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WH: Trump Considering Each Case On Its Merits; Fmr. N. Korean Spy Chief To Meet President Trump; Samantha Bee Apologizes For Ugly Ivanka Joke; Russian Journalist Describes Faking His Own Death. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 1, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:15] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The President's controversial pardon of conservative fire brand. Why this is funded? And it could be a signal for aides caught up in the Russia investigation?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Fierce pull back from allies and the President's own party over new tariffs from the Trump administration. Perhaps as many as 2.5 million American jobs could be on the line.


SAMANTHA BEE "FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE": Do something about your dad's immigration practices you feckless --


ROMANS: Samantha Bee apologizing for that vulgar crack about Ivanka Trump. But she gets to keep her job. So is there a double standard for liberal comedian?

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Happy Friday everybody. June 1st and it is 4:00 a.m. in the East. And it is a fascinating day in the Trump White House casting couch because a lot of convicted felons are looking for pardons from the President. It turns out, if you are a prominent conservative or prosecuted by a Trump opponent or appear on "The Apprentice" while your odds are decent.

President Trump announcing, he's granting a full pardon for Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative author who plead guilty in 2014, violating federal campaign finance laws. D'Souza has a history of racially charged comments about former President Obama. Now, D'Souza says, Obama and his stooges tried to extinguish my American dream and destroy my faith in America. Thank you Donald Trump for fully restoring both.

ROMANS: The President's move raising the eyebrows of many including the former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub, he tweeted this, Imagine if Nixon had been waiting with a stack of pardons for his Plumbers to return from the Watergate break-in. A president may not be above the law, but he has the power to put his henchmen above the law. That's what Trump is telling Manafort and others with the D'Souza pardon.

For more, let's bring in our Jim Acosta. He's at the White House.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the White House is defending the President's use of his pardon power saying, he is not only considering granting leniency to celebrities. The President granted a pardon for conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza.

And then told reporters, he is considering a pardon Martha Stewart in commuting the prison sentence for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Both Stewart and Blagojevich starred on Mr. Trump's T.V. show, "The Apprentice". D'Souza has made offensive and racially loaded comments over the years about former President Obama. The White House said, the President is considering each case on its merits.

Here is what Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters.


RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: He's worked as a process through the White House Counsel and he felt that it was appropriate to pardon Dinesh D'Souza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he sending a message to any of allies wrapped up in the Russia investigation with before?

SHAH: No. Each of the President's actions on pardons or another things should be judged on the merits, looking at the facts and the circumstances surrounding that case. The president felt it was merited.


ACOSTA: The President has shown a willingness to grant pardons to controversial figures including Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaiom, who is convicted in court of ignoring a judge's order to stop racially profiling Latinos. Christine and Dave?

BRIGGS: All right, Jim, thanks. The White House official admitted to Jim Acosta quote, you can't ignore Trump's connections in his clemency considerations.

Consider this, Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, now CNN legal analyst and a big critic of the President prosecuted D'Souza. Fired FBI Director James Comey prosecuted Martha Stewart when he was U.S. Attorney for Manhattan. And Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is now a member of Comey's legal team. Back in 2011, Fitzgerald won the conviction of then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges.

ROMANS: All right, President Trump is hitting U.S. allies with tariffs and they are hitting back. After months of uncertainty, the U.S. slapped tariffs on the E.U., Mexico, and Canada, 25 percent on steel, 10 percent on aluminum. So the three had temporary exemptions, but the White House let those waivers expired after it didn't get what it wanted in negotiations.

The President calls this fair trade. The goal is to help U.S. steel workers. But metal tariffs could raise prices for consumers. Think cars, appliances, food cans. It also puts the U.S. in another trade dispute just as its targeting $50 billion in Chinese goods. Now, these three U.S. allies quickly struck back. Plus the E.U. and Mexico threatened billion in tariffs on U.S. goods. Canada plans to tax U.S. deal in aluminum in equal amount. The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls the U.S. tariffs an affront and that they won't just hurt Canada.

Now, the Chamber of Commerce says, this will risks 2.6 million American jobs. 2.6 million that from the big business lobby, Chamber of Commerce, especially if it causes NAFTA to fall apart. President Trump responded to Trudeau saying, he wants a fair deal on NAFTA or none at all. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, slamming Trump's quote, needless trade war that will hurt the U.S. economy his own foreign policy and perhaps Republicans in November.

[04:05:05] And Republicans are fuming. Senator Ben Sasse says, it's dumb to treat allies the way you treat opponents. Speaker Paul Ryan says, the U.S. should be working with allies on unfair trade practices instead of targeting them. Watch this space. More to come.

BRIGGS: Be curious. All right. Imagine this, the former spy chief and top aide to a dictator of a country that threatened to nuke the United States sitting face-to-face with the commander in chief. That will actually play out in Washington today. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirming the top North Korean official, he just met with Kim Yong-chol will hand deliver a letter to the President of the United States.

CNN's Nic Robertson right in Seoul, South Korea with another extraordinary day, it appears this summit is still on track for Singapore. Good morning, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Good morning, David. It does, doesn't it? I mean President Trump yesterday said, that he thought progress has been made in those talks between Secretary of State Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol. For his part, Pompeo saying, progress has been made in the last 72 hours. That was a positive sign. But he still said, it's not clear yet whether the summit will actually go ahead.

He said, he believes that the Korean leadership is contemplating a fundamental shift, a strategic change that would be something different than the path that they've taken in the past. But it's not clear, he said, it's going to require a bold movement by Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. He describes this as an historic movement. He described this as a pivotal time.

But really, the emphasis now is very much on the North Korean side. So maybe inside this letter, Kim Yong-chol will hand to President Trump later today will be the clues to whether or not the summit can happen, June 12th, just 12 days away now. And of course, Kim Yong- chol getting a special dispensation of waiver to travel outside of that very narrowly confined area. He is allowed to travel in New York for this trip to go all the way down to D.C. This is the next step. Everyone is watching it. Dave.

BRIGGS: Yong-chol still under sanctions. All right, Nic Robertson live for us in Seoul this morning, thank you.

ROMANS: The comedian Samantha Bee apologizing for an ugly crack about Ivanka Trump. These crass insults on her T.V. show "Full Frontal" was after Ivanka posted a picture of her and her son amid reports undocumented children are being separated from their parents at border.


BEE: Ivanka Trump who works at the White House chose to post the second most oblivious tweet we've seen this week. You know, Ivanka, that's a beautiful photo of you and your child. But let me just say one mother to another. Do something about your dad's immigration practices, you feckless --. He listens to you. Put on something tight and low cut and tell your father to -- stop it. Tell him it was an Obama thing and see how it goes, OK?


ROMANS: The slam comes the same week Roseanne Barr was fired for a racist tweet. The conservative is yelling about a double standard this insult was not smart or funny which she quickly realized, she tweeted. I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers. I crossed a line and I deeply regret it.

BRIGGS: TBS which is like CNN is owned by the Time Warner joined Bee seeking forgiveness. Samantha Bee has taken the right action in apologizing. Those words should not have been aired. And we regret it.

At least two sponsors Autotrader and State Farm are pulling ads from the show. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called this language vile and vicious. That is much further than the White House or the President went and the now saying, Roseanne's comments which were followed by the President actually demanding an apology for his treatment by ABC.

ROMANS: President Trump relentlessly attacking the Russia investigation. But he's having trouble keeping its back straight. On Twitter, the President quoting Rush Limbaugh said in part, if the FBI was so concerned about the Russians infiltrating a campaign, hoax, then why not try to stop it? Why not tell Trump? Now, that tweet contradicted by the facts, President Trump was personally warned in August 2016 by senior U.S. intelligence officials that foreign adversaries, including Russia would likely attempt to infiltrate his team.

BRIGGS: The President also tweeted not that it matters. But I never fired James Comey because of Russia. The corrupt mainstream media loves to keep pushing that narrative. But they know it is not true. Well, here's where the mainstream media got the crazy idea. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


[04:09:59] BRIGGS: Hard to forget that one. New information this morning on the cost of the Mueller probe thus far is spending report says, the Justice Department has spent roughly $17 million investigating Russian meddling since last May.

ROMANS: All right, 10 minutes past the hour. Former Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaking out on the Russia probe in an exclusive CNN interview, Bannon telling Fareed Zakaria that he was against firing James Comey and is a supporter of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Bannon had harsh words for Former Trump Lawyer Ty Cobb.


STEVE BANNON, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: If you fire him, get a special prosecutor. I've been a big proponent of Mueller. I've gone to be part of that as a witness of fact. I've always said, you know, he is a combat marine for individual. That ought to play out as it's going to play out.

Now, where I have a problem and a huge problem, I was a guy that said publicly that Ty Cobb should be fired. OK. He gave the President, I thought, terrible advice. And I actually think lied to the President consistently about what the nature of this investigation was and the timing of it.


ROMANS: Bannon also says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should be fired, if he refuses to turnover all documents associated with the controversial FBI source whom President Trump accused of spying on his campaign. You can see the full interview on our Fareed Zakaria special, the CNN interview tonight at 9:00 Eastern time and during Fareed Zakaria GPS that airs Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern and again at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

BRIGGS: 'The Washington Post" reporting former FBI Director James Comey was interviewed by the D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office as part of a probe and to whether his Deputy Andrew McCabe broke the law. McCabe was fired earlier this year after an internal report found he misled investigators about authorizing a disclosure to the media. Now, Comey interview as a sign the office is seriously considering whether McCabe should be charged with a crime, but not definitive indication.

Ahead, you could hear the fans in Cleveland screaming. Shoot the ball, J.R. Smith. Check the clock, historic blunder that sent the NBA finals into overtime. We'll tell you how it turned out next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:16:12] ROMANS: Fascinating new details this morning as the Russian journalists explains how he played dead in order to avoid an alleged assassination plot. That journalist also defending his actions after some reporters questioned whether he went too far.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Moscow. Tell us what we know about this amazing story here.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, the details just keep getting more crazy. So this journalist Arkady Babchenko, he came out yesterday at a small organized press conference. And he said that on the day tat his death was faked with the help of Ukrainian Security Services, that a makeup artist came to his house and basically made him look dead.

They said or he that they were -- he was covered in real pig's blood and given a shirt that already has bullet holes in it. And they faked his death outside his home with shots allegedly being fired. He was then put into a real ambulance with a real doctor. He really called authorities and said that he died on the way and he was brought to a real morgue with a real mortician, really declared him dead, signing the form.

He said only after the doors of the morgue were closed was he, what he calls resurrected and then obviously brought to a different location were later then came out that the whole thing had been staged, allegedly to uncover a plot that the Ukrainians say came from Russia. And, you know, as you mentioned, he's been under criticism for faking his own death because obviously it something that undermine the credibility of journalists worldwide.

He said, he is absolutely unapologetic about it. He said he adapt the details. He felt the plot was real. He said for him it was a choice between saving his life and upholding journalistic standards. He said in the end, his decision was to try and save his own life, guys.

ROMANS: Wow. That is just quite a story. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much for that this morning.

BRIGGS: They were all in. OK. Ahead, this baby has quite a story to tell. Read the shirt. Why her father is her hero and why she is surrounded by all these soldiers. Next.


[04:22:44] ROMANS: New mandatory evacuation orders in Hawaii, Leilani Estates as the threat from Kilauea grows. Look at the pictures. Residents have until noon local time to leave. That's 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Anybody who refuses stays at their own risk and could be arrested. Fissure number eight is on the verge of overflowing into affected areas breaches in the lava channel formed by the fissure can happen without notice resulting in fast moving lava flow. The U.S. geological survey says, lava temperatures now reach above 2,000 degrees. BRIGGS: Unbelievable. And today marks the official start of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. And there is concern that Puerto Rico may not be able to weather another storm. Nine months after Hurricane Maria hit, 20,000 homes on are still without power. Official feared even a small storm will plunge them back into darkness and start this crisis all over again. According to a Harvard study released this week, at least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, more than twice as many people as Katrina, dwarfing the official estimate.

ROMANS: Do you know how to spell Koinonia? I think. The new national spelling bee champion did.





ROMANS: Look at that smile. Karthik Nemmani an eighth grader from McKinney, Texas is the new national champion. He edged out 12-year- old Naysa Modi in a final that went 18 rounds. The Greek word Koinonia is an intimate spiritual communion and sharing in a common religious commitment. Karthik wins more than $40,000 in cash and prizes. Good job.

BRIGGS: Well done. The boy is under pressure was missing however the NBA finals. Golden State taking game one of the NBA finals, a brutal mistake at the end of regulation may have cost Cleveland an upset win. After George Hill missed a free throw that would have given the Cavs a one point lead in the final seconds, J.R. Smith gets the rebound and instead of shooting, he dribbles out the clock. Appearing not to know the game was tied or the time on the clock or any situational awareness whatsoever.

[04:25:03] He said he thought they were going to call a time-out. The Warriors put the game away in overtime, 124-114. LeBron James had 51 points for the Cavs, not enough. Game two in Sunday night in Oakland.

ROMANS: All right. This is a photo shoot you will never forget. OK. Please grab your hankies. Two-month-old Christian Harris met some very special people. The soldiers who served alongside her late father, Specialist Christopher Harris was killed in action in Afghanistan in August just one week after his wife told him she was pregnant.

While Britt Harris was pregnant, she receives support from the men and women of the 82nd Airborne Division who were deployed with her husband. When Harris gave birth in March, she gathered the soldiers including some soldiers who survived the very explosion that killed her husband. In the photos, Christian, that little baby there, wears her father's dog tags along with the onesie that reads, "My Daddy is My Hero."

BRIGGS: "My Daddy is My Hero" quite a shot, quite a poignant story. Ahead, President Trump and Rod Blagojevich have met before.


TRUMP: You're fired.


BRIGGS: He fired Blago. Now he might pardon him. Why is the President only helping people with connections to his adversaries?