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EARLY START

Trump: My Nuclear Button is Bigger; Trump's Twitter Tirade; The 2018 Agenda; Utah Senator Orrin Hatch Retiring. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 3, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:01] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Communication back open this morning between North and South Korea. It comes hours after the President Trump's 280-character message to Kim Jong-un. Anything you can nuke, I can nuke bigger.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Comforting.

The president's tweet on North Korea part of a wild and -- wild day on social media. He took aim at Iran, Palestinians, Democrats, his own deep state Justice Department and, of course, the media.

ROMANS: And the Senate returns to Washington today, top level meetings on tap for the White House to get its 2018 domestic agenda off the ground.

EARLY START coverage continues right now.

BRIGGS: This is 6-box day.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs where #nuclearbutton is trending on Twitter. That's comforting.

ROMANS: It's not comforting.

BRIGGS: No.

ROMANS: And it's a 6-box day and like seven time zones for us here today. So, everyone buckle up.

I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

Let's begin with this. Breaking overnight: diplomatic contact has resumed between North and South Korea. Just hours ago, North Korea called South Korea through a now revived communication line, a hot line, if you will. 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 U.S. and it came hours after President Trump capping off a day of wild tweets appeared to taunt Kim Jong-un and North Korea.

BRIGGS: Quote, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the new clear button is on his desk at all times. Well, someone from his depleted and food-starved regime, please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, capitalized, but it's much bigger and more powerful one than his and my button works.

That tweet drew sharp criticism including from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Locker room talk or --

BRIGGS: Yes, of course.

ROMANS: Or dangerous miscalculation.

Lawmakers also weighed in like Democratic Senator Ed Markey. He said this: Imagine being a service member or the family of a service member stationed in Korea and reading this. This borders on presidential malpractice.

BRIGGS: It comes just a day after Kim Jong-un's peace overture to South Korea which has now resulted in direct discussions. For the latest, let's go live to CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul.

Good morning to you. Curious to see how President Moon reacts to President Trump's tweets. But how significant is this hot line reopening?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, it is significant. The North and South Koreans are now back in contact since February 2016. So, we had a readout of the call that happened just three hours ago. It lasted for about 20 minutes. We're told it was really a logistical communications check to make sure the line still worked.

The readout was very short. They took out the names for security reasons. So, the North Koreans called the South Koreans, said this is X. The North Koreans said this is X. That's all we know.

But what we do suspect, I mean, we've been told by the South Koreans that they're waiting for a second call either tonight or tomorrow from the North Koreans. That they will be calling to talk about whether or not next Tuesday works for them, to have these high level talks about North Korea's delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics which South Korea has suggested.

So, the fact they have made contact is significant in itself. As for the tweet, we are very unlikely to get an official reaction from here in South Korea. I actually asked the president a couple of months ago about a tweet that the U.S. president had made and he said that you shouldn't take them narrowly, a very diplomatic way of saying he was not going to go there and discuss that. But it will be interesting to see whether or not the North Koreans react, whether Kim Jong-un will react to that tweet. He has done in the fact on unprecedented televised statement rebutting some very personal remarks from the U.S. president. So, we'll have to see whether or not we get a response from the North Koreans.

BRIGGS: All this 36 days ahead of the Olympics there in South Korea.

Paula Hancocks live for us, thank you.

President Trump weighing in again on the deadly anti-government protests in Iran. The president tweeting 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 sentiments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: 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)

ROMANS: Now, the White House will not go as far as saying it wants regime change.

[04:35:01] 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 Fred Pleitgen has reported extensively from Tehran. He is monitoring the developments for us this morning live from Berlin.

And, Fred, how is Iran responding to these comments by President Trump and Ambassador Haley?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Quite angrily, Christine. You've heard from several Iranian officials not just this morning but also late last night deriding the comments made by President Trump and Nikki Haley as well. They're saying, look, this shows that the U.S. is directly meddling in Iran's affairs, that the U.S. is siding with the protesters and trying to restart the protests once again.

What we've seen in the past 24 hours or so is that maybe the protests got a little bit weaker but it really is still early to say. There were some big gatherings in some places, but you have Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, lashing out at President Trump saying, unlike many of America's allies in the region, presumably speaking about Arab countries that the U.S. allied with, people in Iran have the right to protest.

Obviously, the Iranians have been clamping down on some of these protests. What they've done is they've also curbed some of the social media apps that have been used by some of these protesters, especially the Telegram messaging service and Instagram as well.

Now, the Iranians came out just a couple of minutes ago and said that those restrictions will be lifted by Friday. Of course, Friday is a very, very important day there in Iran. That's the day when Friday prayers happen, that's when the weekend begins and that's when usually protests both anti and pro government tends to be the largest. So, we're going to be looking at for that as well.

So, you do have some very angry reactions by the Iranian not just government but by the power structure in general. But there are also some in the government, Christine, who say, look, it's no secret that we have problems here and that those problems need to be addressed -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Fred Pleitgen, watching it all for us from Berlin. Thank you, sir.

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 aide until Pakistan does more to combat terrorism.

BRIGGS: President Trump threatening the Palestinians with the same tactic tweeting: we pay the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year and don't get respect. They don't want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel. With 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, good morning to you. New reaction just in, I understand, from the Palestinian president.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Jerusalem is, quote, not for sale, one of a series of furious responses we've seen from Palestinian leaders directed right at President Donald Trump.

Another leader said, we will not be blackmailed, and it is that sentiment that we've seen echoed over and over again as you see this growing rift and growing distrust between the Palestinian and the American leadership. The Israelis perhaps predictably had the exact opposite response, although we haven't heard from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet, a number of his ministers have praised Donald Trump's threat, one even calling it or saying it will return, quote, sanity to international discourse.

Now, the next line in Trump's tweet was interesting because it makes Trump's foreign policy on Jerusalem a bit unclear. He said Jerusalem is no longer on the table. That contradicts what he said a month ago when he said American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel does not determine Israeli sovereignty in the holy city and does not determine contested borders. Here, he seems to be sending a very different message, saying Jerusalem is not negotiable.

So, as with so much of the Trump peace plan or whatever plan Trump is working on, this point remains unclear. It's worth pointing out that Israel just enacted a law yesterday that makes it harder for Israel to negotiate Jerusalem. That tightens Israel's grip on the city by requiring an even larger majority of Israeli's parliament before seating or giving up any of the holy city to a foreign entity. Obviously, negotiations, that would be the Palestinians.

Dave, as for where Trump's peace plan stands, it looks more remote than it did just a few weeks ago.

BRIGGS: That's why Jerusalem could have been part of the peace process, not preceding it, right?

Oren Liebermann, live for us, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump's New Year Twitter feed also focused stateside, again targeting his own Justice Department. The president going after former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, as well as former FBI Director, saying, the, quote, deep state Justice Department must finally act on them and others, suggesting a conspiracy theory against him.

Here's how White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders responded when asked about the tweet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Does he believe the entire Justice Department and its more than 100,000 employees are part of this deep state?

[04:40:00] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, he doesn't believe the entire Justice Department is part of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The tweet comes days after the State Department released thousands of Abedin's e-mails, some of which contained classified information.

A report in the conservative "Daily Caller" says one e-mail Abedin forwarded from her State Department account to her personal Yahoo account included passwords to government systems. Though that e-mail was not marked classified as the president claimed.

ROMANS: All right. The Senate is back in session today as the administration tries to jump start its legislative agenda. White House officials are set to meet with congressional leaders for both parties. One major issue still unresolved, the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP, is popular on both sides of the aisle, but Congress has failed to reauthorize long-term funding. BRIGGS: As of now, there's only money through March. States have

already warned that 9 million children will lose their coverage if lawmakers don't act fast. And Dreamers also on today's busy agenda and were part of Trump's Tuesday tweetfest.

ROMANS: He wrote: Democrats are doing nothing for DACA, that's the Dreamer program, just interested in politics.

The president predicted Dreamer supporters will eventually, quote, fall in love with Republican Party.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has that preview of today's legislative battles. He's at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, a big legislative agenda on tap and that is what's going to be driving this day in Washington. Two top officials here at the White House will be heading to the Capitol Hill later today to meet with House and Senate leaders to talk about those agenda items. Of course, first and foremost, the government spending bill.

January 19th is the new deadline. Of course, this is some unfinished business from last year. The House and Senate and indeed the White House must come to some agreement on this government spending bill. Of course, immigration also front and center in all of this.

Now, the president is going to have congressional leaders to Camp David this weekend to talk about the agenda as well. Of course, a key Republican goal, keeping the House and Senate in Republican hands. That is a tall order at least Democrats believe they can possibly win back the House.

So this agenda will be front and center in politics as it takes center stage -- Christine and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

Today marks the deadline set by House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes for the Justice Department to turn over documents related to that infamous dossier on then-candidate Trump. Nunes has threatened to hold top officials in contempt of Congress. The deadline coming as the House Russia probe reaches a critical partisan crossroads.

ROMANS: Republicans on the House panel eager to wrap up the investigation, claiming scant evidence of collusion has been found. Democrats insisting several key areas have not been fully investigated, including the extent of Russian efforts to get dirt on Hillary Clinton to members of the Trump campaign.

BRIGGS: Meantime, the cofounders of Fusion GPS, that's the firm that paid for the dossier on candidate Trump with a new op-ed in "The New York Times". They pushed back on Republican criticism of that dossier saying it was not what prompted the investigation. According to the cofounders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the dossier corroborated reports the FBI received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

ROMANS: The sources tell CNN the president's lawyers met with members of special counsel Robert Mueller's team. Mr. Trump's attorneys were hoping to get a better sense of the next step in the inquiry and how much longer the investigation will hang over this White House.

All right. Forty-three minutes past the hour. It's the longest serving Republican in Senate history set to call it a career. Could Orrin Hatch make way for Mitt Romney in Utah?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:47:15] ROMANS: It is the most high profile Chinese deal yet to be blocked by the Trump administration. U.S. officials killed the Chinese company's $1.2 billion plan to buy MoneyGram,, that's the money transfer company. It's the newest sign of increasing U.S. scrutiny of Chinese investment. MoneyGram and China's Ant Financial cancelled the merger after it was blocked by the Committee on Foreign Investment, also known as CFIUS, the government panel that reviews foreign purchases of American companies.

The panel cited national security concerns while the companies blamed the failure on a changed geopolitical environment. The deal's collapse is also a blow for Chinese billionaire Jack Ma. He's the internet tycoon who owns Ant Financial. He met with President Trump shortly after the 2016 election, pledging to create 1 million U.S. jobs. But the promise for jobs could not win out over the administration's concern about Chinese interest in the U.S. Getting tough on China has been the cornerstone of Trump's foreign and trade policy.

BRIGGS: Two new Democrats set to take their seats in the U.S. Senate today, although their tenure may be short lived.

Meantime, on the flip side, Utah's Orrin Hatch, the longest serving Senate Republican, ready to call it a career after seven terms. His departure paving the way for former presidential candidate and Trump critic, Mitt Romney, to potentially run for the seat.

We get more from CNN's Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

A New Year and a lot of new changes this week here in congress. Later today, Vice President Mike Pence will swear in two new Senate Democrats. Doug Jones who won that Senate race in Alabama against Judge Roy Moore, and Tina Smith, the lieutenant governor of Minnesota, who replaces Al Franken. He resigned of course after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Also adding to the mix changes up here this week, Republican Senator

Orrin Hatch of Utah. He announced on Tuesday that he will not seek re-election and that he will be retiring.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: When the president visited Utah last month, he said I was a fighter. I've always been a fighter. But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves and for me, that time is soon approaching.

SERFATY: Hatch had previously been lobbied directly and personally by President Trump. President Trump wanted him to stay and run for re- election.

This now opens the door potentially for Mitt Romney, a chief critic of Donald Trump, to potentially throw his hat into the race. He released a statement on Tuesday praising Orrin Hatch but notably, he made no decision, no announcement whether he will run or not -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks.

Mitt Romney did change the Twitter location on his profile from Massachusetts to Utah yesterday. The president tweeting his congratulations and thanks to Orrin Hatch saying: Hatch has been a tremendous supporter and I will never forget the beyond kind statements he has made about me as president.

[04:50:09] He is my friend and he will be greatly missed in the U.S. Senate.

ROMANS: All right. Streaming giant Spotify is being hit with a $1.6 billion lawsuit for allegedly playing Tom Petty without permission. Details on CNN "Money Stream", next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Four-fifty-three Eastern Time.

This deep freeze hitting even the Deep South. In Pensacola, Florida, the frigid temps turning this fountain into an ice sculpture. At another fountain, this one in Alabama, cones of ice buildup around the water jets.

ROMANS: Wow.

BRIGGS: Even colder, of course, in the northeast where Niagara Falls was mostly one big icicle and look at this, 100-car pile up in Buffalo in a blizzard.

ROMANS: Awful.

BRIGGS: Thanks to wretched conditions with the rest of the week.

The extreme cold will linger the rest of the week with the addition of snow moving up the East Coast.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joining live from the CNN weather center.

Good morning to you, Ivan. How much snow are we going to get up here in the Northeast?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think you're about four to six inches as far as snowfall right in the city. You can handle that though.

BRIGGS: Yes, we got that.

CABRERA: That's OK. Yes, the problem is, it's going to be coming in with arctic air and we're going to plunge right back into the weekend there and we have frozen sculptures in Florida. You know, something is going on. There's also a snow in Florida at this hour.

But look at the wind chills here. The winter in Nashville, a toasty 17 at this hour. Otherwise, we're still looking at below zero wind chills from Minneapolis feels five and D.C. feels like 14 degrees early this morning. And there it is, radar that you can go years and years and years and not see pink, this is not good for north Florida.

That's a wintry mix and there are some flakes flying as well across the I-10 corridor in Tallahassee where winter storm warnings are posted. It could get as much as an inch, and we haven't done that since late 80s in Tallahassee.

[04:55:03] So, that's something. Anywhere you see the pink we have the winter storm warnings. Again, this is for accumulating snowfall basically from Georgia, points to the Northeast. Florida I think will be more of a wintry mix but even into Savannah, Charleston, two to three inches of snowfall is what you're expecting there and that will happen today.

So, this will be a storm that will impact the South today. It will impact the Northeast as we get into tomorrow where not only winter storm warnings are posted but now, where you see the orange there, those are blizzard conditions for Cape Cod, the island, and then, of course, for coastal Maine as well. Looking at 60 to 70-mile-per-hour winds combined with the snow. So, it's going to look like what Buffalo did.

There's the ice accumulation. A quarter of an possible down across the South and then, of course, the big story here will be the snow, 6 to 8 inches, New York I think again about 4 to 6 and then we're looking at heavier snow with that very strong wind heading into Thursday across New England.

BRIGGS: Should be fun up here. Ivan, thanks.

CABRERA: Yes.

ROMANS: All right. The president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has died. Thomas Monson passed away in his home in Salt Lake City. The church says he died peacefully surrounded by family. After serving as a bishop in his 20s, Monson spent 45 years as an apostle and served as counselor to three Mormon church presidents. He was 90 years old.

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 known as bollards will replace concrete barriers that went up after two such attacks in the city last year.

BRIGGS: Security measures are a response to a disturbing but growing trend of cars being used as lethal weapons by terrorists. You know, 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.

ROMANS: A Canadian man who spent five years along with his family as captives of Afghanistan militants has been arrested in Ottawa. Joshua Boyle returned to Canada in October with his wife and three children. He now faces 15 charges, including assault and sexual assault. Boyle's lawyer says he has not seen the evidence against his client but looks forward to defending him. The couple was kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012 by terrorists from a Taliban affiliated network.

BRIGGS: There was no grand prize winner in Tuesday night's $361 million mega millions drawing and you know what that means, a jackpot for Friday is drawing even more mega jumping to at least $418 million and that means Romans is in.

ROMANS: No.

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

It's a shrewd investment, Christine.

ROMANS: It is not an investment. It is a get rich quick scheme that will fail unless you win.

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

Global stock markets mostly higher today. The S&P 500, the Nasdaq hit records on the first trading day of 2018. The Nasdaq crossed 7,000 for the first time. A surge into the New Year.

In fact, it's been just over eight months since its last milestone. That's a pace not seen since the days of the dot-com boom. Investors who bet big on tech companies in the past few years, like Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, those five companies alone contributing more than two thirds of the Nasdaq's 1,000 point rise.

Helping the Nasdaq to jump 28 percent in 2017. It did better than both the Dow and the S&P 500 last year.

The U.S. dollar is starting off 2018 at a three month low. The green buck fell for most of last year, dropping merely 10 percent in 2017. It plummeted despite factors that typically drive up the dollar, tax cuts and a healthy U.S. economy.

But experts blamed the dollar's drop on two factors. Dimmed expectations for the tax bill's economic impact and stronger global economic growth. So, watch the dollar here beginning the year at a three month low.

Spotify is being sued for $1.6 billion over copyright violations. A leading music publishing company is suing Spotify for allegedly using more than 10,000 songs without a license, including Tom Petty, Neil Young, the Doors. They're seeking damages of $150,000 per song. That's the maximum award possible under law.

BRIGGS: All right. EARLY START continues right now with communications lines being opened up between the North and South Korea and a threatening nuclear war tweet from the president.

(MUSIC)

BRIGGS: Lines of communication are back open this morning between North and South Korea. It comes hours after President Trump's 280 character message to Kim Jong-un. Mine's bigger than yours.

ROMANS: He really said that.

The president's tweet at North Korea part of a wild and wide ranging social media tirade. He took aim at Iran, the Palestinians, Democrats and his own deep state Justice Department.

BRIGGS: 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 coverage from Seoul, London and Jerusalem begins right now.

Good morning, everyone, and thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.