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EARLY START

President Trump Close to Making Supreme Court Pick; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Travels to North Korea; Weather Remains Chief Concern in Cave Rescue; British Couple Exposed to Deadly Nerve Agent. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 5, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:31:46] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A full scale lobbying effort on both sides of the aisle, as the president narrows his short list for the Supreme Court. Decision any day now.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And the secretary of State on his way back to North Korea. The pressure is on Mike Pompeo to show some concrete steps toward denuclearization.

ROMANS: And a Fourth of July protest at the feet of Lady Liberty. Police apprehended a protester who vowed to stay until all the children are released.

New York is awesome, isn't it?

BRIGGS: It really is incredible. We assume if you're up at 4:32 Eastern Time you did not see this live. So always nice to get a glimpse of what you missed last night. Some brilliant displays across the country.

ROMANS: Yes. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. 4:32 Eastern Time. We start with the president. He's headed to Montana tonight but right now expected to make the final decision on his pick for the Supreme Court as soon as today. His choice expected to be a closely guarded secret in an otherwise leak-prone White House. An 11th hour lobbying campaign is in full swing in Washington. Conservatives hoping to see their choice nominated while liberals are pushing moderate senators against supporting a hard right pick.

ROMANS: So far the president has interviewed seven candidates. Source tells CNN the president has narrowed it down to two or three options. All appeals court judges. Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge.

For the latest, we turn to our Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, President Trump is nearing a final decision on that pick for the Supreme Court. White House officials tell me that he is likely to make that decision either today or Friday. But of course not announce it until Monday evening here in a primetime address from the East Room of the White House. Now the president of course has been interviewing at least seven

contenders here at the White House this week. Vice President Mike Pence also talking to more than one contender, although we don't know how many. Now going into the weekend, the White House war room here that's been established, a group of aides to essentially start fighting the summer confirmation fight is going to have a list I'm told of two or three possible names.

They are not going to know who the president has decided. But they are going to gear up for this, you know, epic fight that is going to unfold across Washington. Now the president of course could always change his mine. It's one of the reasons also there will be two or three potential contenders. But he is narrowing in on a list.

Now one thing is interesting. A behind-the-scenes lobbying push also going on at the 11th hour with the president taking phone calls even as he was on the golf course or driving to the course on the 4th of July from some senators and from some conservative activists, clearly trying to persuade the president or have a final word of say -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: All right. Thank you, Jeff Zeleny.

This morning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his way to North Korea where he'll meet with Kim Jong-un. It is the highest level of diplomatic engagement since the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. Pompeo looking for a road map for North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

CNN's Paula Hancocks live in Seoul with the latest.

Good morning, Paula. What's the first step in some path towards denuclearization?

[04:35:03] PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, sources tell us that Secretary Pompeo is well aware that he needs to get something concrete from this meeting to try and have some kind of path forward. We're hearing from an intelligence official last week that they are likely to give some kind of list, a detailed list of the tasks that they want North Korea to carry out so that this denuclearization can start.

Now we also heard that on Sunday a source with knowledge of U.S.-North Korean relations telling me that that meeting between the U.S. delegation and North Korean delegations at (INAUDIBLE), at the DMZ there was a letter that was handed over. There's no details on what was in that letter. But we do understand that from this source that what they were trying to do is sort out the schedule, the agenda of this meeting between Secretary Pompeo and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

And also they want to ask what has happened with the remains of north of U.S. service members from the Korean war? Remember, this was something that was actually written into that agreement between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore. Kim Jong-un signed his name against that saying that there would be remains repatriated. The U.S. military is currently on standby at the DMZ with 100 wooden caskets but really nothing more has been heard from that. So that is likely something that U.S. secretary of State will be pushing for as well -- Dave.

BRIGGS: An accounting of just what nuclear weapons North Korea has would be a nice first step. Something concrete we hope. We appreciate that, Paula. Thank you.

The "America First" president repeatedly floating the notion of invading Venezuela. A senior administration official telling CNN the president asked top advisers about it last August. Aides including then National Security adviser H.R. McMaster strongly urged the president against an invasion. They warned such a dramatic response to Venezuela's political and economic crisis could back fire.

Our source chalked up the president's comments to thinking out loud. But the following day Mr. Trump said it out loud.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to rule out a military option and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they're dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Over the next month, the president kept pressing Latin American leaders about invading Venezuela, including on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. All the leaders firmly opposed the idea. President Trump has repeatedly tried to ratchet up pressure on the socialist government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Overnight Maduro ordered Venezuela's armed forces not to, quote, "lower their guard." He said this, "No empire is going to choose for us."

BRIGGS: DNA testing is being conducted on separated migrant parents and children as part of the family reunification process. A federal official says it is a precaution against children being trafficked or smuggled by adults claiming to be their parents. But one immigration group calls the practice deplorable.

All those border visits by members of Congress could be slowing down the reunions. Homeland Security officials say visiting lawmakers are draining resources that would be dedicated to the separated families.

ROMANS: One immigration attorney telling CNN nine clients received bond on Wednesday. A big step toward being reunited with their children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JODI GOODWIN, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: One of them fell down on her knees and just cried. She couldn't believe it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Those clients will still have pay an immigration bond of $1500 to $$2500 before they are released. Then they have to figure out where their children were taken and work with Department of Health and Human Services to reunite with them.

BRIGGS: A woman who climbed to the robes of the Statue of Liberty to protest the separation of those migrant families is in federal custody this morning. Authorities tried to talk Therese Okoumou down for three hours but she refused to leave until all migrant children in government custody were released. Earlier in the day other members of Okoumou's group unfurled a banner at the base of the statue, calling for the abolition of ICE.

At least seven people were arrested. Statue cruises which provide trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island had to turn away as many as 3,000 customers because of the police activity.

ROMANS: All right. Rescue teams now have an emergency plan to evacuate those boys trapped in a cave -- underwater cave if the situation worsen. For now crews are looking for another way in and the weather is the biggest concern here. We're going to go live to Thailand.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:43:44] CLAUS RASMUSSEN, PART OF THE SUPPORT TEAM WITH THE THAI NAVY SEALS: Lots of very narrow passages. There's lots of (INAUDIBLE) still going on. So although it goes down, it still becomes a hazard just being in the water and going with the current going against them. It's hard work. It's a scary sensation if you're not used to it. And even when you are used to it, it can be very scary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Updating now those trapped soccer players in that Thailand cave. The prevailing wisdom among experts having the trapped boys dive out of the cave in Thailand as a last resort. Twelve days into the ordeal the region's governor saying this morning that the weather is the biggest worry in pulling those 12 boys and their soccer coach to safety. He went on to say even though they are pumping water out of the cave monsoon season is just beginning and water continues to flow in regardless.

CNN's David McKenzie live on the scene with the latest.

David, what is the scene there?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, it's a scene of a lot of logistics and not much results just yet, Dave. Because what they are hoping to avoid is this dangerous and treacherous dive with these kids, many of them who can't swim, with full face masks through these narrow blacked out tunnels to get them out of this cave system where they've been trapped. Now the good news is, is they have three separate pumps, Dave, pulling water out of the cave system.

[04:45:06] About an inch an hour they say it's dropping down. So possibly, possibly they could get to a stage where the boys could crawl out without the assistance of oxygen masks. But -- and the big but is the weather. It might even rain as soon as this afternoon. Certainly the monsoon system is looming here in northern Thailand. If it starts to rain heavily they might take the decision, says the governor here, to push them out by any means necessary.

We've seen specialist divers and military from the U.S., from Australia, none of them at least today talking too much of what is going on. But we do know that they've set up a guideline. But it's been challenging even to get communication to the boys by a telephone to talk to their parents who are holed up near me here. And if you can't get a wire in easily then how are you going to get those boys out? So it's an extremely difficult rescue operation.

The hope that was here initially has turned to resolve, I think, with an international push and a world focus on getting these young 12 boys out of this cave and back to their families -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Amazing, David, to see some of the video of these smiling kids despite being trapped in there so long. We heard yesterday from Anna Coren that there were reportedly some sounds they heard, perhaps a rooster. Is there any follow up on that? Any confirmation?

MCKENZIE: Well, the way that they're following up on that, they have 20 to 30 teams in the mountain behind me as rescue vehicles pass by. And they are trying to find any chimneys or crawl spaces, any kind of air passages from the surface down into that cave system. The difficulty say experts is even if they find one that might lead to a whole different cave system, the chances of it hitting those boys exactly is relatively slim. But obviously pulling them up through a chamber of some kind would be advisable.

And, you know, the divers I have seen here are all technical divers using years and years of experience. So it's going to be extremely dangerous and difficult to get these kids out if they have to come through the water.

BRIGGS: Still a long way to go. All right, David McKenzie live for us in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Thank you, David.

ROMANS: All right. To the UK now. Police say a couple in southern England was exposed to the same military grade nerve agent used against a former Russian spy and his daughter in March. Now investigators are trying to determine if the two cases are somehow connected.

Erin McLaughlin lives from Amesbury, England. Such a mystery and certainly people there must be really concerned.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extremely concerned, Christine. At this point there are certainly more questions than answers as to how a seemingly ordinary British couple in their mid-40s, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley became exposed to what British authorities have been described as a weapon of mass destruction, the Novichok nerve agent, the same kind of nerve agent that was used to poison a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia not far from here, about nine miles away in Salisbury four months ago.

Now we just heard today from the British Security Minister Ben Wallace acknowledge that there are many unanswered questions in relation to how the Skripals were poisoned. British authorities have blamed Russia, they've even identified in that case the source of the poisoning being the front door most likely of the Skripal's residence. But there are still key questions as to how that poisoning was carried out. No one has ever been arrested. And now what we're hearing from Secretary Wallace is he's calling on Russia to provide answers, to provide information.

Now we have yet to receive a response to that demand from the Kremlin, although Russia of course all along has denied any sort of involvement in the Skripal poisoning. British authorities do say they do not believe that this couple here in Amesbury were specifically targeted. They're looking at the possibility that they somehow accidentally came across this deadly nerve agent -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Erin McLaughlin, for us, in Amesbury. Thank you so much for that.

Forty-eight minutes past the hour. America's biggest trade partners are objecting to possible U.S. tariffs on cars. The Commerce Department is investigating whether car imports pose a national security threat. That's the same rationale for those tariffs on foreign metals. Since then U.S. allies and automakers, they have criticized any possible auto tariffs. Car companies say it could force them to raise prices. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel warns it could start a trade war. Now 40 countries -- 40-- including the EU, China, and Japan say U.S. auto tariffs would threat global trade. Voicing concern to the World Trade Organization.

President Trump has been critical of the WTO, threatening to., quote, "do something unless it treats the U.S. properly.

[04:50:03] Trump denies he will leave the WTO. But the WTO's director general says if he does that would have dire consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTO AZEVEDO, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION: I think it would be a blow to the system, to the multilateral system because the largest economy in the world is outside the system. But at the same time it would be a blow to the U.S. as well. Both would leave. In a situation like that it would have almost a law of the jungle. You know, anybody can do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Almost the laws of the jungle. He added that escalating trade conflicts threaten global growth.

Those comments from him got a lot of attention. BRIGGS: Chaos.

ROMANS: Mm-hmm.

BRIGGS: Ahead, a cool-down finally on the way but not just yet. The rest of the holiday week forecast next on EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:55:31] ROMANS: Congressman Jim Jordan maintains he knew nothing about a team doctor abusing athletes at Ohio State University while he was an assistant wrestling coach. The Ohio Republican says he is willing to speak to authorities. He insists he does not have any record of investigators trying to contact him even though investigators say they have.

BRIGGS: Jordan did receive e-mails over the course of several months from alleged victim Michael DiSabato. A source in the congressman's office says he felt like he was being, quote, "bullied." His office will be contacting Capitol Police over the e-mails.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Mike wrestled for us, was a -- you know, was a friend. But something's changed. You know, it's -- you know, things he said are just not true. We knew of no abuse, never heard of abuse. If we had we would have reported it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: DiSabato denies bullying Congressman Jordan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL DISABATO, FORMER OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY WRESTLER: Jim Jordan is a world caliber athlete who is very aggressive in his -- in his actions on -- I mean he is a bulldog. Let's be honest. And for him to say he was being bullied by Mike DiSabato is somewhat laughable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Congressman Jordan acknowledged the team doctor would sometimes shower with the wrestlers but he claims the showers were open to faculty and staff and not just student athletes.

BRIGGS: Another day of oppressive heat ahead but then a much needed cool off. Here's meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good Thursday morning, Dave and Christine.

Over 80 million Americans with heat advisories, warnings or watches today. That includes parts of New England, parts of the Midwest and check this out across the southwestern United States, also getting in on some of the heat action. Look at Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix. We have extreme heat watches and warnings for high temperatures in excess of 110 degrees. That' really not until Friday and Saturday.

But in the meantime, when you factor in the humidity levels for the eastern parts of the country, this is what it will feel like on your skin as you step outside. 103 degrees in Nashville. 97 for Washington. 93 degrees in Atlanta and New York, you're at 89 for your feels like temperature. But there is some relief in sight. A cold front dropping south out of Canada that will bring temporary relief to our daytime highs.

Look at Chicago on Friday, 79, and look at the temperatures into D.C. as well as the big apple cooling on considerably this weekend. Back to you.

BRIGGS: All right. Thank you, Derek.

Folks, if you haven't had breakfast yet, brace yourself. Joey Chestnut, nicknamed Jaws, for good reason, devoured a record breaking 74 hotdogs and buns in just 10 minutes to win the 4th of July Nathan's hotdog eating contest for the 11th time in 12 years. That is more than 22,000 calories. It's the third time straight year that Chestnut has broken his own hotdog eating record. In the women's contest Miki Sudo won her fifth straight title downing 37 dogs and buns.

It's delicious, Romans.

ROMANS: Gross. Just super duper gross. That's all I got to say.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning. Global stocks are mixed right now. U.S. futures set to open higher after yesterday the markets were closed for the 4th of July. Investors waiting on the first wave of tariffs from the U.S. and China. At midnight tonight the U.S. slaps tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods. Targeting high-tech industries. China will retaliate with tariffs of equal value on cars, crude oil and cash crops like soybeans.

Global employment is on the rise but wages not so much. Around the world the labor market is tight. In developed economies companies are struggling to find workers. A new report finds employment is at the highest level since the financial crisis. But wage growth has not caught up. Wages growing half as quickly as they did in 2008. The report says super star tech companies are to blame. The extra money that used to go toward pay raises are now going toward technology. And tech companies employ fewer workers on average compared with traditional companies.

All right. Amazon, the online behemoth is turning to the tools of traditional retailers. It will publish its first holiday toy catalog. That's according to Bloomberg. Amazon is filling the space left behind by Toys "R" Us which just closed final stores last month. The catalog will be mailed to millions of households and handed out at Whole Foods which Amazon bought last year. Amazon is now one of America's biggest toy sellers selling $4.5 billion worth of toys in 2017.

BRIGGS: Not virtual. You can actually hold and flip through.

ROMANS: It will be an actual catalog.

BRIGGS: For us old school people that still like --

ROMANS: Yes. Who are you calling old school?

BRIGGS: EARLY START continues right now.