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EARLY START

Outrage Grows Over Immigration Policy; Roger Stone Admits Meeting With Russian National; U.S.-China Trade Dispute Escalates; President Trump Defends Halting South Korean Military Drills. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 18, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:35] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: They're calling it zero tolerance, but a better name for it is zero humanity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic lawmakers point the finger at the Trump administration after a firsthand look at immigration centers near the U.S.-Mexico border.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration fires back blaming Democrats and the media, insisting there is no policy separating migrant families at the border.

BRIGGS: And breaking overnight, a deadly earthquake in Japan kills at least three and injures hundreds more.

Welcome back to EARLY START on a Monday, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Did you say it's Monday? It is Monday, isn't it?

BRIGGS: Yes, it feels like it, indeed.

ROMANS: It's going to be a --

BRIGGS: It's going to be a long week with immigration on the docket.

ROMANS: Yes, it will be -- it will be. I'm Christine Romans. Thirty-one minutes past the hour this Monday morning.

Let's begin with immigration because Republicans are set to vote on two immigration bills this week as the White House tries to deflect the outrage over its zero tolerance border policy by blaming it on Democrats.

Administration critics accusing the president of separating migrant children from their families for political leverage, and here's why.

The president tweeting over the weekend, this.

"Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change! This is why we need more Republicans elected in November.

BRIGGS: The president later added, "The Democrats should get together with their Republican counterparts and work something out on border security and safety. Don't wait until after the election because you are going to lose!"

Several Democratic lawmakers chose Father's Day for a tour of the southern Texas border and its detention centers. They got a firsthand look at the impact of the zero tolerance policy.

More now from CNN's Nick Valencia in Brownsville, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this was one of the last stops 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 these 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're sending a message -- a deterrent message for people not to seek asylum in the United States.

It's completely unacceptable under any moral code or under 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 Day's tour was Congressman Pete Welch of Vermont. And so far, he says that there's been at least 2,000 children separated from their families over the course of the last six weeks.

I asked him if he's heard of any plans to reunite the children with their parents. He says right now, there's just a lot of uncertainty -- Dave, Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: All right. Nick Valencia there in Texas.

Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen trying to diffuse the controversy of the zero tolerance border policy. She took to Twitter last night accusing the press, advocacy groups, even members of Congress of irresponsible and unproductive reporting.

She claims, "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border, period." And goes on to say, "There is no reason to illegally cross between ports of entry for anyone seeking asylum."

ROMANS: All right. The first lady is also entering the immigration debate in a rare statement on a policy issue.

Melania Trump's spokeswoman 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 says she is hopeful both sides of the aisle will come together to achieve successful immigration reform."

BRIGGS: Laura Bush publicly criticizing the Trump administration for separating children from their parents. Rare, indeed, for the former first lady to weigh into politics or criticize an administration since her husband left office.

But in a Sunday opinion piece in "The Washington Post," Laura Bush 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."

[05:35:00] ROMANS: All right. Let's go live to Washington and bring in "CNN POLITICS" digital editor Zach Wolf.

And, Zach, this is clearly going to dominate the political world this week but we hear -- this is about law and order, right? We hear this is about America's immigration laws, the president says written by Democrats, that must be enforced.

Let's listen to the conservative line of thinking on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: People are going to be less likely to bring their kids to America if they get separated than if they live together and get released into the country.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Congress passed a law that it is a crime. This is a congressional law from many years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many.

CONWAY: It is a crime to enter this country illegally. So if they don't like that law they should change it.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Zero tolerance -- it's a crime to come across illegally and children get separated because the consent decree means that children cannot stay with parents who are being charged with a crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That image on ABC "THIS WEEK" of that little child crying, I think has become sort of the symbol of this -- of this whole thing here, Zach.

And the point is yes, it is illegal to come to this country between a port of entry illegally. That is a crime. But the separating children from their parents, that is different and that is an administration -- an administrative directive here from the Trump administration.

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL EDITOR, "CNN POLITICS": Yes, and the Trump administration has made a lot of decisions on how to carry forward with this -- how to prosecute people, whether to prosecute people. How to deal with people whom they are prosecuting, including taking children away from families. I mean, there's really no other way to look at it.

You could say there's no policy of doing this, they're just enforcing the law. Well, they're choosing to enforce the law that way in a way that it wasn't enforced before. So to say oh, we have to change this law, we're painted into a corner, seems pretty disingenuous.

BRIGGS: So, two bills will go through Congress this week. One, the conservative model led by Rep. Goodlatte and the other backed by Paul Ryan, the speaker.

The president -- the White House, I should say, has hinted they will sign either one. Only the Ryan bill would address this.

It appears they've given Democrats an issue here ahead of the midterms and maybe, late-night comedians some more material.

Here's John Oliver late last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats gave us the laws. Now, I want the laws to be beautiful, humane, but strong.

JOHN OLIVER, HOST, HBO "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER": OK, so first, beautiful, humane, but strong? That is not how you describe a law. That's how you describe a Viola Davis character in a movie called "It Hasn't Even Been Written Yet But You'll Still Win The Oscar."

Also, Democrats did not give them these laws because -- and I cannot stress this enough -- there is no law that suddenly requires separating parents from their children. This was the result of a deliberate policy choice by Jeff Sessions, a man so small he can wear -- and this is true -- a raspberry as a hat. That's a fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Christine has fact-checked that. It's not true, the raspberry.

ROMANS: Raspberry, no.

WOLF: A big raspberry, no.

BRIGGS: Nonetheless, a huge raspberry.

But is this a law the Democrats gave us?

WOLF: No. A little-known fact, laws -- they're not Democrat laws, they're not Republican laws. They're usually just called laws because it often takes both sides to pass a law and then it takes a president from one of the parties to sign one.

And these two laws that they'll vote on, I think in the House, potentially this week -- neither of those has Democratic support yet.

BRIGGS: Right.

WOLF: And they also, I don't think, have President Trump's support even though you said the White House has hinted yes, they have. Trump, however, himself, has been a little less clear that he would actually sign the -- particularly, the moderate bill. He's still looking at the more conservative one, I guess. So there's a lot of questions that remain about those.

BRIGGS: Yes.

WOLF: And it's hard to see how anything that's not bipartisan solves this.

ROMANS: I -- go ahead.

BRIGGS: Right around the time that the president was speaking to reporters there, Lindsey Graham was on CNN saying, "President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call." So he didn't exactly help the boss with that.

ROMANS: Yes. So is the president dealmaking this? Is he -- is he -- as critics like Adam Schiff have been saying, is he using the grief and tears of these families as some sort of leverage to get what he wants from Democrats in these bills?

WOLF: I mean, far be it from me to be inside President Trump's head. I'm not going down that road.

But when he's saying Democrats have to fix this, it certainly sounds like he's using grief and tears in dealmaking, yes.

BRIGGS: An emotionally charged issue. A long week ahead.

Zach Wolf, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: Thank you, Zach.

WOLF: Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Also this morning, the Supreme Court set to decide today on an Internet sales tax. It could force you to pay more when you buy online, especially from smaller retailers. We've got that story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:43:50] ROMANS: The suspected gunman in a shooting that injured more than 20 people in Trenton, New Jersey had just been released from prison. The prosecutor revealing that a dispute between neighborhood gangs triggered the gunfire at an all-night arts festival Sunday.

The entrance to the festival did not have a metal detector and with hundreds of people in the area at the time, authorities say the outcome could have been far worse than 22 injured.

BRIGGS: At least three people are dead and more than 200 others injured after a 5.3-magnitude earthquake hit Osaka, Japan last night. Government officials say a 9-year-old girl and an adult male were killed by collapsing walls.

We're also getting reports of major travel delays in the region with train service suspended across Osaka Prefecture.

ROMANS: The FBI agent who was removed from the Russia probe for his 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 making it clear a subpoena is not necessary. He says Strzok, who President Trump called a "sick loser," will voluntarily testify before any committee that asks.

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.

[05:45:05] Stone and former Trump campaign communication official Michael Caputo now claim the meeting was part of a larger effort by law enforcement to set up the Trump campaign. Both men accusing the Russian national of being an FBI informant.

Boris Sanchez with more from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, Michael Caputo and Roger Stone have long denied having any contact with Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign.

In separate letters they both sent to the House Intelligence Committee over the weekend, they acknowledged that there was this May 2016 meeting between Roger Stone and a Russian national, Henry Greenberg. He was apparently promising dirt on Hillary Clinton in exchange for $2 million.

Both men claimed that they had forgotten all about this meeting until they were reminded by the special counsel.

Michael Caputo acknowledging that he was shown text messages exchanged between he and Stone following this meeting. That's what apparently jogged 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 Greenberg. He says that he turned down the offer and that he never spoke to Greenberg 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 Greenberg of being an FBI informant -- someone that was planted to try to entrap them.

And I've asked 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 their assessment that Greenberg may have been a plant for the FBI, but we've yet to hear back from the White House -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: All right, Boris. Thank you, my friend.

ROMANS: "NEW DAY" is just about 10 minutes away. John Berman joins us.

John, how did the boys do for Father's Day?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: They did OK. I had breakfast outside -- bagels with cream cheese and eggs, and they cut up the scallions. So it went -- it went very nicely. After about 9:00, it became their day, just like every day.

ROMANS: Yes, yes.

BERMAN: But until 9:00 a.m., I did OK.

BRIGGS: It's a win. That's a win, man.

BERMAN: Yes, not so bad.

So, guys, you've been talking about it all morning, this Trump administration policy of separating parents from children at the border. It's really a crisis in morality this morning, a crisis in policy, and a crisis in honesty.

The administration will not own that this is their choice. This is a White House choice. They have instituted the practice which has caused this to happen.

And this morning, we're going to speak to several members of Congress -- two U.S. senators, one Republican House member -- who have been to the border over this weekend, who have toured this facility, and who want action from this administration to put an end to this, including Will Hurd. He's a Republican congressman --

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: -- from the state of Texas.

He says look, this is on the administration. The administration could end this. The president could end this with a phone call. And guys, I don't know about you, I'm beginning to think that the tide has turned here a little bit with the Laura Bush op-ed overnight. I think it's going to be hard for the White House to keep this up for more than one or two more days without a fundamental change in what they're doing here.

BRIGGS: Yes. You wonder who's driving politics in the White House because this is handing Democrats a pretty solid issue ahead of midterms.

You're right, Laura Bush. Melania Trump, I think saying as much as she can without really criticizing her own husband.

BERMAN: You know, that's true, although she does say that both sides are to blame which in some ways is what the president is trying to say. Or even though, again, this is his choice.

ROMANS: He's the boss.

BERMAN: He has chosen to make this happen.

ROMANS: He's the boss. How they -- how they enforce that -- what they do at the border, that's on the -- that's on the administration.

BRIGGS: All right, J.B., we'll see you in just a bit. Thank you.

BERMAN: Awesome.

BRIGGS: Coming up, the U.S. trade dispute with China escalating. Beijing hitting America 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. An all-out trade war now threatening to erupt.

CNN's Matt Rivers live in Beijing.

Matt, are we looking at a trade war?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you ask the Chinese government, the answer is yes.

In their initial response on Friday evening here in Beijing, after the Trump administration made those tariffs officials, the Chinese government -- the Commerce Ministry here said the United States has started a trade war. So, while U.S. officials might want to use -- might not want to use that terminology, the Chinese government apparently has no problem with it.

And look, if there was a way that was going to emerge over the last three days for this trade war to be stopped or averted, none has appeared so far. The Chinese government hasn't back down. There's been a lot of negative press here in state media about the Trump administration.

And no formal trade negotiations between China and the U.S. has been set up so far and that's the big concern. Even if these $50 billion tit-for-tat tariffs don't really have a big impact on either country's economy, it's where does it go next, Dave. Does this spiral out of control?

It might sound dramatic but the changes of an all-out trade war really hurting both countries -- the odds of that have never been higher.

[05:50:05] BRIGGS: All right. Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing. Thank you.

ROMANS: We're at 50 minutes past the hour. Time for a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Global stocks down as the U.S. and China inch closer to that trade war Matt was talking about. The White House slapped tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese exports. Then China threatening high-value American exports in response, that sent Wall Street down -- dragging down companies that do big business in China like Boeing and Caterpillar.

Now, economists don't expect the U.S. economy to take a big hit from these tariffs, at least this first batch here. Goldman Sachs predicts it will only shave two-tenths of a percentage point off of GDP over the next couple of years.

A new court case could force you to pay more when you buy online. The Supreme Court set to decide today on an Internet sales tax -- South Dakota v. Wayfair.

Many online retailers don't collect sales tax so states say they must add on $13 billion in taxes each year -- a boon for cash-strapped states. But a tax will mean you pay for it. You have to pay more when you're shopping on the smaller Websites like Wayfair.

Big online retailers already collect tax -- sales tax -- like Amazon and Walmart. The difference, they have physical presences in the state so they already charge those taxes.

An incredible opening weekend for "INCREDIBLES 2."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

"INCREDIBLES 2" MOVIE CLIP: Oh, yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Oh yeah is right. "INCREDIBLES 2" had the most profitable opening ever for an animated film, raking in $180 million. That blew away expectations and knocked "FINDING DORY" out of the number one spot.

It wasn't just kids filling the theater, Dave. Thirty-one percent of the opening weekend audience, adults.

BRIGGS: And they aged well after a 14-year hiatus, I've got to say.

ROMANS: Has it been 14 years? BRIGGS: Fourteen years --

ROMANS: Wow.

BRIGGS: -- we've been waiting. Can't wait to see that -- OK.

Coming up, President Trump defending his decision to stop the so- called war games with South Korea. We'll go live to Seoul, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:56:25] BRIGGS: President Trump defending his decision to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea after his Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un. The president claiming the drills were costly and provocative. So how is that playing in South Korea?

Let's ask Nic Robertson who is live in Seoul for us.

Nic, how is it playing there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Dave, this is a question that a number of reporters have asked a number of South Korean officials since that announcement, in particular, over this weekend.

And the very latest we have from here is that South Korean officials cannot say if an agreement on when or what form it might take for the stopping of the joint military exercises, at least as far as this week goes.

They don't want to get ahead of themselves, they say. They don't want to predict the outcome of what is obviously a behind-the scenes- conversation. It's been a sensitive issue for South Korea's leaders here.

This is an area where they see it as a bilateral agreement where they were blindsided to a degree by President Trump's announcement, and they want closer cooperation.

And that was something that was reiterated today -- early this morning Korea time, late last night in Washington -- on a phone call from the foreign minister here to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, talking about everything that's changed since the summit, briefing each other on what developments both countries have made.

But the statement from the Foreign Ministry here very clear, vowing to keep this close communication going, and that relates precisely to these joint military exercises -- Dave.

BRIGGS: And again, no update on if the president spoke to North Korea on Sunday, as he said he would on Friday.

Nic Robertson live for us. Thank you, sir.

For the first time in 29 years, a repeat champion at the U.S. Open. Twenty-eight-year-old Brooks Koepka, that last man standing Sunday at Shinnecock Hills. Koepka is the first golfer to win the event back- to-back since Curtis Strange in '88-'89.

He shot a final round 68 to finish at one over par, one shot ahead of Tommy Fleetwood who fired a 63 on Sunday.

Keopka, the seventh player ever to win consecutive U.S. Opens takes home a first prize of $2.1 million.

ROMANS: All right. World Cup soccer fans in Mexico were celebrating so hard on Sunday they may have triggered an artificial earthquake, right there, as Hirving Lozano was scoring the only goal in Mexico's 1-0 victory over reigning champion Germany.

Two monitoring stations in Mexico detected the ground shaking. So did a station in Chile. Experts say the artificially-induced quake registered -- it was about a two on the Richter scale. Too small to be noticed by the public who wouldn't have cared anyway.

BRIGGS: No, and that team has a real shot. Not even the first time this has happened. It reportedly happened in Lima, Peru when their team qualified for the World Cup.

It's been a fantastic World Cup --

ROMANS: It really has.

BRIGGS: -- thus far.

ROMANS: It really has.

BRIGGS: We're looking forward to more of that.

ROMANS: All right, that's your Monday for us. Have a great day, everybody. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MERKLEY: To hurt children, to get leverage on legislation is evil.

BANNON: It's zero tolerance. I don't think you have to justify it.

TRUMP: I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their look.

GRAHAM: President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call.

REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS: I'd like to say it's un-American but it's happening right now in America, and it is on all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

BERMAN: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, June 18th, 6:00 here in New York.

This is our "Starting Line."

The White House chose this. Five words you have to remember as we learn some 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the border. The White House chose this.