Return to Transcripts main page


Joe Biden Opponents Accuse Him of Insensitivity; Hope Hicks Gives the Silent Treatment to House Committee; Trump Downplays Tensions with Iran; China's Xi Jinping Meets with Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:59] SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know Joe Biden. He is better than this.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Cory should apologize. There's not a racist bone in my body.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Biden backlash. The former vice president defending his work with segregationist senators.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks gives the silent treatment. The questions she refused to answer before a House committee.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight. An Iranian missile shoots down a U.S. drone in international air space. We'll go live to Tehran.

BRIGGS: "Avengers End Game" shattered box office records and now it's returning to theaters. What they're adding to the film, and what box office record still remains.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: A savvy move there. I'm Christine Romans. 31 minutes past the hour.

Let's begin here, though. Politics. No apology from Joe Biden. The presidential candidate under fire for invoking the name of the late senator, James Eastland, a Southern segregationist and staunch critic of the Civil Rights Movement. Biden saying during a Tuesday fundraiser, quote, "He never called me boy. He always called me son. At least there were some civility. We got things done. We didn't agree on much of anything. We got things done."

2020 Democrats quickly seizing on the former vice president's comments, some calling on him to apologize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think to be singing the praises of people who were vicious segregationists is not something that anybody should be doing.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not here to criticize other Democrats but it's never OK to celebrate segregationists. Never.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To coddle the reputations of segregationists, of people who, if they had their way, I would literally not be standing here as a member of the United States Senate, is, I think -- it's just -- it's misinformed and it's wrong.


BRIGGS: Biden pushing back saying he was not praising Eastland.


BIDEN: I could not have disagreed with Jim Eastland more and he was a segregationist. I ran for the United States Senate because I disagreed with the views of the segregationists. The point I'm making is, you don't have to agree. You don't have to like the people in terms of their views, but you just simply make the case and you beat them.


BRIGGS: Later Biden lamenting the harsh start to the 2020 race, saying at a fundraiser late last night, "It's going to be pretty ugly. But here's the deal. I'm not going to participate."

CNN's Arlette Saenz has more.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Christine and Dave, despite facing criticism from some of his 2020 Democratic rivals, Joe Biden is defending his recent comments about working with segregationists in an era that he says held more civility than current times, telling reporters last night that there is not a racist bone in his body.

One of the 2020 rivals that has really gone after Biden on this and asked for an apology is Cory Booker. And take a listen to what Joe Biden had to tell reporters outside of a fundraiser last night.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to apologize --



BIDEN: Apologize for what?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Cory Booker has called for it. BIDEN: Cory should apologize. He knows better. There's not a racist

bone in my body. I've been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period.


SAENZ: Now this marks a departure for Joe Biden, who has really refrained from engaging directly with his Democratic opponents in this 2020 race. And last night, Cory Booker also weighed in, saying that he's not backing down, that he is not going to apologize. Take a listen to that.


BOOKER: Somebody running to be the leader of our party should know that using the word "boy" in the way he did can cause hurt and pain, and we need a presidential nominee and the leader of our party to be sensitive to that.

I know that I was raised to speak truth to power and that I will never apologize for doing that. And Vice President Biden shouldn't need this lesson.


[04:35:02] SAENZ: And you've heard from other 2020 Democrats also criticizing Joe Biden, like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. We'll see going forward whether the former vice president decides to change course or potentially address this further -- Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right. Arlette, thank you so much for that.

Meantime, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is on the rise in this crowded Democratic field. A Monmouth University poll showing Warren with a five-point bump in the last month, putting her even with Bernie Sanders. Her progressive message may be more appealing to centrist Democrats than Sanders'. The co-founder of the centrist think tank Third Way telling CNN Warren's proposals are, quote, "within the lines of Democratic policies. They're not Democratic socialists policies. They're within the lines of a candidate who says she's a capitalist."

BRIGGS: Bernie Sanders looking to capitalize on that, tweeting, "The cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly 'anybody but Bernie.'"

Despite her recent success, Elizabeth Warren's campaign plays down the polls, telling CNN, quote, "We don't pay much attention to the polls. They will go up and down throughout the race and focusing on the daily headline, tweet or cable news chatter is not a recipe for long-term success."

ROMANS: Former White House communications director Hope Hicks spending some seven hours in a closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee but not answering any questions about her time in the West Wing. White House lawyers claiming, quote, "absolute immunity," absolute immunity for Hope Hicks, which has House Democrats fighting mad.

We get more on her testimony from CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.


Now Hope Hicks came before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions as part of the committee's investigation into potential obstruction of justice. But Democrats came away not satisfied because the White House counsels who were in the room made very clear that she would not be answering any questions about her time in the White House.

What they cited was absolute immunity, saying that she is not -- as a former White House official -- high-level White House official, she is not obligated to provide these kind of answers to the committee. Democrats now are threatening to take her to court.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): She answered some of our questions. We learned considerable information. And the White House pleaded a non- existent absolute immunity, and that will not stand.


RAJU: Now she did answer questions about her time during the campaign season, including questions about what she knew about those hush money payments that came from -- that the president was involved with that came from Michael Cohen, his former fixer who is now in jail. When she was asked about her knowledge of that, she denied knowing about the hush money scheme to silence those extramarital affairs.

Nevertheless, this fight not over yet. Democrats not satisfied, warning that this could very well go to court in the coming days. And Jerry Nadler says he will, quote, "destroy" the White House's case in court. Expect that litigation to happen sometime soon -- Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Manu Raju, fascinating. Absolute immunity.

All right. An emotional debate on Capitol Hill over reparations for slavery. Hundreds of people jamming the hallways and filling three overflow rooms. This is the first time Congress is considering a bill to create a commission on addressing the lingering effects of slavery including possible reparations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes reparations for slavery, arguing, quote, "None of us currently living are responsible."


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We've, you know, tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We've elected an African-American president.


ROMANS: Acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates strongly rebuking McConnell during the hearing.


TA-NEHISI COATES, WRITER: For a century after the Civil War black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror. A campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they'd love a word with the majority leader.


ROMANS: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says he expects Democrats will schedule a vote on the bill but he did not name a date.

BRIGGS: The Trump administration talking its most significant action yet to unwind regulations addressing climate change. The EPA rolling back the Obama era Clean Power Plan allowing states to set their own carbon emission standards for coal-fired power plants. The move fulfills part of President Trump's promise to boost struggling coal industry. But it already faces court challenges as the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut plan to sue to block this change.

Meanwhile, the president's pick to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N. breaking with the White House on climate change during her Senate confirmation hearing.


[04:40:05] KELLY CRAFT, U.N. NOMINEE: Climate change needs to be addressed as it poses real risk to our planet. Human behavior has contributed to the changing climate. Let there be no doubt.


BRIGGS: The EPA action flies in the face of the agency's own analysis that says it could result in 1400 more premature deaths by the year 2030 than the Obama plan it is replacing.

ROMANS: All right. The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady but there was news. The Fed dropped the word patient from its statement and said uncertainty about the economy has increased, opening up the door for future rate cuts.

Stocks rose on the news. President Trump has been critical of the Fed and its chair, Jerome Powell, after several rate increases last year. Trump even thought about having Powell demoted but Powell said yesterday he is undeterred by the president's tweets.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I think the law is clear that I have a four-year term and I fully intend to serve it.


ROMANS: The Fed statement said the labor market is still strong and it expects continued economic expansion. But the president's trade war is taking a toll. The number of jobs added last month was lower than expectations, you can see there. The data showing manufacturing is slowing. What I'm showing you right there is average monthly job gains. You can see that this year, Dave, we're on track for the weakest job growth since the year 2010 in the decade.

More economic data is coming. And the Fed said it will be watching a wide range of information when making decisions. Markets expect a rate cut this year. Futures market is predicting a 100 percent chance of a rate cut at the Fed's next meeting in July.

BRIGGS: Interesting. So if they get the cut in the rates then it kind of undercuts the president's central argument that he needs to be reelected, does it not?

ROMANS: Well, how can he say this is the best economy in history, and it's his economy, but then he says he needs the Fed to stabilize the economy at the same time?

BRIGGS: That dichotomy I --

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: I have no clue how to address.

Ahead, tensions rising between the U.S. and Iran as an Iranian missile shoots down a U.S. drone in international air space. We'll go live to Tehran next.


[04:46:21] BRIGGS: U.S. officials tell CNN an Iranian missile shot down a U.S. drone over international air space. It comes as President Trump now downplays escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington in an interview on FOX News late last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But don't worry about a thing. Everything is under control. Don't worry about a thing. They've got problems.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS' "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW": Will you say that they'd never get nukes?

TRUMP: But we'll see what happens.

HANNITY: They'd never get nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: I would say, if I were you, don't worry about a thing.


BRIGGS: For the latest, let's turn to CNN's Fred Pleitgen live in Tehran.

Fred, don't worry about a thing.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think a lot of people are worrying about a lot of things right now here in the Persian Gulf area certainly after this incident took place in the early morning hours of this morning. Now the thing that's not in dispute, Dave, is that an Iranian air defense system has shot down a United States drone. It appears as though this is some sort of derivative of the RQ4 Global Hawk, which is of course a high altitude surveillance drone from the United States.

Now the Iranians are saying that this incident took place as the drone was violating Iranian air space in the early morning hours and they say it happened south of the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. says it was flying in international air space in the Strait of Hormuz. You can see somewhat of a dispute going on there.

Now just a couple of minutes ago, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps came out and said that the shooting down of this drone was a clear message to the United States that Iran would defend its air borders. What he said was that Iranian's aerial borders, its air space, is a red line and he said that the Iranians would defend it and that this is an absolute clear message.

The Iranians also saying, Dave, that they don't want war but that they are fully prepared to go to war. Of course all of this as the situation here between the U.S. and Iran in the Persian Gulf area is not dying down. It continued to heat up after that tanker incident that took place last week with the U.S. blaming Iran for the attacks on two tankers. The Iranians continue to say that it was not them -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Fred Pleitgen live for us. 1:18 p.m. there in Tehran. Thank you, Fred. Great reporting.

ROMANS: Authorities in the Dominican Republic say the recent shooting of Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is a case of mistaken identity. The prosecutor says Sixto Fernandez, a friend of Ortiz, who was seated at his table and wearing similar clothes that night, was the intended target for the botched murder-for-hire plot. The suspected gunman was only sent a photo of Fernandez by the man officials called the mastermind of the plot. They say he's a cousin of Hernandez who was looking to settle a score from 2011. Ortiz is recovering in a Boston hospital. His condition was upgraded to good Tuesday.

BRIGGS: All right. "Avengers End Game" is back.

The movie shattered box office records, but they have their sights set on one more record.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:53:45] BRIGGS: China's President Xi Jinping holding talks in the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the North Korean capital this morning. It's the first trip by a Chinese president to North Korea in more than a decade. The visit comes as both leaders are locked in stalled disputes with the United States. Could their face-to-face be a strategy session to help each other gain leverage with President Trump?

CNN's Paula Hancocks live in Seoul for us. Is that the working theory, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, this summit between the two of them is certainly long overdue. It was about 15 months ago that Kim Jong-un invited Xi Jinping to Pyongyang and he said yes. So the fact that it's just a week before the G-20 meeting where Xi Jinping is expected to meet President Trump is raising some questions. Is this a way of showing that China is pivotal to the North Korean issue?

Now we have heard China say that the trade issue and the dispute is separate to the North Korean issue. But sure it can't harm experts say or it can't harm the fact that he's showing just how pivotal and central he is to the region. And of course, from Kim Jong-un's point of view he also has stalled discussions on denuclearization with President Trump. It doesn't harm him to be able to show that he has some very powerful friends in the shape of Xi Jinping.

[04:55:02] And of course for Kim Jong-un this is a propaganda cue as well showing his people that the president of China has come to visit him. The first time this has happened in 14 years. We're hearing from Chinese media just how big the pomp and ceremony is at the welcoming ceremony at the airport. About 10,000 people there, flags, flowers, a 21 gun salute and military band. And then apparently both leaders in an open top car going through the streets of Pyongyang with tens of thousands of residents cheering them on. It will be very interesting to see those pictures.

BRIGGS: Sure should. The further normalization of a murderous dictator there in North Korea.

Paula Hancocks, live for us, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot Chesley Sullenberger also raising concerns about Boeing 737 MAX planes. During testimony about the back-to-back 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people, he said he had problems in simulator re-creations of the doomed flights.


CHESLEY SULLENBERGER, RETIRED PILOT: I am one of a relatively small group of people who have experienced such a crisis and lived to share what we learned about it. Even knowing what was going to happen I could see how crews could have run out of time before they could have solved the problems.


ROMANS: Sullenberger said pilots need physical firsthand experience to be prepared for emergencies and iPad training is not even close to enough. Sullenberger landed a U.S. Airways flight on the Hudson River you'll remember in 2009 saving the lives of all 155 people on board.

BRIGGS: A Wisconsin sheriff calls it the worst accident he's ever been part of. A fiery truck crash killing at least two people and closing a stretch of the highway for hours. A semi-truck heading southbound hit a construction barrier while making a lane change and then collided with a median barrier while attempting to correct.


JOHN DRILLING, WITNESS: Right in front of me I saw a semi jump over the median wall and into the traffic that was right in front of me.


BRIGGS: The force of the hit so intense it pushed the barrier into the northbound lanes causing three other vehicles, including another semi, to crash. Both trucks burst into flames. Their drivers killed. The drivers of the other two vehicles are being treated for serious injuries. All lanes of Interstate 94 in southeastern Wisconsin are expected to open this morning.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning, taking a look at global markets, you can see they are higher. Rising hopes for a trade deal drove stocks higher in Asia. Mainland Chinese shares are up higher more than 2 percent. On Wall Street again stocks higher after the Fed announcement that it is keeping interest rates unchanged. But signaling there uncertainties in the economy could cut rates in the future.

Futures are up today as workplace messaging company Slack gets ready for its direct listing. It's the first company to go public without the normal initial public offering since Spotify. YouTube considering some big changes in the way it handles children's content. These changes include preventing videos from automatically playing after the previous one ends and even moving children's videos to an entirely separate app called YouTube Kids.

The company which is owned by Google is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly violating children's privacy. The "Wall Street Journal" reported that possible changes are motivated in part by that investigation.

"Avengers End Game" coming out in theaters again in an attempt to get more people to buy more tickets. The movie is being re-released featuring a new previously deleted scene. The movie is already in second place for all-time domestic ticket sales and has earned over $2.7 billion at the global box office. That leaves it just $44 million behind another Disney-owned film, "Avatar." Only five movies, five movies, have ever $2 billion in global sales and Disney owns four of them. All right. Working women are spending more hours on the job and they

have less time to relax. According to the Labor Department's Annual Time Use survey, working women are more likely to do household chores than men and they spend twice as much time caring for children as men do. Women are working harder, working longer.


ROMANS: Relaxing less, sleeping less, taking care of more stuff at home and doing more with their children.

BRIGGS: Alternative headline, men are not stepping up to the plate. Is that your take away here?

ROMANS: I don't know. Or we just have to be in charge of everything, you know.

BRIGGS: Can't argue with that.


BRIGGS: Let us know what you think about that @earlystart on Twitter. We continue right now.


BOOKER: I know Joe Biden. He is better than this.

BIDEN: Cory should apologize. There's not a racist bone in my body.


ROMANS: Biden faces backlash. The former vice president defending his work with segregationist senators.

BRIGGS: Longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks gives the silent treatment, the questions she refused to answer before a House committee.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, an Iranian missile shoots down a U.S. drone in international air space. We go live to Tehran.