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White House Struggles to Limit Fallout from Border Policy; Trump Escalates Trade Battle with China; Kim Jong-un Goes to China; Bleacher Report. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 19, 2018 - 05:00   ET




DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): That is now three visits in less than three months between these two.

Good morning everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday. June 19th. 5:00 in the east. Get up. Get your morning started.

President Trump has some explaining to do when he meets with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill today to talk about the immigration issue. His zero tolerance policy at the southern border has already separated 2,000 or so children from parents.

The White House now desperately trying to contain the fallout from that. Press secretary Sarah Sanders delaying the Monday briefing for four hours so Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen could face reporters.

BRIGGS: Once she arrived, things got very contentious, Nielsen claiming there is little the president can do about the situation at the border. She insisted only Congress can stop the breakup of migrant families.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Rather than fixing the law, Congress is asking those of us to enforce the law to turn our backs on the law and not enforce the law. That's not an answer. The answer is fix the laws.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you intending for this to play out as it is playing out?

Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children?

Are you intending to send the message? NIELSEN: I find that offensive. No.

Why would I create a policy that purposely does that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps a deterrent?



BRIGGS: While Nielsen claims it is not a deterrent, just last year her mentor and ex-boss, former DHS secretary John Kelly, now the chief of staff, told CNN that was precisely the plan.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: If you get some young kids coming in, who manage to sneak into the United States with their parents, our Department of Homeland Security personnel are going to separate their children from the moms and dads.

JOHN F. KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Yes, I am considering, in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that.


ROMANS: Now despite Secretary Nielsen's denial, attorney general Jeff Sessions says deterrence is a central component of the practice.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you trying to deter people from bringing children or minors across this dangerous journey?

Is that part of what the separation is about?

JEFF SESSIONS (R), U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes. Hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the point of entry and not break across the border unlawfully.


ROMANS: And the zero tolerance border policy has not deterred immigrants from entering illegally but internal DHS documents obtained by CNN show Homeland Security officials were confident it would.

BRIGGS: The president appears determined to stand his ground. He and his allies spent most of Monday defending the zero tolerance policy.


TRUMP: The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. Won't be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a crisis at the border. These are difficult choices. We don't like the binary choice, Wolf. We want Congress to help us fix the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since more illegal immigrants are rushing the border, more kids are separated from their parents and temporarily housed in what are essentially summer camps.


ROMANS: Although at summer camp you know you will be reunited with your parents the next week or a couple --

BRIGGS: I don't think Laura Ingraham ever went to summer camp. I missed the campfire photos and the swimming in the lake.

ROMANS: I think the camp analogy is a stretch.

Prominent Republican lawmakers are speaking out against the zero tolerance immigration policy.

Arizona senator John McCain tweeting, "The administration's current family separation policy is an affront to the decency of the American people and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded. The administration has the power to rescind this policy. It should do so now."

Texas senator Ted Cruz introducing legislation to keep immigrant families together after they cross the border.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: All of us who are seeing these images of children being pulled away from moms and dads in tears, we're horrified. This has to stop.


BRIGGS: Also speaking out against the practice, every living first lady. Michelle Obama and Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton and Rosalyn Carter, joining Melania Trump in condemning the separation of children and parents. Ms. Bush's op-ed calling the separation "cruel and immoral."

That was retweeted by Michelle Obama, who added, "Sometimes truth transcends party."

ROMANS: Let's bring in Phil Wegmann, a commentary writer for the "Washington Examiner."

So nice to see you this morning.


ROMANS: I'm structure by how long this storyline has dominated over the past few days for a president who is so tuned in to "the show" and the images and the optics of things. This 2-year-old little girl crying, as her mom is being patted down. All of these different images and now sound from ProPublica of crying children at the border after they've been separated from their parents.

Is the president going to flip, do you think, on this?


ROMANS: This is not the reality show he wants to show.

PHILIP WEGMANN, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Absolutely. We know this president is incredibly visual. I keep thinking about his decision to go back and actually have airstrikes in Syria. That was due in part to some of the images of what he was seeing on the ground.

I think that it is a matter of time. President Trump cannot hold out with the sort of reality show playing, not just on CNN and MSNBC but also on FOX News. I think eventually he has to see some of these photos and hear that heartwrenching audio and eventually I think we will have to see the president lead in a different direction.

It is not enough just to say Congress can deal with this by passing comprehensive legislation reform.


ROMANS: -- and his hands are tied by the law, two presidents before him, their hands were not tied by this law.

BRIGGS: -- watching and believing that it is summer camp?

So let's keep in mind the pictures he is seeing versus the pictures most of the country is seeing.

Let's just line them up. Lisa Murkowski blasted this policy. Ted Cruz, John McCain, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page, the head of the Republican National Campaign committee. Then the polling comes out; 58 percent of Republicans actually are in favor of this policy.

Is this a straight cold political calculation, one the White House thinks is a winner in the midterms?

WEGMANN: The White House we know will pursue further immigration crackdowns going forward. Stephen Miller and company want to have some sort of prize they can show to their base in lieu of a wall. But you don't win elections by putting kids behind chain link fences.

This president and this administration promised they would get tough on people breaking the law, they were going to be a law and order organization. So make MS-13 cry for their mothers, not a bunch of kids at the border. I see that polling but I can't imagine how that helps the Republicans in some of these swing states.

ROMANS: Yes, I don't know. There are some people who are just so sick and tired of illegal immigration and the problem it has been now for 30 years, honestly, since 1986, with the last amnesty.

There are people who say the problem is not the government not reacting well, which it is not, to this problem. It is the people coming here in the first place.

What do you make of that?

That is the conservative argument but it resonates outside Washington and D.C. and Los Angeles and the rest of the country sometimes.

WEGMANN: It certainly resonates but I think that is what is so interesting here. Pointing to past administrations that failed on the issue is no way to lead forward. I think what we see is that, fundamentally, yes, people want more than enforcement on the border and people want some of the enduring issues to be solved.

But I think eventually when you separate what is happening on the border from the systematic problems, we will see some clarity. Remember, law and order is not exclusive from compassion. They are not mutually exclusive.

And I think we see both Senator Feinstein and Senator Cruz putting forward pieces of legislation that are not sweeping reforms to immigration law. Instead, they are focusing on this issue specifically.

And I think the American people are sick and tired of the back-and- forth and the partisan bickering. Maybe this is a rare moment for a bipartisan opportunity to get something done. I think voters would appreciate that.

BRIGGS: I'm not holding my breath for bipartisan cooperation on anything. But two bills will be voted on in the House this week. Both now address the separation of children at the border.

Does either of those have the votes?

WEGMANN: I think, you know, right now, handicapping whether or not they will get through is incredibly difficult. What we do know is the images coming out from the southern border right now, they pull on heartstrings and they further solidify the argument that something has to be done.

I think the argument from Senator Cruz and Senator Feinstein is strongest. You cannot make policy from bad circumstances. Instead, I think you need to put out the fire and then look more generally at where the structure is weak and where you can shore up the system overall. I hope that is what lawmakers do.


ROMANS: Biggest, strongest economy in the world. The United States has heart and it has laws. We hope our lawmakers can figure out how to fix this because it is just not acceptable.

BRIGGS: We will talk to you in about 20 minutes and ask about the IG hearing, DOJ IG hearing. Thanks, Phil.

ROMANS: The president escalating trade tensions with China. Beijing warns it will strike back. The White House is now threatening tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. That is on top of the $50 billion it announced last week.


ROMANS: That was punishment for China stealing U.S. trade and tech secrets. So $50 billion then Beijing immediate retaliated, outlining its own tariffs on U.S. exports. The president, says, Beijing, if you retaliate, we will give you 200 more. Wow.

Writing that further action must be taken to encourage China to change its unfair practices. China once again promises to strike back, accusing the U.S. of extreme pressure and extortionist behavior.

Tit-for-tat tariffs sparking a selloff in stocks around the world tonight, four-month low for Asian stocks, Dow futures down about 400 points with about four hours to go to the opening bell. Worry that U.S. and China are inching closer to an all-out trade war.

Trump's announcement came hours after the Senate offered a rebuke to one of the president's trade policies. The Senate voting to reinstate that ban on Chinese state-controlled ZTE. That sent ZTE shares plummeting 25 percent.

In April, the Commerce Department banned ZTE from buying crucial U.S. parts, punishment for violating U.S. sanctions. Then the president offered ZTE a lifeline, lifting the ban in exchange for a fine and U.S. oversight. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the president's deal with ZTE citing national security concerns.

BRIGGS: Some rare pushback from the Republicans against the president and it's emerging on the separation issue as well.

All right. The president has a lofty goal for the Pentagon: a space force. More on the president's plan to create an agency that already exists in some form.





BRIGGS: Breaking news at 5:15 am. Kim Jong-un visiting China today and tomorrow. The North Korean leader expected to bring President Xi about his summit with President Trump last week.

Let's go live to Beijing and bring in Matt Rivers.

Matt, this is the third meeting in less than three months. It appears President Xi Jinping looms over all of this.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is hard to overstate the role China has played in the ongoing negotiation with the United States and North Korea. Although China wasn't at the Singapore summit with Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the presence was felt.

Kim Jong-un coming to China for the third time. As is typical when North Korean leaders come to China, not a lot of details. We have not seen a picture yet of Kim Jong-un here. Officially we're expecting that in the next couple of hours or so. That is usually how it works. You can bet they will be talking about that summit.

What was the conversation between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un like?

What was said that didn't make it into that document?

What does denuclearization really mean to Kim Jong-un?

And for China's point of view, they want to talk about their strategic interests, not the least of which is the suspension of the military exercises, which everyone viewed as a win for China, when Donald Trump agreed to suspend them and also potentially the removal of the U.S. troops way down the line from the Korean Peninsula.

But it is just incredible, remarkable, that Kim Jong-un continues this diplomatic push. The third time he has been here to China since the end of March. That was his first time ever leaving North Korea as its leader -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Totally normalize on the global stage. Matt Rivers in Beijing, thank you.

ROMANS: President Trump is ordering the Pentagon to create a new space force. He wants it to be a sixth branch of the armed forces.


TRUMP: When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.


ROMANS: The Pentagon says it will begin working on the president's request and seeking input from multiple stakeholders.

BRIGGS: It takes an act of Congress to establish a new branch of the military, great strides have been made in international diplomacy to avoid the militarization of space. Also the U.S. already has a space force of sorts in the form of the U.S. Air Force Space Command.

Twitter was in all its glory on the story yesterday with, "Spaceballs" and "Star Wars" references throughout.

Ahead, after winning the first Family Cup in Washington Capitals history, Barry Trotz is out as the team's head coach. We have got Caps insider this morning. Lindsay Czarniak has more in the "Bleacher Report" next.





BRIGGS: England stages an epic World Cup comeback, thanks to the heroic performance of their captain.

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning.



LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- have to believe that there was a time that Kane doubted he would make it on this stage. That was several years ago.

But does he have the confidence now?

In his first World Cup game as England's captain, he was the difference maker. The three lions and team (ph) got off to a flying start when Kane found the back of the net against Tunisia. The crowd went wild.

Things went downhill quickly for England. Now with the score tied at 1-1, time was about gone. Kane steps up (INAUDIBLE) for the dramatic win.

Check out the reaction back home in England.

Don't you love shots like that?



CZARNIAK (voice-over): Kane said he relied on inspiration from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, story of the underdog who rose to become a future Hall of Famer. Kane has immersed himself in Brady history. He said he's his motivational tactic. He's a huge fan. In fact, he loves the (INAUDIBLE) so much, he named one of his dogs Brady.


BRIGGS (voice-over): For sure.

CZARNIAK (voice-over): Children are only the bigger compliment.

Less than two weeks after Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz stood on the ice of his team celebrating his Family Cup win, he resigned as head coach. This is eye-popping because of how much this goodwill this team has instilled in Washington. But truly this is about more than money. You get the idea. This is also about respect.

Trotz had a clause in his contract that kicked in once the team won the Family Cup (INAUDIBLE) if he led his team to a title, he received a two-year extension with a slight bump in salary.

After winning the cup, the two sides sat down to negotiate a new deal and could not come to terms. Trotz asking for more money and five years (INAUDIBLE) statements of one another. The Capitals though saying Trotz asking for a five-year extension was really the sticking point.

And finally the feel-good story of the day. Check out the reaction of the (INAUDIBLE) fan after a foul ball came in her direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): -- foul ball --


CZARNIAK (voice-over): -- that can only be described as --


CZARNIAK (voice-over): -- pure joy. She brought her glove, that's awesome but I don't think she ever expected to use it, right.

ROMANS (voice-over): Wow.


BRIGGS (voice-over): Most people at the park are on their smartphone and get clunked in the side of the head --


ROMANS: Someone has reflexes in America.

Thank you so much --


ROMANS: Is separating kids from parents at the border a deterrent or not?


NIELSEN: Why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps as a deterrence.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you trying to deter people from bringing children or minors?

SESSIONS: Yes, hopefully believe people will get the message. ROMANS (voice-over): So top officials are not on the same page. They're struggling to contain the fallout over the zero tolerance policy.

Are you intending to send the message?






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you intending to send a message?

NIELSEN: I find that offensive.

SESSIONS: We are doing the right thing. We're taking care of these children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Letting children and parents come across the border unbounded, illegally, is not a policy either.

ROMANS (voice-over): The White House defiant but still struggling to quiet the outcry over those kids separated from parents at the border.