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First Lady Melania Trump Recovering From Kidney Procedure; White House Remark On Senator McCain: "This Is An Internal Matter"; Deadliest Day In Gaza Since 2014 War; Iran's Foreign Minister In Europe To Salvage Nuclear Deal; Drama Unfolds Days Before The Royal Wedding. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 15, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:16] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The first lady at Walter Reed Medical Center this morning after a procedure on her kidney. She is expected to stay there the rest of the week. More details in a moment.


RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE 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.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Glad we cleared that up. The White House unable to put the brakes on a story that could have been resolved last week. Now, pressure is building from John McCain's colleagues to apologize for mocking the senator's cancer bout.

ROMANS: And a jarring split screen. Celebrations in Jerusalem as deadly protests escalate on the Gaza border with Israel.

BRIGGS: More protests expected this morning. We'll have reports from Gaza, Tehran, Hawaii, and England.

ROMANS: All right, welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

We start with the first lady Melanie Trump recovering this hour at Walter Reed Medical Center after undergoing a procedure on her kidney. The White House reporting all went well with 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 a bit unusual. He says patients who undergo this type of procedure are typically hospitalized for just one night.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: An embolization procedure -- it's not really surgery. It's basically threading this catheter near this -- near the kidney and injecting a blue-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 it to be anything other than benign. But what exactly is it that was treated here?

Some of the benign things that happen 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?


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

President Trump tweeting yesterday, "Heading over to Walter Reed Medical Center to see our great First Lady, Melania. Successful procedure, she is in good spirits. Thank you to all of the well- wishers!"

We, of course, also would like to wish the first lady a speedy and private recovery.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

It's been five days now and the White House still refusing to apologize for the aide who dismissed the influence of Sen. 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 light. The president calling the story an "over exaggeration," even referring to members of his own staff as traitors for leaking.

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


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

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST, FOX NEWS, "THE STORY WITH MARTHA MACCALLUM": Do you expect personnel changes as a result?

CONWAY: I do, actually. Yes, I do.


ROMANS: Sources tell CNN Kelly Sadler's job is safe. White House spokesman Raj Shah reluctant to say much more.


SHAH: I understand the focus on this issue but it's going to be dealt with and has been dealt with internally. The matter is going to be addressed -- has been addressed internally.

This is an internal matter. It's being addressed internally. I don't have anything further to add.

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

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



ROMANS: Let's go live to Washington and bring in Philip Wegmann, commentary writer for the "Washington Examiner."

I mean, the point is externally, friends, and colleagues, and associates of Sen. John McCain want an apology. The fact they will not apologize -- you know, is this just the White House doubling down, saying we don't -- we don't apologize or is it because they actually like the message and the controversy that it gets?

PHILIP WEGMANN, COMMENTARY WRITER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think what we're seeing is that Trump is a means that you never have to say you're sorry.

And I know that this is cynical but it's clear that this White House sees an apology as a zero-sum activity. If you say you're sorry that means that you're giving ground to your opponent. And if you're able to get an apology out of someone else it means that you're gaining ground. Obviously, that's an incredibly cynical way of looking at things.

But clearly, the White House sees this controversy to their own advantage. They're able to actually take that shiv against the journalists and against the leakers inside of the White House because if they actually wanted this story to be done with they would have issued a public apology on day one and we wouldn't be talking about it now.

ROMANS: It would have been easy. It would have been easy.

BRIGGS: It would have been over.

And now, you've got Republican senators on the record. Here's John Kennedy.

[05:35:03] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I don't know Ms. Sadler, so I don't know whether she's stupid or not but she sure made a bad decision.


BRIGGS: Indeed, it could have been over.

But let's go back to 2015. It was President Trump -- candidate Trump then. "I like people who weren't captured."

Look, they don't dislike this controversy but they like this narrative. This is one the president himself has spun for a long time, isn't it?

WEGMANN: There's no love lost between John McCain and Donald Trump. Clearly, the two of them see each other as completely disparate political actors and they bring to the table two very different ways of trying to govern.

President Trump wants to be that brawler for being a brawler's sake. John McCain had a much different vision for what he would do if he was elected to the presidency. And in his final days, you see the clash between these two people.

But again, I think this says something about our society if the easiest thing -- the thing that we all learn when we're four or five years old when we've aggrieved someone else, to apologize -- if that's controversial now I don't know where we're headed.

ROMANS: It's pretty to clear to me the decision has been made not to apologize. We're not going to apologize for this, so there you go.

BRIGGS: About anything and certainly not this.

ROMANS: Let's talk about ZTE. This is the Chinese smartphone maker.

The Commerce Department really got tough on this company recently, saying it was forbidden to buy U.S. parts for its phones for seven years because it had violated U.S. sanctions -- it had lied about it -- and this is something like the third chance this company has had.

There are national security concerns. The DOD just recently said they don't want to sell these phones on their bases because they could be used to spy.

And then the president turns around and says wait, they're losing jobs in China because of ZTE. We need to -- we need to help this company.

What do you make of the ZTE reversal here and what kind of chess the president's playing here on the trade front?

WEGMANN: Well, I mean, I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't think this is so much chess as we have a condo salesman who's trying to cut deals when it comes to foreign policy. I mean, President Trump is a guy who thinks that if he gets into a room with another principal he can make a negotiation happen.

I think what we're seeing here though is that Donald Trump isn't taking his intelligence briefings very seriously because remember, ZTE isn't just some cell phone company.

ZTE is largely considered by many foreign policy analysts as a front for Chinese intelligence. They were -- after all, the organization got kicked out of U.S. markets for doing business with Iran and North Korea.

These aren't the sort of folks that we want to encourage.

BRIGGS: Yes. "The Wall Street Journal" with an editorial today on this.

It says, "Mr. Trump is undermining U.S. credibility on sanctions in order to dodge tariff retaliation on the U.S. Farm Belt that Mr. Trump invited with his protectionism."

There's the national security concerns, but was he bluffing in terms of trade or does President Xi just have a much stronger hand?

WEGMANN: I don't know if anyone can really get inside the head of this president right now. He has been somewhat successful with some of his negotiations in the past. I think that the White House sees some of the conversations going on as successful when it comes to trade.

But the overall issue here is that there are so many different factors. There's a knowledge problem. You're never going to be able to figure out which knob to twist here, which product to impose a tariff on.

Already, we see farmers in red states being played off against steelworkers in blue states. And now, there's a foreign policy and national security component as well.

This is getting entirely too complicated and in the end someone is going to get burned, whether it's the consumer or whether it's our Intelligence Community.

ROMANS: And there is no indication the Chinese are willing to move our way or move toward the Americans on intellectual property theft -- stopping that. Their big subsidies -- you know, advanced technology industries that the U.S. is really upset about.

I mean, there's a lot of big issues here. The U.S. has a big ask here for this -- these trade talks.

BRIGGS: And, President Xi knows he's not going anywhere. He'll be in power --


BRIGGS: -- indefinitely. All right.

Philip Wegmann, good to see you. Thank you.

WEGMANN: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: All right, 40 minutes past the hour.

Peace seems more improbable than ever in the Middle East. Just as the U.S. was opening its new embassy in Israel in Jerusalem -- you see the celebrations there on the left of your screen. On the right, protests along the Gaza border turned deadly.

Israel Defense Forces opened fire on Palestinian protesters, killing 59 and wounding thousands. Of the youngest dead, an infant asphyxiated by the tear gas.

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

Ian Lee live from Gaza where more protests are expected today.

Ian, you were there, out there reporting on this for us yesterday. It looks a bit calmer here today but you are expecting more protests.

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're expecting those protests to pick up around 3:00. That's what we're hearing when people are expected to come out to the area where we are. That's 3:00 local, of course.

[05:40:07] Today, we're also hearing that there have been more people who have died from injuries sustained in yesterday's violence. That death toll now standing at 60.

But right now, this is around when people go and pray for the noon prayer. And after that, we're expecting these funerals to take place. And after those funerals, the people coming out here.

But yesterday, it was a chaotic scene here. We had tear gas and black smoke billowing along this border as protesters tried to move forward -- that tear gas trying to push them back.

And then you would have people who got closer. That's when we'd get these live rounds being fired. And we could hear it all up and down the border yesterday -- the live rounds cracking. And that's when you get this massive death toll.

Now, the international community has condemned Israel for this. We've heard from the United Nations, as well as Doctors Without Borders, saying that excessive force was used.

But, Israel has defended itself, saying that they're not going to let anyone cross that border.

So really, today, what we are going to be monitoring is if people still have it after such a deadly day -- the deadliest day since the 2014 war -- if people still have it in them to come out here and continue this protest.

ROMANS: Unbelievable pictures. All right, keep us posted. We'll check in with you soon. Ian Lee for us in Gaza.

BRIGGS: An important day there and in Iran as well because it's 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.

Frederik Pleitgen live in Tehran, next.


[05:46:26] BRIGGS: All right.

A critical day for Iran if it hopes to salvage the nuclear deal without the United States. Iran's foreign minister in Brussels hoping to convince 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 live in Tehran. Fred, this is quite an ask of Europeans.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is and, you know, it was Javad Zarif who had just gotten the news and has already had his first meeting with a European Union foreign policy representative, Federica Mogherini. He'll have more with the representatives of Germany, France, and Britain as well.

And you're absolutely right, it's a completely pivotal day for the Iran nuclear agreement.

Essentially, what the Iranians are asking the Europeans to do is go against America on this issue. They say look, we can have this agreement continue, minus the United States, but Iranian interest needs to be protected, which means that they are demanding that European countries -- the companies need to able to invest here in Iran without fearing retribution from the United States.

Now we know, Dave, that, of course, the Europeans were not happy with the Trump administration pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.

But at the same time, of course, America is an age-old ally and quite frankly, a lot of these companies are transnational companies. They have huge dealings in the United States and a lot of them will be very wary to risk investment here in Iran at the expense of possibly angering the White House.

So it's a really tall ask by the Iranians and a really pivotal day for that agreement, Dave.

BRIGGS: It is. All right, 2:17 p.m. Fred Pleitgen live for us in Tehran -- thanks.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Global stocks mixed right now but trade fears are fading and that means the Dow has had its longest winning streak since September, up eight days in a row -- eight days in a row.

The U.S. looking to ease its harsh punishment on Chinese smartphone maker ZTE 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 companies say it will force them to raise prices.

Trade officials will hold three days of talks here -- hearings. Execs from Best Buy, Roku, and H.P. 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 a financial hit or raise prices.

Qualified truckers are in short supply and in a tight labor market companies may have to pay higher wages. In fact, companies paid truck drivers six percent more in April, the fastest growth in seven years.

Are you graduating this year? Expect to make about $50,000 per year right out of school. That's the average starting salary for the class of 2018.

It's just about the same as it was from last year, even with the record number of job openings in the U.S. -- 6.6 million open jobs.

Of course, pay varies by industry and those in the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) they do the best. Look at this. An entry-level software developer will make about $67,000 grand in their first year.

BRIGGS: That is a fortune compared to what young journalists make out of school. I would take either of those.

ROMANS: I'm sorry, history majors.

BRIGGS: Yes, all right.

Who can forget the magic between Superman and Lois Lane?


MARGOT KIDDER, ACTRESS, "SUPERMAN": Don't move -- or sure you can move, just don't fly away, all right?


BRIGGS: That's perfect. Remembering actress Margot Kidder, next.


[05:54:08] ROMANS: Just four days now until the royal wedding and there's already some unwanted drama. Meghan Markle's father telling the gossip site TMZ he will not be attending the wedding ceremony.

CNN's Anna Stewart live in Windsor with all the details. I'm sure this is consuming the tabloids where you are this morning. Anything official from Kensington Palace about whether Meghan Markle will be walked down the aisle by her father? ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is the thing. We haven't neither confirmed that Mr. Markle will be walking her down the aisle or won't, he will be attending the wedding or won't.

All we have is this report from TMZ who say they spoke to Mr. Markle and he told them that he now is very embarrassed about the photos. He thinks they look stupid and hammy, he says, and that he won't be attending.

Kensington Palace did release a statement yesterday but all they said was that we should really be giving understanding and respect to the couple -- also to Mr. Markle -- and it's a deeply personal moment for Meghan Markle, herself.

[05:55:06] But as you said there, it really is consumed by the tabloids.

I mean, here we have one in the "Mirror" -- "Meghan's Dad Is Not Coming." In "The Sun," "Meg Dad: I Won't Go." And finally, "Daily Express" -- "Meghan's Dad Not Going To The Wedding." All brought us the same the headline or agree to that, but it has been consumed the media.

Now, we do know -- CNN has understood from the royal family that Ms. Markle did want her father to walk her down the aisle. That didn't change when the story came about, about the photos being staged by her father.

So you just kind of hope that until we hear otherwise, perhaps there's still some way that Mr. Markle can attend because every father should be there on his little girl's day.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. And, you know -- look, those paparazzi photos -- so often, paparazzi collaborate with their target to sort of control the pictures and you just feel bad for the guy that he's gotten all wrapped up in that.

All right, thank you so much, Anna Stewart. Four days to go. Thank you so much.

Will he or won't he walk her down the aisle? Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right, just about midnight in Hawaii. Civil Defense officials there issuing a Condition Red health alert due to high levels of sulfur dioxide being released from the erupting Kilauea volcano. Officials say it poses an immediate danger to anyone nearby.

The eruptions have opened nearly two dozen fissures, spewing lava and toxic gases into residential areas.

Two-thirds of Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park remains closed amid concerns of an explosion at the summit.

ROMANS: A New York congressional candidate calls her successful bid to use campaign funds for child care a game changer. Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley successfully petitioned the Federal Election Commission and is now the first woman to get approval to use campaign funds to pay for a babysitter.


LIUBA GRECHEN SHIRLEY (D), NEW YORK, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We need more parents and we need more people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to run for office. And this breaks down some important barriers to let people so that we can actually have a more representative government of our society.

We make decisions every day about how we allocate our resources and this is just one more decision. Our babysitter is -- she's just as integral to our team as my campaign manager.


ROMANS: Yes. Grechen Shirley is running against Peter King in New York's Second District on Long Island.

BRIGGS: Well, if you're planning to bring bugs, goats, or even hedgehogs to comfort you on your next American Airlines flight you're out of luck.

The airline expanding its no-fly list to now include those very creatures, saying in a statement, "We support the rights of customers with legitimate needs for a trained service or support animal. Unfortunately, untrained animals can lead to safety issues for our team."

Use of emotional support animals has ballooned recently. American says the number increased 40 percent between 2016 and 2017.

ROMANS: Actress Margot Kidder has died. Her career spanned decades. She's, of course, best-known for playing Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve as Superman.



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


ROMANS: 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.

BRIGGS: Her raspy voice was perfect.

All right. The Warriors draw first blood in the long-awaited playoff showdown with the Rockets. Golden State wins game one of the Western Conference finals 119-106.

That's Kevin Durant. He led the Warriors with 37 points. The Rockets' James Harden did score 41 in the loss.

Game two of the series Wednesday night in Houston. It looks like it might be chippy based on that from Draymond Green.

ROMANS: All right, 58 minutes past the hour. That's time for us to say goodbye.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first lady underwent a long-planned medical procedure and Melania is already on the mend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She decided to keep it private, as did other first ladies.

GUPTA: This was a benign kidney condition. She's going to be staying in the hospital for a few more days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have people in there who are not just leaking, they're whistleblowing.

CONWAY: It's not so much leaking. It's using the media to shiv each other.

SHAH: And it's going to be dealt with internally.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: This move represents, for many Palestinians, the end of their hopes for a two-state solution.

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.



ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, May 15th, 6:00 here in New York.

Chris is off. David Gregory joins me. Great to have you.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: I just winged in --


GREGORY: -- from D.C. Good to be here.

CAMEROTA: Good to have you.

GREGORY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We have a lot of news. Let's get --


CAMEROTA: -- right to it. Here's our "Starting Line."

First lady Melania Trump recovering in the hospital this morning after reportedly undergoing a procedure for a benign kidney condition, but there are more questions than answers. The White House offered few details about exactly what's wrong and it's not clear why Mrs. Trump will need to remain in the hospital for the rest of the week.