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North Korea's Longest Launch Yet; Senate GOP Advances Tax Plan; Giants Bench QB Eli Manning. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:19] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If we have to go to war to stop this, we will. And if there's a war with North Korea, because North Korea brought it on itself.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea claims its latest missile could reach the entire U.S. mainland. Defense secretary sounding the alarm and there's word of another nuclear test could be next. We're live in Seoul.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Think of sitting there with a Rubik's cube and trying to get to 50.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A Rubik's cube. The Republicans clear a big hurdle with their tax plan, but leadership still need to satisfy lawmakers with all kinds of demands. Today, the president hits the road to sell tax cuts for corporations.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Wednesday, November 29th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Major news this morning no matter where you are in the United States, it appears you just might be in the range of a latest missile tested by North Korea. The Kim Jong-un regime claims the intercontinental ballistic missile tested yesterday is a new type top with what it called a super large heavy warhead capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

That threat reinforced by Defense Secretary James Mattis.


JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It went higher frankly than any previous shot they've taken. It's the research and development effort on their part continues building ballistic missiles that could threaten everywhere in the world basically. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The launch was North Korea's first since September and it came despite repeated warnings from President Trump. After threatening, you'll recall, fire and fury in August, the president took a more measured tone yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will only tell you that we will take care of it. We have General Mattis in the room with us and we've had a long discussion on it. It is a situation that we will handle.


BRIGGS: Not every reaction was that tempered. One key senator saying the U.S. will go to war if it has to.

International correspondent Paula Newton following all the latest for us. She joins us live from Seoul.

Good morning to you, Paula.


You know, if North Korea hadn't been front and center for the Trump administration the last few weeks, welcome to their Wednesday morning. You know, in the last few hours, North Korea took to the airways to, of course, boast that they could hit anywhere in the United States and, of course, the U.S. and South Korea have agreed with them.

What is so significant is the amount of progress they've made on this missile, in such a short period of time, really catching some experts off-guard in the last few months, and specifically with this missile. You know, going some 2,800 miles, as Mattis said, further in the sky than any had gone before. It was in the air for nearly an hour. During that hour, the South Korea military was on high alert and was retaliating in a fashion symbolically, hitting the same target with three missiles to prove that if it wanted to retaliate, it could.

But there we get to another point. We heard Senator Graham there saying this could lead to war. We are now getting reaction here from the region and it won't come as in surprise that China has the same reaction that they, of course, condemn what North Korea is doing, but saying that there is no military option here.

So, where does that leave the Trump administration? It is a good question. I can tell you here in South Korea from speaking to officials that they want to see the rhetoric tempered down. They want to try and head off any provocations especially with those Olympics happening in February.

For that reason, they are trying to get the parties to table and perhaps thinking the unthinkable. Something that the Trump administration said would never happen on their watch and that is that North Korea would in fact become a nuclear player.

BRIGGS: Stakes raised yet again. Paula Newton live for us this morning -- thank you.

Meanwhile, a sobering warning from Senator Lindsey Graham in the wake of this provocation.


GRAHAM: The president is not going to allow North Korea to have a nuclear weapon in their hands that can hit America with an ICBM, that can make it to United States. And if we have to go to war to stop this, we will. And if there's a war with North Korea, it will be because North Korea brought it on itself and we're headed toward a war if things don't change.


BRIGGS: President Trump also tweeting last night, tying the North Korea nuclear threat to the possibility of a government shutdown over a funding bill fight in Congress. He says, quote: After a North Korea missile launch, it's more important to fund our government and military. Dems shouldn't hold troops funding hostage for amnesty and illegal immigration.

[04:05:01] ROMANS: Plans for a meeting on government funding between the president and leaders of both parties took a turn yesterday when Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi decided to back out.

Well, the reason, well, this tweet from the president right before that meeting. The president blasting both of them and concluding, I don't see a deal.

The federal government is set to shut down on December 8th unless Congress can pass a spending bill.

BRIGGS: Republicans making progress in one significant area and that is a big one, their tax bill. The measure passed a key vote in the Senate Budget Committee on a straight party line vote. Many Capitol Hill Republicans heaping praise on the president for his efforts, even some who are often critical of him like one GOP aide who tells us, quote: Give us credit where it's due. He was coherent. He knew the issues and more than anything else, he helped us credit where it's due.

ROMANS: The tax bill still has a long way to go. Congressional staffers were working overtime last night. They're trying to put the promises and commitments their bosses made into legislative language and real action. More than a few Republicans still have concerns even be they're speaking more optimistically than before.

Today, President Trump heads to Missouri to tout the tax bill.

For more on the state of play, here's our Phil Mattingly from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, Christine and Dave, what a difference a couple of hours makes. If you started on Tuesday where Republicans stood on their tax plan, they had problems, serious problems. There was a possibility the bill wouldn't get to the Senate floor, at least not in a timely manner, because they had too many Republicans who were opposed to the bill.

And then President Trump came to Capitol Hill, the Republicans met with him behind closed doors. By the time that 70-minute meeting finished, Republicans were on track. The bill moved through the Senate Budget Committee, on its way to the Senate floor and a lot of the senators who were on the fence, well, they are leaning towards yes.

That said, there are still a lot of steps to go, a lot of difficulties to come and it's something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made very clear. Take a listen.

MCCONNELL: It's a challenging exercise. Think of sitting there with a Rubik's cube trying to get to 50, and we do have a few members who have concerns and we're trying to address them. And we know we will not be able to go forward until we get 50 people satisfied, and that's what we're working on.

MATTINGLY: And, guys, just to lay out how this is going to go moving forward. The Senate should cake a procedural vote on Wednesday, trying to finish up by the end of the week. But as I noted, there are still senators without standing issues.

There's Ron Johnson and Steve Daines, obviously, they were threatening to be no votes from the very start. Their issue on pass-through rates, how much basically business entities like LLCs, like S-Corps, like partnerships, pay on the individual side when they pay their taxes. They want the tax cut on that front to be larger. So far, Republicans haven't found a solution to that.

Then you have Susan Collins who a lot of people thought would be an automatic no on this. Well, she's not. In fact, she believes she's gotten something in return for her ask up to this point, and that is the state and local tax deduction. What you're looking at right now, according to sources, is the Senate matching what the House did, essentially allowing the property tax deduction capped at $10,000.

And then you have the deficit caucus, Senator Bob Corker, Senator James Lankford, Senator Jeff Flake, they've made clear this $1.5 trillion proposal shouldn't add to the deficit in the long run. Well, how are they going to accomplish that given that growth, this kind of magical thing that they can't necessarily prove with numbers on the outset doesn't necessarily proof itself out. Well, they want a deficit trigger, essentially a mechanism that would snap the tax rates back to where they currently stand if the growth projections don't play out.

Still, a couple of days ago. Still, a lot of complicated issues to work out. There's no question about it. Compared to where they were Tuesday morning, by Wednesday morning, they're in a much, much better place -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: Phil Mattingly, thanks for that.

And that's why you saw the stock market rally so much yesterday because companies think they're going to get a big corporate tax cut. When they look at this, they see permanent corporate tax relief, temporary tax relief for everyone else. They say this is a vehicle for corporate tax cuts.

If you are a hedge fund manager, if you are a private equity guy or girl -- don't worry, there's no carried interest changes like the President Trump promised on the campaign trail. You'll still have a pretty low tax rate in both plans for those folks who have carried interest.

BRIGGS: Yes, you go back to the campaign. The president promised that if you elect Hillary Clinton, she is the one who will continue to protect in his words hedge fund managers, which is what his tax plan actually does, but I'm optimistic too. After clearing that hurdle, it seems like all these concerns will be whisked away once this comes to a vote.

ROMANS: We've heard again and again that defeat is not an option. Republican Party is a party of lower taxes, of cutting taxes, if they can agree to cut taxes, then, you know --

BRIGGS: It looks like this will get through.

ROMANS: All right. So, we'll see.

A new report raising more concerns about President Trump's relationship with the truth and his fondness for conspiracy theories. According to "The New York Times", the president is questioning the legitimacy of President Obama's birth certificate, questioning the legitimacy of that birth certificate during private conversations in recent months.

[04:10:04] BRIGGS: Yes, it is 2017, November. The newspaper reporting quote: One senator who listened to the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama's birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as he recalled the conversation. The president he said has had a hard time letting go of his claim that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States.

"The Times" also going further on early reporting the president is still contending the "Access Hollywood" tape that rocked his campaign is fake despite earlier admitting it was him.

ROMANS: "The Times" now reports the president told a Republican senator back in January, he wanted to investigate that recording saying, we don't think that voice was my voice. We don't think that was my voice.

The revelations drawing concerns from GOP Senator Jeff Flake. He tells "The Times", quote, you've got to have shared facts. And on so many of these, there's evidence that says no. Mr. Flake tells "The Times" he is about to begin a series of speeches on the Senate floor outlining his concerns.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, breaking overnight: police have the man they say terrorized the Tampa community for weeks, killing four people at random. How they tracked him down next, on EARLY START.


[04:15:21] ROMANS: All right. Breaking news this morning, the search for a suspected serial killer in the suburbs of Tampa coming to an end. Police arresting 24-year-old Howell Donaldson III in connection with four fatal shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood since early October. The suspect facing four counts of first degree murder.


BRIAN DUGAN, TAMPA POLICE CHIEF: The real goal is to let the people of Seminole Heights be able to get a good night's sleep. It's been 51 days that they've been terrorized in their neighborhood and it is about letting these families know that we're going to bring this person to justice and letting this neighborhood get some rest and hopefully try and put their lives back together.


BRIGGS: Tampa police captured Donaldson acting on a tip about a man with a gun at a local McDonald's. They're still trying to figure out his connection to the Seminole Heights neighborhood. Police say the four seemingly unconnected victims were killed but not robbed while walking alone at night within a half mile area.

ROMANS: A Libyan man cleared of murder but found guilty of playing a role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks. A U.S. jury convicted Ahmed Abu Khatallah of conspiracy and other charges, for helping to plan out the deadly attack on a U.S. government compound. Four Americans were killed in that attack, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

It is the first conviction to stem from the attack. Khatallah faces up to 60 years in prison. The CIA director says the verdict brings a small measure of justice.

The Washington, D.C. archdiocese calling the transit authority a Grinch for rejecting its Christmas ads and filing suit to overturn the decision. The church ads to be placed on buses urged worshippers to find the perfect gift. The metro transit agency refusing the ad because it depicts, quote, a religion scene and thus seeks to promote religion.

BRIGGS: Officials say advertising guidelines put in place in 2015 prohibit issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising. A lawyer for the archdiocese calls the decision a violation of the First Amendment plain and simple.

A career first for LeBron James, but one the NBA superstar would probably like to forget.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LeBron wanted that call. Oh, they threw him out. They're throwing him out.


BRIGGS: James ejected from the Cavs game last night against the Miami Heat, his former team. The first time that has happened in his 15- year career playing in his 1,082nd game. It came in the third quarter after James dribbled up to court and missed a shot. He went right after the referee as you can see earlier, screaming as he fouled, then got tossed.

Cleveland still beat the Heat, though, 108-97.

ROMANS: So, he was screaming that he got fouled.

BRIGGS: Yes, he wasn't happy with the call. He wasn't happy at all.

ROMANS: But you can't do that, right?

BRIGGS: Well, just surprising to see him get tossed. A very mild- mannered, relatively cool guy.

ROMANS: All right. The New York football Giants marking the end of an era and it was not pretty. The team announcing quarterback Eli Manning is being benched after 210 consecutive starts dating back to 2004, the second longest streak in NFL history.

BRIGGS: Stunning. The Giants reportedly told Manning if he wanted to keep his streak alive, he could play in the first half in each of the remaining five games but Manning, classy guy that he is, declined.


ELI MANNING, GIANTS QUARTERBACK: It's hard -- hard day to handle this, but you know, hang in there and figure it out.

REPORTER: One of the hardest days --

MANNING: It's up there. Yes, yes.


BRIGGS: You can see the tears welling up there in Eli's eyes. The move being roundly criticized around the league. A number of Eli's former teammates expressing outrage over the way he was handled. David Diehl tweeted, I'm absolutely speechless. I've watched every game and have sat through this rough Giants season and this is what you do to a man who has led this team for 210 straight games.

And the shocker here for Giants fans is Geno Smith, a former Jet outcast is now the guy starting in place of a two-time Super Bowl champ and one of the classiest QBs I've ever covered in my career. It's hard to see that if you're a giants fan.

ROMANS: All right. Nineteen minutes past the hour.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has harsh words for Silicon Valley calling their objections for his plans to roll back net neutrality is disingenuous. We'll tell you why, next.


[04:24:13] ROMANS: All right. The fight over net neutrality. The FCC chair is blasting both celebrities and Silicon Valley for opposing his repeal of net neutrality, arguing that it won't spell the end of an open Internet. Ajit Pai recently unveiled plans to roll back the Obama era rule. It requires broadband providers to treat all Web traffic equality.

Many criticized his proposed repeal, including the tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook. They say the current rule protects you, customers from higher costs. But Pai calls Silicon Valley's objections disingenuous.


AJIT PAI, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION: These companies want to place much tougher regulations on broadband providers than they're willing to have placed upon themselves. So, let's be clear: they might put their advocacy in the public interest, but the real interest of these internet giants is in using the regulatory process to cement their dominance in the Internet economy.


ROMANS: In fact, he says tech companies pose the greatest threat to a free Internet. Why? Because they block content they don't like. Pai used Twitter as an example, arguing the company has a double standard when it comes to suspending conservative accounts versus liberal ones.

Pai is a Republican appointed by President Trump. He says net neutrality stifles investment. The FCC will vote on the plan in December.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, North Korea says its latest missile could reach the entire U.S. mainland. The launch heightening concerns in Washington and around the world. We're live in Seoul.

The president heads to Missouri, meanwhile, to sell his tax plan today. It cleared a big hurdle in the senate, but challenges remain to see it through.