. Sister Jean, when I interviewed her last week, she said exactly that. She said that she enjoys being around the kids...


WIRE: They make her have more fun in life, and that keeps her young.

ROMANS: Yes. Awesome. Oh neat (inaudible)

BRIGGS: Coy's got a crush on Sister Jean.

ROMANS: I think he does. I think he does. (ph)

WIRE: I do. You may or may not have a pair of socks coming to you, Dave, so (inaudible).


BRIGGS: Looking forward to that, my friend, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. (inaudible) the Trump administration went beyond what was expected, when it expelled 60 Russian diplomats. So how fierce will the Russian response be? We'll find out soon.