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EARLY START

Trump Says He'll Respectfully Walk Out of a U.S.-North Korea Meeting if it's Unfruitful; Trump Scraps Russia Sanctions; Trump Calls Russia Probe a Hoax; Blown Engine Debris Found 70 Miles West of Philadelphia; Puerto Rico Suffers Another Major Power Outage; Wife of Legendary Spurs Coach Passes Away. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CO-HOST, EARLY START: Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump -- with the president offering up an optimistic view of his planned submit with Kim Jong-un. Mr. Trump speaking at a news conference in Florida with the Japanese Prime Minister says he's position to accomplish what no president before him could.

But he insists he could also walk away if he has to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting when I'm there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Cnn's Will Ripley has been to Pyongyang more than a dozen times, has the latest for us live from Hong Kong this morning. Good morning, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave. You know, a lot of people are arguing that President Trump really has more to lose here than Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-un has already gained so much just because President Trump agreed to meet with him once he was kind of rushed off as the ruler of a global pariah, and now he has the leaders of the United States, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea either scheduled or trying to get on his schedule for meetings.

I mean, it's a really remarkably diplomatic turnaround. But there's a big challenge facing this potential historic summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, and that is agreeing upon a suitable location.

It seems like it'd be simple, but it really isn't when you start to think about the optics of where they will meet and where they won't. Possible locations that are attractive, that are being considered are -- because they're more neutral spots.

So you're talking in Asia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. In Europe, Sweden, Switzerland, these are all countries with diplomatic ties with North Korea. So those are the kinds of countries they're looking for.

Locations that are either ruled out or considered very unlikely are the capitals of all the stakeholders here, Washington, Pyongyang, Seoul, Beijing. President Trump not interested in going to the demilitarized zone, that will be Kim Jong-un's turf in his view.

Kim Jong-un reportedly not interested in going to a U.S. aircraft carrier off the coast of the peninsula for the exact same reason. And until they choose a location, they can't set a date, and until they set a date, they're not going to be able to focus on the greater issue at hand which is talking about denuclearization.

North Korea and the United States have very different definitions of what that means. The United States will offer potential normalization of relations, the easing of economic sanctions in exchange for North Korea giving up its nuclear program.

But that missile program has gotten Kim Jong-un to where he is now, it's given him leverage, in order to give that up, not only would he want substantial financial compensation, he also might want American troops to leave the Korean Peninsula and the American nuclear umbrella that protects the region to go away.

Very difficult discussions ahead, Dave, if they can find a place and a time.

BRIGGS: Yes, something Shinzo Abe probably whispered to the president a few times the last couple of days. Will Ripley live for us, thank you. Meanwhile, President Trump declaring there is nobody tougher on Russia than he.

Even though it turns out the president himself decided to scrub plans for further sanctions on Russia over its support for the Syrian regime. That's according to three senior administration officials.

The president underscored the decision at the news conference with the Japanese Prime Minister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Yes, we'll do sanctions as soon as they very much deserve it. We will have -- that is a question. There has been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Caught in the middle of all this is Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. She apparently was not told about the administration's change of course before she went on to Sunday talk shows to say there would be further sanctions the following day.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-HOST, EARLY START: The news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to focus on North Korea and trade, and of course it did. But President Trump also took a moment or two or five to talk about the Russia investigation.

He was asked if he has decided whether he will sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller -- this was his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There was no collusion, and that's been so found as you know by the House Intelligence Committee. There's no collusion, there was no collusion with Russia other than by the Democrats or as I call them the obstructionists because they truly are obstructionists.

So we are hopefully coming to the end. It is a bad thing for our country, very bad thing for our country. But there has been no collusion, they won't find any collusion, it doesn't exist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: We've seen it's not uncommon for the president to contradict himself, but this one rather remarkable, yesterday, the president tweeting "slippery James Comey, the worst FBI director in history was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was no collusion except by the Dems."

Less than a year ago, the president told "Nbc's" Lester Holt exactly the opposite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:05:00] BRIGGS: After the tweet, James Comey said on "Abc's" "The View" that he takes the president at his original word that the Russia probe was his motivation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I've seen the tweet, both of those things can't be true. I actually think that illustrates part of the problem that I'm trying to bring up. That it matters that the president is not committed to the truth as a central American value.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: And you've heard from James Comey, but you have not heard him answer Jake Tapper's questions. The Comey interview live on "THE LEAD" today at 4:00 Eastern Time right here on Cnn, should be great.

ROMANS: The president trying to downplay reports he is poised to fire the special counsel and the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Listen to him deflect reporter questions about his attention -- intentions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: They've been saying, I'm going to get rid of them for the last

three months, four months, five months and they are still here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Let's bring in Cnn's political analyst David Drucker, a senior Congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner". Good morning, so nice to see you this morning bright and early.

You know, with the president reversing on the new round of sanctions, doesn't that go against his sort of stated branding here that no one has been tougher on Russia than Trump?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST & SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, you know, it's interesting because there is a historical reference here and you might look at President Ronald Reagan, you might look at other Republicans in particular that have been very tough and very consistent on Russia both when it comes to actions and rhetoric.

The president's actions on Russia over the past year or so haven't been as bad as his rhetoric would suggest, but his rhetoric has been awful.

And over the past weekend, he relaxes on sanctions just when he is beginning to put the squeeze on Russia both with sanctions and for the first time with rhetoric.

And I think he was actually beginning to get somewhere because that's what Vladimir Putin understands. This big reversal without telling UN Ambassador Nikki Haley seemed in a sense like the old Trump, the Trump that we're used to when it comes to Russia, and he's clearly very sensitive about this.

Just one last thing on this, Christine. The president talks all the time about wouldn't it be great for us to get along with other nations? Wouldn't it be great for us to get along with Russia?

Well, of course, but that's a straw man, the issue is always on whose terms are we getting along with Russia and with other countries? And I think the president still hasn't really laid out a long-term plan for how he's going to deal with Russia's adversarial nature.

ROMANS: Certainly, the president said he's talking tough, but you know, have heard that Mr. Gobachev, tear down those wall moment. In all, I mean, you don't hear that kind of strength --

BRIGGS: Sure, tougher than his predecessors indeed though. We also heard the president which just showed it, he talked about will he or will he not fire Bob Mueller, and he says they've been saying I'm going to get rid of him for the last three months, four months, they're still here.

Well, David, you know, who else we said that about? Reince Priebus, Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster and they're all gone. Should we be inspired by those words that the president is not considered firing Rosenstein or Mueller?

DRUCKER: You know, another word we didn't hear when the president was asked this question, we didn't hear the word, no, I'm not --

BRIGGS: Yes --

DRUCKER: Going to fire them --

ROMANS: Right --

DRUCKER: And the president was very careful in how he answered the question. He himself really brought this thing back up after several months of not speaking to reports that he was considering firing Mueller when he started asking his own supporters and people around him what do you think I should do in that cabinet meeting?

He talked about the fact that people -- a lot of people were telling him he should fire Robert Mueller. And that as we know is President Trump's way of saying, you know what? I'd like to fire him, maybe I will fire him.

Let's find out what everybody thinks first. I mean, that is a classic Trumpism, and I don't think that we can rule out him firing Mueller because he has not hesitated to do the sort of thing that might cause him political damage down the line and he can be at times very impulsive.

ROMANS: Word yesterday, we learned yesterday about Mike Pompeo, the CIA chief in the secret meeting in North Korea. And some now are saying that, look, you know, this is a reason why he should be --

BRIGGS: Sure --

ROMANS: Secretary of State, this is guy who's already kind of doing this job and the -- no Democrats are on board for --

BRIGGS: Sure --

ROMANS: For him. And you know, Rand Paul has his concerns about Mike Pompeo because of his positions on torture. The president seems confident that he's going to be able to get an ally in Rand Paul, the senator. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will say this about Rand Paul, he's never let me down. Rand Paul is a very special guy as far as I'm concerned. He's never let me down and I don't think he'll let us down again. So let's see what happens.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Because the president asked me to and because I have a great deal of respect for the president, I will meet with director Pompeo some time before the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So does that mean that you are open to maybe being -- PAUL: I'm open to meeting right now and we'll see what comes of the meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: What do you make of that, David?

BRIGGS: I --

ROMANS: Speechless.

DRUCKER: I find it very farcical, if you will. Rand Paul opposes President Trump when it suits him both from a policy perspective and a policy perspective. And he has voted against the president from time- to-time.

[05:10:00] So from the president's perspective, he does let him down. Rand Paul saying he -- out of respect for the president is going to meet with the director of the CIA to consider him for Secretary of State. Look, there are Democrats that knew they were going to vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State that still granted him the courtesy of the meeting because that's what you do when you are a U.S. senator.

Before you go ahead with the vote you want to cast anyway, it's part of the process. So he didn't really give the president any concession.

He didn't grant him anything. There is no reason why Mike Pompeo shouldn't be confirmed as Secretary of State. That's who Trump feels comfortable with, that he is not unqualified for the job.

In fact, you might argue he is eminently qualified especially now coming from CIA, there's -- it's fine to vote against him, but there is nothing inherently wrong with him.

But you know, look, from a policy perspective, he's going to strike Democrats the wrong way, he -- I don't even think it's just torture with Rand Paul, it's going to have to do with the fact --

BRIGGS: Hawk --

DRUCKER: He is a hawk on --

BRIGGS: Yes --

DRUCKER: Foreign policy --

ROMANS: Yes --

DRUCKER: And that he is in a sense believes in projecting American strength around the world and Rand Paul is more of a non- interventionist --

ROMANS: Yes --

DRUCKER: And so that's what this is all about.

BRIGGS: Of course, we've yet to hear from some key red states Democrats up for re-election that could put Pompeo over the top. David Drucker, thanks, we'll check back the next half hour.

Meanwhile, a long time lawyer for Donald Trump warning the president needs to be careful about his fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen. Jay Goldberg who negotiated Mr. Trump's divorces from Ivana Trump and Marla Maples says he received a call for advice from the president last Friday.

He predicted Cohen would wind up cooperating with prosecutors. Goldberg says his warning was met with silence. Goldberg says he also advised the president not to speak to the special counsel.

ROMANS: All right, U.S. businesses are already facing higher steel prices and President Trump's new tariffs are the reason. The president put tariffs on steel and aluminum imports back in March, since then businesses say those prices, prices for those metals have already jumped significantly.

That's from a new Federal Reserve report, it rounds up how local businesses around the country and faring. And right now, some manufacturers warn they will pass those price increases to customers.

While others say tariffs are quote, "killing high-paying American manufacturing jobs", and despite trade concerns, this report finds economic growth is on track, strong consumer spending, a tight labor market, a surge in business lending all good.

And that supports the Federal Reserve's plan to speed up the pace of interest rate hikes. The former Obama economist Austan Goolsbee, he worries it's moving too fast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, ECONOMIST: If you think and I do think that the growth rate is OK but not as good as the optimists believe, then there is the possibility that the economy cannot stand too many rate increases in too short of a time.

And that would be the thing that would lead to recession.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Goolsbee added that the Fed's actions are raising the risk of sparking a recession in the near term.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead with some key clues to a deadly mid-air jet accident found in a field in Pennsylvania. What the reveal about the engine that exploded, next

ROMANS: And much of Puerto Rico plunged into darkness again. More on what caused it this time just ahead.

[05:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: The FAA now ordering fan blade inspections after a mid-air

engine explosion killed a passenger and forced the emergency landing of a Southwest airlines jet in Philadelphia.

Pieces of the blown engine recovered about 70 miles west of the city. Meantime, the NTSB continuing to comb through evidence from the voice and data recorder and interviewing crew members.

Investigators will go through records to make sure the proper maintenance was done on that engine.

BRIGGS: Most of Puerto Rico still without power this morning for the second time in a week. And the governor is asking the island's power authority to cancel his contract with the company responsible for both outages.

Yesterday's blackout was caused by a subcontractor when one of his excavators got too close to a major transmission line. The power authority says the same company was responsible for a blackout last week that affected 870,000 customers.

Power company says it expects service restoration to at least customers who had electricity before the latest outage within 24 hours.

ROMANS: Insult to injury, what a way --

BRIGGS: We could either use some good news. Ahead, LeBron James single handedly lifting the Cavs to victory in their playoff series with the Pacers. He is not too happy with his team.

Lindsay Czarniak right here in studio to tell us why this morning in today's "Bleacher Report", good to see you, my friend.

[05:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: So LeBron James put on quite a performance with the Cavs' series with the Pacers, but not everything is right in Cleveland after this win.

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak is here with us with more of this, what is so dramatic --

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, SPORTS ANCHOR: So dramatic.

BRIGGS: Hi there.

CZARNIAK: OK, you know what? Sometimes you need a little bit of help, but sometimes you figure I'm just going to go out and do it myself, it's easier.

That's what LeBron James did last night. He made it clear that he was not going to let his team fall into a two lost hole, and the results, an epic performance. LeBron took control from the start, he scored the first 16 points for the Cavaliers. All in the first six minutes. He denied he didn't score his first point in game one until close to two minutes left in the first quarter.

He finished with 46 total, the Cavs finished with a win to even the series with the Pacers. Despite that after the game, LeBron not too happy with his team's performance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, BASKETBALL PLAYER, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: We got lucky. We gave up a wide open three to Oladipo, and he missed it. I'd rather be on time and on target than being lucky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: And James also learned some sad news impacting the NBA family right after the game. Erin Popovich; wife of first legendary head coach Gregg Popovich passed away yesterday after battling an undisclosed illness for quite some time.

Despite his tough exterior, Pop as he's known is certainly one of the most beloved coaches in the league. LeBron was visibly emotional when asked about this news posting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES: I'm a family huge Pop fan. I love Pop. That's such a tragedy and you know, my best wishes goes out to Pop and his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: A tough moment there for LeBron. Now Twitter by the way though went bananas after the game, a lot of folks criticizing TNT's sideline reporter Allie LaForce for asking LeBron James the question moments after he finished the game.

LeBron maintains that that's not what happened, he wasn't blind-sided and it was important enough to him to clear up the notion that he was blind-sided.

[05:25:00] But he overnight posted this video through his media company uninterrupted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES: A lot of people felt like I was blind-sided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask me the question and if it was OK, and once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions just kind of took over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: The power of having your own media company. Now, to baseball now, despite a power outage across the island of Puerto Rico, Major League players took part in their second game in its many nights using back-up generators at the stadium.

Puerto Rico's native Jose Berrios was dominant on the mound for the Twins, picking seven glorious innings, but this game went into the wee hours, 16 innings here, a fellow Puerto Rican Eddie Rosario scoring a game-winning run for the Twins, 2 to 1, your final, so quite a juxtaposition --

BRIGGS: It is far --

CZARNIAK: Good night -- right --

BRIGGS: And then the game brings a lot of joy. You showed us the first game.

CZARNIAK: Yes --

BRIGGS: Just exploding that crowd, so they love having us there, but they need some good news.

CZARNIAK: Yes --

ROMANS: All right --

CZARNIAK: Exactly --

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak, thank you --

BRIGGS: Lindsay, thank you --

ROMANS: So much. Right, the president dances around the question when asked about Jeff firing special counsel Robert Mueller or the man overseeing him Rod Rosenstein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months. They're still here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: We'll hear more from the president next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)