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EARLY START

North Korea's Harsh Rhetoric Returns; U.S. Government Employee Falls Ill in China; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 24, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:30:13] 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president suddenly a fan of transparency. Lawmakers from both parties getting to see classified Russia intel after initially inviting only Republicans that caused an uproar.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: More signs of strife between the U.S. and North Korea. A top official in Pyongyang calls the vice president a political dummy, as doubts swirl about the planned summit in Singapore.

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

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. 31 minutes past the hour.

Do you think that this decision by the players -- by the team owners is going to put this to rest?

BRIGGS: I think it turned a small fire into an even larger fire. I think it antagonized the players. It don't think it will do anything to quiet the situation.

ROMANS: But the president will most certainly like it.

BRIGGS: The president will like it. He will spike the football.

ROMANS: All right. 31 minutes past the hour. Back-to-back briefings this morning on a jam-packed schedule today for the nation's top intel officials and in a big shift Democrats are now participating. This morning intel officials sit down with House Republicans Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy. They will 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.

BRIGGS: The second briefing will actually be a Gang of Seven. House Speaker Paul Ryan has a scheduling conflict and will be updated separately. His spokesperson says 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.

ROMANS: It's a drum beat the president kept sounding on Wednesday. First in a series of tweets then for the cameras.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: In case you're wondering where the president keeps getting the ideas that turned conspiracy theories into his own personal reality, this may help clear it up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

HANNITY: FBI spies.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A couple of things there. The echo chamber. Right? Spies, spies, spies.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: And the number of times you hear "if there was a spy." If. The president has really hung a lot of this on the word "if" as well.

BRIGGS: And all he needs is that kernel of truth.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: One hint of impropriety. And he thinks he's got it.

ROMANS: Well, today the intel community will be revealing more of this.

BRIGGS: We'll find out.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: 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 very concerned about the nation's direction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLAPPER: This was to determine what the Russians were doing to penetrate the 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. I'm so bothered by this that I felt a duty to speak up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:35:04] ROMANS: The president's claims about the existence of a deep state contradicted by his own secretary of State. Here is Mike Pompeo testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Jared Kushner's lawyer telling CNN special counsel investigators questioned his client for a second time in a seven-hour sit-down last month. 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 Kushner team believes he is now finished with all ongoing inquiries. Meantime, Kushner has cleared a very different hurdle, getting a permanent security clearance. He'd lost this interim clearance in February. His initial application failed to list dozens of foreign contacts that he later included in updated submissions to the FBI.

ROMANS: Tax reform will raise some people's health insurance class. Obamacare rates are going up next year jumping in average 15 percent. Fresh numbers from the Congressional Budget Office and 10 percent of that rise is due to tax reform. The new tax bill weakened Obamacare by ending the individual mandate to buy insurance. Republicans called it a tax burden.

It required Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. But repealing it essentially removed this stick prodding younger and healthier people to sign up for health care on the exchanges. And with only older and sicker Americans there, prices will rise. That will leave millions more uninsured. Some by volunteering to be uninsured. Four million fewer by 2019, 13 million fewer by 2027.

BRIGGS: 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 for the First Amendment advocates who brought a lawsuit last year. A Justice Department spokeswoman says, quote, "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps."

ROMANS: Tweeting is just one of the issues Senator Jeff Flake has with President Trump. The outgoing Arizona Republican leveling some of his harshest criticism at the president in a commencement speech to Harvard Law students.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Our presidency has been debased by a figure who seemingly has a bottomless appetite for destruction and division, and only a passing familiarity with how the Constitution works and our Article I branch of government, the Congress, that's me, is utterly supline in the face of a moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: "Moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily." Flake went on to say the good news and the bad news are the same. Our leadership is not good but it probably can't get much worse. Whoa.

BRIGGS: Yes. That's something.

OK. A top North Korean official calls the vice president a political dummy and says the U.S. risks a nuclear-to-nuclear showdown. Will the sides still meet despite all this rhetoric? We are live in Seoul with the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:43:23] ROMANS: North Korea's harsh rhetoric returning with a flourish. Pyongyang lashing out at Vice President Mike Pence calling him a political dummy and warning about a nuclear showdown if next month's scheduled summit in Singapore fails.

CNN's Ivan Watson live in Seoul, South Korea with the latest.

And some of this language, I don't know, you always have to take with a grain of salt because we were at the dotard and fire and fury just a few months ago, and then everything was very peaceful and calm. And there was respect on both sides. And now the language is creeping back in. How much of this is theatrics?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hard to tell. But it's two sided. It's a public spat between senior U.S. and North Korean officials less than three weeks out from what could be a summit between leaders from the two countries. You have Trump -- Vice President Pence at the beginning of this week saying that if North Korea doesn't accept a deal with President Trump that they'll probably end up like Libya which was a very thinly veiled threat.

And now you have the senior diplomat in North Korea responding, calling Pence's comments nonsense and saying that, quote, "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." Basically making the argument that North Korea spent money and was internationally isolated to create a nuclear deterrent against these types of threats.

Amid this rhetoric, we are hearing, however, that senior White House officials are scheduled to fly to Singapore, the possible meeting place for President Trump and Kim Jong-un on June 12th, to do some preliminary work there.

[04:45:08] And they include Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff for operations, and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel. So even though nobody seems to know whether or not the summit will happen, the White House does seem to be getting ready just in case. And we also have heard from a senior U.S. official saying they want another round of talks between the White House and North Korea.

Meanwhile, I'll just conclude, journalists including our own Will Ripley are headed to the nuclear testing site in North Korea to see some kind of ceremony signaling its dismantling -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: Yes. All right. Thank you so much for that from Seoul. Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, an NBA player who parked illegally was tased by police. Now the Milwaukee police chief apologizing after body cam video shows it was the officers who may have escalated the situation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:51:53] BRIGGS: U.S. government employees in China on alert after the State Department says it appears one employee suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. This appears similar to incidents that occurred in Cuba recently. Top diplomats from both countries now getting involved.

CNN's Matt Rivers live in Beijing tonight with the very latest.

Matt, what is going on here?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, in just the last two hours, the Chinese said that they have conducted a preliminary investigation into this incident at the request of the Americans. And they have no leads or causes.

Just to remind our viewers here what's going on, there was an employee, a U.S. government employee in southern China that reported abnormal sensations of sound and pressure over the period of a couple of months from late 2017 thru April 2018 was Diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that's very similar, nearly identical, in fact, to two dozen different diplomats and their family members in Cuba last year who experienced the same thing.

The State Department doesn't really know what happened in Cuba. No definitive conclusion yet. And here in China, a country thousands of miles away, yes, it's only one government employee but that person experiencing very similar symptoms so there's a lot of concern in the State Department what is going on here and so far they don't have an idea quite yet.

BRIGGS: What a bizarre tale. Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. In Hawaii, a lava flow from Kilauea volcano no longer posing an immediate threat to a local geothermal power plant. The hardened lava creating a natural wall that blocked the flow from reaching the facility. Take a look at this video from the Leilani Estates subdivision about burning blue flames you see. It's coming out of cracks on the streets, methane gas. Hawaiians are not three weeks into this natural disaster with no end in sight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACY WELCH, PAHOA RESIDENT: Uncertain but --

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're safe?

WELCH: We're not safe. We're not out of danger. This is not over. It's continuing. We just don't know when it's going to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Overnight the state's tourism authority declared Hawaii open for business. They are encouraging travelers to visit, insisting the dangers are very localized and wider impacts on the islands are minimal.

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 a parking lot. A man then gets out of the truck with a sledgehammer and begins smashing the SUV driver's side window.

BRIGGS: Good lord. The SUV tries to leave the parking lot but the passenger door opens and a man falls out. The driver of the pickup truck 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 a body cam footage showed a simple parking violation escalating and Brown eventually being tased by officers. Police previously said the Milwaukee Bucks rookie became confrontational. But at a news conference Wednesday the police chief acknowledged officers acted inappropriately and said they had been disciplined for the incident.

Here's some of the video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:55:03] 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: I recommend you watch all of this video. For the record, six police officers were there for a parking violation. Milwaukee's mayor says the needless escalation of the situation is what disturbs him the most.

ROMANS: Sterling Brown meantime planning to sue the Milwaukee Police Department, 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 after owners approved a new policy requiring players to stand during the national anthem or stay in the locker room. Several players started kneeling in recent years to protest police brutality. Two of the more notable players, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, remained unemployed. Their former 49ers employer Jed York, the only owner to abstain from this vote.

Here is the new edict from Commissioner Roger Goodell. "All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. A club will be fined by the league if its personnel are on the field do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem."

You got that? That language is used four times in this one ruling. "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, "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.

BRIGGS: But at least he used a CNN screen shot there. We know where the vice president gets his news.

The Washington Capitals are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years after a 4-0 game seven shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They now travel to Las Vegas, baby, to face the expansion Golden Knights in a best of seven series beginning Monday night.

The Caps making it to their second Stanley Cup final ever. The only other time in 1998 when they made it this far, they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

The Boston Celtics now one win away from reaching the NBA Finals. They beat LeBron James and the Cavs 96-83 in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston undefeated on their home court during the post-season. A perfect 10-0. The Celtics could close out the Cavs with a winning game six in Cleveland Friday night.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning. Asian stocks falling overnight as the U.S. threatens car tariffs. A big selloff for Asian automakers like Toyota, Honda, Hyundai. The biggest loser Mazda down more than 5 percent. The Commerce Department will investigate if foreign cars hurt national security. A similar probe led to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs earlier this year.

Wall Street closed higher thanks to the Federal Reserve that hinted that it plans to keep raising interest rates gradually even as inflation rises.

Comcast is going public with its plan to crash Disney's bid for FOX. In December FOX agreed to sell Disney its entertainment company for $52 billion but it's been long rumored Comcast would try to break up that deal. Now Comcast has been preparing a higher all cash offer. But Comcast has not decided yet. It's waiting on the state of another big media deal. That one AT&T and Time Warner, the parent of CNN, the government is suing to block that merger. Sources say that if the deal survives, Comcast will go after FOX.

Elon Musk is blasting the media's coverage of Tesla saying he wants to rate the credibility of individual members of the press. On Twitter, the Tesla CEO is blaming critical coverage of Tesla on big oil companies paying for ads on news sites. That's right. He plans to create a site to rate journalists and news outlets calling the service Pravda, Russian for troops. The timing is no coincidence Tesla is facing lots of bad press for missing Model 3 production goals. Losing top executives, clashing with the government over and autopilot crash investigation.

There are not advertisements about those things. Those just happened to be the things that are happening in the company. He doesn't like that.

BRIGGS: Well, he's angry about this Consumer Reports review of the Model 3 that said there are big flaws.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: In this car. Difficulties to use touch screen, the braking system had problems. So --

ROMANS: And they rated the Model S as one of the best cars -- the best car they ever tested. Right? So he got rave reviews for the Model S. but he didn't like the Model 3.

BRIGGS: Fighting back.

All right. EARLY START continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We want transparency. Even the Democrats, I really believe, on this issue, it supersedes. I think they want transparency, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The president suddenly a fan of transparency. Lawmakers from both parties will now see classified Russia intel today.