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Trump Casts Doubt on North Korea Summit; President Enraged Over Spy Theory; First Black Major Party Governor Nominee. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:14] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to waste a lot of time, and I'm sure he doesn't want to waste a lot of time. So, there's a substantial chance that it won't work out, and that's OK.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Will the president and Kim Jong-un meet June 12th in Singapore? President Trump tempering expectations but keeping hope alive.

And the president seething offer unfounded claims the feds spied on his campaign. Allies in Congress will see classified Russia documents tomorrow. No Democrats allowed.


STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, I say thank you all. Now let's go get it done.



BRIGGS: History unfolding in the Deep South. The first black gubernatorial nominee from a major party, Stacey Abrams, still facing an uphill climb to win in November.

Good morning, everyone, welcome to EARLY START, I'm Dave Briggs. Christine Romans getting a late start. It's Wednesday, May 23rd, 4:00 a.m. in the East.

We start with the historic summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, which is in doubt this morning. Less than three weeks to go before the historic summit, President Trump publicly questioned whether it will even happen, and he did it with South Korea's president sitting right beside him.


TRUMP: There's a chance that it will work out. There's a chance, there's a substantial chance that it won't work out. I don't want to waste a lot of time, I'm sure he doesn't want to waste a lot of time.

So, there's a substantial chance that it won't work out, and that's OK. That doesn't mean it won't work out over a period of time.


BRIGGS: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the administration is still working toward a June 12th summit. And South Korea's national security chief saying, quote, there's a 99.9 percent chance it's still on. "The Washington Post" reporting two senior U.S. officials are heading to Singapore this weekend to hammer out logistical details. The president keeping hope alive, offering guarantees to Kim Jong-un.


TRUMP: We will guarantee his safety. We've talked about that from the beginning. He will be safe. He will be happy. His country will be rich. His country will be hardworking and very prosperous. They're very great people.


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

Ivan, good morning. The president appears to be blaming China for the recent shift in North Korea's tone. How's that playing in the region?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a pretty dramatic shift from President Trump. Of course, he used to heap praise on China and on his great friend, Xi Jinping, for cracking down on the cross-border trade with North Korea and helping the, what the Trump administration describes as its maximum pressure campaign to economically stifle North Korea and force it to come to the negotiating table. The South Korean top officials have been asked whether they think the change in tone since last week from North Korea is a result of Kim Jong-un's recent meeting, second meeting with Xi Jinping, in the Chinese port city of Dalian.

The South Koreans haven't wanted to comment on that. They stayed on message which was coming to the White House, the South Korean president, and telling president Trump you're the man of the hour, you can make history, you can basically cut through this Gordian Knot, and bring peace to the Korean peninsula. You know, lavishing praise on President Trump and urging him to stay the road, to not be dissuaded by this criticism that's come from the North Korean regime in the course of the last week.

And that's all the more striking because North Korea's been bashing the South Korean government for days now, and only today at the last minute invited eight South Korean journalist to attend this nuclear test site dismantling ceremony which a U.S. defense official has described as a P.R. stunt -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, reports are that facility had already basically collapsed, was no good.

Ivan Watson, live for us this morning. Thank you.

President Trump's fury on full display over a theory the FBI spied on his 2016 campaign. U.S. officials have told CNN there was no spy planted, but the president digging in, railing against his own Justice Department alongside the president of South Korea.


TRUMP: If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country. That would be one of the biggest insults anyone's seen, and it would be very illegal aside from everything else. It would make probably every political event ever look like small potatoes. So, we want to make sure that there weren't.


BRIGGS: Now after freely discussing the topic of alleged campaign spying, the president suddenly shifted on reporters, claiming their line of questioning was impolite.


REPORTER: Do you have confidence in Rod Rosenstein?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's your next question, please?

REPORTER: I'm a reporter for --

TRUMP: Excuse me, I have the president of South Korea here.



REPORTER: I have a question --

TRUMP: He doesn't want to hear these questions if you don't mind.


BRIGGS: So, not confirming his support for Rod Rosenstein there.

The president has been demanding the Justice Department look into whether the FBI or DOJ infiltrated or surveilled his campaign. The administration says House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy will meet with officials about requests for information on a confidential source. Not invited to that meeting, Democrats. That's not sitting well with Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intel Committee.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It's inconceivable that the White House could expect that they can brief only Republicans on anything related to the Russia investigation. That can't happen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Sources tell CNN the Trump legal team is looking to limit questions from special counsel Robert Mueller in a potential interview. Their goal is to take the president's actions after he won the election off the table. That would include questions related to possible obstruction of justice.

More now from CNN's Dana Bash in Washington.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: My colleagues, Evan Perez, Gloria Borger, and I have learned that the president's legal team is trying to narrow the scope of any potential interview with the special counsel to Russia-related matters that occurred before Trump's election. Also, they want an audio recording made to make sure that there's no question about what is actually said.

Now, because Mueller clearly want to talk about issues occurring since Trump has been in the White House like potential obstruction of justice and firing James Comey, our sources tell us that with those questions, they're proposing written answers. But there's no indication that this will actually work with Mueller. Our sources have cautioned that while the sides are talking and inching toward some agreement that Mueller has clearly suggested that he's not interested in written answers to questions. So there could be a standoff. In that case, you may see this question of a presidential interview go all the way to the Supreme Court -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: All right. Dana, thanks.

The business partner of President Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to tax evasion charges. "The New York Times" first reported the taxi king, Evgeny Freidman will cooperate as a potential witness in other cases. That means prosecutors could try and use him as leverage to pressure Cohen into cooperating with the special counsel's Russia investigation.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: We've talked about it over the last 18 months --


BRIGGS: Pushing back against the notion on the intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump.

Listen to what she told reporters after a closed door briefing with House members on election security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Do you have any reason to doubt the January, 2017, intelligence community assessment that said it was Vladimir Putin who tried to meddle in this election to help president Trump win?

NIELSEN: I do not believe that I've seen that conclusion.

REPORTER: The January 2017 assessment --

NIELSEN: That the specific intent was to help President Trump win. I'm not aware of that.


BRIGGS: That would put Nielsen directly at odds with the intel community's findings that Russia intended to boost the Trump campaign. Later, she claimed Russia tried to manipulate public confidence on, quote, both sides.

A history-making night in Georgia. Democrat Stacey Abrams winning her party's nomination for governor in Tuesday's primary. She is the first black woman in the country to win a major party's gubernatorial nomination, winning the statehouse will be an uphill battle, though. No Democrat has been elected governor in Georgia since 1998.

Abrams doesn't know is who she'll face in November. Her Republican opponent will be decided in a runoff between Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp on July 24th. No matter who it is, Abrams says she is ready.


STACEY ABRAMS, WINNER, DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR GEORGIA GOVERNOR: This is our moment. Our chance to lift up Georgia. And if we fight, if we push, if we work, we will win.



BRIGGS: Abrams not the only woman to win in the South. In Kentucky, a political newcomer, former marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath defeated one of the best-known figures in Kentucky politics, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in the sixth district Democratic primary. She'll face Republican Congressman Andy Barr in the general election.

This year marks a decade since the financial crisis. And yesterday, Congress vote to roll back rules adopted in its wake. The House voting in favor of a bipartisan Senate bill that eases rules on community banks. For example, BB&T and SunTrust.

[04:10:01] Republicans and moderate Democrats say Dodd-Frank hurts these banks. Strict regulations stifle lending, so the bill raises the threshold for federal oversight from $50 billion to $250 billion, leaving only the biggest, J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, to face the toughest scrutiny like annual stress tests and providing plans on how to safely dismantle if they fail. Senate Banking Chair Mike Crapo says this will help community banks

spur economic growth and create jobs on Main Street. But progressives warn any rollback could trigger another financial crisis. This bill not just bank oversight, though. It also loosens regulations for mortgage lenders. Changes for rules student loan defaults and make credit freezes free for all Americans like those who's data was exposed in the Equifax breach last year.

So, the bill now heads to the president's desk. He is expected to sign it before Memorial Day. But as Congress cuts regulations, banks just had their most profitable quarter ever. Profits soaring 28 percent to a record $56 billion.

President Trump expected to sign the so-called right-to-try bill, congress clearing the way for terminally ill patients to seek experimental drug treatments still in clinical trials. It mandates drugs pass phase one of the FDA's approval process before they can be tried. Critics of the bill claim removing the FDA from the process could raise risk levels for patients.

A sinking feeling setting in at the White House literally. A sinkhole just steps from the White House briefing room, and it's growing. A reporter noticed it last weekend after days of steady rain. The National Parks Service bringing in experts to figure out what to do next.

A science professor tells CNN the geology of the White House does not naturally lend itself to sinkholes, and it could be the result of previous construction on the lawn or just that general swampiness. Draining the swamp not going so well for the White House lawn apparently. Twitter had a field day with this one, as you might imagine.

Ahead, conditions in Hawaii getting worse for residents as Kilauea's eruption nears the three-week mark. Next, hear from a man hit by a lava ball as he protected his home.


[04:16:29] BRIGGS: All right. Some breaking news at 4:16 Eastern Time.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Philip Roth has died. He was a towering figure in American literature in the second half of the 20th century.

A prolific writer, Roth offered more than two dozen books along with short stories and other writings. They included "Goodbye Columbus," "American Pastoral," "Port Noise Complaint," "The Human Stain," and "I Married a Communist." He died Tuesday of congestive heart failure. Philip Roth was 85 years old.

A teenager charged with murder in the death of a Baltimore police officer. Dawnta Harris accused of running over 29-year-old Officer Amy Caprio on Monday. Police say he admitted to driving into the officer as she tried to get him to leave the car. The 16-year-old being held without bond, and is due back in court June 1st. Three other teens have been arrested.

The medical examiner revealed Officer Caprio's death was the result of trauma to the head and torso. The officer did not suffer a gunshot wound as was originally reported.

Barbara Underwood becoming the first woman to serve as attorney general of New York state. She was appointed during a joint legislative session. Underwood replaces Eric Schneiderman who resigned earlier this month over allegations of assault from several women. Underwood will serve until the end of the year and says she does not anticipate running for a four-year term in November. Underwood calling her new job at this moment in history the most important job I have ever had.

The effects of the erupting Kilauea volcano started to take a real toll on residents of the Big Island. Gas spewing from cracks in the earth's surface for nearly three weeks, releasing dangerously high levels of sulfur dioxide. Officials have been handing out masks. Some residents battling bowling ball-sized lava bombs being launched from those fissures and threatening to take out their homes. Darryl Clinton was protecting his house when a lava bomb hit him in the leg.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder if you recognize the fact that if this had hit you somewhere else, you might be dead.

DARRYL CLINTON, HIT BY LAVA BOMB: Yes, I've thought about it a couple of times. And it just -- scares me to think about it. It could have also missed me and went between my legs, too. I think about that more -- wouldn't that have been nice?


BRIGGS: Still got his sense of humor, though.

At a community meeting in Pahoa last night, officials warned residents to prepare for a long haul.

The New York attorney caught on camera in a racist rant that went viral now apologizing. Aaron Schlossberg insisting he is not a racist and claiming he is deeply sorry for this display last week.


BRIGGS: In a message posted on line, he writes, while people should be able to express themselves freely, they should do so calmly and respectfully. What the video did not convey is the real me. I'm not racist. One of the reasons I moved to New York is precisely because of the remarkable diversity offered in this wonderful city.

Schlossberg has been evicted from his office and two New York lawmakers are seeking to have his law license suspended until he, quote, amends his actions.

[04:20:01] All right. Ahead, how soon is too soon to ask your kids to get out? Not soon enough for one upstate New York couple who took their adult son to court.


BRIGGS: If your kids don't want to move out of the house no matter how many hints you drop, you can always turn to a judge. Some family drama in upstate New York.

A judge ruling in favor of 30-year-old Michael Rotondo's parents, ordering him to leave their home after occupying a room for eight years. The parents started court proceedings last month after giving their son five notices since February to move out.

[04:25:05] They even offered him money. Rotondo told the judge he needed six months' notice.


MICHAEL ROTONDO, ORDERED TO MOVE OUT OF PARENTS' HOME: I just want a reasonable amount of time to vacate with consideration of the fact that I was not really prepared to support myself at the time where I was served these notices. I don't see why the judge wants to throw people on the street.


BRIGGS: Got to know when it's time to go, brother.

After leaving court, Rotondo told reporters he plans to appeal the case saying he finds the judge's ruling, quote, ridiculous.

The NBA's Western Conference Final now a best of three after the Houston Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors 95-92 to even the series at two games apiece. Just watch that for a second. Posterizing Draymond Green, James Harden had 30 to lead Houston.

Golden State seemed to run out of gas in the fourth quarter scoring just 12 points. The Warriors had won a record 16-straight home games in the post-season before the loss. Game five tomorrow night in Houston.

And Cleveland and Boston play game five tonight in Boston.

Ahead, cold feet and mounting pessimism about the planned summit between the president and North Korea. It could still happen, but a growing divide dimming the odds. CNN's Will Ripley with a report on the ground from North Korea, next.