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Pomp And Policy For Trump And Macron; New Allegations Against Embattled V.A. Nominee; Meek Mill Free On Bail; Comedians Roast State Dinner. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 25, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:31:38] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Pomp and policy as President Trump toasts the French president at Trump's first state dinner.


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


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: No, we do not. President Trump hinting that President Macron may have convinced him to compromise on the Iran nuclear deal.


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


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

BRIGGS: Rapper Meek Mill goes from a prison cell to a helicopter and a playoff game in the NBA, free on bail in a case that sparked outrage with activists and criminal justice reform. A dramatic turn of events there for Meek Mill.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour.

I'm wearing -- I don't even know. What are you wearing?

BRIGGS: No idea. It's not Louis Vuitton, it's not Channel.

ROMANS: Or Channel or that French label.

BRIGGS: It's off the rack.

ROMANS: The French labels were the star and so were the first ladies -- and policy.

The third and final day of French President Emmanuel Macron's remarkable visit to Washington begins this morning with an address to both houses of Congress. It follows that 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.


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


ROMANS: The day ended, of course, with the Trump administration's first official state dinner. You can see some of the beautiful pictures there.

For more on all of this let's go to CNN's Kate Bennett at the White House.


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 men were particularly friendly yesterday exchanging plenty of handshakes and hugs, sometimes awkward.

TRUMP: We do have a very special relationship. In fact, I'll get that little 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 Channel 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 to head back to France.

Back to you guys.


ROMANS: All right, Kate.

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, Mr. Trump confirmed that U.S. and European negotiators are nearing an agreement to fix the deal.

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


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. But we'll see.

[05:35:00] 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.


ROMANS: The president not so coy when he was asked about what would happen if Iran restarts its nuclear program.


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


ROMANS: 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 measures targeting Tehran's long-range missile program.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani responding this morning by questioning the right of the U.S. and France to call for a new nuclear deal.

BRIGGS: President Trump suddenly showing a lot of respect for a leader he once mocked as Little Rocket Man, short and fat. 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.


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


BRIGGS: When the president was further he refused to explain why he considers Kim Jong Un honorable now. He did say the two sides were having good discussions and says the North Koreans are pushing for the two leaders to meet as soon as possible. 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 but it has been postponed indefinitely.

Senators now looking into accusations that Jackson drank repeatedly on the job when traveling, created a hostile work environment, and improperly prescribed medications.

Listen to what Sen. Jon Tester told Anderson Cooper about the man who is currently the White House physician.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN "AC 360": I understand he had a nickname in the White House? Someone at the White House called him --

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Yes, and it was -- it was the "Candy Man" because he handed out prescription drugs --

COOPER: The "Candy Man"?

TESTER: -- like they were candy.

COOPER: The White House doctor's nickname among some people in the White House was the "Candy Man"?

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


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. Jackson, though, appears determined to dig in.



DR. RONNY JACKSON, NOMINEE, DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: 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 now publicly voicing frustration with the White House for failing to properly vet nominees and leaving lawmakers to clean up the mess.

BRIGGS: All right.

Embattled EPA administrator Scott Pruitt appears before two House committees tomorrow.

Officially, he'll be on Capitol Hill to talk about the EPA budget but he's also, though, likely to be grilled by both 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 the hearings, baffling some Trump aides.

Overall support for Pruitt in the West Wing is cooling. One source telling us some aides questions whether Pruitt has the ethics necessary for government service.

Support for the EPA chief also eroding among Republican lawmakers.


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

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: I absolutely have concerns. A lot of questions that still need to be answered.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: You can't just go around acting like a bigshot, and you can't go around seeing how close you can come to the line, and you can't go around disrespecting taxpayer dollars.

You can't do it -- shouldn't do it. It shouldn't be tolerated.

That's part of the swamp that we're trying to clean up.


ROMANS: All right.


ROMANS: Joining us this morning live from Washington, "CNN POLITICS" digital director Zach Wolf. Good morning, Zach.

And so while the swamp draining or swamp swirling is happening in Washington you have this pretty amazing pomp and circumstance and policy yesterday. It looks like Melania Trump and the White House pulled this off successfully.

Great reviews for the dinner and for the venue and a lot of news from this event. And, this touchy-feely relationship that we see that a lot of people are talking about here.

What do you make of this --

BRIGGS: The kiss. There it was -- the smooch.

ROMANS: What do you make of the dandruff wiping off? Was that good buddies or emasculating? And finally, does all of this translate somehow into policy, Zach?

[05:40:05] ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, "CNN POLITICS": I think good buddies often wipe dandruff off each other's shoulders but good buddies rarely do it in front of cameras in the Oval Office. I think -- I think that's the big difference here.

I -- you know, yes, there was a lot of touching, there was a lot of handshaking and hand-holding, and it was fascinating to watch. Is that some kind of dominance thing? I think somebody wrote about in "The Washington Post" -- I like that.

Is -- Trump is always trying to dominate people with his handshake and clearly, Macron is trying to one-up him and come in and do it, too. So there's a lot of armchair therapy that -- you know, psychoanalyzing we can do from that.

But I think it -- when you look at the bottom line is Macron going to get him to sign on to the Iran deal on May 12th? That's probably a larger question that's not going to be sealed necessarily with a handshake like this.

BRIGGS: She's always cleaning me up, Zach. I mean, I've got loads of issues. The hair, the tie -- you know, you name it.

ROMANS: You're fine.

BRIGGS: For her --

WOLF: You look great.

BRIGGS: -- it's just lipstick on the teeth on occasion -- on occasion.

But let's talk about the policy here which is the Iran deal, and Macron wants to keep the president in this deal -- a deal he called insane and ridiculous earlier in the day and then evolved to talk about its future here -- listen.


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 but 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.


BRIGGS: OK, after Emmanuel Macron exits and the bromance takes a time-out, John Bolton comes in the room, OK, and he has opposed this deal for as long as we can remember, as Mike Pompeo does.

How does it work if they want to rework a deal that Iran wants no part of reworking?

WOLF: That's a great question and I'm not sure we know how that plays out.

We have Macron here, Angela Merkel's coming. So I guess whenever the -- his staffers leave the room these E-world leaders are going to come in and whisper in the other ear -- in the other ear and maybe that will help him get on board with this.

But a lot of what it seems that he wants is just to put his mark on this. To repackage it and make it the Trump deal and to have a -- have a victory. You know, just the idea that he could flip from saying it was insane to being open to it in the midst of one press conference, like a couple of answers later, was incredible to see.

BRIGGS: Yes, certainly.

ROMANS: What do -- what do you make about the Ronny Jackson situation? We just showed that video where the president had given a graceful way out.

And I thought it was so interesting because the president was like I wouldn't do it, but the president is doing it, you know. He's being criticized for his behavior, too.

What do you make of that?

BRIGGS: Think the two allegations on the campaign trail.

ROMANS: Yes, yes, yes. What do you make of that?

WOLF: You know, I think -- I think if he had put a little more thought into who he picked to head the V.A. instead of picking his personal doctor, this probably wouldn't be a --

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: -- problem presenting itself for him.

And that's something that's repeated throughout his presidency where he makes these kind of decisions off the cuff. Oh you, right in front of me, you're a good guy. I think you should have this job.

That sort of way to lead the country -- you know, it might work very well in Trump Tower but when you -- when you require Senate confirmation it's a little bit different.

And by the way, all of the -- you know, a lot of the people expressing frustration with Jackson are Republicans so he's not even getting a lot of support --


WOLF: -- from his own party here.

BRIGGS: A decision that doesn't just impact vets all over the country but 370,000 employees.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: But, President Obama once said of Jackson he's a tremendous asset to the entire White House team, so he has praise from both sides of the aisle.


BRIGGS: Zach Wolf, good to see you this morning. Thank you.

WOLF: You, too.

ROMANS: All right, 44 minutes past the hour.

A whirlwind 24 hours for rapper Meek Mill, freed from prison after his controversial sentencing nearly five months ago. That, next.


[05:49:05] BRIGGS: The Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments today -- Trump versus Hawaii. It's the fate of President Trump's travel ban.

Supporters of the ban say the president has authority to set immigration policy and it's not the court's place to interfere.

Well, critics say the 7-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 the terror-related death here.

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

Philadelphia prosecutors are calling for Mill's conviction 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 and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Mill also thanking the Philadelphia D.A.'s office for their commitment to justice.

[05:50:10] He says he looks forward to resuming his music career.

After leaving prison Tuesday, Mill was flown by helicopter to the 76ers playoff game, courtesy of team owner Michael Rubin where Mill had the honor of ringing the ceremonial Liberty Bell before the tip- off of the game. It turns out Mill brought the team some good luck. The Sixers eliminated the Miami Heat, their first playoff series win since 2012.

ROMANS: He really was highlighting (ph) unfair prosecutions.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

ROMANS: -- in the justice system.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Look at the markets. Global stocks lower overnight. Rising interest rates and red flags from corporate America are really shaking Wall Street here.

The Dow down more than 400 points yesterday. That is its fifth- straight decline.

Investors ignoring strong company earnings. They're focusing instead on threats to the 9-year-old bull market, like Caterpillar, a bellwether for industrial America. It said profits have peaked due to rising costs like steel.

Steel prices are up since the Trump administration slapped tariffs on imports last month.

Cat shares tumbled six percent.

The most widely-watched bond rate hit three percent. Higher rates could eat into corporate profits and signal more inflation. A lot of worry about those bond yields.

Home prices, though, look at this -- they're hot, jumping six percent in February, eclipsing their 2006 peak by nearly seven percent. It's great for sellers, not for buyers. Higher prices, rising mortgage rates, a tight inventory of existing homes making it harder to buy.

One reason, new home sales. They're also growing here -- they're building more houses. Newly-built homes rose four percent in March.

Amazon has a new delivery stop, the trunk of your car. Amazon will now deliver packages inside your vehicle in 37 cities.

You have to be a prime member, you have to own a newer car with an active connected car service like OnStar. Then you just have to download an app and link it to that car service.

Trunk delivery is an extension of Amazon Key. That uses cameras and smart locks to allow Amazon deliveries into your home.

Amazon's latest plan, to leave packages where they cannot be stolen.

BRIGGS: There's no room in my trunk. All the kid's junk and baseball gear and everything else.

ROMANS: So, let's see. BRIGGS: Good luck with that.

ROMANS: So, the Amazon deliveries in my trunk and the Amazon boxes in my basement. I'm Amazoned all over.

BRIGGS: Yes. All right.

A plethora of material for late-night comedians given the touchy-feely 24 hours between President Macron and President Trump. We'll have that for you, next.


[05:57:00] ROMANS: The man who taught millions of us through catchy "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!" tunes like "I'm Just A Bill" and "Interplanet Janet," as well as this gem, has died.


"SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!" -- "Conjunction Junction."


ROMANS: Kids still -- kids still watch this stuff. I'm serious.

BRIGGS: Of course.

ROMANS: That's jazz composer Bob Dorough's classic "Conjunction Junction."

His granddaughter did not disclose the exact cause of death but told CNN that Dorough was diagnosed with cancer last year.

His upbeat, jazzy tunes helped educate generations of kids about simple math, grammar rules, and the legislative process -- "I'm Just A Bill" on Capitol Hill.

Dorough was 94.

BRIGGS: That's how I learned about legislation.

All right.

Late-night comedians had so much material given the state dinner for the French president and the troubled nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson to be a V.A. secretary.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON": Tonight, President Trump hosted a big state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House.

Actually, I read that the main course was rack of lamb, but after Trump grabbed the rack his lawyer had to pay it $130,000. SETH MEYERS, HOST, NBC "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Before taking questions from reporters today, President Trump said that his great relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron was not fake news, but added that his fake relationship with Melania is not great news.

TRUMP: He's going to be a great president of France. That's my prediction. It's only a prediction.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": And off to the Lincoln bedroom they go.

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, TBS "CONAN": White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson has been accused of drinking on the job -- yes. Today, Jackson defended himself saying you'd drink too if you saw Donald Trump naked.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, CBS "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": So how did Trump miss these warning signs when he nominated Jackson to run the second-largest government agency?

Apparently, the White House did little or no vetting of his background before announcing his nomination on Twitter. The White House staff meant to vet him but they were high on pills they got from some doctor who works there.


BRIGGS: And they didn't even get to the barrels of cash that went to --


BRIGGS: -- Iran or the --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: -- dandruff sweep off the shoulder.

ROMANS: Yes, yes. The "Dondruff" they're calling it this morning -- the "Dondruff."

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. She took it.

"NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


JACKSON: I'm looking forward to rescheduling the hearing and answering everyone's questions.

TRUMP: That fact is I wouldn't do it. What does he need it for?

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: We need some time to get some more information.

TESTER: He hands out prescriptions like candy. In fact, in the White House, they call him the "Candy Man."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Macron was trying desperately to woo President Trump on the issue of the Iran deal.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jong Un can decide you know what, I see where the president's heading on the Iran deal. This is not someone I want to negotiate with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The state dinner, a culmination of a long day of diplomacy, pomp, and circumstance.

TRUMP: God bless France, God bless our alliance.