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Merkel Compromises on Immigration; Trump Has Interviewed Four High Court Candidates; Efforts to Rescue Soccer Team from Thai Cave; Is North Korea Willing to Denuclearize?; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 3, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[04:31:08] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The latest sign decades long alliances are crumbling. The president warning he will pull American military might if NATO allies don't increase defense spending.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Our first look at the short list for the Supreme Court. The president conducts his first interview and is said to want a woman for the job.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirteen. Brilliant.


ROMANS: A huge sigh of relief as a youth soccer team is found alive in a cave but a daunting task for rescuers in Thailand -- getting everyone out. We have reports this morning from Thailand, in Germany, China and Washington.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. What a remarkable story. 3:30 p.m. in Bangkok, Thailand.

ROMANS: I'm so glad they're alive.

BRIGGS: Yes. A long way to go there. We have a live reporter standing by for any developments. We start, though, with the president dealing another damaging blow to post-war alliances.

In letters to the leaders of America's longstanding NATO allies, President Trump demanding they increase defense spending and threatening to alter America's global military presence if they don't. The letters first reported by the "New York Times" were sent to countries including Belgium, Norway, Canada and Germany last month. According to the "Times," the president was especially critical in his letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. ROMANS: He writes, quote, "Continued German underspending on defense

undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also do not plan to meet their military spending commitments because others see you as a role model."

The letter fits a pattern of Trump's critiques of NATO particularly over defense spending. NATO members did increase overall defense spending for a second straight year in 2017, but the U.S. still paid about 70 percent. The president travels to Belgium next week for the NATO summit.

BRIGGS: Chancellor Merkel also facing a domestic problem with global consequences. She just avoided a breakup of the German government over immigration. In a major reversal, she agreed to conservative demands to build camps for asylum seekers. Merkel had been a standard bearer for welcoming migrants and staked her global reputation on that.

We get more from Atika Shubert live in Berlin -- Atika.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In fact, she basically conceded that she would have transit centers, but that Bavarian border police wouldn't be bouncing back asylum seekers at the border automatically. This is the kind of compromise she made.

So this is ostensibly about the nitty-gritty details of migration policy but this was really fending off a challenge to her leadership. Basically this comes off the back of the 2015 migration crisis. There is no migration crisis at the moment but the memory of tens of thousands of asylum seekers walking across the Europe and into Germany fueled a populist, nationalist backlash to her policy.

And what she found then was that her own Interior minister was saying, listen, we need to crack down on immigration or your coalition government is going to break up. So she's made this compromise. So far she'll survive for another day but I think we can expect more challenges like this in the future, Dave.

BRIGGS: Atika, any reaction to this reporting we just discussed about the "New York Times"? The president continuing to push NATO allies on their spending?

SHUBERT: Yes, this is a familiar complaint to Germany. Chancellor Merkel has heard this personally from President Trump. Germany has maintained that it will try and meet that 2 percent goal but frankly it's not going to be happening any time soon. Especially when her own coalition partners right now, which are already looking shaky, are saying they don't want to raise it much more. So it will be interesting to see what Chancellor Merkel says to President Trump directly at the NATO summit happening next week.

[04:35:01] BRIGGS: Yes, more interesting optics between those two world leaders. Atika Shubert live for us. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. New clarity this morning on who might be topping President Trump's list for the Supreme Court. Sources tell CNN the president has so far interviewed four people for the job. Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge and Amul Thapar. Now all of them federal appeals court judges. The president met with each on Monday for about 45 minutes.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I interviewed and met with four potential justices of our great Supreme Court. They are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and every other way.


ROMANS: With abortion a major focus of concern, sources tell us the president is honing in on a particular type of nominee.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more from the White House.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, we're learning the president is increasingly intrigued at the idea of selecting a woman candidate. He believes that this female justice would be the first truly conservative female Supreme Court justice course. Of course Sandra Day O'Connor was on the bench appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Many conservatives did not see her as the champion of their causes.

So the president, of course, looking at about a half dozen or so finalists. We believe two of them are women. The White House is saying the president is not specifically asking candidates about specific cases like "Roe v. Wade" or other hot button issues. One of the reasons, of course, they do not want to make this confirmation process any more difficult but the reality is, all of these finalists on the list, this list of some 25 people or so, have been vetted and have the stamp of approval from the Federalist Society.

That's the conservative judicial group here in Washington. All of them certainly are suitable to conservatives. The question is, are they suitable to more moderates? Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, those are two Republicans who support abortion rights. I am told one of the reasons the president intrigued about picking a woman, he believes that would be the conservative answer to what liberals are already calling the year of the woman in this midterm election season -- Christine and Dave.

BRIGGS: It sure has been thus far. Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

A whistleblower says EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and his aides have kept a secret calendar to hide controversial meetings or calls. Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff, is expected to testify before Congress. He tells CNN EPA staffers met routinely in Pruitt's office to scrub, alter or even remove records because they might look bad. He says it often occurred at Pruitt's direction.

ROMANS: A CNN review of EPA documents found discrepancies between Pruitt's official calendar and other records. Legal experts say altering or deleting such records could be a violation of federal law. Pruitt already faces at least 14 federal probes regarding his spending, management and ethics. Chmielewski says he was forced to leave the EPA in February after raising questions about Pruitt's actions.

President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen is getting his voice out there. But not his side of the story just yet. A friend of Cohen tells CNN, Cohen's circle has been urging him to speak up because they think winning in the court of public opinion is vital. Monday the president's longtime fixer told ABC News he's putting his loyalty to, quote, "family and country" before his old boss. The interview raising new questions about whether Cohen could flip and testify against his old boss amid his own legal troubles.

BRIGGS: Also Monday, prosecutors investigating Cohen received 1.3 million documents from a special master overseeing the case. The court appointed official scrubbed the documents seized from Cohen's hotel room, home and office to eliminate any that violated attorney- client privilege.

ROMANS: The attorney for embattled FBI agent Peter Strzok slamming House Republicans for selectively leaking portions of his closed door testimony last week. Aitan Goelman sending the House Judiciary Committee a blistering letter questioning their motives. He writes, "Having sharpened their knives behind closed doors, the committee would now like to drag back Special Agent Strzok and have him testify in public. A request that we originally made and the committee denied. What's being asked of Special Agent Strzok is to participate in what anyone can recognize as a trap."

Strzok's attorney also demanding the transcript of last week's 11-hour interview be made public. Strzok worked on the early stages of the Mueller probe and has been vilified by Republicans for anti-Trump text messages to FBI lawyer Lisa Page during the campaign.

BRIGGS: I think we got a preview of what that potential public hearing would look like. Last week with Rosenstein and Chris Wray.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: With Republicans, some, Trey Gowdy using his entire allotted time to speak and to not ask questions of who was there.

All right. They're alive but their ordeal is far from over. Rescuers working on a plan to get a youth soccer team out of a cave in Thailand. We're live there next.



BRIGGS: Enormous relief in Thailand today as rescue teams found a youth soccer team alive in a cave nearly 10 days after the group went missing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [04:45:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirteen. Brilliant.


BRIGGS: The rescue mission, though, is far from over. They still must find a way to get the kids and their coach out from underground.

CNN's Anna Coren live for us in Thailand with the latest.

Again, Anna, a long way to go but certainly some relief there.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolute relief and elation across the country, Dave. People here have just been celebrating on the news. And we're just hearing some cheers now. And I'm not exactly quite sure what that is about. We do know that those 12 boys and their coach are inside the cave. Navy SEAL divers are with them at the moment. They've asked for 48 hours to assess the situation. They've got to get these boys into a condition where they can build their strength.

Now we know that they were able to capture water from the roof of the cave like a natural filtration process. You know, these are smart boys. Instead of drinking the polluted, you know, muddy water that was lapping at their feet. However, they are malnourished. So it is a matter of getting food to them.

And we heard today from the Thai government that they are willing to send supplies for up to four months. Now the reason four months is because that's how long the monsoon season is going to last here in Thailand. So do they sit it out and wait for those floodwaters to recede. The pumps are working overtime, 24/7, 124,000 liters of water is being drained from that cave every hour.

But the strategy at this stage is to teach these boys how to scuba dive so they can make their way out of the cave. That is what's going to be such a huge challenge considering the difficulties that professional drivers have faced over the last couple of days -- Dave.

BRIGGS: And because of those difficulties, Anna, any sense of a timeline how long we could be waiting?

COREN: Look. I mean, it could be weeks. It could be months. Just really depends. We know that some of these boys can't swim. So this cave system, it's huge. It's 10 kilometers long. And it's like a labyrinth. And some of these areas, some of these chambers are flooded. So these boys are going to have to learn how to breathe through a scuba mask. And if anybody has learned how to scuba dive, it can be pretty daunting. Certainly in open water, let alone in a cave where it is narrow.

They have to crawl through flooded passageways. So this is going to be a very difficult operation. Obviously a large international contingent here trying to certainly make that happen as soon as possible, Dave.

BRIGGS: Just a remarkable story. Terrific to have you live for us this morning. Anna Coren, thanks for your reporting.

ROMANS: All right. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heading back to North Korea this week to meet face-to-face with Kim Jong-un. The Trump administration pushing for a deal to dismantle the regime's nuclear program as doubts swirl in the U.S. intelligence community about Kim's commitment to denuclearize.

CNN's Will Ripley is tracking all these developments for us. He is live in Beijing this morning.

What you can tell us, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the pressure couldn't be higher on Secretary Pompeo and his delegation, Christine. Because unlike the previous meetings where they were talking about the summit, of course the summit itself, they signed this broadly worded agreement. There was all smiles, warm feelings. President Trump was euphoric, tweeting that the North Korean nuclear threat was over. Now reality is setting in.

What the United States wants and what Pompeo is going to ask the North Koreans is for a full inventory of its nuclear program. How many warheads they have? Where are the nuclear facilities? Where are the missile production facilities? Even as U.S. intelligence is now casting doubt on whether the North Koreans will be fully honest with the United States and whether Kim Jong-un is even willing to fully denuclearize.

The Defense Intelligence Agency telling CNN they do not believe that Kim Jong-un is ready to give up his nuclear weapons any time soon. His definition of denuclearization could be that the Americans give up their nuclear weapons first. And the North Koreans follow suit. Obviously that's vastly different from the U.S. which is saying they could complete full denuclearization in 12 months if the North Koreans are ready to play ball.

Secretary Pompeo will arrive in Pyongyang on Thursday. He'll leave on Saturday and head to Tokyo next where he'll brief his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, then he'll be heading to Brussels for the NATO summit where he will brief President Trump. And then the big question, will there be another Trump-Kim summit in the United States in September as Axios is reporting. A lot of it depends on what happens in these crucial meetings in Pyongyang -- Christine.

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

Forty-nine minutes past the hour. Federal scrutiny of Facebook's data privacy scandal escalating. Earlier this year, Facebook revealed it gave a third party app access to 87 million user profiles. Now three federal agencies, the FBI, the FCC, the FTC and the Department of Justice are investigating.

[04:50:03] Each agency looking at a different thread of the scandal. For example, the FCC, which is Washington's top cop -- Wall Street's top cop is investigating whether Facebook told investors in a timely manner. The FTC is probing if the data transfer was illegal.

Facebook says it is working with officials but faces harsh scrutiny for failing to protect user data on top of other abuses on its platform, like allowing meddling during the 2016 presidential election. Every day there's a Facebook headline. Every day there's a Facebook --

BRIGGS: You took the words out of my mouth.

ROMANS: -- headline.

BRIGGS: Uber has been quiet for a while so it's taken solely to Facebook.

OK. Dangerous heat could make it feel as hot as 110 degrees today in the East. All that heat wave has turned deadly. The full forecast, next.


[04:55:45] ROMANS: Harvey Weinstein facing new sexual assault charges this morning. A New York grand jury has indicted the disgraced movie producer on one count of committing a criminal sexual act and two counts of felony predatory sexual assault. The latter charges carry a sentence of 10 years to life. Weinstein's attorney says he will plead not guilty. The new charges come on top of earlier indictments for sex crimes. Weinstein is free on $1 million bail.

BRIGGS: The heat wave blanketing the East Coast has turned deadly. The coroner's office in Blair County, Pennsylvania, telling CNN a woman died after going into cardiac arrest on Saturday while working in her garden.

The head and humidity helped intensify storms in Pennsylvania that created flash floods on Monday. Today nearly 60 million Americans are under heat alert.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is in the Weather Center.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Guys, good morning. Once again, the heat advisory, heat warnings, heat watches, heat everything continues here with millions of us once again with temperatures that well into the 90s. Of course we have to factor in the humidity. It feels like Florida across the northeast. So we're going to continue to see heat index values well into the 100s.

We're also seeing areas across the midsection of the country with heat advisories as well. Same deal, their temperatures into the 90s and 100s. Look at Oklahoma City, 97, the actual air temperature here. And also across these mid 90s, New York about 91 heading into the afternoon. And then you do factor in the humidity and it feels like about 105 to 110.

With the humidity and the heating of the day like Florida, we can get pop-up showers and thunderstorms. One of our models indicating that, thinking about anywhere from 30 percent to perhaps 40 percent rain chance heading into the afternoon. And if these do pop up there will be some lightning, so we'll have to watch for that. But if they do pop up, the good thing is these temperatures will crash rather quickly as far as some rain cool there.

But we'll have to wait until tomorrow and into the latter part of the week, not much of a wait, right? For temps back in the mid-80s. Closer to where they should be for this time of year, guys.

BRIGGS: All right, Ivan. Thank you. One day after LeBron James announced he was joining the Los Angeles Lakers, the world champion Golden State Warriors made a big move of their own signing DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year $5.3 million contract. Boogie Cousins, one of the most skilled big men of the game but he's coming off a torn Achilles injury that will keep him sidelined until December or even January.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning. Global stock closes higher today before a short careen day on Wall Street. U.S. markets closed at 1:00 p.m. today ahead of the July 4th holiday. Yesterday, U.S. stocks closed higher. A big tech rally helped offset those worries about trade tensions between the U.S. and its trading partners.

Dell is ready to return to Wall Street. The computer company going public after five years. Dell went private in a high profiled gambit to overhaul its business. The company first went public all the way back in 1988.

Lyft is moving beyond cars. It is buying Motivate, the largest bike share operator in the U.S. Motivate runs City Bike in New York and Capital Bike Share in Washington. Lyft has been making moves into other modes of transportation like integrating public transit into its app and allowing users to carpool. But this also allows Lyft to compete with rival Uber. Uber bought a bike share company back in April.

All right. It is blockbuster season and a string of summer hits is sending the U.S. box office to a record high. Raking in $3.3 billion in the second quarter. That's the most ever. Two big movies led the way, "Incredibles 2" and "Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom." Both are sequels to well known properties and together earned about $1.3 billion in June.

This is a big rebound for Hollywood. Last summer had the worst box office haul in a decade but it's up 15 percent so far this year, could go higher. A number of blockbusters are still set to be released starting with Marvel's "Ant Man and the Wasp" this weekend.

BRIGGS: Have you have seen either "Incredibles" or "Jurassic."


BRIGGS: I want to see both.

ROMANS: Going to see "Jurassic" but I think it's really gory, right?

BRIGGS: A little scary. It's a little scary.

ROMANS: It's like a horror movie with dinosaurs.

BRIGGS: All those movies are a little scary but terrific.

EARLY START continues right now with the latest on that soccer team in Thailand found in a cave.

ROMANS: The latest sign decades long alliances are crumbling. The president warning he will pull American military might if NATO allies don't increase defense spending.

BRIGGS: Our first look at the short list for the Supreme Court.