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EARLY START

Russia's Foreign Minister Meets With Kim Jong Un In North Korea; Did Rosenstein Provide Cover For President Trump?; Trump Complains About Roseanne Double-Standard; Assassinated Russian Reporter Turns Up Alive. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 31, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:31:38] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, Russia's foreign minister meets with Kim Jong Un in North Korea. Could Russia throw a wrench in the U.S. approach to Pyongyang?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A secret memo now in the hands of the special counsel. Andrew McCabe says the president wanted to fire James Comey over the Russia investigation. So why did Rod Rosenstein say otherwise?

BRIGGS: And a remarkable story out of Ukraine. A Russian reporter thought to be assassinated -- turns out he's live. He showed up for a press conference to reveal a plot to kill him and how it was foiled.

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

ROMANS: Wow, that's something.

BRIGGS: What a story.

ROMANS: He literally played dead to try to foil a plot to assassinate him.

I'm Christine Romans. It's 32 minutes past the hour.

Breaking overnight, though, Russia's foreign minister meets with Kim Jong Un in North Korea. Sergey Lavrov, on a visit to Pyongyang, says sanctions must be lifted is there is to be a solution to the North Korea nuclear problem. That would, once again, pit Russia's stance against the U.S.

BRIGGS: This morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set to meet again in New York City with Kim Yong Chol, the former North Korean spy chief.

For the latest, let's bring in international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, live for us in Seoul tonight.

Nic, how might Russia throw a wrench in all of the United States' plans?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Because its position is contrary to President Trump's position, particularly on the issue of sanctions -- which President Trump should remain strong, should remain in place until North Korea denuclearizes on the terms that the United States has said which is verifiable, which is irreversible. And certainly, there's no indication that North Korea has signed up to this yet.

I mean, what's quite surprising about the fact that Lavrov was in a meeting today with Kim Jong Un in North Korea is that he came out of that meeting and said well, it's not our right to interfere in this summit that's coming up between the United States -- between President Trump and Kim.

But then he went ahead to do that, indicating that there might be outcomes of this summit that would then need to go to the U.N. Security Council. That again, is striking. Russia doesn't normally propose to take things to the U.N. Security Council. It normally tends to try to avoid the U.N.

So that's different and, in effect, tries to sort of internationalize what is a country-on-country summit, so Russia's trying to get itself involved in the process.

Lavrov also warned President Trump against this sort of high-speed diplomacy of trying to get this summit up and running fast and get a conclusion fast by saying it should be taken more slowly. That these are delicate diplomatic issues to get in alignment.

So, Russia absolutely trying to insert its influence in North Korea at this delicate time.

BRIGGS: Fascinating as this story continues to evolve.

Nic Robertson live for us in Seoul -- thanks.

ROMANS: Did the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein provide cover for President Trump over the decision to fire FBI director James Comey? "The New York Times" reports Comey's former deputy, Andrew McCabe, thought that might be the case after talking to Rosenstein.

CNN has confirmed a memo McCabe wrote about that discussion is now in the hands of the special counsel Robert Mueller.

BRIGGS: That memo says Rosenstein told McCabe the president wanted Russia mentioned in his recommendation to fire Comey. Doing so could have been problematic for the president. But, Rosenstein ended up citing Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton E-mail investigation.

[05:35:12] The Justice Department declined comment.

ROMANS: President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani reinforcing the White House time line for getting the Russia investigation wrapped up by September. Otherwise, Giuliani says Mueller would be quote "doing a Comey."

Giuliani also echoing the president's line of attack with a threat to Mueller's team. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We'll challenge Mueller to write whatever you've got, take your best punch with all your 13 Democrats there. You couldn't find a Republican? So you've got a group there that's a lynching mob, so let them do their job and boy, we're ready to knock the heck out of you with our report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Giuliani also defending the president following reports he tried to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself on Russia. Giuliani says even if that's true that would still not be obstruction.

BRIGGS: President Trump launched a new attack on Sessions yesterday with a volley of tweets saying he wishes he had picked a different attorney general -- hashtag andiwishidid.

But, Giuliani says he does not think the president will fire Sessions before the Mueller investigation ends.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: I don't think the president is going to touch him, Mueller or Rosenstein. I think in the long run it will be worked out. They're two good friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has he ever said man, I'd like to get rid of him -- Jeff Sessions?

GIULIANI: I decline to answer that (laughing).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: He declined to answer if he'd like to get rid of him.

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey says the attacks on Sessions serve no purpose.

ROMANS: President Trump weighing in on the fallout surrounding Roseanne Barr's racist tweet, demanding an apology from ABC. Instead, the president is condemning her remark -- her racist remark.

The president tweeted this.

"Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that ABC does not tolerate comments like those made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the horrible statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn't get his (sic) call?"

Here's White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Where was Bob Iger's apology to the White House staff for Jemele Hill calling the president and anyone associated with him a white supremacist? To Christians around the world for Joy Behar calling Christianity a mental illness.

Where was the apology for Kathy Griffin going on a profane rant against the president on "THE VIEW" after a photo showed her holding President Trump's decapitated head?

This is a double-standard that the president is speaking about. No one is defending her comments. They are inappropriate, but that's the point that he was making.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Joining us this morning from Washington, "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan. Good morning.

TAL KOPAN, REPORTER, "CNN POLITICS": Good morning.

ROMANS: And I guess it's no surprise that the president turned this into something about himself, demanding an apology from Bob Iger, who is the CEO of Disney.

Interestingly -- I mean, Bob Iger -- a year ago people were saying we need Bob Iger to run for president in 2020. I asked him directly that and he said he has the best job in the world, actually --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- running Disney.

But to make it about himself, I guess we shouldn't be surprised about that, Tal.

KOPAN: No. I don't know why anyone who has ever followed the president's tweets would be surprised by that. You know, certainly, there was a lot of appetite for the president to weigh in on this.

Roseanne Barr is an outspoken supporter of his and the whole sort of premise of the reboot was that it would sort of give voice to people like those who might be his supporters. So it did sort of call into question a little bit, the president.

He didn't have to weigh in but he chose to, and he chose to instead of condemning the racist remarks and many other offensive comments that were made in that Twitter tirade by Roseanne. Instead of addressing any of those, of course, it was demand an apology.

And it almost felt to me like setting up the tee ball for Sarah Sanders -- who, of course, was going to get asked about this in the briefing -- to then come out with her list of grievances that we just saw her read. Ready to go, once again complaining about media coverage of President Trump and that type of thing.

BRIGGS: The airing of grievances, once again, yes. To speak the president's language this was a tap-in par putt. Come

out, condemn racism, move on. But that's not what we do these days.

So we won't be seeing Roseanne but we will be seeing a lot of immigration ads in the days, weeks, and months ahead because it is the central issue according to the "USA Today" analysis of what Republicans in the House are running on.

Pro-Trump is the number one issue, but just behind it is immigration and they have run more than 14,000 ads to this point -- House Republicans running for the midterms.

Where do we go moving forward on the issue and why is it so central to what Republicans are running on?

KOPAN: Well, I think the answer to both of your questions lies in how divided the Republican Party is --

BRIGGS: Yes.

KOPAN: -- on this issue. I mean, there isn't a breakdown within this analysis of what exactly those ads are but you can certainly imagine that there are some conservatives who are running very aggressive hardline ads using immigration as a scapegoat for various problems in the U.S. really taking a hard position on things like sanctuary cities and that type of stuff that we sort of identify with ads -- you know, Trump's base and the core Republican base as red meat for them.

[05:40:23] But I'm sure that there are also moderate Republicans who are trying to highlight their efforts to do the opposite -- to take a more moderate tact on immigration, especially those moderate Republicans running in very competitive districts like those in California or in the southwest this year who are actually trying to buck their own party.

And Congress, they come back next week and we may have this procedural maneuver that would force immigration votes on the floor and take it out of the hands of Republican leadership. And largely, it's expected to pass with mostly Democratic votes. That's being led by Republicans.

And so that sort of divide over the issue within the Republican Party -- very different perspectives -- is part of the reason that any sort of resolution remains an unlikely scenario at best, at this point, but continues to be such a potent election issue.

ROMANS: Meanwhile --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- it's such a critical situation. We've got these new numbers from HHS on the number of children in government --

BRIGGS: Sure.

ROMANS: -- custody. But, you know, almost 11,000 children in government shelters. And look at that, Tal -- the increase of 22 percent since April 29th. You've got 95 percent capacity at these shelters.

This is a -- you know, this is a critical situation.

KOPAN: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, these children come into the system in different ways.

Some come to the U.S. by themselves, some come with an adult but are separated from that adult either because the government does not believe that adult is a family member or they are concerned about the well-being of the child.

And then others are separated from their parents because the parents are taken to be prosecuted. That's the new change that was implemented last month that 100 percent of adults crossing the border illegally will be referred for prosecution. And if they have kids with them that means the kids are put into the system.

So the dramatic increase can speak to a lot of trends --

ROMANS: Sure.

KOPAN: -- but certainly is concerning.

BRIGGS: Yes. Not a new problem with the zero tolerance. That is a new policy for this administration and an issue that's not going away.

Tal Kopan, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

KOPAN: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. It's the stuff great movies are made of. This one, it was real.

A reporter faked his own death to avoid assassination and you won't believe who he didn't let in on this whole plan. More from Moscow, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:47:18] BRIGGS: Back from the dead. In a cloak and dagger story filled with intrigue, a Russian journalist and Kremlin critic reported to have been shot dead in Ukraine showed up alive at a news conference. He declared Ukrainian security services faked his murder to foil an assassination plot.

Ukraine officials say they have two people in custody -- one suspected of orchestrating the hit; another, the potential assassin.

Senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen following all the twists and turns from Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dave and Christine, this was an absolutely bizarre story that unfolded.

After initially blasting the Russians for allegedly killing Arkady Babchenko, including the prime minister of Ukraine coming out and essentially saying on his Facebook page that he holds the Russian government accountable, the Russians, of course, fired back at that and said it wasn't them.

It turned out all of it was staged. At some point during the day, there was a press conference in Kiev where Arkady Babchenko, the man who had allegedly been killed, showed up and he was very much alive.

He then confirmed that this was all part of an operation by the Ukrainian Intelligence Service. They had apparently gotten wind of what they say was a Russian-controlled plot to try and kill Babchenko. And they say that the only way they could have prevented that plot and try to find the people who were behind it was to stage this man's death.

ARKADY BABCHENKO, RUSSIAN JOURNALIST: Firstly, I would like to apologize for what you've all had to go through because I've buried friends and colleagues many times and I know it's a sickening, vomiting feeling when you have to bury your colleagues. You're sorry that they forced you to experience all of this.

PLEITGEN: Interestingly, apparently, even Babchenko's wife did not know about the fact that he was part of this operation. He came forward and apologized to her for what he called the hell that she'd been going through in the time that she thought that he was dead.

The Ukrainians are calling this a brilliant operation. They're obviously very, very happy.

The Russians, of course for their part, absolutely fuming. The ripped into the Ukrainians. They called all of the Russophobic attacks -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Fred Pleitgen for us. Thank you, Fred.

What a story.

BRIGGS: A remarkable story.

ROMANS: What a story.

BRIGGS: "NEW DAY" is about 10 minutes away. We're going to role-play here for a minute -- Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

So, Alisyn, if John Berman apologizes to you and says sorry, I faked my death, how does that go over? What's your reaction?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm relieved. I'm just relieved to know that he's still here and not -- and he actually didn't die. I'm very happy about that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You had her at role-play. I mean, after role-play she didn't hear much of that.

BRIGGS: You weren't sure where I was going with that, were you?

CAMEROTA: No, but I liked it.

BERMAN: It's been three days and we're not quite at the role-playing yet.

BRIGGS: Yes.

BERMAN: We need to be spiked up after three days.

[05:50:02] BRIGGS: You're still in the honeymoon phase, indeed.

CAMEROTA: That's awesome.

But you did catch us right now in the middle of one of our morning meetings. We're still figuring out exactly what we're doing on "NEW DAY."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's your crumb cake. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much. You can see Phil delivers my breakfast to me every morning. And you can see Havi (ph) -- John Avlon. They've brought this delicious crumb cake from John Berman's wife who made it for the staff.

ROMANS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So this is our breakfast.

And you see Izzy, and you see Bruce, and we're all just in the middle of our confab. This is what we do every morning. So just peeling back the curtain on our little "NEW DAY" breakfast here.

BRIGGS: And taunting and teasing --

ROMANS: Less bragging.

BRIGGS: -- the EARLY START anchors who didn't bring crumb cake for John Berman.

BERMAN: No. My wife knows that it's not my personality that's going to get me by here so she sent in the food basically as a bribe --

ROMANS: Well done, Kerry.

BERMAN: -- to my new work colleagues.

ROMANS: Well done, Kerry.

All right. Well, that's the breaking news. We've got no food, they've got plenty of food.

BRIGGS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: We're going to save you guys two pieces.

BRIGGS: Story of our life -- yes.

ROMANS: All right.

CAMEROTA: Documenting it.

BRIGGS: Sure.

BERMAN: And it will be news on "NEW DAY." Three hours full of breaking news.

ROMANS: Serving up --

CAMEROTA: That's what we hear.

BERMAN: A big tease.

ROMANS: Serving up crumb cake and news. All right, guys. Nice to see you -- thank you.

BERMAN: All right.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

This year marks a decade since the financial crisis but now regulators are easing a rule that prevents the risking trading that helped trigger it. The Federal Reserve plans to water down the Volcker rule, a landmark piece of Dodd-Frank. It keeps banks from making risky, complex bets with their own money, including what customers deposit.

Now, these are very profitable but they leave banks open to big losses. And guess what? That's what caused the crisis, right?

For years, banks have complained that this rule is just too complex. This change simplifies it, easing oversight for most banks. They will no longer have to prove why they're making a trade. Instead, that burden shifts to regulations.

The Fed chief, Jerome Powell, says this will undo the uncertainty and complexity, making it difficult for banks to comply.

But critics call it a giveaway to big banks. They are already making record profits. How difficult is it to make highly profitable moves when you're already highly profitable?

This is the latest move by the Trump administration to ease financial regulations. Last week, Congress voted to roll back parts of Dodd- Frank.

Let's talk about the best quarter in history for banks. Profits soared to a record $56 billion during the first three months, up 28 percent from last year.

Global stocks rebounding today, shrugging off fears of a political turmoil in Italy. That concern is that radical parties could gain ground, fueling fears Italy could leave the E.U. robbing the Eurozone of its third-biggest economy.

U.S. stocks also closed higher. The Dow and the S&P 500 both up about 1.3 percent.

Microsoft shares rose. It's now the third-most-valuable company in the world just edging out Google for the top spot.

All right. The nation's largest private employer is Walmart and Walmart has a new perk for workers, college tuition. Employees will pay just a buck a day to earn a degree. Walmart will cover the remaining cost for tuition fees, books.

It's Walmart's latest attempt to keep talent in a tight labor market. You know, earlier this year it raised its starting wage to 11 bucks an hour.

Dick's Sporting Goods introduced that stricter gun policy, remember, in the wake of the Parkland shooting? It is not hurting its bottom line.

In February, Dick's stopped selling modern sporting rifles like the AR-15 style long guns and it raised the age of purchase to 21. Gun rights advocates predicted Dick's would lose business -- this would be bad for business.

Now, the CEO says hunting sales fell but new shoppers came in. The stock, 26 percent higher yesterday.

BRIGGS: That is a shocking turnaround.

ROMANS: Yes, a good first quarter for Dick's.

BRIGGS: OK.

Ahead, the Stanley Cup Final all even, and just barely. Wait until you see the save that kept the Capitals on top.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:58:18] ROMANS: All right.

The American Cancer Society has updated screening guidelines for colon and rectal screenings. It is now recommending starting at age 45 instead of 50, a big difference here. It reflects a rise in colorectal cancer among younger adults.

The World Health Organization says it is the third most common cause of cancer deaths.

BRIGGS: The Stanley Cup Final all tied at a game apiece. The Washington Capitals win game two on the road in Vegas. They took a 3- 1 lead over the Golden Knights.

In the second period, the Knights got within 3-2 but a stunning save by netminder Braden Holtby helped preserve the lead. It was a beauty with the paddle. The Caps win 3-2. Game three Saturday night in Washington. One of the all-time greats in that Stanley Cup Final.

ROMANS: Alrighty, it is that time. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

"NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: He shouldn't testify. The whole thing should be squashed.

ROMANS: A newly-disclosed memo offering insight into President Trump's firing of James Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is does this all add up to obstruction of justice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's essentially attacking him for something that he was obligated to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has a right to hire and fire the attorney general.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants somebody who is going to be a loyalist to him, not somebody who is going to be a loyalist to our constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't take a clearly racist tweet and condemn it. You're at least saying I don't care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he really is in a spot right now to talk about this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is the president of all people and damn it, I wish he would start acting like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, May 31st, 6:00 here in New York.