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EARLY START

Pres. Trump's First Speech to Congress; Obamacare Replacement "Complicated"; Who's Behind the Leaks; Two Women to Face Charges in Kim's Death; Serena Williams Surprises Random Fans. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 28, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: President Trump getting ready to address Congress for the first time as commander-in- chief. Should we expect the same dark tone we heard in the inaugural?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: One of the topics we will likely hear about tonight, health care. The president now realizes repealing and replacing Obamacare will not be easy. We'll show you what he said.

BRIGGS: And a stunning suggestion from President Trump. Who does he say is behind the leaks that have rattled the White House?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Nice to see you here on your first Tuesday in the chair.

BRIGGS: And you.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, February 28th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East. Good morning, everyone.

Just hours, President Trump will give his first address to a joint session of Congress. The president's speech writing team is working with him to finalize this address. He's expected to be heavy on national security, creating economic opportunity and this -- promises made and promises kept.

We've also learned that the White House sent an e-mail to media outlets and activists in advance of the speech. That e-mail was provided to CNN by one of the recipients. It lays out many of the same ideas we have reported, but also notes the president will address safer communities and better schools, for the forgotten men and women. It's apparently a reference to poor and minority communities.

He'll also lay out a plan to work with Congress on a sweeping agenda that includes better workplaces for parents and better education for kids.

BRIGGS: This comes at a critical time for this administration. The country is still waiting on the president's health plan. His budget outline has been made public and he's been given options for winning the fight against ISIS. CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now with the preview of Trump's address.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, the president appears to be ready to strike a more positive in that speech to a joint session of Congress later on tonight. Renewal of the American spirit and optimistic vision for all Americans, that will be the theme of the president's speech.

Meanwhile, the White House is signaling that President Trump is sharpening his budget axe to make major cuts to nondefense spending here in Washington. Only the Pentagon appears to be spared in the Trump administration's budget plans. White House officials say the president is expected to propose a big $54 billion increase in defense spending. Just to put that in perspective, that increase is larger than what the government spends at the state and the EPA.

What the president said yesterday here at the White House, federal agencies should brace themselves for leaner times.

Here's what he had to say.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people. We can do so much more with the money we spend. With a $20 trillion in debt, can you imagine that, the government must learn to tighten its belt -- something families all across the country have had to learn to do, unfortunately. But they've had to learn do to do it.

ACOSTA: The White House cautions the full budget proposal from the president won't be out until May -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks, Jim.

President Trump wants to boost military spending and cut funding of government agencies. So, how will those money moves work? Here is the budget outline for 2017. About 66 percent is mandatory spending. Think of the bills the government has to pay. The remaining third is discretionary spending.

The bulk of that money goes to defense which accounts for $549 billion. The president wants an additional $30 billion added to the military budget this year. And he wants to increase next year's defense spending by $54 billion. He will get that by cutting government programs and agencies. No word yet on exactly what will be cut.

This is not the final budget. This is more of a guideline for the departments to understand the president's spending and saving priorities. It must go through Congress and could a lot different by the time it's passed.

Despite the under uncertainty, there's one group very excited about Trump's policies, investors. Uh-huh? Look at that. The Dow hitting another record high, 12 in a row, 12 record highs in a row. That ties the record set back in 1987.

Look at that, the Dow is up, how much?

BRIGGS: Twenty-four hundred points since Trump elected. And you wonder if that is a central theme of this speech tonight. Talk about the market success.

ROMANS: It's so interesting, too, because he says tonight, we're told, that he's going to talk about real solutions for real people, you know? And so far, the real beneficiaries of the Trump presidency have been to the richest people in the world, you know?

BRIGGS: The banks, all all-time highs. The big banks.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Yes, not exactly the people elected.

Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare running into new stumbling blocks this morning. Two top House conservatives, one of them, a chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, saying they would vote against a draft of the Obamacare repeal bill that leaked last week. Meadows pointed to the draft's call for refundable tax credits which Meadows calls a new entitlement program.

Now, ahead of his speech, even the President Trump is admitting that replacing Obamacare will be tougher than it looked from the campaign trail.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: David and Christine, it's been a seven-year war for the Republicans against the cornerstone achievement of President Obama's domestic policy, Obamacare, the repeal and replace of it. It's no secret what they want to do. The process of actually doing it, that's slightly more difficult, something President Trump made very clear yesterday.

Take a listen.

TRUMP: We have come up with a solution that's really, really, I think very good.

[05:05:00] Now, I have to tell you, it is an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.

MATTINGLY: And, guys, that complexity on the policy side, on the politics and on procedural side here on Capitol Hill really kind of underscoring the urgency right now for House GOP leaders. They want to move fast and with good reason. As they see the town halls, as they see approval numbers for Obamacare start to rise, they want to move quickly because if they don't, if people feeling the election pressure, as people start feeling that town hall pressure, who knows what could happen?

And that's exactly why they want President Trump not to get behind in general proposals, but specifically get behind the path laid out right now by House Speaker Paul Ryan. That is what they want to see tonight in his speech.

The big question is, will he go that far? Is he even with them so far in this process?

Dave and Christine?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Phil Mattingly.

Helping us preview Trump's big speech tonight, CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott and political analyst Ellis Henican, author of "The Trump's America" column for the Metro papers.

Good morning.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

ROMANS: We are told this is going to be about American renewal. We're told he is going to tick through, the president is going to tick through the promises he's already kept, the promises made and the promises kept. What are you in a nutshell looking for tonight?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: I'm looking to hear about specifics about what he's going to do regarding repealing and replacing Obamacare. We're still --

BRIGGS: Don't hold your breath.

(CROSSTALK)

BRIGGS: I hate to disappoint you now.

SCOTT: I am looking for that, though, because he has said he is close to a plan that he is making progress on that and that he has a solution. And I don't think it is just me. I think there are many people that we have seen across the country at these town halls that want to hear an answer. The likelihood of us getting that, of course, is not low -- I mean, is not high, but it certainly is what people want.

BRIGGS: So, what we're hearing is the renewal of the American spirit. How does he renew the American spirit?

HENICAN: Well, by renewing America's view of the Trump presidency, right? I mean, this has been a rocky six weeks.

ROMANS: What I hear from Trump supporters is we think it is a rocky six weeks. They think this is somebody is getting work done.

HENICAN: Yes. But here's the problem, right? I mean, you didn't win with a majority, right? As time goes on, stuff happens where your supporters tend to fade away a little bit. So, if you are not creating new ones, you know your base is shrinking. So, it's not a real good long-term plan for him.

ROMANS: I want to listen to what the president said to reporters about Obamacare. I mean, he is acknowledging it is difficult and this is a thorny subject. And, you know, he said, politically, the best thing to do would be just let this thing blow up, right? Because then they wouldn't own it. But that would not be the right thing for American people. And he talked a little bit about the changing perceptions about Obamacare. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: People hate it. But now, they see that the end is coming and they're saying, oh, maybe we love it. There's nothing to love. It's a disaster folks, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A disaster. A failure. He had a lot of big words, Ellis. Do you think he's going to have a coherent plan quickly here that's going to make everybody happy?

HENICAN: On Obamacare?

ROMANS: Yes.

HENICAN: No. I don't think there is one. Think about the Republican coalition, right? You've got the deficit hawks who don't want it to cost money. You've got people who understand, Eugene, that you don't want to throw 20 million Americans off of their insurance. There's -- these ideas, none of which really going to add up. The state line thing, right?

The idea of, well, maybe we can negotiate. That's not going to provide health care like this. He is right. It's very complex.

SCOTT: I think what's very important to remember, we had at least two polls come out last week that said the majority of the Americans do not think it's a complete disaster. And so, he continues to say that --

BRIGGS: The polls are rising.

SCOTT: Yes, rising in terms of support for it, or at least not wanting to see it repealed immediately.

BRIGGS: Ellis, you tweeted this morning. Who will be the "You Lie", the Joe Wilson of this address?

HENICAN: Did you get that reference?

BRIGGS: Oh, absolutely. Do you sense there will be some moment from the opposition, from the Democrats that will stand out? HENICAN: Yes, but it's a dangerous game to be playing, right?

Because there is such a danger. I think we learned with Joe Wilson of doing too much. We still in our country, despite all that's happened have some reference for the president of the United States, for joint session of Congress.

I think it's more likely to come from someone in the gallery. A lot of Dems are bringing guests who have a lot of grievances. I think Democrats ought to be very careful yelling for --

BRIGGS: One of those guests is an immigrant from Iraq who was detained at JFK. So, that might create an awkward situation for the president? Will he struggle with that tone? He loves those rallies where there's applause, where there is adulation.

SCOTT: Right.

ROMANS: He's never been in a venue like this.

SCOTT: No, this will be new. This will be different.

We saw throughout the campaign that when the president stays on script, he usually gets applause and praise. Whether he will be able to do that this time, when he is looking in the face of people who criticized him and will be shaking their heads and probably rolling their eyes and not making eye contact, it will be interesting to see if he's able to stay on message.

BRIGGS: Tough room.

ROMANS: Yes, tough room.

[05:10:01] A friendly audience, "Fox and Fiends". The president is going to have an interview that's going to air today. We've seen a little bit of a clip of it.

And this moment is getting a lot of attention this morning. It's the president blaming the former president. Not only for chaos at the rallies, but he goes further. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: Can we talk about President Obama? It turns out his organization seems to be doing a lot of the organizing some of the protests that a lot of these Republicans are seeing around the country and against you.

TRUMP: Right.

INTERVIEWER: Do you believe President Obama is behind it? And if he is, is that a violation of the called, so-called unsaid president's code?

TRUMP: No, I think he is behind it. I also think it's politics, such the way it is. His people are certainly behind it. And some of the leaks, possibly, come from that group. You know, some of the leaks, which are really very serious leaks because they're very bad in terms of national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Eugene, this is getting a lot of attention. I was reading a piece in "The Wall Street Journal" a couple of days ago about how these are more organic than organized. Many of these people at these rallies are first time people. If you listen to that the clip, it's President Obama pulling the strings behind the scene.

SCOTT: What's also interesting is if you talk to the CNN political reporters who've been out in these states, many people are people who voted for Donald Trump. And these are also people who weren't big fans of President Obama, but who are upset with the direction of the country going.

To me, this looks like probably the umpteenth example of the president saying that someone was behind something without providing a clear example of proof.

BRIGGS: Wasn't he prodded to say this, though?

ROMANS: It's turns out that --

HENICAN: Yes, that's -- you know, that's a different audience.

Listen, if Barack Obama had that much power, he would have had everyone vote for Hillary, you know? It would have worked -- I can tell you, by the way, how many e-mails and tweets I've been getting of people, when the talk about this being paid protesters and all these things. Hey, how can I get paid? Where's my money? Where's my money?

SCOTT: I've heard people say if it was true that these people were paid, that would have gotten out by now, because people would have communicated that this is an opportunity to make money.

ROMANS: Well, I mean, it's clearly democracy at work.

SCOTT: Yes, very much so.

HENICAN: 2017 style.

BRIGGS: This is not to suggest that leaks are not a problem. They are a major problem. It's something he needs to button up.

HENICAN: But let's be honest, some of us kind of like leaks.

BRIGGS: Yes, absolutely. Journalists love them.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Right, yes, leak to Ellis.

All right. Thanks, guys. Come back in a half hour.

I want to talk about budget and winning wars, because the president has interesting comments about winning wars yesterday as well. With the president now mulling options for expanding the fight against ISIS. What is the thinking in the Arab world? We're going to take you to the Middle East for reaction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:16:43] BRIGGS: A preliminary framework for ramping up the war on ISIS is now in the hands of President Trump. The Pentagon delivering a series of options covering military, diplomatic and financial strategies. CNN reporting earlier this month that sending conventional ground forces into northern Syria could be on the table.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh tracking the latest developments live from Amman, Jordan.

Jomana, how is all of this being received over there in the Middle East?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Dave, there is this realization that there are different options that are being presented now that have been presented to the White House and everyone is really waiting to see what the decision is and what the U.S. strategy is when it comes to ramping up the fight against ISIS.

I think there's also this realization that we could perhaps be seeing a greater role being played by the United States when it comes to this fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq and perhaps beyond that. You would have some in the region who would welcome this.

For example, like Jordan, countries that have wanted to see a more aggressive U.S. approach when it comes to that fight. You will have others who are very suspicious of U.S. motives, especially when it comes to this talk about the possibility of increasing the number of troops in Iraq or deploying combat ground forces in northern Syria. These are people who have been suspicious of U.S. motives, especially after hearing talk from President Trump about what he talked about mistakes of the past, of not taking Iraq's oil when the U.S. had the chance.

So, really, this could add to those suspicions. And then there is concern when you have more U.S. boots on the ground, higher number of troops in northern Syria, that is a very complex battlefield with so many different groups fighting in that area. So many different regional and international interests in having more U.S. forces there could complicate an already very messy battle. So, really, no one reaction, no one option that would be favorable for this entire region.

It's -- we're going to have to wait and see. This is a very divided and very complex region, Dave.

BRIGGS: An impossible task. Jomana, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight: CNN learned two women will be charged in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. I want to get straight to CNN's Alexander Field. She is live for us

in Kuala Lumpur with the breaking details.

And there have been some suggestion by these women that they were duped into thinking they were doing some sort of a TV prank. But authorities don't buy it.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they thought they were part of the joke. Authorities don't buy it because the allegations against them are pretty jaw dropping. The authorities here say they deployed a weapon of mass destruction in a business airport terminal killing Kim Jong Nam. And for that, they will go to court where they face a very serious charge, murder, which here in Malaysia, comes with a mandatory death sentence.

Those two women who were arrested, there's also a North Korean citizen who is still in custody. Authorities are investigating his suspected role in the plot to take out Kim Jong Nam. At the same time, an envoy from North Korea has now arrived here in Kuala Lumpur. He is arguing for the release of that North Korean citizen.

[05:20:03] He is also demanding the return of Kim Jong Nam's body to North Korea and he is calling for the development of better relations between Malaysia and North Korea. Malaysia is one of the few countries that maintained diplomatic ties to North Korea. Those ties strained under the weight of this investigation. North Korean officials have been sharply critical of the Malaysian process.

Malaysian officials for their part have said that the North Koreans are failing to participate as they continue their search for as many as seven other North Korean citizens suspected of having some involvement in this plot. The first two will be formally charged tomorrow. A Vietnamese woman and Indonesian woman now facing those murder charges -- Christine.

ROMANS: It's just the stuff of novels, the back story about these two half brothers and power struggle in North Korea, all of it's just fascinating.

We know you keep following it for us. Alexandra Field for us in Kuala Lumpur -- thanks.

BRIGGS: The thing missing, though, is if those two were spies, why didn't someone help them disappear? I mean, they didn't seem to have any sense of --

ROMANS: They did walk away with their hands up. So, it's so interesting to me, I don't know, dealing with the poison and no one was hurt in that airport is a miracle, no one else was hurt in the airport is a miracle.

BRIGGS: So intriguing.

Well, coming up, Serena has next. The tennis great out for a walk and ready to surprise two unsuspecting tennis players in San Francisco. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report' next. Hey, Coy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:25:49] BRIGGS: Well, two recreational tennis players got the surprise of a lifetime from the one and only Serena Williams.

ROMANS: She looked like she was having an awful lot of fun doing it.

Coy Wire has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave.

Two guys some playing some tennis at night in a park in San Francisco. Some girl walks up and says, can I get the winner? Well, then, they realize it is Serena Williams. The moment was captured on Snapchat. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERENA WILLIAMS, PRO-TENNIS PLAYER: I'm just having a stroll at night. I'm thinking about these guys if I can hit with just to see their reaction.

I think they are in the middle of playing out a point. I'm going to ask if I can have the winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy.

WILLIAMS: Number one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's serious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: You can see these guys are completely shocked. Serena did not have her tennis shoes with her. So, she played wearing the boots that she has on her feet. They're looking comfy. The top ranked women's tennis player in the world is, the moral of the story is, you never know when she will come to a tennis court near you.

Let's get to your NBA action this morning. It was a tale of two Curries on Monday night. Steph Curry had his worst three-point shooting night of his career, 0 for 11 from behind the line. That ties the NBA record for the most three-pointers taken without making one. Warriors still go on to get the win over the lowly 76ers, 119- 108. His little brother Seth was money for the match. Check this one out,

from way downtown, a long three-pointer to seal the deal for Dallas. They get to win over the Heat, 96-89.

Former Heisman winning quarterback Tim Tebow trying has hand at baseball officially reporting for duty at Mets spring training in Florida. He is a long shot to make the roster, but he is determined to put in that work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM TEBOW, TRYING FOR METS ROSTER SPOT: I think it say bigger challenge than I thought. Obviously, it's a big challenge, right? You are thinking of the sport after 12 years of not playing. So, I understood it. I think the part of the challenge of it being so hard is why it I so fun and why it's something that I'm enjoying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: All right. Now for your "say what" moment. The University of Louisville student Jackson Logsdon was top of the world when he thought he won 38,000 bucks making that half-court shot in the game on Thursday.

But Jackson went from jubilation to frustration. He found out later that night he wouldn't be getting any of the prize money. Why you ask? Well, the company that put it on had a stipulation that contestants could not have played high school basketball within the past six years.

What?

BRIGGS: Come on.

WIRE: Yes, come on. That's what we're all saying, Dave. Well, the school did say, though, a spokesperson for the school says they are going to work on something for Jackson so that at least he doesn't go away completely empty-handed.

ROMANS: That's not -- that's not fair!

BRIGGS: Can he be allowed to play little league? Give me a break. High school hopes -- I played high school hoops. I can barely make a free throw.

ROMANS: Cone on, that was a great shot. That kid deserves something.

(CROSSTALK)

WIRE: I'm with you.

ROMANS: Thanks. Nice to see you. Bye.

WIRE: You, too. Bye.

EARLY START continues right now. (MUSIC)

ROMANS: President Trump putting the finishing touches on his first address to Congress. With critical issues facing the country, will he take the same tone he did in his inaugural address?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Nice to see you this Tuesday. It is 29 minutes past the hour.

In just hours, President Trump will give his first address to a joint session of Congress. The president's speech-writing team is working with him to finalize the address which is expected to be heavy on national security, creating economic opportunities and, quote, "promises made and promises kept."

We've also learned the White House sent an e-mail to conservative media outlets and activists in advance of the speech. The e-mail was provided to CNN by a recipient. It lays out many of the same ideas we've reported, but also notes the president will address safer communities and better schools for the forgotten men and women.