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EARLY START

Pomp & Policy for Trump & Macron; Trump Hints at Iran Deal Compromise; Trump on Jackson's V.A. Fight; Meek Mill Free on Bail. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 25, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:16] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Pomp and policy as President Trump toasts the French president at the Trump's first state dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a chance, and nobody knows what I'm going to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump hinting that President Macron may have convinced him to compromise on the Iran nuclear deal.

(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I really don't think personally he should do it, but it's totally his. I would stand behind him. Totally his decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: President Trump leaves the door for his embattled V.A. nominee Ronny Jackson to back out amid mounting questions about his past.

BRIGGS: Rapper Meek Mill from a prison cell to a helicopter, free on bail on a case that sparked outrage from activists to criminal justice reform. A fascinating story with national implications.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START, where there's no such thing as a stupid question. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: There is not. And I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesday, April 25th. It's 4:00 a.m. -

BRIGGS: I was waiting for French --

ROMANS: Four a.m. in the East, 5:00 p.m. in Seoul. And yes, it was the third and final day of French President Emmanuel Macron's remarkable visit to Washington that begins this morning with an address to both houses of Congress. It follows the day of pomp and policy Tuesday that even included a hint from President Trump that he might consider extending the Iran nuclear deal, a deal he spent more than two years criticizing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think we have a bigger shot at doing a maybe deal, maybe not deal. We're going to find out, but we'll know fairly soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Maybe, maybe not, we'll find out. We'll know fairly soon. The day, of course, with the Trump administration's first official dinner.

For more on that, let's go to CNN's Kate Bennett. She's at the White House.

(BEGN VIDEOTAPE)

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

That's right. Last night was the state dinner, a culmination of a long day of diplomacy, pomp and circumstance. Of course, the president has forged a bond with French President Emmanuel Macron. The two were particularly friendly yesterday, exchanging plenty of handshakes and hugs, sometimes awkward.

TRUMP: We have a very special relationship. In fact, I'll get that piece of dandruff off -- we have to make him perfect. He is perfect.

BENNETT: The first lady, as well, had a long day. This was her moment to shine, and she did so last night wearing a beautiful Chanel gown. This was a dinner that she planned for months ahead of time.

The guest list included many notables from the Republican Party. Others including Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Jerry Hall, Tim Cook of Apple, and a few other folks who happened to join the Trumps and the Macrons as they celebrated diplomacy and this historic visit.

Today, President Macron will be on Capitol Hill where he will deliver an address to Congress. And then the French will take off and head back to France.

Back to you guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: We know this, Kate, Melania rocked it. As we mentioned, President Trump signaling a potential breakthrough that could keep the U.S. from backing out of the Iran nuclear deal. During his visit with Macron, President Trump confirmed that U.S. and European negotiators are nearing an agreement to fix the deal.

The president playing it coy, though, when asked if he might reconsider his opposition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There is a chance, and nobody knows what I'm going to do on the 12th. Although, Mr. President, you have a pretty good idea. We'll see. But we'll see also if I do what some people expect whether or not it will be possible to do a new deal with solid foundations because this is a deal with decayed foundations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The president not so coy, though, when asked what would happen if Iran restarts its nuclear program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will say if Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: According to a source familiar with the talks, U.S. and European negotiators have agreed on a plan that would allow international experts to inspect all of Iran's nuclear sites as well as measuring targeting Tehran's long-range missile program, the key there. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani taking a jab at President Trump's qualification in a speech just a short time ago, saying, quote, how can a businessman, a real estate developer, decide on global issues?

ROMANS: The president also softening his stance on Syria after discussions with Macron. Mr. Trump has been consistent in his call to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as possible. But now, he seems to be embracing the French president's position.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: As far as Syria's concerned, I would love to get out.

[04:05:01] I'd love to bring our incredible warriors back home. With that being said, Emmanuel and myself have discussed the fact that we don't want to give Iran open season to the Mediterranean, especially since we really control it to a large extent.

I do want to come home, but I want to come home also with having accomplished what we have to accomplish. So, we are discussing Syria as part of an overall deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The president says it is important to leave a strong and lasting footprint in Syria after American troops come home.

BRIGGS: President Trump suddenly showing a lot of respect for a leader he once mocked as little rocket man. With the administration gearing up for a summit between the president and Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump suddenly showering praise on North Korea's supreme leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Kim Jong-un was -- he really has been very open, and I think very honorable from everything we're seeing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Honorable.

When the president was pressed further, he refused to explain why he considers Kim Jong-un honorable now. He did say good discussions are ongoing with the North Koreans and claims Kim is pushing for a meeting as soon as possible.

Let's go live to Seoul and bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks. Paula, good morning to you. This is a fascinating evolution, from fire and fury to short and fat, now to open and honorable.

What's the reaction there?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's spectacular really, Dave. It has raised eyebrows here certainly when it comes to human rights groups. The government itself is not commenting on it. They don't want anything -- to sour anything before this Friday historic summit between President Moon and Kim Jong-un.

But, suddenly, human rights groups are asking why Mr. Trump would be called honorable given, for example, Amnesty International in its recent report says some 120,000 North Koreans are being held in political prison camps. Now, the conditions we're hearing from defectors and from the United Nations reports are abysmal in these camps. Talks of beatings, starvation, and even public execution.

So, certainly, that is a comment that is surprising. We do know that Mr. Moon, the South Korean president, will be heading to Washington, though, it is likely, we're told by one of his advisers, after he has met Kim Jong-un so that he can brief Trump before he meets Kim Jong-un -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Paula, thanks.

ROMANS: Explosive new allegations threatening to upend the nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson to become secretary of veterans affairs. Jackson's confirmation hearing was scheduled to begin today. It has been postponed indefinitely.

Senators looking into accusations that Jackson drank repeatedly on the job, created a hostile work environment, and improperly prescribed medications. Listen to what Senator Jon Tester told Anderson Cooper about the man who was currently the White House physician --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I understand he had a nickname in the White House among some of the staff?

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: And it was the candy man because he handed out prescription drugs like they were candy.

COOPER: The White House doctor is nicknamed among some in the White House as the candy man?

TESTER: That's correct. That's correct. That's what we were told.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Senator Tester says the allegations against Dr. Jackson came from 20 active duty and former military members.

President Trump offering his nominee a graceful way out, but Jackson appears determined to dig in and fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Can you answer the questions?

RONNY JACKSON, DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS NOMINEE: I can answer the questions, absolutely. I'm looking forward to rescheduling the hearing and answering everyone's questions.

TRUMP: I haven't heard of the particular allegations, but I will tell you he's one of the finest people that I have met. But the fact is, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren't thinking nicely about our country?

I really don't think personally he should do it. But it's totally his. I would stand behind him. Totally his decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Senators from both parties publicly voicing frustration with the White House for failing to properly vet their nominees and leaving lawmakers to clean up the mess.

BRIGGS: Embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appears before two House committees tomorrow. Officially, he will be on Capitol Hill to talk about the EPA budget. He's also likely, though, to be grilled by Democrats and Republicans about a series of alleged ethical lapses.

But a White House official says Pruitt has refused repeated White House offers of assistance to prepare for these hearings, baffling some Trump aides. Overall, support for Pruitt in the West Wing is cooling. One source telling us some aides questioning whether Pruitt has the ethics necessary for government service.

Support for the EPA chief also eroding among Republicans. Listen --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: A lot of serious allegations against him that I want to check out, and I'm doing it.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Absolutely have concerns, a lot of questions that stil need to be answered.

[04:10:00] SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: You can't just go around acting like a big shot, and you can't go around seeing how close you can come to the line, and you can't go around disrespecting taxpayer dollars. Can't do it. Shouldn't do it. Shouldn't be tolerated. That's part of the swamp that we're trying to clean up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Pruitt is also facing backlash for opposing a controversial rule that he says will make the EPA more transparent. The proposal unveiled Tuesday only allows the use of studies that make all data publicly available for anyone to analyze.

Now, several environmental groups say the rule would permanently weaken the agency's ability to protect public health especially if regulation of carbon emissions and air pollution since much of that research relies on confidential health data.

BRIGGS: Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is giving advice to banking execs on how to weaken the power of his own agency. Yes, really.

"The New York Times" reports Mulvaney gave a speech to more than 1,000 bankers Tuesday, and included moves Congress could make to curtail the CFPB. He said campaign contributions are the way to lawmakers' hearts, and that when he was a congressman, he only spoke to lobbyists that gave him money.

Mulvaney is a longtime critic of the CFPB, the consumer watchdog President Trump temporarily put him in charge of.

ROMANS: For a moment there he said out loud what everyone knows.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Rising interest rates and red flags from corporate America are shaking Wall Street. U.S. stocks closed lower. Big, bad day on the street.

The Dow fell more than 400 for the fifth down day in a row. That spread to global stocks. Right now, Asia and Europe are lower at the moment.

Investors are ignoring strong company earnings. Instead, they're focusing on threats to the nine-year-old bull market like Caterpillar, a bellwether from industrial America, what did Cat say? Profits won't do any better than they are doing now. So, shares tumbled 6 percent.

3M fell 7 percent after reporting it won't make as much money this year as thought. Google parent Alphabet racked up lots of expenses in the first quarter. That sent shares 5 percent lower, dragging down the entire tech sector.

Another threat to the bull, the most widely watched bond rate, the ten-year U.S. treasury, that rate hit 3 percent, the first time in four years. For everyday Americans, higher rates mean more expensive auto loans and mortgages. For investors, it could eat into corporate profits and signal more inflation. We're also watching, Dave, what's happening to the yield curve. And

you've got the yield curve starting to flatten, and the people who watch the markets get concerned about what's happening in the yield curve because it's doing something that usually happens before you have the recession.

BRIGGS: But by most metrics, the economy's extraordinarily healthy.

ROMANS: Absolutely. Even in the case of Caterpillar and elsewhere, what you're hearing is that tariffs -- the threat of tariffs and some of these trade moves are putting a cap on things for them at this point.

BRIGGS: OK, ahead, it's a whirlwind 24 hours for rapper Meek Mill, freed from prison after this controversial sentencing nearly five months ago. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:17:10] BRIGGS: Another legal setback for the Trump administration on DACA. A federal government ruling that the government must accept new applications for the Dreamers' immigration program, but the decision won't take effectively immediately. Judge John Bates gave the administration 90 days to make its case for ending DACA, calling the order to shut down the program arbitrary and capricious.

ROMANS: The Supreme Court is set to oral arguments today in the faith of President Trump's travel ban. Critics say the seven-nation ban does little to enhance national security. They argue the government has failed to show how keeping 150 million people out of the country makes the U.S. more secure when not a single person from a banned nation has caused a terror-related death here.

We get more this morning from CNN's Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

It's more than a year after Donald Trump stunned the world and caused chaos in the airports, and the Supreme Court is finally taking up the legality of the travel ban. It concerns the third version of the ban. It was signed in September and it bans travel to various degrees from seven countries.

In December, the Supreme Court allowed the entire ban to take effect pending this appeal. The challengers argue that it violates immigration law and the constitution. They say the president exceeded his authority, and it has no national security justification.

They say the president demonstrated animus to Muslims in the tweets he sent out in his campaign statements. The government says the ban is necessary to protect national security and says it's neutral toward religion. It's worth noting this is the first major Trump administration policy the court's going to hear, and it comes on the last day of arguments of the term -- Christine, Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Ariane, thanks.

Meanwhile, CNN projecting Republicans will hold on to the House seat in a special election in Arizona's eighth congressional district. Former State Senator Debbie Lesko winning a close race over Democrat and first time candidate, Hiral Tipirneni. Lesko's single-digit victory though far closer than expected in a heavily Republican district. President Trump won there by 21 points in 2016. Romney carried it by 25.

The election was to fill the seat of former GOP Congressman Trent Franks who resigned back in December facing allegations of sexual harassment.

ROMANS: Rapper Meek Mill is out of prison after Pennsylvania's highest court ordered his release. The 30-year-old was sentenced last year to two to four years. He's serving two to four years for violating parole in a decade-old gun and drug case. Now, the violation here, a reckless driving conviction for popping wheelies on his dirt bike. That was a violation of his parole, his probation.

Philadelphia prosecutors are calling for Mill's convictions to be overturned in light of new evidence. The Philadelphia native issuing a statement on Twitter, thanking his family and public advocates who include Jay-Z, New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft.

[04:20:05] There was a huge movement behind him, people who thought this was unfair.

Mill also thanking the Philadelphia D.A.'s office for their commitment to justice. He says he looks forward to resuming his music career. After leaving prison Tuesday, Mill was flown by helicopter to the Philadelphia 76ers' home playoff game where he had the honor of ringing the ceremonial Liberty Bell before tip-off. That's right, from prison to right there, court side.

Turns out Mill brought the team good luck. The Sixers eliminated the Miami Heat.

And among those violations was, you know, failing a drug test along the way, just one thing after another. He was gainfully employed, traveling around the country, you know, playing music. But one point, that was in violation of a probation order.

So, you know, sort of one misstep after another that supporters said was too overbearing by the court system and that would not happen to a white person.

BRIGGS: What does it mean for people who don't have high-profile help like Michael Rubin, co-owner of the 76ers who flew him there in the helicopter? It gained national attention for good reason.

Ahead, a manhunt overnight in Dallas, Texas, after two police officers were shot. We'll have the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:25:41] ROMANS: Dallas police say they've arrested a man in connection with the shooting of two officers and a civilian at a Home Depot. Chief Rene Hall says it started with a call from an off-duty officer requesting backup to make an arrest. When two officers arrived, the suspect fired a gun, critically wounding the officers and injuring one of the store's loss prevention staffers.

The suspect, 29-year-old Armando Luis Juarez, fled in his pickup. Police captured him after a lengthy car chase. Officials say all three victims are now out of surgery. Their names and current conditions were not disclosed.

BRIGGS: Former President George H.W. Bush is awake, alert, and talking after being admitted to intensive care, just a day after the funeral for his wife in 73 years, Barbara Bush. A family spokesman says the 41st president contracted an infection that spread to his blood, but the spokesman says the 93-year-old is responding to treatments and appears to be recovering. A source tells CNN Mr. Bush had been in critical condition but now said determined to get healthy and return to his family's seaside estate in Maine this summer.

Get back to Kennebunkport soon, we hope, Mr. Bush.

ROMANS: Yes. We wish him the best.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: All right. Did the French president, Emmanuel Macron, charm President Trump into changing his mind on some key policy issues? That's next.