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Barbara Bush, Republican Matriarch And Former First Lady, Dies At 92; CIA Chief Pompeo Met Secretly With Kim Jong Un; Passenger Killed On Southwest Airlines Flight; Haley Pushes Back At "Confusion" Claim. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 18, 2018 - 05:30   ET



[05:31:34] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Condolences continue to pour in for Barbara Bush, formidable, no-nonsense wife of one American president and the mother of another.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, sources confirm a secret meeting between CIA director Mike Pompeo and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.


MARTY MARTINEZ, PASSENGER ON SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT: As we're going down, I have no idea are we near a runway?


BRIGGS: Survivors describe moments of terror after a mid-air jet engine blast that killed a fellow passenger.

ROMANS: President Trump's U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley fires back, refusing to take the blame for quote "confusion" over sanctions on Russia. She says I don't get confused, folks.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 32 minutes after the hour.

We start with the breaking news this morning that President Trump 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 the age of 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.

ROMANS: The chief of staff for George H.W. Bush said her husband was brokenhearted 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 am a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother." With more on the former first lady and her legacy, CNN's Wolf Blitzer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: America loves Barbara Bush.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN "THE SITUATION ROOM," CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Barbara Bush was the woman behind two U.S. presidents. The wife of one, the mother of another.

Barbara Pierce was born in Queens, New York on June 8th, 1925. She grew up in suburban New York.

At a Connecticut country club dance, she met a young man who would change her life, George Herbert Walker Bush.

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I was square all through high school. I just tried to do the best I could. I was a -- I married the first man I ever kissed. You talk about a bore, I am the world's worst.

BLITZER: George Bush focused on building an oil business. Barbara Bush focused on building a family.

George Bush eventually entered a life of public service and while Barbara's candor might not have made a good match for his job as CIA director --

B. BUSH: That's because I can't keep a secret.

BLITZER: -- her charm was a definite asset to her husband's political career.

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

BLITZER: George Bush served two terms in Congress and in 1980, was elected as Ronald Reagan's vice president. Eight years later he sat in the Oval Office.

Barbara Bush loved living in the White House, keeping diaries of her time there and using them to help write her memoirs. Two other books showed her lighter side and a dog's eye view of the executive mansion.

B. BUSH: I must tell you --

BLITZER: Mrs. Bush knew well her vision of a first lady's role.

B. BUSH: I think the person who has the courage to run for the office is the one you should hear, not the wife or the husband. Having said that, of course, I told George how I felt.

BLITZER: For George and Barbara, their more than 60 years together included decades of devotion -- this letter to her, written by George while he was serving in World War II. GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love you precious with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you.

[05:35:11] BLITZER: Two of those children, George W. and Jeb, would solidify the Bush political dynasty as president and Florida governor. But in a surprising comment in 2013 as talk of a presidential run by Jeb swirled, the matriarch told NBC's "TODAY" show there should be a limit on the family's White House claim.

B. BUSH: There are other people out there that are very qualified and we've had enough Bushes.

BLITZER: But after Jeb did decide to run for the 2016 Republican nomination she fully backed him and hit the campaign trail.

B. BUSH: He's decent and honest. He's everything we need in a president.

BLITZER: In or out of politics, the legacy Barbara Bush nurtured will live on through her family, children, and grandchildren.

B. BUSH: I know that I'm the world's luckiest woman. I think if I sort of put it in a nutshell, these are the things that are important to me -- faith, family, and friends.


ROMANS: Other first families also spoke from the heart about Barbara Bush last night.

The president and Mrs. Trump released a statement saying, "She will 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 prayer are with the family and friends of Mrs. Bush."

BRIGGS: Barack and Michelle Obama wrote, "We'll always be grateful to Mrs. Bush for the generosity she showed to us throughout our time in 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 the example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of American values."

ROMANS: Bill and Hillary Clinton also released 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."

BRIGGS: Former first lady Barbara Bush dead at the age of 92.

ROMANS: All right, 37 minutes past the hour.

Breaking overnight, sources tell CNN CIA director Mike Pompeo met secretly with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang earlier this month. He 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.

So, a delegation of intelligence officers and the CIA director meeting in secret. This kept under wraps for a couple of weeks here.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Apparently, the CIA can do what the White House can't, which is keep their lips sealed when it comes to sensitive discussions.

Still, unusual that President Trump spoke so candidly about what is potentially a momentous and historic summit when a lot of the details are still being worked out, but we know that that's the president. That's how we got the first clues about this meeting which happened on Easter weekend.

Mike Pompeo flying secretly to Pyongyang and meeting face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. That was the weekend that he watched a K-pop concert, he met with the president of the International Olympic Committee, and he also met with Pompeo.

The meeting described by sources familiar with the discussions, who I spoke with, as very cordial. Kim Jong Un well-prepared, personable, but also he was ready and he knew the subject material.

And Mike Pompeo, of course, taking that information back to President Trump who will need every piece of intel he can get because what we know about the North Koreans is that they are shrewd negotiators, they are tough, and they are going to be asking for much more than they did back in 1994 when those nuclear talks led to the agreed framework which, of course, fell apart.

Will it be different this time around, we don't know. But what we do know is that in the past, North Korea has wanted things like American troops completely off the Korean Peninsula, the end of the -- end of the U.S. nuclear umbrella that protects South Korea and Japan. Those have been non-starters for the U.S.

Could they work out a deal? It's not going to be easy, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Will Ripley in Hong Kong. Thank you so much for that, Will.

BRIGGS: The female passenger who died on a Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines flight has been identified as Jennifer Riordan, a 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 of the plane 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.

More now from Polo Sandoval in Philadelphia.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): 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.

[05:40:14] 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.

TIM MCGINTY, PASSENGER ON SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT: 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: All right, Polo Sandoval. Thank you so much for that. It's so frightening.

Marty Martinez was a passenger on Southwest flight 1380. He tells CNN he did not expect to survive so he fired up Facebook Live as the plane was descending to say goodbye to his loved ones. Listen to him describe the scene.


MARTINEZ: You hear on the intercom a panicked "brace for landing, brace for landing." And 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 were going down, I have no idea are we near a runway? I see -- I see the tops of Philadelphia -- the top of the buildings -- and are we going to crash into -- you know, into these skyscrapers? Are we going to land on a runway? I was completely unclear.


BRIGGS: And they did land safely thanks in large part to Tammie Jo Shults, the Navy vet, female pilot -- badass female pilot who safely landed this plane. Our kudos to her.

Of course, our condolences to the Riordan family, though.

ROMANS: Yes, that's so sad.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, President Trump's U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley says she is not confused. The conflict at the White House over Russian sanctions, next.


[05:46:53] ROMANS: There seems to be some confusion in the Trump administration over a new round of sanctions on Russia. Here's Ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday.


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.


ROMANS: Here's White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Tuesday.


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: All right, Haley was not having it, saying in a statement, "With all due respect, I don't get confused." The White House says Kudlow has since apologized to Haley.

BRIGGS: Joining us this morning, "CNN POLITICS" digital director Zach Wolf, live in Washington. Good to see you, Zach.

So what happened here, Zach, and how does this end?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, "CNN POLITICS": Well, this is not the first time I think the president has been -- has been frustrated by his national security team.

Remember, he fired Rex Tillerson, he got rid of H.R. McMaster, so is this kind of a shuffling of the chairs in there? You know, he has new people to be frustrated with. I think that remains to be seen.

But the larger issue here is that Nikki Haley kind of said something and on the -- specifically, on the issue of Russia. Why he would then undercut her is a little bit mysterious and I think we still need to figure out exactly what's at play.

ROMANS: Exactly what's at play here. It's so interesting because we are talking about is the White House speaking with one voice.

Yesterday, we heard from senators who had been in a confidential briefing -- a classified briefing about Syria, and this is what they said.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I am very unnerved by what I hear and what I see. And I think President Trump's been a good commander in chief, but when it comes to Syria, I think he's going down a very dangerous path.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: And, Syria is Russia and Iran's now. They will be determining the future. We may be at the table but when you're just talking and have nothing to do with shaping what's happening on the ground, you're just talking.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: The only thing worse than a bad plan on Syria is no plan on Syria, and the president and his administration have failed to deliver a coherent plan on the path forward.


ROMANS: Again, we don't know what was in that classified briefing -- it was classified. But what we do know is there are members of both parties who are very concerned about America's strategy.

WOLF: That's right. They seem to be talking more about the president's discussion in recent weeks of pulling U.S. troops basically out of Syria and sort of seeding ground or authority there to -- you know, to Russia essentially, to step into the void. That seems to be what they are talking about more than the -- more than the targeted strikes, although it's a little hard to say.

But when you pair Trump's comments -- pulling troops out -- versus going in with strikes recently because of the chemical attack, it's hard to figure out exactly what the strategy is or what exactly the White House wants to accomplish in Syria. So you can certainly understand their frustration, although we don't

know specifically what they're talking about.

[05:50:00] BRIGGS: OK. All eyes today on Mar-a-Lago. The president meeting with Shinzo Abe.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: They'll speak at 5:30. Two questions from the press, presumably one about what's happening on the Korean Peninsula.

Mike Pompeo met directly with Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend. And who deserves credit for this? The president leaves no doubt here.


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: Wouldn't you have to say -- does he deserve credit for these rapid developments during his administration?

WOLF: Sure. I mean, to the extent that his engaging directly with North Korea is a switch from U.S. policy of recent presidents then, yes, absolutely he deserves credit for that. It's interesting that he would send his CIA director -- although in line to become Secretary of State -- to meet with directly with Kim Jong Un. It's a remarkable turn of events and certainly a switch for the U.S.

ROMANS: You know, Barbara Bush passed away last night at the age of 92 and, you know, just a political dynasty that she was the enforcer of. And I wanted to play this little bit of sound from her son talking about his mom and the -- and the -- and the Nimitz line of aircraft carriers -- listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George H.W. Bush is the latest in the Nimitz line of aircraft carriers. She is unrelenting, she is unshakeable, she is unyielding, she is unstoppable. As a matter of fact, probably should have been named the Barbara Bush.



ROMANS: A whole generation of us grew up with her being sort of America's mom -- political mom and grandma, right, Zach? WOLF: That's right -- that's exactly, and she sort of embodies sort of that kind of first lady which we don't really see as much anymore. The first ladies of today -- Melania Trump doesn't kind of give the same kind of aura that Barbara Bush did. She was a remarkable woman, certainly.

ROMANS: Unique. All right.

Zach, thanks so much. Nice to see you.

I just really wanted to get that sound bite in. I really did.

BRIGGS: Good stuff.

ROMANS: All right, thanks. Fifty-two minutes past the hour.

Let's get a check on money this morning.

Stocks around the world are higher after a good day on Wall Street yesterday.

Earnings are fantastic for big U.S. companies. Big user growth drove Netflix shares up nine percent to a record high for that stock. The largest U.S. insurer, UnitedHealth, rose nearly four percent after it said it would make more money than it thought for the year.

Profit growth this quarter expected to be 17 percent. That is the best since 2011.

Today is the new tax day. In an op-ed yesterday, the president touted his new tax plan as a boon for Main Street. Right now, the biggest winners are Wall Street.

Thanks to the new tax law, S&P 500 companies have given workers about $6 billion in bonuses and wage hikes. U.S. companies are giving investors $171 billion in buybacks -- a record high for stock buybacks.

The boon, thanks to that lower corporate rate which, by the way, the corporate tax rate -- the lower corporate tax rate boosted the profits of the big U.S. banks like JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo a combined $2.5 billion just last quarter.

Facebook is previewing its privacy update, asking European users permission before using their data in targeted ads. These changes will roll out in the U.S. later this month.

Facebook faces scrutiny after failing to protect user data. It's joining Microsoft and 32 other tech firms in a cybersecurity pledge. They plan to work together on cybersecurity issues like standing up to governments that launch cyberattacks, protecting against meddling on their platforms.

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

BRIGGS: All right. Up next, we give former first lady Barbara Bush the last word. Some words of wisdom when we come back.


[05:58:38] ROMANS: And we want to close this morning, giving Barbara Bush the last word. The former first lady who died last night was, of course, a firm believer in hard work.

BRIGGS: In a remarkable commencement speech at Wellesley College in 1990, she reminded students that before work obligations, the human connections in their lives were their most important investment.


B. BUSH: At the end of your life you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, April 18th, 6:00 here in New York and we do begin with breaking news for you.

The matriarch of one of America's great political dynasties has died. Former first lady Barbara Bush, only the second woman in U.S. history to have a husband and a son elected president. She died Tuesday at the age of 92.

Today, she is being remembered for her quick wit, her sharp tongue, and her fierce devotion to family. Mrs. Bush and former President George H.W. Bush were married for 73 years. She's also being remembered for her causes of literacy and fighting cancer.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Our other top story is did you know that the CIA director went to Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong Un? Well, that's exactly what reportedly happened.