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EARLY START

Trump Expels 60 Russian Diplomats In Wake Of U.K. Nerve Agent Attack; 2020 Census Will Ask About Citizenship Status; Mystery Train In China Fuels Kim Jong-un Rumor; White Sox Rehire Wrongly Convicted Man. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 27, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:31:17] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: How will Vladimir Putin respond after a coordinated global effort to oust Russian diplomats, including 60 from the United States?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats have a new concern about 2020. The U.S. Census will ask about citizenship status. The change could have a big effect on federal funding and congressional lines.

BRIGGS: And international intrigue building in Beijing. A train shrouded in secrecy under heavy security. Overnight, a possible answer. Is Kim Jong Un in China? We'll go there shortly with a theory.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 -- almost 32 minutes past the hour. Let's begin with this.

Sixty Russian diplomats have one week to pack up and get out of 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 100 Russian diplomats expelled worldwide. Senior officials say all those the U.S. is expelling have been identified as intelligence agents.

BRIGGS: The president also ordering the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle which happens to be near a U.S. submarine base and near the Boeing factory. This is the president's most forceful action against Russia thus far, although not related to election meddling.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The United States has issued sanctions on key Russian oligarchs in response to the -- to the meddling in the 2016 election. So I wouldn't close any doors or I wouldn't preclude any potential action, but the president doesn't telegraph his moves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: We should note only one person even arguably considered an oligarch has actually been sanctioned by the U.S. Still, this is the biggest group expulsion of alleged Russian intelligence officers ever.

BRIGGS: Russia 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. Only in 2018. It was actually a multiple choice test as you can see, with three options included.

For more on what the Russians might have in store, we go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Phil Black.

Phil, what do we expect in the way of a response and when do we expect it?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The timing is tricky, Dave. Vladimir Putin is dealing with multiple crises at the moment.

Internationally, you have this growing number of Russian diplomats being expelled from countries around the world.

Domestically, Putin is facing significant anger from people in a Siberian city where there was a big shopping mall fire. More than 60 people have been killed, many of them children. That's where Putin is today at the scene of that tragedy meeting locals, trying to offer condolences and deal with that grief.

At the same time, we are told that he is ultimately the person who will decide just how Russia will retaliate to the growing number of diplomatic expulsions around the world. We've been told that it will be a reciprocal measure, so one for one, tit for tat. That's what Russia did when Britain first decided to expel 23 diplomats, the first move in response to the Salisbury nerve agent incident.

But Russia doesn't always play it that way as the United States experienced after it expelled 35 diplomats at the end of 2016. Russia's eventual response to that was to tell the U.S. to cut down its staff in this country by 755 people, so that's a long way from one for one. There's a big range of options in between.

We expect that Russia will move on this pretty quickly and pretty robustly as they continue to maintain their innocence. They still insist they had nothing to do with the use of a chemical weapon in a small English town -- Dave.

[05:35:03] BRIGGS: Just getting started on the diplomatic spat. Phil, thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right, joining us this morning, "CNN POLITICS" multi- platform editor Brenna Williams live in our Washington bureau. Good morning, this morning. Nice to see you. What's your response to the -- to the Russia news? I mean, you finally have the United States sort of really stepping in there with global allies working together to defend the U.K. Theresa May had asked for a coordinated, strong response.

Does this signal that the White House is, indeed, getting tough on Russia?

BRENNA WILLIAMS, MULTI-PLATFORM EDITOR, CNN "THE POINT": I think, yes. I think this is the first step here.

I mean, you will remember that this comes on the heels of that kind of P.R. disaster of a call with Vladimir Putin the other week.

ROMANS: Right.

WILLIAMS: The "do not congratulate" call, as well as sanctions that they levied that were maybe not as strong as some people would have liked them to have been.

So this is a really strong move and this is really bold, and the first step in what might be a stronger and more tough policy by the Trump administration on Russia.

BRIGGS: It's a bit counterintuitive though, right? In the case of the president, he refuses to talk the talk but his administration does walk the walk. We've never seen anything quite like this and it's even tabloid fodder. "Bootin' Putin" on the cover of the "New York Post."

Why won't the president personally engage in this and is this his administration doing things he refuses to do?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's an interesting question.

I mean, first and foremost, we know that the president is very concerned with his public image, right? He wants to sound tough, he wants to be tough. But he also likes to be liked and he likes to be liked by people in power and that might include Vladimir Putin, who he congratulated on his win in the election.

So, you know, it might be just a Trump move to have his people carry out what might make him look strong while he can still be everybody's best friend.

ROMANS: Let's talk -- let's talk about the census quickly because there's a real change afoot here. You know, when you drive into any small town or big town in America you see, you know -- LeClaire, Iowa, population 1,900.

WILLIAMS: Right.

ROMANS: You know, this is how we count how many people live in this country. And this administration wants to add a citizenship question.

Why is that such a big change? WILLIAMS: Well, it's interesting. We used to ask this question. It was taken out in the 1950s.

And it's really important because this is among other things how we determine congressional district mapping. It's how we determine where federal funding goes.

And the census is not just supposed to count citizens, it's not just supposed to count voters. It's supposed to count everyone, citizens and non-citizens, and it impacts everyone.

So if people don't answer the census because they're worried about their immigration status or something like that, then that could really --

ROMANS: You'd lose school funding or you lost political --

WILLIAMS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- representation.

WILLIAMS: It could really hurt people who aren't even participating in the census like you said. Like the kids, right? So, yes.

BRIGGS: For their part, the DOJ says they're committed to free and fair elections for all Americans and this fulfills that commitment. Eric Holder, along with the attorney general of California say they will sue.

I have to ask you about Stormy Daniels with all due apologies. This story continues to evolve as Raj Shah says he doesn't believe -- the president doesn't believe any of the claims Ms. Daniels is made -- that there is nothing to collaborate her claim. But once again, like the Putin story, the president will not engage on this story.

What are the theories as to why he will not?

WILLIAMS: Well, I am not alone when I say that I am very impressed at the president's restraint on this story and I'm sure that he's been counseled to kind of stay out of it and let his attorneys do the talking for him.

Daniels' attorney has said that he's going to sue for defamation and this might be one step closer to getting Michael Cohen or even the president on the record in a deposition talking about this case because like you said, he's been very quiet.

So this story's not going away and Daniels' attorney said that there is evidence possibly that we might see in coming weeks and months. So until then, legally, evidence is important and we haven't really seen that yet.

ROMANS: LeClaire, Iowa's population is 3,974. People are messaging me. I vastly underestimated --

BRIGGS: Did you butcher it? ROMANS: I butchered it. I'm two thousand people shy.

BRIGGS: Fake news.

ROMANS: Oh, my. Oh, my.

All right, Brenna, thank you so much. Nice to see you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Brenna. All right.

Rumors swirling worldwide that heavy security in Beijing in what appears to be a train belonging to North Korea's ruling family. Both are fueling speculation that a high-level representative from Pyongyang is there for talks and overnight, some clarity on who that may be.

CNN's Andrew Stevens live in Beijing with the intrigue -- Andrew.

[05:40:00] ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly a lot of intrigue in Beijing at the moment exactly who is this mystery person that appeared in a train -- a former train -- a train from a former era, Dave. Something very similar if not exactly the same as his father's train.

And when I say his I am talking about Kim Jong Un, of course, because that is what the speculation is swirling around. Has Kim Jong Un come to Beijing to speak to Xi Jinping, the Chinese president?

We have no official clarification of anything from Beijing at the moment but just look at the security here. The security has been very, very tight. That security has extended to conversations about Kim Jong Un online as well and certainly it's been enough to show that there is a very significant and senior person here.

The Chinese, for their part, are saying -- they're just stonewalling basically. One of the spokespeople from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked very clearly is Kim Jong Un in town and she replied, "I have no idea," which gives you an idea of the Chinese. They're just not going to comment on this at the moment.

We'll probably know once the train gets back into North Korea. In the past, that's happened. There was nothing on reporting of the leader of North Korea arriving in China until he had actually left China.

And very quickly, what's in it for China. Well, China wants to get back to the talk table.

Consider that those two very, very big meetings -- nothing bigger than Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in May. And also, the inter-Korean summit in April. So China wants to be amongst that.

It's been a key player in getting Kim Jong Un to the table in the first place through the sanctions so it wants to remain a force in the future of the Korean Peninsula, Dave. BRIGGS: All right. So perhaps we'll find out later who was aboard that train. Five forty-one p.m. there live. Andrew Stevens in Beijing, thank you.

Ahead, the father of the Pulse nightclub shooter was an informant for the FBI. Now he's being investigated for payments overseas just before the attack.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:46:05] BRIGGS: President Trump is staying in touch with Rob Porter even though his former aide was fired over domestic abuse allegations. A source telling CNN Porter has spoken to the president multiple times and the calls have increased as more of Trump's advisers depart the White House.

"The New York Times" reporting the president wishes he could have Porter back at the White House. We are told Porter would still have the same issue with his security clearance and is not coming back anytime soon.

The FBI now has possession of several suspicious packages sent to the CIA and military locations in the Washington, D.C. area. A law enforcement official telling CNN more than 10 devices are involved, all of them crudely made with black powder, none powerful enough to cause fatalities had they detonated.

At least one package sent to the National Defense University at Fort McNair contained explosive materials.

Scanning machines at facilities detected the suspicious materials. All of the packages now being examined at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.

ROMANS: Intense pressure on Facebook from federal and state officials after it failed to protect user data.

First, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook's data practices after it allowed Trump campaign consultants to access data of 50 million users.

At the same time, 37 attorneys general are also demanding answers. In a joint letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, they voiced profound concerns over how Facebook handles user data.

And yet, another lawmaker wants Zuckerberg to testify. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley wants him to appear in an April 10th hearing about data privacy.

Last week, Zuckerberg told CNN he is happy to testify in front of Congress if it's the right thing to do. But just this morning, Zuckerberg announced he would send two execs to U.K. regulators to testify in his place.

Add government scrutiny to a mounting crisis at Facebook. It faces backlash from users, advertisers, and investors. A broader rally in the stock market yesterday helped Facebook shares

stabilize but during this crisis Facebook lost $75 billion in market value.

Trade war? Maybe not. Wall Street living and dying by every trade headline and yesterday that headline was the U.S. and China are negotiating to avoid a trade war.

The Dow jumped -- wow -- 669 points, the third-largest point gain ever but nowhere near the top in terms of percentage gains. Remember, we had a huge rally over the past few years. That bounce spread into Asian stock markets and European stocks opened higher.

A trade war could be devastating for consumers, investors, and companies.

Meanwhile, could Microsoft win the race to $1 trillion? Analysts say it could top that by this year. That launched the stock seven percent higher.

No company has ever hit that milestone but Microsoft faces steep competition. It's currently the fourth most valuable company behind Apple, Amazon, and Google parent Alphabet.

Some merger drama unfolding in Washington. A slip up nearly kept a key government witness off the stand at the AT&T trial. The Justice Department, of course, is suing AT&T to block its purchase of Time Warner, parent of CNN.

And the DOJ's second witness, Sling T.V. president Warren Schlichting was nearly blocked from testifying. His attorney had shown him transcripts from the trial. Witnesses are not allowed to see any part of a trial prior to testimony. The judge ultimately allowed Schlichting on the stand but said he would not ignore any future violations.

AT&T's antitrust trial began Friday. It is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Diversity dominating the 2018 box office. Women or minority-led films have won the box office 11 out of 12 weekends this year. That's according to "Box Office Mojo."

The biggest, of course, "BLACK PANTHER." It's earned more and $1 billion worldwide. It topped the box office five weeks. Its run came to an end last weekend after the release of "PACIFIC RIM UPRISING," another film led by a person of color.

BRIGGS: Michael B. Jordan, Ryan Coogler, both 31. The sky's the limit for those two.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Ahead, 23 years after a wrongful conviction a Major League groundskeeper back on the job. This incredible story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:54:27] BRIGGS: Iowa Congressman Steve King facing criticism after his campaign team posted a meme to King's official Facebook page mocking the look and background of Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez.

It suggests Gonzalez is hypocritical for calling for tighter gun reform even though her family fled Cuba when the Castro regime took weapons from its citizens. It also criticizes her for not speaking Spanish.

King's congressional office told "The Washington Post" the campaign team was responsible for the meme. The campaign team has not responded to our request for comment.

[05:55:00] ROMANS: The meme is just one of several recent attempts to undermine Gonzalez and other school shooting survivors as they call for gun legislation.

A doctored animation of Gonzalez ripping the U.S. Constitution in half went viral after Gab, which calls itself a free speech social network, posted it on Twitter.

That is just so sickening. I just -- it makes me so angry.

A few hours later, Gab specified the fake animation was obviously a parody and satire but people who are -- don't know any better or don't care any better were sending that around as evidence that these Parkland shooting survivors are somehow trying to kill the Second Amendment, which is clearly -- that is a -- that is a --

BRIGGS: Fake news at its finest.

ROMANS: All right.

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 of the cases now being diagnosed are being caused by the 'B' strain.

The CDC warns influenza 'B' can be just as severe as influence 'A' and even more severe in young people. One hundred thirty-three children have died nationwide in the 2017-2018 flu season.

BRIGGS: An emotional plea from the grandmother of a Sacramento man shot and killed by police in her backyard. Police say they thought Stephon Clark had a gun when they opened fire. It turns out he only had a cellphone.

The sobbing Sequita Thompson calling for criminal charges against the officers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEQUITA THOMPSON, GRANDMOTHER OF STEPHON CLARK: (INAUDIBLE). Why didn't they just shoot him in the arm, shoot in the leg, send a dog, send a Taser? Why? Why? You all didn't have to do that. You all didn't have to --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The mayor of Sacramento suggesting a change to the policy that allows police to mute body cameras, which the officers did after the shooting.

ROMANS: The attorney general of Louisiana is expected to announce this morning whether he is charging two police officers in the 2016 shooting death of Alton Sterling. Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge police while they held him on the ground. Police say Sterling was reaching for a gun before he was killed.

Sterling's death followed by the shooting death of Philando Castile by Minnesota police touched off a wave of nationwide protests that summer.

BRIGGS: The defense expected to rest today in the trial of Noor Salman, widow of 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 is under investigation for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan in the weeks before the Pulse attack.

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 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 near their Topeka, Kansas home. When the school blocked her enrollment her father sued.

Four similar cases were combined and went all the way 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: Nevest Coleman back at work as a groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox after 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Coleman was convicted in 1994 of rape and murder. He was freed last year after DNA was linked to a serial rapist.

Friends and family contacted the White Sox to help get him his old job back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEVEST COLEMAN, REHIRED WHITE SOX GROUNDSKEEPER: The past is in the past now. There's no more anger, upset, frustration, nothing because my -- when I was in there I was miserable. But now, I've got my loved ones behind me. They're standing on my side and the misery is gone now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The team says it's grateful that justice was carried out. Coleman will be working at the ballpark for Chicago's home opener on April fifth against Detroit.

ROMANS: Thank God --

BRIGGS: Incredible that anger is gone.

ROMANS: Thank God for justice there's something called science that could help him.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

All right, thanks for joining us, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAH: The U.S. and our allies have made to clear to Russia that actions have consequences.

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: You hit them in their pocketbooks. Expelling 60 diplomats does not go far enough.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This is multiple countries saying all of these actions have to stop.

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: We will not tolerate Russia's continued attacks to flout international law and undermine our values.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: This coordinated response is significant but the president's silence speaks volumes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Avenatti and Stormy Daniels have opened up a lot of political peril for the president.

SHAH: The only person who's been inconsistent is the one making the claims.

ALANA EVANS, PORN STAR, FRIEND OF STORMY DANIELS: I am tired of being called a liar and I know she is, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's certainly very uncharacteristic of the president to remain silent about something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a president who has secrets. You have to believe there are more secrets to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)