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EARLY START

Pay for Border Wall with Tariff; Trump to Meet with British P.M.; Trump Making First Visit to Pentagon; Tiger Struggles in Return to PGA Tour. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 27, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Building a border wall. The White House laying out ideas to get Mexico to pay for it after Mexico's president calls off a trip to Washington.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: All this as the president gets ready to host the first foreign leader at the White House today. And overnight, we learned he will speak with another leader tomorrow. And you don't want to miss who that is.

ROMANS: And President Trump making first visit to the Pentagon to get started on a new plan to bring down ISIS.

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

MARQUEZ: And I'm Miguel Marquez. Happy Friday. It is January 27th, 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

Breaking overnight: an administration official tells CNN that President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to speak on the phone on Saturday, tomorrow. It will be their first conversation since Mr. Trump took office.

No matter how that call goes, it will likely be smoother than the first foray into global diplomacy with Mexico. The White House suggesting that it may try to pay for the border wall, with the 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico, though it walked that back a bit later in the day. That proposal came after Mexico's president canceled the planned meeting with Mr. Trump. The Mexican leader under intense pressure at home after President Trump signed an executive order laying the groundwork for the border wall and vowed again to make Mexico pay for it.

All of this comes hours ahead of President Trump's first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader.

Let's bring in senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny for the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christine and Miguel, President Trump is going to be meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May here at the White House today. It is the first meeting with a foreign leader of his young presidency. It's the first time he will have a chance to take a measure of her and vice versa, her of him. They'll be holding a press conference here as well, talking about so many issues between these countries and indeed around the world.

But it is a dust-up with another foreign leader, the president of Mexico, that is really causing the first diplomatic standoff of this new administration.

[05:00:08] Yesterday, President Trump said that he agreed with the Mexican president to cancel a meeting next week between the two leaders.

In fact, that is not exactly how it went down. The Mexican president said he would not come to the U.S. next week because of the issue over the border wall and who will pay for it.

This is how President Trump explained it in a meeting in Philadelphia Thursday with Republicans.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting scheduled for next week. Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless and I want to go a different route. We have no choice.

ZELENY: Saying such a meeting would be fruitless, but that does not take away a challenge how the wall will be paid for. It is something that House and Senate Republican leaders do not agree on at all. On the House side, they are discussing putting a 20 percent tax on goods coming into the U.S. The Senate Republicans think that is a bad idea. Donald Trump is going to have them work it out, but it's going to be a cost of some $12 billion to $15 billion to build that wall if this plan goes forward here.

So, even as the British prime minister visits the White House today, still discussions, still ongoing controversy over that cancelled meeting with the Mexican president next week -- Christine and Miguel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny.

You talked about the tax, plenty of confusion over the tax. White House floating this idea of the 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports. But there's no real proposal on the table. It's something the administration is discussing. They say it would pay for the border wall. Economists say it would also hurt the U.S. economy, rise prices at gas stations and big box stores for consumers.

Here are the numbers -- the U.S. imported $296 billion worth of goods from Mexico in 2015. A 20 percent of that, a tax on 20 percent, that would be $59 billion. More than double the top estimates for the cost of that wall. But here is the important note: Mexican companies would not be paying

that tariff. It wouldn't be Mexico paying for the wall via that tariff. It would be U.S. companies paying for it. The importer of record pays the tax for the privilege of bringing the goods in.

Mexico's foreign minister who met with Trump administration officials yesterday says it will make goods like avocadoes, appliances and flat screen TVs more expensive. There are also jobs at stake. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico.

And Mexico could turn around and slap imports on U.S. goods as well. That would hurt American farmers. That would hurt chemical manufactures. It would hurt a lot of companies here who export to Mexico.

MARQUEZ: It is amazing how simplistic it seems to be without thinking through the details of how it plays out.

ROMANS: There is an interesting conversation happening though about, would you pay a little bit more for a TV or for stuff at Walmart if you had more jobs, more manufacturing jobs in America? And that's --

MARQUEZ: But that wouldn't do this.

ROMANS: That wouldn't do this. It might.

MARQUEZ: If you did it across the board and change the tax code.

ROMANS: If you have more companies doing business in the United States. Are you trying to keep jobs in the U.S. or are trying to pay for a border wall?

(CROSSTALK)

MARQUEZ: You have to do it all --

ROMANS: Exactly, exactly.

MARQUEZ: As for British prime minister's Oval Office meeting today with President Trump, she is expected to explore ways to boost trade between the U.S. and Britain. May warmly praised the president for his election victory. In a speech Thursday at the Republican retreat in Philadelphia, the prime minister said, while the U.S. and U.K. share the burden of global leadership, there are limits to intervention moving forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is in our interests, those of Britain and America together, to stand strong together, to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe. This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Now, May's speech frustrated Democrats who said she should not have gone to the Republican retreat, but instead spoken with members of both parties when she arrived in D.C.

ROMANS: President Trump makes his first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief today. He will preside over the swearing in of his new defense secretary, General James Mattis. He is expected to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to present them with a series of objectives for fighting ISIS.

We're also getting a sense of how the Defense Department will operate with Mattis in charge.

CNN's Ryan Browne live from Washington with the details.

And what is the mood inside those walls?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Good morning, Christine.

I think, you know, they are anticipating the objectives now. And I think the officials I spoke to would get the objectives from Trump in terms of how he wants to deal with ISIS, and then they're going to craft the kind of tactics and strategies, military tactics and strategies to actually accomplish those objectives.

Now, the Pentagon has largely been left to its own devices by the Trump administration so far.

[05:05:02] The missions in Iraq against ISIS and Syria and Afghanistan have largely remained unchanged. There's been no significant policy shifts, no significant new missions to date.

Now, the Pentagon has described the relationship as stream lined and less micro managed than the previous administration. But there are some potential issues down the road. I mean, there was this leaked executive orders covering, they kind of bring back waterboarding and other interrogation techniques that are considered torture. There was another leaked memo about directing the State Department and Pentagon to establish safe zones for refugees in Syria, a very complicated operation.

The Pentagon was largely unaware of this draft executive orders until they were leaked in the media. So, there are potential policy slashes down the road. But as it stands now, they are happy with the level of the relationship with the White House when it comes to military policy.

ROMANS: Interesting. All right. Thank you so much for that, Ryan. Thanks for getting up early for this morning.

BROWNE: You bet.

MARQUEZ: The president will be making a stop at the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon where he will sign a series of executive orders relating to national security. White House is not offering details, but President Trump is expected to begin the process of toughening refugee and visa policies for terror-prone countries, as he says. President Trump was expected to sign executive order yesterday launching an investigation into his false claim of voter fraud. That signing was postponed without explanation.

ROMANS: Today marks the end of Donald Trump's first week of president of the United States. A very quiet week.

Joining us to assess how he did, CNN political analyst Josh Rogin, columnist for "The Washington Post".

Good morning.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

ROMANS: You were working on a great story yesterday just showing sort of the upheaval at the State Department and this top tier of management that is now out. What happened?

ROGIN: Right. So, there are a lot of people in the State Department wondering what the future holds for them in the Trump administration that's going to radical foreign policy in ways that are unpredictable. So, what happened yesterday is that a bunch of those people found out that their services were no longer needed. They were shown the door in a very unceremonious manner.

This is part of the larger trend of State Department officials who are either leaving, getting fired, some are a little bit of both. The place is clearing out, OK? And --

ROMANS: And Trump is clearing it out?

ROGIN: Both are happening. The ones yesterday, the Trump administration's decision. Before that, even before they made that decision, dozens of officials have left. And dozens more are expected to leave. We are talking about career people, foreign service, civil service, working all of the bureaus, all of the regional functions.

Again, some want to leave. Some don't want to leave. But they are all leaving. And now, Rex Tillerson, a guy who really doesn't have experience in government, is going to have a leadership vacuum.

ROMANS: He does have experience in big, broad, sprawling organizations, management experience with that.

ROGIN: Absolutely, absolutely. But the State Department is pretty a unique place, OK? Hundreds of thousands of missions all over the world, complicated security arrangements, how to protect U.S. citizens abroad. These are the things this administrative bureau, this management bureau which got gutted yesterday. That's what they are in charge of, OK?

So, running Exxon is different than running the U.S. diplomatic corps. That is done by professionals who are mostly non-partisan, not all non-partisan. Anyway, they are all gone now. So, a new generation will come up. Maybe he will bring in his own people. We have to wait and see.

But I'm here to tell you that in the State Department and dozens of people responded to my story yesterday by telling me this, people are freaked out, OK? And there's a lot of uncertainty and there's a lot of change going on in a way that is unpredictable. When you add to that the change in the foreign policy with the president tweeting with Mexico and starting -- potentially starting a trade war potentially and calling Russia, doing all of these things, that adds to the disruptive nature --

ROMANS: The Mexico thing. You know, the view from inside Mexico, our neighbor and third largest trading partner, as a huge insult. The country and the people have been insulted, and the dignity has been maligned. I have never seen diplomacy via Twitter before.

ROGIN: Right. And so, one way to look at it is the difference between a business negotiation and diplomatic negotiation. The business negotiation, maybe it's good to strong arm --

ROMANS: But where is it in "The Art of the Deal" where the other people leaves? I mean, the other person is not even at the table anymore.

ROGIN: Right. The problem is these leaders have constituencies. They have to respond to those constituencies in a way business leaders don't. And that means when they get bullied, they have to push back. They really have no choice. It puts them in a position where you can't really make a deal.

MARQUEZ: The bigger picture is we seem to be beating up on our friends and trying to side with our former enemies or those that weren't exactly friendly to us on Russia. He's having the first conversation with Putin tomorrow. People may just sort of shrug and say it doesn't matter that all these guys are leaving. You're not needed. He can tweet foreign policy and that's just fine.

But at some point, this does have an affect.

[05:10:03] ROGIN: That's exactly right.

MARQUEZ: This is the beginning.

ROGIN: It is the very beginning of a very long slog.

But, you know, Trump campaigned by saying that President Obama was too harsh on our allies and too kind to adversaries. Now, he seems to be expanding that, OK? He is putting that on hyper drive.

We have to see what happens with Russia. Maybe he will make a great deal. Maybe we'll solve Syria, I don't know. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

But on the Mexico stuff, we can already see that it's not going very well.

MARQUEZ: The idea of safe zones in Syria just seems -- you are talking about thousands of troops on ground.

ROGIN: Well, not necessarily. If there are troops, maybe they could be Turkish troops. Maybe they could be Gulf troops. I mean, the problem is that he says all these things and doesn't tell us what he actually plans to do. It's going to be a part of the executive order that's going to cover safe zones. It's going to call on the national security to figure out how do it.

ROMANS: The executive order calling on someone to try to figure out how to fix something. Is that an executive order or press release?

ROGIN: It is a little from column A and it's a little from column B. I mean, all of these executive orders are sort of broad ideas that are, the devil is in the details.

You know, personally, I think the general idea of having a place in Syria where people can stay so they don't have to flee into Europe, and further destabilize Europe, that is probably something we should look at. The concern is with the things the Trump administration and president said about what we should do in Syria and the refugees, nobody knows what that means.

If you did it exactly right, it might make a positive difference. It is difficult. There's not a lot of confidence he will figure it out.

MARQUEZ: If he keeps going down the road, will America still be the leader of the free world?

ROGIN: Yes. I mean, I don't think -- simply because there is no alternative. You had Chinese President Xi Jinping going to Davos and say, oh, China is going to lead the world now. Nobody really thinks that's a really good idea.

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: So, America is going to lead. The question is, what's going to be the character of that leadership? Are we going to stand up for things like democracy, and human rights? Are we going to push free trade around the world? These are big fundamental shifts in how we lead.

ROMANS: America first. America first. America first.

I think it is a busy week. I joked at the beginning at the segment that it was -- this was a very busy week. The president, his pen is on fire.

MARQUEZ: It's only going to get busier.

ROMANS: Yes.

ROGIN: That's right.

ROMANS: All right. Come back in a minute, Josh.

MARQUEZ: We'll hold it out for you. The March for Life takes to the streets of Washington today. Including the most high profile speaker in the event's history. But can the crowds at this march equal what we saw at the Women's March last weekend?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:16:29] ROMANS: Vice President Mike Pence will be the featured speaker at today's annual March for Life anti-abortion rally in Washington. It is the first time in the 44-year history of the event that anyone as high ranking as vice president has attended. March for Life organizers are hoping for huge crowds at the National Mall to compete with the turnout from last week's national Women's March which drew hundreds of thousands of people. March for Life officials have been aggressively urging their followers to attend. But they say they have no way to gauge just how many demonstrators will actually show up.

MARQUEZ: President Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is ramping up the administration's running war with the media. Bannon, the former Breitbart news executive, giving a rare interview to "The New York Times" and he did not hold back at all, saying, "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States."

Bannon also called the election a humiliating defeat for the media and accused some of the press of being outright activists for the Clinton campaign.

ROMANS: Sources telling CNN that President Trump pressured the head of the National Park Service to find photographic proof to support his claims about the inauguration crowd size. President Trump was said to be outraged over tweets that negatively compare the size of his inaugural crowd to Barack Obama's in 2009. The sources say he called Acting Director Michael Reynolds to complain that one such message was retweeted on the Park Service official Twitter account.

MARQUEZ: And Tiger Woods making his long awaited return to the PGA tour. Did the rust show after a 17-month absence? Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report".

See you in a second, Andy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:22:44] ROMANS: Tiger Woods off to a rough start in the return to the PGA tour.

MARQUEZ: Andy Scholes has more in the bleacher report.

Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, the Farmers Insurance Open taking place at Torrey Pines where Tiger won his last major back in 2008. But he not find that success yesterday in the opening round. Tiger playing in his first official PGA tour event in 17 months. And he definitely looked a little rusty.

On the back nine, Tiger run into some trouble. On 15, he's going to hit the ball into the gallery. Then for him, it rolled off into a cliff. He double bogeyed that hole.

Tiger would end his day on a positive note, sinking this nice birdie putt on 18. He is 4 over after round one. He has lots of work to do to make the cut later today.

You know who had a worse day than Tiger, though? Enes Kanter. The Thunder center was frustrated with his play against the Mavs, he decided to punch a chair on the bench -- well, it turns out, he fractured his forearm punching that chair. Kanter is now going to be out of action for six-to-eight weeks. The chair is listed day-to-day.

All right. Coach K may be taking time off to heal from back surgery, but keeping tabs on his Blue Devils. According to ESPN, Coach K held a team meeting at his house Tuesday and told the team they could no longer use the locker room or wear Duke apparel. He has done this in the past to get his team to play up to Duke's standards.

All right. Finally, the new and improved pro-bowl skills challenge. Odell Beckham Jr. winning the drone drop challenge, catching that ball right there from 125 feet up in the air. Now, the most anticipated event of the day was the dodge ball competition. Beckham also taking part in this, but he's eliminated right there with T.Y. Hilton caught his ball. But poor Hilton, he was he last man standing for the AFC, nearly caught that ball there. But it would drop. Elliott celebrates, taking his shirt off as the NFC wins the dodge ball competition.

I tell you what, guys, they may be happier about winning the dodge ball competition than the actual pro bowl on Sunday.

MARQUEZ: I was going to say, they were very, very excited over that dodge ball victory.

[05:25:01] SCHOLES: I think that may be the highlight of the week in pro bowl.

ROMANS: Everyone loves dodge ball.

All right. Nice to see you, Andy. Thanks.

MARQUEZ: Have a good weekend.

SCHOLES: All right.

MARQUEZ: President Trump's attempts at diplomacy off to a bumpy start. Mexico's president cancelling a trip over the border wall flap. What should we expect when Trump hosts the British prime minister today and speaks to Vladimir Putin tomorrow?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUEZ: Building the border wall. The White House laying out its plan to get Mexico to pay after Mexico's president canceled the planned trip to D.C.

ROMANS: The Mexico meeting is off. Now, the president gets to host the British prime minister. His first meeting with the foreign leader as president, but then a phone call, a phone call he has planned tomorrow bound to attract even more attention.

MARQUEZ: And President Trump will visit the Pentagon for the first time since taking office. He'll meet with the top military brass to get started on new plans to defeat ISIS.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Miguel Marquez.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour. Nice to see you all this Friday morning.