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EARLY START

Trump and Macron's Day of Pomp & Policy; Trump Hints at Iran Deal Compromise; Trump on Jackson's V.A. Fight; Meek Mill Free on Bail. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 25, 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] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Trunk delivery, an extension of Amazon Key which uses cameras and smart locks to allow Amazon deliveries in your home. Amazon's latest plan to leave packages where they cannot be stolen.

Have you ever had a package stolen from your front step?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I have. It's just Amazon continues to creep further and further into our lives. I guess there's no stopping it.

ROMANS: I kind of like the trunk idea. If you have OnStar and you can like quickly -- you know it's been delivered and it's there. That's great.

BRIGGS: Wow.

All right. EARLY START continues right now with the touchy-feely 24 hours between president Trump, thank you, and Emmanuel Macron.

(MUSIC)

BRIGGS: Pomp and policy as President Trump host the French president at the Trumps' 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)

ROMANS: President Trump hinting that President Macron may have convinced him to compromise on the Iran nuclear deal.

(BEGIN 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)

BRIGGS: President Trump leaving the door open for his embattled V.A. nominee, Dr. Ronny Jackson, to back out amid mounting questions about his past. ROMANS: Rapper Meek Mill goes from a prison cell to a helicopter,

free on bail in a case that sparked outrage from activists of criminal justice reform.

Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

Now you're perfect, Dave.

BRIGGS: That's not dandruff, that's cookie crumbles. I eat a lot in the morning.

I'm Dave Briggs. It's Wednesday, April 25th, far from perfect. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East, 6:00 p.m. in Seoul, South Korea. We'll check in there live shortly.

But we start with the third and final day of French President Emmanuel Macron's remarkable visit to Washington. Begins good morning with an address to both houses of Congress. This follows a day of pomp and policy Tuesday that even included a hint from President Trump that he might reconsider extending the Iran nuclear deal that he called insane and ridiculous. A deal he spent more than two years criticizing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The day ended, of course, with the Trump administration's first official state dinner.

For more on that, let's check in with Kate Bennett 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: Merci, Kate Bennett.

As we mentioned, President Trump signaling a potential breakthrough that could keep the U.S. from backing out of the Iran nuclear deal. During a visit with Macron, Mr. Trump confirmed the 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 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.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, though, taking a jab at President Trump's qualification qualifications, in a speech a short time ago saying, quote, how can a businessman, a real estate developer, decide on global issues?

[05:05:00] ROMANS: President Trump is showing some respect for a leader he once mocked as little rocket man. The administration gearing up for a summit between the president and Kim Jong-un. Mr. Trump showering praise on North Korea's supreme leader. Listen --

(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)

ROMANS: When the president was pressed further, he didn't explain why he considers Kim Jong-un honorable now. He did say the two sides are having good discussions. He says the North Koreans are pushing for the two leaders to meet as soon as possible.

BRIGGS: 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 now 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 is 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 --

COOPER: Candy man?

TESTER: -- 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)

BRIGGS: 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. 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)

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

Joining us this morning to discuss all of this, live from Washington, CNN politics digital director Zach Wolf.

Good to see you, sir.

ROMANS: Good morning, Zach.

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Wow, it was quite an extraordinary day. The touchy-feely nature of the Macron-Trump relationship obviously gets our attention. But the big picture is this Iran deal, and where are we going on this? A deal the president called insane and ridiculous. Earlier in the day he evolved to say this about the future of the deal --

(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. Mind-boggling evolution in 24 hours. Four hours really, Zach. Where are we headed on this Iran deal with the May 12th deadline looming?

WOLF: Well, he definitely doesn't want you to think you know what he's going to do on May 12th. I don't know, and he wants you to know you don't know either. The only person that sounds like might know is Macron, standing next to him.

So, he loves the idea of a little bit of theater involved with the Iran deal, which is interesting to say the least. But, you know, the idea that they could somehow repackage the Iran deal seems to appeal to President Trump. So, it would be new -- it would be his Iran deal instead of the previous one.

I don't know that what they're talking about is going to be a complete revamping of this thing or if it's just tinkering around the edges. I think that remains to be seen. He certainly wants to put his marker on it, it seems, if he's going to recertify on the 12th.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, on Kim Jong-un, the president has repeatedly insulted him in the past. Now, we're in this new phase of that relationship, if you will, between the two as we are in negotiations, the United States and North Korea, for some discussions. You heard that sound byte where the president called Kim Jong-un --

BRIGGS: Open and honorable.

ROMANS: Open and honorable. Jeff Mason from "Reuters" asked the president what did he mean by that. This is what he didn't say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So, we're having good discussions. Kim Jong-un was -- he really has been very open, and I think very honorable from everything we're seeing. Now, a lot of promises have been made by North Korea over the years.

[05:10:01] But they've never been in this position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So then after that, Jeff Mason asked him about, you know, what do you mean when you called him that? And he said, we want to deal with him in an open and honorable fashion. So, he didn't necessarily say he was honorable again but said the negotiations should be honorable.

You know, what is the president risking with language like that?

WOLF: Well, you know, he risks kind of being disingenuous. Kim Jong- un has done some horrible things as the leader of a country. On the other hand, before a meeting -- a diplomatic meeting that he's worked on and pointed to, I think, you know, you don't want to bad cop a guy right before you want to meet with him potentially. So, maybe that's a little bit of what's at play here.

BRIGGS: OK, let's turn to the man some have said is labeled candy man inside the administration. Dr. Ronny Jackson, again, a popular doctor for Barack Obama. He called him an asset to the entire administration.

Can he survive given the allegations that reportedly he was drinking on the job, was banging on some woman's door late at night at a hotel? Can he reschedule this confirmation? Given the dynamics of 51-49 in the Senate?

WOLF: Well, I think that there's some -- you know, the knocking on the door of the woman is obviously very disconcerting. The being drunk, I think that was, you know, it wasn't while he was working at the White House, it was during overnight trips. I'm not sure that's any better, but it's not like he was drunk at the White House.

BRIGGS: Right.

WOLF: You know, on the other hand, if you have Republicans in the Senate who are not feeling good about your nomination and your president is a Republican, that's not a good position to be in. Not being able to get a hearing, that's usually something you think about with a divided, you know, Senate and president, not of the same party.

So, I don't think it bodes well for him. On the other hand, Trump, as you said, opened the door very wide. He gave the biggest out I've ever seen for somebody to walk through yesterday. All up to you, buddy.

And apparently, Jackson didn't take him. They're going to carry forward.

ROMANS: It's kind of ironic, because the president is like, look, who wants criticism from people who are cruel and mean, I wouldn't do it -- except he did do it. He clearly relates. He clearly relates to what's going on there.

All right. Come back in a half hour. We're going to really examine the bromance between the French and Americans with all of the touching moments, next. So, don't go away.

BRIGGS: Touching.

ROMANS: So, let's talk about money.

Rising interest rates and red flags from corporate America shaking confidence on Wall Street. Stocks closed here in the U.S. The Dow fell more than 400 points, that's five days in a row of declines. That mood spread around the world.

Right now, Asia and Europe are down. Investors are ignoring strong company earnings. They're focusing instead on what they perceive as threats to the nine-year-old bull market.

Caterpillar, a bellwether for industrial America, it said profits have peaked because of rising costs like steel. And that's because steel prices are up since the Trump administration slapped tariffs on imports last month. Cat shares down 6 percent. 3M down 7 percent. Reported it won't make as much money this year as it thought.

Google parent Alphabet racked up lots of expenses in the first quarter. That sent shares 5 percent lower, dragging down the whole tech sector.

Another threat to the bull -- the most widely watched bond rate, the ten-year U.S. treasury note yield, it hit 3 percent. The first time in four years. For every day Americans, higher rates mean more expensive auto loans and mortgages. For investors, it could eat into corporate profit and signal inflation.

The bond yield, you're asking about this is getting a lot of attention. You know, 3 percent, it isn't 1981, by the way, when rates were higher than this. But still, after these years of low, low interest rates, those rising interest rates and a flattening yield curve, not to get too technical, are sending some signals that they're spooking Wall Street.

BRIGGS: The volatile market continues. Speaking of volatility, it's been a whirlwind 24 hours for rapper Meek

Mill, freed from prison after his controversial sentencing nearly five months ago. This extraordinary story, next on EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:18:36] BRIGGS: 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 was much closer than expected in the heavily Republican district.

Keep in mind, President Trump won there by 21 points in 2016. Romney carried it by 25 in the prior election cycle. The election was to fill the seat of former GOP Congressman Trent Franks who resigned in December, facing allegations of sexual harassment.

ROMANS: Rapper Meek Mill out of prison after Pennsylvania's highest court ordered his release. The 30-year-old was sentenced last year to two to four years for minor violations of his parole in a decade-old gun and drug case. The violation, a reckless driving conviction, for doing wheelies on his dirt bike.

Philadelphia prosecutors calling for his conviction to be overturned in light of new evidence, they say. He thanked his family and public advocates who include Jay-Z and New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft. 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. Turns out, Mill brought them good luck, Sixers eliminated the Miami heat.

[05:20:03] And he also said that he hopes his incarceration shines a light on some of the unfairness in the criminal justice system.

BRIGGS: Right, one would hope. Most don't have that high-profile moneyed help.

ROMANS: That's right. He makes the point that he hopes his situation shines a light on that.

BRIGGS: Michael Rubin, the co-owner of the 76ers, helped him. He paid for the helicopter ride.

Ahead, the Toronto Blue Jays honoring the victims of the Toronto van attack. Lindsay Czarniak with the details n the bleacher report, next. There she is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:25:02] BRIGGS: A great story this morning. Rapper Meek Mill who has widespread support from the sports world spent his first evening out of prison at the Sixers' playoff game.

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

Hey, Lindsay.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys.

Yes, you know, the celebration last night was so joyful after that game for Philly. It looked more like a final four celebration. But as you say, there was also reason to celebrate before the game because Meek Mill freed from prison after five months behind bars, flown by chopper to the Sixers' game.

And then less than two hours after his release, Mill arriving at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly wearing the Joel Embiid jersey there to ring the team's bell as part of the pregame ceremonies. Can you imagine how he felt? He was joined by Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin who went to get Mill from prison and comedian Kevin Hart.

After the game, Embiid talked about what the moment meant to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL EMBIID, PHILADELPHI 76ERS CENTER: I was just excited. I know that he's always represented the city, and I love the city so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: The Sixers gave Philly plenty to cheer about. They beat the Miami Heat, 104-91, advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2012. So, next step, the winner of the Celtics-Bucks.

But this is my favorite moment -- check this out. Afterwards, Embiid picking up Kevin Hart. Holding him up there like a toddler. Like you throw your child in the air. Isn't awesome?

He threw him about two feet. Serious lift there, guys.

Hey, also advancing yesterday, the defending champion Warriors. They made it look so easy without Steph Curry. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combining for 49 points. And they needed every one to hold off a late charge by She spurs. They won 99-91.

And it shows sportsmanship there, Durant and Golden State head coach Steve Kerr sharing a warm embrace with Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili who is expected to have played his last game.

The Warriors will now face the Pelicans in the second round on Saturday.

And tossing it to baseball for a moment. The Toronto Blue Jays honoring the victims of Monday's deadly van incident and the first responders, as well, with a tribute before last night's game against the Red Sox. Players from both teams stood in front of their dugouts as Toronto police officers and paramedics stood on the field.

A blue banner reading #torontostrong hanging in center field there. The Jays went on to win 4-3 in ten innings on a Curtis Granderson walk-off home run.

Guys, more honoring going on in Toronto as the Raptors host the Wizards for the playoff game. That series is even right now at two.

BRIGGS: Of course, the Red Sox know what a -- what sports can do to lift the city after the Boston marathon bombing and Boston strong. Good stuff there.

Thank you, Lindsay. Good to see you.

CZARNIAK: Good to see you all.

ROMANS: All right. Just about half past the hour. Did French President Macron charm President Trump into changing his mind on some key policy issues? That's next.