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EARLY START

Singapore Chosen as Neutral Location for President Trump-Kim Jong-un Summit; Trump Hoping for Better Iran Nuclear Deal; Protests Underway in Tehran; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:14] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A deplorable comment from inside the White House. "Don't worry about John McCain. He's dying anyway." This from a White House aide and it's not the only embarrassing leak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And on June 12th in Singapore I'll be meeting with Kim Jong-un.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Summit is set. President Trump will meet with Kim Jong-un next month. Can the president find more success with the North Korean regime?

ROMANS: And Iran now condemning the Israeli strikes inside Syria. Those strikes followed rockets launched from -- into Israel from the north. We're live in Jerusalem with all this means for the volatile region.

Good morning, everyone. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning, my friend. Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. Friday, May 11th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East. Those stories in a moment but we begin with breaking news.

This morning a federal investigation underway after a Texas church is damaged by a package bomb. It's the second explosive device to target the city in two weeks. A Beaumont police called to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church Thursday found what looked to be an already exploded package that caused minor damage to the church.

ROMANS: The FBI along with the ATF are assisting local police. Two weeks ago, a suspicious package was found at a Starbucks in the city. It was later found to be an explosive device as well. Beaumont is about 200 miles east of Austin where a serial bomber targeted homes and business in March.

BRIGGS: Now to politics. Senator John McCain's opposition to Gina Haspel becoming CIA director met with a rather despicable response from inside the White House. An official telling CNN that at a meeting staffer Kelly Sadler said of McCain, quote, "He's dying anyway." The Arizona senator is battling brain cancer. The official says Sadler meant it as a joke. The official says the joke, quote, "fell flat." Sadler runs surrogate communications at the White House.

ROMANS: As for a response, the White House said, "We respect Senator McCain's service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time." A source says Sadler called the senator's daughter Meghan McCain to apologize. It is unclear how McCain responded. The senator's wife, Cindy McCain, posted this tweet, "May I remind you my husband has a family, seven children and five grandchildren."

BRIGGS: John McCain on Wednesday urged his fellow senators to reject Gina Haspel for CIA director after she declined to say torture is immoral. McCain's move prompted this ugly response from FOX Business commentator, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES PAYNE, FOX BUSINESS HOST: John McCain has said he's not going to endorse Haspel also, in part because she believes in torture. That she thinks it works.

LT. GEN. THOMAS MCINERNEY (RETIRED), FOX BUSINESS COMMENTATOR: John McCain. It worked on John. That's why they call him "Songbird John."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: They did not call him that. Also no evidence torture ever got McCain to betray the country. Host Charles Payne later tweeted an apology to McCain saying he missed the remark in the moment, but would have challenged it.

ROMANS: A spokesman for FOX tells CNN that General McInerney will no longer be invited on FOX Business or FOX News. Meghan McCain will address the remarks from McInerney and Sadler on "The View" today.

On a more positive note, Senator Lindsey Graham visited McCain this week in Arizona. He says McCain is getting stronger.

And look, there is no question John McCain is a national hero. One of my kids once said to me he wanted to be in the Navy. He wants to be like John McCain.

BRIGGS: And we're seeing that on Twitter.

ROMANS: You know? I mean, this is someone who -- is someone you aspire to be like.

BRIGGS: But oddly McCain has become a divisive person in the Republican Party. If you check social media, it's gotten rather ugly at the end --

ROMANS: That says more about the party and says more about politics in Washington than John McCain.

BRIGGS: It says an awful lot about the direction. John McCain is an American hero.

Department of Homeland Security this morning flatly denying a "New York Times" report that the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen considered resigning after an explosive argument with President Trump during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Now a source with knowledge of the incident says the president erupted over immigration berating Nielsen for not doing enough to secure the border. The secretary standing her ground citing the law to the president more than once.

ROMANS: According to the "Times," Nielsen later drafter a resignation letter but a Homeland Security spokesman denies that she threatened to step down. And Nielsen now says she shares the president's frustration with border security blaming the problem partly on congressional inaction.

BRIGGS: President Trump in Indiana last night taking a victory lap following the release of three prisoners held by North Korea at a rally in Vice President Pence's home state. Just hours after greeting the detainees in person President Trump said his efforts are ensuring America is respected again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:05:11] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were saying he's going to get us into a nuclear war. He's going to get us into a nuclear war.

(CROWD BOOS)

TRUMP: And you know what gets you into nuclear wars and you know what gets you into other wars? Weakness. Weakness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The location and date all set now for President Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

For the latest, we turn to CNN's Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, South Korea.

Good morning, Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Dave. Well, we know now June 12th in Singapore. And it's something we've been waiting for for some time but something U.S. officials have been pushing us towards for some time because they really favored this location. Basically because of not just security but also the fact that it was a neutral location which was very important for the U.S.

Now we heard that Trump had favored the DMZ at one point. But U.S. officials, including some of his own inner circle, were just concerned that that would be too much of a conciliatory move towards Kim Jong- un, the North Korean leader. So the reason they like Singapore for a start, it is a U.S. ally. There are U.S. military elements within the area. From the North Korean side, the reason Kim Jong-un may well have said

yes to it as well is because there is a North Korean embassy there. So they have a connection as well. So certainly a very neutral location. It has been welcomed by many leaders around the region. Japan welcoming the summit being there.

Obviously Singapore saying they welcome it, meaning they're hoping that they can help towards bringing piece on the peninsula. South Korea also saying that they support it but of course they are also disappointed that it is not at the DMZ. They were hoping that after this bilateral between Trump and Kim Jong-un there could potentially be a trilateral including South Korea as well. It would have been much more easier if it was hosted by the South Koreans -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Just the second time a North Korean leader has gotten on a plane in the last 30 years.

Paula Hancocks for us in Seoul. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump will reveal his much anticipated vision for lowering drug prices. Unveiling his blueprint in a speech today, Trump's "American Patients First" plan, there's a few goals here. Reduce consumer costs, improve drug price negotiations, create incentives for lower prices.

The administration will use a few strategies by making it easier for cheaper generic drugs to hit the market and targeting the shadowy world of drug rebates. Trump wants insurers to share these big discounts for buying pricey brand name drugs consumers. An idea the Obama administration also supported. However, the president is abandoning one campaign promise. Directly negotiating with drug makers. Instead, officials plan to remove government rules preventing Medicare from getting better deals.

Trump has long promised to lower drug prices but hasn't made any significant move yet. Experts say today's proposals will have a modest impact. Trump is also expected to slam foreign countries for paying less for drugs, asking them to spend more for taking advantage of American innovation. Americans spend more on drugs than anyone else in the world, over $1100 per person per year.

BRIGGS: An interesting issue in particular because Democrats are actually hatching their own plan and they plan to counter the midterms, Their own argument that President Trump hasn't done enough. Everything is political.

All right. Ahead, 10 ton boulders flying as far as half a mile. Rain laced with toxins. Some serious warnings about what could be on the horizon for the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.

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[04:12:54] TRUMP: Among the many brave national security blunders of the previous administration, one of the world's worst was the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. We're putting the harshest, strongest, most stringent sanctions on Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: After pulling out of the nuclear agreement this week the president says he is hopeful a better deal can be negotiated with the Iranians. It took 24 hours, but Iran is now condemning Israel's strikes on Syria, launched in retaliation for rockets from Iranians in Syria. Israel claims it destroyed nearly all of Iran's military capabilities in Syria. No escalation in the violence overnight. The situation does remain volatile.

International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson has some context for us. He is live from Jerusalem.

Tell us a little bit about the timing here, too. The president pulls out of a nuclear deal and then you have this flaring of tensions between these two nations in an exchange of rocket fire.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. I mean, what Iran seems to have done here is sort of end its strategic patience, if you will. This is something that they've had several Israeli strikes on Iranian military facilities inside Syria because Israel believes that they are a threat to Israel's sovereignty.

There have been Iranian casualties. The Iranian forces have not responded. Now they have responded so the strategic patience or strategic resistance, if you will, that they had not been responding, that seems to have changed.

What we've heard now from President Rouhani, who is a moderate in Tehran, is that there is a limited amount of time for the European countries to get their act together and to show that the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal can continue to work. We've heard President Trump just there, he's going to put on strong sanctions, that will impact the Europeans. They probably weren't be able to deliver.

Rouhani is a moderate. Meanwhile, it's the hardliners on the ground in Syria, hardline Iranians in Syria, the ones responsible for those strikes. So you've got these moderate hardline split going on in Iran at the moment.

[04:15:05] Add into that the perception in Syria certainly of President Bashar al-Assad is that Russia is really in the driving seat here. If the Iranians really do up their attacks Israel has responded that they will fire back much harder, much stronger, and that -- that implicates a broader war in Syria. That's something that President Putin doesn't want. Russia is strapped for cash, it's not spending on its military the way it was two years ago.

So the implication at the moment is eyes on Iran. Do they hold their patience in Syria for Europeans can find a way to push forward the JCPOA agreement or is that going to collapse? Will the hardliners win out or will there be a bigger regional war here?

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson, for us in Jerusalem with that context, thank you. BRIGGS: All right. In the wake of the President Trump's decision to

quit the Iran deal, former president George W. Bush warning about the dangers of isolation. Bush 43 was honored Thursday with a distinguished leadership award from the Atlantic Council. In a speech to the nonpartisan foreign policy think tank, Bush invoked the words of Winston Churchill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The price of greatness is responsibilities. One cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems. Without being convulsed by its agonies. And inspired by its causes. If this had been proved in the past as it had been, it will become indisputable in the future. People in the United States cannot escape world responsibility. I wholeheartedly agree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: On a personal note, the former president thanked everyone for their prayers and support following the death of his mom Barbara Bush. He says his father, George H.W. Bush, quote, "Misses mom, but his health is good."

ROMANS: Protest underway in Tehran at this hour with the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement.

Let's go there, senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is at the entrance to the protest. He is in Tehran.

What do you see in there, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hi, Christine, yes, the way all this is working is that right now as part of these protests, the Friday prayers are on in one of the big sort of hardline places in Tehran. That's near the place where you hear a lot of anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric as well. After that there's going to be very large protest marches.

And the people that you're seeing behind me a lot of them are actually going to these Friday prayers and then they're going to be taking part in these protest marches. So we do expect to hear a lot of anti- American sentiment there and some really strong and choice words as well.

It's interesting. You were just talking about that incident that took place on the Golan Heights. The Iranians now coming out and obviously criticizing Israel, still not saying that they were the ones who were targeted in it. So they're still not acknowledging that they have forces on the ground or that they were part of that military intervention that took place there. Nevertheless a lot of anger that we're seeing here on the ground and we expect more as the day goes past. We'll be here to cover it of course. It's going to be certainly a very, very important day here for the Iranians -- Christine.

ROMANS: I would say just after noon, heading into 1:00 in the afternoon there in Tehran.

Fred, come back to us and -- with more reporting. Thank you, sir.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, in the catalog of bad, just downright awful in ceremonial first pitches, we may have a new winner. A former NFL player and reality host tries to throw a baseball, but it doesn't end well. The result next.

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[04:23:07] BRIGGS: All right. 4:23 Eastern Time. No volcanic activity this morning at the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. But scientists are renewing dire warnings about the threat of explosive almost biblical eruptions. They say the violent eruptions could fling 10-ton boulders as far as a half mile and send columns of choking ash miles into the sky. The last time that happened was nearly a century ago.

It's prompted Hawaii's volcanoes national park to close indefinitely. The toxic gas is released in the Kilauea eruption, also raising concerns about acid rain and volcanic smog which can induce asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.

ROMANS: More than two-thirds of all flight attendants say they have been sexually harassed by passengers. More than two-thirds. You're looking at a first-of-its-kind survey of flight attendants conducted by the Flight Attendants Union. 68 percent claim they've experienced verbal sexual harassment three or more times with more than a third of those incidents occurring within the past year in the midst of the Me Too Movement.

And 18 percent of the flight attendants say they have been victims of physically sexual harassment in the last year -- in the last year. They described physical sexual harassment like groping, grabbing, slapping. The head of the union claiming the airline industry is, quote, "steeped in a sexist past."

BRIGGS: "Town and Country" magazine apologizing to Monica Lewinsky after she was disinvited from their annual philanthropy summit because to the convention because Bill Clinton was then attending. Lewinsky called the publisher out on Twitter for throwing her under the proverbial bus.

ROMANS: She wrote, "Dear world, please don't invite me to an event especially when about social change and then after I've accepted, un- invite me because Bill Clinton then decided to attend /was invited. It's 2018. Emily Post would definitely not approve."

On Thursday "Town and Country" responded by tweeting, "We apologize to Miss Lewinsky and regret the way the situation was handled."

[04:25:04] They think that was totally bad, bad, bad on them, "Town and Country," and they know it and they admit it. And it's so interesting because, you know, she is really the sympathetic figure in this story, you know?

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: I mean, come on 40 years later --

BRIGGS: She's been the one who's paid the price.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: For all of that.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: All right. You're about to witness what could be the worst ceremonial first pitch ever thrown at a baseball game. It's at the Phillies game and it's a former NFL linebacker. Akbar Gbaja-Biamila is the co-host of "American Ninja Warrior." Taking the hill before last night's Giants-Phillies game. And look at this thing. Straight into the ground.

This was a tough moment for him. Seems no one told the former football star there is no spiking at baseball. Phillies fans were stunned. They did not know what to do with it. He said he thought being a former football player would help him with this. It obviously did not. Brutal stuff. But he had a good time with it.

ROMANS: Looks like he did.

BRIGGS: All right. Breaking news overnight. An explosive device causes damage at a Texas church. The second explosive found in the city of Beaumont in the last two weeks.

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