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Report: Trump Is Not A Criminal Target Of The Russia Probe; Trump Calls For U.S. Troops To Guard The Border; China Fires Back On Tariffs; Remembering The Legacy Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 4, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:31:02] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, President Trump's 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: And the president talked about deploying National Guard troops until the wall he promised is built.

BRIGGS: More breaking news overnight. Police reveal the identity of the woman they say opened fire at YouTube's California headquarters, wounding three people.

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

We'll also have breaking news on this trade war that appears to be developing between the United States and China.

MARSH: And I'm Rene Marsh. It's 31 minutes past the hour.

And 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" the special counsel's office is writing a report on Mr. Trump's actions in 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: After days of escalating rhetoric on immigration back 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 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.


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 Gen. Mattis and everybody and I think that it's something we have to do.


BRIGGS: All right, let's discuss this live in Washington with Tal Kopan, our "CNN POLITICS" reporter who covers immigration. Tal, literally caravans of border and immigration-related issues for you to cover today and let's start with that notion of putting troops at the border, surprising the Pentagon.

Now, context here. Both Obama and Bush did something similar. Obama, 1,200 troops in 2010; Bush, 6,000 in 2006. But how is the conditions different now as opposed to they were then?

TAL KOPAN, REPORTER, "CNN POLITICS": Well, you know, one of the interesting things Dave is that if you search back in your memory a few months the Trump administration has been touting how historically low the numbers are of people crossing at the border. I mean, we are a far way away from 2014 when you had the surge of migrants, especially children, at the border.

And, you know, it's really been some of those times that we've seen presidents turn to National Guard troops or, you know, in the midst of President Bush when he was building some of the original fencing that the president is now trying to replace and extend. Those are the types of times we've seen troops deployed to the border.

Where now, we have a situation where the Department of Homeland Security in a report going back years last fall, actually declared the border more secure and more impervious to illegal crossings than ever before, and so there's a little bit of a different context.

And, you know, keep in mind there is actually a law in the U.S. that prohibits the military being used for law enforcement purposes, so there are actually some limitations on what these National Guard troops can do.

In the past, it's typically been training, infrastructure building, intelligence gathering -- support roles like that -- and there's been a question as to whether it's really worth the expense and the effort of moving these troops there in terms of what you actually get out of the equation.

[05:35:00] MARSH: All right. So, Tal, today we're talking about militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border but this all started way back Sunday. It seems like a long time ago. But it started with tweets and we have all of those tweets on the screen here. Many --

BRIGGS: It's been a lot.

MARSH: Yes. Many of them are --

BRIGGS: A big --

KOPAN: Running out of room.

MARSH: Shoot. Yes, do we have page two there? I mean, he started tweeting this out on Sunday.

I guess the question is -- look, he's already signed this spending bill, right? There's no money in the spending bill for this border wall. The chances of any legislation actually getting his border built is slim to none at this point right now -- at this point in time.

So what's his strategy? What's behind this?

KOPAN: Well, you know what Rene, I wonder if he's learning a time- honored Washington tradition in realizing that blaming Congress is always a safe -- a safe play.

It's true. The odds of legislation have not improved and arguably, have gotten worse with each passing day since this fall, arguably based on the president's own actions in a lot of cases in terms of the way he's worked with Congress and added a lot of uncertainty into the process.

You know, now you see him sort of returning to really the rhetoric of the campaign trail -- the well that he goes to when he wants to fire up his base. It seems sort of brewing out of both frustration but also a realization that these types of arguments and outbursts are really the type of thing that his core voters respond to.

And so, yes, over the past few days we've seen him basically every day wake up and start on this topic, and it doesn't mean that legislation is any closer. Certainly, there's a lot that his administration can do that would dramatic -- have a dramatic effect. But it's not really --


KOPAN: -- a sign of substantive change as much as frustration and rallying.

BRIGGS: There are changes in a couple of other immigration-related topics. One, the breaking up of that caravan from Central America through Mexico and theoretically, into the U.S. But also, maybe underrated, these immigration quotas for judges in this country.

How might that impact the policy and the actual numbers we're seeing in this country?

KOPAN: Yes, Dave, that's a great point. It's a really interesting one, too.

The immigration courts, I think a lot of Americans don't really understand, are this completely separate entity and they're not like the rest of our court system. They are not independent. The judges are actually hired by the Justice Department and can be overruled by the attorney general himself.

And, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has really been exploring this authority and working hard to speed up the courts, which is designed to take down a backlog of cases that leave immigrants waiting in the country for years before their decisions are actually handed down.

But now, he's introduced actual quotas of a number of cases -- roughly three per day the judges will have to close. And, you know, immigration judges and advocates are extremely concerned that this could eat into the due process immigrants have and make it very difficult for them to find legal representation argue their case. And potentially, just serve as a way to speed up deportations and coerce judges into making certain kinds of decisions.

BRIGGS: We recommend you read Tal's piece on that on And check out the segment from John Oliver as well on "LASTWEEK TONIGHT."


BRIGGS: A good explainer on what's happening there.

All right, Tal Kopan. We appreciate you live in D.C. this morning. Thank you.

KOPAN: Thank you.

MARSH: Well, at his luncheon the president had with the Baltic leaders, the president declared we'll find out whether Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe, and he raised eyebrows with this 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.


MARSH: Very stupid people.

Well, last night in his final public remarks as National Security adviser, H.R. McMaster -- well, he took a much harder line on Russia. Take a listen.


LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, OUTGOING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: 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.


MARSH: McMaster did have some words of praise for the Trump administration's policy on Russia, especially the coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a Russian double-agent in the U.K.

BRIGGS: All right.

At the president's 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.


[05:40:05] BRIGGS: Of course, 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 and that is our mission. And the mission isn't over and we're going to complete that mission.


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

MARSH: Breaking news overnight. China just announcing more tariffs on U.S. products. It's a response to the White House's detailing the $50 billion in Chinese goods it planned to hit with tariffs.

So let's go to Ivan Watson live in Beijing with more details. Ivan, this looks like the beginning of what people said was coming, a trade war.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, China making it very clear it's willing to go tit for tat against the U.S. It's willing to go to a trade war with the U.S. if the Trump administration follows through on its proposal on Tuesday to impose a 25 percent tariff on some $50 million -- billon, rather, of Chinese exports to the U.S. So China, today, has announced it will reciprocate at the same scope, same size -- 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of U.S. goods coming to China. And they would include soybeans and airplanes and that's significant because those are major businesses from the U.S. to China. You had, in 2016, $14 billion worth of U.S. soybeans and roughly $14 billion worth of U.S. aircraft.

The Trump administration says it needs these tariffs to protect against alleged intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer. The vice minister of commerce in China was asked about that -- those allegations -- and his response was fake news. He says China doesn't do that -- Rene, Dave.

MARSH: All right, Ivan. Thank you so much.

BRIGGS: All right.

Remember the president said trade wars are good and easy to win? Well, it appears Wall Street disagrees.

Dow futures are 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 flamethrowers and medical supplies, which is malaria test kits, hearing aids, and artificial teeth. And excludes many popular retail items -- shoes, clothes, furniture. Products that would prompt the biggest consumer backlash should prices rise.

These tariffs are punishment for China allegedly stealing trade secrets, but also to fulfill an essential 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: Breaking overnight, police in San Bruno, California have identified the YouTube shooter as Nasim Aghdam, a San Diego woman in her late thirties. Officials say she shot three people at YouTube headquarters in the San Francisco suburb and then apparently took her own life.

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 didn't want to be identified, says when he learned her car had not been found not far from the Google headquarters in Mountain View, they called police. Listen closely to her brother here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, BROTHER OF NASIM AGHDAM: I Googled a month (ph) and it was close to the YouTube headquarter so -- and 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.


MARSH: Well, one of the wounded, a 36-year-old man, is in critical condition this morning. A fourth person was injured trying to escape the gunfire.

BRIGGS: All right, more on those fears of a trade war sinking stocks overnight, plus Spotify's big market debut. "CNN Money" is next.


[05:49:15] MARSH: Severe weather is shifting eastward. Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is here, who's going to tell us a little bit more about who could be affected. Good morning, Ivan.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think we can pretty much, guys, say that the severe weather season has begun in earnest yesterday, right, with all this hail reports, 189 wind reports. Those would be winds in excess of 58 miles an hour -- severe winds. And, of course, not just straight-line winds but rotating thunderstorms and eight tornado reports.

The National Weather Service will be out there surveying the damage to let us know exactly what kind of damage we're talking about. An EF1, EF2 potential across the region here which has now pretty much gotten rid of the storms.

This front is now approaching the mid-Atlantic coast. Now I will say for today, the risk continues to minimize and I don't think we're going to have a big outbreak like we did yesterday as far as tornadic storms.

[05:50:06] Really, straight-line winds with some nasty thunderstorms setting up as we head into the afternoon and evening from the Delmarva heading into North Carolina. That would be my main concern today as that area continues to shrink.

Here it is on futurecast. You'll be able to see the front kind of fizzling out. But again, a few storms to the south and then we'll get rid of this as we head through tonight with temperatures continuing rather cold. Twenties and thirties to the north and the cooldown beginning across the south as well -- guys. BRIGGS: Thanks, Ivan.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money" at 5:50 eastern time.

Fears of a trade war sinking stocks overnight. Global stocks and U.S. futures falling sharply after China hit the U.S. with tariffs on 106 items. Dow futures are down more than 400 points, a response from the U.S. detailing its own tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods. A trade war would be devastating for global growth, U.S. consumers, and companies.

Wall Street closed higher yesterday thanks to a rebound in tech stocks. Amazon closed up 1.4 percent. President Trump has been attacking Amazon on Twitter and to reporters, accusing it of not paying taxes and hurting the post office. That has cost it $50 billion in market value.

Spotify is worth nearly $30 billion in its market debut. Spotify opening at $165 a share on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, but it was an unusual listing. The streaming music service around investment banks to take itself public, meaning it sells shares directly to investors. Spotify, the largest music streaming company in the world.

Well, if you still have a Toys R Us gift card lying around there's some good news. Bed Bath & Beyond will let you exchange it. Last month, Toys R Us said it would close all U.S. stores but promised to honor gift cards until April 21st.

Now, Bed Bath & Beyond has another option. They'll let you swap them for reduced gift cards to its own stores. They can be used both in- store and an online but you better act fast. The offer only good until tomorrow, Rene.

MARSH: All right.

Well, let's go to Washington and take a live look at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial there as we remember Martin Luther King's assassination 50 years today.

We'll be right back.


[05:56:51] BRIGGS: All right, we're following breaking news out of California this morning.

An investigation is underway after a Marine Corps helicopter based in El Centro crashed on a training mission Tuesday afternoon. The Marine Corps says it presumes all four crew members are dead.

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.

MARSH: Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker sounding the alarm after a Democratic-backed candidate won a seat on Wisconsin's Supreme Court. The results leading Walker to tweet that the GOP is quote "at risk of a blue wave in November."

Liberal Rebecca Dallet trounced conservative Michael Screnock in the race for a 10-year term on Wisconsin's high court. The candidates did not run with party affiliations but the state Democratic Party helped Dallet's campaign.

BRIGGS: A report from the Centers for Disease Control says nightmare bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics are popping up across the U.S. A program for testing suspect bacteria found more than 220 cases in 27 states continues quote "an especially rare resistance gene."

Some two million Americans get sick from antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and 23,000 die.

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 at an event honoring Dr. King, city leaders held tributes in honor of King's famed "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech -- the final speech he gave on April third, 1968.

Events are 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.

Obviously, a huge moment --


MARSH: -- in American history.

BRIGGS: A live look there at the memorial as well.

MARSH: Well, thanks so much for joining us on EARLY START this morning. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

"NEW DAY" starts right now. They have Martin Luther King, III, plus South Carolina lawmakers Trey Gowdy and Tim Scott.

We'll see you tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President of the United States is a subject of a criminal investigation. That is an extraordinarily serious thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There isn't any evidence the president has obstructed justice. I think writing a report will help exonerate him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it eventually.

We are preparing for the military to secure our border.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We cannot use the active military for law enforcement purposes.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is more of a political move. The president increasingly sees the military as a play toy.

BRIGGS: Stunning new details offering insight into the YouTube shooter's possible motivation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden we heard some sirens and then we saw some people running out of the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd think that after we've seen Las Vegas, Parkland, we would see an end to this, but we have not.