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Trump Pardons Conservative Author D'Souza; U.S. Allies Hit Back At Metal Tariffs; Samantha Bee Apologizes For Ugly Ivanka Trump Joke; Former North Korean Spy Chief To Meet President Trump Today. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 1, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:45] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's pardon of a conservative firebrand setting off a wave of criticism. Why are celebrities getting priority and could it be a signal for aides caught up in the Russia investigation?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Fierce blowback from allies and the president's own party for new tariffs from the Trump administration. More than two million American jobs could be on the line.


SAMANTHA BEE, HOST, TBS "FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE": Do something about your dad's immigration practices, you feckless c***.


ROMANS: Samantha Bee now apologizing for that vulgar crack about Ivanka Trump but she keeps her job. So is there a double standard for liberal comedians?

Welcome back to EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And, I'm Dave Briggs.

I'd have to say yes, there is a double standard. I just don't know if this proof of it. We'll discuss in just a bit.

But it was a fascinating day on the Trump casting couch.

Dinesh D'Souza, Rod Blagojevich, Martha Stewart. What do these high- profile names have in common? They were all prosecuted by Trump adversaries, they're all people he knows, and now they're on the president's list for clemency.

President Trump announcing he is granting a full pardon to Dinesh D'Souza. The conservative pled guilty in 2014 to violating federal campaign finance laws. D'Souza also has a history of racially-charged comments about former President Obama, including this one.

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 pardon 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 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 to conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza and then told reporters he is considering a pardon for Martha Stewart and commuting the prison sentence for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Both Stewart and Blagojevich starred in 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's what deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters.

RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's worked this process through the White House counsel and felt that it was appropriate to pardon Dinesh D'Souza.

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

SHAH: No, not -- each of the president's actions on pardons or on other 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 Arpaio who was convicted in court of ignoring a judge's order to stop racially profiling Latinos -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right, Jim Acosta. Thank you.

The other big story, President Trump 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. They had temporary exemptions but the White House let those waivers expire after it didn't get what it wanted from negotiations. The president calls this fair trade.

The goal is to help U.S. steelworkers but metal tariffs could raise prices for consumers for cars, appliances, food cans. It also puts the U.S. in another trade dispute just as it targets $50 billion in Chinese goods.

Now, the three U.S. allies quickly struck back, but the E.U. and Mexico threatened billions in tariffs on U.S. goods -- everything from blueberries to pork bellies.

Canada plans to tax U.S. steel and aluminum in an equal amount. The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls the U.S. tariffs an affront and says that they won't hurt just Canada.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER, CANADA: Unfortunately, we all know that this is going to lead to harm for American workers and American industries. Our economies are too interlinked to not have significant disruption in American families and American communities south of the border.


ROMANS: The Canadians are furious. That's what furious look like if you're Canadian.

The Chamber of Commerce says this move risks 2.6 million U.S. jobs, especially if it causes NAFTA to fall apart. That's about 1.8 million jobs there, according to the Chamber.

[05:35:03] 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 "needless trade war that will hurt the U.S. economy, his own foreign policy, and perhaps Republicans in November."

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.

And, you know, the Canadian prime minister makes an interesting point. He says look, we fought in two world wars and Korea alongside Americans. Canadians have died alongside Americans. And to say that Canada is a national security problem for the United States because of steel imports -- they find that just offensive.

BRIGGS: One of many ironies to this whole policy. Who is our ally today? Who are our alliances with?

Let's welcome back Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and historian and professor at Princeton.

ROMANS: Hi, there.

BRIGGS: That "Wall Street Journal" editorial is strong.


BRIGGS: It finishes with this. "Trump aspires to be Ronald Reagan but his terror folly echoes of Herbert Hoover."

The historian, Julian Zelizer. What is the risk here and how does he echo Herbert Hoover?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR, "THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW": Well, the economic risk is to get in a trade war that brings out economy down along with others at the same time, and this is very real. And now that he's targeting allies, I think we're getting a sense of how this could affect U.S. workers.

And obviously, the second is it angers many Republicans who have preached the free trade orthodoxy for a long time and don't like the president going here.

ROMANS: Do you see --

BRIGGS: Well, and have everything going their way ahead of the midterms and this could throw all that off.

ROMANS: Do you see the art of the deal at play here, though, because when we were listening to the Commerce secretary talking to reporters yesterday about letting those exemptions expire he was very clear this is the president's call and they weren't getting what they wanted in NAFTA negotiations and in these trade negotiations, and so they walked away.

That sounds like art of the deal to me.

ZELIZER: Well, if it works. If it works we'll look back and say that was a good move and that was the art of the deal. If it doesn't work we'll say we have an economic disaster on our hands as a result of the president's policies.

So it's a high-risk maneuver and it also frays relations with key allies who are needed on other issues, from national security to other kinds of diplomatic initiatives. So there's many risks he's taking right now.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: The Europeans, and the Chinese, and the Canadians, and the Mexicans -- I mean, we're talking about people aligning with China now --


ROMANS: -- on trade issues because the U.S. is the odd man out here.

BRIGGS: And they'll all be face-to-face at the G7 --

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: -- in just a week.

ZELIZER: Exactly.

BRIGGS: That should be some interesting dynamics.

Speaking of interesting dynamics, the latest cover on the "New York Post" I think nails it. The Apprentice White House version is shaping up to be an interesting season because of the people the president mentions for pardon yesterday.

Dinesh D'Souza gets a full pardon. He mentions Martha Stewart and, of course, he mentions Rod Blagojevich.

When you look at this screen -- let's take Jack Johnson out of that. I think that was righting a wrong long in the making.

What is the theme of all this?

ZELIZER: He's flexing his presidential power and he's saying the law is unfair in many cases and I am going to defend those who were oppressed by the law.

He's also helping celebrities, which I don't think is an accident. I think he is someone who understands what the public like to reads about --

ROMANS: Right.

ZELIZER: -- and pardoning celebrities will get attention for this message he wants to send.

ROMANS: If you're inside the walls and the halls of the Justice Department and your job is to find -- to root out public corruption and to prosecute it, does this have a chilling effect?

ZELIZER: Absolutely. It sends a message that the president is not necessarily going to stand by you and that the president, very early in his term, is willing to flex this muscle aggressively and frequently. And that could turn to other issues like the Russia probe.

BRIGGS: Yes, and Patti Blagojevich, Rob's wife --


BRIGGS: -- talked about that last night on Fox. She said, "The same people that did this to my family are trying to do this on Russia."

Here's Patti last night with Martha MacCallum.


PATTI BLAGOJEVICH, WIFE OF ROD BLAGOJEVICH: These same people that did this to my family, these same people that secretly taped us and twisted the facts and perverted the law that ended up my husband in jail -- you know, these same people are trying to do the same thing that they did to my husband, just on a much larger scale.

They were emboldened. They took down a governor and now they're trying -- they've got their sights much higher.


BRIGGS: Hitting on the theme --


BRIGGS: -- that you just spoke about.

What's standing in the president's way of pardoning people like Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and would Republicans stand up?

ZELIZER: In my opinion, nothing's standing in the way, and if he did that I am not convinced we'd have the so-called constitutional crisis everyone is predicting. So far, Republicans have sat by quietly as the president takes these kinds of steps and my guess is they'd do the same again.

ROMANS: Former House speaker John Boehner actually -- yesterday at a conference on Mackinac Island, he had something to say about his party -- listen.


JOHN BOEHNER (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is no Republican Party. There's a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.


[05:40:00] ROMANS: I love the Bloody Mary, by the way, next to the --

BRIGGS: Yes, cheers to John Boehner for that.

ROMANS: Is he -- is he -- I mean, he was the face of his party for so many years. I mean, now you're seeing these guys on the outside looking in and saying their party is asleep.

ZELIZER: Yes, he's right but he can't separate the party from Trump. His point is right. The two have come together.

He was there at the creation. He was there when the Tea Party came to town and introduced a lot of what President Trump now does.

And the Republican Party is not simply not there, they're just being passive willingly as this happens. So they own this.

They own President Trump and I think that's where Boehner is wrong. He can't simply say well, our party is here and President Trump is here. The two have converged and the GOP has to now live with that.

BRIGGS: The most common theme of Republican House ads for the midterms is that they are pro-Trump.


BRIGGS: They're trying to make one statement that we are pro-Trump. So, fascinating stuff as we continue on.

Julian Zelizer, thank you, sir.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

ROMANS: Have a great weekend.

ZELIZER: You, too.

ROMANS: Have a Bloody Mary.

All right, comedian --

BRIGGS: Cheers, my friend.

ROMANS: I know.

Comedian Samantha Bee apologizing for an ugly crack about Ivanka Trump. The crass insult on her TBS show "FULL FRONTAL" came after Ivanka posted a picture with her son. And this, of course, around the same time there was these news reports of undocumented children being separated from their parents at the 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 c***.

He listens to you. Put on something tight and low-cut and tell your father to f***ing stop it. Tell him it was an Obama thing and see how it goes, OK?


ROMANS: OK, too far.

Bee's slam comes the same week Roseanne Barr was fired for a racist tweet. Conservatives are yelling about a double standard.

Bee's 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: CBS -- which, like CNN, is owned by Time Warner -- joining 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, pulling their ads from Bee's show.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called Bee's language vile and vicious. Of course, that is much further than the White House or the president went in denouncing Roseanne Barr's comments which were followed by the president's demands for an apology from ABC for his treatment by the network.

What do you think? I mean, is there a double standard? I think there is --

ROMANS: I think there are two -- there are two --

BRIGGS: -- but I don't know that this is an example of it.

ROMANS: I just think they're two egregious incidents. One of just crass, vulgar, sexist language --


ROMANS: -- and the other, racism. I mean, they're just two things that shouldn't have been said.

BRIGGS: Completely separate subjects. Yes, we can agree on that.

ROMANS: All right.

A week after the president's letter to Kim Jong Un canceled their summit, North Korea's former spy chief will be in Washington to deliver a letter of his own. He is carrying a letter from Kim Jong Un. What will it mean for a possible meeting in 11 days?


[05:47:20] BRIGGS: Imagine this -- the former spy chief and top aide to a dictator of a country that threatened to nuke the United States face-to-face with the commander in chief. That will actually play out in Washington today as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirms the top North Korean official he just met with, Kim Yong Chol, will hand- deliver a letter to the president from Kim Jong Un.

CNN's Nic Robertson live for us in Seoul tonight.

Interesting story -- and special waivers, Nic, had to be granted just to allow this meeting to happen.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Dave. We all want to know what's inside that letter. Well, it must be important enough because Kim Yong Chol got that waiver. He's under sanctions. He was only allowed to go to New York -- a 25-

mile radius -- for what he could do there. Special dispensation of this waiver to go all the way to D.C. to hand-deliver the letter.

President Trump seems reasonably optimistic. His assessment of Sec. Pompeo's meeting so far with Kim Yong Chol were positive -- that things had gone well.

Pompeo said that in the past 72 hours there'd been progress. But when you listen to his language it was very clear he doesn't know, himself, if this summit is actually going to go ahead in Singapore in 11 days' time. If you listen, his language it's still full of caveats.

He said we believe that the -- that the North Koreans are contemplating a path change that can be a strategic shift. And this is the sort of level of change that's required, he said, that he believes that Kim Jong Un can make a bold decision. But at the moment, that question -- can the North Koreans do enough -- it's unclear to Pompeo.

Perhaps when President Trump opens that letter later today it will all be clear to him -- Dave.

BRIGGS: It will be fascinating to see if the president reveals the contents of that letter.

Nic Robertson live for us in Seoul, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Wall Street's trade war fears are back. The Dow fell 250 points after the U.S. hit the E.U., Canada, and Mexico with those metal tariffs after all. The three quickly promised to retaliate.

Right now, global stocks are mixed.

The May jobs report comes out this morning. Economists expect solid hiring. The unemployment rate likely steady at 3.9 percent, an 18- year low.

Wall Street's focus, wage growth. Rapid growth could spark inflation concerns.

Wage growth has been slow so Americans -- it appears they're spending more and saving less. In April, the savings rate fell below three percent for the first time -- only the third time, rather, since the recession. That could cause problems if the economy does take a sudden turn.

But that's sort of -- the spending more, saving less, that's the making ends meet indicator here, something to closely watch.

[05:50:00] I recently asked Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone about the future of the American economy. He's not worried, at least not in the long run.


KENNETH LANGONE, CO-FOUNDER, HOME DEPOT: I think, frankly, over the next 25 years America owns the world. Don't ask me what's going to happen 25 days from now, but over 25 years I think we're going to be fit as a fiddle. And a lot of these things that are happening, we'll fix.

ROMANS: So, 5,000 points, the Dow, since Trump's inauguration, but even back it up. I go back nine years. It's been -- it's tripled. The S&P has tripled.

It's an old bull market but sometimes old bulls keep moving higher.

What's the -- what do you think --

LANGONE: I'm an old bull.

Look, who the hell knows what the stock market does and why? My wife says to me why did the market go down 300 points? I said I don't know. I have no idea.

All I know is we have a fabulous economy. We have a capital market system that works, so I'm optimistic.


ROMANS: He says there's a lot of money out there. There's a lot more lending and there's investment capital.

Despite that optimism, he rates the current economy, he says, a solid B. He loves some of the things that Trump has been doing -- the tax cuts.

BRIGGS: Yes, sure.

ROMANS: Deregulation, of course. But a solid B on the economy.

BRIGGS: But how might all these trade maneuvers undercut all the momentum that all --

ROMANS: See now, he doesn't believe there will be a trade war. He says that it just -- it's too important for everyone to back away from a trade war. But as you can see, every day we get new indications that's where we're heading.

BRIGGS: Yes. All right.

You could hear the fans in Cleveland in screaming. You could empathize with LeBron James' pleading. J.R. Smith, shoot the ball, man.

The epic blunder that sent an NBA Finals game into overtime. How it turned out, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:55:43] BRIGGS: Some breaking news for anyone with plans to head to Vegas. Casino workers will be nearing a strike at 34 casino resorts on the Vegas strip and downtown.

Fifty thousand bartenders, food and cocktail servers, porters, bellmen, cooks and others working without a contract as of a few hours ago.

A strike authorization vote last week earned 99 percent approval but negotiations are ongoing and the union has not called for a walkout.

They do host the Stanley Cup Final game in a week.

ROMANS: New mandatory evacuation orders in Hawaii's Leilani Estates as the threat from Kilauea grows. Residents have until noon local time to leave -- that's 6:00 p.m. eastern. Anybody who refuses could be arrested.

Fissure number eight is on the verge of overflowing into those affected areas because of unpredictable breaches in the lava channel. The U.S. Geological Survey says lava temperatures now reach above 2,000 degrees.

BRIGGS: Today marks the official start of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. There is concern Puerto Rico may not be able to weather another storm. Nine months after Hurricane Maria, 20,000 homes are still without power.

According to a Harvard study released this week, at least 4,600 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, a number that dwarfs the official estimate.

Puerto Rico's Gov. Ricardo Rossello will be a guest on "NEW DAY" at 6:40 eastern time.

ROMANS: All right.

Do you know how to spell koinonia? The new National Spelling Bee champion did.





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.

BRIGGS: I cannot use that in a sentence.

LeBron James with 51 points in game one of the NBA Finals, but LeBron and the rest of the Cavaliers left exasperated by what happened in the final seconds of regulation.

George Hill misses this free throw here. It would have given the Cavs a one-point lead.

J.R. Smith, the rebound. He just dribbles out the clock. He dribbles out the clock. It appeared he didn't know the game was tied.

After the game, he said he thought they were going to call at time- out.

The Warriors put the game away in overtime 124-114. Game two Sunday night in Oakland.

ROMANS: And this -- wow, this is a photo shoot you will never forget. 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 received support -- the support of 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 who survived the explosion that killed her husband.

Christian wears her father's dog tags, along with a onesie that reads "My Daddy's My Hero."

Just breaks your heart. Heartbreaking and then just also makes your heart sore at the same time for that little girl and the support that she has.

BRIGGS: "My Daddy's My Hero." Thanks to all of the men and women who serve this country and the spouses, in particular.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. Have a wonderful weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are people being prosecuted for the same kind of crimes that the Trump circle is facing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He actually has the authority to issue pardons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's clearly sending a message to the people who are wrapped up in the Mueller investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president actually pressured Jeff Sessions multiple times to overturn his recusal.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Sessions has personally done an excellent job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Federal prosecutors in D.C. have interviewed Jim Comey about Andrew McCabe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It puts him in a great deal of trouble.

BRIGGS: Puerto Rico still struggling to recover as hurricane season gets underway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no quality of life still, eight months after Maria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we face another event like this we will certainly be better prepared.


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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, Friday, June first, 6:00 here in New York.