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First State Visit at the White House; Search for Motive in Toronto Van Attack; President George H.W. Bush in Hospital; What Will Royal Baby Be Named?; Mitt Romney Taunts Thunder's Russell Westbrook. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:02] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Walmart employs a million the half workers and spokesperson says Walmart has made important investments in workers over the past few years, including raising the minimum wage a couple of times.

But Walmart's pay ratio is not all that different from other retail companies. The Macy's CEO earns eight hundred six times the median employee. At Gap, the chief executive made 2,900 times the average worker.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: President Trump hosting a state dinner for France's President Macron, with policy differences first on today's menu.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's just hitting people one by one going down, man. It was like a nightmare, man.


BRIGGS: The man who killed ten people with the rented van in Toronto, why did he do it?

ROMANS: President George H.W. Bush fighting a life-threatening infection in the hospital. He's in intensive care, just days after burying his beloved wife.

BRIGGS: Britain waits with bated breath. What will the brand-new royal baby be named? You can bet on it, folks big money being wagered on Arthur or James or whatever we find out.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START.

I wouldn't bet on my name, it's just Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, April 24th, 5:00 a.m. in the east, 11:00 a.m. in Paris, 10:00 a.m. in London. We will be to all of those cities in a moment. But, first, day two of President French President Emmanuel Macron visit to Washington. This morning, President Trump's first turn at hosting a formal state visit begins with an arrival ceremony. After that, a series of meetings where the two leaders are expected to tackle pressing foreign policy issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, counterterrorism and Russian aggression.

For more on the day's agenda, let's get to CNN's Kate Bennett at the White House.


KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

That's right. French President Macron from France is in town and he meets today with President Trump. We'll expect to hear from the two leaders later this morning at the joint news conference where I'm sure they will be asked questions. The two leaders should be discussing everything from the Iran nuclear deal to the situation in Syria. And, of course, also, the stage is set for the first state dinner for France.

Sneak peek last night show the first lady has had her hand in everything, from the menu, to the seat cushions. She's planned this all by herself, without an event planner, just using her social secretary and White House staff. The dinner will be for about 130 people. And we can expect the menu to feature American food influenced by French cuisine, even a performance by the Washington National Opera.

So far so good for the Trump administration's first state dinner.

Back to you, guys.


BRIGGS: Indeed it is. Melania's done a nice job so far.

President Macron and his wife arrived in Washington yesterday afternoon, but managed to pack a lot into the shortened day, including an arrival ceremony at Joint Base Andrews and a quick ride in Marine One to the White House or as you can see, they toured the Oval Office, helped President and Mrs. Trump plant a French oak sapling on the South Lawn, a gift from Emmanuel Macron, then another short hop in Marine One to Mount Vernon, George Washington's Virginia state. The White House says they dined on Dover sole, with chocolate souffle and cherry vanilla ice cream for dessert.


All right. If you look beyond the pomp and circumstance of Macron's state visit, there are deep policy differences between the U.S. and France Macron is hoping to convince President Trump not to pull out of Syria or the Iran nuclear deal, and he has serious issues with President Trump's approach to trade. Let's go live to Paris and bring in CNN's Melissa Bell.

And, Melissa, what's really fascinating is this president, President Macron speaks fluent English. He will be able to very clearly tell this president what is the French perspective here on Syria, on Iran, but especially on trade.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and in his own language and I think that's crucial and, of course, also, Christine, building on this remarkable friendship that has built up between these two very different men on issues and yet with so many similarities these two political newcomers who come into a system and tried to shake it up.

Emmanuel Macron has really tried to play on that to say, look, we're both plain-speaking men, let's do deals, let's find common measures, but also each try I'm trying to write Donald Trump that it isn't just about the two of them. There is a profound alliance that binds the United States to France.

Remember, back on July 14th, Bastille Day, when Donald Trump came and watched that parade here in Paris, it was a real hit lesson of the alliance that Emmanuel Macron delivered. And again they just mentioned that sapling that was planted in the White House gardens yesterday, that was taken from a field in World War I when American troops lost so many lives. His message is this we can get along, but do you remember that we're allies, we're friends and we need to be able to make compromises on a number of different issues, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Melissa Bell, thank you so much for that.

More now on Trump and Macron's differences on trade. E.U. has one week to avoid a trade fight with the U.S., so this week, the French president will likely try to convince President Trump to temper his America-first policies.

[05:05:06] The U.S. slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in March, but gave -- but gave temporary exemptions including to the E.U. However, that exemption expires May 1. That is unless the French President Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel can persuade President Trump during their visits this week. Merkel heads to Washington Friday.

The E.U. wants unconditional permanent exemptions. If not, the E.U. threatens tariffs on U.S. exports, about $8 billion worth, targeting hundreds of products, including denim, peanut butter, bourbon and motorcycles. In response, Trump is threatened duties on European cars.

See? This is what is a tit-for-tat, and this is the second trade battle for the U.S. America is also currently in a trade spat with China each side threatening the other with billions of dollars in tariffs.

BRIGGS: President Trump's nominee for veterans affairs secretary was scheduled to have his Senate confirmation hearing tomorrow, but sources tell CNN now that is likely to be postponed and led up some new allegations against White House physician, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson. The sources say committee members have been told about claims of improper conduct at various stages of Jackson's career, but none of the senators would publicly reveal specifics. A White House official tells CNN there is no plan to withdraw Jackson's nomination.

ROMANS: Last minute flip flop by Senator Rand Paul paved the way for Mike Pompeo to advance out of committee with a favorable recommendation in his bid to become secretary of state. Without Senator Paul support, the CIA director would have become the first nominee for the post in history. Not to get a favorable vote, Senator Paul explaining his change of heart.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I have changed my mind. I have decided to go ahead and vote for Director Pompeo because he's assured me that he's learned the lesson. I hope that they'll let Trump be Trump and that Pompeo will be a constructive influence and not a destructive one. But from what I've been told and listened to with the director, I think that he is open and understands that his job is that the president is his boss and will listen.


ROMANS: The full Senate is expected to vote on Pompeo's nomination later this week.

BRIGGS: White House support for Scott Pruitt appears to be softening amid a steady drip of media reports alleging ethical lapses by the EPA administrator. In just the last few days, multiple outlets reported Pruitt met with the lobbyist whose wife rented him a Capitol Hill bedroom for fifty bucks a night. That's on top of this first-class travel, spending at the EPA raises for top aides, circumventing the White House, all coming into question.

Now, after weeks of resounding White House endorsements for Pruitt. This was the tone yesterday.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, we're reviewing some of those allegations. However, Administrator Pruitt has done a good job of implementing the president's policies, particularly on deregulation, making the United States less energy dependent and becoming more energy independent. Those are good things.

However, the other things certainly are something that we're monitoring and looking at and I'll keep you posted.


BRIGGS: Bloomberg reports White House officials have been discouraging conservative lawmakers now as from defending Pruitt too strongly for what that's worth. Let's bring in "Washington Examiner" commentary writer Philip Wegmann. We'll discuss all this and circle back to those cabinet posts in a moment.

But let's start with this state visit, Phil, and what it means as Emmanuel Macron and President Trump sit down and dine on and jambalaya and a nectarine tart I'm told is for dessert. The Iran deal is what they're trying to digest and here's what Macron told Chris Wallace about that.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: What is the what-if scenario or your plan B? I don't have any plan B for nuclear against Iran. So, that's a question we will discuss. But that's why I just want to say on nuclear, let's preserve this framework, because it's better than a sort of North Korean type of situation.


BRIGGS: All right. So, Phil, May 13th is the deadline looming to certify the deal. Everyone's betting on names of the royal baby, what are your betting odds that the Trump whisperer can talk President Trump into staying in the Iran deal?

PHILIP WEGMANN, COMMENTARY WRITER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, look, we talked about Macron and Trump because this is the beginning it seems like a beautiful friendship and that sort of relationship is going to have very significant policy implications. I mean, more than any other international leader, Macron seems to understand how to handle Trump, but I think that probably comes from his background as a banker. He's used to dealing, you know, with high-profile clients and he's brought that approach to the White House now, and we saw that when they were planting that tree in honor of the marines who died at Belleau Wood in the First World War.

And I think that you know by showing, you know, President Trump that interpersonal respect and also by being willing to cut a deal, we could see Macron change Trump's opinion not just, you know, on the Iran nuclear deal, but also perhaps on trade, perhaps also on Syria. So, I know that we kind of, you know, we enjoy these little details about the state dinner, but so much significant business is going on.

[05:10:06] ROMANS: But, look at the photo ops have been picture- perfect quite frankly. I mean, they show two men who are friendly. They show their spouses. Everyone's getting along beautifully, and there are big policy issues at play including trade, right? You know there's a deadline coming up for the E.U. in terms of exemptions of steel and aluminum tariffs. There will be a trip with from Angela Merkel I think later this week.

How important -- what is the deliverable format Macron trade here?

WEGMANN: So, we heard it earlier on Macron. He is straight talking in the same way the President Trump is. You know, they are very when they're having those conversations. And I think that what Macron is doing is building a basis of trust so that he can talk to the president and say, hey, look we're your oldest ally, you are already in a very tough trade fight with China. You don't need one with some of your best friends.

Also, you know, the E.U. has been very smart about this. You know, we saw a second ago that they were going after you know Harley-Davidson motorcycles. You know, Levi Strauss blue jeans and also bourbon. I mean, you know, motorcycles and bourbon just so happen to come from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell's backyard.

All politics is personal. Macron and the E.U. understand this, and I think that this is their best bet to get a significant change.

BRIGGS: All politics is personal. You say that and that appears to be behind the nomination of Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson for V.A. secretary, because it appears at least on the surface that the president selected someone that he's very comfortable with, liked what he said about his health in that press conference. But now, some issues appear to be bubbling up. This is the second biggest bureaucracy in the government, more than 360,000 employees.

How big would a failure be here for the president?

WEGMANN: Well, we don't know exactly what, you know, he is being charged with, we don't know what these allegations are.

BRIGGS: Right.

WEGMANN: But they're serious enough for, you know, U.S. senators to say pump the brakes, so we got to find out more about this guy before, you know, we move forward. That's incredibly troubling because it's incredibly unusual.

And you hit the nail right on the head. I mean, President Trump up, you know, on the campaign trail was always talking about fixing the V.A. And let's face it, to be frank, you know, a lot of our servicemen and women, they come from Trump country.

So, if the president puts, you know, a V.A. secretary in here, who, one, we don't even know if he's qualified to do the job and then, two, if there are ethical concerns, I think that that is more than just a personnel failure. I think it's a major political failure for this president.

ROMANS: It's really -- Phil Wegmann, there's a lot going on in terms of the president's cabinet and his appointments. But today will certainly be about the pomp and circumstance of a state visit and -- you know, and they've chosen so many great moments, you know , last night at Mount Vernon, for example, you know, the French president walking in there in Mount Vernon, they have the key to the Bastille in George Washington's home.

This shows you how important --

BRIGGS: Optics.

ROMANS: Absolutely, all of this very, very cool.

All right. Phil Wegmann, come back in about half hour. Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right. The man behind a deadly van attack in Toronto due in court just hours from now. What police know so far about any possible motive.


[05:17:17] BRIGGS: The suspect in a deadly Toronto van attack will make his first court appearance this morning. Police say he plowed into a crowd of pedestrians but his motive is still not known. Investigators believe the suspect in a Facebook post earlier Monday praised the gunman who killed six people in a drive-by shooting and ramming attack in California in 2014.

Right now, Canadian authorities not calling the van attack terrorism, say there's no threat to national security.

For more, let's bring in CNN's Paula Newton live for us.

Good morning, Paula. What do we know?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And good morning Dave. And in fact, Canada hasn't really elevated its security level. It remains at medium and the point is they're saying, look, there's no connection here to national security. So puzzling though for everyone, Dave, is this suspect in about five hours makes his first court appearance since Alek Minassian, he was a community college student and apparently in a Facebook post had alluded to an Elliot Rodger.

Now, nearly four years ago, he went on -- Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree, killing at least six and what many people including his parents thought was from a very deranged individual. For that reason, they are not ruling out terrorism, but believed that if that post, if Alek Minassian basically alluded to Elliot Rodger, that he was quiet -- he remains quite a disturbed individual. He is so far apparently speaking to police but, you know, Torontonians still, they've getting over what they saw yesterday. People literally plowed over knocked off their feet.

Stand -- bystanders trying to revive people and the sight of body bags both in the streets and on the sidewalks of Toronto. What was really interesting here was seeing the police officer. We've seen that video played again. The suspect was taunting police say kill me, kill me, and instead he was pretty much taken in without incident. And, of course, as we say, we're watching his court appearance in just about five hours.

BRIGGS: An amazing level of restraint by those officers, despite that action there. Paula Newton live for us this morning, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Former President George H.W. Bush is in intensive care this morning. He was admitted to Methodist Hospital in Houston Sunday, just hours after the funeral for his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush. A family spokesman said Bush 41 is being treated for a blood infection, he's responding to treatment, appears to be recovering.

First Lady Melania Trump who attended Saturday's funeral was photographed, along with the other former presidents and first ladies. She tweeted last night: Sending healing thoughts of strength, along with prayers for President George H.W. Bush.

BRIGGS: It's bad enough, the star-studded Oklahoma City Thunder on the brink of elimination by the Utah Jazz. But star player Russell Westbrook being taunted by a familiar face.

ROMANS: No way.

BRIGGS: That's right. Mitt Romney holding up the floor.

Lindsay Czarniak with details in this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:24:28] BRIGGS: Playoff hockey's happening. The Toronto Maple Leafs though setting aside the excitement of playoff hockey to remember the victims on that deadly van crash in Toronto.

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Lindsey.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, guys. Yes, good morning.

Toronto Maple Leafs, they hosted the Boston Bruins for game six last night. Pregame naps are a huge part of a hockey player's routine. Many players saying they woke from their nap to learn of that deadly van crash, so emotions as you would expect running very high before the game. The team held a powerful moment of silence for the victims and their families prior to the opening faceoff.

[05:25:03] Then, another strong moment, Martina Ortiz-Luis who sang the Canadian national anthem, stopping to let the crowd sing along.


CZARNIAK: As for the game, the Maple Leafs holding strong against the Bruins to get the emotional to win forcing a game seven. But the players saying it was very difficult. They had a lot more on their minds than just a hockey game.


CONNOR BROWN, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS FORWARD: You see all the people come together and a moment of silence before the game and it kind of unites a city after something like that is a special, but it's -- obviously, it was a tough day for the city. That's a power of sport brings people together.


CZARNIAK: It certainly does, and these two teams will come back together because the winner-take-all game seven tomorrow night in Boston.

To the NBA we go. Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, well, he's not very popular in Salt Lake City, not surprising but even Mitt Romney, he's getting in on the act, right? The former presidential nominee was sitting courtside area with a Jazz jersey over his dress shirt. What was that?

When Westbrook got into foul trouble there late in the first half, Romney was holding up those four fingers in Westbrook's direction as in four fouls. Romney left a happy man. The Jazz routed the Thunder 113-96 to take a 3-1 series lead.

And I'm not sure if this is going to scare or excite New York Giants fans, but your wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is working out in a big way. Check this out. He's still nursing that ankle injury, but it didn't keep him from pulling at 5,600 pound SUV, a Yukon Denali up an incline.

Now, I mean, that rope guys is not very taut there may be someone driving that thing, but, I don't know. I mean --

ROMANS: That's true. That's true.


ROMANS: She's watching. My first thought was, wait, be careful with your back, dude. If you got one injury, don't do another one.

BRIGGS: That was my reaction, but OBJ, you've been called out by Lindsay Czarniak.

ROMANS: All right, checking out the slack on the rope. Good clue, investigative reporter Lindsay Czarniak, thank you so much.

CZARNIAK: Come on, you're welcome.

ROMANS: President Trump and France's President Macron will stand together and take questions from reporters just hours from now. More next.