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EARLY START

Dems Rip Zero Tolerance Immigration Policy; Trump Administration Fires Back; Deadly Japan Quake; CNN Goes Inside Texas Processing Center; FLOTUS Addresses Immigration Crisis; U.S. Business Brace For Pain From Trade Fight; Stone And Caputo Admit Meeting Russian National; Trump Defends Halting Military Drills; Internet Sales tax Decision. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 18, 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)

[04:30:00] SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D), OREGON: They call it zero tolerance, but a better name for it is zero humanity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: Weekend of advocacy for Democratic lawmakers as they blame the Trump administration after their firsthand look at the immigration centers near the U.S./Mexico border.

DAVE BRIGGS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: The Trump administration fires back blaming Democrats and the media insisting there is no policy separating migrant families at the border.

ROMANS: And breaking overnight. A deadly earthquake in Japan kills at least three people and injured a dozen more - dozens more, rather. Welcome back to "Early start." I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. We got two first ladies Laura Bush, Melania Trump, both weighing in on one issue that will dominate politics this week, immigration. Republicans are set to vote on two immigration bills this week, as the White House tries to deflect the outrage over its zero tolerance towards border policy by blaming it on Democrats.

Administration critics accuse the President of separating migrant children from their families for political leverage and here is why. The President tweeting over the weekend, Democrats can fix their forced family break ups at the border by working with Republicans on new legislation for a change. This is why we need more Republicans elected on November. Democrats are only good for three things. High taxes, high crime and obstruction. Sad.

ROMANS: The President later added, the Democrats should get together with the Republican counterparts and work something out on border security and safety. Don't wait until after the election, because you are going on to lose. Some of Democratic lawmakers chose Father's Day for the tour of the Southern Texas border and its detention centers, we got a firsthand look at the impact of this zero tolerance policy. We get more from CNN's Nick Valencia in Brownsville, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this is one of the last stop for Democratic lawmakers as they did their Father's Day tour of processing centers along the U.S. Mexico border. They said their intention was to highlight the zero tolerance immigration policy currently implemented by President Trump, but what they called it. After seeing what they saw inside this facilities, is zero humanity.

MERKLEY: There is zero logic to this policy. The administration is arguing that by inflicting this harm on children and parents, this stress, that they are sending the message -- a deterrent message for people not to seek asylum in the United States. It is completely unacceptable under any moral code or any religious tradition to injure children, inflict trauma on them in order to send some political message to adults somewhere overseas. The President is also arguing in the last few days, that this policy gives him political leverage with legislation. Hurting kids to get legislative leverage is unacceptable. It is evil.

VALENCIA: One of the Democratic lawmakers on this Father's Day tour was Congressman, Pete Welsh of Vermont. And so far he says that there has been 2,000 children separated from their families over the course of the last six weeks. I asked him if he has heard of any plans to reunite the children with parents. He said right now there is uncertainty. Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEO)

ROMANS: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you for that. Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, she is trying to diffuse the controversy over the zero tolerance border policy, she took to Twitter last night, she is accusing the press, advocacy groups and even members of Congress of quote irresponsible and unproductive reporting. She falsely claims this, we do not have a policy of separating families at the border, period. She goes on to say there is no reason to illegally cross between ports of entry for anyone seeking asylum.

You remember, the President himself says, it is the Democrats' policy of separating children at the border. So the President admitting there is a policy and he said it is the Democrats. He admits it is a Democratic policy. She said there is no policy -- you know, the White House is not speaking with clarity.

BRIGGS: Not enough clarity on the issue. CNN has a firsthand look inside the immigrant processing center in Texas. Families brought through a warehouse like facility separated by gender. One woman in tears terrified about what might happen next. Here is Dianne Gallagher with more.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this right here is Rio Grande Valley Centralized Processing Center. They have a greater intake at this sector than any other on the border area in Texas. At this point, more families have been separated leaving this facility than any other in the country since the zero tolerance policy went into effect last month. 1,774 children have left this facility being separated from their parents. And that is why Senators Merkley and Senator Van Hollen as well as other members of the House came to tour this facility. We did the same. I went inside and I am going to be very frank with you. It is sort of a de facto prison.

[04:35:00] It is a holding area. It is a pen. And you have the 12- foot chain linked pens that are holding families. If it is a father with small children, they are in this one large pen. If it is a mother with small children, they are in a different large pen. There are almost 600 unaccompanied minors who are being held in the facility at this point. Now that number changes all the time, because they are constantly moving people in and out. This is a processing facility. They are only supposed to be here for about 72 hours. Some of the people I talked to in here, they were here for four or five days. So that does vary.

And when I talked to border patrol agents, they said look, this zero tolerance policy, it is requiring a lot more paper work, because of prosecution. In fact we are not doing every single person when they came in here before. So there is more paper work. It is creating a little bit of a lag sometimes. We have people, but we're strained. The Senators who came here, they went to another facility in Texas as well. You know, Dave and Christine, they are hoping that this type of political pressure, describing what is happening here, will potentially put pressure on the President and that he will rescind the policy or tell it not to be enforce anymore.

(END VIDEO)

BRIGGS: OK, Dianne Gallagher, thanks.

The first lady also entering the immigration debate. In a rare statement on policy, Melania Trump's spokesperson tells CNN, Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart. The first lady said, she is hopeful both sides of the aisle will come together to achieve successful immigration reform.

ROMANS: Laura Bush is lashing out at the Trump administration for separating children from their parents. It is rare for the former first lady to weigh on the politics, to criticized administration since her husband left office.

But in Sunday opinion piece in the Washington Post, she writes, I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel, it is immoral and it breaks my heart.

BRIGGS: Kellyanne Conway claims nobody in the White House likes the policy of separating migrant children from their parents, but the president's senior adviser, bristles after suggestion. The Trump administration is using the practice to force Democrats to the table on border security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: As a mother, as a catholic, as somebody who has a conscience and would not say the junk that somebody said apparently allegedly. I would tell you that nobody likes this policy. So does the president's on camera that he wants this to end, but everybody has -- Congress has to act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can end it on his own.

CONWAY: Chuck, Congress passed a law that it is a crime. This is a congressional law from many years ago. It is a crime to enter this country illegally. So, if they don't like that law, they should change it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Separating migrant families is a result of a policy announced by the Trump administration this spring. The White House cannot identify any specific law that requires it.

ROMANS: All right. The tragic highway crash not far from the U.S./Mexico border. The sheriff of (inaudible) County Texas, says U.S. border patrol was chasing a vehicle at about a 100 miles an hour and when it ran off the road and flipped several times. Police say the vehicle was packed with undocumented immigrants. Four people died at the scene. A fifth person alter died in a hospital in San Antonio.

BRIGGS: Businesses is now bracing for pain from the trade fight with China. Beijing hitting the U.S. with retaliatory tariffs on $34 billion worth of U.S. goods after President Trump announced a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese exports. How will businesses react? Well, CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Beijing for us this morning. Good morning, Matt.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. Yes. Businesses that we are speaking to here in China, analyst were speaking here in China are looking at this round of tariffs both from the United States and from China and basically looking at it as inevitable. Yes, July 6th is a couple of weeks away. Conceivably that would give both sides a chance to maybe negotiate their way out of this. But look, there are no signs that either side is backing down. Look no further than the fact that there are no formal trade negotiations scheduled between now and July 6.

There were three previous rounds that did not accomplish very much given that this is where we are right now. And over the weekend, Chinese state media really lit into the Trump administration in the way we don't usually see. At one point, in a commentary in the state- run newspaper, calling the Trump administration rude, unreasonable, selfish and head strong. So when you take the fact that there were no scheduled negotiations, you take the fact that the Chinese state media is not backing down and nothing gets printed here without the Chinese government say so. I think what you are looking at is these tariffs will go into effect

on July 6 and the big fear is what happens after that. Does this spiral out of control into a never ending back and forth? It might sound dramatic, Dave, but those odds of that happening have never been higher.

BRIGGS: All right. Looks like game on. Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The biggest U.S. consumer watch dog may have seen a permanent chief. President Trump plans to nominate Kathy Kraninger, an OMB official for that job.

[04:40:02] If confirm, she will replace Mick Mulvaney as the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watch dog agency created in the wake of the financial crisis. White House says Kraninger will bring a fresh perspective to an agency plagued by excessive spending, dysfunctional operations and politicized agenda. Of course its agenda is to watch out for you, the consumer. Kraninger currently works under Mulvaney as head of the CFPB Mulvaney has meant to big changes opposed by Democrats and consumer etiquette. He has delayed pay day loan rules, he has weakened a division protecting both fair lending and student borrowers. Mulvaney has long accused the CFPB of overreach. The congressman, he tried to abolish this very agency.

BRIGGS: All right. Straight ahead, President Trump defending his decision to stop the so-called war games with South Korea. We are live in Seoul next on "Early Start."

[04:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: The FBI agent who was removed from the Russia probe for anti- Trump texts is willing to testify before congress. On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee started processing a subpoena to compel Peter Strzok to testify. But his lawyer is making it clear a subpoena is not necessary. Mr. Strzok, whom President Trump calls a sick loser, will voluntarily testify before any committee, if ask then.

BRIGGS: ex-trump associate Roger Stone telling CNN he met with a Russian national in May of 2016 and was offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton in exchange for $2 million. Stone and former trump campaign communication officials, Michael Caputo, now claimed the meeting was part of a larger effort by law enforcement to set up the Trump campaign. Both man accusing a Russian national for being a FBI informant. Boris Sanchez with the latest from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Christine and Dave, though Michael Caputo and Roger Stone have long denied having any contact with the Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign, in separate letters they both sent to the House Intelligence Committee over the weekend, they acknowledge that there was this May 2016 meeting between Roger Stone and a Russian national Henry Greenburg. He was apparently promising dirt on Hillary Clinton in exchange for $2 million. Both men claim that they have forgotten all about this meeting until they were reminded by the Special Counsel.

Michael Caputo acknowledging that he was shown his text messages exchange between he and Stone following this meeting. That is when apparently jammed his memory and then he reminded Roger Stone. And now you have both of them sending off these letters.

Notably Stone says that no information was exchanged between he and Greenburg. He said that he turned down the offer and that he never spoke to Greenburg again. Further, he says that he never contacted anyone on the Trump campaign, including the candidate himself about this meeting. We should point out that both men are now accusing Greenburg of being an FBI informant. Someone that was planted to try to entrap them.

I have ask White House officials if the President has been made aware of this admission by Roger Stone and Michael Caputo and further if he agrees with the assessment that Greenburg may have been a plant for the FBI. But we have yet to hear back from the White House. Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEO)

ROMANS: All right. Boris Sanchez, at the White House for us, thank you.

Rudy Giuliani says President Trump will not issue any pardons during the Russia investigation. He is not ruling out the possibility once the investigation is over. Here is what the President's lawyer told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the union."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GUILIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: The President has issued no pardons in the investigation. The President is not going to issue pardons in this investigation. He retains his pardoning power. Nobody has taken that away from him. He can pardon in his judgment based on the Justice Department counsel's office. Not me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Giuliani continues to insist the Russia investigation is compromised. He said pardons could be used by the president, if he believes that someone was treated unfairly.

BRIGGS: President Trump defending his decision to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea after a Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un. The President claiming the drills were costly and provocative. It sound like playing out in South Korea. CNN's Nic Robertson live for us in Seoul this morning with the answer. Nic, do they ever refer to them there as provocative war games or strictly as military exercises.

NIC ROBERTSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CNN CORRESPONDENT: Strictly as military exercises, military exercises are designed to keep South Korea safe, because of the threat from North Korea. They are designed to keep the troops, U.S. and their South Korean partners, on a ready- to-fight tonight footing. So the idea that these could be conceived from South Korea's perspective in the way that President Trump characterized it is something that appears to caught them off guard, as well as his decisions to stop these joint military exercises.

Now, we know there have been various levels of communication since indeed the most recent communication between the foreign minister here and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo early this morning, Korea time, late last night in Washington D.C. That conversation about, you know what else transpired since the summit and what South Korea and North Korea relations are looking like right now. They are improving. So what is there to update Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo with about that from the South Korean perspective?

But principally on these coordination and this particular phone call and the fact that the Deputy foreign minister is going to Washington this week really seems to underscore South Korea's perspective that don't leave us out of the decision making. Keep us in the loop. It is a joint decision between United States and South Korea. This bilateral agreement on these joint military exercises.

So the idea that they are provocative for South Korea, the South Korea should consider them a terms provocative, they recognize this is a necessary part of importance strategic national defense.

[04:50:10] And as yet, we understand here, there is no actual agreement yet set on when that stoppage of these big exercises would actually be agreed.

BRIGGS: And on Friday, Nic, the President said he would speak with North Korea on Father's Day. Do we know anything of that?

ROBERTSON: Well, Father's Day here, like in the United States, came and went without any word from Pyongyang. You know, it would be typical if that phone call would happened. If the North Koreans would not talk about it straightaway. You know, generally their news information propaganda line tends to lag, maybe 24 hours or maybe a little longer. Maybe they would not mention it at all. There is no indication for the South Koreans are aware of it. They haven't as we know, nothing from the White House as yet on this issue. It seems perhaps it happened. Perhaps it didn't. What are the consequences of it? South Koreans say let the pair at least form this bond, at least have a dialog, so that they can solve problems together. They are hopeful that if that phone call was made in the overall picture, it would at least be useful, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Nic Robertson, live for us in Seoul, thank you.

ROMANS: At least three people are dead and more than 200 others injured after a 5.3 magnitude earthquake hit south of Japan last night. Government officials say a nine year-old girl and an adult male were killed by collapsing walls. We are also getting reports at major travel ways in the region with train service is suspended across Osaka.

BRIGGS: A graduation party took a deadly turned in Venezuela over the weekend. Officials say, someone inside the packed nightclub detonated a canister of tear gas after a brawl broke out setting off a stampede. About 500 students were inside the club for a pre-graduation party. 17 people were killed including eight minors, seven people are being questioned. The club owner has been arrested for allowing a weapon to enter the premises and the government has shut that club down.

ROMANS: All right. 52 minutes past the hour. The Supreme Court set to announce its decision today on internet sales tax. It could force you to pay more when you buy online. "CNN Money" next.

[04:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Angelina Jolie visited Mosul, Iraq over the weekend raising awareness about the humanitarian crisis in a city nearly one year after its liberation from ISIS. The actress toured bombed out streets and met with displaced families. During her visit, Jolie, urged the international community to not forget Mosul and to take care of its people as they recover from years of suffering.

For the first time in 29 years, as a repeat champion at the U.S. Open. 28-year-old Brooks Koepka. Last man standing Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, Koepka the first golfer to win the event, back-to-back since Curtis Strange in 1988 -89. He tried to fond around 68 to finish it one over par, one shot ahead of Tommy Fleetwood, who shot a 63 on Sunday. Koepka becomes only the seventh player to win consecutive U.S. Open, he takes home a first prize of $2.1 million bucks.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money, this Monday morning. Global stocks down overnight as U.S. and China, inch closer to an all-out trade war. U.S. futures right now are lower. On Friday, the White House said it will slap a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of Chinese exports. Beijing retaliated, accusing the U.S. of launching a trade war. Beijing, targeting high value American exports in response, so that set Wall Street lower. The DOW dragged down by companies that do big business in China like Boeing and Caterpillar.

A new court case could force you to pay more when you buy online. The Supreme Court is set to announce its decision on internet sales tax, as soon as today. South Dakota versus Wayfair, under current rules, many online retailers don't collect sales tax. The state say that means, they miss out on $13 billion in taxes each year. It is ab boon for cash strap states, but it would be, you pay more for when shopping on smaller websites like, Wayfair and big online retailers, as you know, already collect taxes, sales tax like Amazon and Walmart. And the difference there is they both have physical presences in the state.

An incredible opening weekend for "Incredibles 2."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes. This one's --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Oh, yes it is right. The Incredibles 2 had been most profitable opening of all time for an animated film. Bringing in $180 million. Blueway expectations, it knocks "Finding Dory" out of the number one all time spot. This is just kids in the theater. Get this, 31 percent of the opening weekend audience was adults.

BRIGGS: Doesn't surprise me. I'm trying convince my children to go see with me and I may have to roll solo and what is your game Romans?

ROMANS: We may have to go to the show tomorrow.

BRIGGS: I think that is a great idea. "Early Start" continues right now with the latest on immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MERKLEY: They call it zero tolerance, but a better name for it is zero humanity. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Democratic lawmakers point the finger at the Trump administration after their firsthand look at the immigration centers near the U.S./Mexico border.

BRIGGS: The Trump administration fires back blaming Democrats and the media insisting there is no policy separating migrant families at the border.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight. A deadly earthquake in Japan kills at least three people and injures over 200 more, we will get those pictures to you in just a moment. Good morning and welcome to "Early Start," everyone. I am Christine Romans.