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EARLY START

North Korea Threatens to Cancel Trump-Kim Summit; Separating Families at the Border; Deadly Storms Pummel Northeast; U.S. Allies Condemn Gaza Violence; Celtics Survive LeBron's Big Game. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired May 16, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:02] CHRISTINE ROMANS, 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 the nuclear program.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And the White House exploring using military bases to hold children caught crossing the border. The homeland security secretary defending the latest efforts to separate families.

ROMANS: A powerful storm hits the East Coast, roaring from Virginia to Massachusetts. People are dead in New York and in Connecticut. Last night's rescues late into the night in Maryland. More of the same is on the way.

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Wednesday, May 16th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And some breaking news overnight, a sobering reality check for the Trump administration courtesy of North Korea. State media declaring Pyongyang will not be pushed into a corner on abandoning its nukes while threatening to cancel the summit with President Trump in Singapore next month.

ROMANS: The Kim regime also suspending talks with South Korea that were scheduled for today. The reason -- well, U.S./South Korea drills already scheduled that North Korea considers provocative.

Let's get to Seoul and bring in CNN's Ivan Watson.

There was such goodwill and such a rapid improvement of relations and developments on the Korean peninsula and with the United States and then suddenly this. This feels like the North Korea of several months ago.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And we just heard a statement from the South Korean president's office, trying to call this growing pains. The fact that North Korea put out overnight here in Asia a series of pretty strongly worded statements saying that the U.S. has to think twice if it wants to have a summit with North Korea while conducting these joint military exercises. Right now taking aim at the White House national security adviser John Bolton who a top North Korean diplomat described as repugnant because he compared North Korea as a nuclear armed state with Libya. That was in the early stages of its nuclear weapons development when it agreed to disarm its weapons with the U.S. and essentially saying that North Korea will not be backed into a corner. It will not be bought off with promises of economic development in exchange for nuclear disarmament.

Very hard to tell whether or not this is just a bargaining tactic but in the short term North Korea canceled high level talks that were scheduled with South Korea along the demilitarized today and they have called into question the summit with the U.S. after just yesterday, Christine, inviting South Korean journalists to attend a ceremony scheduled for next week for what is supposed to be the dismantling of North Korea's main nuclear testing site -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Ivan Watson for us in Seoul, thank you so much for that. We'll check in with you again soon.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's go live to Washington and bring in CNN politics digital director Zach Wolf.

Good to see you, sir.

ROMANS: Hey, Zach.

BRIGGS: Here's the White House statement on all of these North Korean developments. Quote: We are aware of the South Korean media reports and we'll continue to coordinate closely. What is missing here is anything from the president, not a tweet, not a statement.

What do you make of the White House reaction or lack thereof?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: It was always going to be very difficult to make these talks happen. And they still could, by the way. But what's interesting is that President Trump has wrapped so much into this already, essentially declaring victory in the idea that the talks were simply scheduled when he withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement he pointed to what he was going to be able to accomplish with North Korea as an example of how he was so much better than president Obama.

And I think that this hiccup -- it could be a hiccup or something larger, but it just speaks to how difficult international relations and diplomacy can be. Something he's learning.

ROMANS: You heard from Ivan Watson, the South Koreans are saying this is growing pains, it's not a huge setback. It's something that can be overcome. Meanwhile, you have some who are saying that the president in his trade talks with China may be giving concessions to China in part because he needs China's help with preparing for the North Korea summit and with reining in North Korean nuclear ambitions.

It was interesting the top economic adviser Larry Kudlow sat down with "Axios" yesterday and this is how he described about China and these trade talks going on right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: I think is there's a little bit of a bromance between President Trump and President for life Xi.

[05:05:04] Where this leads I don't know. It might lead to a trade deal which would make me very happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Is it personal relationships between Trump and world leaders that will get a trade deal done? Is that really you think how the administration is viewing this?

WOLF: Yes, I think that's how President Trump, you know, feels that these things should be done. That he is sort of the figure head here and he should be making these deals. But a word of caution: remember, he and Xi had, you know, very nice things to say about each other. Remember, they had that lovely piece of chocolate cake, you know, some time --

ROMANS: A beautiful, a beautiful piece of chocolate cake.

WOLF: Yes, while the bombs rain down. That was sort of the first time that he and Xi were saying nice things about each other and North Korea was in the -- was sub rosa. Things did not work out right then. But maybe it was part of building a larger relationship. We'll have to see.

BRIGGS: Ask Emmanuel Macron how well the bromance has worked out for our European allies. Ed Cotton, nothing to that supposed relationship. How to you explain if you're Marco Rubio and you're tweeting about ZTE and national security concerns and you're talking on the Senate floor about it, you're talking to Manu Raju about it, and you don't bring it up to the president?

WOLF: That's -- you know, kind of remarkable. He goes and has lunch with them, they don't talk about all of the criticism that the Republican senators have levied against him for criticizing John McCain. They don't talk about ZTE and the criticism for, you know, for giving away too much to the Chinese. You have to wonder if the Republican senators are getting to do any talking in these meetings. You know, Trump is clearly the leader of the party. But there's a lot of frustration about him that we hear about outside of these meetings. It's just nobody seems to be talking to him in person.

ROMANS: Somebody said of Rubio making a compelling point, if you're going to trade -- you know concessions for ZTE to protect American farmers who shouldn't have been put in a position to need protection in the first place, you know, I mean, that --

BRIGGS: The point you bring up when you're sitting with the president of the United States.

All right. Zach Wolf, we'll see you in about 30 minutes. We need your answer, laurel or yanny. We'll see you an audio clip in a moment. Stand by.

But right now, the Trump administration is exploring using the military bases to keep the children caught crossing the board 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 states in Texas -- three sites, rather, in Texas and another in Arkansas.

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

your agency will be separating children from their parents and --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Families had been held together in family detention facilities. Secretary Nielsen did agree with senators that more needs to be done to protect children who come to the U.S. illegally.

BRIGGS: Senate Intelligence Committee votes this morning on a closed session on Gina Haspel's nomination for CIA director. She is expected to be approved now that several Democratic senators announced they will back here, including Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Florida's Bill Nelson. Heitkamp and Nelson both up for re-election. A final confirmation vote on the Senate floor could take place by tomorrow.

ROMANS: Deadly storms pummeling the north east. A tree crushed a car and killed an 11-year-old in New York. A man in Danbury, Connecticut, also killed by a falling tree.

And that is hail, pounding Ulster County, New York. Governor Cuomo declaring a state of emergency in Putnam, Duchess, Orange and Sullivan Counties.

BRIGGS: Officials in Frederick County, Maryland, reporting over 60 cars were stalled out in rising flood waters. Also in Frederick County, 85 people were trapped on a double-decker commuter train. A drainage culvert collapsed and took out the tracks. The passengers were safely unloaded after midnight.

ROMANS: For more on the storms and what's in store for the rest of the week, here is meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine. Yes, the severe weather concern was in place yesterday and it produced upwards of 300-plus severe weather reports. About 70 percent concentrated across the Northeast. I can tell you what the conditions as far as the severe weather quieted down, but the wet weather not so the case here.

We do have a stationary frontal boundary locked in place and really conditions in place to produce a lot of rainfall across parts of the region. In fact from Baltimore points to the west north of Leesburg, how about a rainfall amounts two to four inches, heavy amounts upwards of six or more have fallen in a 12-hour period.

[05:10:10] shower this morning beginning to taper off, of course, the coolest time of the day is right now, so very little instability to around, but you fire up the afternoon warm there and expect those numbers once again to blossom. Baltimore, Washington, some of the areas of concern here and of course to the South, some tropical moisture being fed up northbound as well.

So, put this together, we have a lot of rainfall over the next couple of days or the next three days in particular. Washington, Baltimore, Philly could see an additional concern here for flooding. Rainfall amounts on top of what is falling as much as six more inches -- guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

The U.S. and Israel increasingly isolated over the deaths of protesters in Gaza. Is there anything that Israel can do differently to ease criticism and still protect the boarder? We're live in Gaza ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[05:15:18] 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

Ian, good morning.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Dave.

Gaza is taking stock of the past seven weeks of protests today. Over a hundred people were killed by Israeli soldiers and what was largely peaceful protests. Yes, there were rocks and Molotov cocktails and IEDs, but no mortars or rockets and no Israeli soldiers were killed or injured. And that's why the international community has condemned for what they say was disproportionate use of live ammunition at these protests.

Even key allies are coming out and criticizing Israel, including France and the United Kingdom, which called for an independent inquiry. As far as what can Israel do further, well, they have said that they would like to see Israel show further restraint when it comes to dealing with the protests and more nonlethal use of force like tear gas and rubber bullets. Israel, for its part, says it will continue to defend its border and that is the red line.

But for the Gazans, when you look at the past seven weeks they have a number of achievements. One is that they brought the international community's attention once again on to Gaza and the plight here. The other as we have seen is the United States and Israel isolated when it comes to the situation here.

But the one thing that they would like to see which is unlikely to change is the easing of the blockade on Gaza -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Ian Lee for us, 12:17 there in Gaza, thanks.

ROMANS: The opioid epidemic rages on and now the states are blaming the maker of OxyContin for the results. Six states filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, the maker of the OxyContin. Texas, Tennessee, Florid and North Korea, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, the states accused them of aggressively selling the pain killers and down playing the fact they had a high likelihood of leading to addiction. Many states grapple with how to deal with the huge expense and the human cost of the epidemic.

More than 42,000 people overdosed on opioids in 2016. The main culprits were prescription pain killers like OxyContin. Sixteen other states have filed lawsuits against Purdue. Purdue denies these charges and hope to resolve the state's concerns without heading to court.

BRIGGS: A deadly explosion in a California facility being investigated as criminal act. 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. That's in southern orange county. The explosion blew out walls and windows and a witness say it felt like an earthquake with fire and smoke popping out of the walls. Checking out some sports, a big night for LeBron James but it's the

Boston Celtics who are once again celebrating after game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Lindsey Czarniak here is with the bleacher report.

Another stunner. Sweep? No, they'll get a game.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:23:27] BRIGGS: LeBron James said he wasn't concerned after losing game 1, but now he finds himself in a 2-0 hole despite a monster game.

ROMANS: Lindsey Czarniak has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys.

We got exactly what we expected out of the game, right? LeBron James after that game 1 loss taking over from the start of game 2, but the problem was his supporting cast is not the same as in years past and the Celtics are really, really good.

When I say he took over, LeBron basically played Boston solo for the first quarter. He scored 21 points, a first quarter playoff high for James. There was a scary moment in the second quarter and he was forced to go the locker room after taking a Jayson Tatum shoulder elbow to his jaw. He would return though.

Six Boston players are scoring in double figures in the game. 9-0 at home in the playoffs and now they go to Cleveland for game 3, Saturday. LeBron James he knows his team has work to do after Boston made the most out of the first two games.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: They do what they had to do and that was protect home. And now, it's our time to try to do that as well. So, you know, we have a few days like I said. You know, we'll see what we're made of on Saturday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: And they have a couple of days to pull it together.

Meanwhile, in Chicago last night, the biggest form of NBA excitement came in the form of ping-pong balls. The NBA draft lottery saw the Phoenix Suns earned their most important victory of the season, landing the number one overall pick in next month's draft. And it's first time that the nice -- in franchise history and the fans went crazy in Phoenix after finishing with the worst record.

[05:25:04] They will have their choice of top prospects DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic. To hockey now, it's the Washington Capitals contest play every game on

the road, right? Alex Ovechkin and his team taking the series home with a series lead. Four lightning players scored in this one, while Washington struggled. Lightning win 4-2. They're back in this series with game 4 on Thursday.

And it was like a walk-off to start the game for the athletic Stephen Piscotty who is back after attending his mother's funeral. She would make gestures to communicate she loved her family and as you see him rounding the bases that's what he is doing, and it's an emotional night that Piscotty described as pure joy.

BRIGGS: Kind of like when football fans, remember Brett Favre after losing his dad, went out and shredded the Raiders, really emotional.

CZARNIAK: His manager said it had to have been Gretchen, that was his mom's name, so --

BRIGGS: Good stuff. And today, Golden State-Houston, right?

CZARNIAK: Yes.

BRIGGS: Game two.

CZARNIAK: Yes, big stuff there.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

All right. That summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un in jeopardy. North Korea says it won't be cornered into abandoning its nuclear program. Could this get back on track? We're live in Seoul ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)