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EARLY START

Trump to Pick a Second Supreme Court Justice; Picking a New Justice During Midterms; Trump-Putin Summit in the Works; North Korea Upgrading Nuclear Facility. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 28, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: So $10 grand, you're your own boss? Amazon will help you.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: That is a fascinating experience. I don't want my package to be the one that they're experimenting with, however, but it sounds fascinating.

EARLY START continues right now with the upcoming battle over a Supreme Court vacancy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The bitter fight over the next Supreme Court Justice is underway. The vacancy with big legal ramifications, including for women's right to choose.

BRIGGS: Eleven long hours before Congress for FBI Agent Peter Strzok. What sources say he told lawmakers about texts that had the President claiming bias at the Justice Department.

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START in this Thursday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Thursday, June 28th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. We have a Supreme Court high court opening, but not exactly -- I don't know what they're thinking about the dialogue.

(LAUGHTER)

BRIGGS: You be the judge as to that "New York Daily News" cover.

President Trump relishing this chance, though, to fill another seat in the U.S. Supreme Court as Anthony Kennedy announces he is stepping down.

All signs say the President will replace the court swing vote with a staunch conservative, a man or a woman who could change the makeup of the high court and the crucial decisions it makes for generations. ROMANS: The President met with Justice Kennedy then, later in the

day, went on the road to North Dakota. He reminded supporters he intends to put a lasting stamp on the court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The travel ban ruling underscores just how critical it is to confirm judges who will support our constitution.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And remember this. So we have a pick to come up. We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that is going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: 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 has more from Fargo.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN 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 the list of some 25 well-respected conservative judges, largely from the federal appeals court.

He has had that list. It is, in fact, 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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 a 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.

BRIGGS: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

Joining us from Los Angeles, CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney, Areva Martin.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning to you.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Two a.m. there in L.A. Here is what Jeffrey Toobin said about what is on the line with this new vacancy on the Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Roe v. Wade is doomed. It is gone because Donald Trump won the election.

You are going to see 20 states pass laws banning abortion outright. Just banning abortion. And because they know that there are now going to be five votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Areva, is Roe v. Wade gone? And what else is at stakes here?

MARTIN: Well, women around this country hope that Roe v. Wade is not gone. But one thing Donald Trump did during the election, and has continued to do, is to say that whoever he appoints to the U.S. Supreme Court, he is going to use as a litmus test their willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade.

So women and, you know, liberals around the country are bracing themselves for an appointed -- appointment of a judge who has expressed, either through opinions that they've written or through conversations, that they will, in fact, overturn or be that vote that will overturn Roe v. Wade.

[05:05:01] There are also some other really significant cases and issues that this court, you know, may have to consider, including immigration.

We see that there are cases that have already been filed in the federal district court with respect to Trump's immigration policy on the southern borders. Those cases may work their way to the top, you know, of our judicial system to the United States Supreme Court.

We have the issue of presidential power with respect to the Mueller investigation, whether there's a subpoena issued and whether Donald Trump would have to respond to that subpoena. There is gun control rights, voting rights. So there are so many

consequential decisions, as well as controversial decisions, and issues that may make their way to the Supreme Court.

ROMANS: This is a pick -- we would assume that the President is going to pick someone who will be a staunch conservative, right? I mean, Anthony Kennedy was known as a swing vote.

There are conservatives who do not want another Anthony Kennedy. They want someone who will not surprise them on things like same-sex marriage and the like. Is that a fair assessment?

MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. We know now that the Supreme Court is deeply divided. And the nine justices, pretty much with the exception of Kennedy, vote as would be expected based on the President that nominated them.

Conservatives want to see the new nominee to be a reliable conservative vote, raising the question as to whether Chief Justice Roberts becomes kind of that replacement swing vote and serve the role that Kennedy has played.

But we know that, from the list that has already been touted by President Trump, that most of those judges -- all of those judges on that list are staunch conservatives. Some who have gone on record supporting -- you know, outlawing abortion and supporting a conservative agenda.

BRIGGS: When you see that picture of the current Supreme Court -- a reminder, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 years old and Stephen Breyer turns 80 this summer -- just imagine, down the road, the impact on the high court Donald Trump could have if he gets a second term.

Areva Martin, a civil rights attorney. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

ROMANS: Thanks, Areva.

MARTIN: Thanks, Dave. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: Speaking about the political dimension of Kennedy's retirement, let's bring in CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan in Washington for us.

Tal, we've already heard from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She says any one of President Trump's list of proposed SCOTUS justices would overturn Roe v. Wade.

We heard from Elizabeth Warren who says women's health and equal rights are on the line.

This is will be a rallying cry for women and progressives on Capitol Hill.

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Oh, absolutely. This is going to turn into, arguably, the biggest political narrative for both sides, I think, for months until this seat is filled.

You know, it's going to be a galvanizing issue for both bases. The, you know, immense number of consequential legal areas as, you know, Areva was just speaking about, they are really important to both sides.

And so you're right that, you know, for progressives and women, it certainly fits into the narrative that they're already spinning about Donald Trump and only serves to further that narrative. But you can absolutely expect Republicans are going to be just as loud on some of the same issues in the other direction.

BRIGGS: Nothing galvanizes conservative voters quite like a Supreme Court opening. But let's look at the Democrats' options here, OK. It's 51-49 margin for Republicans, plus Mike Pence plus 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election from Trump states. Is there anything Democrats can do?

KOPAN: Well, it's not likely that we're going to see Democrats be able to outright stop a nominee. Unless the nominee is sort of bungled, I think.

You know, it is quite possible someone makes a mistake in a confirmation hearing. It opens up all kinds of doors, but you have to remember that for even the moderate Republicans who could make a difference -- now, it's a razor-thin majority. You know, John McCain has not been back during his cancer treatment, so they are down one vote.

If you can convince a Murkowski, a Collins, a Flake, a Corker, to sort of hold off, then, all of a sudden, Democrats are emboldened. But for a Republican or a red-state Democrat to justify voting against a judicial nominee, it can't just be that they are afraid of how they rule. That's not really how the politics of this work.

They have to make the case that they're not a fair jurist, and it makes it that much harder. So you may see, perhaps, a slight moderation of who is actually picked for fear of sort of outright inflaming some of those moderates. But it's very tricky for Democrats to -- almost unfathomable for them to take down a nominee.

ROMANS: Let's talk about a little bit the timing because Senator Chuck Schumer was talking, yesterday, about some hypocrisy from Republican leadership about the timing of this appointment. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[05:10:05] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER FOR THE SENATE: 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. Anything but that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: What do you make of that? Is that going to be a workable argument for the Democrats?

KOPAN: I mean, it's a political talking point. You know, it's -- is it every year an election year because it kind of feels like it, you know? Of course, it was a presidential election year. They're saying it doesn't apply to midterm years.

You know, the fact of the matter is McConnell was in control of the Senate during Obama's, you know, last year, and he held up that nominee. Chuck Schumer is not in control of the Senate right now.

BRIGGS: Right.

KOPAN: If he were, he could have some strings to pull. But he doesn't. So, you know, this is a line of attack for Democrats, but you have to imagine that, a lot of Americans, it's not going to be some sort of, you know, vote-moving kind of line of attack. And I cannot fathom, again, Mitch McConnell acceding to this demand.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: No. Tal Kopan, we want to ask you about immigration, where it's headed, in the next half hour. Thanks.

FBI Director Chris Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testify before the House Judiciary Committee today. 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: Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page are Exhibit A for Republicans who argue the anti-Trump text messages they exchanged during the campaign prove FBI bias against the President.

Four sources from both parties tell CNN that Strzok told the House panel Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not press him about the texts when they came to light. Mueller did immediately remove him from that investigation.

BRIGGS: Page and Strzok were having an affair during the campaign. And he told lawmaker the texts were part of an 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

BRIGGS: Well after the North Korea summit, some of our allies are concerned the President is being too kind to adversaries of the West. Can we expect more of the same when the President meets with Vladimir Putin? We're live in Moscow straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:17:43] BRIGGS: President Trump on the verge of finalizing plans to hold a summit with Vladimir Putin. Details of his meeting with the Russian President are 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 Fred Pleitgen.

Fred, good morning to you. What are we likely to hear these two discuss?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're likely to hear them talk about just some that the President, Dave, said yesterday. We're likely to hear them talk about Syria, about Ukraine as well. Of course, those two major issues.

But then one of the things that the national security adviser John Bolton said at the press conference yesterday after his he meeting with Vladimir Putin is that, apparently, the meddling in the 2016 election could very well also be on the table.

Now, the big question is going to be -- where is the summit going to take place? Right now, what we're hearing is that, most probably, it will be Helsinki. Although apparently, Vienna is still on the table as well. As you were saying there, the middle of July seems likely right now.

The President, of course, in Europe in the middle of July. Vladimir Putin has to be here in Russia on the 15th for the end of the soccer world cup, but planning around that is what they seem to be doing.

Of course, Dave, we always have to point out that President Trump says this meeting is absolutely necessary. He says it will be good for America and the world.

Some of America's allies? Not so sure. They're a bit concerned about the fractured alliance that President Trump has had with them while, of course, embracing leaders like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and then also the Chinese leadership as well, Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes. It should make for some fascinating optics. Fred, thank you.

ROMANS: Brand new satellite images showed North Korea has made rapid improvements to 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 this seemed to cast doubt on North Korea's commitment to denuclearization.

CNN's Will Ripley is live in Beijing for us.

And, Will, I mean, if you've got all those road improvements and new buildings and spruced up facilities, how does that fit into a path toward denuclearization?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting because I was looking at some pictures out of Pyongyang yesterday that show some construction of apartments in the city has ground to a halt, and yet you have the nuclear reactor.

You have two new buildings going up. You have improvements to the cooling system of the plutonium production reactor. And you wonder why North Korea is investing scarce resources in a nuclear facility after vowing to complete denuclearization at that summit on June 12th with President Trump.

[05:20:10] Certainly, eyebrow-raising and really underscoring the need for an agreement, a verifiable agreement that the United States has yet to negotiate.

The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, presumably, will be meeting at some point with his North Korean counterpart to get specifics on a timeline for denuclearization. He has said it will take quite some time. He actually said there is no timeline now. That's dramatically different from their tone just a few weeks ago, saying it could happen in a matter of months.

Pompeo is also saying that North Korea remains a nuclear threat, contradicting, by the way, President Trump who said that the nuclear threat from North Korea was over after his meeting with Kim Jong-un.

North Korea is on the agenda in South Korea where the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived overnight after his meetings here in Beijing.

He has said, despite some disagreements with the President, that he does supports the U.S. decision to suspend joint military drills, saying that, hopefully, it will help to create a peaceful atmosphere and move forward this progress on denuclearization.

But all the questions remain, Christine, especially given this satellite images we're seeing from Yongbyon.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that. In Beijing, Will Ripley.

BRIGGS: OK, two words. Beer shortage.

(LAUGHTER)

BRIGGS: That's right. United Kingdom now rationing beer during the world cup. Why and how long it will last, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:25:50] ROMANS: President Trump is in Wisconsin today following his latest attack on Harley-Davidson. He is attending a political event in Milwaukee where Harley-Davidson is based.

Harley, of course, plans to shift some production overseas, blaming new tariffs from the E.U.

Trump tweeted, it should stay 100 percent in America with the people that got you your success. I've done so much for you and then this. Adding, we won't forget.

Trump, of course, has long championed Harley-Davidson as a model of American manufacturing, but Harley now caught in the crossfire of Trump's own trade policies. It needs to avoid steep tariffs from Europe. That's its second largest market. Tariffs will make Harley bikes there more expensive.

And they are a response to Trump's tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum designed to help the domestic industry.

U.S. Steel is opening new plants, a fact that the President touted at a rally in Fargo last night. The President also said, earlier today, he is not worried about these tariffs backfiring.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Steel companies may be doing better, but metal tariffs raised costs for a lot of other businesses, including Harley-Davidson for the bikes it makes here in this country and sells in this country.

Also, companies that make cars, planes, appliances. American companies pay the tariffs to the U.S. government when they import steel or aluminum. They can either absorb the cost or pass it along to you.

BRIGGS: The "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette," the last daily newspaper left in the Iron City will cut its print edition to five days a week beginning in August. The paper announced the changed 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.

ROMANS: All right, beer! Beer is being rationed in England due to a carbon dioxide shortage. Booker, a major U.K. wholesaler, is limiting bars and grocery stores to 10 cases per day per brand.

The carbon dioxide that gives beer its fizz is a by-product of ammonia. And several large ammonia plants in Europe have been closed for maintenance, leading to a CO2 shortage. The shortage is expected to last at least a few more weeks.

I mean, this is world cup time! I mean, there's a lot of reason to drink beer, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BRIGGS: Yes, they play today. England plays Belgium at 2:00. So we agree, Bloody Mary.

ROMANS: Bloody Mary.

BRIGGS: That's the obvious choice.

Ahead, it did not take long for a bitter showdown to erupt over replacing Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. What rulings could be in jeopardy? And are Republicans being hypocritical by racing to fill this void?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)