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Trump's Telephone Trouble; White House: Iran On Notice; Trump to Dems: Don't Obstruct Gorsuch. Aired 5-5:30a ET
Aired February 2, 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: President Trump losing his patience in the conversation with the Australia's leader. What set him off and how much of this will fall on Trump's newly sworn in secretary of state?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: The White House says Tehran is now on notice in the wake of a missile test. We are live with the latest on the growing feud.
ROMANS: And the president is holding nothing back to get his Supreme Court pick confirmed. He is even telling Senate Republicans they should evoke the dreaded nuclear option if Democrats don't cooperate.
Good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.
MARQUEZ: Good morning to you.
I'm Miguel Marquez. It is Thursday, February 2nd. Groundhog Day, 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.
Breaking overnight: word of new tensions between the president and foreign leaders. Sources telling CNN about a pretty heated phone call on Saturday between President Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Things came to a head with the subject of refugees came up. But many of them from Muslim majority countries listed in President Trump's travel ban.
[05:00:06] The Obama administration agreed to accept more than 1,000 refugees now being detained by Australia which does not accept refugees over crime concerns.
ROMANS: Our sources say President Trump kept telling the prime minister the deal with the previous administration was a, quote, "bad deal" and one of the refugees would turn out to be the next Boston bomber. The source says as the Australian leader pressed Mr. Trump on the refugee issue, the president told aides he wanted to end the call. He did so when the prime minister tried to change the subject to fighting ISIS.
A source familiar with the circumstances says the president was fatigued from a long day of conversations with foreign leaders -- conversations that included some tense moments. Overnight, after the story broke, Prime Minister Turnbull largely avoided any questions about it but said the call ended courteously. And he said such talks are better conducted, quote, "candidly, frankly, and privately."
We also have new information on President Trump's phone call with Mexican President Enrique Nieto. That came last Friday right after Pena Nieto canceled an in-person visit to the White House over President Trump's repeated demand that Mexico pay for the border wall. An excerpt of the transcript from the phone call shows Mr. Trump offered to help Mexico battle its drug cartels.
Now, according to the transcript, the president said this, "You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to help with that big league. But they have to be knocked out. And you have not done a good job knocking them out."
Of course, Mexicans would say, we have not done a good job of stamping out drug addiction in the United States, which is the source of all the bad behavior.
MARQUEZ: That differs from the early reporting from the "A.P." and others suggesting that Trump was thinking about a hostile incursion into Mexico by U.S. troops to hit drug cartels. Sources say those reports were based on inaccurate description of the call written by aides. One government official who spoke to CNN described Trump as naive to think he will have great relations with virtually all world leaders. Specifically if he responds with a tantrum when confronted on policy.
ROMANS: The White House raising the stakes with Iran. National security adviser Michael Flynn lashing out at the Iranians for conducting a recent missile test. Listen to Flynn's warning to Tehran after taking a shot at the previous administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: President Trump has severely criticized the various agreements reached between Iran and the Obama administration, as well as the United Nations, as being weak and ineffective. Instead of thankful to the United States in these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Iran's defense minister confirmed his country carried out that missile test, but he says it did not violate any international agreements and warns Iran will not allow outsiders to interfere with its military affairs.
Let's get the latest on this from CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. He was recently in Tehran. He's been there many times actually. He joins us live from London.
And you've been one of those rare reporter who's been able to the inside there and talked to people in Iran and see first hand, Fred, this warming, very slight warming of relations between Iran and Obama administration, and now, the new administration telling Tehran you are on notice.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was interesting. We were in Tehran, which is less than a week ago, Christine. And we talked to people and asked them, look, how do you think that the relations with the Trump administration is going to evolve, especially after some of the campaign rhetoric with Donald Trump, calling the nuclear agreement a bad deal, saying he wants to renegotiate it.
And it was interesting, because the Iranians were saying, look, we don't know what Donald Trump is going to do. We need a wait and see approach to Donald Trump and see what he does when he comes into office. There was one Iranian official who even said, look, this man is a nonconventional politician. And maybe he would even do business with Iran. Certainly, they're going to have to rethink that after the comments from the national security adviser.
One of the things that we heard time and again is the Iranians saying, look, if the new administration thinks Iran is going to back down from any of its stances, any of its policies, it's mistaken. The Iranians certainly very willing to risk confrontation with the United States also over the issue of ballistic missiles, Christine.
ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us in London. We know you're on it. Keep us posted if any developments. Thanks.
MARQUEZ: Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch expected to get under way in six weeks. And the president is already warning Democrats not to obstruct his confirmation. He is urging the Senate to deploy the nuclear -- so-called nuclear option if necessary, reducing the number of Senate votes needed from 60 to a simple majority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we end up with the same gridlock that they've had in Washington for the last -- longer than eight years, in all fairness to President Obama, a lot longer than eight years.
[05:05:03] But if we end up with that gridlock, I would say, if you can, Mitch, go nuclear, because that would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was caught up in the web. So, I would say, it's up to Mitch. But I would say, go for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: Democrats are divided over how far to take the fight over the Gorsuch nomination. We also learned the first phone call made after Gorsuch was nominated was to Judge Merrick Garland. That was President Obama's stone-walled pick for the Supreme Court. His spokesman told reporters Gorsuch made the call out of respect.
ROMANS: Let's discuss all of the machinations in Washington this morning.
CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott, good morning.
EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning.
What is remarkable to me over the last 13 days is how the news flow has been nonstop. There are so many developments here.
So, let's start here with Mexico if we can. And then I want to talk about Australia. So, we are getting a read out of the call between the U.S. president and a Mexican president on Friday after the tense standoff, a standoff over the wall and who would build the wall.
What do you make of this, of the United States president saying you are doing a bad job and the military is failing, we could come in and help you as necessary?
SCOTT: Well, certainly people on that side of the border view it as a bit of a threat and it's very confrontational.
ROMANS: It's hostile almost.
SCOTT: It seems very hostile. That's not usually the first approach dealing with an international conflict. We may send our troop there to handle something we think that you're not handling.
It's interesting because you have to listen to how Trump is criticizing Mexico on so many issues regarding national security, regarding drugs, regarding trade. I don't know what is being done to improve that relationship.
MARQUEZ: What is odd about the Mexico relationship is that Jared Kushner and others have a good relationship --
MARQUEZ: -- with foreign secretary there for instance. Is this just a matter of Trump being a New Yorker, being brash and not used to the diplomatic niceties that other presidents would take?
SCOTT: Well, he's certainly not used of the diplomatic niceties. That's what we saw with the conversation with the Australian prime minister, and people who are familiar with policymaking are jus really surprised and shocked by the deal, because they look at these issues such as drugs, such as immigration, such as national security and say we are all in it together.
ROMANS: What is interesting about Mexico, the optics from the Mexican side of the border is it looks like the big American bully picking on a little guy, right, because Mexican authorities have long said, you know, the U.S. has a major drug policy and it's the drugs that -- the trying drugs and money and guns just flow, flow, flow. I guess, if you are thinking of it from President Trump's perspective, it could be, the border is weak and that is what facilitates this terrible relationship.
MARQUEZ: All of this aside, will it be effective? He wants a wall built. He wants a border tax. He wants all of these things. He wants tax reform.
I mean, are these things working against him?
SCOTT: Well, I mean, as of right now, he can't even get the Mexican president to sit down for a meeting with him. I think that's a first start in terms of trying to figure out how you're going to solve these problems. I mean, you and I have been reporters in the southwest.
And to your point, one of the things that frustrates many influencers down there is that they don't think Americans are taking responsibility for their role in creating some of the challenges as you mentioned such as our role in this drug war.
ROMANS: Absolutely. Let me talk about Australia. That's remarkable. The president having phone calls with all of these leaders around the world and to have it devolved -- an ally, a friend. That detail is fascinating.
SCOTT: Yes, I was very fascinated by I think some of these conversations which reveal how much Donald Trump doesn't understand the international agreements and foreign policy. When he tweeted, he said it's a dumb deal, but I'll study it. I will study this dumb deal.
It made it very clear that perhaps he wasn't completely aware of the role that Australia has played in helping us receive and vet refugees. A lot of criticism, not a lot of facts.
MARQUEZ: And a very strong ally on so many other issues.
ROMANS: You are talking about a pivot to Chinese influence in the region. You must be strong with Australia, you know?
SCOTT: You must be. And I think right after everything with TPP, there is some concerning and questions about where we go moving forward with our partners in the south.
MARQUEZ: Eugene Scott, the busiest man in television.
ROMANS: I know, we're going to talk to you about the confirmation hearings. And come back in few minutes.
MARQUEZ: Now, overnight, a new protest at U.C.-Berkeley, as a peaceful demonstration against a planned speech by right wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos with protesters lighting fires, throwing rocks and bottles, and smashing windows. Now, the university is responding angrily, holding what it calls outside agitators responsible for that clash.
CNN's Kyung Lah was in the middle of all of it.
[05:10:02] KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Miguel, amid a wave, a national wave of post-election protests, students here at UC-Berkeley organized one of their own, with a very specific goal. This protest which happened here right outside the student union was to stop right wing speaker and Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos. About 1,500 students gathered here with the goal to stop him, saying that he is not free speech. He is hate speech.
So, at some point, this protest became violent. These barricades were used to smash in the first floor windows of the student union. Protesters set fires and faced off with police who had to use tear gas. The university says about 150 outside agitators of the 1,500 who showed up. That's who they are blaming for this violence. Six people were injured.
And it became so violent that they had to cancel the event. The irony here is that UC-Berkeley in the 1960s was the free speech movement. That was for students to have the right to express their political opinions -- Miguel, Christine.
ROMANS: All right. Kyung Lah, thank you for that. Wow, an intense night.
And a somber moment for the young Trump presidency. A trip to greet the remains of a Navy SEAL killed in combat. What else we are learning about that fatal raid this morning and that man's sacrifice.
[05:15:31] MARQUEZ: President Trump paying respects to the first U.S. service member killed on his watch. The president went to Dover Air Force Base to witness the dignified transfer ceremony for Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens. The Navy SEAL was married and a father of three. He was killed in a firefight during a U.S.-led raid in Yemen over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was something very sad, very beautiful. Ryan, a great man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: And we are learning details about the raid that killed the Navy SEAL.
Let's bring in CNN national security reporter Ryan Browne live in Washington with the latest.
What do we understand, Ryan?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, this raid was what is called a site exploitation operation, which is designed to gather as much intelligence on the al Qaeda group in Yemen. It's possible to facilitate future drone strikes and raids against the terror group.
Now, this operation was incredibly complex. It had been in the planning stages for months during the Obama administration. But certain operational reasons were why it was deferred to President Trump who green-lit the mission. One of those key operational reasons, they needed a moonless night to provide additional concealment.
Now, despite that, the SEALs and their UAE allies were detected by the al Qaeda fighters, an intense battle broke out involving small arms fire, grenades. Close air strikes. One of those airstrikes against the building where the SEALs were taking fire from, resulted in 14 al Qaeda fighters being killed, but in addition, civilian casualties as well.
Now, as you mentioned, there was a fatally wounded and three additional SEALs wounded. An MD-22 Osprey aircraft sent to aid the SEAL suffered technical malfunction and had to take a hard landing. It was subsequently destroyed by a U.S. air strike. So, a couple things went wrong here.
However, military officials say the information with the hard drives gathered during the operation is already yielding valuable intelligence that can help provide attacks down the road. Now, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, its Yemen affiliate, is considered the group's most capable franchise and has directed terrorist attacks in the past, including the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in 2015.
MARQUEZ: All right. Ryan Browne for us in Washington, thank you very much.
ROMANS: All right. To business news now. Reports overnight that Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, are drafting a letter to the president opposing his travel ban.
Recode founder Kara Swisher broke the news. Here's what she told CNN's Don Lemon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARA SWISHER, RECODE FOUNDER (via telephone): I think what's different here is they are trying to involve not those tech companies but a whole range of companies, CPG companies, consumer product goods, manufacturing companies, media companies. They don't want to make it just tech versus Trump essentially, which has become a little bit. They want to involve lots of U.S. companies in this who are all very supportive of immigration, where immigration is important to their businesses and the core values of the company.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Microsoft declined a request for comment. The others have not responded. Apple reportedly considering a lawsuit against the ban, telling "The Wall Street Journal" it is considering a suit. It's in a really tough spot. Look at that Apple. It has $230 billion overseas. It's trying to protect its employees and shareholders while avoiding criticism from the administration.
So, on the one hand, many of the companies want a seat at the table talking about tax reform. On the other hand, they are critical of the president's travel ban as some of these other policies. A tightrope they are walking.
MARQUEZ: It's going to be an interesting times, is all I can say.
ROMANS: Already is.
President Trump part of the Super Bowl narrative, reportedly calling the NFL commissioner weak and stupid in a 2015 interview. So, what does Roger Goodell say about that? Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report", that's next.
[05:23:20] ROMANS: All right. Welcome back, everybody.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell giving his state of the league address yesterday and he was asked if he considers himself at war with Patriots fans.
MARQUEZ: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".
Good morning, Andy.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, guys.
I was at the Roger Goodell's state of the league address yesterday. Sitting in the first row was Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Now, Goodell has not been to a game at Foxboro in the past two years while deflategate has been unfolding, even choosing to go to Atlanta two weeks in a row during the playoff this season. It has been characterized that Goodell is at war with the Patriots and their fans. And he was asked that yesterday if he is avoiding going to New England.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: I would tell you it is not awkward at all for me. I was in Boston two seasons ago for two consecutive playoff games. The same I was in Atlanta this year. So, that happens. I'm invited back to Foxboro, I'll come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: Well, after the news conference, Robert Kraft officially inviting Goodell to a game in a release saying, "I've talked to a lot of fans who would love to welcome Roger back to Gillette Stadium. If we are fortunate enough to win on Sunday, the kickoff of the 2017 NFL season would present the perfect opportunity."
All right. There's a little question whose side President Trump is on. A "New York Times" magazine article back in 2015, President Trump told Mark Leibovich, quote, "The commissioner is a weak guy. The commissioner is a dope. He's a stupid guy."
President Trump known to have a good relationship with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Kraft. Goodell, when asked about President Trump yesterday, chose not to talk about him, adding that he hopes that the Super Bowl this weekend brings the world together.
[05:25:04] All right. Back here in Houston, one of the coolest things about Super Bowl week is the NFL experience. It's a like a giant football theme park. I went over there and took part in the festivities earlier this week.
So many fun things to do. You can run obstacle courses and you can run the 40 and, hey, I may have come in fourth in this race, but I was running my heart out. I think it was a 5.9 40. I also kicked a field goal, knocking down the 20 yarder.
But there's tons of fun here in Houston. One of the coolest events here at the NFL experience, which is right behind me at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
ROMANS: The kick is good.
MARQUEZ: The field goal was impressive. We will work on that running, Andy.
And, Goodell, I want to be here. You're going to have to bring an umbrella and plastic wrap when he goes to Foxboro. That's -- I want to see it.
SCHOLES: It will be a scene. I'll tell you that.
ROMANS: All right. Have a good time, Andy, I know you hate your job today. Most days, you hate your job.
SCHOLES: Yes, poor guy.
ROMANS: All right. Andy Scholes, he gets paid. The guy actually gets paid to go do that.
MARQUEZ: He's a cool guy.
President Trump says he will have great relationships with world leaders. So, why did he abruptly end a tense phone call with a very close ally?