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Kim's Surprise Trip to China; Trump Wants Military to Pay For Wall; Tempers Flare in Sacramento. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:14] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A dramatic global diplomacy debut for Kim Jong-un -- a surprise visit to China. Kim says he's willing to denuclearize. But what does he want from President Trump in return?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And who is going to pay for the wall?


TRUMP: One hundred percent.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: In a slight evolution from that stance, the president is floating a new idea -- let the U.S. military pay for a border wall.

BRIGGS: And emotions running high in Sacramento, California, as protesters take over a city council meeting demanding answers after a police shooting of an unarmed black man.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, March 28th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

We begin with an image that seemed unimaginable a few months ago. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un standing side by side with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders shaking hands during Kim's surprise visit to Beijing, his first trip abroad since taking power in 2011.

Kim calling for a new era in bilateral relations, even inviting President Xi to President Pyongyang, an offer Xi accepted.

BRIGGS: According to China's state-run media, Kim made the trip because he felt compelled to personally share details of the changing diplomatic landscape on the Korean peninsula. And this marks the North Korean leader's emergence as a player on the world stage. It's important to note Xi and Kim are expected to lead their respective countries for life, lending added significance to their talks ahead of an expected summit between Kim and President Trump.

So, let's bring in CNN's Ivan Watson who's live with us from Seoul.

Good morning, Ivan.


Yes, what a diplomatic bombshell. I mean, Kim Jong-un, he's been the leader of his country for more than six years. We believe that this is his first-ever official visit across borders. He went to China, which is North Korea's oldest ally, and it was a surprise visit. A four-day trip that was only really announced by both China and North Korea after the North Korean leader's train crossed the border back into North Korea. And this is one of the peculiarities of the North Korean ruling dynasty is their leaders have typically traveled by train in the past to China, and it's always been secret.

Now, there have been some other details that have emerged about the messages exchanged here. Xi Jinping underscoring the fact that the half century-old alliance between Pyongyang and Beijing is a strategic choice and that individual incidents should not get in the way of that because the relationship had gotten frosty in recent years. And then Kim Jong-un dangled the possibility of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula if there's cooperation from the U.S. and South Korea.

In the past, North Korea has said getting rid of its nuclear weapons is a red line that is nonnegotiable -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Written into their constitution.

Ivan, a new CNN poll shows nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of the president's decision to meet with Kim Jong-un. How could this meeting, though, between Kim and Xi affect the sit down between the U.S. and North Korea? And is Xi, Ivan, in the driver's seat on those negotiations?

WATSON: It depends on how you look at this. Either this was Xi Jinping calling out to his North Korean proxy and saying, hey, before you sit down with the South Korean president for the first time, which is expected just next month or with President Trump, the first-ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a U.S. president, you have to come and talk with me. That's one way to look at it.

Or is this Kim Jong-un who has leveraged the situation, and after years of frosty relations with Beijing has gotten an audience with Xi Jinping not long after he's been declared a president effectively of China for life, and Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for him and basically, he gets to re-underscore the alliance between North Korea and China and bring that with him to his meetings with the South Korean president and with President Trump to kind of bolster his argument there.

Two ways to look at it. Now, a little hard to tell because everything's so opaque in Pyongyang -- Dave.

BRIGGS: It is indeed. Major diplomatic developments. Great reporting there. Ivan Watson, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump securing a trade deal with South Korea, removing a divisive issue with our Korean ally ahead of the nuclear talks.

[04:05:04] The White House confirming details of a revised trade deal between the U.S. and South Korea, many key changes help U.S. car companies like new rules on emissions standards and doubling the number of cars they can export to South Korea to 50,000 per year. But no U.S. automaker exported more than 11,000 cars last year, mainly due to consumer taste, not trade barriers. South Korean drivers prefer smaller fuel-efficient cars.

The deal also exempts South Korea from Trump's steel tariffs but limits how much it can export. South Korea is the third biggest supplier of steel to the U.S. Officials say this delivers on Trump's campaign promise, negotiating better trade deals one on one.

The U.S. is also currently talking with China to avoid a trade war. Trump threatened tariffs on Chinese imports last week. China's also the U.S.'s biggest foreign creditor just as the government plans to sell $294 billion worth of bonds, issuing debt this week. That's the biggest amount since the financial crisis in 2008.

And guess what? China owns more treasury bonds than any foreign country. The sale is to help boost federal revenue declining because of Trump's tax cuts. Let me say this again -- you remember how Republicans and fiscal conservatives screamed during 2008-2009 over government spending.

BRIGGS: Very well remember that.

ROMANS: Almost $300 billion the United States has to borrow to help pay for those tax cuts.

BRIGGS: And it's only getting worse with the size of the omnibus and spending bills as we move forward.

President Trump privately floating the idea of using the military budget to build a wall on the border with Mexico. A source telling CNN the president discussed the notion in a private meeting last week with House Speaker Paul Ryan. The topic coming up as they reviewed the federal spending bill which does not include border wall funding.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declining to weigh in at Tuesday's briefing.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The wall is continuing to be built currently, and we're going to keep pushing forward until it's fully completed in the way that the president feels is necessary to defend the country.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Isn't it true at this point that Mexico's not going to pay for the wall? SANDERS: I'm not going to go beyond what the president's already

said. I think he still has plans to look at potential ways for that to happen.


ROMANS: It is not clear how serious the president is about pursuing that idea. It would likely face steeper hurdles in Congress which, of course, very specific instructions on how to spend them. This is the president's latest effort to fund the border wall he promised repeatedly that Mexico would pay for during the campaign.

Breaking moments ago, attorney -- Stormy Daniels' attorney asking a federal judge for permission to depose President Trump. Michael Avenatti wants the president to share what he knows about the hush money agreement forcing Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged tryst with Donald Trump. Avenatti referring to the $130,000 Daniels received a week and a half before the 2016 election.

BRIGGS: He also requested a deposition for the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who said he made the payment out of his own pocket. It comes one day after the White House defended President Trump's silence on the Stormy Daniels allegations.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why the silence? Is someone advising him to be silent, or is he following --

SANDERS: I don't think it's silent when the president has addressed this, we've addressed it extensively. There's just nothing else to add. Just because you guys continue to ask the same question over and over and over again doesn't mean that we have to keep coming up with new things to say.

We've addressed it. We've addressed it extensively. And there's nothing new to add to this conversation.


BRIGGS: Sarah Sanders also saying although the president is a counter puncher, he doesn't necessarily punch back at every story. Unless it's Alec Baldwin or Meryl Streep or Anna Wintour or Colin Kaepernick, we don't have time.

President Trump finding it harder and harder to find lawyers to help him handle the special counsel's Russia investigation. Another pair of attorneys now declining to join the president's legal team. Their firm joins the growing list of lawyers who have refused the president's invitation in recent weeks.

Boris Sanchez with more from the White House.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, it appears that President Trump is having difficulty finding legal representation in the Russia probe. On Tuesday, a Chicago-based law firm, Winston and Strawn, turned down an invitation to represent the president, citing business conflicts. But we don't really have an indication of specifically what those business conflicts are.

The Chicago-based law firm now becoming the fifth major law firm to turn down representing President Trump. They add to a list that includes a former solicitor general and two attorneys that previously represented Bill Clinton during his legal issues.

The announcement also comes notably after it was announced that Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, two attorneys who were poised to join the legal team ultimately did not. This difficulties are coming at an awkward time for President Trump as the Russia probe moves into a new phase.

[04:10:04] And we may soon see a decision being made between the president and his legal team over whether President Trump will testify and go one on one with Robert Mueller -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Boris at the White House, thank you.

The sheriff's department in Orange County, California, taking steps to cooperate with federal law enforcement, sidestepping the state's new sanctuary law. The department says it will put the date that inmates will be released on its website. The move challenges the California Values Act which limits police communication with federal immigration authorities.

But critics say the measure will cast too wide a net, handing ICE information on undocumented immigrants who may never be charged with a crime. The Orange County board of supervisors will review this.

BRIGGS: Yet another former TV personality joining the Trump administration, but this time it's not at all what you'd expect.


CAROLINE SUNSHINE, FORMER DISNEY CHANNEL STAR: (INAUDIBLE) for the shake it up Chicago local popular television dance program?


BRIGGS: Don't let the accent throw you. That's former Disney Channel star Caroline Sunshine, hired as team Trump's new press assistant. Best known for her role as Tinka Hessenheffer in the show "Shake It Up," one of Romans' favorites.

The 22-year-old Sunshine most recently served as a White House intern and also interned for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican Party and College Republican National Committee. Good for her.

ROMANS: All right there is a clown running for Congress in South Carolina. You might be thinking, of course there is, what else is new?

BRIGGS: Full of clowns.

ROMANS: But Steve Lough is the real deal. After three decades as a professional clown, think Ringling Brothers, Lough is running in the June primary for the Democratic nomination in South Carolina's fifth congressional district. His campaign Website,, features him in clown make-up and videos of him juggling. His campaign slogan --


ROMANS: Aim high, vote Lough.

He's one of three Democrats vying to face Republican incumbent Ralph Norman.

It's not funny, Dave.

BRIGGS: No, it's terrifying.

ROMANS: He won a election to replace Mick Mulvaney. Remember, he left the House to become budget director.

BRIGGS: Not political at all. Clowns are terrifying. Can't we all agree?

ROMANS: You're scared of clowns.

BRIGGS: Many millions of Americans are scared of clowns.

ROMANS: They're sweet and happy.

BRIGGS: Juggling should be a prerequisite for entering congress. But the clown make-up?

ROMANS: All right. A city council hearing taken over by protesters in Sacramento.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you point this to our council, does this look like a gun?


ROMANS: Anger over the police shooting of an unarmed black man starting to spill over.


[04:16:42] BRIGGS: Emotions run high at a Sacramento City Council meeting after the police shooting death of Stephon Clark. He was shot to death by officers as he stood in his grandmother's backyard. Now, police claimed they thought the cell phone he was holding was a gun. A fact was not lost on demonstrators at the city council meeting. (BEGN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this look as you point this to our council, does this look like a gun?

CROWD (chanting): Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark!


ROMANS: The young man is Stephon Clark's brother. Sacramento's mayor forced to gavel the meeting to a close early to guarantee everyone's safety. One person was taken away in handcuffs and charged with assaulting a police officer.

BRIGGS: For the second time in a week, protesters also blocked the entrance to the Golden One Center. Sacramento Kings officials closed the entrances to the NBA arena when Stephon Clark protesters showed up outside. That drew an angry online response from ticket holders. But the Kings said they had to shut the doors in the name of safety.

Take a look at this powerful image from inside the arena. A protester wearing a shirt that reads: I won't keep calm. I have a black son.

ROMANS: A Kansas grand jury bringing murder charges in the gruesome death of a 10-year-old boy on the world's tallest waterslide in 2016. Jeffrey Henry, co-owner of the Schlitterbahn Water Park, and designer John Schooley was charged with reckless second-degree murder along with the company designed in building the 17-story ride. Caleb Schwab was decapitated when the raft he and two women were strapped into went airborne.

The water park issued a statement saying the three men charged are innocent, and that they run a safe operation, adding the facts will prove in court this was just a tragic accident.

BRIGGS: Terrifying.

The catastrophic failure at an Ohio fertility clinic far worse than officials first thought. Four thousand frozen eggs and embryos were lost after a freezer malfunction. That's double the original number, and unlikely any of them are viable. University hospital's fertility clinic in Cleveland says 950 families were affected, up from 700. The malfunction occurred when temperatures fluctuated in the tanks where eggs and embryos were stored. An investigation revealed an alarm system which should have alerted an employee to temperature swings was shut off.

ROMANS: The former boss of disgraced USA gymnastics, Dr. Larry Nassar, is denying charges that include criminal sexual misconduct. The complaint against William Strampel alleges he used his power to sexually assault, harass and solicit nude photos from female students at Michigan State. About 50 photos containing nudity and pornography were found on his computer in February. Forensics showed someone tried to delete some of the photos.

Strampel also charged with willful neglect of duty for failing to properly oversee Nassar who admitted to sexually abusing young girls for decades. Strampel could face up to five years in prison.

BRIGGS: All right. A blast from the past, folks. "Roseanne," the reboot, makes its debut. The show with a tall task, hoping to bring respect back to political dialogue.


[04:24:25] BRIGGS: Spoiler alert for those of you that DVR'd the "Roseanne" reboot, made its big debut last night. Here's the premise: Roseanne Conner and her sister Jackie, they haven't spoken in a year because of the 2016 election. Stop me if you've heard that in your own life.

Jackie shows up for dinner wearing a pink hat and a "Nasty Woman" t- shirt, then the fun begins.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could you have voted for him, Roseanne?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He talked about jobs, Jackie. He said he'd shake things up. I mean, this might come as a complete shock to you, but we almost lost our house the way things are going.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you looked at the news because now things are worse.

[04:25:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not on the real news.



BRIGGS: Oh, we've all heard that. Roseanne is a real-life Trump supporter. Roseanne and Jackie hold their political ground but agree to a truce.

Executive producer Bruce Helford tells "Politico" he hopes the "Roseanne" show can bring back political dialogue. That is an enormous task in 2018. Let us know if you watched it, if you want to see political dialogue in a sitcom like that.

ROMANS: All right. Here's something to inspire anyone who might be too nervous to dance at a wedding.


BRIGGS: Yes, buddy.

ROMANS: That's George W. Bush tearing it up on the dance floor at his nephew's wedding this past weekend. The 71-year-old former president spinning the new bride, appropriately enough to the '80s tune "You Spin Me Round." Forty-three also tried to start a conga line. There is no video evidence whether that was successful.

Look. BRIGGS: That is dad dancing at its finest.

ROMANS: I love it. I love it.

BRIGGS: Stole my moves.

All right. Kim Jong-un's surprise visit to Beijing. It put him face to face with the Chinese president. What's the political, practical effect on the upcoming talks between the U.S. and Pyongyang?