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First Lady Recovering From Kidney Procedure; How Hard Is It To Apologize; Deadly Day in Gaza; Remembering Margot Kidder; Iran Hoping to Salvage Nuclear Deal. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 15, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:53] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The first lady at Walter Reed Medical Center after a procedure on her kidney. She is expected to stay there the rest of the week. Details in a moment.


RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It's going to be dealt with and has been dealt with internally. This is an internal matter. It's being addressed internally.


ROMANS: The White House unable to put the brakes on the story that could have been resolved last week. Now, pressure builds from John McCain's colleagues to apologize from mocking the senator's cancer battle.

BRIGGS: This jarring split screen, celebration in Jerusalem as the deadliest protests escalate in Gaza. More protesting expected this morning. Eight children among the dead yesterday.

We have reports from Gaza, Beijing, Tehran, Hawaii and England, 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 this Tuesday morning.

We begin in Washington, though. First Lady Melania Trump recovering this hour at Walter Reed Medical Center after undergoing a procedure to treat a benign kidney condition. The White House reporting all went well. No complications. Mrs. Trump is expected to spend the rest of the week in the hospital.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta finds that unusual. He says patients who undergo this type of procedure are typically hospitalized for just one night.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPODENT: Embolization procedure, it's not really surgery. It's basically threading this catheter near this -- near the kidney and injecting a glue type substance to try and stop blood flow, to an area of the kidney where this abnormality is.

Benign obviously is good. We don't want to be anything other than benign. But what exactly is it that was treated here? Some of the benign things that happened to a kidney are things like cysts. But those are not treated using embolization.

So, what was it? Was it some sort of mass? Was it something else?


BRIGGS: The first lady's hospitalization caught everyone off guard. She is certainly out in public more frequently lately attending the state dinner for the French president and greeting three U.S. detainees from North Korea last week with her husband.

President Trump tweeting yesterday, quote, heading over to Walter Reed Medical Center to see our great First Lady Melania. Successful procedure. She's in good spirits. Thank you for the well wishers.

We here at CNN would like to wish the first lady a speedy recovery.

ROMANS: All right. It has been five days and the White House still refusing to apologize for the aide who dismissed the influence of Senator John McCain because, quote, he's dying anyway. The silence from the administration and aide Kelly Sadler only inflaming the controversy. The White House focusing instead on the leak that brought Sadler's remark to life, not the unfortunate remark.

The president calling the story an over-exaggeration, even referring to members of his own staff as traitors, traitors for leaking.

BRIGGS: Wow. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway selling the same message. She expects changes because of these leaks.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Some leaks exist to hurt I guess colleagues. Some leaks exist because they disagree with the policies that are being forth. But none of them are helpful. It's not so much leaking as using the media to shiv each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you expect personnel changes as a result?

CONWAY: I do. Actually, yes, I do.


BRIGGS: Sources tell CNN Kelly Sadler's job is safe. White House spokesperson Raj Shah reluctant to say much of anything.


SHAH: I understand the focus on this issue, but it's going to be dealt with and has been dealt with internally. The matter has been internally. It is being addressed internally. And I don't have anything further to add.

REPORTER: Is she being reprimanded?

REPORTER: Can you explain how it's being addressed internally?

SHAH: Obviously, if I explain all that, it won't remain internal.


BRIGGS: That's a good point.

ROMANS: I'm gob-smacked on that one.

All right. The administration's stunning refusal to offer an apology and its constant focus on deflection and the leakers, not what was leaked, even has Republican lawmakers frustrated. Listen to Louisiana Senator John Kennedy.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I don't know Ms. Sadler. So, I don't know whether she is stupid or not.

[04:35:01] But she sure made a bad decision.


ROMANS: Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a member of leadership, also demanding an apology. When asked who should apologize, he replied, the person who said that really dumb thing.

BRIGGS: Peace seems more improbable than ever in the Middle East.

Just as the U.S. opening the embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, protests along the Gaza border turn deadly. Israeli defense forces opening fire on the Palestinian protesters, killing 59 and wounding thousands.

The Israelis blame the Palestinian militant group Hamas for inciting terror attacks.

Ian Lee is live for us from Gaza where protests are expected today.

Ian, good morning.


We also heard from the White House blaming Hamas. Hamas though says the blood of yesterday's violence is on the hands of the United States.

But when we talk to people about what brings them out here, a lot say they are frustrated and angry. They're frustrated with the current situation. They are living in Gaza, has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade for over a decade. And they're also angry about the United States moving the embassy to Jerusalem and the declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

And so, we saw thousands of people, tens of thousands of people up and down this border yesterday and we could see why that death toll was so high which included eight children and one infant. Infant dying of gas asphyxiation from the tear gas that was fired.

But it was black smoke up and down the border as protesters try to push across that border fence, they say trying to return to lands they lost during the 1948 war. For Israel, though, Israel says that is their red line. That they reserve the right to use whatever means necessary to protect what they say is their sovereignty. They say their worst-case scenario is a mass rush across that border.

Today, we are expecting to see funerals. After those funerals, we are expecting more people to come where we're out here on the border, Dave.

BRIGGS: Everyone is hoping that calm can continue, 11:37 there in Gaza. Ian Lee live for us, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump defending his decision to save a Chinese smartphone maker. First, he said he wanted to save Chinese jobs. Now, the president says he doesn't want to hurt U.S. suppliers to ZTE.

It's a remarkable reversal. Just last month, Trump's Commerce Department crippled ZTE by banning it from buying U.S. parts for its phones for seven years. Punishment for violating U.S. sanctions and lying about disciplining the employees involved, a behavior Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross calls egregious. Now, Ross says it did some inappropriate things.


WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: The question is, there are alternative remedies to the ones that we put forward. And that's the area we will be exploring very, very promptly.


ROMANS: It's a very decisive move from the Commerce Department. Now, the Commerce Department is looking for new ways, other ways to punish ZTE without hurting U.S. suppliers. In return, U.S. wants concessions from China like removing tariffs on agricultural products. Now, the president threw ZTE a lifeline Sunday, saying he's working to get it back into business. Now linking ZTE's fate to broader trade talks, calling it reflective of the larger trade deal we're negotiating with China. A Chinese delegation heads to Washington today.

There is a trade angle here, also, there is a national security angle. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Defense Department, the Pentagon, banned ZTE products from being sold on U.S. bases for national security concerns. And the top intel agencies --

BRIGGS: Well, Tom Cotton, Republican senator from Arkansas, asked our intel chiefs. Would you use or would you recommend ZTE products by show of hands? Here's what they said.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Will you please raise your hand if you would use products or services from Huawei or ZTE? None of you would. You're obviously intelligence services, so that's something of a biased question. Raise your hand if you recommend that private American citizens use Huawei or ZTE products or services? None again. Thank you for that.


ROMANS: All of those people appointed by Donald Trump.

BRIGGS: Yes, those are not Obama holdovers.

ROMANS: No, they are not.

And this is the company that the president now wants to save. So, what's the view on this from China on the president's sudden about- face?

CNN's Matt Rivers live in Beijing.

Matt, good morning to you. Whiplash from the American voters, from the administration. What is the reaction there?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reaction from China's government is, well, this is great. This is exactly what we were hoping for. The Chinese government we know has made the ZTE issue a top priority in these rounds of trade negotiations that started about two weeks ago now when the U.S. trade delegation led by Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin came here to China. It didn't make a ton of progress, and other rounds set for this week in D.C.

[04:40:03] But we know the Chinese government has been very upset with the U.S. calling this decision paranoid, calling it a cold war mentality. That's one of their favorite phrases. And so, the fact that the United States is seemingly reversing that decision is great in the eyes of the Chinese government.

The big question is, is that enough for them to concede something that the U.S. would want them to? Could they concede tariffs on agricultural products? Could they look at intellectual property theft? Could they look at forced technology transfer? That's what the U.S. wants out of these negotiations. So, will the ZTE concession from the U.S., if it goes forward, be enough?

One other thing, national security remains a concern. Senator Rubio tweeting out it would be crazy to allow ZTE to continue to operate in the U.S. without limiting them in some way -- Dave, Christine.

BRIGGS: Boy, President Xi has barely blinked in all of this.

Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing, thank you.

ROMANS: I don't know (INAUDIBLE), but I think it is the fourth largest cellphone maker in the U.S.

BRIGGS: One in 10, I think, cellphones here in the United States.

ROMANS: All right. Who can forget the chemistry between Superman and Lois Lane?


MARGOT KIDDER AS LOIS LANE: Don't move! Sure you can move. Just don't fly away, all right?


ROMANS: Remembering actress Margot Kidder, next.


[04:46:28] ROMANS: All right. Supreme Court opening the doors to sports betting and it could mean billions of dollars for cash-strapped states. The court overturned the 1992 federal law that banned sports betting in most states. Currently, only Nevada allows it. New Jersey said that law run afoul with state's rights, and the court agreed.

The 1992 law was designed to preserve the integrity of popular sports. But it's been made anachronistic with the rise of Internet gambling, frankly. Americans spend $150 billion each year on illegal wagers. That's money states desperately need. State budgets have been under pressure for years for slow economic growth.

Taxes on sports betting is an attractive new revenue stream. In fact, five states already have sports betting laws on the books -- Connecticut, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia. They were passed in anticipation of the court's decision. Fourteen other states have introduced similar legislation.

Now, we can quit our jobs, right? I'm going to make a fortune?

BRIGGS: Well, I live in one of the states. Connecticut and there's just few revenue streams potential to bring in when you lose big businesses like we have there in Connecticut.

ROMANS: But can I make a living in sports betting, you think?

BRIGGS: I think you could lose your house.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: I would not recommend it with your sports knowledge. No offense.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Officials in Hawaii issuing a condition red health alert due to high levels of sulfur dioxide released from the erupting Kilauea volcano. Officials say it poses an immediate danger to anyone nearby. Eruptions have opened 19 fissures, spewing lava and toxic gases in the residential areas.

Two-thirds of Hawaii's volcano's national park remains is closed amid concerns of an explosion at the summit. The threat is expected to last for weeks.

More now from CNN's Scott McLean in Hawaii.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, there have been 20 fissures opening up on the bottom side of the Kilauea volcano. They are spewing lava and destroying everything in their path.

You can see, this used to be a house. It is unrecognizable. You see the gas spewing. That is sulfur dioxide. In low concentrations, it can be an irritant. In higher concentrations, it can be downright dangerous.

A lot of people are trying to get their hands on face masks or gas masks. But officials say the best thing to do is simply stay inside of your home with the windows shut. The most recent fissures were active overnight. They continue to spew lava high in the air.

The other problem for officials is that a lot of people don't want to leave their homes. They want to stick it out and see what happens. Well, police say that if the escape routes get blocked, they will simply be trapped and then they are on their own.

The other big threat is the top of the Kilauea volcano and the potential for explosion. Officials are worried about big boulders that are falling into that main crater there, creating pressure and a potential for a larger release of lava.

Well, the U.S. Geological Survey now says that they have not seen a lot of pressure building up. So, that is good news for Kilauea at least for now -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right . Scott, thank you for that in Hawaii.

Actress Margot Kidder has died. Her career spanned decades. She was famous for playing Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeves in 1978 launch of the "Superman's" own franchise.



KIDDER: You've got me? Who's got you?


ROMANS: That rusty voice, right? Just unforgettable.

Kidder went on to appear in three superman sequels. She also struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder and went on to become an advocate for mental health awareness. Margot Kidder was 69 years old.

[04:50:01] BRIGGS: All right. Some sports news. The Warriors draw first blood in the long awaited playoff showdown with the Rockets. Golden State winning game one of the Western Conference Finals, 119- 106 in Houston.

Kevin Durant led the way for the Warriors, scoring 37. Draymond Green up to his same old tricks. Klay Thompson had 28. The Rockets' James Harden there 41 points and the loss is just the second time his team has lost at home during this postseason. Game two of the series Wednesday night in Houston.

And tonight, Cleveland and Boston play game two after the Cavs got blown out in game one.

Ahead, a make or break day for the Iran nuclear deal. Iran's foreign minister trying to rally European support despite the threat of U.S. sanctions. Fred Pleitgen live in Tehran, next.


[04:55:28] ROMANS: A critical day for Iran if it hopes to salvage the nuclear deal without the U.S. Iran's foreign minister in Brussels hoping to convince the European leaders to honor the agreement even if it means facing sanctions from the White House and the wrath of President Trump.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live in Tehran.

And one just wonders, would the U.S. slap sanctions on its allies who want to keep the deal alive? It's just a remarkable position to be in.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. And if you believe some of the members of the administration, like John Bolton, for instance, then, yes, the U.S. would essentially be willing to do that. At least that's the gist that we have been getting from European companies. That really is a tall order for Iran's foreign minister and those European countries as well.

You know, Christine, I can't stress enough how much this is a money day for the nuclear agreement and especially for the Iranian foreign minister as he's essentially trying to convince European companies to go up against the United States. What the Iranians are saying is, look, they're willing to keep the nuclear agreement minus the United States, but Iran's interests need to be preserved. That means that they want European companies to be able to invest here in Iran without having to face retribution from the United States.

For the Europeans, we know they are not happy with the President Trump's decision to pull out of the agreement. But, of course, the U.S. is also such an important ally. And then we have to keep in mind, a lot of these companies, transnational companies that have big dealings in the United States, would they be willing to risk the wrath of the Trump administration to do business in Iran? Big questions moving forward, Christine.

ROMANS: Well, I mean, the bottom line is, they make more money dealing with American companies than they do with Iranian. I mean, the U.S. and E.U. are the largest trading partnership in the world.

All right. Thanks so much for that. Fred Pleitgen for us in Tehran -- thanks, Fred.

BRIGGS: All right. The royal wedding now just four days away and already unwanted drama. Meghan Markle's father telling TMZ he will not be attending the ceremony.

CNN's Anna Stewart live for us in Windsor with all the details.

Good morning, Anna. What's the latest on this?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said there, TMZ reportedly spoke to Mr. Markle yesterday about these alleged staged photos that Mr. Markle arranged and cooperated with the paparazzi. This has been going on since weekend.

But, frankly, most media outlets would not touch without it really being confirmed. But then yesterday, Meghan Markle's half sister came out and confirmed it on television. This is now really taken the nation by storm. TMZ saying that Mr. Markle wants to attend the wedding.

Kensington Palace said they really want to give everyone respect and understanding to the couple and Mr. Markle as a deeply personal moment they say for Meghan. But that hasn't stopped it from the tabloids today. As you'll see here, "The Daily Mirror", we have "The Sun", and they are all going with the same headline. Meghan's dad not going to wedding.

Of course, until we get that confirmed ourselves, we don't really know. And CNN does understand that Meghan Markle was keen for her father to walk her down the aisle. And that -- her feelings around that really didn't change even with the story about these alleged photos being staged -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Anna Stewart live for us just before 10:00 a.m. there. Thank you.

ROMANS: The dirty little secret, in defense of Thomas Markle. The dirty little secret is this is the way celebrities and photographers work the paparazzi.

BRIGGS: Work the paparazzi, little inside deals.

ROMANS: You control where you are and how it is done. When you see those paparazzi pictures of people in, you know, the magazines --

BRIGGS: But don't mess with the royal family.

ROMANS: True, true. You are right. Let's get a check on money. Global stocks mixed overnight, but trade

fears fading, pushing the Dow to its longest winning streak since September. It's up eight days in a row.

The U.S. looking to ease that harsh punishment on Chinese smartphone makers ZTE. Wall Street loves that, just as another round of trade talks begins. Today, officials will hear what U.S. companies think about the billions in proposed tariffs on Chinese goods. Many say it may force them to raise prices. Trade officials will hold three days of hearings. Executives from Best Buy, Roku and HP are scheduled to speak.

There's a truck driver shortage and it is squeezing profits for some big U.S. companies. Hasbro, Kellogg, Coke, Oreo maker Mondelez, they all say freight and shipping costs are rising, forcing them to take the hit or raise prices. Qualified truckers are in short apply, and in a tight labor market, companies may have to pay higher wages. In fact, companies paid truck drivers 6 percent more in April, the fastest growth in seven years.

Graduating this year? Expect to make 50 grand per year right out of school. That's the average starting salary for the class of 2018, $50,390.