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Trump Casts Doubt on North Korea Summit; President Enraged Over Spy Theory; First Black Major Party Governor Nominee; Author Philip Roth Dies. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 04:30   ET




[04:30:48] 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 President Trump and Kim Jong-un meet on June 12th in Singapore? President Trump tempering expectations but keeping hope alive.

And the president seething over unfounded claims the fed spied on his campaign. Allies in Congress will see classified Russia documents tomorrow with no Democrats allowed.


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



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

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs, 4:31 Eastern Time.

It now appears to be the flip of the commemorative coin. The summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un in doubt this morning with less than three weeks before the scheduled date of the historic event. Mr. Trump questioned whether it will happen and did it with South Korea's president 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 the summit date, and South Korea's national security chief said there is a 99.9 percent chance it's still on.


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: The last week of developments not going over with North Korea, still set to dismantle their nuclear test sites. In a last minute shift, South Korean media are being allowed to observe.

CNN's Will Ripley will also observe. He's on the ground in North Korea and has more from Wonsan.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, the news broke overnight here in North Korea about those remarks by President Trump that there is now a substantial chance the summit in Singapore on June 12th may not happen.

Now, that does contradict what we were hearing from South Korea's national security chief when he was flying over to the U.S. with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in. He told reporters he thought there was a 99.9 percent chance the summit would happen but that South Korea is preparing just in case it doesn't.

Obviously, the South Koreans want this to work. They want a successful summit between the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, and President Trump.

But from the North Korean perspective, they have said publicly that they will walk away if they don't like what they're seeing and hearing out of the United States and South Korea. And, frankly, they're not too happy with what they're seeing and hearing. There are those joint military exercises happening on the southern side of the peninsula, including fire jets and bombing runs, the kind of thing that North Korea views as a dress rehearsal for an invasion.

The North Koreans have said they don't think that activity is appropriate ahead of potential peace talks between the North and the United States. And what's even more troubling really for the North Koreans is some of the rhetoric coming out of Washington, from Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump's national security adviser John Bolton, saying that the United States is looking at a Libya model for North Korea. That's certainly infuriating for officials because they know what happened in Libya when Gadhafi gave up his nuclear weapons and was dead just a few years later, overthrown by U.S.-backed forces.

The North Koreans say they will never accept a Libya model for this country and if that's what the United States is expecting, expecting them to essentially unilaterally give up their nuclear weapons, that the leader, Kim Jong-un, has spent much of his six years in power building up without getting anything in exchange in terms of reduction of U.S. forces on the peninsula, the stopping of these military exercises, perhaps the eventual removal of American troops from the peninsula, all of those things that would need to be negotiated, North Koreans say if there's not a deal on those issues, well, they're not going to denuclearize just like that, just in exchange for the promise of economic help from the United States.

[04:35:16] So, clearly, while things looked very good after the inter- Korean summit. There has certainly been a deterioration in terms of the tone and upping of the rhetoric on both sides. Is it posturing, are they still going to go through with this meeting, or are they going to walk away? Could that bring us back to square one?

That really is the open question here on the ground right now. But we are preparing in the event that the trip still goes through for us to travel nearly 20 hours deep into the North Korean mountains to their nuclear test site at Punggye-ri to observe what North Korea says is the dismantlement of their nuclear test site. There are no experts on this trip, only fewer than two dozen journalists but will be the eyes and ears on the ground here -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: Fascinating, no nuclear researchers or scientists there.

A check on CNNMoney now. Lawmakers stopping any deal the Trump administration will make with Chinese tech giant ZTE. A Senate panel yesterday said it would not accept reduced penalties on ZTE, citing national security concerns. The Commerce Department originally banned ZTE from buying vital U.S. parts, a punishment for violating U.S. sanctions that crippled the company.

Now, President Trump says he's looking at alternative punishments like a big fine or management changes. Lawmakers worry the move is a concession to China as the U.S. negotiates a trade deal.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says that's not true.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: This was not a quid pro quo or anything else. This was merely that President Xi asked President Trump to look into this which he has done.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: Right now, the U.S. and China working on the details of a trade pact. ZTE has been a focal point during negotiations, but the president says no deal yet.


TRUMP: But I want this to be a great deal for the United States, and I want it to be a very good deal for China, too, if that's possible.


BRIGGS: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross heads to China next week to work on a possible deal.

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 here, railing against his own justice department with the president of South Korea right beside him.


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: After freely discussing the topic of alleged campaign spying, the president suddenly turned on reporters claiming their line of questioning was inappropriate.


REPORTER: Do you have confidence in Rod Rosenstein?

TRUMP: 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, if you couldn't make that out, that was no comment on confidence in Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. 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 gaudy will meet with Intel officials tomorrow about their request for information on a confidential source. Not invited to the meeting, Democrats which is not sitting well with Adam Schiff, the ranking 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.


BRIGGS: Sources tell CNN, the Trump legal team is looking to limit questions from special counsel Robert Mueller in a potential interview. Their goal was 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 from CNN's Dana Bash in Washington.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, 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.

[04:40:03] And 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. Thank you.

The business partner of President Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to tax evasion charges. "The New York Times" first reporting taxi king Evgeny Freidman will cooperate as a potential witness in other cases. That means prosecutors could try to use him as leverage to pressure Cohen into cooperating with the special counsel's Russia investigation. In 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 yet 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's 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 pilot Amy McGrath, defeated one of the best-known figures in politics, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, in the sixth Democratic primary. She'll face Republican Congressman Andy Barr in the general election.

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. Now, the measure 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 at the White House literally. That's a sinkhole just steps from the White House briefing room. It's growing. A reporter first 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 draining that swamp, right? had a good time with this one. Yes, it's a hole formed in soluble rock by the action of water, but also a place into which foul matter runs.

For those of you keeping track, a 16-foot sinkhole opened up in front of Mar-a-Lago just a year ago today. Let us know what you think it means on Twitter @davebriggstv.

Ahead, conditions on Hawaii growing worse for residents as Kilauea's eruption nears the three-week mark. Next, hear from a man who was hit by a lava bomb as he attempted to protect his home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:47:27] BRIGGS: Tragedy at the Yosemite National Park. A hiker falling to his death trying to climb the famous Half Dome Trail. National park officials I have he was hiking with another person during a thunderstorm when he slipped and fell from the cables that take hikers up to the last 400 feet of the summit. This is the first death on the 5,000-foot-high half dome cables since 2010.

Some breaking news. 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 that 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 is being held without bond and is due back in court June 1st. Three other teens have also been arrested in the case. 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.

Teachers and staff returning to Santa Fe, Texas, schools this morning five days after a shooting that left ten people dead. Students will return to class next week. Texas Governor Greg Abbott holding the second of three roundtables today. This will focus on gun regulations, mental health, and the causes of gun violence. The first roundtable on Tuesday covering school and community safety. Suggestions included hardening security and deploying behavioral experts.

The defense team for the accused Santa Fe shooter allowed to enter the high school yesterday to take videos and pictures for investigative purposes. They're also working with the D.A.'s office on court dates and a mental health evaluation for the suspect.

The effects of the erupting Kilauea volcano taking a real toll residents of the Big Island. Gas spewing from the 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 are battling bowling ball-sized lava bombs being launched from those fissures, threatening to take out homes. Darryl Clinton was protecting his house when a lava bomb hit him in the leg.


[04:50:05] 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: Can't take away his sense of humor.

Lava has reached a geothermal power plant. Officials are trying to avoid explosions by filling wells with cold water. At a community meeting in Pahoa last night. Officials warned residents to prepare for a long haul.

Well, if you want to buy a political ad on Facebook, get ready to give your Social Security number up. CNNMoney is next.


[04:55:35] BRIGGS: Folks, if your kids won't 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 get out 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. They even offered his cash. 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: After leaving court, Rotondo told reporters he plans to appeal the case, saying he finds the judge's ruling ridiculous.

The NBA's western conference final is now a best of three after the Houston Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors 95-92 to even the series at two. James Harden posterising Draymond Green on his way to 30 points. That is a thing of beauty.

Golden State ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, scoring just 12 points. The warriors had won an NBA record 16 straight home games in the post-season before this loss. Game five tomorrow night in Houston.

All right. Let's check CNNMoney this morning. U.S. futures falling overnight on concerns about the future of U.S./China trade talks. Right now, Dow futures are down more than 150 points following Wall Street's lead. U.S. stocks closed lower after president Trump downplayed optimism over China trade talks.

The president said he was not satisfied, and there was no deal yet. Global stocks also lower. Americans are doing better moneywise during President Trump's first

year in office according to the Federal Reserve, 74 percent of Americans say they are at least okay in their finances, and that is a 4 percent jump from last year. And the strongest growth was in lower income households. A nice improvement, but two in five adults still face serious financial hardship such as the inability to afford food, housing, or medical treatment.

If you want to buy a political ad on Facebook, get ready to give your Social Security number up. The social network wants ad buyers to prove they're in the United States and that includes providing the last four digits of your Social Security number and a picture of a government-issued ID. Facebook has been working hard to increase transparency oh its platform. It faces huge criticism for allowing election meddling during the 2016 election.

EARLY START continues right now with doubts over the next month's summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump. We'll have the latest for you.



TRUMP: 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.


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

BRIGGS: 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.



ROMANS: History in the South. The first black gubernatorial nominee from a major party, Stacey Abrams, faces an uphill climb to win in November.

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

BRIGGS: Good morning to you, my friend. It's Wednesday, May 23rd. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East. We start with the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un,

which is now in doubt this morning. Less that happen three weeks before the scheduled date for the historic summit, and Mr. Trump publicly questioned whether it will happen at all. 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, a substantial chance that it won't work out. I don't want to waste a lot of time, and I'm sure he doesn't want to waste a lot of time. There's a substantial chance that it won't work out, and that's okay. 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 says there's a 99.9 percent chance it's on.