Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

Trump: My Nuclear Button Is Bigger; Trump To Iran: "The U.S. Is Watching"; Abbas Spokesman: "Jerusalem Is Not For Sale. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 3, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:09] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: The hotline is back on. The lines of communication open this morning between North and South Korea hours after President Trump's 280-character message to Kim Jong Un. Anything you nuke, I can nuke bigger.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: There's nothing abnormal about that. The president's tweet on North Korea part of a wild and wide-ranging social media tirade, 16 in all. He took aim at Iran, the Palestinians, Democrats, and his own deep state Justice Department.

ROMANS: And, the Senate returns to Washington today. Top-level meetings on tap. Can the White House get its 2018 agenda off the ground?

EARLY START's coverage continues right now.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. And the concept of mad or mutually assured destruction comes to mind this morning, frighteningly. Five-thirty eastern time.

Breaking overnight, diplomatic contact has been made between North and South Korea. Just hours ago, North Korea called South Korea through a now-revived communication line. Discussions resumed after a green light from Kim Jong Un. It's widely viewed as a way to drive a wedge between Seoul and the United States.

It comes just hours after President Trump capped off a day of wild tweets appearing to taunt Kim Jong Un and North Korea.

ROMANS: "North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the nuclear button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works!"

That from the leader of the --

BRIGGS: Just let it marinade for a while.

ROMANS: Yes, just think about that for a second.

BRIGGS: Just let it settle in.

ROMANS: It drew sharp criticism, including from former director of National Intelligence James Clapper, on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It would almost be amusing it if it weren't for the gravity of the subject. One would casually, back and forth by whatever means -- kind of a dueling banjo who has the greatest or bigger male appendage. It's also almost a manhood thing when there are potentially millions of lives at stake and untold death and destruction here and, to me, it's very disturbing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Lawmakers also weighed in, like Democratic Sen. Ed Markey who tweeted, quote, "Imagine being a service member or the family of a service member stationed in Korea and reading this. It borders on presidential malpractice."

ROMANS: This comes days after Kim Jong Un's peace overture to South Korea which has now led to direct discussions.

For the latest, let's go live to CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul.

So, the hotline is open. There has been some communication. What can you tell us?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, at this point, the communication has been limited but the very fact it has been made is what is significant.

So just a few hours ago, we know that the communication line -- the hotline which is at the DMZ at the truce village of Panmunjom -- that has been opened. North Korea phoned South Korea. We have the readout of what they said but, of course, the names have been taken out for security.

And what they said was the South Korea officials said this is "X". The North Korean officials said this is "X". That is all we have been given of what was talked about.

But they did say that it was more of a technical checking of the line. It hasn't been used since February 2016, although South Korea has been calling that line twice a day every day since then to see if North Korea picked up. But now, we do have this communication between them.

No word though on whether or not North Korea is going to go along with South Korea's idea of high-level talks next Tuesday to discuss North Korea's delegation that Kim Jong Un is willing to send to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Now, as for that tweet from the U.S. president, we are not going to get a response to that from the South Korean side, that's for sure. A few months ago, talking to the South Korean president Moon Jae-in, I

asked him about another tweet that Trump had given and he basically said let's not read them too narrowly. So, they're not going to go there.

We may get a response, though, from the North Koreans. We'll have to see what Kim Jong Un makes of it.

ROMANS: Rocket Man, fire and fury, and now, mine is bigger than yours. This is the state of diplomacy with the United States and North Korea at the moment.

All right, Paula, thanks for monitoring that for us.

President Trump weighing in again on the deadly anti-government protests in Iran.

The president tweeting this. "The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their pockets. The people have little food, big inflation, and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!"

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., echoing her boss's sentiment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We must not be silent. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom- loving people must stand with their cause.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:35:00] BRIGGS: The White House won't go so far as saying it wants to receive change.

For now, Ambassador Haley says the U.S. is seeking an emergency Security Council meeting in New York and a Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva to deal with the Iran crisis.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh monitoring all of this live from London for us. Nick, good morning to you.

How is Iran responding to these comments from the president?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have been broadly dismissive of the U.S. take on this. Obviously, they refer to the United States as the "Great Satan" within much of the Iranian government.

But, you know, we're now into the seventh day -- a week of protests. Today really marked, though, by a massive uptick in pro-government demonstrations supporting moderate President Rouhani and the hardline clerics that provide the sort of supreme leadership of Iran. Now, those protests are taking off in cities around Iran. But at the same time, too, it doesn't appear necessarily to be a finite end to the unrest at this stage. Incredibly hard to know exactly how widespread it's been in the last 24 hours. About six or seven cities where we've managed to assess the protests have continued.

At the same time, though, you can't tell is that's the full picture owning some of the restrictions placed on media with inside the country.

But a lot of this stems from economic grievances, grievances which the moderate president Hassan Rouhani has, in fact, expressed sympathy with. In fact, you can see here some of the price rises which have occurred in the past months on basic commodities -- foodstuffs -- making life difficult for ordinary Iranians.

The problem now, of course, is how do you find an end or a peaceful negotiation with a protest movement that doesn't have a leader and it doesn't have a clear manifesto that seems to have been very spontaneous? The issue, of course, being that the U.S. fermenting these protests is something that the hardliners in Iran accuse the protesters of using -- of being fueled by.

And that, of course, leads some to be concerned there may be some sort of crackdown in the possible days ahead. Although at this stage, we are seeing maybe the numbers beginning -- or the intensities to slowly ebb.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: All right, just past 2:00 p.m. there in Tehran. As to your point, it's tough to get information out of Iran given all the restrictions.

Nick Paton Walsh live for us, thanks.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Haley also targeting Pakistan for playing what she calls a double game with the U.S. Haley confirming the Trump administration is withholding $255 million in military aid until Pakistan does more to combat terrorism.

ROMANS: President Trump threatening the Palestinians with the same tactic, tweeting, "We pay the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation and respect. They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel. With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"

Let's go live to Jerusalem and bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann. Oren, new reaction just in from the Palestinian president.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas is furious, as are many other Palestinian leaders, at President Donald Trump's threat to cut off foreign aid to the Palestinian, which totals, as Trump pointed out, hundreds of millions of dollars. A spokesman for Abbas said Jerusalem is not for sale, rebuffing not only the latest tweet but also President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel a few weeks ago. And we've seen similar sentiments from other Palestinian leaders who said we will not be blackmailed on Jerusalem.

Perhaps predictably, some Israeli ministers have hailed this decision or, rather, this threat from President Trump encouraging him to do so, saying it will put pressure on the Palestinians.

Interestingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not make a statement about it at his cabinet meeting. It would have an easy opportunity do to so. He decided to focus on other issues.

Now, it's worth looking at that tweet again because in it, he talked about Jerusalem and said he's taking Jerusalem off the table. That contradicts what he said just a few weeks ago when he said his recognition doesn't determine Israel's sovereignty in the Holy City or borders. So what Trump's vision is on Jerusalem remains as it has been, unclear.

ROMANS: All right, Oren Liebermann. Thank you so much for that in Jerusalem this morning.

All right, joining us this morning, again, Erin Delmore. She's a senior political correspondent at bustle.com. Good morning, again.

We just have to start in North Korea here. You have got a hotline open now between the North and the South. That could very well be kind of trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Seoul.

And the President of the United States telling Kim Jong Un mine is bigger than yours in terms of the nuclear button. Joking, joshing, miscalculating maybe with something that is incredibly, incredibly important.

What does this tell us about the president after a 10-day vacation in Mar-a-Lago -- a working vacation at Mar-a-Lago?

ERIN DELMORE, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSTLE.COM: I've been reporting on tensions in the Korean Peninsula ahead of the Olympics and one of my sources called President Trump the chief pourer of gasoline on the fire. And while tensions between the U.S. and North Korea are nothing new, certainly not between North Korea and South Korea, what's new is having a president who is willing to return verbal fire at the Kim family in the way that we've seen President Trump do.

[05:40:03] Now, imagine that tweet that you just read being translated into Korean and being presented to that country's leader. It's a dynasty, so respect for leaders is of paramount importance to the North Koreans. These insults might look petty, they might look small, but they matter a great deal when you're talking about respect for the nation and the way that North Koreans view us.

Now, the way that this is shaping up between North and South Korea, this could be a big opening. Back in 2000 and 2004, we saw the athletes from both countries march together in the opening ceremony under a unified flag and that's something that the South Korean leader has said he'd be interested in pursuing again.

It would be a great moment for North Korea. They would have the spotlight. They would have that international recognition that they did --

ROMANS: It's great.

BRIGGS: Yes.

DELMORE: Absolutely. The legitimacy, have a way of showing off their athletes and their officials, that could be a good way for South Korea to ensure a peaceful couple of weeks in PyeongChang. But, President Trump might weigh in here and we might see a disturbance.

BRIGGS: Thirty-six days away from the Olympics. You wonder with the Senate returning to Capitol Hill today if we see the return of Bob Corker, or Jeff Flake, or someone willing to step out and say this is not going to work. Threatening nuclear war over Twitter is not going to work for this party or this country.

But there's also this in the 16-tweet tweetstorm that came from the president about a deep state.

The president tweeting, "Crooked Hillary Clinton's top aide, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put classified passwords into the hands of foreign agents.

Remember sailor's pictures on submarine? Jail!" We don't have time to go into the submarine story, but -- "deep state Justice Department" -- that's the part that really raised eyebrows.

DELMORE: Like a conspiracy theory.

BRIGGS: Sarah Sanders was asked about that characterization of the State Department yesterday. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CECILIA VEGA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "ABC NEWS": Does he believe the entire Justice Department and its more than 100,000 employees are part of this deep state?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, he doesn't believe the entire Justice Department is part of that. You know, one of the things that the president has done is appoint Christopher Wray at the FBI because he wants to change the culture of that agency and he thinks he's the right person to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Again, I bring this back to Congressional Republicans who want to talk about the economy because it is taking off and they just got through their lifelong goal of tax cuts. How much does this deep state stuff knock them off message? How much of it is shared?

DELMORE: There's a lot to unpack in that tweet.

There's not only the idea that the Justice Department has been weaponized against the presidency, there's the idea that a Hillary Clinton campaign official who has not been charged with a crime should be jailed. There is distrust for Comey who has voiced concerns about the president in the past. There's a whole lot there to unpack.

But, you're right. What Republicans want the president to do is stick to that win on tax reform.

ROMANS: Yes.

DELMORE: They were riding high into the Christmas and New Year's break on a once-in-a-generation -- something we haven't seen in 30 years -- tax reform proposal. That big champion -- that big push for that he put all of his political muscle and capital into achieving. You have to wonder why he, himself, is taking attention away from that win.

ROMANS: Why aren't they riding that win into a very clear set of goals for, you know, entitlement reform, welfare reform, whatever you want to say are their biggest priorities? They just are not riding that win.

DELMORE: You see some of it. You see that Paul Ryan does want to now say OK, we've reformed that tax system. Let's move on to welfare entitlement reform.

You see Mitch McConnell trying to voice something that could bring some bipartisan unity. Infrastructure could have a lot of appeal with Democrats.

ROMANS: Yes.

DELMORE: The Democrats say there is way too much at stake right now to keep moving forward. We need to address Dreamers, CHIP. Again, there's this surveillance law that it's hanging over. The entire government --

BRIGGS: Yes.

DELMORE: -- needs to be funded on a permanent basis.

And that's that the departments have an operating budget for the year to come. It's not just a perfunctory measure. They balance their work off that.

BRIGGS: It's really remarkable children's health insurance can't be agreed upon.

But let's turn our attention to Utah where Orrin Hatch is retiring after 40 years and all these subject of discussion is Mitt Romney -- will he run there. It looks likely. He changed his Twitter location from Massachusetts to Utah today.

Let me give you some numbers, though. Mitt Romney won Utah in 2012 with 73 percent. President Trump won Utah with 46 percent in 2016.

How will that set up for this president? Romney has not only been a harsh critic of this president, or at least as a candidate, but he is far more popular in Utah than the president.

DELMORE: I was speaking to strategists and party leaders on both sides and asking them what is your strategy for 2018? Are you going to try to define the party for Republicans around President Trump? Are you going to try to move back in the middle to gain back some of these voters who feel abandoned in the last couple of months?

And the same for Democrats. Are you looking for more progressive candidates on the heels of that Doug Jones win or are you going to try to take up that space in the middle?

When we look at Mitt Romney, he fulfills what my sources have been telling me, that they want to run the right candidate for the state. And with those kind of numbers in Utah, Utah Republicans do look like they're hungry for a candidate like Mitt Romney.

But look at a state like Alabama. President Trump won that state by an even greater margin than Romney in 2012, so there are parts of the country that are leaning toward this Trumpism. Utah might not be one of them.

[05:45:04] BRIGGS: Yes. Evan McMullin, I should point out, in 2016 --

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: -- took a good chunk of the Republican voters there. But it just is a massive gap between the two of them there.

I'm not sure it's clear, though, that Romney would return to being this critic of Trump that some suggest, but we shall see. He's got to run, first.

Erin, thanks for being here.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Erin Delmore.

DELMORE: It's nice to be here. Thank you, both.

ROMANS: If the cold weren't enough, snow making its way up the East Coast now. How much is in store and why are temperatures actually going down for the weekend?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: The deep freeze hitting even the deep south. In Pensacola, Florida, believe it or not, frigid temps turning this fountain into an ice sculpture. And another fountain, this one in Alabama, cones of ice all around the water jets.

Even colder, of course, in the northeast. Niagara Falls mostly one big beautiful icicle this morning.

For the rest of the week, though, the extreme cold will linger. Much of the addition of snow moves up the East Coast.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joining us live from the Weather Center in Atlanta where, yes, it is colder in Atlanta than it is in Anchorage, Alaska. Good morning to you, Ivan.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Isn't that something? And, in fact, it's colder -- Dave, good morning -- in places like Florida than it is in Anchorage.

We are upside-down here and we've got radar going on here.

[05:50:00] We've got thunderstorms across South Florida and then, pink rain, right? That is no bueno across the Panhandle of Florida. When you see pink on the radar that's indicating ice or a mix and that is going to be accumulating here. That is why we have winter storm warnings for north Florida that are in effect for today.

And that winter storm warning, of course, extends all across the southeastern U.S. I really do think here it will be a wintry mix.

But, places like Savannah, Charleston will be seeing accumulating snowfall upwards of two to three inches. I wouldn't be surprised in the next couple of days if we get pictures of snow on the beach. That's going to be something.

Then, of course, a big blizzard on the way for New England, all part of the same system. This will bring heavy snow across coastal Massachusetts and also into Maine. Sixty to 70 mile an hour winds -- that's going to combine with heavy snow to make for treacherous travel in the next few days if you're traveling into the northeast. Good luck -- be patient.

Two to four inches across the south and there, you see upwards of a foot of snowfall. Specifically, though, Philly, I think will be fine.

New York City, three to six inches of snow. And then, nine to 12 inches in Boston. And it's not going to go anywhere because it is going to be mighty cold heading into the weekend.

Another blast of arctic air is just what you want to hear after a snow event, right? But it does get a little better. Milder by Monday. I put air quotes in milder because this is just basically below normal and just not painfully so.

Then, another arctic blast coming in through the middle part of the week so it is not going to be feeling good at all.

The forecast -- here you see New York. We're going to go from the balmy upper twenties -- you've been enjoying that, Dave -- to teens, so don't get too used to it. The arctic freeze is coming right back at you.

BRIGGS: It should be a lovely weekend. Thank you, Evan.

ROMANS: Thanks, Evan.

Streaming giant Spotify being hit with that $1.6 billion lawsuit for allegedly playing Tom Petty without permission. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: The mayor of New York announcing plans to install more than 1,500 protective barriers in heavily-traveled areas of the city to guard against vehicle attacks. The thick metal posts are known as bollards. They will replace concrete barriers that went up after two such attacks in the city last year.

[05:55:09] BRIGGS: Security measures in response to a disturbing but growing trend of cars being used as lethal weapons by terrorists. Back in October, eight people were killed and nearly a dozen injured when a man drove a rented pickup truck down a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center.

A Canadian man who was held captive for five years by militants in Afghanistan has been arrested in Ottawa. Joshua Boyle facing 15 charges, including assault and sexual assault. Boyle's lawyer says he has not seen the evidence but looks forward to defending his client.

Boyle and his wife were kidnapped in 2012 by a group affiliated with the Taliban. They had three kids born in captivity. The family returned to Canada in October.

Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez fired after an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct. The school's athletic director saying the decision was based on the direction and climate of the football program.

Rodriguez posting a statement on his Twitter account, saying a former administrative assistant threatened to file a $7.5 million lawsuit against him alleging harassment. Rodriguez says the accusation is baseless and false claims. He voluntarily took a passed -- took and passed, rather, a polygraph test as part of the school's investigation.

And he also alleges his accuser refused to cooperate with the probe.

ROMANS: All right. There was no grand prize winner in Tuesday night's $361 million Mega Millions drawing -- $361 million -- and you know what that means. The jackpot for Friday's drawing is even more mega, jumping to at least $418 million.

If you are still feeling lucky or delusional, tonight's Powerball drawing is the next chance to lose. The Powerball jackpot is an estimated $440 million.

BRIGGS: Blah, blah -- such a wet blanket when it comes to the lottery.

ROMANS: I know, I know.

BRIGGS: Let me keep my boat dreams alive.

ROMANS: No, no, it's just a dream. A dollar and a dream.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream." That's a better investment this morning.

Global stock markets mostly higher today. Right out of the gate for 2018, the Nasdaq surged above 7,000 for the first time ever. It took only eight months to rally from 6,000 to 7,000. That is a pace not seen since the days of the dotcom boom.

Investors in love with a few big names -- Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook. Those five companies, alone, contributed more than two-thirds of the Nasdaq's 1,000-point rise. The Nasdaq jumped 28 percent in 2017, even better than the Dow and the S&P 500.

The U.S. dollar, though, starting off 2018 at a three-month low. The greenback -- the sales for most of last year dropping nearly 10 percent. It plummeted despite factors that typically drive up the dollar -- tax cuts, a healthy U.S. economy.

Experts blame the dollar's drop on two things. Dimmed expectations for the tax bill's economic impact and stronger global growth.

Spotify is being hit with a $1.6 billion lawsuit for allegedly playing Tom Petty without permission. A leading music publishing company claims Spotify used more than 10,000 songs without a license, including those by Tom Petty, and Neil Young, the Doors.

Wixen Music Publishing is seeking damages of $150,000 per song. That's the maximum award possible under copyright law.

BRIGGS: I won't back down, says that publisher.

ROMANS: Very well done. Very well done. You have a future in communications.

BRIGGS: I'll try.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.

ROMANS: Don't back down.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY and a new year, of course.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Happy New Year to you.

CUOMO: Happy New Year, all you guys. Good to be back.

It's Wednesday, January third, 6:00 here in New York. And we do have breaking news on our "Starting Line."

North and South Korea talking for the first time in nearly two years. This border hotline between the Koreas has been reopened.

The diplomatic development coming after Kim Jong Un offered a rare olive branch, suggesting he might send a delegation to the Olympics next month. Could that be a first step in repairing relations? We'll see.

Now, as those talks begin, President Trump is taking his war of words with Kim Jong Un to a dangerous new level. Responding to Kim's threat about having a nuclear button on his desk, the president tweeted that his nuclear button is much bigger, more powerful, and his button works.

CAMEROTA: The president tweeting up a storm on his first day back at work. In 16 tweets he lashed out at the Justice Department, calling it part of a deep state government conspiracy against him. He also threated to cut off funding for Palestinians. This Twitter tirade raising new questions in some corners about the president's mental state.

And, one of the president's biggest supporters in the Senate calling it quits. Utah's Orrin Hatch announcing that he will not run for reelection in November. The decision then opens the door for former presidential candidate and Trump critic Mitt Romney to jump in.

So, we have all of this covered for you. Let's begin with our top story.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul with that diplomatic breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula. What do we know, Paula?