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Washington Post: Trump is not the Criminal Target of Russia Probe; Trump Calls for U.S. Troops to Guard Border; Police Identify YouTube Shooting Suspect; China Retaliates For New U.S. Tariffs; All Eyes on Tiger Woods at the Masters. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 4, 2018 - 05:00   ET


RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, President Trump's lawyers are 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.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president talks about deploying National Guard troops until the wall he promise sudden built.

[05:00:00] MARSH: Also breaking overnight, police reveal the identity of the woman they say opened fire at YouTube's California headquarters wounding three people.

Well, good morning, and welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: Good to see you, Rene. I'm Dave Briggs. It's Wednesday, April 4th, 5:00 a.m. in the East, noon in Damascus. We'll have a live report.

Coming up, also, some big news on the trade war that's brewing with the United States and China.

But we start with the breaking news regarding special counsel Robert Mueller. He's 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" 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 according to "The Post" has some Trump advisers worried the president could be baited into an interview that could put him in legal jeopardy.

MARSH: Well, after days of escalating rhetoric on immigration backed up 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 at a 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 from 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.


MARSH: Boris, thank you.

And joining us live this morning from Washington, CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan.

Thanks so much for joining us, Tal.

So, first question, I mean, the president is not the first one to call for National Guard troops on the U.S. border. But this is slightly different because the numbers show that the traffic is actually down.

So, why call for it now?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's absolutely right. You know, it's sort of interesting how the Trump administration has both been really touting the historic low crossings at these southern borders that we saw early in the administration, and at the same time turning around and saying, you know, any increase from that is a cause for concern and, you know, merits all these very strong policies. And in fact, the Department of Homeland Security did a study that came out last fall that said the border is more secure than it's ever been and more impervious to illegal crossings.

So, you know, when President Trump did this a few years ago, we were in the midst of an actual migrant crisis, especially with children trying to cross the border. You know, the other interesting thing is there's not a ton that these National Guard troops can do in terms of actually patrolling the border because there's a law in the U.S. that prohibits the use of the military for law enforcement purposes. So, what they do is more support intelligence gathering, infrastructure- related activities building, you know, shoring up.

And so, you know, in the past, these moves which have been done by Presidents Obama and Bush and, you know, Texas Governor Rick Perry at the time have been questioned in terms of whether they're actually effective for the money it takes to send these troops to the border.

BRIGGS: Yes. President Bush, 6,000 troops back in 2006.

Republican Congressman Francis Rooney not exactly on board with this idea of sending National Guard troops to the border. Here's what he said yesterday to Wolf Blitzer.


REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: I don't really think -- feel comfortable with deploying military troops and creating the possibility for an increased -- increase in violence and escalation of the conflict. I would rather have the dealings of immigration be handled in a civil context and not a military one.


BRIGGS: So, this tells us -- over several days now the president striking at this issue on Twitter and, of course, in person. We saw yesterday he also talked about funding this border wall with military funds. Why the shift do you think to the border wall and what's happening with immigration? And what are the obstacles in the president getting his way?

KOPAN: Well, Dave, I mean, this has been, you know, sort of the well that the president returns to time and time again. It was during the campaign, it was a staple of his campaign. It's definitely, you know, an issue that really speaks to his base and fires them up.

And you know, the president has clearly been frustrated. He is, you know, a newcomer to Washington, not very savvy in terms of getting Congress to actually get things across the finish line. And in many cases, he himself has been a bit detrimental to efforts to get legislation through Congress because of how much he changes his minds or won't telegraph what he actually wants.

And so, you know, it's not like that's changed. Immigration legislation has probably a worse chance of getting through Congress now than it did several months ago, you know, him doubling down on this and, in fact, moving back to the right and not really reaching out for compromise on this does not bode well for getting substantive legislation passed. But, you know, keep in mind, there's quite a bit that the administration can do on its own to reshape dramatically the U.S. immigration system, step up enforcement.

So, you know, his rhetoric aside, the administration is pushing about the boundaries on that and seeing what it can do. We may be seeing the effects of that for months to come.

MARSH: All right. Tal Kopan, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

KOPAN: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. We'll check back with him in about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, at his luncheon with the Baltic leaders, the president declared we'll find out whether Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe. And he raised eyebrows with his remark about U.S.-Russia relations.


TRUMP: And probably nobody's been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump. Getting along with Russia would be a good thing, not a bad thing. And just about everybody agrees to that except very stupid people.


BRIGGS: Very stupid people.

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.


BRIGGS: McMaster did have some words of praise for 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 news conference yesterday, he repeated his desire to withdraw American troops from Syria. The president was clearly very much so in favor of this, and he wants to do it soon. Listen --


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 for four minutes earlier. Across town at the U.S. Institute for Peace, the president's envoy for defeating ISIS, Brett McGurk, well, he 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 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 that the president likes. So, there's no upside to discussing U.S. troops in Syria which the president does not like.

BRIGGS: Speaking of Syria, 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 the plan for Syria a big mistake.

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

Fred, good morning to you. What's on the agenda for this meeting?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave. Well, essentially, I wouldn't say that these leaders are carving up Syria, but they certainly are doing a lot to determine the future of Syria. And, of course, all of them want their spheres of influence in the country. The Turks are ready essentially doing that in the North of Syria. The Russians, of course, control large parts of the Syrian government's movements and a lot of things happening around here in Damascus.

[05:10:03] And the Iranians also have a lot of influence on the ground, as well. And certainly as you've noted, one country that doesn't seem to have very much influence, especially at those negotiations, is the United States, not present at all. And on top of that, of course, you have all these forces who are essentially America's grounds forces when it came to fighting against ISIS. But a lot of them, of course, are hearing that president from -- the rhetoric from the U.S. president saying that the U.S. wants to pull out.

Many of them saying they're not sure what the U.S. wants. And, of course, that really diminishes the U.S. position further, Dave.

BRIGGS: Indeed. All right. Fred Pleitgen, live for us this past noon in Damascus, thank you.

Some breaking news this morning, China will impose tariffs on 106 U.S. items including cars, planes, and soybeans. These tariffs are response to the U.S. detailing its own tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods. Also strategic, of the top ten soybean-producing states, eight voted for President Trump in 2016.

This back and forth between China and the U.S. is hitting Wall Street. Dow futures down more than 400 points. Investors worry this could spark a trade war, a devastating event for U.S. consumers and companies.

The White House is targeting 1,300 Chinese items, aerospace equipment, tech, and manufacturing. It also contains some unexpected products like flame throwers and medical supplies and excludes many popular retail items like shoes, clothes, furniture. Products that would prompt the biggest consumer backlash should prices rise.

These tariffs are punishment, of course, for China allegedly stealing trade secrets but also fulfill a campaign promise of President Trump.


TRUMP: We intend to get along with China, but we have to do something very substantial 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: The tariffs do not begin immediately, and the administration plans to hold a public hearing for U.S. businesses in May.

MARSH: Well, coming up, police have identified the woman they say shot and wounded three people at YouTube headquarters. What we've learned so far about the suspect. That's next.


[05:16:29] 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. 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: More breaking news 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.

A fourth person was injured trying to escape the gunfire. The shooter's brother tells CNN affiliate KGTV the family had reported her missing. They knew she had a problem with YouTube and its owner Google.

She was angry about a change in Google policies that cost her viewers on her vegan YouTube page. The brother who did not want to be identified says when he learned her car had been found not far from Google headquarters in Mountain View, they called police. Listen to her brother.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Google in Mountain View was close to the YouTube headquarters. So -- she had a problem with YouTube. So, we called the cops again and told them that she might -- there's a reason she went all the way from San Diego to there.


BRIGGS: Investigators are still trying to confirm the shooter's motive.

MARSH: Well, 50 years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His legacy is 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.

BRIGGS: All right. The Tiger Woods comeback tour hits Augusta. And there are great expectations at the Masters. Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report" after a practice round with leftie, that's coming up next.


[05:23:29] BRIGGS: All right, folks. The Masters tees off tomorrow, and everyone asking the same question -- can Tiger Woods actually win?

MARSH: We'll have to wait and see. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Top of the morning, Rene and Dave.

Less than a year after his final fusion surgery, not only is Tiger back in Augusta national for the first time since 2015, alongside Jordan Spieth, he's favored to win it. At 43 years old, Tiger's chasing his fifth green jacket.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the course yesterday when he played a practice round with Phil Michelson, one of his oldest rivals with whom apparently he's become BFFs.

If Tiger can pull off the win, it would be the first major title in nearly a decade for him. He says it's miraculous that it's even a possibility.


TIGER WOODS, 4-TIME MASTERS CHAMPION: The pain of just sitting there, and the amount of times I've fallen because my leg didn't work or had to lay on the ground for extended periods of times. Really those are some dark times. But that's why I said it -- it is -- it is a miracle. I went from a person that's been -- had a hard time getting up, walking around, sitting down, anything, to now swinging the club. That is a miracle, isn't it?


WIRE: Let's talk a different type of swing and another type of miraculous. The pitching and home run hitting sensation from Japan, Shohei Ohtani. Time to believe the hype, people. A home run in his first at-bat in front of the home crowd at Angels Stadium. Getting the silent treatment from his teammates, and then they swarm him.

[05:25:05] Ohtani was the started pitcher in one game, then hit a home run in the next game. First to do that since Babe Ruth way back in 1921.

All right. Stop what you're doing and watch this. Arguably the greatest soccer player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring one of the greatest goals you'll ever see, the rare bicycle sick. Riding that bicycle through your neighborhood just like Devo.

Thirty-three years old, Ronaldo still doing things like no one else on the planet can do. This is unreal. Even the opposing fans had to give a shout out and cheer him. The visitor crushing 3-0 in Champions League quarterfinal action.

And LeBron James, also 33, also over 15 years as a pro posting on Instagram, are you not entertained? Cristiano, that's not even fair. Nasty.

Dave, I was trying to -- Rene, maybe you can help me. I was trying to compare this to LeBron James. It would be like him doing what in basketball --

BRIGGS: Nothing. MARSH: No, no. It was beautiful -- like that's like ballet mixed with something else. That extension -- my goodness. Everything about that.

BRIGGS: Coy, just to get his foot on the ball is an astounding feat of athleticism, let alone to hammer it back in the net. The stills, I'm glad you showed one there. The still really show you what a freak of nature that guy is. Just to get it up in the air --

WIRE: And remember, we're watching this in slow motion. It's incredible. Rene, I love your analogy of ballet, the grace, rhythm, the timing, outstanding.

BRIGGS: He's an artiste, as are you, Coy Wire, great to see you, my friend.

MARSH: Thanks, Coy.

BRIGGS: Ahead, President Trump's lawyers reportedly get what sounds like good news from Mueller's investigators. Breaking details next on EARLY START.