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EARLY START

President Trump and Kim Jong-un Summit Set on June 12th in Singapore; Trump Hoping for Better Iran Nuclear Deal; Multiple Failures Led to Deadly Niger Ambush; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 11, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:38] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Don't worry about John McCain. He's dying anyway. The deplorable comment from a White House aide in the latest 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)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The summit is set. President Trump will meet with Kim Jong-un next month. Can the president get Kim Jong-un to denuclearize?

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

Welcome back, everyone, to EARLY START on a Friday. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: It is Friday. I'm Christine Romans. It's 31 minutes past the hour. A lot to get to today. We're going to get to all those stories in a moment. But let's begin with this breaking news happening right now.

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

BRIGGS: The FBI along with the ATF are assisting local police. The director of the church Reverend Steven Balke saying, "We are very blessed no one was injured," adding, "It has made everyone very nervous." 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 250 miles east of Austin where, as you remember, a serial bomber targeted homes and businesses in March.

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

BRIGGS: Asked for a response, the White House said, quote, "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, quote, "May I remind you my husband has a family, seven children and five grandchildren."

ROMANS: 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)

ROMANS: OK. That's just absolutely not true. Politifact calls that pants on fire. That's just a weird conspiracy theory. No evidence that torture ever got McCain to betray his country. The man is a national hero. Host Charles Payne later tweeted an apology to McCain saying he missed the remark in the moment, he would have challenged it had he heard it.

BRIGGS: Yes. This is not on Charles Payne. 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.

ROMANS: It's just -- there should be no room for that garbage.

BRIGGS: Well, McCain denied early release in solidarity for the other prisoners of war. That's what we should remember.

ROMANS: It's just -- it's really frustrating.

All right, 34 minutes past hour. DHS is flatly denying a "New York Times" report Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen considered resigning after an explosive argument with President Trump during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. A source with knowledge of the incident says the president erupted over immigration, berating Nielsen in front of all those other people not doing enough to secure the border. The secretary, we're told, standing her ground citing the law to the president more than once.

[04:35:06] BRIGGS: According to the "Times," Nielsen later drafted a resignation letter but a Homeland Security spokesman denies she threatened to step down. And Nielsen says she shares the president's frustration with border security blaming the problem partly on congressional inaction.

ROMANS: John Kelly admits being White House chief of staff has been trying at times, but says he has never seriously considered leaving. In an NPR interview airing this morning, Kelly says, "There is times of great frustration mostly because of the stories I read about myself or others that I think the world of which is just about everybody who works at the complex and wonder whether it's worth it to be subjected to that."

BRIGGS: Kelly says his only regret in taking the job is what -- that he wasn't there from day one. He says the White House was less organized than the president deserved for the first six months. Kelly also acknowledged that the Russia investigation is hard on his boss, saying, quote, "It may not be a cloud, but certainly the president is, you know, somewhat embarrassed, frankly. When world leaders come in, you walk in and you know the first couple of minutes of every conversation might evolve around that kind of thing."

ROMANS: All right. Republicans outside the White House are also growing weary of the Russia investigation. Take a look at this brand new CNN poll. Only 17 percent approve of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's handling of the probe. That is down 12 points since March. 64 percent of Democrats still approve. But also down five points.

BRIGGS: Republicans also turning on the idea the president testifying under oath. 39 percent say he should not. Down 15 points since March. Democrats holding firm 93 percent saying he should. On Thursday, Vice President Pence urged Mueller to wrap up his investigation in the interest of the country.

ROMANS: President Trump in Indiana 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)

TRUMP: 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)

ROMANS: The location and date are now set for President Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. For the latest let's turn it over to CNN's Paula Hancocks. She is in

Seoul.

Paula, why Singapore?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, there are a number of reasons. For the U.S. officials the main reason was neutrality. They wanted a location which was completely neutral for the United States and for Donald Trump to go.

Now the United States had been looking at the DMZ. He had been tweeting about it certainly after the North-South Korean summit which was incredibly picturesque, and the optics were very strong. But U.S. officials thought that that would showing a conciliatory gesture towards Kim Jong-un to be turning up at his doorstep. So the reason for Singapore is it is a close ally of the United States. North Korea has no objections as far as we know because there is an embassy in Singapore as well.

So a very neutral location for this extremely historic summit between the first sitting U.S. president and the North Korean leader. And you can hear from the rhetoric from both sides just how far we have come in the very short amount of time. The fact that the U.S. president is praising Kim Jong-un for having released those detainees, saying it was very nice, saying it was a pleasant surprise.

And even from North Korean state-run media when we're hearing about Kim Jong-un meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It is very warm terms that we are hearing so really quite dramatic how quickly we have come in a very short amount of time -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, I mean, they were fire and fury and dotard not very long ago and now here we are, the two men are going to meet so remarkable.

All right, thank you so much for that, Paula, in Seoul.

To money now. Net neutrality will officially end next month. The FCC set the date June 11th repealing what FCC chair Ajit Pai called the unnecessary and harmful Internet regulations introduced during the Obama administration. The FCC voted to repeal them in December. The Obama era rules were designed to ensure free and open Internet preventing providers from blocking or slowing down access or charging consumers more for certain content.

Tech companies like Facebook and Apple oppose the revised rules, but they are a win for Internet providers who say the strict regulations stifled investment. They pledge not to block access after the rules expire. But many advocates are really concerned here. More than 20 states have filed a lawsuit to stop the repeal. Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote on a bill to overturn the decision as soon as next week.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, 10-ton boulders flying as far as half a mile. Rain laced with toxins.

[04:40:03] Some serious warnings about what could be on the horizon with the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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)

BRIGGS: The president says he's hopeful a better deal can be negotiated with the Iranians. It's 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, but the situation remains volatile.

[04:45:03] International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson has some context for us live from Jerusalem.

Good morning, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Good morning, Dave. I think what people are trying to figure out at the moment is has Iran ended its strategic restraint. You know, Israel had targeted it a number of times. Iranian military facilities inside Syria. A number of Iranian operatives have been killed. Iran had done nothing to try to strike back at Israel.

After President Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, the timing here seems to be that Iran has struck back. So have they stopped that strategic restraint? It's a very important question. Right now in Tehran, the president there a moderate Rouhani has told the Europeans if he's going to be able to sell that Iran should stay with the JCPOA and if that moderate should win out over the hardliners, he has -- the Europeans have a very short timeframe to prove that that can work.

And we just heard from President Trump there right now very stringent sanctions, most European diplomats don't think that they will be able to deliver on the JCPOA because the sanctions will likely affect them and their companies doing business inside Iran. So you're left in a position where the hardliners in Iran and they're the ones who -- they're the ones who are controlling the forces on the ground in Syria are going to be saying well, the moderates got it all wrong. We should take the lead.

That leaves a much greater likelihood of an increase in violence. Russia at the moment doesn't want to see that. It can't afford a wider war inside Syria because itself is under tough U.S. and European sanctions. But the reality is if the JCPOA goes down and the moderates in Iran can't succeed, then the possibility of violence is much, much higher between Israel and Iran.

BRIGGS: But no violence this morning. Nic Robertson in Jerusalem for us this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: In the wake of President Trump's decision to quit the Iran deal, former president George W. Bush is warning about the dangers of isolation. Accepting an award from a 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)

ROMANS: The former president also thanked everyone for their prayers after the death of his mother. He says his dad, George H.W. Bush, misses mom but his health is good.

We're glad of that.

BRIGGS: You said it was a bit of a Bush-ism there. A bit of a --

ROMANS: Well, because he said the price of greatness is responsibility. I giggled a little bit. Because it's responsibility. And that made me remember how much we all love --

BRIGGS: But he gets to the heart of the Churchill quote.

ROMANS: Yes, he did. It's the heart of Churchill quote.

BRIGGS: OK. In the catalog of bad, awful ceremonial first pitches at a Major League Baseball game, I think we have a new winner. A former NFL player and the host of "American Ninja Warrior" tried and, well, epic fail coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:53:06] ROMANS: A U.S. military investigation finds multiple failures led to that Ocotber ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger. Key findings in the Pentagon's report show the soldiers were conducting an unapproved high risk mission yet still did not run battle drills with their Nigerian partner force.

CNN's Ryan Browne is at the Pentagon with more on what changes are in store.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Good morning, Dave and Christine. The U.S. military released yesterday its summary of its months-long investigation into the October 4th ambush that left four U.S. soldiers dead in a remote area in Niger in Africa. While officials say that the mission never meant to encounter the

enemy, but they were ambushed by ISIS fighters. Some 100 we're being told. Being outnumbered and outgunned, the team became separated with three U.S. soldiers dying in a firefight separated from the rest of their group.

Now Sergeant La David Johnson whose body was missing for 48 hours was forced to run one kilometer, running for his life from ISIS terrorists before he too was killed. We're told that none of the U.S. soldiers were ever taken alive in enemy hands. But the investigation has pointed out numerous failures with regard to planning and training for U.S. forces in Niger.

Now the investigation calls on things to be improved, says that training practices need to be improved, planning processes with how missions are approved needs to be improved but also new equipment will be made available to U.S. forces in places like Niger. Armored vehicles, increased fire power and additional surveillance. Things that may have helped avert this ambush.

Back to you, guys.

BRIGGS: Some positive can come of that situation.

Meanwhile, no volcanic activity tonight at the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. Just about 11:00 there. But scientists are renewing dire warnings about the threat of explosive, almost biblical eruptions.

[04:55:02] ROMANS: They say the violent eruptions could fling 10-ton boulders as far as a half a mile and sent columns of choking ash miles into the sky. The last time that happened was nearly a century ago.

BRIGGS: Which prompted Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park to close indefinitely. Toxic gasses released from the Kilauea eruption also raising concerns about acid rain and volcanic smog which can induce asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.

ROMANS: At 104 years old, renowned Australian scientist David Goodall ended his life at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland. His grandson and longtime nurse were at his side. He died listening to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Before Goodall left his home in Australia for the Swiss clinic, he told CNN he wanted to die on his terms. The grandfather of 12 said life stopped being enjoyable five or 10 years ago when his mobility and eyesight failed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GOODALL, 104-YEAR-OLD SCIENTIST: I get up in the morning. I find a bit of breakfast. And then work. I just sit. What's the use of that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Goodall says he hoped his story would lead to assisted suicide being legalized in other countries. BRIGGS: All right. What you're about to witness could be the worst

ceremonial first pitch ever thrown at a baseball game. Former NFL linebacker and co-host of "American Ninja Warrior" Akbar Gbaja-Biamila before the Phillies game last night. He is a lefty and a former NFL star, we mind you. And he just spiked the baseball. He said he thought it would be like throwing a football. I don't know why.

But he did have fun with it, Romans.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: He did laugh about it afterwards. And you got to take that in stride. But he goes down in the hall of fame with 50 Cent.

ROMANS: So is it the worst? Is that the worst?

BRIGGS: I think this is worse than 50 Cent. We'll show you that later and you can decide which is the worst of all time.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning. Global stocks mixed right now after Wall Street closed higher. New data showed inflation rose slower than expected in April. That eases fears of faster interest hikes this year. Apple, wow, hit a record high inching closer to being the first company worth $1 trillion. Apple's market value right now $958 billion.

When will Ford run out of F-150s? It only has an 84-day supply of its best-selling truck. Ford halted production after a fire at supply facility caused it to run out of parts. It has no idea when it can resume. Now Ford says that will hurt its bottom line this quarter. The F-150 accounts for a third of Ford's sale. The F-150 has been the top selling U.S. vehicle by any manufacturer for more than 40 years.

Is $100 oil on its way back? Bank of America says world oil prices could hit $100 per barrel next year. U.S. oil? $94. That's because new Iran sanctions could cut off some exports just as the major oil producing nations are slowing production to nudge prices higher. And as oil prices climb, you pay more at the pump. Gas prices are up 21 percent over the past year and rising. A typical family can expect to spend $200 more on gas this summer. And that higher gas will cut into the extra cash in your pocket that you have because of the new tax bill.

Morgan Stanley says Americans will pay $38 billion more to fill up their tanks this year. That wipes out about a third of the direct savings from tax cuts.

BRIGGS: You wonder, if like everything else, that becomes a midterm political issue.

All right. EARLY START continues right now.

"Don't worry about John McCain. He's dying anyway." The deplorable comment from a White House aide in the latest embarrassing leak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: And on June 12th in Singapore I'll be meeting with Kim Jong- un.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The summit is set. President Trump will meet with Kim Jong- un next month. Can the president get him to give up his nukes?

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

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

ROMANS: Is it Friday?

BRIGGS: It's what we call a bacon Friday, I believe.

ROMANS: Yes, let's get bacon.

BRIGGS: Happy Friday.

ROMANS: Happy Friday. I'm Christine Romans. It is May 11th. 5:00 a.m. in the East. We will get to all those stories in a moment. Let's begin with this breaking news.

A federal investigation under way 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 officer called to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church Thursday found what looked to be an already exploded package. It caused minor damage to the church.

BRIGGS: The FBI along with the ATF are assisting local police. The director of the church Reverend Steven Balke saying we are blessed no one was injured, adding it has made everyone very nervous. Two weeks ago, a suspicious package was found at a Starbucks in the city. Later found to be an explosive device as well.