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EARLY START

Trump: My Nuclear Button Works; Trump's Twitter Tirade; The 2018 Agenda; Isaiah Thomas Shines In Debut with the Cavaliers. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 3, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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?

[05:00:04] 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.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, January 3rd.

Are all of your New Year's resolutions still intact?

BRIGGS: I promised to tweet less. I'm failing at that.

ROMANS: And sleep more.

BRIGGS: I'm failing at that, 0-2. And you?

ROMANS: We'll try again tomorrow. No.

It's 5:00 a.m. in the East, and 6:30 p.m. in Pyongyang.

Let's start there. Breaking overnight: diplomatic contact has resumed between North and South Korea. Just hours ago, North Korea called South Korea through a 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 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: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the nuclear

button 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 much bigger and more powerful than his and my button works?

That tweet drew sharp criticism including from former 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: Lawmakers also weighed in like Democratic Senator Ed Markey who tweeted: imagine being a service member or a family of a service member stationed in Korea and reading this. This borders on presidential malpractice.

BRIGGS: This comes days after Kim Jong-un's peace overture to South Korea, which has now led to discussions.

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

Good morning, Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Dave.

Well, North and South Korea have made communication and a connection once again, just a matter of hours ago. It was the communication hot line at the DMZ. We've just had a readout of what was said. The names have been taken out for security reasons and it is very short.

North Korea phoned South Korea at 1:30 a.m. Eastern Time. A South Korean official said this is X and the North Korean official said this is X. And then they checked the technicalities, to check that the communication line was still working. That's it.

At this point, as far as the officials that speak to us are concerned, there was no more. They have been waiting for a second phone call from North Korea. It's now 7:00 p.m. in the evening. They could potentially have to wait until tomorrow to find out if North Korea is going to say yes to their suggestion.

They have suggested that next Tuesday, January 9th, they should meet at the DMZ for high level talks to talk about the fact that Kim Jong- un wants to send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Now, as for that tweet from the U.S. president, we're not going to get

an official response from that from South Korea. Certainly not from the President Moon who has welcomed the New Year's Day suggestions of peace between North and South Korea, but we could get something from North Korea. We have seen in the past that Kim Jong-un has responded almost directly to the U.S. president when he is being rebutting any threats or anything against him. So, we'll have to see if he says anything this time -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Indeed, we will. The world awaits a month ahead of the Olympics meanwhile.

Paula Hancocks, thanks.

President Trump also weighing in again on the deadly anti-government protests in Iran, 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: The White House will not go as far as saying it wants regime change. For now, Ambassador Haley says the U.S. is seeking an emergency Security Council meeting in New York and a human rights meeting in Iran to deal with this Iran crisis.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is monitoring developments for us this morning. He is in London.

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

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, frankly being dismissive of external judgment of what's happening inside of Iran. You have to bear in mind too that given the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments yesterday that in fact it was the enemies of Iran that were fomenting these protests, the level of support we've heard from the U.S. and even direct comments from U.S. State Department officials that they are in contact on social media trying to encourage protests plays into that broader narrative, that these are not groundswell, grassroots protests from angry young people across economic changes but instead something fomented by foreign powers.

[05:05:20] We're now into the seventh day of protests. The death toll as far as we know not rising from 21 overnight. Unclear, very sporadic information coming out, but what is clear is that news agencies saying now is pro-government protesters coming on to the streets. We're still seeing, though, protests in some of the previous cities where they grew over the past week or so. It does appear that they're not on the same scale or widespread as they were before, but still, there are a lot of economic problems in Iran.

Let you see some of the price rises people have experienced over some of the past months, fomenting some of this unrest. These economic issues don't go away suddenly overnight and as the result possibly of austerity measures, a more complex budget being put in by moderate governments of President Hassan Rouhani, reelected only in August indeed. And so, the broader question here is, do we see these protests slowly run out of steam in the days ahead, or does the outside attention now, does the rhetoric from the White House encourage them or does it give license to hardliners in Iran to suggest this is fomented by an outside and therefore can be repressed more forcefully?

These questions to be answered in the days ahead. One indications Iranian authorities might be feeling a little calmer, they're talking about lifting social media restriction perhaps on Friday, in areas where the unrest has ended.

Still, though, this has been very unpredictable, very foolish to call it over or ebbing at this stage.

Back to you.

ROMANS: Yes, seven days in here. All right. Nick Paton Walsh in London watching this for us -- thanks, Nick.

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us this morning, Erin Delmore. She's a senior political correspondent of Bustle.com.

Good to have you back.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

ERIN DELMORE, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSTLE.COM: Good morning. Great to see you both as well.

BRIGGS: So, this nuclear button trending on Twitter, the president of the United States saying mine is bigger than yours to Kim Jong-un -- widespread criticism needless to say of this tweet. But not so widespread that it reached the Republican Party.

Will we hear the return of Bob Corker, of Jeff Flake, perhaps Mitt Romney as he prepares to throw his name into the Senate race in Utah?

DELMORE: Yes, you're heading this idea that Bob Corker talked about over the summer, that the White House is behaving like a daycare center, that somebody needs to reign in the president's actions. It's been widespread criticism among Republicans and then this tweet, you can see why. It's an inflammatory statement that is meant to get under Kim Jong-un's skin. It also shows you, you have deeply troubling the president finds this

and how it's consuming his attention. There's a lot to get done back home. We have only a couple of weeks until the Olympics, but this is something that has just captured the president's attention and is really bothering him.

ROMANS: And Pakistan, the Palestinians, Iran, North Korea, the president on air safety, taking credit for air safety. The president really starting the year with this Twitter storm, yet when you talk to Republicans and people advising the president on how to capitalize on the tax cut win, they want to be talking about a domestic agenda here and how to take the tax cut win and broaden that out on a legislative agenda.

We have no indication yet on how they're going to do that.

DELMORE: No, and that's part of what they're going to discuss in a meeting today to figure out what the Republican agenda, how it dove tails with the Democratic agenda. Do they focus on infrastructure? Do they hit welfare reform and entitlement reform like Paul Ryan wants to?

Do they go into DACA? Are they going to revisit health care? After all, President Trump promised to repair and replace. Where's the replacement?

There's a lot to be said about what the Trump agenda is domestically and what the Trump doctrine is globally. A lot of people are watching him to say where exactly do you stand?

BRIGGS: He referenced the meeting that's Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, the legislative affairs director from the White House, Marc Short, and leaders from both congressional, so Pelosi, Schumer, Ryan, McConnell, where will they start? Because will DACA, will CHIP, children's health insurance, be handled by this January 19th deadline to fund the government?

DELMORE: I've had sources tell me the fact that CHIP is something that's being negotiated in this partisan fashion is in their words insane. That's what they say about the tenor in Washington and how tough it's become to get anything at all through.

Now, everybody has a different place where they want to start. The most pressing deadline is January 19th. That's when they finally have to come to terms with how much money they'll use and how they will fund the government. Before that, they need to figure out spending caps. But there's so much tied in there.

Of course, March 5th is when President Trump has set the deadline for figuring out what to do with these 700,000 Dreamers across the U.S., children's funding for health care is going to begin to run out very soon, certainly by March there's no more money to put that program through. They're also working on a sticking point about surveillance law. Do they authorize this post 9/11 program?

BRIGGS: That's right. DELMORE: Sure, sure, you have the defense hawks on one side and then people who say it's government overreach, and that they can't reauthorize it. All of these things are sticking points because this spending bill is a must pass item. So, you're going to see a lot contain in that --

ROMANS: I think that DACA is going to be real -- I mean, the president said the Dreamers are going to fall in love with the Republican Party.

[05:10:01] How? I mean, I don't -- what are the tools they have here? I mean, he wants a wall, a physical actual 2,200-mile wall in exchange for a deal on Dreamers. I don't see the Democrats moving on that.

DELMORE: The wall is a nonstarter. Democrats have been unequivocal about that. The wall is a nonstarter. But if they want to have a conversation on border security, on border security funding, that's something where Schumer and Pelosi can come to the table.

Now, Mitch McConnell has said that he'll bring immigration to a standalone vote in January. If both sides can come to an agreement, they keep talking about that wall, they probably won't get there.

BRIGGS: That's if the president can find something to satisfy his base that comes up short of a wall. How they thread that needle we do not know.

But let's talk Utah real quick. Orrin Hatch is out after 40 years, he will retire. Mitt Romney changing his Twitter location from Massachusetts to Utah yesterday.

Any doubt he'll run? And do we expect him to return to being this Trump critic?

DELMORE: Yes, Romney has been a pretty consistent figure through most of his time in politics and he's had no problem coming out as somebody that would hit the president hard. You can remember, this was a huge issue in the beginning of the campaign and as Trump gained steam as the presumptive nominee.

Now, my sources tell me that they expect Mitt Romney to get into the race, that it's a natural fit and he is somebody who still has a lot of appeal within the Republican Party. The Republicans are facing a challenge here heading into 2018. They need to decide whether they're going to put President Trump out front and center, whether they want to rile up the base or whether they need to figure out how to reclaim that middle ground. Somebody like Mitt Romney lives in the middle and could be really appealing to voters.

BRIGGS: And will Steve Bannon have a primary challenge waiting for Mitt if he gets in that race? That could be interesting.

ROMANS: All right. Erin Delmore, come back in about half hour. Lots to talk about this morning.

DELMORE: Will do. ROMANS: President Trump's Twitter tirade yesterday 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 James Comey, saying that, quote, deep state Justice Department must finally act on them and others suggesting a conspiracy theory against him.

Here's White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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. They show Abedin forwarded confidential information to her personal Yahoo account that included passwords to government systems though that e-mail was not marked as classified as the president claimed.

ROMANS: Right. Today marks the deadline set by House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes for the Justice Department to turn over documents related to the infamous dossier on 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.

BRIGGS: 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.

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

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, if cold were not enough, snow making its way up the East Coast. That's right, Romans. Snow, six inches or so.

How much is in store. Why the temps are actually going down for this frigid weekend, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:16:50] ROMANS: Tech stocks surging into the New Year. Right out of the gate for 2018, the Nasdaq jumped up 7,000 for the first time ever. It took only eight months to rally from 6,000 to 7,000, a pace not seen since the days of the dot-com boom.

Investors in love with a few big names: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook. Those five companies alone contributed more than two thirds of that Nasdaq thousand point rise over the past eight months.

Tech was the best performing sector in 2017 and all of these statistics made people whisper that b word, bubble, right? But despite high valuations for tech companies, analysts say there aren't signs of a bubble yet. The market's current rally is due to legitimately strong economic growth and legitimately big corporate profits which will only get a boost from the recently passed business tax cuts.

That also helped the Nasdaq jumped up 28 percent last year, beating both the gains for the Dow and the S&P 500.

BRIGGS: All right. The deep freeze hitting even the Deep South. In Pensacola, Florida, the frigid m frigid temperatures turning this fountain into an ice sculpture. At another fountain, this one in Alabama, cones of ice built up all around the water jets. Even colder, of course, in the Northeast, where Niagara Falls remains one big beautiful icicle.

And look at this, a one hundred car pile up in Buffalo. That's thanks to some rigid conditions there. The rest of the week, extreme cold will linger with the addition of snow moving up the East Coast.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joining us live from the CNN weather center.

Ivan, I saw this weather headline last night in a prominent national newspaper: Bomb cyclone to blast East Coast before polar vortex uncorks tremendous cold. You say?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we are -- we are in a hashtag world and so those words are very popular. But there's no such thing as a bomb cyclone, for kids watching at home, don't worry. It's just a snowstorm, which is bad enough, Dave, but we're going to be talking about some arctic air along with it, so it's going to make it feel terrible and 60 to 70-mile-per-hour winds, sure, that's a big nor'easter coming up here.

But, yes, this is -- this is the part that's unusual, right, to have winter storm warnings as far south as Florida. Accumulating snow and ice there, but it will be, of course, a snow event for the mid- Atlantic. But I think this is really one of those New England storms although New York will be on that edge and I think you will see accumulations of several inches here.

Now, this is a new blizzard warnings from Maine and into coastal Massachusetts as well with the heavy snow and those wins at 60 to 70. There will be blizzard whiteout conditions at times. So as far as the accumulations, there we have it, even in Savannah and Charleston, two to three inches of snowfall in the deep south and then across New England, it will be a bigger deal here. We'll take you city by city. Philly, one to two. We're looking at

three to six in New York and Boston again, New England storm here with 9 to 12 inches of snowfall. All that with wind.

Watch the clock, Thursday morning, we're already getting the storm which meteorologists will call a bamboo genesis, right? That's when the storm really intensifies rapidly, explosively, and so, there you go. Fifty, 60, 70-mile-per-hour gusts through Nantucket and in through Cape Cod and the islands here, that would be through Thursday.

And things begin to wind down for Friday, but that's just in time for the arctic air mass, the next one heading in for the weekend.

[05:20:06] So, that's not going to go anywhere. It's going to pile up and stay frozen for quite some time.

I'm going to leave you with some good news. We're going to get the arctic air moving north on Monday and it will just plain old cold across the Northeast. Don't ask me what happens after that. I think you have an idea and that's not good. But at least --

ROMANS: We won't blame you.

CABRERA: -- moderating temps.

BRIGGS: But at least no bomb cyclones. So, that's -- we could take comfort in that.

CABRERA: Thank goodness.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Ivan.

There was no grand prize winner in Tuesday night's $360 million mega millions drawing.

BRIGGS: There you go.

ROMANS: 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 delusional or lucky, tonight's Powerball drawing is the next chance to lose the Powerball jackpot estimated at $440 million, probably the worst financial planning in the world.

BRIGGS: And one you will not talk me out of.

ROMANS: And millions of Americans don't listen to me.

BRIGGS: Give me 20 bucks this morning.

The long awaited debut for LeBron's new wingman in Cleveland. Coy Wire with more on the "Bleacher Report". He has the debut of Isaiah Thomas, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Two-time NBA all star Isaiah Thomas with a hero's welcome in his long awaited debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Hi, Dave.

Isaiah Thomas comes up the bench, steps on to the court for the first time as a Cavalier and the people of Cleveland said, feel the love, baby. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the land of the free, Isaiah Thomas!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: It was an emotional departure from the Celtics, shockingly being shipped away from Boston as part of this off-season's biggest blockbuster trade. He missed the first 36 games of the season with a hip injury, but Isaiah Thomas debuts in Cleveland and NBA fans finally catch a glimpse of just how good LeBron James' super team may be in Cleveland. Seventeen points in just 19 minutes of playtime for Thomas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISAIAH THOMAS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS GUARD: It felt like I was a rookie all over again I haven't played in so long, but -- I mean, my teammates give me the utmost confidence. They want me to be who I am. They want me to be aggressive and score and make plays so the easy thing is going out there and doing it.

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS FORWARD: The one thing I knew that was going to happen for sure is when he was coming in, you know, and I knew these fans were going to give him the ovation that he's been waiting on, that he deserved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: Just 37 days until the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and imagine a life-long dream coming true and being able to say, dad, I made it.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

WIRE: That was the case for Bobby Butler of the American Hockey League's Milwaukee Admirals calling his father over during practice to let him know he will be representing the USA's hockey team in South Korea. Bobby's dad was actually his high school coach just outside of Boston. His dad was the coach for 25 years.

ROMANS: Wow.

WIRE: So, imagine that bond and now taking the next step together as a family. ROMANS: That's awesome.

BRIGGS: There is an upside to having no NHL players. I suppose lesser talent but some great stories like that one.

All right. Coy, thank you.

WIRE: You're welcome.

ROMANS: OK. One phone call with huge ramifications. North Korea has reopened a line of communication with South Korea. It comes hours after President Trump's most direct nuclear threat against Pyongyang.