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North Korea Threatens to Cancel Trump-Kim Summit; Separating Families at the Border; Deadly Storms Pummel Northeast. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 16, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:15] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: the big summit with North Korea suddenly in jeopardy. North Korea threatens to cancel the meeting if the U.S. demands Pyongyang drop its nuclear program.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House is exploring using military bases to hold children caught crossing the border. The homeland security secretary is defending the latest effort that can separate families.

BRIGGS: A powerful storm hits the east coast from Virginia to Massachusetts. People are dead in New York and Connecticut. Late night rescues in Maryland, more of the same on the way.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, May 16, 4:00 a.m. in the East. It's 11:00 a.m. in Jerusalem, 5:00 p.m. on the Korean Peninsula.

We have stories we are following from there. A sobering reality check for the Trump administration courtesy of Kim Jong-un. North Korea declaring it will not be pushed into a corner on abandoning its nukes, while threatening to cancel the summit with President Trump in Singapore next month.

BRIGGS: The Kim regime also suspending talks with South Korea that was scheduled for today. The reason -- U.S./South Korea military drills already scheduled that North Korea now considers provocative.

Let's go live to Seoul and bring in CNN's Ivan Watson for the latest.

Ivan, good morning.


People waking up here with some serious whiplash because after months of conciliatory messages and signals from North Korea, suddenly, a series of statements coming out on state media cancelling planned high level talks between North and South Korea along the demilitarized zone today, arguing that joint U.S./South Korean air defense drills that are conducted annually were a serious military provocation. And then going one step further -- taking aim at recent statements by the White House's national security adviser John Bolton as being repugnant and threatening the actual U.S./North Korea summit that's scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12th.

We have not heard this kind of critical language from the North Koreans against South Korea or the U.S., again, in months. Their tone had shifted dramatically and now we're suddenly back to this really harsh rhetoric again with really florid kind of statements. They were apparently very angry that John Bolton compared North Korea to Libya and its nuclear disarmament, saying that this was an insult to North Korea.

This appears to have taken the South Koreans, the White House off guard. The South Koreans -- the foreign minister here spoke with Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, in the morning on Wednesday, Korean Time, to discuss some of these developments and the South Koreans are simply trying to figure out what has really sparked this sudden 180 U-turn from the North Koreans -- Christine and Dave.

BRIGGS: No comment yet from President Trump or Kim Jong-un.

Ivan Watson, live for us in Seoul, thanks.

ROMANS: President Trump talking policy with Senate Republicans at the weekly lunch meeting. Among if key topics discussed, North Korea, Iran, China and the border wall. The president did not -- did not address his call to save the company, the Chinese company ZTE and that crude comment by a White House aide about ailing John McCain. That we're told never came up.

BRIGGS: Calls for an apology coming from the highest levels of the Senate GOP.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, the person who said that should apologize and should apologize publicly.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The best way for this to be put to rest and it should have happened immediately would have been for the White House to issue a public apology.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: There are things you don't say and shouldn't say. And it's unfortunate that if it was said that it was said and if it was said, someone should say that I don't agree with it.


BRIGGS: We are told that the president made some jokes saying Melania's poll numbers were better than his and that he told her not to run against him.

ROMANS: All right. Some lawmakers rejecting President Trump's plan to help ZTE, calling it a security threat. U.S. intelligence agencies warn ZTE phones could be used for espionage. But the U.S. may ease punishments on ZTE for violating sanctions. In exchange, China would remove the tariffs on U.S. agricultural products. Senator Marco Rubio critical of any deal with ZTE.


RUBIO: In addition to posing a significant espionage threat against the United States as part of the overall deal in China that steals intellectual property. And so, somehow now, removing sanctions on them in exchange for removing the tariffs on farmers that didn't do anything wrong doesn't sound like a good deal to me.


[04:05:07] ROMANS: Just last month, Trump's Commerce Department crippled ZTE by banning it for buying vital U.S. parts. Now, the president is looking to save the Chinese company and Chinese jobs, depending his decision by linking it to broader trade negotiations. China and the U.S. currently in round two of the trade talks.

Economic adviser Larry Kudlow says there's one thing working in the president's favor.


LARRY KUDLOW, ECONOMIC ADVISER: I think there's a little bit of a bromance between President Trump and President for life Xi. Where this leads, I don't know. It might lead to the trade deal which would make me very happy.


ROMANS: He said bromances are always good.

BRIGGS: Not necessarily, but we'll get into that later.

ROMANS: Well, President Trump though negotiates with China on trade, a state-run Chinese company is entering a big business venture involving the Trump organization.

CNN's Matt Rivers has the latest live from Beijing.

Matt, good morning to you.

Some say this could be related to ZTE. What's the reporting?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, that's a lot we're hearing from critics. To be clear, right off the top, we should say there's no factual evidence that this deal which is a developmental deal for a theme park in Indonesia has anything to do with this tweet from ZTE, the defense of ZTE from the president.

Let's get viewers a quick background here. 2015, the Trump Organization signs on for a licensing agreement, giving the Trump name to a golf resort, a hotel and a residential development as a part of a theme park project in Indonesia. June 2016, a Chinese company agrees in principle to help develop that area. MCC Group, a construction company here. Just last week, that group finalizes that deal, meaning this project will go ahead and then a couple days later, you had the president agreeing to help or at least try to help ZTE.

So, some people were saying, well, that timing is suspicious. Again, no evidence of that at all. The Trump Organization saying these deals have nothing to do with the China-based developer have a part in this Indonesian project and the owner of the theme park in Indonesia saying that the project has no relationship to the Trump organization.

That said, given the president's position, given the fact he has not fully sold his stake in the Trump Organization, it merits scrutiny. It merits looking at this deal, Dave and Christine. But so far, there's been no evidence that what we've seen from the Trump administration and this admittedly unexpected move to save ZTE has anything to do with the Trump Organization's role in this Indonesian project.

BRIGGS: Certainly doesn't look good, though.

Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing, thanks.

ROMANS: To immigration now, the administration is exploring the use of military bases to hold children caught crossing the border illegally. It's the latest sign the White House plans to split up those immigrant families once they enter the country. A Defense Department official says staffers from Health and Human Services are informally looking at three sites, in Texas and another in Arkansas.

BRIGGS: Earlier Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended policies that will separate children from their parents.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Your agency will be separating children from their parents and --

KRISTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: No. What we're doing is prosecuting parents who have broken the law just as we do every day in the United States of America.

HARRIS: I can appreciate that. But if that parent has a 4-year-old child what do you plan on doing with that child?

NIELSEN: The child under law goes to HHS for care and custody.

HARRIS: They will be separated from their parent and my question --

NIELSEN: That's what we do in the United States every day.


BRIGGS: Secretary Nielsen did agree with senators that more needs to be done to protect children who come to the U.S. illegally. The DHS and HHS did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

ROMANS: All right. Pennsylvania, one of four states holding primaries Tuesday along with Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon. CNN projects Congressman Lou Barletta will win the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania and take on incumbent Democrat Bob Casey in November. The race is one of 10 Democratic held Senate seats in the ballot this fall, in states President Trump in 2016.

The news not as good for Republican State Representative Rick Saccone who lost his second House race in three months. This time he was beaten in the primary for a seat in the deep red 14th district in Western Pennsylvania.

BRIGGS: Also in the House, a big night for Democratic women. Seven are leading Pennsylvania races with others too close to call. One Republican woman also with the win. Pennsylvania's congressional delegation right now all men with two women set to face off in November. That's certain to change.

This is the first set of election contests with new boundaries created by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering.

ROMANS: All right. The Senate Intelligence Committee votes this morning in a closed session on Gina Haspel's nomination for CIA director. She's expected to be confirmed. Now, the Democratic senators announced they are backing here, including Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Florida's Bill Nelson. Heitkamp and Nelson are both up fore reelection. Virginia Senator Mark Warner, that committee's ranking member, also, he is supporting Haspel. A final confirmation vote on the Senate floor could take place tomorrow.

BRIGGS: President Trump floated the idea on Twitter. Now, a source telling CNN Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is taking the cue and considering scrapping some or all of August recess. Senate Republicans under mounting pressure to pass a series of spending bills ahead of the summer break in order to head off a messy year end battle to keep the government operating. Congress facing an October 1st deadline to pass 12 appropriation bills, funding vital parts of government like defense, homeland security and agriculture.

According to the Pew Research Center, Congress has failed to pass all 12 spending bills on time every year since 1997.

ROMANS: Melania Trump appears to be recovering nicely following a medical procedure to treat a kidney condition the White House described as benign. After visiting the first lady Tuesday at Walter Reed Medical Center, President Trump tweeted she is doing really and he expects her to be leaving the hospital in two or three days. The deputy White House press secretary says Mrs. Trump is in good spirits.

BRIGGS: Deadly storms pulling the Northeast, an 11-year-old girl killed when a tree crushed her car in New York. A man in Danbury, Connecticut, also killed by a falling tree.

And that's some serious hail pounding Ulster County, New York. Governor Cuomo declaring a state of emergency in several counties.

ROMANS: Officials in Frederick County, Maryland, reporting over 60 rescues with cars stalling out in rising floodwaters. Also in Frederick County, 85 people were trapped on a double-decker commuter bus. It's believed the drainage culvert collapse, taking out the truck. After a two-hour wait, the train was moved and the passengers were safely unloaded after midnight.


All right. The U.S. and Israel increasingly isolated over the killing of protesters in Gaza. Is there anything Israel can do to ease criticism and still protect its border? We're live in Gaza.



[04:16:03] NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.


ROMANS: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley defending Israel after its military killed 60 Palestinians at the border with Gaza. Israel and the United States now facing harsh condemnation, raising the question, is there anything Israel could do differently along the border?

Let's go live to Gaza and bring in CNN's Ian Lee -- Ian.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

You know, this is a day of mourning as Gaza mourns over a hundred people who have been killed in the past seven weeks and they're taking stock of what has largely been a peaceful protest. Yes, there has been rock throwing Molotov cocktails and the Israeli military saying IEDs but -- have been thrown at them from the Gaza side. But there hasn't been any rockets, there haven't been any missiles, and no Israeli soldiers have been killed or injured, and that's why we're seeing the international community come out strongly against what they call Israel's disproportionate use of live fire in these protests.

Now at the U.N., we heard from Nikki Haley saying that Israel has a right to defend its border. But the international community, including key allies like France and the United Kingdom have said that they're using this force too much and they're -- and the U.K. is calling for an independent inquiry to look into it. You know, what could Israel do differently? Some people say there could be more nonlethal means of crowd dispersal, more tear gas, more rubber bullets, other things like that that could keep the protesters away from the border.

But this is a very difficult situation. As far as the Gazans go, they have some achievements. One of the achievements is there's more international attention to this situation in Gaza. And as you said, also for them, there's more isolation of Israel and the United States when it comes to this situation here in Gaza -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Ian Lee, thank you so much for that in Gaza. Thanks, Ian. BRIGGS: All right. A law enforcement source says a deadly explosion

at a California medical facility appears to be intentional. More from Orange County, next.


[04:22:47] BRIGGS: Four-twenty-two Eastern.

A deadly explosion at a California medical facility being investigated as a criminal act. A law enforcement source telling CNN the incident appears to be intentional, although it is early in the investigation. One woman was killed, three others injured in the blast in Aliso Viejo in Southern Orange County. The explosion blew out walls and windows.

A witness said it felt like an earthquake, with fire and smoke popping out of the walls. Two people are in critical condition. No indication of any threats being made before the blast.

ROMANS: Hawaii officials raising the aviation alert to code red because of the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea Volcano. The move prompted by the continuous emission of ash. The FAA putting a temporary restriction in place. One plume of ash from the volcano rising 12,000 feet into the air before dropping into sections of the big island. Residents contending with sulfur dioxide emissions from 21 cracks in the ground and they're being warned to stay indoors.

Iowa's attorney general refusing to represent his state in a lawsuit challenging Iowa's controversial new abortion law. Democrat Tim Miller recused himself because he disagrees with the measure. He believes it undermines protections for women. The so called heart beat bill would prohibit doctors from performing abortions if a fetal heart beat can be detected. That can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, sometimes earlier the woman even know they're pregnant.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU is suing to block the law. Now, the Iowa governor's office says it will be represented by the conservative anti-abortion law firm Thomas Moore Society at no cost to taxpayers.

BRIGGS: All right. Some sports news. The Celtics with the furious second half comeback beating the Cavaliers in the game two of the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals. Boston outscoring Cleveland by 20 points after the break en route to 107-94 win and a 2-0 lead in the series. LeBron James did all he could do and more, 42 points and a triple double. The Celtics undefeated, 9-0 in their home court in the post-season.

Game 3, Saturday in Cleveland. It will take a furious comeback to get Cleveland back into this series.

OK, the big question this morning on social media -- as you know, Romans, is it laurel or yanny?

[04:25:07] You decide.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laurel. Laurel. Laurel. Laurel.


BRIGGS: Social media hopelessly pulverized by this audio clip bringing back memories of the dress, a photo in 2015. No one could agree if it was white and gold or blue and black.

Look, it's laurel, Romans. I'm --

ROMANS: I don't hear it. I don't hear it.

BRIGGS: I'm losing my mind over this.

ROMANS: I hear yanny.

BRIGGS: OK, this started to trend last --

ROMANS: Gold and white and Yanny. That's what I see. What do you see?

BRIGGS: I see the opposite. I hear the opposite.

ROMANS: Really?

BRIGGS: Men are from Mars.

ROMANS: Where did that come from, that clip? By the way, everyone is talking about that clip.

BRIGGS: I saw it posted by Ellen on Twitter. Let us know @earlystart on Twitter.

ROMANS: I hear yanny.


ROMANS: The summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un in jeopardy. North Korea says it won't be cornered into abandoning the nuclear program. Can we this all get back somehow?

We'll go live to Seoul.

I really hear yanny.