Return to Transcripts main page


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

Aired May 23, 2018 - 05:00   ET



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.


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.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president seething over 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.

"The Washington Post" reporting two senior U.S. officials headed to 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 hard working and very prosperous. They're very great people.


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

The president appears to be blaming China for this recent shift in North Korea's tone. How is that playing in the region?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a big shift from president Trump who has in the past been celebrating China and congratulating and thanking it for helping tighten the economic noose around North Korea as far as the Trump administration's so- called maximum pressure campaign which is designed to punish it for the previous nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches.

The South Koreans don't really want to talk about this allegation coming from president Trump. Their message has been to focus the White House on going ahead with this planned Singapore summit. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea urging President Trump to stay the course, don't try to get worried about recent criticism that's come from Pyongyang against Washington and against Seoul, as well.

That's all the more striking when you consider that North Korea has been quite critical of South Korea over the course of the last week even though the two leaders held a summit at the end of last month, and only at the last minute did North Korea invite South Korean journalists to plan for the ceremony in North Korea for the dismantling of its main nuclear testing site. That is expected to happen this week. CNN's been invited, but a U.S. defense official tells CNN that the ceremony is nothing more than a PR stunt, that the nuclear testing site was mostly destroyed by six previous North Korean nuclear tests including the most recent and powerful one in September of last year -- David and Christine. BRIGGS: Yes. Ivan, reports that were it was ready to collapse. The fact that there were no nuclear inspectors there, with all due respect to Will Ripley and company, tells you a lot.

Ivan Watson, thank you.

ROMANS: And no experts allowed to go with the journalists. It's journalists. They'll be doing their best reporting there, no question.

All right. Let's go live now to Washington and bring in CNN politics digital director Zachary Wolf.

Let's talk here about the North Korea summit, June 12th, Singapore. I mean, this has been rolling out with reality show flair, do you think this is going to happen?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: It sounds a lot less likely. If you kind of compare Trump's rhetoric about it last week when he was getting out of the Iran deal and saying, well, we've got this North Korea thing coming up and, you know, making a big deal out of theater of all this was going to happen and now, eh, no -- it might happen it might not, no big deal, which kind of seems like a big switch to me.

And the other thing is that Trump is sort of coaxing Kim to the table whereas before it felt like there was a head of steam on this thing. It certainly doesn't feel that way now.

BRIGGS: Yes, and you'd still like to hear from Mattis and the intel officials on the president saying we will protect him. We will guarantee Kim Jong-un's safety, you're talking about the world's worst human rights abuser, a murderer. And we, the United States, will protect his safety. But hopefully, we will hear from the intel community or the defense officials.

Let's turn to an article you wrote on Donald Trump doesn't seem to want you to trust the government he leads. Of course, this is based on his new allegation that there was a spy planted in his campaign.

Here's what he said yesterday in the Oval.


TRUMP: If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country. That would be one of the biggest insults that anyone's ever seen, and it would be very illegal aside from everything else. If they had spies in my campaign, during my campaign for political purposes, that would be unprecedented in the history of our country.


BRIGGS: Does this fall in line with the three million illegal votes? Is there any evidence of it, and where do we go from here politically? WOLF: You know, the three million illegal votes, the allegations of

wiretapping by President Obama, it -- with the exception of the three million illegal votes where there's no evidence, with a lot of these conspiracy theories, he will take a kernel of something and kind of twist it into this conspiracy theory where the deep state government is kind of out to get him.

[05:05:06] It's clear he doesn't trust the apparatus of government that's around him. And this is just the latest example of it. And you know, add that to him sort of -- kind of flailing around, trying to protect himself and undercut the Mueller investigation and, you know, it moves on from there.

ROMANS: There's this really fascinating moment with Lesley Stahl that I think feeds into this because you say he doesn't trust the institutions around him -- I mean, maybe he does trust the institutions around him, but he doesn't -- their findings may not be favorable to him, right? So, he tries to undermine them. And just as he does --

BRIGGS: Us in particular --

ROMANS: Just as he does with the press. Listen to this moment.


LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS: He said, you know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.


ROMANS: Amazing, right? That was on Monday night, the Deadline Club. She's talking about what Donald Trump told her about why he calls everyone fake news and says things aren't true when they are.

WOLF: It sounds a lot like what he's trying to do with the special counsel investigation, too, calling it a witch hunt, constantly, you know, for months ahead of the sort of undercutting its credibility beforehand. And you know, sort of attacking the idea of their indisputable facts. There are no indisputable facts in Donald Trump's mind. You just have to repeat over and over that something is wrong or that something may have happened, and then people start to believe it.

BRIGGS: But it's not just a theory. There seems to be a deep rooted distrust, because when you hear the president talk in the oval office and walking to reporters, he talks about news reports he's seen, he talks about "Fox and Friends" and Hannity and fake news. He never talks about his intel community. He never talks about his defense officials. This seems to be a deep rooted mistrust.

Yesterday, he met with, who? Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, not with his cabinet, not with his advisers about what to go forward. What does it tell you? WOLF: Yes. Tells me that he would rather talk to the people around

him who he trusts, you know, and you saw it with the North Korea -- when you referenced yourself you hope that we hear from the apparatus, the intelligence community, what do they think about, you know, protecting Kim Jong-un, things like that. He is sort of insular and surrounded by people that he wants to talk to, and he's not going to go out, you know, curious mind and ask what the government thinks, he fundamentally doesn't believe them.

ROMANS: All right. Zach Wolf, nice to talk to you. Come back in about a half hour.

WOLF: Thanks.

ROMANS: Just another Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

BRIGGS: Yes, nothing unusual to see here.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pushing back on the intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump. As a reminder, intel officials said, quote, we further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

Here's what Nielsen told reporters after a closed door briefing with House members.


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?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: 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 puts Nielsen directly at odds with the intel community's findings that we read to you. Later she claimed Russia tried to manipulate public confidence on both sides via a statement.

ROMANS: All right. A history-making night in Georgia. Democrat Stacey Abrams winning her party's nomination for governor in Tuesday's primary. She's 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.

BRIGGS: Abrams doesn't know 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, though, Abrams says she is ready.


ABRAMS: 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, former Marine 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.

ROMANS: All right. Nine minutes past the hour. This year marks a decade since the financial crisis. Yesterday Congress vote to roll back rules adopted in its wake. The House vote in favor of a bipartisan Senate bill to ease rules on community banks like BB&T and SunTrust.

Republicans and moderate Democrats say Dodd-Frank hurts these banks.

[05:10:04] Strict regulations stifle lending they say. So, the bill raises the threshold for federal oversight from just $50 billion to $250 billion, leaving only the biggest banks -- JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, they will face the toughest scrutiny. They'll have annual stress tests, will have to provide plans on how to safely dismantle if they fail.

Senate Banking Chair Mike Crapo says this will help community banks spur growth -- economic growth and create jobs on Main Street. Progressives, they warn any rollback would trigger another financial crisis. The bill is not just bank oversight. This loosens regulations for mortgage lenders. It changes the rules for student loan default, and makes credit freezes free for all Americans like those whose data was exposed in the Equifax breach last year.

This bill heads to the president's desk. He's expected to sign it before Memorial Day. As Congress cuts regulations, look at this -- banks had their most profitable quarter in history. Profit up 28 percent, a record $56 billion. Banks have never been so healthy.

BRIGGS: They're doing all right. You know, shocking to get any Democratic votes today. There were 33 Democrats to vote for the legislation. So, to call it bipartisan is rare, indeed, in 2018 --

ROMANS: It was definitely the small banks that have been really lobbying their Democratic Congress people that they wanted a rollback of some of these rules.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, conditions in Hawaii getting worse for residents as Kilauea's eruption nears the three-week mark. Next, we'll hear from a man hit by a lava bomb, as he protected his



[05:15:43] BRIGGS: Breaking news this morning. Pulitzer Prize- winning novelist Philip Roth has died. He was a towering figure in 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.

BRIGGS: 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 is due back in court June 1st. Three other teens have also been arrested in the case. The medical examiner revealed the officer's death was the result of trauma to the head and torso. The officer did not suffer a gunshot wound as was originally reported.

The effects of the erupting Kilauea volcano starting 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 dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide. Officials have been handing out masks.

ROMANS: Some residents are battling bowling ball-sized lava bombs being launched from fissures. Darryl Clinton was protecting his home 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?


ROMANS: Lava has reached a geothermal power plant. Officials 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.

BRIGGS: Well, if your kids don't want to move out of the house no matter how many hints you drop, you can always, Romans, turn to a judge. There's some serious 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. They even offered him money to leave.

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, Totondo told reporters he plans to appeal the case saying he finds the judge's ruling ridiculous, which is in a matter of speaking a failure to launch.

ROMANS: I'm really on team mom and dad on that one. There's no other side. I'm sorry.

BRIGGS: You're on team mom and dad?


BRIGGS: Me, too. Rotondo, get out.


BRIGGS: Beat it.

All right. Ahead, the Houston Rockets drawing even with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

Lindsay Czarniak has highlights in this morning's "Bleacher Report." That's next.


[05:23:31] BRIGGS: Prior to last night, the Houston Rockets had never won a playoff game in the Golden State. They were 0-7. The Warriors meanwhile had won 16 straight at home, an NBA record. That has all changed now.

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

Hey, Lindsay. Good morning.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, guys, good morning, I said finally, right, an unexpected thriller in these playoffs.

The last time we saw these teams, remember, the Rockets, they were humiliated. They suffered a 41-point loss in game three. And last night, it looked like it could be more of the same. Houston falling behind by 12 points at the start.

But James Harden came in to this game on a mission not to let his team give up. I wanted to show the play everybody's talking about. Here he is -- watch. This the nasty one-handed dunk and foul over Draymond Green. He led the way with 30 points. You know Draymond was not loving that moment.

Yes, now, Steph Curry catching fire, scoring 18 in the third quarter. Breaking out that shimmy dance got going there once again. Eric Gordon, however, one of three rockets in double digits, knocking down a clutch three-pointer late.

Houston's defense really rising to the occasion in this one. The Warriors were held to just 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets win on the road to even the series in an almost emotional. Chris Paul acknowledging the power of sports to help heal the community.


CHRIS PAUL, HOUSTON ROCKETS: The city's been through a tough time with the things in Santa Fe. But man -- I don't know. Hopefully, basketball can be a way that people can come and ease their minds if only for a second.

[05:25:02] So, you know, Houston, we're coming home.


CZARNIAK: The Rockets with new life.

We turn our attention to the NFL. The NFL owners are meeting in Atlanta this week to talk about and vote on a wide variety of league initiatives and issues. One of the items talked about is how the league is going to handle the national anthem which came under heavy scrutiny last season.

Citing unnamed sources, "Sports Illustrated" as well as ESPN saying the NFL owners had considered multiple new approaches. And one idea could be to leave it up to the home team to decide whether or not the players are going to come out to the playing of the national anthem. And if teams do appear, then they could be assessed 15-yard penalties for players who choose to kneel.

Several former NFL players have taken to social media against the reported idea. When asked about the 15-yard penalty for kneeling solution, an NFL spokesperson told CNN, as always, conversations at league meetings are candid, thoughtful, and thorough. The clubs explore every option and idea on any policy and discuss the drawbacks to each approach. We will continue the conversation tomorrow.

Tomorrow is today. Now, we'll see what comes out of it. You were holding your hands up --

BRIGGS: Well, look, Eric Reid, Colin Kaepernick remained unsigned. The league has got decide in policy. Take politics off the table. Maybe keep in the locker room, because the president not about to get rid of the issue.

His people love it, and he will continue to troll no matter what even with NASCAR saying, well, NASCAR doesn't have a problem with the anthem. They do have a problem with the Confederate flag. I love NASCAR, I love their fans. President's not leaving this along. Sorry to get political in the sportscast. They got to take it off the table.

CZARNIAK: It will be interesting to see what happens if anything. Obviously we'll keep you posted on that.

BRIGGS: Great to have you, Lindsay. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Mounting pessimism about the planned summit between the president and North Korea.

We're live in Seoul.