Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

Trump Memo Sends Troops To Mexican Border; White House Works To Ease Trade Fears; Trump Eases Off Immediate Withdrawal From Syria; U.S. Diplomats Leave Moscow Embassy. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 5, 2018 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:31:30] 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 its own tariffs.

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

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: Good to see you. Christine Romans on a little spring break. You'll see her next week. Thirty-one minutes past the hour.

We start with the president, last night, signing a memo ordering National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. The memo says 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."

Unclear when troops might actually show up at the border, how much that might cost, or how many are going. A senior administration official says details are still being worked out between the DHS, Department of Defense, and border states.

MARSH: Well, 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 on this we turn to CNN's Jeff Zeleny who's at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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?

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

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: 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, Sec. 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Thank you.

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 one 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. [05:35:12] The president insisted in a tweet that this is not a trade war and since neither tariff package goes into effect yet, economic adviser Larry Kudlow calls this a negotiation strategy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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 companies like Apple, Boeing, Starbucks, and Intel who rely on China for a huge portion of their sales.

And, China's tariffs are strategic, striking at many agricultural exports, those produced in Farm Belt states that voted for Trump in 2016. In fact, Rene, eight of the top 10 soybean-producing states voted for Trump.

These are targeted proposed tariffs but is it yet a trade war? Let's ask political economic Greg Valliere. He's the chief strategist for Horizon Investments, in D.C. this morning. Good to see you, sir.

All right, is this just a negotiation strategy and if so, where does it end?

GREG VALLIERE, POLITICAL ECONOMIST, CHIEF GLOBAL STRATEGIST, HORIZON INVESTMENTS: Well, I think it's got a long way to go, Dave. I think it's got weeks, more likely months before we get any final deal, and I do think there'll be a deal.

So I think Larry Kudlow is right. This is not a trade war.

As I've said to you many times in the last few weeks, it's a trade dispute to be sure. It's one that could hurt the president in the Farm Belt and could hurt him on Wall Street, but I don't think we're at a trade war stage just yet.

MARSH: So, Greg, the other big headline, the president ordering National Guard troops to the border.

VALLIERE: Yes.

MARSH: He says there's a crisis on the border. It feels like a bit of whiplash when you consider the president said this just three months ago. Let's play that sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very proud to say that we're way down in the people coming across the border. We have fewer people trying to come across because they know it's not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: So the numbers that the president used back then saying that his rhetoric had really impacted the number of border crossings, he's now using numbers at the -- at the border, saying that look, it looks really bad. There's a crisis. A lot of people are flowing through and we need to essentially get the troops down there.

What do you make of the -- just the -- just the difference in tone three months ago versus now?

VALLIERE: Well, as with so many issues -- Amazon -- so many issues, his facts seem to be a little bit shaky. Illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.

My suspicion is that when he was in Mar-a-Lago over the Easter weekend he got an earful from activists. He's heard a lot of harsh criticism from the right -- Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham -- who have said he hasn't done enough on immigration. He hasn't built the wall. He hasn't gotten enough money on this.

So I think he's been stung by the criticism and I think that's why he's moving now.

BRIGGS: Yes, and to Rene's point, apprehensions of illegal border crossings reaching their lowest level since 1971. Now, we're sending National Guard --

VALLIERE: Right.

BRIGGS: -- troops in. It really begs a lot of questions.

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGGS: And clearly, nothing was planned. When you hear from Nielson yesterday, they have nothing ready.

But I want to talk about Amazon and you mentioned --

VALLIERE: Sure.

BRIGGS: -- that fact because the president has lashed out at Amazon all week, and Jeff Bezos, and on and on again.

An interesting editorial in "The Weekly Standard" says "The GOP can't be the party of free markets and the party of anti-corporate hectoring at the same time."

How do you make sense of this if you're a Republican --

VALLIERE: Right.

BRIGGS: -- and you're trying to run on being a free-trader and then the president is attacking private industry?

VALLIERE: You know, it's a puzzle, Dave. I believe and have for quite a while that the economic fundamentals are quite good. Strong labor market -- we'll get another jobs reports tomorrow. Good corporate earnings -- on and on and on -- and I think a trade war is not imminent.

However, I think one of the great risks for the markets right now is that we have a president who is a headline-risk president. Who knows what he's going to say today about Amazon or drug companies or whatever? That does add a note of anxiety, especially when he goes after arguably one of the great success stories in American business history, Amazon.

BRIGGS: Yes. Certainly, they are a disruptor.

What do you make of the silence from Amazon? Do companies have a plan to deal with these types of attacks?

VALLIERE: I have a hunch that Jeff Bezos may come up with his own distribution network and if he does it would be devastating for the post office. This idea that the post office is getting ripped off is ridiculous. The post office makes money from Amazon and if Amazon comes up with its own distribution that would be a negative story for the post office.

[05:40:00] BRIGGS: A devastating game-over type of story.

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGGS: All right. Thanks so much, Greg Valliere --

VALLIERE: All right.

BRIGGS: -- for your great insight this morning.

MARSH: Right, and you have to think maybe Amazon also doesn't want to engage because they don't necessarily want this to continue on as their prices --

BRIGGS: Yes.

MARSH: -- stock prices continue to decline.

BRIGGS: But also know states are lining up to give them billions in tax incentives to have their second headquarters there, so stayed tuned.

MARSH: All right.

And coming up, in an unusual move, special counsel Robert Mueller's team has started questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled to the United States. 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 even searching his electronic devices. At least one other oligarch was stopped, and a third who has not recently visited the United States was asked for a voluntary interview.

Sources say investigators want to know whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled money into the Trump campaign or inauguration.

BRIGGS: Embattled EPA administration Scott Pruitt said he was unaware two of his top aides were getting huge raises and has put a stop it. A source says 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.

Ed Henry, yesterday, pressed Pruitt on an explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 give pay raises to two staffers?

SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Touche for the tough interview there.

Pruitt also pushed back against criticism over his lease of a room on Capitol Hill for below-market rate from an energy lobbyist whose firm lobbies the EPA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Wow.

The EPA's top ethics watchdog now says he did not have all the facts when he 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 was not the case.

If indeed, the president continues to base his hirings and firings on Fox News' performance, Scott Pruitt should not feel good about his standing.

MARSH: And if he also bases it on negative headlines --

BRIGGS: Yes, yes.

MARSH: -- because there have been plenty for Scott Pruitt.

BRIGGS: But he's been extremely effective for Trump's cabinet, so it's a tough one.

MARSH: He has. He's rolled back those regulations.

BRIGGS: Oh, yes.

MARSH: And coming up, President Trump pushing towards a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. That led to a tense meeting with his national security team. We go live to Damascus for reaction, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:47:35] MARSH: Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria was a sore point 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 agitated 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 over and cover the costs of stabilizing the area.

As President Trump plans an exit strategy for Syria, the leaders from Russia, Iran, and Turkey ended a summit Wednesday. All three countries are major players in ending the conflict there. The summit concluded with a commitment to achieving a lasting ceasefire in Syria.

Notably absent though from the summit, the U.S. and representatives from Syria itself.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Damascus, Syria with more. Good morning, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Rene.

And there's a lot of people here in Syria who essentially believe that the president has shown America's cards to all the players here in this country, both national and international, and that is that the U.S. wants to get out of this country as fast as possible despite the president's generals saying at this point in time it's better to still stay in.

Now, of course, that has huge implications both for America's allies and for America's adversaries here on the ground.

You were just mentioning Turkey, Iran, and Russia. Well, those are by far the most important and the most powerful players here on the ground. And it's one thing for them to have had a summit, as you just mentioned, but they're also creating military facts on the ground.

The Russians and their allies here, the Syrian government loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, have made huge gains on the battlefield around here where I am in Damascus and in other places as well. And in the north of the country, the Turks are pushing their own military agenda, squeezing some of those U.S. allies who used to fight with America against ISIS.

So, America's allies here on the ground have a big problem. On the one hand, they're not sure whether President Trump and the U.S. will stay in. And at the same time, they might have to cut a deal with the Russians simply to survive, Rene.

MARSH: Right, and all of us watching here as the president seems to not be in the same -- not be in lockstep with his own military advisers.

[05:50:03] Thank you so much, Fred.

BRIGGS: All right, 5:49. Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Global stocks rebounding overnight after the Trump administration's latest tit for tat with Beijing drove wild swings on Wall Street. Stocks plummeted early when China proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of U.S. exports, a response from the U.S.'s own tariffs on Chinese goods. That stoked fears of a trade war.

But stocks surged after White House official urged caution. The Dow jumped more than 700 points yesterday, erasing a 510-point loss to close up one percent. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 also closing more than one percent higher.

Facebook's data crisis is getting worse. It now says it exposed millions more than originally reported allowing Trump campaign consultants to access the info of up to 87 million users without their consent. Previous estimates were 50 million.

Facebook promises to inform those who were exposed starting next week. CEO Mark Zuckerberg accepting responsibility for the leak which has angered users, advertisers, and lawmakers. And now, Zuckerberg confirms he'll head to Capitol Hill next week to face questions from two congressional panels about how Facebook handles user data. That's on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Well, if you travel on Delta Airlines -- if so, your payment info may have been breached. The airline says it was the victim of a cyberattack last fall. It involved Delta's online chat services provider. However, Delta said only a small subset of customers were impacted and that no other personal info was exposed.

Delta promising to help any traveler whose payment info was stolen. They've set up a Website to update customers.

And, Rene, that Facebook story is a huge deal -- 71 million Americans.

MARSH: Yes.

BRIGGS: Chances are most of you were impacted in some way if you're on Facebook. We need more answers and hopefully, Zuckerberg provides them.

MARSH: Yes, and he'll be on the Hill on Tuesday.

Well, today is the deadline for expelled U.S. diplomats to leave Russia. We are live in Moscow, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:56:20] BRIGGS: New this morning from Moscow, eyewitnesses say buses left the U.S. Embassy early this morning carrying American diplomats who are being expelled from Russia. The ejection a tit for tat over Russian diplomats being ejected from countries around the world over the poisoning of a Russian double-agent in the U.K.

For the latest, let's turn to senior international correspondent Matthew Chance in Moscow this morning. Good morning, Matthew. What's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

That's right. This was the deadline for the -- for those 60 U.S. diplomats to leave the Russian capital. And even though the embassy hasn't confirmed to us yet that the departure has now taken place, eyewitnesses from the Russian media, in particular, who have been staking out the gates of the Russian -- the U.S. diplomatic compound here in Moscow have said they've seen at least one coach leave filled with people assumed to be the diplomats. We don't know how many people are on board.

But yes, this is the deadline that's come for the -- for the departure of those 60 U.S. diplomats that have been ejected by Russia. That in response, of course, to the U.S. ejection -- expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats that came at the end of March in response to the alleged poisoning by a Russian nerve agent of Sergei and his daughter Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in England. That's something, of course, that the Russians -- that the Russian authorities have categorically denied.

But they've been left very diplomatically isolated by that thing happening. Not just the United States but 28 other countries have also expelled Russian diplomats in response -- Dave.

BRIGGS: A lot of lives disrupted over all this.

Matthew Chance live in Moscow. Thank you, sir.

MARSH: New England Patriots star Julian Edelman may have prevented a potential 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 charged with making a false report of a threat of terrorism.

All right, the Masters starts today. Tony Finau will make his Masters debut, maybe.

He hit a hole-in-one yesterday and in the celebration backwards, just rolled his ankle in devastating fashion. But Finau, he is the toughest dude on the planet. He pops it back into place, hobbles back to the tee, and continues his humiliated celebration.

He'll try and start the Masters today, but there's a look at what he did.

MARSH: It's like a perfect right angle.

BRIGGS: I'm sorry. We should have given you a viewer warning for that but it is just a perfect -- it looked like it was fractured or at the very least out of place. He'll have an MRI this morning and try to tee off for the Masters today, which starts at 8:30 a.m. That's too bad.

MARSH: I mean, a right angle. I mean --

BRIGGS: It was devastating.

MARSH: Yes.

BRIGGS: It was nasty.

MARSH: But he's OK.

BRIGGS: You're welcome, America.

MARSH: Well, thank you for joining us this morning. I'm Rene Marsh.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIELSEN: The president has directed that the Department of Defense to deploy the National Guard to our southwest border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm, frankly, glad to see him stepping up. I think it's actually a necessary step.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just a political fix because he made a stupid campaign promise over a stupid border wall.

TRUMP: I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His entire national security team said you can't do this. The president apparently got very testy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a special responsibility. If he just pulls out precipitously it's very like that coalition falls apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mueller's team is now targeting certain Russian oligarchs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The questioning of these people certainly isn't focused on donations and money surrounding the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's always been follow the money. That's where it was in Watergate and that's where it is here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, April fifth, 6:00 here in New York.