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Funeral Set for Former First Lady Barbara Bush; Secret Meeting Between Pompeo & Kim Jong-un; Moments of Terror on Deadly Flight; Nikki Haley Fires Back Over Sanctions "Confusion". Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 18, 2018 - 04:30   ET


[04:32:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Condolences pour in for Barbara Bush. The formidable, no-nonsense wife of one president and mother of another.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, sources confirming a secret meeting between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we're going down, I have no idea, are we near a runway?


ROMANS: Survivors describe moments of terror after a midair engine blast that killed a fellow passenger.

BRIGGS: And President Trump's U.N. ambassador U.N. ambassador firing back, refusing to take the blame for, quote, "confusion" over sanctions on Russia. Extraordinary rebuke of the White House. You feel like this story's not yet over.

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour.

Breaking news, President Trump has ordered flags flown at half staff at the White House and across the nation to honor former First Lady Barbara Bush. She died last night at age 92. A public viewing is set for Friday in Houston with a private funeral to follow on Saturday. She'll be laid to rest in a family plot in College Station, Texas.

BRIGGS: She was, of course, the wife of one former president and the mother of a second. The chief of staff for George H.W. Bush said her husband was, quote, "broken hearted," and that he held her hand all day and was at her side when she left this good earth. In a statement, George W. Bush wrote: I'm a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother.

For more reaction, we go to CNN's Nick Valencia at the Bush family home in Houston.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, shortly after the news of Barbara Bush's passing was announced on social media by the Bush family spokesman, neighbors and friends and family, loved ones of Barbara Bush began to gather here just outside of the residence of the Bush family. They spoke about the memories they had and shared. And often seeing over the years, Barbara Bush walking around this neighborhood, neighbors saying there was no ego about her.

I spoke to Lindy and Larry Nyhouse (ph), they were close friends with the Bush family. In fact, they said they had the great misfortune of also losing a child. Barbara Bush lost one very early on.

They said they were comforted by sharing the similar bond. They said that Barbara Bush was incredibly funny, charismatic, just a stellar woman. And they said that is how they will always remember her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was just the ultimate lady. She was the ultimate lady, and they had the ultimate marriage. She just was so kind and gentle and yet had a fabulous sense of humor. Fabulous sense of humor.

VALENCIA: Measured by what? What was it like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my gosh, she was down to earth. I mean, that was the main thing. She'd be walking around the park with everybody else. I mean, she didn't -- had no ego. Just was so giving all the time.

VALENCIA: It was over the weekend that we learned that Barbara Bush decided to not seek additional medical treatment. She did not want to go to the hospital, choosing to live her final days here in her residence in comfort care surrounded by her family.

[04:35:03] She had battled for at least two years, COPD as well as congestive heart failure. And she passed away surrounded by her loved ones.

In the coming days, she will have a service at St. Marcus Episcopal Church in Texas -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: Thank you for that, Nick, in Houston. Barbara Bush was actually the second woman to be the wife and mother of two different presidents. Abigail Adams was the first wife to John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams. Back when Mrs. Bush's son was in the White House, CNN's Larry King asked her to explain how that felt.


LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: What is it like, Barbara, to be the mother of a president?

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: It's worrisome because you worry about the responsibilities. Having said that, it's not very much different from the children. We were in Washington last week and I got there before George, and Laura was overseas. And it really touched me, the president came out and met me at the door. I would feel the same if Doro stopped working or Marvin stopped working and came out of the building. I really loved it.


BRIGGS: Other first families spoke from the heart about Barbara Bush last night. The president and Mrs. Trump released a statement saying, quote: She'll be long remembered for her strong devotion to country and family, both of which she served unfailingly well. The president and first lady's thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Mrs. Bush.

ROMANS: Barack and Michelle Obama wrote: We'll always be grateful to Mrs. Bush for the generosity she showed us throughout our time at the White House. We're even more grateful for the way she lived her life as a testament to the fact that public service is an important and noble calling, as an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit.

BRIGGS: Bill and Hillary Clinton releasing a statement saying: Mrs. Bush had grit and grace, brains and beauty. She was fierce and feisty in support of her family and friends, her country and her causes. She showed us what an honest, vibrant, full life looks like.

ROMANS: Mrs. Bush well known for her great sense of humor. During her 1990 commencement speech at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, she encouraged students then to believe in something larger than yourself. She added some unexpected wisdom from the classic 1980s film " Ferris Bueller."


BARBARA BUSH: Find the joy in life because as Ferris Bueller said on his day off, life movement pretty fast, and if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you're going to miss it.


ROMANS: Former First Lady Barbara Bush dead at the age of 92.

BRIGGS: Also breaking overnight, sources tell CNN, CIA Director Mike Pompeo met secretly with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang earlier this month. She was accompanied by intelligence officials but did not take anyone from the White House or State Department with him. The meeting with Kim over the Easter weekend laying the groundwork for a late May or early June summit between the North Korean leader and President Trump.

CNN's Will Ripley tracking the latest developments live from Hong Kong.

Just extraordinary developments, Will. No one knows North Korea quite like you. Let me ask you, we've always been skeptical of denuclearization on the peninsula. It's written into North Korea's constitution. They view it as their means of survival. Are you still skeptical?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, because Kim Jong-un's missile program is arguably what got him to this point, to where he is potentially weeks away from something his father and grandfather couldn't do, which is achieve a sit down meeting with the president of the United States, something that the North Korean leadership has always craved. They want respect and legitimacy.

And now, in very short order, after President Trump agreed to the summit, you have the summit next week with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in. Xi Jinping of China might be visiting Pyongyang next month. You have the leaders of Japan and Russia also requesting their own summits with Kim Jong-un.

All of this would have been unthinkable just months ago. It wouldn't have happened from the North Korean viewpoint if they didn't have their nuclear weapons as leverage, which is what they've said all along. They want to sit down at the negotiating table with leverage, and let me tell you, if you think the price was high back in 1994 when North Korea agreed to denuclearize a deal that fell apart, the price will be a lot higher now that North Korea has essentially declared itself a nuclear power, Dave.

BRIGGS: Interesting. Yesterday, Will, the president said this referring to who deserves credit for the developments on the peninsula. Listen --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea is coming along. South Korea is meeting and has plans to meet with North Korea to see if they can end the war. And they have my blessing on that. And they've been very generous that without us and without me in particular, I guess, you would have to say that they wouldn't be discussing anything.


BRIGGS: Is the president right, Will?

RIPLEY: To some extent, diplomatic sources say that President Trump does deserve credit for creating this climate. His threats of military action combined with the stepped up sanctions have turned the screws on North Korea and perhaps brought them to the table.

[04:40:02] However, you cannot really -- you have to also point out that South Korea's President Moon Jae-in has orchestrated this carefully. He's had to walk a delicate line, keeping the United States and President Trump engaged but not alienating the North Koreans, his neighbors to the north. And so, he has -- he might be giving President Trump the credit, but history's going to look back at all of the key players here.

And certainly, there will be credit given to President Trump but also to Moon Jae-in. And, frankly, to Kim Jong-un, who's been orchestrating this thaw since November when he launched his last ICBM and hasn't tested anything since.

BRIGGS: As usual, great insights from Will Ripley. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The female passenger who died on a Dallas-bound Southwest flight has been identified as Jennifer Riordan, 43-year-old Wells Fargo employee and married mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fellow passengers say they tried to pull her back into the cabin after she was literally sucked into a hole caused by an engine fan blade that apparently broke off and shattered a window. Witnesses describe a desperate, chaotic scene as alarms sounded 20 minutes after takeoff.

We get more this morning from CNN's Polo Sandoval in Philadelphia.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, this morning, the passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 are either at home or they're still trying to get there after what was a day that they will never forget.

They left New York's LaGuardia Airport yesterday headed to Texas. Not long into that 4-hour flight passengers reported hearing a thud -- an explosion.

They looked out the left windows of the Boeing 737 and they saw that one of those two engines was destroyed. There was some kind of issue there sending debris and shrapnel towards the fuselage, severely damaging, breaking a window, and causing a massive and sudden depressurization.

It certainly made for a terrifying scene here. Witnesses -- some of the passengers describing some of those people on board the plane holding a woman in place, keeping her from literally getting sucked out of the aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody screamed and we realized what had happened when the window went out. And so, I tried and tried and I couldn't -- I just couldn't. And then Andrew came over and was trying to get her -- was trying to get her back in.

I feel like I didn't get much done. I couldn't do anything for her -- just get her back in the plane.

SANDOVAL: We later found out that that woman, sadly, did not make it -- the one fatality involved here.

We have heard many of these stories. People essentially reaching out to their loved ones thinking that those would be their final moments.

The task now for the National Transportation Safety Board is trying to find out exactly what went wrong -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: Our condolences to her family. Just a tragedy there. Marty Martinez was a passenger on Southwest Flight 1380. He tells CNN he didn't expect to survive the ordeal, so he fired up Facebook live as the plane was descending to say good-bye to his loved ones. Listen to him describe the scene.


MARTY MARTINEZ, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES PASSENGER: You hear on the intercom a panic, brace for landing, brace for landing. I looked to my right out the window, and I see a city that I wasn't familiar with. And come to find out later it was Philadelphia. But as we're going down, I have no idea are we near a runway. I see the tops of -- of Philadelphia, the top of the buildings, and are we going to crash into the skyscrapers? Are we going to land on a runway? I was completely unclear.


BRIGGS: Just incredible video.

CNN has also obtained air traffic control audio of the pilot contacting the tower shortly after the engine blew. She asked to have medics on the ground to treat injured passengers.


ATC: Injured passengers, OK, and are you -- is your airplane physically on fire?

PILOT: Not fire, not fire, but part of it's missing. They said there's a hole, and someone went out.

ATC: I'm sorry, you said there was a hole and somebody went out? Southwest 1380, it doesn't matter. We'll work it out there.


BRIGGS: After that, the air traffic controller alerts other planes to prepare for the airport to be shut down.

ROMANS: All right. Good news for taxpayers. You get an extra day to file because the IRS Website crashed on tax day causing many to miss the midnight deadline. The IRS spent hours yesterday, the busiest tax day of the year, trying to deal with computer glitches. The online filing service was down most of the day, maddening for people who were trying to file.

The agency says the problems were related to the transfer of tax returns from companies like H&R Block and Turbo Tax. Right now, we're told all systems are back on line. So taxpayers, you have until midnight tonight to file your taxes. The IRS commissioner apologized, adding that the extra time will help taxpayers affected by the situation. You don't get yesterday back, folks. Sorry about that.

Americans should file normally, or ask for a six-month extension. That's what the president did. The White House said the president would file late due to the complexity of his returns.

[04:45:01] And a reminder, the president taking a victory lap yesterday for tax cuts. But we don't know what's in his taxes. First president --

BRIGGS: Doesn't look like we'll see them.

ROMANS: I don't think we will either.

BRIGGS: Not any time soon.

Ahead, President Trump's U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says she is not confused. A conflict with the White House over Russian sanctions, next.


BRIGGS: Nikki Haley lashing back at accusations she was confused about Trump administration plans to crack down on support for Syrian regime. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. sounded quite certain about those plans, even citing the treasury secretary by name when she appeared on CBS on Sunday talk shows.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: So, you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn't already.

[04:50:00] And they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.


ROMANS: That was Sunday. Twenty-four hours later, the White House walking back her claims. Now administration officials including economic adviser Larry Kudlow are saying President Trump has not made a decision on how or even whether to impose sanctions.


LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: She got ahead of the curve. She's done a great job. She's a very effective ambassador.

There might have been some momentary confusion about that. But if you talk to Steve Mnuchin at Treasury and so forth, he will tell you the same thing -- they're in charge of this.

We have had sanctions. Additional sanctions are under consideration but not implemented.


ROMANS: So, Haley not having it, saying in a statement, "With all due respect, I don't get confused." The White House official says that since then, Kudlow has apologized

to Haley. Some administration officials say Haley's original comments surprised them. They say in the past she has pre-cleared such remarks directly with the president to avoid publicly contradicting him.

BRIGGS: CNN has learned the U.S.-led air strikes on Syria proceed despite questions over whether Syria's regime had used the nerve agent sarin to attack the civilians. While there was not absolutely certainly about sarin, sources say there was enough evidence for military officials to justify the strikes. The thinking being Syrian President Bashar al Assad forces did use some type of chemical agent, probably chlorine gas, possibly also sarin. A defense official says the lack of complete information played a role in deciding not to strike a larger set of targets including airfields, aircraft, and helicopters.

ROMANS: There were also tensions between President Trump and defend Secretary James Mattis ahead of the air strikes. "The New York Times" reporting Mattis wanted Congress to authorize the use of force before the military launched its attack. Sources say the president wanted to back up his tweets with action despite the possibility of sparking a larger clash with Russia. The end result of the limited strikes was said to be a compromise between Trump and Mattis.

BRIGGS: There's a new late-season snowstorm moving into the plains. In the south, temperatures are soaring. Pedram Javaheri with the forecast.



Somebody tell Mother Nature we are almost a month into the spring season, and wintry weather yet again across portions of the Dakotas, working down toward parts of Iowa. That's where I think really the best bet for significant snow could be in place over the next 24 or so hours. We have winter weather alerts in line for roughly ten million people across Wisconsin, points southward into areas around Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines. It's a quick-moving system comes through, but packs a potent punch for a localized region.

So, six to 12 inches not out of the question across central portions of Iowa. Working into parts of Illinois, northern Illinois, Chicago, could see a wintry mix out of this. Madison maybe a couple of inches at the most, but again, concentrated, heavy snow across the region.

To the South, it's about big-time warmth. We're talking early summer- like readings at least for one day. There is a front progressing across the region. So, Atlanta's 80-degree reading will give way back into the 60s as we go toward, say, Thursday, Friday, as well into Saturday for a gradual warming trend back in store -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Pedram Javaheri -

BRIGGS: Gradual warming. We'll take it.

ROMASNS: -- thank you.

All right. Today -- today is the new Tax Day. Tax Day 2. President Trump has touted his tax plan as a boon for Main Street. Now the biggest winners are Wall Street.

Details on CNN Money next.


[04:57:55] ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN Money this morning. Global stocks up today. U.S. stocks closed sharply higher as Wall Street focuses on fundamentals, not headlines.

Big U.S. companies reported strong quarterly earnings. Netflix shares up 9 percent on big user growth. That is a record high for Netflix shares. The largest U.S. insurer, United Health, rose nearly 4 percent after raising its profit forecasts for the year. This earnings season looks like a profitable, profitable quarter. S&P growth expected to be 17 percent, the best since 2011.

Today is the new Tax Day. In an op-ed yesterday, President Trump once again his new tax plan as a boon for Main Street. But right now, the biggest winners appear to be Wall Street. Thanks to the new tax law, S&P 500 workers have given workers about $6 billion in bonuses and wage hikes, $6 billion for workers.

American companies have announced $171 billion in stock buybacks. a record high. So, that's a boon for investors. The lower corporate rate is boosting banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo. Their earnings raise $2.5 million last quarter. That is their tax windfall.

Facebook is previewing its privacy update, asking users in the E.U. permission before using their data in targeted ads. The changes will roll out in the U.S. this month. Facebook faces scrutiny after facing to protect data. It is joining Microsoft and 32 other tech firms in the cybersecurity accord, the pledge to work together on cybersecurity issues, standing up to governments that launch cyberattacks and protecting against tampering against platforms.

Notably absent from the pledge, three of the biggest names in tech -- Apple, Google, and Amazon.

BRIGGS: All right. EARLY START right now. Barbara Bush, former first lady, more in a minute.


ROMANS: Condolences pour in for Barbara Bush, formidable, no nonsense wife of one president, American president, and a mother of another.

BRIGGS: And breaking overnight, sources confirm a secret meeting between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and North Korean dictator Kim Jong- un.