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North Korea's Harsh Rhetoric Returns; U.S. Government Employee Falls Ill in China; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:25] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want transparency. Even the Democrats, I really believe, on this issue, it supersedes. I think they want transparency, too.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president suddenly a fan of transparency. Lawmakers from both parties will see classified Russia intel after initially only Republicans were invited and that caused an uproar.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration set to look at tariffs on auto imports. They are again, though, leaning on national security to make the case.

ROMANS: And NFL players now have a choice. Stay in the locker room, stand up or pay up. The new national anthem rule that has players very angry.

Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Thursday, May 24th, 4:00 a.m. in the East. And they should be angry. This was a punt by the owners. One prominent NFL player texted me overnight saying their allegiance is to one thing. The dollar.

ROMANS: Some of the --

BRIGGS: That's it.

ROMANS: A few of the coaches have said they will pay the fines for their players, though.

BRIGGS: Yes. I expect to hear that from at least a dozen NFL owners. It's a win from President Trump indeed, though.

We start with these back-to-back briefings on tap today for the nation's top intelligence officials and on a big shift Democrats are now participating.

This morning intel officials sit down with House Republicans Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy to discuss the role of a confidential source in the Russia investigation. Late last night after hours of schedule changes and updates, a second briefing was added for a bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the Gang of Eight. Democrats and some Republicans had accused the White House of politicizing sensitive intelligence.

ROMANS: Now the second briefing will actually be a Gang of Seven. House Speaker Paul Ryan has a scheduling conflict. He'll be updated separately. His spokesperson says that Chairman Nunes and Gowdy will, quote, "continue to lead in this space for House Republicans."

Chief of Staff John Kelly expected to attend both briefings. A source telling CNN the president personally told Kelly and other aides he wants the process to appear nonpartisan so an alleged conspiracy by law enforcement against him won't be overshadowed by accusations of being one-sided.

BRIGGS: It's a drumbeat the president kept sounding on Wednesday. Check out the tweetstorm. Then it was for the cameras.


TRUMP: All you have to do is look at the basics and you'll see. It looks like a very serious event but we'll find out. When they look at the documents I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happened.

I hope it's not so because if it is there's never been anything like it in the history of our country. I hope it's not true but it looks like it is.


ROMANS: If you're wondering where the president keeps getting the ideas that turned conspiracy theories into his own personal reality, check out the branding.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The spying they did on the Trump campaign.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I am shocked to hear that they put a spy in the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A spy inside the Trump campaign back to the FBI.


GIULIANI: Or maybe two spies.

STEVE DOOCY, HOST, FOX NEWS' "FOX & FRIENDS": It looks as if there could have been a second spy.

HANNITY: These spy revelations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spies in this campaign. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That there was a spy inside.

ROGER STONE, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To spy on the Republican candidate for president.

GIULIANI: If there's a spy, they got nothing from it.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: If they ran a spy ring, that is an absolute red line.


BRIGGS: That's quite a feedback loop there.

ROMANS: Yes. An echo chamber. It's just remarkable. That's what the surrogate message is here.

BRIGGS: The chicken or the egg. Did Trump start it or did FOX News start this?

ROMANS: That's a good question. That's a good question. I -- that's a very good question. No, no, no.

BRIGGS: One and the same at this point.

All right. James Clapper fighting back after the president misquoted him to advance his conspiracy theory about FBI spying. Here is what the president claims the former director of National Intelligence said followed by Clapper's actual words on Wednesday.


TRUMP: I mean, if you look at Clapper, he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday, inadvertently.

JOY BEHAR, HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": Was the FBI spying on Trump's campaign?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: No, they were not. They were spying on -- it's a term I don't particularly like but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence.

BEHAR: So what doesn't he like --

CLAPPER: It's what they do.


ROMANS: Clapper accusing the president of distorting his comments. At an event last night to promote his new book, the former DNI told our Dana Bash he is concerned about the nation's direction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLAPPER: This was to determine what the Russians were doing to penetrate a political campaign. Not to spy on the campaign per se but rather, what the Russians were doing to infiltrate, to gain access, and potentially to exert leverage. And the institutions, and the values and the standards that I spent 50-plus years of my life defending are under assault.

[04:05:08] I am so bothered by this that I felt a duty to speak up.


BRIGGS: The president's claims about the existence of a deep state directly contradicted by his secretary of State. Here is Mike Pompeo testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Do you believe there is a criminal deep state at the State Department?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't -- I haven't seen the comments from the president. I don't believe there's a deep state at the State Department.

LIEU: OK, thank you. You formerly served as CIA director. Do you believe your colleagues at the CIA are part of the criminal deep state?

POMPEO: You know, this term deep state has been thrown around. I'd say that's -- the employees that work for me at the CIA, nearly uniformly, were aimed at achieving the president's objectives and America's objectives.


BRIGGS: Well said. Pompeo also told lawmakers he believes no government organization is exempt from malfeasance.

ROMANS: Jared Kushner's lawyer telling CNN special counsel investigators questioned his client for a second time in a seven-hour sit-down last month. He says the president's son-in-law and senior adviser was grilled about potential Russian collusion, his contacts with foreign nationals, and potential obstruction issues.

Kushner was first interviewed by Mueller's team last November. The attorney says the Kushner team believed he is now finished with all ongoing inquiries.

BRIGGS: Meantime, Kushner has cleared a very different hurdle, getting a permanent security clearance. He lost this interim clearance in February. His initial application failed to list dozens of foreign contacts that he later included in his updated submissions to the FBI.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump preparing his next trade clash. Cars. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will investigate whether car imports hurt national security, claiming imports have, quote, "eroded our domestic auto industry." A similar probe led to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs earlier this year.

This follows Trump's promise to U.S. autoworkers, "After many decades of losing your job to other countries, you have waited long enough," calling the auto industry critical to the U.S. strength. The investigation will cover auto parts as well as cars, SUVs, vans and light trucks. Any tariffs would hit Asian automakers the hardest. About one third of all U.S. car imports are from Asia. Companies like Toyota, Honda, Hyundai.

This announcement caused a selloff of their stocks overnight. The biggest loser, Mazda, down more than 5 percent. Mazda does not produce cars in the United States but many foreign automakers do have plants here. Big production facilities here. However, they also export parts and cars to the U.S. from Asia, Mexico and Canada.

Auto tariffs would be the next front for the White House's trade battles including these ongoing talks with China. It says it opposes abuse of national security rules. This also puts new pressure on Canada and Mexico. NAFTA talks have stalled mainly due, Dave, to auto provisions.

BRIGGS: Do you buy the national security argument? He tweeted there about American autoworkers which seems to be central here.

ROMANS: If you --

BRIGGS: Not security.

ROMANS: If you, by the way, like the Chinese do combined economic security and national security, then that's where that makes sense.

BRIGGS: OK. President Trump can tweet whatever he wants and clearly he does often but a federal judge says he cannot block users from his Twitter feed. A judge in New York ruling that doing so is a violation of the First Amendment. It is a victory, though, for the First Amendment advocates who brought a lawsuit last year and the judge says blocking users for the political views they express is unconstitutional. A Justice Department spokeswoman responding to the decision, says, quote, "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps."

ROMANS: Fresh off his stirring sermon at the royal wedding, Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry plans to take part in a candlelight vigil in protest in front of the White House today. He will be joined by leaders from Christian churches who are concerned about what they call a dangerous moral -- a crisis of moral and political leadership. Organizers challenging President Trump's America First foreign policy calling it theological heresy.


MICHAEL CURRY, EPISCOPAL PRESIDING BISHOP: Nationalism, racism, in any form, no matter who it comes from, whether it comes from the left or the right, it doesn't matter who it comes from. We must fashion social policies that reflect that and in the way that we engage in debate. You see, this love thy neighbor stuff is not sentimental stuff. This is tough love.


ROMANS: No comment from the White House about the planned protest.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, a top North Korean official calls the vice president of the United States a, quote, "political dummy," and says the U.S. risks a nuclear-to-nuclear showdown. Will these sides actually still meet? We're live from Seoul.


[04:13:50] BRIGGS: All right. 4:13 Eastern Time. North Korea's harsh rhetoric is back with a flourish. Pyongyang lashing out at Vice President Mike Pence calling him a, quote, "political dummy" and warning about a nuclear showdown if next month's summit in Singapore fails.

CNN's Ivan Watson live in Seoul for us.

Ivan, the rhetoric has returned. But it appears this summit is still on.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, really mixed messages. While you have both U.S. and North Korea suggesting the summit might not happen, then you have a very public war of words between top U.S. and North Korean officials after Vice President Pence on Monday told FOX News that if North Korea doesn't make a deal, it could end up like Libya, which is a very thinly veiled threat clearly.

Now we have a top North Korean diplomat responding with a statement that calls him a political dummy that denounces his unbridled and impudent remarks. And then makes this point, which is I think quite interesting. It argues that, you know, Pence spat out nonsense that the DPRK would follow in Libya's footsteps. It is to be underlined, however, that in order not to follow in Libya's footstep, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean Peninsula and the region.

[04:15:14] Saying, "We made nuclear weapons so that our leader wouldn't end up shot in a ditch by rebels like Moammar Gadhafi did in Libya." But as we're hearing this war of words between Pyongyang and Washington, we are also seeing signs that the White House at least is preparing for the possibility of a summit in Singapore next month. It's sending some top officials to Singapore this weekend. Among the people going is Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff for operations, and Mira Ricardel, deputy national security adviser., planning for the event. The possibility of a historic meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: Well, we will see what happens, I guess, as Trump says. Ivan Watson live for us. Thank you. ROMANS: All right. U.S. government employees in China on alert after

one official experienced a range of abnormal physical symptoms. The State Department says it appears the victim suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. It appears similar to incidents that occurred in Cuba recently. Top diplomats from both countries now involved.

CNN's Matt Rivers live in Beijing. And this is a real mystery. What happened to this official, this American, and, you know, what's the State Department saying about it?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What we know so far and within the last hour or so, China has said it's conducted its own investigation into what happened. At least preliminarily saying that they have no leads or causes here. But let's update our viewers on exactly what caused all this.

It was yesterday afternoon here in China that the U.S. embassy sent out a note saying that this employee was suffering from symptoms for months of abnormal sensations of sound and pressure. He or she went back to the United States and was diagnosed with that mild traumatic brain injury. And that brought up similarities, as you said, between -- with what happened in Cuba last year.

That secretary of State himself yesterday telling congressional panel that the medical symptoms and diagnoses are similar to what happened in Cuba. And the State Department still doesn't know what happened in Cuba. The Foreign minister of China happened to be in the United States yesterday a joint press avail with the secretary of State. The Foreign minister said that China would assist in this.

Both diplomats really seeming to walk a fine line there. The United States praising China's efforts in investigating this but also in not accusing China of doing anything, but really there's a huge mystery here. You've got a country like China, a country on the other side of the world in Cuba, diplomats from the United States in both countries showing similar symptoms and yet the State Department has no cause or conclusion into what's happening here. You can bet that this is a serious concern inside the State Department.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right. Matt Rivers for us. Keep us up to speed. Thank you. In Beijing.

BRIGGS: Bizarre tale.

All right. An NBA player who parked legally, tased by police. Now the Milwaukee police chief is apologizing after video shows it was the officers who escalated the situation.


[04:22:05] ROMANS: A shocking incident of road rage caught on camera in Philadelphia. Now police are looking for both the victim and the attacker. Watch as the red pickup truck follows a silver SUV into the parking lot. A man then gets out of the truck with a sledgehammer and begins smashing the SUV driver's side window. BRIGGS: The SUV tries to leave the parking lot, but the passenger

door opens and a man falls out. The driver of the pickup then strikes that man with a sledgehammer and breaks the rear window. The victim did not call the police. Wow.

Milwaukee's police chief apologizing to NBA player Sterling Brown after body cam footage showed a simple parking violation escalating and Brown eventually being tased by police officers. Police previously said the Milwaukee Bucks rookie became confrontational. But at a news conference Wednesday the police chief acknowledged the officers acted inappropriately and said they had been disciplined.

Here's what the video shows. You decide.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your hands out of your pockets now.

STERLING BROWN, NBA PLAYER: I got stuff in my hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down. Taser. Taser. Taser.


ROMANS: Looks like three, four, five -- I can't even count how many police officers were there. Milwaukee's mayor says the needless escalation of the situation is what disturbs him the most. Sterling Brown meantime planning to sue the Milwaukee PD, saying in a statement, "My experience with the Milwaukee Police Department was wrong and shouldn't happen to anybody."

BRIGGS: Fierce backlash for the NFL and its owners after a policy requiring players to stand during the national anthem. Several players started kneeling in recent years to protest police brutality. Two of the more notable players, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, remain unemployed. Their former 49ers employer Jed York, the only owner to abstain from the vote.

Here is the new edict from Commissioner Goodell. "All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect of the flag and the anthem." That language repeated four times. "A club will be fined by the league if its personnel on the field do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem." Almost Trump-like.

"The New York Daily News" accusing the league of dishonoring the flag and being un-American. The cover includes names of people being killed by police.

ROMANS: The NFL Players Associations says the move contradicts what the commissioner had told them about the principles and values and patriotism of the NFL. Jets co-owner Christopher Jonathan backing his players and their right to protest saying this, "If anybody on the Jets takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization. By me. Not the players."

The Trump administration pleased by the new NFL policy. Vice President Mike Pence tweeting, "Winning." Remember he left a Colts game last season after one player kneeled.

[04:25:05] BRIGGS: OK. To hockey, the Washington Capitals heading to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years after a 4-0 shutout in game seven against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They now travel to Las Vegas to face the expansion Golden Knights in a best of seven series beginning Monday night.

Caps making it to their second Stanley Cup final ever. The only other time they made it this far, they were swept by the Red Wings in 1998. Alex Ovechkin in his first cup final and our Lindsay Czarniak, a Caps fan, is thrilled. She'll joins us later.

ROMANS: All right. The president escalating his spying claims and his attacks on the intelligence community. Now that same intel community will share classified details on the Russia investigation with lawmakers. Here's the news. Lawmakers of both parties.