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EARLY START

Trump to Pick Second Supreme Court Justice; Justice Anthony Kennedy Retiring; Trump-Putin Summit in the Works; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 28, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Justice Kennedy's retirement makes the issue of Senate control one of the vital issues of our time.

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DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The bitter fight over the next Supreme Court justice is under way. The vacancy with major legal ramifications, including potentially a woman's right to choose.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Eleven long hours before Congress for FBI agent Peter Strzok. What sources say he told lawmakers about texts that have the president claiming bias at the Justice Department.

BRIGGS: A California man sacrificing himself to save his nephew. That man jumping into a river, although he did not know how to swim.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, June 28th. It's exactly 4:00 a.m. in the East, everybody. Let's begin here with the president relishing a chance to fill another seat on the U.S. Supreme Court as Anthony Kennedy announces he will step down. All signs say the president will replace the court's swing vote with a staunch conservative. A man or woman who could change the makeup of the high court and the crucial decisions it makes for generations.

BRIGGS: The president met with Justice Kennedy then later in the day went on the road to North Dakota. There he reminded supporters he intends to put a lasting stamp on the court.

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TRUMP: The travel ban ruling underscores just how critical it is to confirm judges who will support our Constitution. And remember this, so we have a pick to come up, we have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that's going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.

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BRIGGS: To get a justice confirmed, the president will have to navigate with a very slim majority in the Senate.

Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny with more from Fargo.

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, President Trump making clear that the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy is now a midterm election issue.

We know that he will pick the replacement for Justice Kennedy from a list of some 25 well respected conservative judges largely from the Federal Appeals Court. He has had that list. It in fact is a public list.

We do not know of course who he will select. But the White House Counsel's Office going through the list of judges. Now the president at a rally on Wednesday night in Fargo made clear politics are at play as well.

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TRUMP: Justice Kennedy's retirement makes the issue of Senate control one of the vital issues of our time. And I'm very honored that he chose to do it during my term in office because he felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy. That's why he did it.

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ZELENY: The president caught off guard by this as much as anyone in Washington was. He did spend about 30 minutes one-on-one in private conversation with Justice Kennedy who came to the White House to deliver his resignation letter by hand.

Now the president also was talking specifically to Justice Kennedy about who replacements could be. So this certainly will be dominating forces at the White House as the midterm election campaign of course in full swing.

There is nothing that galvanizes conservative voters more than a vacancy on the Supreme Court. The White House believes this could help the president and help Republicans hold the Senate and the House -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jeff in Fargo for us.

Justice Kennedy's stunning retirement announcement could have a major effect on cases that come before the Supreme Court. The president and Senate Republicans plan to move quickly on replacing Kennedy and that has Democrats crying foul. They want to wait until after the midterms using the same argument Senate Republicans made when they blocked President Obama's nominee in 2016.

Well, to the politics now from CNN's Jessica Schneider in Washington.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, it is the retirement announcement that had sent shockwaves through Washington, and now Republicans say they plan to confirm Justice Kennedy's replacement before the midterm elections this November. That's just about four months away.

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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The Senate stands ready to fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent on President Trump's nominee to fill this vacancy. We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy's successor this fall.

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SCHNEIDER: Democrats, of course, they're pushing back because they say hey, remember President Obama's pick of Merrick Garland? Well, that wasn't taken up in 2016 precisely because it was an election year.

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SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Millions of people are just months away from determining the senators who should vote to confirm or reject the president's nominee and their voices deserve to be heard now as Leader McConnell thought they should deserve to be heard then.

[04:05:03] Anything but that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy.

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SCHNEIDER: Justice Anthony Kennedy, he is 81 years old. He has served on the Supreme Court for 30 years. And when he officially retires July 31st, the court will lose its moderate voice. The swing vote as Justice Kennedy is known. And while he has sided with conservatives on issues like gun control and voting rights and campaign spending, Justice Kennedy of course has voted with the liberal side on other issues like abortion rights, affirmative action and the death penalty.

And most notably, Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion that cleared the way for same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015. Now if President Trump, if he nominates someone who is confirmed, it will solidify a 5-4 vote in favor of conservatives on the court. And of course stemming from that, the big question is what will that mean for abortion rights? Could "Roe v. Wade" potentially be overturned in the near future?

All those questions that are lingering -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: Jessica, thank you.

The president was in North Dakota campaigning for Senate candidate Kevin Kramer who's taking on Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in the fall. The president has praised Heitkamp in the past and twice after she considered joining the GOP. Last night the president cast Heitkamp as a, quote, "liberal Democrat" who plans to block his agenda.

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TRUMP: Heidi will vote no to any pick we make for the Supreme Court. She will be told to do so. Now maybe because of this. She will be forced to vote yes. Who knows? But I will tell you she'll vote no the day after the election.

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BRIGGS: The president failed to mention Senator Heitkamp was only one of three Democrats who broke the ranks and voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Heitkamp also believes the Senate should not wait until after the midterm elections to fill the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. Heitkamp said she is always willing to work with the president, quote, "if he is willing to help North Dakota."

ROMANS: The Fargo rally was also a victory lap of sorts for the president with Trump-backed candidates winning big in this week's the primaries. The president seemed especially happy about the demise of Congressman Joe Crowley of New York, the number four House Democrat. Crowley lost his primary race to 28-year-old, first-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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TRUMP: One of my biggest critics, a slovenly man named Joe Crowley, got his ass kicked by a young woman who had a lot of energy. She had a lot of energy. I guess he didn't see it. They couldn't find him.

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BRIGGS: With Crowley out of the picture, the president is making the case the Democrats have a leadership crisis.

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TRUMP: He was going to take Nancy Pelosi's place. And I was so disappointed because I want to keep Nancy Pelosi right where she is. I want to make a plea to my Democrat friends. Please, please, please, don't remove Nancy Pelosi.

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BRIGGS: It didn't take long for the president to turn around and attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In a tweet, he blasts extremist Democrats for their call to abolish ICE. Ocasio-Cortez made the elimination of ICE one of the cornerstones of her campaign.

ROMANS: The president also touting his poll numbers at the Fargo rally. Even poll numbers he is not quite sure are real.

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TRUMP: You saw the polls that come out. I don't know if this is true. You know, a year and a half ago, they said I was an interloper. How bad is that? An interloper. And now they say and you will admit, a thing comes out -- a big poll and a couple of polls, a number of polls that he is the most powerful, most popular Republican in the history of the party. And a little while ago I was an interloper.

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ROMANS: According to recent polls, President Trump's approval among Republicans is at or near 90 percent.

BRIGGS: FBI director Chris Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before the House Judiciary Committee today. Could expect a good grilling on FBI and Justice Department actions during the 2016 campaign. It follows a very long day on Capitol Hill yesterday for Peter Strzok. The senior FBI agent spoke to the panel for more than 11 hours including classified and unclassified sessions.

ROMANS: Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page are exhibit A for Republicans who argue the anti-Trump text messages they exchanged while Strzok was part of the Mueller probe prove FBI bias against the president. Four sources from both parties tell CNN that Strzok told the House panel Special Counsel Mueller did not press him about the texts when they came to light. Mueller did immediately remove him from the investigation.

BRIGGS: Page and Strzok were having an affair during the campaign. And he told lawmakers the texts were part of the intimate conversation. Committee members say Strzok told them he did not intend to act on them. Predictably the reaction to Strzok's interview was along party lines.

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[04:10:02] REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: Still a lot of unanswered questions on who knew what when. And as it relates to this particular investigation, you know, what was the genesis of the Russia collusion investigation. I don't know how any reasonable person reads the texts and would suggest that there was no bias.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: He was cleared from the questions the Republicans were asking. What was clear before this is that the Republicans want to use Mr. Strzok and his texts as evidence to sabotage or discredit the Mueller investigation. I mean, that was clear.

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ROMANS: The House is set to vote today on a resolution by Republican Congressman Mark Meadows calling on the Justice Department to provide Russia and Clinton records by July 6th. Meadows says if Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein does not comply, he should be impeached.

BRIGGS: Keep your eye on that space. All right. After the North Korea summit allies concerned the president is being too kind to Western adversaries. And we expect more of the same when the president meets with Vladimir Putin. We're live in Moscow with a look ahead.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [04:15:17] TRUMP: I've said it from day one. Getting along with Russia and with China and with everybody is a very good thing. It's good for the world. It's good for us. It's good for everybody.

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ROMANS: President Trump on the verge of finalizing plans to hold a summit with Vladimir Putin. Details of his meeting with the Russian president expected to be announced today. The president already revealing it is likely to take place after the NATO summit in Brussels in July.

Let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Frederik Pleitgen.

And, you know, the optics of this of the president, you know, meeting, you know, smiling, shaking hands with Vladimir Putin has Western allies concerned about the United States, you know, with a friendlier tone to some of our adversaries.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right. And all those, of course, Christine, as the Western alliance especially NATO seems to be somewhat fractured. And of course the president had alienated some of those very close allies, not just European countries but of course we remember that altercation with Canada as well. Nevertheless, National Security adviser John Bolton was here in town. And he certainly seemed very keen to try and get this summit going.

It's very interesting, Christine, because at the beginning we thought that Bolton was only going to meet with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Well, that turned into a big meeting with Vladimir Putin and some of his most senior ministers with a very quickly agreed to have summit.

Now we know that John Bolton in the past has been a huge critic of Vladimir Putin and of talks with Vladimir Putin but now he seems to have changed course. And he says that having these talks is a very important thing.

As far as the topics that are going to be on the agenda, the president has come out yesterday and said it would be Syria and also Ukraine, and of course also John Bolton is saying that the election meddling in 2016 could be on the agenda as well -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us in Moscow this morning. Thanks, Fred.

BRIGGS: New satellite images show North Korea has made rapid improvements at the infrastructure at its Yongbyon nuclear research facility. The images captured last week reveal planned upgrades that were already underway before the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore but seemed to cast out on North Koreans' commitment to denuclearization.

Will Ripley is live for us in Beijing.

Will, good morning to you. What do we know here? WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave. Well, we

know that certainly it does raise a lot of questions. Why would North Korea keep upgrading a facility that it had said eventually will do away with? Do away with its nuclear program. We know that the cooling system that -- of the tower that produces plutonium at Yongbyon was modified. Two non-industrial buildings were put up at the site according to satellite imagery analyzed by 38 North.

Not clear if this work was actually completed before the June 12th summit in Singapore and, you know, the analysts pointing out that look, this might have been work orders issued well in advance and until there's an actual deal, a verifiable deal with the United States, why would North Korea stop work at the Yongbyon nuclear facility, the only known nuclear reactor that fuels the North Korean nuclear program.

This is one of the issues the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is talking about. He left Beijing hours landed in South Korea overnight, meeting with his counterpart there. He is talking about denuclearization, talking about the suspension of joint military exercises that he does believe will help produce a peaceful environment here.

Keep in mind the U.S. has given up some significant concessions in that you have North Korea still working at its nuclear reactor. Also we're waiting to hear when North Korea will return the remains of 200 U.S. service members killed during the Korean war. No word from Pyongyang on when that might happen but we're monitoring it all here in the region -- Dave.

BRIGGS: It's another reminder that vague commitment to work toward denuclearization.

Will, thank you very much.

ROMANS: All right, 18 minutes past the hour. Beer shortage. The United Kingdom rationing beer --

BRIGGS: Got my attention.

ROMANS: -- during the World Cup. Why and how long it will last next.

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[04:23:25] ROMANS: All right. 23 minutes past the hour. Excuse me.

President Trump is in Wisconsin today following his latest attack on Harley-Davidson. He's attending a political event in Milwaukee where Harley is based. Harley plans to ship some jobs overseas blaming new tariffs from the EU.

But Trump tweeted, "It should stay 100 percent in America with the people that got you your success. I have done so much for you and then this." Adding, "We won't forget." Trump has long championed Harley-Davidson as a model of American manufacturing but Harley needs to avoid steep tariffs from Europe. That's its second largest market. Tariffs will make Harley bikes there more expensive. $2200 more expensive.

And they are a response to Trump's tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum that's designed to help the domestic steel industry, but guess what, that makes Harleys more expensive in the U.S., too. U.S. steel is opening new plants. The fact the president touted at a rally in Fargo last night he's also not worried about these tariffs back firing.

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TRUMP: The tariffs have been incredible. And the steel industry is doing great. And our country is doing great. You're seeing the results. The numbers coming out from the companies are far beyond what anybody ever thought possible.

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ROMANS: Steel companies, they are doing better, but metal tariffs raise costs for lots of other businesses including Harley-Davidson. Also companies that make cars, planes, appliances, American companies pay the tariff to the U.S. government when they import steel and aluminum. They can either absorb that cost or pass it along to the consumer.

BRIGGS: An East Pittsburgh police officer charged in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager is free on bond. Michael Rosfeld was arraigned Wednesday on criminal homicide charges in the shooting death of Antwon Rose.

[04:25:05] The criminal complaint said the 17-year-old was shot in the face, right arm and back. It also says Officer Rosfeld made inconsistent statements about whether he believes Antwon had a gun.

ROMANS: The prosecutors says Rosfeld acted recklessly and without justification but the officer's attorney thinks the D.A. is reaching.

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PAT THOMASSEY, ATTORNEY FOR OFFICER MICHAEL ROSFELD: I don't think it's a murder case. I don't. I don't know if there were mistakes made in police procedure. That's to be determined later. But I don't see it as a murder case. I really don't.

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ROMANS: The complaint says Antwon Rose was in the car suspected in an earlier shooting, but did not appear to be the shooter. Officer Rosfeld faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

BRIGGS: A California man who could not swim sacrificed his own life to save his 5-year-old nephew from drowning. 22-year-old Victor Mozqueda was on a family trip to Sequoia National Park on Saturday when his nephew slipped and fell into a raging river.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) IVAN GONZALEZ, BROTHER IN LAW DIED SAVING 5-YEAR-OLD: As soon as Victor saw that he jumped in without hesitation. He did not know how to swim. He went under for two or three seconds with the child, he never let him go. The last thing he did was to throw him at my brother to pull him out. My brother barely grabbed him and tossed him to his wife and Victor went under and they couldn't chase him.

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BRIGGS: Bystanders at the scene administered CPR to Victor's nephew. The body was airlifted to a hospital and is now recovering. Victor's body was found two hours after he was swept away.

ROMANS: Such tragedy there.

The "Pittsburgh Post Gazette," last daily newspaper left in the iron city, will cut its print edition to five days a week beginning in August. The PG as it's known in Pittsburgh announced the change in a letter to the newspaper guild citing the paper's evolution into a digital product. The letter did not specify which days the paper would print.

BRIGGS: Well, they are crying in their beer in the UK. If they can find one. Right now, beer is being rationed in England due to a carbon dioxide shortage. Booker, a major UK wholesaler, Limiting bars and grocery stores to 10 cases per day per brand. The carbon dioxide that gives beer its fizz is a byproduct of ammonia and several large ammonia plants in Europe have been closed for maintenance, leading to a CO2 shortage.

The problem extends beyond beer with soda and meat production, food processor, cooling storage all affected. The shortage is expected to last at least a few more weeks. The UK takes on Belgium at 2:00 Eastern Time today. So I guess liquor.

ROMANS: Bloody Mary, everybody.

BRIGGS: Bloody Mary.

ROMANS: You're just going to have Bloody Mary.

BRIGGS: Well-played. All right. It did not take long for a bitter showdown to erupt over replacing Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Are Republicans being hypocritical by racing to fill the void? What rulings could be in jeopardy and who is the frontrunner to fill the seat?

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