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EARLY START

President Trump Welcomes Three Americans Freed By North Korea; Trump Administration Moving Forward On Korea Summit; Israel And Iran Trade Fire In Most Direct Confrontation Yet; Pentagon To Release Niger Ambush Report. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 10, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:30:50] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, letting them go before the meeting. Frankly, we didn't think this was going to happen and it did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Home at last. A hero's welcome for three Americans released by North Korea. They touched down just a short time ago, greeted by the president. And now, the hard work begins on diplomacy in search of a deal on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And, 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, Jerusalem, Tehran, and Johannesburg. We are around the world this morning on EARLY START.

Welcome back. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour here.

Let's begin with this breaking news.

The three Americans released from North Korea, they're now back on U.S. soil. The American military medical plane carrying the former hostages -- the former detainees, touching down a short time ago at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

BRIGGS: The three men greeted by President Trump, the first lady, Vice President Pence, his wife, and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

Jeff Zeleny live from Joint Base Andrews. Jeff, extraordinary pictures and words coming from the president. Good morning.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

It was an extraordinary moment overnight when President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, the vice president and Mrs. Pence, as well, were waiting when this American plane touched down with those three freed Americans.

The president and the first lady walked aboard the plane, had a private moment with them, and then perhaps an iconic image -- a picture of them walking off the plane, holding up a V for victory sign.

Certainly, a moment in the dark of the night there that signals the opening for more diplomatic relations potentially with Kim Jong Un, of course, all ahead of that historic summit next month.

But the president was asked directly what this means for those talks with Kim Jong Un.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The 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 -- 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: 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 could say we're a little bit ahead. It was a very important thing to all of us to be able to get these three great people out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So, the president addressing reporters there just a couple of hours ago in the middle of the night and really, a made-for-T.V. scripted moment there.

But the president, before he flew back to the White House, was asked why he thinks Kim Jong Un is doing this right now. Why is he cooperating right now?

And he said simply, he believes that he wants to join the real world. Modernize North Korea, if you will.

Even though these pictures, of course, symbolized the end of captivity, it also signaled a new beginning -- a long road ahead in terms of the diplomacy here. Yes, that meeting is scheduled for next month in Singapore but, boy, so much work must be done before North Korea would ever give up its nuclear program -- Christine and Dave.

BRIGGS: We expect to hear more from the president spiking the football tonight in Elkhart, Indiana -- there, in part, to support Mike Braun, the Senate candidate.

[05:35:02] A long day for you, too, as well, Jeff Zeleny. Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, Jeff.

ZELENY: The R.V. --

So with the -- I think he said the R.V. capital of the world.

So with the detainees now back on American soil, what is next in the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea?

Joining us live from Seoul, international correspondent Paula Hancocks.

Paula, you heard Jeff Zeleny's report there. From your neck of the woods, the North Koreans are calling this amnesty -- this release.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. It's certainly being welcomed here around the region.

But as you say, Christine, they are using that word amnesty. We heard from state-run media KCNA, saying that Kim Jong Un accepted the request from the U.S. president to spare these men and it was an amnesty.

But it was also in very warm terms -- this media report -- talking about the meeting between Kim Jong Un and Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state -- unusually warm terms which we simply haven't seen in recent months.

So it is interesting to show that North Korea is welcoming this North Korean and U.S. summit. That was also discussed, so the North Korean people are being told about that summit now, which they haven't been before.

And also, from the South Korean point of view. They are welcoming what has happened but also reminding people there are still six South Korean prisoners in North Korea. They wanted them to be released. Moon Jae-in, the president, had mentioned it during the summit.

And also, Japan, saying they want their abductees to be released as well. ROMANS: Yes. It's important not to forget the human rights violations ongoing in the North. Clearly, a big win here for the United States on these three Americans.

Thank you so much, Paula, in Seoul for us.

Let's bring back in Harry Kazianis, the director of Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest.

So, the United States wants PVID -- permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of the nuclear program. What does Kim Jong Un want?

HARRY KAZIANIS, DIRECTOR OF DEFENSE STUDIES, CENTER FOR THE NATIONAL INTEREST: Well, I think Kim Jong Un's going to want quite a bit.

I think, first and foremost, he's going to want some sort of security guarantee because if he gives up his nuclear weapons he's essentially naked to the United States from any sort of military attack. You know, potential military attack from Seoul.

Now, the United States and our allies are never going to attack North Korea, first. At least I would certainly hope not. But, you know, he's going to want some big security assurances.

I think also, he's going to want at least $100 billion and maybe even more in terms of economic development because what's so important to understand is the North Koreans probably -- essentially, let die hundreds of thousands of their own people because of the resources and food that they weren't able to purchase or grow to build nuclear weapons.

So, what they're going to have to get to give those weapons up is going to be at an immense cost and I think it's something that we're all forgetting about here.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's also talk about how getting out of the Iran nuclear deal might impact negotiations with North Korea. Some say it will help, some say it will hurt and that the North Koreans might say well, the United States is not to be trusted.

What's your thoughts?

KAZIANIS: Well, I think they're very different situations.

If we look at Iran -- long-term, actually, the Iranians are a much bigger threat in terms of the Middle East and in the wider world.

Think about it this way. The Iranian economy is worth actually $350 billion. It's actually 50 times bigger than North Korea. So if the Iranians simply wanted to build nuclear weapons, wanted to build long- range ICBMs, they have a much bigger economic pie to pull from to actually do that if they -- if they really wanted to.

In terms of long-term though, I think the situation with Iran is actually very different in terms of North Korea. The Iranians have spread chaos and destruction through the Middle East for a long time now.

And one of the problems with that deal is that you weren't going to change Iran's behavior. So you can -- you know, depending on where you are on the political spectrum -- I know there's some people who love and hate --

BRIGGS: Yes.

KAZIANIS: -- the deal, but you have to look at the facts.

BRIGGS: And some feel it could help in that North Korea might say well, the United States will not make any halfway deals. They're going to want, to your point, permanent --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- irreversible, verifiable denuclearization.

ROMANS: Is there a danger -- so we heard the president yesterday -- or last night -- just a couple of hours ago actually, say Kim Jong Un -- he was nice in letting them go. He called him -- called him nice.

Is there are danger in the president complimenting essentially one of the world's worst human rights violators?

KAZIANIS: I do get a little worried. I don't -- I don't really feed into the rhetoric of the president. I don't read the tweets anymore, to be honest with you.

ROMANS: Really?

KAZIANIS: I just try to look at the policies. The policies are the key here and that's what our allies in Asia and a lot of diplomats here in Washington look at.

I think we've all sort of gotten past the point of all the tweeting because look, you can't create foreign policy in 280 characters. It's just not possible.

So I think we have to look clear-eyed at what the president's trying to accomplish. And I think long-term, this is going to be very difficult. The diplomacy that is going to happen in the next weeks is going to be astounding.

Remember this. North Korea and the United States have no diplomatic relations. We have no trust between us. That's going to be 50 or 60 years of history we're going to have to overcome in a few weeks. Good luck.

[05:40:02] BRIGGS: Yes. How do you verify their denuclearization? In broader context this foreign policy, largely by gut -- is it time to reconsider its success?

KAZIANIS: I think the president's been pretty successful here. I mean, everybody has their own partisan viewpoint. I appreciate that. But I think we have to remember that the president doesn't have sort of a fixed foreign policy viewpoint. He's not a neocon. Some have called him a realist. But I think he does operate by his gut.

And I think his business acumen has helped him quite a bit here in terms of feeling out the situation, knowing when to maybe throw out a little bit harsher rhetoric, when to know, when to deal. I think it's really worked for him to be honest with you.

I think he's got a good team now with Mike Pompeo and John Bolton and I think that there -- we could see some good results but we still have to be skeptical.

ROMANS: It does seem as though Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, is building some trust with the North Koreans. He's had two visits now here.

And clearly, the president and his tweets and his -- the way he speaks has flipped the script.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Changed the script with which we are dealing with, with the North Koreans. All right.

Harry Kazianis, nice to see you.

KAZIANIS: Thanks for having me.

BRIGGS: How that script ends, the president says we will see.

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

Let's go live to Jerusalem where Ian Lee has the latest. Ian, good morning.

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

Just a little after midnight, local time here, residents in the Golan Heights were scrambling to these bomb shelters as sirens blared across the region above them.

There was an exchange of fire. Iran firing these rockets. Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system shooting down a number of them. Then Israel retaliated, going after dozens of sites inside of Syria.

There was no casualties on the Israeli side. We're waiting to hear if there were any in Syria.

And some of these targets, we're hearing, are Iranian intelligence sites, also logistics headquarters. A military base north of Damascus, also a weapons depot. And Syrian anti-aircraft fire -- they were firing missiles at the Israeli missiles to try to knock them down.

Now we heard -- also heard from Israel's defense minister Avigdor Lieberman this morning and he said most of Iran's infrastructure in Syria was hit. Also -- he also gave a warning to the Iranians and the Syrians, saying that if it rains in Israel then there will be a biblical flood in Syria.

We know that the Israelis spoke with the Americans and the Russians beforehand to make sure there was no -- nothing that conflicted. The Russians have urged the escalation. The Israelis say they don't want to escalate it any further, Dave.

BRIGGS: Ian Lee live for us in Jerusalem. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. So what is Iran saying about these flaring tensions -- all of this?

Senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen -- he is there for us in Tehran this morning -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Christine.

So far, the Iranians really are taking their time with any sort of a response. We, in fact, haven't heard anything official from the Iranians yet.

It's interesting because Iranian state media has been reporting on what was going on but mostly citing Syrian sources. And they also say -- or they acknowledge that the Israelis blame the Iranians for what happened there -- or for starting it, at least.

But they are also saying that they are still waiting for some sort of response from the authorities here in Tehran. So far, none has been forthcoming -- not necessarily something that's unusual.

In the past, when we've seen skirmishes likes this as the situation has been starting to boil in the past couple of months, it's taken awhile always for the Iranians to respond, especially if there were Iranian causalities involved.

But, of course, all of this, Christine, coming at a very, very important time -- a day after President Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement.

The Iranians still trying diplomatic efforts to try and save the agreement. In fact, last night there was a call between Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, and the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, where they were trying to scope out ways which maybe they could move forward -- Christine.

ROMANS: Such fascinating times. All right.

Fred Pleitgen for us in Tehran. Thank you, Fred.

It means your oil prices can rise in the past couple of days because of that exit -- the Iran exit, as the people in the markets are calling it.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the president's nominee to lead the CIA in a contentious hearing with the Senate. What Gina Haspel said and what she didn't say that has one key Republican voting against her.

ROMANS: And this. A hero's welcome for three Americans who touched down just a few hours ago on U.S. soil. The President of the United States and the first lady greeting them. We have that after the break.

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[05:49:18] BRIGGS: Getting you on our breaking news.

Three North Koreans (sic) released and returned to the United States earlier this morning met with the President of the United States at Joint Base Andrews -- the first lady there, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo.

A big moment for the Trump administration. We'll hear from the president shortly and tonight in Elkhart, Indiana when he holds a rally.

ROMANS: All right.

A combative confirmation hearing for CIA director nominee Gina Haspel. A number of Democrats are now publicly opposing her nomination and they're being joined by a prominent Republican, John McCain.

Senator McCain is home in Arizona battling brain cancer but he did release this statement.

"Ms. Haspel's role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immortality is disqualifying."

[05:50:03] BRIGGS: McCain and many of Haspel's critics are troubled by her refusal to plainly state whether the use of torture after 9/11 was immoral.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINA HASPEL, DIRECTOR-DESIGNATE, CIA: Senator, I believe that the CIA did --

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Is it a yes?

HASPEL: -- extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country, given the legal tools that we were authorized to sue.

HARRIS: Please answer yes or no. Do you believe, in hindsight, that those techniques were immoral?

HASPEL: Senator, what I believe sitting here today is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to.

HARRIS: Will you please answer the question? (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Haspel did say she would not allow the CIA to undertake any activity she thought was immoral, even if the president ordered it.

I should note, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said he is a yes on Haspel. The key is with red state Democrats with a 51-49 edge for Republicans in the Senate.

ROMANS: All right, let's check on money this morning.

Mick Mulvaney, once again, making changes at his consumer watchdog and this time he's targeting student loans. Mulvaney is the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- the CFPB.

He plans to fold a unit that protects student borrowers into another office. A CFPB spokesman calls it a modest organizational chart change. Advocates worry this consolidation will strip the office of its enforcement powers.

Americans have $1.5 trillion in student loans, the biggest borrowing category after mortgages.

And this CFPB unit acts as a watchdog. It helped more than 60,000 borrowers recover $750 million for abusive practices.

Mulvaney has long accused the CFPB of overreach. As a congressman, he tried to abolish this agency and now he leads it. Under his leadership, the CFPB has delayed pay-day loan rules and weakened a fair lending division.

The U.S. wants to get drones into the sky. The Transportation Department says drones are the future so it plans to test them in these 10 cities in states like California, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Alaska.

The drones will fly legally over people's heads 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.

These tests will help the government craft regulations to allow drones in U.S. airspace. It says drones could add $82 billion to the economy and create 100,000 jobs.

And, of course, the big business story we're watching this morning is what happens with oil prices after that Iran exit. It's been 24 hours since that announcement. Oil prices have been rising.

BRIGGS: All right.

Straight ahead though, what happened to four American soldiers ambushed in Niger? The Pentagon expected to release some answers today. We're live, next.

And the latest on the release of three Americans and their return to Joint Base Andrews this morning. The president, first lady, the vice president, the secretary of state there to greet them. We'll hear from the president shortly.

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[05:57:35] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're starting off on a new footing. This is a wonderful thing that he released the folks early. That was a big thing -- very important to me and I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The President of the United States with a hero's welcome.

BRIGGS: Thereupon meeting those three Americans released and returned from North Korea to Joint Base Andrews. A huge win for the Trump administration.

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely -- just a few hours. We will continue to follow that story on "NEW DAY."

Meantime --

BRIGGS: What happened to those four American soldiers who died in an ISIS ambush in Niger? Later today, the Pentagon releases its final report on that attack.

David McKenzie with the latest from Johannesburg. David, good morning.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. Yes, this is a big deal.

This large report that was done from the U.S. military's highest level, looking into what exactly happened to those four U.S. servicemen who were killed in an ambush from a vastly superior number of ISIS-linked militants in Niger.

You know, we were on the ground there after that attack. There were a lot of questions at the time even as to why those soldiers were out in those areas without substantial support and close air support.

Now, one of the key questions Dave is whether there was authorization that was not within the realm of the military chain of command. They will be looking into that and just happened and what impact it could have on the ground with American soldiers -- Dave.

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

ROMANS: All right, a very big morning. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" has it all covered for you. We'll see you tomorrow.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, May 10th, 6:00 here in New York, and we begin with breaking news of a good kind.

President Trump welcoming home three Americans. Look at this, a hero's welcome for the men freed by North Korea after more than a year in captivity.

The president and the first lady emerging from the plane that came in the middle of the night with the former prisoners. It was just before dawn.

Their release marks a high point in Mr. Trump's turbulent presidency.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It is nice to have breaking news of a good kind.

So, President Trump offered praise for Kim Jong Un -- of course, the leader who had imprisoned the Americans. All this comes ahead of the president's upcoming summit with the North Korean dictator.

CNN is learning some new details about where that historic meeting could happen so let's get right to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He is live at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland with all of the breaking details.

Give us the color, Jeff, of what happened here.