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Trump Memo Sends National Guard to Mexican Border; U.S.-China Trade Tensions Escalate; Oklahoma Teachers Continue Their Walkout; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 5, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump follows through officially ordering National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. But why now?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House tries to downplay talk of a trade war after China retaliates with more tariffs.

MARSH: Plus a CNN exclusive. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team questions wealthy Russians to see if they illegally channeled cash into the Trump campaign.

Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: Good morning, Rene. Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. Thursday, April 5th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East, 4:00 p.m. in Beijing and 11:00 a.m. in Damascus. We'll have reports from both of those cities shortly.

But first, President Trump last night signed a memo ordering National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. The memo says, quote, "The situation has reached a point of crisis," and adds, "The security of the United States is imperiled by a drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border."

It's unclear when troops might actually show up at the border or how many. A senior administration official says details are still being worked out between DHS, the Department of Defense and border states.

MARSH: And the National Guard's mission is also unclear. Federal law bars the military from involvement in immigration enforcement. In the past, when President Obama and George W. Bush deployed Guard troops to the border they worked in support roles like training, construction, and intelligence.

Well, for more we turn to CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Rene, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House making steps to send National Guard troops down to the U.S.-Mexican border, part of President Trump's directive to increase the strength of Border Patrols.

Now this coming as a rather fast announcement this week. The president is saying the laws are not strong enough. He's saying Congress has not acted. But the question of why this is so urgent came up in a White House briefing on Wednesday when I asked the Homeland Security secretary, why now?


ZELENY: Why is this such an urgent priority right now for the president to sign?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: April traditionally is a month in which we see more folks crossing the border without a legal right to do so. We are seeing more and more advertising, very unfortunately by the traffickers and smugglers to our south, specific to how to get around our system and enter our country and stay.

Why today, not yesterday, tomorrow? Today is the day. Today is the day we want to start this process. The threat is real, as I mentioned.


ZELENY: Now Secretary Nielsen and other administration officials deny that there was any rush to this but the reality here is based on our reporting the president was not pleased at the amount of funding for that border wall. We do know that he signed that omnibus spending bill a couple of weeks ago that only had $1.5 billion dedicated to the wall. He had asked for some $25 billion.

He was attacked in conservative media on FOX News and other places saying he was not focused enough on this, so this new immigration policy is certainly coming out of that.

Now the president is flying to West Virginia for a quick stop this afternoon talking about the economy and other programs. He'll be back in Washington this evening. Certainly, this immigration plan now front and center this week. The president going to West Virginia later today with an eye on immigration -- Dave and Rene.

BRIGGS: Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

The Trump administration's tit-for-tat with Beijing driving wild swings on Wall Street. The Dow erasing a 510-point loss to close up 1 percent after White House officials tried to calm fears of a trade war. First the U.S. detailed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Hours later China retaliated with its own proposed tariffs targeting American soybeans, chemicals, planes and cars. That sent stocks tumbling led by big declines in companies like Boeing, GM and Ford.

The president insisting in a tweet that this is not a trade war and since neither tariffs package goes into effect just yet. Economic advisor Larry Kudlow calls this a negotiation strategy.


LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: There's no trade war here. What you've got is the early stages of a process that will include tariffs, comments on the tariffs, then ultimate decisions and negotiations. There's already backchannel talks going on.

So look, I understand the stock market's anxiety. I get that. But on the other hand, don't overreact.


BRIGGS: That assurance may have worked. Stocks later rebounded but as trade tensions escalate, investors are still concerned. A trade war would be devastating for both U.S. consumers and businesses with companies like Apple, Boeing, Starbucks and Intel relying heavily on China for a portion of their sales. And China's tariffs are strategic, striking at many agricultural exports. Those are being produced in farm belt states that voted for President Trump in 2016.

[04:05:03] MARSH: Well, President Trump insists there is no trade war. But what is the view from China? How do they see all of this?

CNN's Ivan Watson is live this morning from Beijing. Hi, Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Rene. You know, it's a holiday here but we did hear from the Chinese ambassador to Washington. He told journalists on his way out of the State Department that, quote, "Negotiations would still be our preference, but it takes two to tango."

So what China has done is it says that it has erected proposed tariffs of -- on $50 billion worth of U.S. goods. It's in retaliation for the Trump administration's proposed tariffs. And now it is calling for both sides to sit down and talk and try to hash this out, negotiate this out instead of causing harm to each other's economies.

Surprisingly, perhaps, you have some top Chinese officials suddenly becoming defenders of agricultural interests in the United States. That is being echoed in one of the state newspapers with an editorial today in "China Daily," saying, quote, "Soon farmers, ranchers and other U.S. workers will now be adding their voices to the chorus of blame directed against at President Trump."

That's part of why the Chinese have singled out soybeans, a $14 billion export industry from the U.S. to China in 2016, as a potential tariff target. Eight of 10 soybean producing states in 2016 voted for Trump. China indicating it's ready to hurt directly economically Trump voters in an effort to bargain with the Trump administration -- Rene, Dave.

MARSH: Yes. Clearly a strategy to all of this. Ivan Watson, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: All right. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria was a sore spot for President Trump. At a meeting with military leaders and National Security aides, the president has repeatedly said it's time to withdraw troops from Syria. Sources tell CNN the president grew irritated at the Tuesday meeting when his National Security team argued the battle against ISIS is not yet complete and immediate withdrawal would be a mistake. The sources say Trump backed down and said he's willing to keep

American forces in Syria in the short term. But the president said he wants Arab allies to take more responsibility and pay the cost of stabilizing Syria.

MARSH: Well, in an unusual move, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has started questioning Russian oligarchs who travel to the U.S. CNN is reporting exclusively this morning that Mueller's investigators stopped at least one ultra wealthy Russian when his private jet landed in the New York area, interviewing him and searching electronic devices.

A person briefed on the matter says at least one other oligarch was stopped and a third who has not recently visited the United States was asked to voluntarily submit to an interview and hand over documents.

Sources say investigators want to know whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled money to the Trump campaign for inauguration, through think tanks, political action committees or straw donors.

BRIGGS: Trump administration expected to sanction several oligarchs with ties to Vladimir Putin as punishment for Russian interference in the 2016 election. Two senior administration officials said the sanctions will likely be announced later this week. On Tuesday, outgoing National Security adviser HR McMaster used his final remarks to lash out at Russia, pointing out the U.S. has failed to impose sufficient costs for Kremlin aggression. President Trump himself said Tuesday that nobody has been tougher on Russia, although his actual criticism of Putin and the Kremlin has remained muted.

MARSH: Well, embattled EPA administrator Scott Pruitt says he was unaware two of his top aides were getting big pay raises and he says he's put a stop to it. A source says that the White House had rejected the two staffers' raises, which total more than $80,000. The "Atlantic" reports the increases were then put through anyway using a loophole in federal salary rules.

BRIGGS: FOX News' Ed Henry yesterday pressed Pruitt for an explanation.


ED HENRY, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: If you're committed to the Trump agenda why did you go around the president and the White House, and gave pay raises to two staffers?

SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I did not. My staff did, and I found out about that yesterday and I changed it.

HENRY: So --

PRUITT: The PPO process should have been respected and I issued a statement yesterday walking back those pay raises that should not have been --

HENRY: Should somebody be fired for that? PRUITT: That should not have been done. And it --

HENRY: So who did it?

PRUITT: It may be -- there will be some accountability.

HENRY: A career person or a political person?

PRUITT: I'll have to -- I don't know. I don't know who --

HENRY: You don't know? You run the agency. You don't who did this?

PRUITT: I found out about this yesterday and I corrected the action.

HENRY: So --

PRUITT: We are in the process of finding out how it took place and correcting it.


MARSH: Well, Pruitt also pushed back against criticism over his lease of a room on Capitol Hill for below market rate from an energy lobbyist who lobbies the EPA.


[04:10:09] HENRY: President Trump said he would drain the swamp.

PRUITT: I don't think --

HENRY: Is draining the swamp renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington lobbyist?

PRUITT: I don't think that that's even remotely fair to ask that question.


MARSH: Well, the EPA's top ethics watchdog now says that he did not have all the facts when the cleared Pruitt's room rental. In a memo obtained by CNN, the ethics official says he assumed Pruitt was complying with the lease agreement as written. But he says there are new allegations that that was not the case.

BRIGGS: He was a little surprised by the tone and tenor of that interview with FOX News.

MARSH: I think so. You say? Yes.


All right. Just hours before she opened fire, the woman who shot three people at YouTube headquarters talked to police. We'll hear from the chief next.


[04:15:02] MARSH: An F-16 jet crashed outside Las Vegas killing a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds pilot. The crash happened during routine training over the Nevada test range Wednesday. The pilot's identity has not been released and the cause of the incident is under investigation. The Thunderbirds will not participate in the March Field Air and Space Expo this weekend. The Air Force says it's unclear how this will impact their season. This is before U.S. military crash this week.

BRIGGS: Wow. The YouTube shooter talked to police just hours before she opened fire inside the company's headquarters. The Mountain View police chief says 11 hours before the deadly shooting, police found Nasim Aghdam sleeping in her car at a parking lot about 30 miles southeast to the YouTube headquarters in California. During her 20- minute chat with police she never mentioned anything about YouTube or indicated she was ready to commit an act of violence.


CHIEF MAX BOSEL, MOUNTAIN VIEW POLICE DEPARTMENT: There was nothing by her body language, her conversation, her demeanor or the information that we received from the family that suggested that we should handle this in any other manner in which the officers handled it.


BRIGGS: The shooter opened fire at the YouTube's headquarters Tuesday injuring four people. Police say it appears she committed suicide.

MARSH: The Chicago suburb of Deerfield is moving to ban the possession, sale and manufacture of certain types of semiautomatic firearms. They include the AR-15 which has been used in several mass shootings including the Parkland school massacre. The new village ordinance also bans large capacity magazines. Owners are being given until June 13th to remove the banned firearms from the village limits or face deadly fines.

BRIGGS: The House Ethics Committee extending its investigation into whether Republican Congressman John Duncan Jr. of Tennessee misused $100,000 from campaign and leadership PAC funds on personal expenses including baby showers and wedding showers at a country club. A new public report from the non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics made the recommendation on further review. Duncan has denied the accusations. He announced last year he will not seek re-election.

MARSH: Well, action superstar Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is not ruling out a run for the presidency but he says maybe not in 2020. "Rolling Stone" asked the wrestler-turned-film star about all the political buzz and the creation of the Run the Rock 2020 campaign committee. He responded, quote, "It's so flattering that people are excited." And he added that being president is a skill set that requires years and years of experience. Johnson would only promise that he will be more vocal about who he supports in 2020. All right. So --

BRIGGS: Presumably who he does not support as well.

Speaking of, former NFL stars and current NFL stars may have helped stop a school shooting. What police are saying about Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots.


[04:22:35] BRIGGS: All right. It is Thursday, another day without classes for thousands of students in Oklahoma as a teacher walkout drags on. Teachers and supporters plan to rally again at the state capitol today demanding higher pay and more school funding.

More now from CNN's Nick Valencia in Oklahoma City.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Rene, the teachers' walkout here in Oklahoma continued for a fourth straight day with thousands of teachers descending outside the capitol. Many of them finding their way inside as well.

The anger of the teachers today was focused mainly on Governor Mary Fallin who made some controversial comments against teachers early in the week comparing them to spoiled teenagers who were asking for a nicer car. What they did get, though, was a breakthrough. And an Amazon sales tax that would bring $20 million in additional revenue for education funding. It falls short of the $200 million that the teachers are asking for. The teachers I spoke to say something is better than nothing.


AMANDA GARDLER, 4TH GRADE TEACHER: I think they thought we were not going to come out in the forces that we did especially throughout the week. I think they thought maybe Monday, Tuesday. But we're holding strong and you don't -- don't mess with teachers when we're trying to fight for our kids. It's not going to happen. Not going to fly.


VALENCIA: The rally is expected to continue again later this morning -- Dave and Rene.

MARSH: Thanks, Nick.

New England Patriots star Julian Edelman may have prevented a school shooting in Michigan. After a threat was posted on his Instagram account the NFL player's assistant contacted police in Boston. They helped Michigan authorities track down the 14-year-old boy who admitted to making the threat. The teen is now in custody charged with making a false report of a threat of terrorism. Macomb County, Michigan, where the school is located has seen a spike in threats since the Parkland school shooting.

BRIGGS: OK. He's just 15 years old but the grandson of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus stole the show at Augusta Nationals Wednesday. GT Nicklaus making his first ever hole-in-one. Look at these balls. Spin back with eyes towards the hole. This is during the annual par 3 contest that precedes the start of the Masters. Nicklaus aced the ninth and final hole of the exhibition and look at the celebration that followed. His grand dad has six green jackets. He says this may have been his most memorable day at Augusta. Ending with the tweet with the hashtag, memoryofalifetime.

Speaking of a memory I'll never forget, the Masters par 3 contest, very eventful for this guy, Tony Finau.

[04:25:04] After making his hole-in-one that was far more incredible given the spin of that ball, Finau would begin running towards the green in celebration. He then turns around backwards to celebrate before gruesomely turning his ankle right there, slipping. He appeared to just take his ankle, pop it right back into place before limping back toward the gallery. X-rays were negative. But he will have an MRI on the ankle this morning.

Finau intends to be ready for his afternoon tee off in round one of the Masters. It is his Masters debut. And if anyone knows ankles, that thing might not be ready to day to tee off.

MARSH: You don't even need to know ankles to know that that right there, that was painful.

BRIGGS: It was far more gruesome than it looked. Maybe we can show a still frame later on that shows the single sideways.

MARSH: I may have to look away. That was gruesome. But I'm glad he is OK.


MARSH: Coming up, President Trump orders troops to the U.S-/Mexico border. The question is what will they do while they're there. That's next.