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EARLY START

How will Trump Respond; President Trump Blames Putin; Trump Defends EPA Chief Against New Scrutiny; Bus Hits Overpass; Kimmel Versus Hannity. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 9, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: The world awaits President Trump's next move. How will he respond to another alleged chemical attack in Syria?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: And the President for the first time calls out Vladimir Putin by name while Russia calls reports of a chemical attack a hoax.

MARQUARDT: And the Pentagon denied that the U.S. was behind the strike on the Syrian air base overnight. We are now learning more about who was behind it. Good morning. Welcome to "Early Start." I'm Alex Marquardt.

KOSIK: Good morning, I'm Alison Kosik, it is Monday, April 9, it's 4:00 a.m. in East, 11:00 a.m. in Moscow and Beirut. Reports from those cities, they are coming up in just a moment, but first the big question hanging over Washington this morning. How will President Trump respond to the horrific gas attack in Syria? Before we show you the very graphic video from eastern Ghouta, we want to warn you and suggest, to look away if you don't want to see these disturbing images.

CNN cannot independently verify what you are seeing in the footage which was taken by anti-government activists and doctors. The Assad regime denies it is behind the apparent attack. President Trump on Sunday hinting on unspecified consequences to come, calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name. For the first time saying this, many dead, including women and children in mindless chemical attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian arm, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification, another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. Sick.

MARQUARDT: is so intense that in the hours after those tweets, the administration was forced last night to deny that the Assad regime claims that the U.S. has launched an air strike against a Syrian airbase in response. Overnight, President Trump spoke with the French President Emmanuel Macron. The White House saying after the two quote agreed that the Assad regime must be held accountable. And that their governments would coordinate a strong joint response. For more, we go to CNN's Abby Phillip at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

ABBY PHILIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: President Trump once again finds himself responding to an alleged chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the Assad regime in Syria. This time, he's calling out Vladimir Putin and Russia and Iran for enabling Assad. He says there will be a big price to pay for this latest provocation. But President Trump also criticized his predecessor Barack Obama.

He wrote on Twitter, "If President Obama had crossed the stated red line in the sand, the Syrian disaster would have been ended long ago. Animal Assad, would had been history." But President Trump in the past had actually said that the President Obama should not have responded to Assad at the time. Now, he finds himself having drawn his own redline. And this is what the President's Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said about the options available to President Trump now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is also possible, there will be another missile attack?

TOM BOSSERT, ADVISER, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: I would not take anything off the table. These are horrible photos we are looking into the attack at this point.

PHILIP: The President's National Security Council is expected to meet on Monday about the Syrian issue as is the U.N. Security Council, but President Trump is coming into the situation having said in recent weeks that he wants to pull the United States out of Syria all together. And of course, his national security team is not fully formed. He is so waiting for the confirmation of his CIA Director and his Secretary of State and his new National Security Adviser, John Bolton, he's first day on the job is today.

(END VIDEO)

MARQUARDT: All right, thank you, Abby Philip for the White House.

Now, in the face of those heart wrenching images of children gasping and convulsing, Russia is calling the reports of a chemical attack a hoax. Russia's foreign ministry claims that rebel forces in Syria are fabricating the allegations in order to provoke international military intervention. Now, let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Nic Robertson. Nic, of course the Russians as to be expected are denying any responsibility by the Assad regime and its allies this morning.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, putting back on this is very hard. Clearly they are worried of what they had heard from President Trump. And in fact in the last half an hour, the Russian -- Russian officials here have now said that it was Israeli, two Israeli f-15 fighter jets that fired eight missiles at this T-4 air base in South Syrian air base that the Israelis have struck before by a month ago shortly after a drone was flown from Syria.

[04:05:00] An Iranian drone, they said had flown from Syria and to Israeli airspace, now attacking the same base again. And Russia is now making that very clear, but also very clear, the Russian foreign ministry has a message -- a very strong message for the United States. Essentially saying that this -- the claim of chemical attack is a hoax. Blaming groups on the ground, rebel groups on the ground.

And this is what they say in the statement, very clearly aimed at the United States. Using farfetched than fabricated pre-text for military intervention in Syria where Russian servicemen are deployed at the request of the legitimate government is absolutely unacceptable and can lead to the most serious consequences.

So the Russian foreign ministry that pointing out that Russian service personnel on the ground in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government. And the Russian general military staff here goes even further in their push back with a very clear warning for the United States. Saying, "We will take down American missiles and destroy their aircraft."

That is their threat from the Russian military if the United States were to follow through with some sort of strike this time. Just to add on the last time to this, Israelis made strikes on Syria. Benjamin Netanyahu called President Putin to explain it was self- defense. Not clear if this call has been made this time.

MARQUARDT: All right. Nic Robertson in Moscow, thanks very much.

KOSIK: OK, as we mentioned, the Pentagon is denying the Syrian state media report that the U.S. carried out a missile attack on an air base in Homs. And we are now learning more about that strike this morning. Let's get more now from CNN's Ben Wedeman. He's got the latest from Beirut. Good morning.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning. Well, we understand the strike took place sometime or after 3:00 a.m. Local Time. The base itself is known as the T-4 base. That is where it is known that there are Iranian forces as well as Syrian. We had a variety of accounts of what happened. Initially the Syrian Arab news agency, the official Syrian news agency came out with the statement saying that there have been casualties and fatalities. That several of the missiles were knocked out of the sky by Syrian defense forces.

And it is important to keep independent mind that was also the base where on the 10th of February, an Iranian drone was launched that went into Israeli air space. The Israelis shot that down and then attacked the T-4 air base, but one of their F-16's when it was returning to Israel was shot down by Syrian forces. So, very much this base, the T-4 base, the center of attention for the Israelis.

The Israelis, of course, as Nic mentioned in his live shot, that the Russians are accusing them of conducting this air strike. The Israelis, however, until now have declined to comment on the incident.

KOSIK: OK, we shall see what happens. CNN's Ben Wedeman live for us from Beirut, thanks. And President Trump is standing behind the embattled EPA

administrator, Scott Pruitt, in the face of new questions about excessive spending for his security detail. A source with direct knowledge says Pruitt's unprecedented 24 hour protection detail includes, 19 agents and a fleet of at least 19 vehicles. That would put the cost well into the millions of dollars. The new -- the new scrutiny adds to questions about the $50 a night room Pruitt rented from energy lobbyist and his habit of flying first class on the taxpayer dime.

MARQUARDT: President Trump responding to the new criticism of the EPA with another tweet writing, "While security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats, because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean air and water and while saving USA billions of dollars. Rent was about market rate. Travel expenses, OK. Scott is doing a great job!" Trump's defense of Pruitt is not convincing for some Republican lawmakers who criticized the EPA chief on the Sunday morning shows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY, (R), LOUISIANA: Now these are unforced errors. They're stupid, but there are a lot (inaudible), but you can behave. I'm not -- I don't mean demo grade Mr. Pruitt, but don't go as he represents the President of the United States and it is hurting his boss. And he needs to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think he has done a good job, but I'm looking to see the Oversight Committee is going to say. The one thing I can say, if you are the EPA administrator and two lobbyist change the locks, you have to watch out.

SEN SUSAN COLLINS, (D) MAINE: The policy grounds of loan, I think Scott Pruitt is the wrong person to head the EPA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:10:03] MARQUARDT: President Trump is also denying that Chief of Staff, John Kelly's, influence in the White House is on the wane. "The Washington Post" has reported that the relationship is tense with Kelly threatening to resign over disagreements with the President. He reportedly grew so frustrated in late March over the firing of V.A. Secretary David Shulkin that he told colleagues I'm out of here. And he had to be calmed down by Defense Secretary, Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary, Nielsen. As President Trump hauls the Post report a hit job.

KOSIK: And tensions with China escalate. Economic Adviser, Larry Kudlow, says Beijing has not wanted to talk in earnest amidst the threats of tariffs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After we made the first round, the Chinese response was unsatisfactory, to put at least. So the President is trying to get their attention again. The process may include tariffs. I cannot rule that out. It may rest eventually on negotiations. We will see how the president wants to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Last week, President Trump threatened an additional $100 billion in tariffs on China. That followed an earlier announcement on tariffs of $50 billion of Chinese goods. China then retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. exports. Well, now Kudlow is emphasizing that no tariffs have been implemented yet. He was one of a number of White House officials on Sunday, who are downplaying talk of a trade war.

We also heard from treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, he says, he does not expect a trade war. Trade Adviser, Peter Navarro, said tariffs are negotiating tactic. And Sunday morning, President Trump tweeted he and Chinese President, Xi Jinping, will remain friends no matter what happens with our dispute on trade.

The hope is to calm Wall Street. A possible trade war is shaking markets. The Dow lost 572 points on Friday. That is a 2.3 percent decline. Led by big exporters like Boeing and Caterpillar. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 they also more than fell 2 percent. Those words, believe it or not on Sunday may have calmed the markets. I do see features of up, although that could just be a bounce from the markets being hit so hard.

MARQUARDT: It could be a rocky ride this week again?

KOSIK: Absolutely, don't doubt it.

MARQUARDT: Investors hate volatility.

KOSIK: Yes. They are going to back shift find, they hate it, but at the same time they find reason to buy into it.

MARQUARDT: And they are the only ones who can really make any sort of money.

National Guard troops deployed to the border by order of the President. CNN on the ground in Texas next.

KOSIK: Bingo.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, National Guard troops are being deployed to the border by order of the president. CNN on the ground in Texas, next.

KOSIK: And the frightening crash of a bus full of school kids near New York overnight. The story behind this video ahead.

[04:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: Welcome back. At this hour, Texas officials are deploying the first wave of National Guard troops to patrol the state's 1,200 mile long border with Mexico. Once those troops are in place and mission and requirements and locations are determined, thousands more could be deployed. Long standing U.S. laws bar actual immigration enforcement by the military. So these troops will be limited to supporting -- to support tasks like training, construction and intelligence gathering. We now get more from CNN's Kaylee Hartung.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today, 250 National Guard troops will be in place in their operational roles along the Texas and Mexico border. Many of this troops arriving over the course of the weekend though were planners, they walked right into meetings with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol agents to discuss the resources that needed to be allocated in different areas of the border and determine the operational roles that the rest of the troops would be falling into.

At this point, we have no pictures to show you of troops lined up on the border. What we can show you, a look inside some of this meetings that were taking place over the weekend. Again, discussing the resources needed to be allocated. Handshakes shown through various military Twitter feeds, showing this border agents welcoming National Guard troop leaders to their command posts.

Now, there is an important point to be made here. That Federal troops cannot be involved in any law enforcement capacity. So, you won't see National Guard troops apprehending anyone illegally trying to enter the United States rather, they will taking on roles that will allow the customs and border patrol agents to do their jobs better out in the field.

These National Guard troops will be taking over desk jobs, they'll be doing intelligence gathering and surveillance. Again, to allow border patrol agents more flexibility and visibility to get out in the field and secure the U.S. border.

(END VIDEO)

KOSIK: OK, Kaylee, thank you. Authorities are investigating after the roof of a charter bus, carrying dozens of students was literally sheared off. Police say the bus slammed into an overpass on Long Island in New York. More than 40 people were injured. Oh, look at that bus. At least six of them is seriously, that the bus carrying 38 students from various Long Island high schools and five chaperone, it had just returned from the European trip.

Investigators say they were heading from JFK Airport to a shopping mall to meet up with their parents. Police say the driver was being evaluated and did not seem to be familiar with the roadways commercial vehicle height restrictions, because on this park is parkway and there are bridges that are lower, but there are lots of signs that alert buses and trucks that you are not supposed to be on the parkway, because there is bigger highway that can handle the higher vehicles.

MARQUARDT: Right. So (inaudible) happy to be home and see their parents again.

All right. Later this morning, Florida Governor, Rick Scott, is expected to announce that he is running for the U.S. Senate. Scott has two events scheduled today in Orlando and Fort Meyers in plans to declare his intentions live on Facebook at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. If he does challenges Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson, it will be

one of the most anticipated and expensive races in the nation later this year. Nelson is seeking his fourth term and plans to make President Trump a central figure in this race.

[04:20:10] KOSIK: OK. Jimmy Kimmel versus Sean Hannity? How an apology could now put their Twitter fight to rest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: Laura Ingraham returning to Fox News tonight, but some of her advertisers are not. It's the result of a 10 day boycott -- ten day ad boycott campaign against Ingraham led by Parkland school shooting survivor, David Hogg. He urge his followers on social media to contact Ingraham's advertisers after she mocked him on Twitter.

[04:25:00] Ingraham has sent apologized for the tweet, but at least one dozen prominent advertisers have distanced their brands from her program.

MARQUARDT: And also involving Fox News, late night comedian Jimmy Kimmel apologizing for what he called, inciting hatefulness in his clashed with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Sunday. Kimmel posted a lengthy apology on Twitter for tweets that he wrote about Hannity that some critics have called homophobic. It all started after Kimmel mock Melania Trump's accent on his show last week. Well, Kimmel did not specifically apologize to Hannity or the first lady, he said in part, he didn't mean to upset members of the gay community. And apologize to those who took offense to his tweets.