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EARLY START

NYT & WSJ Obtain Dozens of Mueller's Questions; New Tariffs Delayed; Another DMZ Summit?; Tom Brady Confirms He Will Play in 2018. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 1, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Apple is expected to announce plans to return $100 billion to shareholders today.

[05:00:01] It's the tax bill makes it cheaper for Apple to bring home its quarter of a trillion dollars in foreign cash. They're going to give some of that, we think, to investors. Payday.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: That tax bill, Marco Rubio had some interesting comments about that in the economist. You'll see those in the midterms.

EARLY START continues right now with some of the very questions that the special counsel wants to ask President Trump.

(MUSIC)

BRIGGS: Special counsel has dozens of questions for President Trump. Those questions are public and they have a major focus on obstruction of justice.

ROMANS: The White House delays new steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico. What's the president's next move as he looks for better trade deals?

BRIGGS: And the president loves a good show. He's suggesting the North Korea summit at the DMZ. Kim Jong-un already on board. What a dramatic sight it would be to see the president and Kim Jong-un in the DMZ.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans, it's Tuesday, May 1st, May Day. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East, 6:00 p.m. in Seoul. Noon in Jerusalem. We will take you all of those places in the next half hour.

But let's begin here possible obstruction of justice. The dominant theme in dozens of questions the Russia potential count wants to ask President Trump. A list of four dozen questions Robert Mueller has for the president was first obtained by "The New York Times" later matched by "The Wall Street Journal".

The questions focused on the president's motivations for key decisions and whether he obstructed the Russia investigation. Justice correspondent Evan Perez starts our coverage from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The president's legal team composed a list of nearly 50 questions following a meeting last month with the special counsel Robert Mueller investigators to discuss a possible interview with the president. As CNN has reported, the questions roughly fall into four categories and deal with firing of James Comey, the former FBI director, and Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, as well as the president's dealings with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russians.

The questions published by "The New York Times" show a focus on the president's state of mind during key events. It's clear from some of the questions that despite the president's claims that collusion is off the table, the Mueller investigators are still pursuing questions of whether anyone broke the law in those repeated contacts between Trump campaign associates and people the FBI believes were Russian government operatives -- Christine, Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Thanks, Evan.

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us this morning here in New York, CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer, historian and professor at Princeton University, and in Washington, political economist Greg Valliere, chief strategist for Horizon Investments.

ROMANS: Hi, guys.

BRIGGS: Good morning to both of you.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

BRIGGS: All right. Julian, we will start with you, sir, and your broad takeaway from these dozens of questions now published in extraordinary. It reads like these come from someone in the Trump legal team or used to be in the Trump legal team not from the special counsel. Let's be clear about that.

What's your broad takeaway here?

ZELIZER: Look, the questions touch on everything that has been reported from obstruction, a little bit on Russian Trump campaign relationship to even questions about the business connections. I think the broad take is obstruction is the focus, at least from what we see in the questions of what Mueller is honing in on.

But we also have to wonder where the questions came from and what the purpose is. They are very broad. And you could imagine the Trump team tried to get this out to show he's looking a lot of stuff and that fits their narrative that he's gone all over the place.

ROMANS: So you think this could come from the Trump team?

ZELIZER: I don't know where it comes from.

BRIGGS: It reads that way.

ZELIZER: But it reads that way. It comes right after Giuliani joins the team, for example. So, we don't know how this fits into the strategy.

BRIGGS: Have a study guide for the president, because Bob Mueller has leaked nothing.

ZELIZER: Nothing. He hasn't leaked this kind of information. So it would be surprising if all of a sudden that's what he's done.

BRIGGS: Stunning.

ROMANS: Greg, some of these questions, for example this one, what did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10th, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off. That May 10th, 2017, if I'm not mistaken, that's that amazing optic in the Oval Office with the Russian ambassador --

BRIGGS: Still hard to believe.

ROMANS: You know, I mean, really and those pictures were leaked by the Russian foreign ministry, not the United States.

Greg, we've heard from the president again and again, no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, no collusion. What does this latest reveal do to that position, do you think?

GREG VALLIERE, POLITICAL ECONOMIST: Well, the president, Christine, keeps saying everyone agrees there's no collusion. I'm not sure Robert Mueller agrees that there's no collusion. Maybe by Trump allies, maybe not the president himself.

The other thing that came across to me loud and clear is that Mueller has talked to people who were singing like canaries, people who have copped a plea. Flynn would be in that category. So, I think Mueller has information that he would like to turn around and then question Trump on.

[05:05:04] I personally think Trump would be crazy to subject himself to an interrogation.

BRIGGS: It would be stunning, but you were nodding your head for the notion that Michael Flynn has provided information.

ZELIZER: Well, it's not going to be a fact-finding mission when Mueller interviews him. He -- I don't think he expects the president to give him a totally honest account of anything that happened. That's not who the president is.

But I think he might have other information and he wants to see --

BRIGGS: He knows the answer.

ZELIZER: That's exactly right. And so, the purpose in some ways might be to trap the president into saying things that are untrue, but I think he has more information than he's seeking.

ROMANS: A lot of people --

ZELIZER: I don't think this is, let's get all the facts in front of us.

ROMANS: And a lot of people are looking to this outreach to Russia question, guys, what knowledge did you have by your campaign including Paul Manafort to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign.

This is sort of intriguing. It's not clear, Julian Zelizer, if Mueller has something new here.

ZELIZER: Right. But again, the not clear is the key. My sense is he has more information than we know or that he's letting on. He has conducted pretty aggressive interviews. We've already had indictments. We've had pleas. That all suggests he has a wealth of information beyond what we know.

And he's going to, again, see how this lines up with what the president is willing to say.

BRIGGS: Well, I think all of us agree it's unlikely at this point the president sits down with Bob Mueller if you read these questions, although, nothing was truly shocking in this.

But, Gregg, we want to turn now to this aluminum and steel tariffs delayed by the White House. What was your reaction to that in particular to the E.U.?

VALLIERE: Well, I said with you over the last couple months, and I reiterate now, we're not in a trade war. We're in a trade dispute with China, with the E.U., lot of countries.

But I still think the president would like a deal. I still think an agreement in principle on NAFTA is fairly imminent, maybe in the next few weeks. So, it was an encouraging sign. It's a one-month delay, but it's a sign this administration does not want to get into a full- fledged trade war.

ROMANS: Julian, do you see a strategy here? Because there are those who thought that maybe the president blinked here and the White House economic team blinked here. They're on their way to China where they're going to have to deal with, you know, the Chinese $150 billion in tariffs the United States threatened.

But meanwhile, our friends are upset with us. You know the European negotiators are very -- they're angry that -- they've been put in this position by the United States. That there's an oversupply of medals because of oversupply in China and it's our friends in Europe who are going to be sanctioned essentially. ZELIZER: I think he's playing to his bases because basically bases,

meaning he's doing a lot of things. Initially the controversy in the announcement riled people up and showed his electoral base that he is fighting for them.

ROMANS: Against foreign powers.

ZELIZER: But now he goes back and says, well, I'm not going to do a lot of that. I'm going to delay it for our key allies, which plays to his other base, meaning corporate America, which very much does not want to a trade war and also to the base of some key allies right now who he needs for other foreign policy moves that the administration is trying to make with North Korea, with Iran.

So, he's playing to many bases, and I think there is a strategy to saying lots of things. And in the end, maybe doing nothing.

BRIGGS: Speaks to the stay tuned to the next episode theme of this administration.

ZELIZER: That's exactly right.

BRIGGS: Speaking of you guys, stay tuned, because we want you to stick around and get a cup of coffee. We'll see you in 20 minutes.

VALLIERE: Yes.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, are Israel and Iran headed to an open conflict? Israel's prime minister says he has proof Iran was lying when it said it wasn't developing nuclear weapons. We're live in Jerusalem.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:12:54] ROMANS: CNN has learned South Korean President Moon Jae-in convinced North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un to hold his upcoming meeting with President Trump in the demilitarized zone. Moon and Kim met last week in the DMZ just last week, and now, President Trump says he's leaning towards that plan himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's something that I like about it because you're there. You're actually there. Where if things work out, there's a great celebration to be had on the site, not in a third party country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Our sources say that's the main attraction for the president, diplomatic drama and potential breakthrough like the one last week televised live around the world.

For the very latest, let's go to CNN's Alexandra Field. She is live in Seoul. And certainly that choreography played out beautifully on Friday

morning here, Friday evening there. The president is a reality show veteran. I mean, this would be a must-see TV.

ALEXANDER FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Nothing was left to chance. Every bit of it was planned out. Perhaps it was really just a preview of what could be to come, even as soon as later this month when Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump will finally meet.

The question now, will it, in fact, happen at the DMZ? It does look like all sides involved are endorsing the possibility at least, what we're hearing from the Blue House here in South Korea is there would be no place with more symbolism than to meet at the DMZ. You heard Donald Trump at the White House talking about really the optics of this kind of thing.

And in terms of logistics, it would make sense from the North Korean perspective. They have concerns about Kim Jong-un's travel to a summit that could be held a bit farther afield. There are also concerns globally about whether or not he has the aircraft that could carry him very far without having to stop to refuel which could be diplomatically embarrassing.

And there are those who are still saying that neutral options need to be considered. Certainly Singapore has been a top contender and the White House said not to rule that out. There are skeptics who say that having President Trump travel to the DMZ simply looks too conciliatory at this point.

But, certainly, you are certainly hearing all sides showing interest in the possibility of that. It would be an historic moment, certainly one made for TV and would come even with the possibility of President Trump traveling into the northern side of the DMZ. It's something that the White House is going to consider. These are all things that will be discussed when the South Korean president travels to Washington, D.C. later this month to discuss the upcoming summit with North Korea.

As that happens, a few good faith measures being taken right here in South Korea. Today, we're seeing the dismantling of the speakers that were used to blast propaganda into North Korea. North Korea for its part also showing some good faith by stopping their speakers from playing. So, a few steps being taken as we wait for really the big show, the question still being where that show will take place -- Christine.

ROMANS: The big show. All right. Thank you so much, Alexandra Field, for us this morning in Seoul, thanks.

BRIGGS: Not the only show, though. The latest now on the Iran deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a dramatic presentation laying out an elaborate detail his case against Iran. The prime minister claims his evidence proves the Iranians were brazenly lying when they said they were not pursuing nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirming Netanyahu's Iranian files are authentic. President Trump expected to decide on the next 12 days whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. The fact not lost on Netanyahu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: I'm sure he'll do the right thing -- the right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel and the right thing for the peace of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Let's go live to Jerusalem and bring in CNN's Ian Lee with the latest.

Ian, good morning to you.

This was very straight out of the Netanyahu textbook with all the visual displays perhaps this time for the president. Is there anything truly new here?

IAN LEE, CNN REPORTER: Well, when you look at it, he did present quite a damning case. He had schematics of nuclear weapons, delivery systems, missiles and how this is a secret covert mission by the Iranians each time saying Iran is lying to the international community. But when you listen to weapons experts who have been following this from day one, they say that there's nothing new to the prime minister's accusations to his evidence, he says, that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. They say this is all well-known, well-documented information by the IAEA. That's the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as other countries have said that they're going to take a look at this evidence, but they don't on the surface see anything new right now.

But it will be up to the IAEA to go through this, to see if there is anything new. Right now, they have confirmed that Iran has been living to the law, living to the standards of this Iran nuclear deal. But when you look at the Prime Minister Netanyahu, he does see a lot of threats in this region. He sees Iran operating in nearby Syria.

So, to get the president, his sole audience in this when you look who the audience was, it was the president, if he can get the president to pull of the Iran nuclear deal, then this is a triumph for Netanyahu.

BRIGGS: All right. Ian Lee live for us in Jerusalem with these major developments. Thank you.

We should note, Benjamin Netanyahu will be on "NEW DAY" later this morning. Such a dramatic presentation reminiscent of that U.N. speech with the big bomb visual for everyone to see.

All right. We never really doubted it, but Tom Brady confirming he will return for the 2018 NFL season. Andy Scholes has the bad, bad news for everyone else in the division, next in the "Bleacher Report".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:23:12] BRIGGS: An old school rivalry renewed in the NBA, the Celtics and Sixers squaring off in the second round. Game one to Boston.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys.

Yes, the Celtics and Sixers are arguably the two most talented young teams in the NBA. So, this rivalry looks like it's going to be back for a while. And everyone keeps counting out the Celtics because of all their injuries without stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward and another one of their young stars, Jaylen Brown not playing in game one.

But 24-year-old point guard Terry Rozier just continues to dominate in these playoffs. He made seven threes in this one, leading Boston with 29 points. Rozier saying after the game that playing this well at the highest level has been a dream come true. The Celtics win game one, 117-101. Game two of that series Thursday night.

All right. After speculation that he may retire, Tom Brady confirming that he will return for his 19th season. Brady going to be 41 years old in August. Now, there have been reports of turmoil within the Patriots organization. While speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference, Brady gave an interesting answer when asked if he feels appreciated by the Patriots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: I plead the Fifth.

(LAUGHTER)

BRADY: I think everybody in general wants to be appreciated more of work, you know, in their professional life, but there's a lot of people that appreciate me more than, you know, way more than I ever thought, you know, was possible as part of my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Pretty interesting comments there from Brady.

All right, guys. Finally I want to introduce you to the newest member of the CNN sports team, Wrenn Annette (ph) Wire. Coy and his wife Claire welcoming their first daughter to the world Sunday night after 18 hours of labor.

[05:25:04] Wrenn weighing 7 pounds 11 ounces. Mom and baby Wrenn doing great.

And Wrenn, as you can see, guys, already more hair than her dad which was not very hard to accomplish.

ROMANS: Oh, congratulations to them.

SCHOLES: Congrats again to Coy and Claire. BRIGGS: We knew she would have more hair than daddy, but beautiful

just like mom and dad.

ROMANS: What a beautiful name, too. Well done. Well done, you two.

BRIGGS: Happy for you, Coy all right, and the whole family. Congratulations to them.

Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Twenty-five minutes past hour.

If the president does sit down with Robert Mueller, we have a better idea now what the interview could look like. Dozens of questions for the president published this morning. The prevailing theme: possible obstruction of justice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: The special counsel has dozens of questions for President Trump. Those questions are now public and they have a major focus on obstruction of justice.

BRIGGS: The White House delays new steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico. What's the president's next move as he seeks better trade deals?

ROMANS: The president loves a good show.