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Trump Welcomes Freed Americans Home from N. Korea; Three Ex- Detainees Returns From North Korea; Israel And Iran In Direct Confrontation; Administration Moving Forward On Summit; Israel Retaliates For Missile Attack; Rocket Attack Comes Amid Nuclear Controversy. Aired 3:30-4a ET

Aired May 10, 2018 - 03:30   ET


ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Jeff Zeleny at Joint Base Andrews. We probably have less than 30 seconds speed, but just basically, what comes next?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What comes next is really the planning for that historic summit. The time and date will be announced in the next coming days. We do believe based on our reporting from officials that Singapore is a likely spot for that.

But the question now is now that these stakes have been raised, so extraordinarily high with this, the hard work begins. And the president clearly, you know, he'll be meeting with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in next week here in Washington, all setting the course for that meeting.

But, again, for all these images tonight as powerful as they were and indeed they were, this is a victory for this president. It is the first step in a long road if he wants to actually accomplish the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Definitely. And we can always -- thanks, Jeff --

SESAY: Thank you, Jeff.

VAUSE: -- there are three men who are being detained in North Korea who are home.

SESAY: Who are home.

VAUSE: So from this point on, you know, this is a good night.

SESAY: Yes, that's most (INAUDIBLE). Good night. And we want to thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Our live coverage of the North Korean detainees returning to the United States will continue after the short break.

You're watching CNN.


[03:30:35] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Home at last. Three Americans released by North Korea touched down just moments ago, greeted by the president and the first lady. Now work begins on diplomacy in search of a deal on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Tensions soaring in the Middle East. Israel and Iran exchanging rocket fire. The most direct confrontation between the adversaries. We have live reports this morning from Joint Base Andrews, from Seoul, South Korea, from Jerusalem, Tehran and Johannesburg on extraordinary international breaking news Thursday.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans.

It is Thursday May 10th. It is 4:30 a.m. on the Korean Peninsula. 10:30 a.m. in Jerusalem. Right here in the east, it is 03:30. We welcome all of our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world for an extraordinary breaking news overnight.

Let's begin there. These three Americans released from North Korea. They are back on U.S. soil. The American military medical plane carrying the former detainees, touching down less than an hour ago at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

BRIGGS: Yes. The three men greeted by President Trump, the first lady, Vice President Pence, and, of course, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They're historic release coming as final preparations are being made for the U.S. -North Korea summit.

Jeff Zeleny there live for it all at Joint Base Andrews. He joins us live this morning.

Jeff, good to see you. Extraordinary pictures but also as we come to expect words from the president.


An extraordinary early morning here on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews. Just a few moments ago, as you were saying, President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence, Karen Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on hand here to greet those three freed Americans released of course from North Korea.

A dramatic moment as the president and first lady walked up the stairs of that aircraft, spent some few moments, several minutes actually alone with these three Americans who have been held in such a long journey coming back. And then they all deplaned together. One of the detainees throwing his hands in the air, clearly happy to be home.

This is what the president said as he signaled a new movement in his diplomatic effort with North Korea. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Proudest achievement will be this is a part of it, but will be when we denuclearize that entire peninsula. This is what people have been waiting for for a long time. Nobody thought we could be on this track in terms of speed. So I'm very honored to have helped the three folks.

They're great people. You know, I got to speak to them on the plane. These are great people. They've been through a lot. But it's a great honor. But the great -- the true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons.


No not at all. We very much appreciate that he allowed them to go before the meeting. It was sort of understood that we'd be able to get these three terrific people during the meeting and bring them home after the meeting. And he was nice in letting them go before the meeting. I mean, frankly, we didn't think this was going to happen and it did. So you -- you could say we're a little bit -- it was a very important thing to all of us to be able to get these three great people out.


ZELENY: The president clearly making the most of this moment. It was indeed a photo opportunity. A giant flag was set up here on the tarmac as you could see. But he also signaled that this is the beginning of the process. He said the true honor will be when there are no more nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. Of course, that is a long uphill diplomatic struggle before that happens.

But now, in fact, the president heading back to the White House, perhaps getting a bit of sleep. And the real work of talking to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just back from North Korea as well, a 90-minute meeting with Kim Jong-un, it will be debriefing and planning for the big historic summit, which is likely to take place a month from now likely in Singapore.

[03:35:08] Dave and Christine?

BRIGGS: Our Jeff Zeleny live for us at Joint Base Andrews. Thank you, Jeff.

Christine, in a word, unconventional is this president in term of his foreign policy but it's hard to argue thus far with the results given what he's accomplished there in North Korea and what he could potentially accomplish with Iran pending on our European allies. But the speech was extraordinary this morning.

ROMANS: It is remarkable. This is clearly a win for this administration. Very interesting to me what you heard in that sound byte that the president said that after the meeting with Kim Jong-un we think we'll be in Singapore. That when they thought they bring these men home, they came home before the meeting. What does that signal about the intentions of the North Koreans as we head into that meeting in Singapore.

BRIGGS: The president, he also took the time to slam the "New York Times" on odd optics considering the moment there. He also took time to say he expect record television ratings at 3:00 a.m., these are the things we've come to expect from this president.

ROMANS: I think that's vintage Donald Trump --


ROMANS: -- to talk about television ratings and to slam the media right there with this historic moment.

All right. So with the detainees now back on American soil, as you can see there, what is next in the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea? Joining us live from Seoul, senior international correspondent Ivan Watson.

Ivan, what do you make of this moment?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, it was striking to see the men released, you know, the one who -- the man who did speak to the press there in that brief photo op was Kim Dong-chul and he's been held the longest. He was detained in North Korea in October of 2015 and he talked briefly about his treatment saying that he had to do hard labor after being accused of espionage. And that when he got sick he was treated for that illness. We didn't hear very much more from him,

The three men did put out a statement during their trip around the globe back to Joint Base Andrews thanking the Trump administration for helping secure their release. I was struck seeing that Kim Hak-song who was detained in May of last year, his hair had turned completely gray during his time in detention in North Korea.

I interviewed his wife days after his detention. He has been teaching at university students how to grow rice in North Korea and she was of course bereft in May of 2017 upon hearing that her husband had been detained. I'm sure the family members will want to speak with their loved ones upon their release here.

The family of the other detainee Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-duk, they put out a statement where they thanked the Trump administration for working for the release of these men and also added, "Continue to pray for the people of North Korea and for the release of the all still being held." And that's very important here. It gets to the dismal human rights record of North Korea.

South Korea welcoming the release of the three U.S. citizens but calling for the release of six of their own citizens still being held, an issue that's come up in the recent summit between the North and South Korean leaders. And Japan, pressing this point home where they say that more than a dozen of their own citizens are still missing, believed to have been abducted by the North Koreas from Japanese soil in decades past. And they suspect more than 800 Japanese citizens have also -- who are missing have also been abducted. So this is a major issue that detention and abduction of foreign citizens by North Korea and here we have a success for the U.S. of three that have been released in what many argue maybe an effort to try to build more momentum in these remarkable months of diplomacy between North Korea and the rest of the world, hopefully, leading up to a summit between the North Korea leader and President Trump himself.

Christine, Dave?

ROMANS: And, Ivan, we heard from the president he mentioned Otto Warmbier's parents and said that he had talked to them and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, had talked to him, a reminder that a young man was imprisoned by North Korea came home in a very tough shape and died right after. You know, president said that Kim Jong-un was nice to send these men home but we should remember they were abducted in the first place.

WATSON: That's right. And Otto Warmbier's case was such a shocking tragedy because when U.S. diplomats went to secure his release last year, they didn't expect that he would be in a vegetative state, that he had suffered some awful brain injury, some injury to the head, they thought they were going to bring home an American university student, instead he was in a coma and died shortly after arrival back to the U.S.

[03:40:03] So the state of these three men was incredibly important. And partially because North Korean doesn't typically allow Swedish diplomats who conduct U.S. diplomatic affairs in Pyongyang for the U.S. since there isn't a U.S. embassy there, they don't provide consular access which other countries normally provide. That's part of why the U.S. government, the State Department in January issued a travel warning basically telling American citizens don't travel to North Korea. You could be abducted, you could be detained too, and there's nothing that we can do about it.

U.S. citizens had to get travel waivers to travel to North Korea. The fact that warning was issued in January, Christine and Dave, that underscores just how sudden the diplomatic changes of the last couple months have been where you've gone from American citizens being told don't travel to North Korea to Mike Pompeo has made two trips to Pyongyang in under two months.

Christine and Dave?

ROMANS: All right, Ivan Watson for us in Seoul, thank you.

BRIGGS: Many people may be wondering why there's no family there, that is according to protocol. They will be treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and debriefed by intelligence officials.

But also breaking overnight, Israel retaliating after a rocket fire from Syria targeted soldiers in the Golan Heights. Those rockets, according to the Israelis, were fired by the Iranians, marks the most direct confrontation to date between Israel and Iran.

Let's go live to Jerusalem where Ian Lee is tracking the latest develop.

Ian, good morning.

IAN LEE, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Dave. This attack happened just a little bit after midnight local time, sending residents of the Golan Heights scrambling to bomb shelters. Meanwhile, the sky above the Golan was lit up as both sides exchanged fire. We're hearing of no casualties on the Israel side. Israel responded by attacking dozens of sites inside of Syria. Syria state media saying that some of those rockets and missiles were shot down.

But Israel gave a list of what they were targeting and that includes Iranian intelligence sites, logistics headquarters, military base north of Damascus, weapons depots, observation post, as well as Syrian antiaircraft batteries.

They also went after that rocket launcher of course that started this all. Israel's defense minister though recently just said this morning that most of Iran's infrastructure inside Syria was hit in the aftermath of that attack. They -- he also added this warning that, "If it rains in Israel, there will be a biblical flood on the other side."

When this attack was taking place right before it, Israel said that they notified the Russians as well as the Americans to make sure there wasn't going to be any conflict there. But we're also hearing that Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged both sides to ease the tensions right now.

We also heard from the Israel saying that they don't want to escalate this, Dave, as far as what's happening right now in the north, Israeli authorities say it's business as usual. Schools are open and people are encouraged to go to work.

BRIGGS: All right. We'll check with you the next hour. Ian Lee live for us in Jerusalem this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, that's the view from Jerusalem. What is Iran saying about all of this? Senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is live for us, he is in Tehran.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, well, there's nothing official yet from the Iranians. It's interesting though because Iranian media is actually quoting Syrian media and talking about this incident that took place. The Iranian media is actually acknowledging that the Israelis are pointing the finger of blame at Iran. And even Iranian media is saying that they're trying to get some sort of official acknowledgment or any sort of information out of the Iranian government. So far there has not been any forthcoming.

Not necessarily unusual, though. We've seen some skirmishes between the Iranians and the Israelis in the past and it has taken at least several hours, sometimes several days for the Iranians to acknowledge if any of their military personnel were killed in those incidents as well.

But, of course, Christine, the timing this is absolutely essential. Just over a day after President Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear agreement, the Iranians now seem to be firing up the diplomacy on this, pointing towards the Europeans. There was a call yesterday between the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, where the Iranian president apparently said that the Europeans only have a limited time to try and save the nuclear deal. Of course then, it would be a version that would have only the original signatories minus the U.S. in it, that of course comes after the Iranians absolutely ripped into the U.S. after President Trump pulled out, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Frederik Pleitgen for us in Tehran this morning. Thank you so much for that.

[03:45:00] BRIGGS: So many questions about how they relate, the getting out of the Iran nuclear deal plays into the negotiations with North Korea. Some feel it could help, some feel it could hurt. Time will tell. As the president would say we shall see.

I'm the guy you should hire. I'm closest to the president, that's how one Republican says Michael Cohen tried to bring in potential clients after the president was elected. Was Cohen trying to sell access to this new White House? The latest ahead on EARLY START.


ROMANS: All right. Breaking just moments ago this, three Americans released from North Korea back on U.S. soil. The American military medical plane carrying the former detainees touching down less than an hour ago at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

BRIGGS: President keeping his eye on the ball talking about the real goal of denuclearizing the entire peninsula, also paying tribute to Otto Warmbier who was released in June of 2017, the late Otto Warmbier.

All right. Elsewhere final preparations being made there for that meeting, that summit which we believe will happen later this month, early next month in Singapore. We'll keep you updated throughout the hour on this situation.

[03:44:59] CNN also learning that when Donald Trump won the race, the president, his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, made aggressive pitch to that victory into big business for himself. Cohen's actions on the front while legal raise serious questions of influence peddling. Multiple sources telling us Cohen reminded potential clients of his proximity to the world's most powerful man.

ROMANS: One Republican strategist describes Cohen's pitch this way. "I don't know who's been representing you but you should fire them all. I'm the guy you should hire. I'm closest to the president. I'm his personal lawyer." As it happen, Cohen's efforts paid off landing him lucrative consulting deals. More on that now from CNN's Sara Murray in Washington. SARA MURRAY: Good morning, Dave and Christine. The president's personal attorney Michael Cohen is under scrutiny yet again. But this time, it's amid questions about whether he engaged in influence peddling. Now, Donald Trump's unexpected victory in November 2016 sent corporate America scrambling. They were looking to hire anyone who could offer insights into the new administration. Cohen who is Trumps long time attorney jumped at the opportunity and the money started flowing in.

Korea Aerospace Industries paid Cohen $150,000 for what they call legal advice. AT&T which is trying to buy CNN's parent company, Time Warner, paid Cohen at least $200,000 saying he was hired to provide insights into understanding the new administration.

Now, paying for access is nothing new in Washington and Cohen hasn't been accused of wrongdoing when it comes to these payments. But he is already under criminal investigation. And Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been scrutinizing some of these transactions. Pharmaceutical giant Novartis says it was also contacted by the Counsel Council over its payments to Cohen. That sector paying him more than $1 million over the span of a year.

A source says Cohen promised Novartis access to the White House when it came to health care policy. The company quickly discovered Cohen couldn't deliver. As for Cohen and his lawyer, they did not comment.

Back to you guys.

ROMANS: All right. Sara Murray, thank you for that. Michael Cohen he was sought for legal advice -- health care advice, for merger advice and a lot of different advice, some of these companies now saying that they found that he could not deliver.

BRIGGS: Little swampy? Little swamp there. We'll update you on the release of three Americans held in North Korea and what the president said about that but also highly anticipated report expected from the Pentagon today about last year's deadly ambush on American soldiers in Niger. What questions will be answered and what remains unsolved. We're live in Africa, next.


BRIGGS: The Pentagon releases its final report on the ISIS ambush in Niger last October that killed four American soldiers. The findings expected to focus on the mission of the fallen troops and whether it was authorized.

David McKenzie traveled to Niger to cover the attack for CNN. He joins us live from Johannesburg this morning.

David, good morning.


Yes, this is a highly anticipated report run by a senior commando, Africom, the African Command. Now, we do expect that this report will detail what exactly happened in that disastrous troop movement of these 12 or so Special Forces of the U.S. led by the Green Berets that came under heavy attack. Four U.S. servicemen killed back in October.

Now, we've learned that this will possibly show how a junior officer initially directed those Special Forces to do a capture and kill operation in the volatile part of West Africa but then that was later changed. We hear those exact details later and also hear more details about the dramatic stand off between these American soldiers and ISIS linked militants.

Now the big question, both whether this will give closure for the families that have heard this report details or whether this will lead to big operational changes on the ground here in Africa. Democratic Senator told CNN that there was, he believes, unauthorized use of force and that there should be consequences to this.

Now, the U.S. has a big military presence through Africa, particularly in those parts of the Sahel and West Africa where ISIS and Al-Qaeda linked groups are active. So will this have an impact on those operations? A general earlier this year said that those groups are growing in strength. Dave?

BRIGGS: David McKenzie live for us in Johannesburg, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a quick check on money this morning. Of course, the big story is the United States getting around out of the Iran nuclear deal and oil prices rose after the U.S. quit. U.S. oil prices up 3% to $71 a barrel, the highest since 2014.

New sanctions could cut off Iran's oil exports trimming already tight world oil supply. You know, the major oil producing countries had already been nudging prices higher by slowing down production. This Iran news comes right on top of that. Global stocks and U.S. futures higher overnight driven by the higher energy stocks. Wall Street closed higher on that rally there. Stocks like Exxon and Chevron, the entire sector rose 2%.

The U.S. wants to get drones into the sky. The Transportation Department says drones are the future. So they plan to test them in these 10 cities, in states like California, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Alaska. The drones will fly legally over people's head at night and outside the view of an operator that will allow them to deliver food and medicine, inspect critical infrastructure and in Florida, survey the mosquito population. This test will help the government craft regulations to allow drones in U.S. air space. It says drones could create $82 billion in economic benefits and maybe 100,000 jobs.

Sears is getting help from perhaps his greatest rival, Amazon. That's right. Sears will install the tires you purchase on Amazon. Yes, Amazon sells tires. And Sears auto centers will install them for a fee. Meanwhile, Amazon will sell Sears brand tires on its site. Sears really needs the cash. Sales plunged 25% last year. Like many retailers, it faces increase competition from online sellers like Amazon. This news (INAUDIBLE) Sears stock, shares jumped 16%. BRIGGS: OK, the latest on the release and return of three American citizens held by North Korea straight ahead for our international viewers. Stay tuned.