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EARLY START

ABC Pulls "Roseanne" After Racist Tweets; Gowdy Defies Trump Conspiracies; Pompeo to Meet Former North Korea Spy Chief; Ongoing Eruptions Spark Extensive Power Outages; Israel and Hamas Militants Exchange Fire. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 30, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:14] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The "Roseanne" reboot is no more, canceled after racist comments from comedienne Roseanne Barr. Overnight, a series of new apologies of sorts. She blames Ambien and says others have gotten away with worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: How about that? Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy after a classified briefing he says the FBI acted correctly in the Russia investigation, correctly, despite constant claims otherwise from the president.

ROMANS: And with the North Korea summit on the line, the secretary of state is set to meet with North Korea's former spy chief on the ground in New York.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START.

A lot going on in this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Safe to say. I'm Dave Briggs. It is Wednesday, May 30th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And Roseanne is still tweeting -- my big, beautiful hands can barely keep up with all of them. We'll get to that in a moment.

Today, President Trump participates in a White House sports and fitness day event on the South Lawn. We'll see if the first lady joins in. We've not seen her in public for 19 days since that surgery.

But we start with the stunning fall for one of Hollywood's most successful comedy comebacks. Roseanne Barr fired, her hit sitcom revival canceled by ABC after she went on a racist Twitter rant. Network executives woke up to this one -- Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes had a baby, VJ. VJ is Valerie Jarrett, an African- American adviser to President Obama. ROMANS: And another tweet which was retweeted by Donald Trump, Jr.,

Roseanne wrote that liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros is a Nazi who turned in his fellow Jews to be murdered in German concentration camps. That is a false, very false Soros conspiracy theory and that's been repeatedly debunked.

After blowback on the web, Roseanne apologized. She said she was going off Twitter but reemerged last night: Don't feel sorry for me, guys. I want to apologize to the hundreds of people and wonderful writers, all liberals, and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet.

BRIGGS: That was just the beginning. She followed with a series of retweets of people defending her. She also apologized again, including twice to Valerie Jarrett and said she was, quote, Ambien tweeting. Yes, that's a thing. And said she's tired of being attacked and belittled more than other comedians who have said worse.

Senior media correspondent Brian Stelter with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine. Hey, Dave.

Hollywood has never seen something quite like this. "Roseanne" the sitcom was the number-one new show of the season. It was expected to come back in the fall and bring a huge amount of advertising revenue. But now, all of the sudden, it's been canceled because of the off-air behavior of Roseanne Barr.

Of course, what Barr tweeted about 24 hours ago was racist, Islamophobic, and outrageous. It was the kind of thing no company was going to stand behind. It was pretty quickly decided on Tuesday morning that ABC was going to pull the plug, essentially to boot the reboot.

Now, there was a really interesting conversation behind closed doors between Barr and ABC. But around 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, ABC made it public, announced the cancelation, which came as a real shock throughout Hollywood and throughout the entertainment industry.

In some ways, ABC was putting morals over money. And now, there's a sense of pride inside the network about the decision. Barr had a long, controversial history on Twitter, including some racist comments in the past.

But ABC executives were hoping she could tone it down and focus on the revival of the show. It turns out that did not happen. The risk here did not meet the reward. ABC felt it had to pull the plus, and now, it's left with a big hole in its primetime schedule this fall.

But executives believe they've done the right thing. They've decided to be on the right side of history. As one Disney source said to me, enough was enough.

Christine, Dave, back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Brian, thank you.

Roseanne's co-workers on the show reacting quickly to ABC's decision to shut down production. Actors Emma Kenney who played Roseanne's granddaughter, tweeted that she was actually in the process of quitting when she learned the show had been canceled. Consulting producer Wanda Sykes tweeted she was done with the show about 90 minutes before ABC pulled the plug.

BRIGGS: Roseanne's longtime producing partner, Tom Werner, whose company owns the now-canceled sitcom, says he hopes Roseanne seeks the help she so clearly needs.

And this from Valerie Jarrett --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment. I'm fine -- I'm worried about all the people out there who don't have a circle of friends and followers who come right to their defense.

[04:05:01] The person who's walking down the street, minding their own business, and they see somebody cling to their purse or walk across the street -- those ordinary examples of racism that happen every single day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: President Trump publicly supported Roseanne's new show when it made its debut. Last night at a rally in Nashville, there was no mention of the tweets or the controversy.

ROMANS: All right. A stinging rebuke of President Trump and his conspiracy theories from House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy. The South Carolina Republican declaring he is, quote, more convinced than ever that the FBI acted appropriately in its handling of the Russia investigation. That's not stopping the president from stepping up his attacks on the special counsel, insisting with zero evidence that Robert Mueller embedded a spy in his campaign.

BRIGGS: Here's what Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, has to say about that less than a week after receiving a classified briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOWDY: I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: U.S. officials have told CNN a confidential intelligence source was not planted inside the Trump campaign. Still, one hour later, the president kept beating the conspiracy drum at his Nashville rally just last night. Yesterday, he went as far as saying the Mueller investigators will be meddling in the midterms.

ROMANS: "The New York Times" reporting President Trump pressured Attorney General Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself from the Russia investigation, and now, special counsel Mueller is investigating those discussions. "The Times" says Sessions flew to Florida to have dinner with the president in March of 2017 and was berated about his decision to recuse. But he refused to reverse it.

The special counsel appears to be focusing on obstruction of justice in his inquiry. And Sessions could be a critical witness if the president did pressure the attorney general to shield him from the investigation.

BRIGGS: Well, it's the meeting that could make or break, the Trump- Kim summit in Singapore. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sitting down today or tomorrow in New York with Kim Yong Chol, one of North Korea's highest ranking officials and former spy chief.

Let's bring in CNN's Nic Robertson live from Seoul.

Good morning to you, Nic. This is an interesting meeting with a central figure to the Kim regime.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: A figure who is very experienced and very well-versed in negotiations. He has for several decades been involved with negotiations with the South Korean government on various issues. He is a formidable figure in terms of his length of connections to the Kim family.

So, this is a man who can come into the office with -- with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and carry the weight of Kim Jong-un on his shoulders, if you will. What we understand today, however, perhaps setting the scene slightly for that meeting is the meeting at the DMZ here between the U.S. delegation headed by the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, now the ambassador to the Philippines, meeting with North Korean counterparts today.

According to a senior South Korean official, minister of unification, he says that the talks today which lasted about five hours have gone well -- the difficulty had been until now bridging the gaps between what both sides meant on the issue of denuclearization, of course -- the North Korean leader saying that he wants denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the United States looking for something much more expansive and long-lasting, complete verifiable and long-lasting denuclearization.

So, that will very likely be -- would be the substance of what Secretary Pompeo will want to understand from Kim Yong Chol.

BRIGGS: All right. Nic Robertson live for us, about 5:00 p.m. there in Seoul -- thanks, Nic.

ROMANS: All right. A real stunner on the trade front. The U.S.- China trade battle no longer on hold, threatening the next round of trade talks in a move that seemly baffled trade watchers. The White House announced plans to slap 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods and limit Chinese investment in high-tech industries. This is a big reversal.

Remember, recently, just nine days ago, 10 days ago, top U.S. officials were talking down a possible trade war with China. The White House defending this move, promising it will protect U.S. intellectual property from China's discriminatory and burdensome trade practices. The news caught Beijing off-guard.

The U.S. and China announced a trade cease-fire less than two weeks ago. China calls this action a violation of that agreement and says it is ready to fight back.

In fact, the "Wall Street Journal" says these tariffs threatened to derail trade talks scheduled for this weekend.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross heads to Beijing on Saturday. But now, that trip could be in jeopardy. The White House will release a full list of tariffs by June 15th. They will go into effect shortly thereafter.

You know, I was just in the Midwest this weekend where, I'm going to tell you, soybean farmers are concerned.

[04:10:00] BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: They would like to have some clarity and some resolution to all of this. China buys South American soybeans in the spring, North American soybeans in the fall. These guys, men and women are out there, they're getting ready to plant their field, plant their soybean fields not knowing what the situation's going to be with China this fall.

BRIGGS: Also interesting, can you de-couple that from what's going on with North Korea, and how it will impact the negotiations with Kim Jong-un.

All right. The breaking news overnight, more torrential rain in the Carolinas. A flash flood emergency in one county as landslides threaten a dam. The latest for you next on EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, mandatory evacuations in McDowell County, North Carolina. Officials declaring a flash flood emergency, concerned about imminent failure of the Tahoma Dam. Evacuations remain in place until the dam can be inspected in daylight hours.

Waters are rising in local communities. There's already been a series of landslides and mudslides. Emergency officials say there have already been several swift-water rescues, but no injuries or fatalities thus far.

[04:15:04] Still, the National Weather Service in Greenville warning the situation is dangerous. All residents living below Lake Tahoma ordered to evacuate the area immediately. The shelters are open at the YMCA of Marion and Glenwood and Old Fort Baptist churches.

ROMANS: Authorities found the body of Sergeant Eddison Hermond. His body was swept away by floodwaters in Ellicott City, Maryland, on Sunday. Sergeant Hermond was found in the Patapsco River just east of the heavily damaged community.

He left a birthday party at a restaurant to help a woman trying to rescue her cat. He was swept up by the rushing water. Maryland's governor ordering flags to fly at half staff in his honor. Residents and business owners are now being allowed back in to Ellicott City to collect personal belongings.

BRIGGS: Embattled Missouri Governor Eric Greitens announcing he will resign Friday over the scandals that rocked his time in office. The Republican faces accusations of sexual misconduct, including blackmail and felony charges connected to alleged political misuse of a charity donor list. During a speech to reporters, Greitens did not admit legal wrongdoing, but he said the scrutiny has become too intense for him to continue as governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ERIC GREITENS (R), MISSOURI: This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family. Millions of dollars of mounting legal bills, endless personal attacks designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The St. Louis prosecutor says a resolution of the pending charges against the governor has been reached. More information expected later today.

ROMANS: The planned release of a video game called "Active Shooter" has been canceled. Valve Incorporated decided ton put it on its online platform Stream following a public outcry. That game allows players to act as a school shooter. And that's drawn harsh condemnation from families of shooting victims.

For its part, Valve blames the developer's actions rather than content for its decision. In a statement, Valve called it a troll who abused customers. It said it previously removed him, but he snuck back under a new business name.

BRIGGS: Officials in Hawaii say first responders will no longer go door to door in dangerous areas to help residents refusing to evacuate, during the Kilauea eruption. Meantime, operations at the Puna geothermal venture power plant have ceased as lava inches closer. Ongoing eruptions have damaged more than 400 power poles and prompted extensive power outages.

At this point, lava is still entering the Pacific, creating hazardous conditions.

CNN's Scott McLean with more off the coast of Pahoa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, Christine, from this vantage point, you can just see how much lava Kilauea has pumped out toward the coastline. All of this black rock that you see along the coastline, this is all brand new. Just within the last couple of weeks since Kilauea started erupting once again. And you see from this glow here of the lava, this is actually the area where it's entering the ocean.

Now, geologists say that it's slowed down over the past couple of days. But just seeing what is going into the ocean is absolutely spectacular to see. Now, this white plume here, that's something called lava haze or laze, and it is actually potentially a deadly mixture of hydrochloric acid, tiny bits of glass particles, and of course, the steam that you get as the lava actually hits the ocean.

As you can imagine, there are restrictions here on how close boats can actually get to this because of the dangers associated with this laze. Also notice which direction that it's going in. That is not normal. Usually, it goes along the coast, down toward the southwest with the trade winds.

Right now, it's going back on to land. This is a potential problem for air quality in those population centers where people actually live. It means the fissures that are giving off the sulfur dioxide, they're also pushing into back onto land again into some of these towns and villages where people live.

The real story, though, is beyond where we can see from here in the Leilani Estates neighborhood and areas around there where new fissures or old fissures have reactivated sending new lava down parts of streets that have not seen it so far. There have been more than 80 structures destroyed already, about half of those are homes. And the people here simply do not know when Kilauea will finally stop erupting -- Dave, Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Scott McLean for us with amazing, amazing pictures.

BRIGGS: Awfully close to that situation. Stay safe, Scott.

ROMANS: All right. Another flare-up between Israel and militants in Gaza. Rockets still being launched into Israel overnight, the most since the 2014 war. We're going to live near the border, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Israeli sirens continued to sound overnight as Gaza militants launched the largest barrage of mortar and rocket fire into Israel since 2014. Israel says the Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted several of the launches. No injuries were reported.

Earlier, Israel said it struck 25 Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip. The U.N. Security Council holding an emergency meeting today.

CNN's Phil Black live in Israel near the Gaza Border with more -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, this region hasn't seen an exchange like this, as you say, for years, not since the 2014, the last war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. It started early yesterday morning and through the day and night. There was rocket fire and mortar rounds sent from Gaza into Israeli territory.

[04:25:05] Now, its air defense system knocked a lot of it out of the sky, but some of it did get through. Israel has responded with air strikes. Some 60 over the course of yesterday and last night, as well, hitting what it describes as military and terrorist facilities in Gaza.

Now, both sides here blame the other for starting this. Israel is specifically holding Hamas accountable because it is the group that is responsible for controlling the Gaza Strip, and it's talking about another militant organization, as well, Islamic Jihad, which Israel says is heavily influenced by Iran, and on this occasion was firing Iranian weapons, it says, into Israel.

Here on the Gaza Strip, near the Gaza Strip, this part of Israel this morning, it is quiet. And there is talk of a cease-fire, although it is one-sided talk. Palestinians, members of Hamas, and Islamic Jihad said through an intermediary, likely Egypt, they agreed to a cease- fire. Israel for the moment is not confirming that, it's simply saying we didn't want this, we don't want to escalate this, stop hitting us, and we won't have to retaliate.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Phil for us, thank you very much for that. Keep us up to speed here.

BRIGGS: All right. Straight ahead, the "Roseanne" reboot canned after racist tweets from the namesake comedian. Now in an overnight tweet, she's telling people not to defend her while she retweets people defending her.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)