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Washington Post: Trump Not Currently Criminal Target in Mueller Probe; Trump Wants Troops at the Border; Police Identify YouTube Shooting Suspect; China Retaliates For New U.S. Tariffs. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired April 4, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, President Trump lawyers reportedly told he is not a criminal target of the Russia investigation.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are preparing for the military to secure our border.


RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: The president talks about deploying National Guard troops until the wall he promised is built.

BRIGGS: Also breaking overnight, police revealed the identity of the woman they say opened fire at YouTube's California headquarters wounding three people. It was a scary scene in California yesterday.

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

MARSH: And I'm Rene Marsh. It's Wednesday, April 4th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East, 11:00 a.m. in Damascus where we'll have a live report coming up.

Well, breaking overnight, special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly told the president's lawyers he is not currently a criminal target of the Russia investigation. "The Washington Post" reports Mueller's team told President Trump's lawyers he remains a subject of the investigation, including whether he sought to obstruct the Russia probe. One source tells "The Post" that the special counsel's office is writing a report on Mr. Trump's actions since taking office and wants to interview him as a last step.

And that, according to "The Post," has some Trump advisers worried the president could be baited into an interview that would put him in legal jeopardy.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, the Mueller team with the first sentence in the Russia investigation. A Dutch lawyer tied to former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine. Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty in February to lying and failing to turn over emails to the special counsel. Van der Zwaan's wife, the daughter of a Russian oligarch, in a voluntary interview with investigators, he hid his ties to Gates and a business associate with Russian intelligence ties.

MARSH: Well, after days of escalating rhetoric on immigration backed with rehashed policy ideas, President Trump offered a brand-new proposal Tuesday, sending U.S. troops to guard the U.S. border. At a luncheon and joint news conference with Baltic leaders, the president surprised nearly everyone including the Pentagon with his call to use the military to patrol the border, until his long-promised border wall is built.

More now from CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump hitting a broad array of topics on Tuesday, Dave and Rene, talking about everything from Syria in which he said that he wanted to bring American troops home from that country in part, in his words, so they could help rebuild the United States.

The president also talked about Mexico making news with the idea that he would be sending the military to protect the border in lieu of his long-promised border wall.

Here's more of president Trump talking about that. Listen --

TRUMP: We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. We have a meeting on it in a little while with General Mattis and everybody. And I think that it's something we have to do.

SANCHEZ: And now, late Tuesday night, the White House confirmed that the president had taken part in a briefing where having National Guard troops sent to help bolster protection at the border was brought up. We understand that certain numbers have been discussed in terms of how many personnel are going to be set. But the White House doesn't have an official figure just yet, something to keep an eye on moving forward.

This clearly showcases that the president is frustrated that what he sees as a crisis, he has not been able to fulfill long-held promises on -- Rene and Dave.


BRIGGS: All right. Boris, thank you.

At his luncheon with the Baltic leaders, the president declared nobody has been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump, but even the president's iron-fisted talk about Russia came wrapped in a velvet glove. He told reporters getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. And this was his response to a question about Vladimir Putin.


REPORTER: How do you see Vladimir Putin? Is he a friend or a foe?

TRUMP: We'll find out. There will be a time when I'll let you know. You'll find out very quickly.


BRIGGS: Last night in his final public remarks as national security adviser, H.R. McMaster took a much harder line on Russia.


LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, OUTGOING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Russia has used old and new forms of aggression to undermine our open societies and the foundations of international peace and stability. Russia brazenly and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs.


[04:05:06] BRIGGS: McMaster did have some words of praise for the Trump administration policy on Russia, especially the coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a Russian double agent in the U.K.

MARSH: Well, at the president's press conference or news conference yesterday, he repeated his desire to withdraw American troops from Syria. The president was very clearly in favor of doing so and soon.


TRUMP: It's time. It's time, we were very successful against ISIS. We'll be successful against anybody militarily. But sometimes, it's time to come back home. And we're thinking about that very seriously.


MARSH: But not four minutes earlier, across town at the U.S. Institute for Peace, the president's special envoy for defeating ISIS, Brett McGurk, seemed to say precisely the opposite.


BRETT MCGURK, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR DEFEATING ISIS: We are in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission. And the mission isn't over, and we're going to complete that mission.


MARSH: A source close to the White House tells CNN that Defense Secretary James Mattis has avoided bringing up the topic of Syria withdrawal with the president. The source says the Pentagon sees its job as destroying ISIS, something Trump likes. So, there's no upside to discussing U.S. troops in Syria which he does not.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. BRIGGS: Major breaking news at 4:06 Eastern Time. China is going to impose a 25 percent tariff on 106 products from the U.S. That's according to state media CCTV. The date the tariffs will go into effect will be announced separately.

The 106 products from the U.S. fall under 14 categories including, most importantly, soybeans, this according to CCTV. A response to the White House detailing the $50 billion in Chinese goods it plans to hit with tariffs.

Now, the list includes 1,300 items targeting Chinese aerospace, tech, and manufacturing, also contains unexpected items like flame throwers and medical supplies such as malaria test kits, hearing aids, and artificial teeth. It also excludes many popular retail items, shoes, clothes, furniture, products that would prompt the bigger consumer backlash should prices rise. These tariffs are punishment.

The U.S. accuses China of stealing trade secrets, but they also fulfill a campaign promise of President Trump.


TRUMP: (AUDIO GAP) about the trade deficit. I campaigned on that. I talked about that. China won't be the only country. But I did, in fact, campaign on it.


BRIGGS: In a statement, the Chinese embassy condemns the list, writing that as the Chinese saying goes, it's only policy to reciprocate, and that worries experts. They say the administration has diagnosed the problem correctly, but sweeping tariffs are the wrong remedy. They could spark a trade war, a devastating event for U.S. consumers, companies, and investors. In fact, U.S. futures fell overnight. The tariffs do not begin immediately, and the administration plans to hold a public hearing for U.S. businesses in May.

MARSH: Well, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt getting votes of confidence from President Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly. An administration official saying the president called Pruitt Monday and told him, quote, keep your head up, keep fighting, we got your back.

The president echoing (AUDIO GAP)


REPRTER: Scott Pruitt, sir? Do you support Scott Pruitt?

TRUMP: I hope he's going to be great.


MARSH: The president's phone call Monday was followed up by a call from Kelly on Tuesday. There's growing scrutiny over the EPA chief's housing situation. He rents a room from lobbyists whose firm has lobbied the EPA, his frequent first-class travel has also sparked controversy. But Pruitt has made good on the president's campaign promises for fewer environmental regulations and to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

BRIGGS: Stormy Daniels' lawyer sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin asking he publicly release a bank's suspicious activity report. Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti wants more information on the source of the porn star's $130,000 hush money deal with Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime attorney.

Avenatti says he believes the report will undercut Cohen's claims about the flow of the money and what exactly happened. Cohen says the funds came from his own pocket. The White House continues to deny that Trump had an extramarital affair with Daniels back in 2006.

MARSH: We're following breaking news out of California. An investigation is underway after a Marine Corps helicopter based in El Centro crashed on a training mission on Tuesday afternoon.

[04:10:06] The Marine Corps says it presumes all four crew members are dead.

Now, video from the scene shows another helicopter circling the crash site near Plaster City. That's about 20 miles north of the U.S.- Mexico border. The names of the four crew members have not been released at this point. It's unknown what caused the crash.

BRIGGS: Also breaking overnight, police in San Bruno, California, have identified the YouTube shooter as Nasim Aghdam, a San Diego woman in her late 30s. Officials say she shot three people at YouTube headquarters in the San Francisco suburb and then apparently took her own life.

One of the wounded, a 36-year-old man in critical condition, a fourth person was injured trying to escape the gunfire. A witness described the scene to CNN after shots rang out on YouTube's campus Tuesday afternoon.


JESSE, WITNESS: First, I heard three or four shots. I ran around the building. I went to go look. I encountered a girl running from the street to me, grabbed her, told the people inside -- put her -- open the door, open the door, put her inside the building.

REPORTER: How was she coming out? She was coming out by herself?

JESSE: By herself, running. Yes.

REPORTER: Was she saying anything?

JESSE: Yes, I've been shot in the leg, I've been shot in the leg.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: Investigators are still trying to determine a possible motive. "The L.A. Times" cites a law enforcement source saying investigators are looking at a Website that appears to show pictures of the shooter as well as grievances against YouTube.

MARSH: Well, coming up, thousands of teachers putting their careers on the line and walking off the job in protest. Why they say it's worth the risk.


[0:15:54] BRIGGS: Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His legacy being remembered all over the country.

Last night in Memphis, an event honoring Dr. King, city leaders held tribute in honor of King's famed "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech, the final speech he gave on April 3rd, 1968. Events also being held today to honor the civil rights hero, including a march scheduled later this morning on the mall in Washington, D.C. Many faith leaders from across America are expected to attend.

MARSH: Many Oklahoma schools will be closed again today as teachers continue to protest at the state capitol. More than 1,000 teachers and their supporters swarmed the Capitol building on Tuesday, taking their case for higher pay and more school funding directly to state lawmakers.

We get more from CNN's Nick Valencia in Oklahoma City.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Rene, it was a historic day here in Oklahoma with thousands of teachers descending on to the state capitol, many of them coming inside here to chant and demand for more education funding. They're asking for an additional $200 million in revenue to be appropriated toward education spending.

Last week, legislators passed a bill to give them an average of $6,100 pay increase. Teachers are asking for $10,000. While they say they're asking more money for them, it really, they say, is about the children in the classroom. They say some of them are rescuing being fired or fined for showing up at the walkout.

GARY SIEBERT, TEACHER: After a very threatening letter was sent to our teachers --

VALENCIA: Why was it threatening?

SIEBERT: It indicated that we would be disciplined, that we'd be in violation of our contracts. We asked could we be fired, we were not given a direct answer.

VALENCIA: Because if you walked out?

SIEBERT: True. If we walked out to do something we already thought we had the right to do, and now at the board meeting they voted not to let us do that. Instead we would be in violation of our contracts. We decided it's worth it.

VALENCIA: And later this morning, educators and their supporters are expected to rally for a third straight day here inside the capitol -- Dave, Rene.


BRIGGS: OK, thank you.

Today, the presidents of Russia, Iran, and Syria meet in Ankara to discuss their own resolution to the war in Syria. Many observers say the absence of the U.S. from planning for Syria is a big mistake.

For more on that, let's bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen live for us this morning in Damascus.

Fred, good morning to you.

What is on the agenda?


BRIGGS: It sounds like we're having technical difficulties getting Fred there in Damascus. We'll check back with them as the show continues in just a bit, Rene.

Ahead, though, doctors struggle to contain the spread of a so-called nightmare bacteria. Why most antibiotics are no match for it, next.


[04:23:12] MARSH: Well, Facebook is announcing it has removed 300 more pages and accounts run by a Kremlin-linked troll group. The social media company said it got rid of 138 Facebook pages, 70 Facebook profiles, and 65 Instagram accounts it determined were run by the Internet Research Agency.

Facebook said the pages which were followed by more than a million users were mainly aimed at Russian speakers around the world. Last summer, the company removed hundreds of pages and accounts run by the IRA. They were designed to look like they were run by American activists.

BRIGGS: The Department of Homeland Security confirming it has detected mobile snooping devices in Washington. The agency says the devices could be self-site simulators planted by foreign agents. However, they have not determined their origin.

Essentially the devices act as fake cell phone towers. They intercept phone signals and spy on calls and texts. The use of such devices has long been a concern. But law enforcement agencies have been silent on the issue until now.

MARSH: Well, California lawmakers are eyeing a new lethal force law following the deadly shooting of Stephon Clark. Legislators announced a bill replacing the current reasonable force rule with a stricter necessary force standard. The legislation would authorize officers to use deadly force, quote, only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death. The call for action comes after 22-year-old Stephon Clark, who was unarmed, was gunned down by police in his grandmother's backyard in Sacramento last month.

BRIGGS: Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, sounding the alarm after a Democratic-backed candidate won a seat on Wisconsin's Supreme Court.

[04:25:05] The results leading Walker to tweet that the GOP is, quote, at risk of a blue wave in November. Liberal Rebecca Dallet trumps conservative Michael Screnock in the race for a ten-year term on Wisconsin's high court. The candidates did not run with party affiliations, but the state Democratic Party helped Dallet's campaign. It's the first time a liberal candidate who was not an incumbent has won a seat on the seven-member court in more than two decades.

MARSH: A report from the Centers for Disease Control says so-called "nightmare bacteria" that are resistant to most antibiotics are popping up across the United States. A program for testing suspect bacteria found more than 220 cases in 27 states contained an especially rare resistant gene. Health officials say the CDC is working on an aggressive containment strategy.

Some two million Americans get sick from antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and 23,000 die. It's pretty scary.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

All right. Straight ahead, President Trump's lawyers reportedly get what sounds like good news from Mueller investigators. We'll have the breaking details, next.