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Xi & Kim Face to Face: Kim's Surprise Trip to China; Trump Wants Military to Pay For Wall; Stormy's Lawyer Wants to Depose Trump; Tempers Flare in Sacramento. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 05:00   ET


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?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, Stormy Daniels' lawyer has filed a request to depose president Trump. Will the president have an answer about the $130,000 payment under oath?

BRIGGS: And emotions running high in Sacramento, California. Protesters take over a city council meeting, demanding answers after the police shooting death 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 5:00 a.m. exactly in the East.

[05:00:01] Let's begin with an image that seemed unimaginable just a few short 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 visit Pyongyang, an offer Xi accepted.

BRIGGS: According to state-run media, Kim made the trip because he felt compelled to personally share details of the changing diplomatic landscape on the Korean peninsula. This marks the North Korean's emergence as a player on the world stage.

Important to note, though, 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.

CNN's Ivan Watson live for us in Seoul tonight at 6:00 p.m. there -- Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, this was a surprise summit and really remarkable how it unfolded because we didn't hear that the meeting had taken place until after it was over and after Kim Jong-un had gotten back to North Korea. He got to China traveling on a special train all the way from North Korea to Beijing. It was a four-day visit, and Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader now for life, unrolled the red carpet for Kim and his entourage. He underscored the importance of an alliance that goes back more than half a century saying that this is truly a strategic choice.

That's important because relations had grown really frosty between Beijing and Pyongyang in recent years in part due to North Korea's nuclear weapons tests, its ballistic missile launches which have been banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions and had forced China to join in international sanctions tightening an economic stranglehold around North Korea. In response, Kim Jong-un dangled a very provocative suggestion of denuclearization, something that North Korea said has been taboo, a red line in the past, now suggesting that it is possible if there is cooperation with the U.S. and South Korea -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Ivan, we have new polling at CNN showing nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of the president's decision to meet with Kim Jong- un. How can the meeting, though, between Kim and Xi affect the Trump sit down, and is Xi Jinping really in the driver's seat now in the region?

WATSON: It depends on how you look at it.

The White House has embraced this and actually argued that the meeting is the result of the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign, sort of trying to get other countries to tighten the economic vice around North Korea.

What is without question is an incredible transformation -- North Korea always called the Hermit Kingdom has gone from incredible isolation a few months ago to now this surprise meeting with the leader of China, and now he's planning to have a summit with the South Korean president in April, and sometime after that, what could be an historic meeting face to face with President Trump, going from incredible isolation to suddenly a flurry of high-level meetings, arguably with the two most powerful men in the world, Xi Jinping and President Trump -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Just the imagery there alone is just dramatic to see, let alone the diplomatic implications. Ivan Watson live for us in Seoul, 6:00 p.m. there. Thanks, Ivan.

ROMANS: President Trump securing a trade deal with South Korea, removing a divisive issue with our Korean ally ahead of nuclear talks. 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, excuse me, like new rules on emissions standards and doubling the number of cars American companies can export to South Korea to 50,000.

Should note here, though, no U.S. carmaker exported more than 11,000 cars last year, and it's mainly due to consumer taste, not because of trade barriers. South Korea, its 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's the third biggest supplier of steel to the U.S.

Officials say this delivers on Trump's campaign promise negotiating better deals, trade deals, one on one. The U.S. is also talking right now with China to avoid a trade war. Trump threatened tariffs on Chinese imports last week and the Chinese came back with their own list of goods that they would tariff.

China's also the biggest U.S. creditor, really important statistic here, folks. Just as the government, our government plans to sell $294 billion of debt this week, that's the most since the financial crisis, China owns more treasury bonds than any foreign country. The sale is to help boost federal revenue.

And why do we need to boost federal revenue? Because we gave these big tax cuts.

BRIGGS: And we are --

ROMANS: To corporations --

BRIGGS: Spending like crazy.

ROMANS: Like crazy, it's really important --

BRIGGS: $1.3 billion omnibus, annual deficits approaching a trillion dollars --

ROMANS: Where is the Republican leadership on that? Because they were screaming during the financial crisis.

BRIGGS: They're voting for the bills, that's where they are.

Joining us from Washington this morning, CNN politics digital director Zach Wolf.

Good to see you, my friend.

ROMANS: Hi, Zach.


BRIGGS: Let's start with this dramatic imagery in the meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping in China. They take the train there.

What an interesting dynamic developing now, just to see those pictures really hard to believe his first public outing, leaving North Korea, since he's been in power in 2011. Some fear that this is Xi Jinping taking control of the entire situation before ahead of President Trump.

But does Trump deserve credit for brokering all of this? Pushing this conversation forward?

WOLF: Even if he doesn't deserve it, I think he's going to try and take credit for it. We even saw this from the White House yesterday saying it was their policies that have turned North Korea sort of -- Sarah Sanders saying that.

So, you know, I'm not sure if -- if the question here is really going to be what's going to ultimately happen with North Korea's nuclear program? And are these meetings, these bilateral meetings he's going to have going to affect that in a way that previous ways wouldn't. But I'm sure Trump would have liked to have been the guy meeting first with him in front of the cameras.

ROMANS: And you wonder the power play from the Chinese leadership, as well, trying to make sure, let everybody know, hey, this is our backyard, and we're the leader here even if you're going to meet with the president.

Let's talk about the border wall and this notion that the president may have floated even for a moment. The idea of using military spending to pay for that wall is a national security issue. That will not fly with Republican leadership, will it?

WOLF: I don't think it will fly with the Pentagon. They use that money for other stuff and would probably need more of it if they were going to pay, you know, billions and billions for a border wall.

You know, this gets back to the key problem for Trump is he promised this wall, he promised Mexico was going to pay for it. Mexico says they don't want to pay for it. He hasn't been successful in making Mexico pay for it and hasn't been successful in finding a new way to pay for it.

So, he seems like he's trying to get creative here with the funding, and it's not working yet.

BRIGGS: Here's what Lindsey Graham told Martha MacCallum of Fox just last night.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUHT CAROLINA: I wouldn't advise that. We need that $650 billion to repair the damage done during the Obama administration to our military.

The best way to get the wall money is to do the deal the president talked about. The $25 billion for the wall, in return we'll do a deal for the DACA recipients. That's the deal to be done. If he would announce that any time soon, the Democrats would be in a box because I want them to say no to the DACA recipients because they don't want to fund a wall that America needs.


BRIGGS: So, what about offering that proposal?

WOLF: I think that's probably a smarter strategic play because, you know, they have something in the DACA recipients that Democrats really want to take care of. They also have something in the wall that Democrats really don't want. So, that would seem more like a negotiation to me.

But, you know, it's clear that Trump has some problems with the DACA recipients. He ended the program, he said that he wants to keep it going but then he also got in the way some bipartisan deals that they were -- they were negotiating around that.

So, it's -- you know, it's not quite as simple as Lindsey Graham makes it out to be.

ROMANS: All right. So, come back in about a half hour. There's a lot of talk -- you wrote a great piece about the Second Amendment using the word "snowflake" in the headlines.

BRIGGS: You said there's not a snowflake's chance in hell of repealing the Second Amendment, in response to a John Paul Stephens' op-ed in "The Times". We'll ask you about that in 5:30.

ROMANS: When we come back. Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: Sounds good.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, Stormy Daniels' attorney asking a federal judge for permission to depose President Trump. Michael Avenatti wants the president to share when 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.

ROMANS: He also requested a deposition for the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who has 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.


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

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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.

[05:10:04] We've addressed it. We've addressed it extensively. And there's nothing new to add to this conversation.


ROMANS: Sarah Sanders also saying although the president is a counter puncher, he doesn't necessarily punch back at every story. Every story but this one.

BRIGGS: But Alec Baldwin and "SNL."

ROMANS: Breaking news this morning, all 22 women in the U.S. Senate, Democrat and Republican, demanding a vote on stalled congressional sexual harassment legislation. In a letter to Senate leadership, the women express deep disappointment in the Senate's inaction. The bill would update the current law from 1995, streamlining the process for reporting sexual harassment and providing new resources for staffers filing complaints.

The House has already passed the measure. Again, that just in right now, brand new.

BRIGGS: Are men declining to join this push, or do they prefer it that way?

ROMANS: I'm not sure, I'm not sure.

BRIGGS: That seems like a glaring omission for some men not to step up and join them.

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


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


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


[05:15:21] BRIGGS: Emotions running high at a Sacramento City council meeting after the police shooting death of Stephon Clark. He was shot to death by police officers in his grandmother's backyard. Police claimed they thought the cell phone he was holding was a gun. That was not lost on demonstrators at the city council meeting.


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

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


ROMANS: That young man is Stephon Clark's brother. Sacramento's Mayor Darrell Steinberg 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. Kings officials closed the entrances to the NBA arena when protesters showed up outside. That drew an angry online response from ticket holders. But the Kings say they had to shut the door in the name of safety.

ROMANS: In a decision, Alton Sterling's family says it expected no charges will be filed against two police officers who gunned Sterling down in 2016. Louisiana's attorney general says the officers acted lawfully and had reason to believe Sterling was reaching for a gun. Toxicology reports detected alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs in Sterling's system. Sterling's family and supporters say officers should have de-escalated but did not.

Baton Rouge police will release four more videos including body cam, dash cam, and surveillance footage.

BRIGGS: 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 Strampel's computer in February. Forensics showed someone tried to delete some of the photos.

Strampel also being charged with willful neglect of duty for failing to properly oversee Nassar who admitted to sexually abusing young girls for decades.

ROMANS: A Kansas grand jury bringing murder charges in the gruesome death of a 10-year-old boy on the world's tallest water slide 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: The damage from a catastrophic failure at an Ohio fertility clinic far worse than officials first thought. The clinic now says more than four thousand frozen eggs and embryos were lost after a freezer malfunction. That is double the original number, and unlikely any of them are still 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.

That has to be devastating for some of the 950 families given the strife they go through for years.

Ahead, a preseason game between the Angels and Dodgers halted in the fifth inning. Not by foul weather but by a stinky smell. Andy Scholes will try to describe that smell in the "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:34] BRIGGS: In an effort to make the game of football safer, the NFL banning players from leading with the crown of the helmet.

ROMANS: All right. Andy Scholes has more in this rule change in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

BRIGGS: Hey, man.


Yes, this is the time of year when the owners get together, and they tweak the rulebook. This year, they made big changes. Next season, it will be illegal for a player to lower his head and lead with his helmet when making a tackle. If they do it, it will be a 15-yard penalty and possible ejection from the game.

Now, the NFL hopes this will decrease the injuries like we saw last season when Steelers' linebacker Ryan Shazier lowered his helmet and suffered that spinal injury.

Now, not everyone was happy with this new rule. Forty-niners cornerback Richard Sherman telling "USA Today" the rule is ridiculous, like telling a driver if you touch the lane lines, you're getting a ticket. It's going to lead to more lower extremity injuries.

All right. LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach last night to take on his buddy, Dwyane Wade and the Heat. Wade would end up owning the night. Second quarter, check it out, Wade, the monster block on LeBron. LeBron calling for a foul on that one. As you see, it was all ball.

Now, the Heat snapped the Cavs' four-game winning streak which is 98- 79.

All right. Opening day in Major League Baseball is tomorrow. Teams around the league wrapping up spring training yesterday.

A cool moment in Montreal. Vlad Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays playing where his hall of fame dad became a legend.

[05:25:03] This game tied at zero in the ninth when Junior crushes this one for the walk-off home run. All the fans there going nuts. Guerrero Jr. born in Montreal and was a regular at Olympic Stadium as a toddler when his dad was on the Expos. Now, 19 years old, the Blue Jays' top prospect, Vlad Jr. wore his dad's number 27 especially for the game. The Expos moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Nationals back in 2005.

All right. Finally, the spring training finale did not go as well at Dodger stadium. A sewage leak on the field in the first few rows by the dodgers' dugout caused a 32-minute delay in the fifth inning before the game was canceled.

ROMANS: Gross.

SCHOLES: The poor groundskeepers were out trying to mop this up during the stoppage in play. The Angels did have fun tweeting: Smell you later, Dodgers. It's been fun. But, guys, the Dodgers, they say that that's all going to be fixed before tomorrow's home opener. I would not be happy if I owned first- row season tickets at Dodger stadium and have to go there after seeing what happened, because you're kind of uneasy. You know, standing there eating nachos, worried about a sewage leak.

ROMANS: You're not --

BRIGGS: It's not easy to remove that stink.

ROMANS: You're not uneasy if you're the plumber with the contract. You'll be able to ask for some coin to get that figured out fast. Thanks a lot.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Kim Jong-un's surprise visit to Beijing put him face to face with the Chinese president. What is the practical effect on the upcoming talks between the U.S. and Pyongyang?