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EARLY START

Trump Administration's Muddled Message On Syria; Syria After The Missile Strikes; Kushner and Bannon Feuding; USS Carl Vinson Deployed To Korean Peninsula. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 10, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And top officials at the White House weigh next steps in the Syria crisis. Now, the secretary of state with harsh words for Russia days before his trip to Moscow.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And, an American show of force headed for the Korean Peninsula. Will it embolden Pyongyang or help reduce provocations from the regime? Welcome back to EARLY START. Thanks so much for getting up early with us. I'm Boris Sanchez.

ROMANS: Nice to see you sitting in today. Nice to see you this Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour. Good morning, everyone. This morning the world is waiting to see President Trump's next step on Syria following last week's missile strikes on a government airfield, but top administration officials seem to be putting out a mixed message on the fate of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson telling "ABC News" the strike was aimed only at deterring further use of chemical weapons by Assad, not at regime change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are hopeful that we can work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all of the parties on a way forward. And it is through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will ultimately be able to decide the fate of Bashar al- Assad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: On the other hand, President Trump's U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley says the U.S. has what she calls multiple priorities in Syria. One of them, stability, is impossible with Assad as president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: There is not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime. It just -- if you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Haley also says the U.S. is calling out Russia and Iran for their support of the Assad regime. The U.N. ambassador warning that the possibility of tougher sanctions against those two countries is not off the table. All of this unfolding just ahead of Tillerson's high-stakes meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The sit-down comes later this week but the secretary of state's message is already clear -- quit propping up Assad.

ROMANS: So now that the smoke has cleared following those strikes, has anything really changed? For answers, we want to bring in CNN international correspondent Ben Wedeman. He's following the story from Antakya, near Turkey's border with Syria. And for the Syrian people, for the Syrian -- complicated Syrian situation, has anything changed?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN. SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly, if you speak to people inside Syria in the rebel-controlled areas, no, nothing has changed. After that chemical attack on Tuesday morning that left 89 people dead, the Syrian regime quickly went back to using its old tactics of conventional weapons, its whole-scale industrial mass murder that's been going on now for the last six years. Almost half a million people dead in this civil war and just a tiny fraction of them were killed by chemical weapons.

We know that the airbase that was hit by the missile strike overnight on Thursday is back in operation and we know that many towns in Idlib province, which is where Khan Sheikhoun, the town that was hit by those chemical weapons, have been hit repeatedly by regime aircraft, dozens of people killed.

Now, certainly, the missile strike did change the basic equations in Syria. The Syrian regime, after hearing statements from U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Tillerson -- the change in the regime in Damascus was no longer a priority, they realized that well, maybe, they should be a little more careful with the use of chemical weapons. But beyond that, no, nothing has really changed.

Now we did hear Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, saying that as far as Syria goes, the United States has three priorities. To defeat ISIS, to get rid of the Iranian influence in that country and, perhaps, to see the overthrow of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Those are three tall orders. The U.S., before all of this, was very busy with the war against ISIS. Now it's talking about it overthrowing the regime in Damascus. It's a lot of things to do for an administration that's fresh into power.

ROMANS: I would say so. All right, Ben Wedeman for us on the Turkey- Syria border. Thank you so much for that. So let's break down the day in politics -- the day ahead in the really busy weekend of political news. "CNN POLITICS" reporter Eugene Scott is with us again this morning. Nice to see you this morning.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: You all, as well.

ROMANS: So, the secretary of state wakes up this morning in Italy --

SCOTT: Right.

ROMANS: -- where he will be attending the G7. It used to be called the G8 because Russia was invited.

SCOTT: Yes.

ROMANS: Now it's not invited anymore because of bad behavior on the global stage. What do you expect to hear from the secretary of state when he goes to Russia? What will -- what kind -- how forceful will he be with the Russian authorities?

[05:35:00] SCOTT: I think what he's going to very clearly articulate is that whatever role Russia is playing in this involvement with Syria in terms of how they're responding to many of their citizens, if they do not step back, if they do not even join the United States in condemning Syria, then Russia will have to pay consequences and this will be a significant shift that we have not seen from the top of this administration, as much as many people in both the Republican and Democratic Party would like to see.

SANCHEZ: Well, there's actually a question about just how effective these strikes were. You just heard from Ben the airbase that we bombed is now operational --

SCOTT: Right.

SANCHEZ: -- and some very vocal members of Congress are speaking out about this. Let's listen to what Lindsey Graham had to say.

SCOTT: Great.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: To kill babies with conventional bombs is still a moral outrage. Here's what I think Assad's telling Trump by flying from this base, "F" you. And I think he's making a serious mistake because if you're an adversary of the United States and you don't worry about what Trump may do on any given day --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.

GRAHAM: -- then you're crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Well, it's interesting that he says that you're not really sure what Trump is going to do on any given day, if you're not afraid of that then, you know, you're crazy. But isn't that even more frightening, the fact that there's no clear strategy here? During the campaign, Trump said that his main goal was focusing on ISIS, not on Assad, but then he watched this video of a chemical strike he said that it made him emotional and he took action. Isn't that more worry?

SCOTT: It's definitely a huge concern to both politicians on the right and the left. People want to know what his next step is and if he's going to come to Congress to get some approval and to discuss this with other people who have far more experience in this area than he does. As many people paying attention have noted, just this time last week the Trump administration was taking a very different approach to Syria and so where they want to go next just isn't even clear to people who are on their side.

And we've seen people from the Russian government make jabs at the Trump administration, saying that there is not a clear foreign policy, that there is not a clear Trump doctrine, so people don't know what to expect.

ROMANS: But, Senator Marco Rubio, also on the weekend shows. On "ABC THIS WEEK" he said the policy as he sees it -- the strategy as he sees it is the wrong strategy -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: And I'm a bit concerned about the outlines of the strategy as I understand it. I think it's based on assumptions that, quite frankly, are not the rights ones and I hope they'll reconsider. This idea that we're going to get rid of ISIS and then we'll hopefully use Assad and others to come up with a solution, it's not going to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So, you know, inside the beltway there's real confusion about the strategy and also about the administration's position on Assad.

SCOTT: Indeed, and I mean, we saw it come on just CNN -- Rep. Adam Kinzinger say we really need to be aggressive in trying to get rid of Assad and focus our energies there. I think what's been very interesting to me, personally, is listening to these lawmakers who've been really processing and unpacking this issue far longer than Donald Trump started engaging national politics, and they're bringing all of their knowledge and perspective to the table. How much of the president's ear they will have, even from members of his own party, isn't clear yet but there definitely will be a need for more intentionality in how we move forward.

ROMANS: And this idea of regime change, though -- I mean, when you think about -- when you just think about all the people around the president and recent history -- Libya, for example, Rex Tillerson has mentioned that -- and other countries after --

SANCHEZ: Iraq.

ROMANS: -- Arab Spring. You know, oh my gosh, I mean, you have to have a clear out policy --

SCOTT: Sure.

ROMANS: -- for years out. And what we know is that the United States may be involved in Syria today but Iran will be for generations.

SCOTT: Yes. ROMANS: Right? And maybe Russia will be for generations.

SCOTT: Yes.

ROMANS: What kind of a player are we going to be there?

SCOTT: Yes, and we need to figure out where we stand and what it is that motivates the Trump administration and response. Quite a bit of attention was made to the fact that the president said seeing photos of babies was a motivator for his shift. And he got quite a bit of criticism for people left of him saying that there were photos of babies before last Tuesday and that didn't lead you to change, so how will you determine what's the next best step, not just in Syria but in global conflict abroad?

SANCHEZ: There were previous chemical attacks --

SCOTT: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: -- that had thousands more people and the president, now, is tweeting at the president then, saying don't do anything in Syria.

SCOTT: Yes, and all of those tweets are coming up now.

SANCHEZ: Yes. So we do have to ask before we go about the reports last week about this infighting in the Oval Office --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

SCOTT: Sure.

SANCHEZ: -- between Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon, of course, being basically removed from the National Security Council.

SCOTT: Right.

SANCHEZ: And it seems like there's this power dynamic that is shifting because, initially, if you look at some of the things on Trump's agenda with the travel ban --

SCOTT: Sure.

SANCHEZ: -- and the immediate repeal of Obamacare, it seemed like that trended towards Steve Bannon's point of view of the world, one which included not intervening in the Mideast --

SCOTT: Sure.

SANCHEZ: -- unless it was to go after terror. Last week we saw something very different. Does that mean that Bannon's influence on Trump is waning?

SCOTT: I'm not quite sure that is what's happening. I mean, even though he was removed from the Council, we have reports from our own Jim Acosta that he actually did attend a meeting --

[05:40:03] ROMANS: Right.

SCOTT: -- later on. But to what impact and degree will he be able to influence the president is not quite clear and that's very notable and concerning to many people because of the issue we were just speaking about. This is something that you would want all your top senior advisers to weigh in on and be on the same page. But there's nothing to lead us to believe that when it comes to global issues that Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon would be on the same page about something like this.

ROMANS: There's always shifting dynamics and power at play inside --

SCOTT: Absolutely.

ROMANS: -- the White House. There are -- it happens every administration. On this one, I just think we're -- I don't know, making headlines for the --

SCOTT: We'll see.

ROMANS: All right, thanks. Have a good morning.

SCOTT: Yes, thanks so much.

SANCHEZ: Good to see you.

SCOTT: Take care.

SANCHEZ: To Asia now. The Trumpadministration also flexing its military muscle in that part of the world. Right now, the nuclear- powered, 97,000-ton USS Carl Vinson is leading a strike group toward the Korean Peninsula. The aircraft carrier has more than 60 planes and 5,000 personnel on board. This show of force follows a series of recent provocations from the north. CNN's Alexandra Field is tracking the latest developments live from Seoul. Alexandra, what's the reaction there to this deployment?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well look, Boris, we don't know what the next move from Washington is but, certainly, this move does send a message and we are hearing reaction from officials right here in Seoul. The Defense Ministry saying that the return of the USS Vinson to these waters off the Korean Peninsula is a clear sign of the gravity with which U.S. officials regard the current North Korean nuclear threat.

This aircraft carrier has been in these waters before. It is typically here for training drills. The difference this time is that you're hearing from officials in Washington that his aircraft carrier is being sent back as a result, directly, of these recent provocations from North Korea. We're talking about four ballistic missile launches just since the start of the year. Some two dozen missile launches over the course of the last year. We've also seen an acceleration of missile engine tests from North Korea, and analysts who are closely monitoring data collected by satellites which watch North Korea say it's possible that they are planning for their sixth nuclear test. These are actions thatthe U.S. says it is no longer willing to tolerate.

Again, not yet clear what the policy toward North Korea from the Trump administration will be, but we have heard from Washington in the last couple of weeks is the reiteration of this. All options are now on the table and, clearly, a message being sent to North Korea with the return of the USS Vinson now. A powerful message sure to rankle North Korea -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Alex Field live from Seoul. Thank you so much, Alex.

ROMANS: All right. In Egypt, a state of emergency after a pair of deadly bombings on Palm Sunday, 49 fatalities. We're live in Egypt.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:47:00] ROMANS: Another big change on the way at the National Security Council. Top deputy K.T. McFarland is set to become the U.S. ambassador to Singapore. She was brought in by now-ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. McFarland says she will stay on at NSC until she is confirmed by the Senate, expected to be months away.

SANCHEZ: And this morning, Neil Gorsuch is set to be sworn in as the 101st associate justice of the Supreme Court. He's going to take two oaths of office. Chief Justice Roberts is going to administer the constitutional oath in a private ceremony starting at 9:00 a.m. And then, Justice Anthony Kennedy is going to administer the judicial oath at a public ceremony we'll see at the White House Rose Garden at 11 o'clock.

It's really a symbolic moment for both men since Gorsuch clerked for Kennedy and it's historic, too. It's the first time a former clerk is going to take the bench with his former boss. Gorsuch was confirmed Friday, mostly along party lines after Republican leaders made a historic decision to go nuclear, changing the Senate rules to kill the filibuster and get him confirmed with a simple majority vote.

ROMANS: And then there were nine. All nine seats filled. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Alisyn Camerota joins us this morning. Hi, Ali.

SANCHEZ: Good morning.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Hi, guys. Great to see you. We're still getting ready here this morning. We're going to tell you what you missed over the weekend because there's a lot of developments. Ever since the U.S. launched that missile strike on Syria, what was the point since the next day, Assad's military was back at it -- back attacking their own people? So, what did the U.S. missile strike accomplish?

We will have all of our experts weigh in on that, as well as all the mixed messaging coming out of the administration. What is the policy toward Syria moving forward? What further actions will be taken? So, a lot to talk about this morning. In addition, previewing Tillerson's visit to Russia, so all of that when we see you at the top of the hour. ROMANS: All right.

SANCHEZ: To be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

ROMANS: I know, right?

SANCHEZ: Alison, thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. A milestone for higher education. One state just passed a law offering free tuition to middle-class students -- free college tuition. We'll tell you what that means for the rest of the country when we get a check on CNN Money Stream, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:53:15] SANCHEZ: The death toll from two bloody Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt now rising to 49, with ISIS claiming responsibility for both deadly attacks. The terror group identifying the bombers as Egyptian nationals and they're threatening more violence to come. The targeting of two Coptic churches came on one of the mostimportant days on the Christian calendar. Let's go live now to Tanta and bring in CNN's Ian Lee. Ian, not only did this happen on an important day on the Christian calendar, it also comes just as Pope Francis is getting set to visit Egypt. And, it's the latest in a string of attacks against Christians in that country, so what's the government doing to ensure their security?

IAN LEE, CNN REPORTER: Well Boris, I just spoke with the new head of security. The old one was fired after these attacks. We raised these questions with them. We asked them what they're going to do differently to make sure that sites like this church behind me where that bomb went off are secured, and he said that they would put up new cameras so they had a better idea of what was going on around the church.

I talked to some Christians about those ideas and they say that's just the veneer of security that this government keeps promising and that they don't have the true interest of the Coptic people at heart. They say, yes, they do have a few guards out front of the buildings but those guards aren't stopping these bombers from getting inside or people placing the bombs inside, so there's a lot of anger here.

The cabinets here in Egypt just approved that three-month state of emergency, which gives the police and army extra powers to conduct searches, to make arrests, and detain people indefinitely without charges, although human rights groups have cautioned that could be -- those powers could be abused as they have been in the past.

[05:55:00] Also yesterday, President Trump did call President Sisi to offer his condolences and his support as the president tries to find the perpetrators behind this attack. ISIS did claimresponsibility and they said there are likely to be more attacks like this in the future, which is coming into a time when Christians are celebrating Easter and, as you said, the Pope is visiting at the end of the month -- Boris. SANCHEZ: All right, Ian Lee, thank you for the update. Back to the U.S. now and headaches in the air and, really, on the ground. Delta Airlines still hoping to get back to normal today after days of canceled flights. The nation's number two airline scrubbing 3,400 flights after powerful storms hit Delta's main hub in Atlanta during the middle of last week. Thousands of passengers have been stranded during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year. Still, Delta's warning that more cancellations are possible.

ROMANS: Officials are trying to figure out who hacked every single one of the tornado warning sirens in Dallas, setting off this sound for a full 95 minutes. (Tornado warning sirens sounding) What a mess. A city spokeswoman says the hacker had physical access to the hub connecting all the sirens, but the noise scared many Dallas residents whose calls to 911 jammed the system and delayed help for people with real emergencies. Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings has promised the city will identify and prosecute those responsible.

Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning -- this Monday morning. Stock futures pointing higher. One of the big stories this week will be earnings from the nation's big banks. Some of those stocks were already at record highs. Investors have been looking to see if higher interest rates and the prospects of deregulation boost profits for the banks.

New York, now the first state in the country to offer free tuition to middle-class college students. It offers full-time students at state schools and SUNY university of New York locations. The cap on income will start at $100,000. Those eligible will have their tuition covered. It ranges from about $6,500 a year at four-year schools to a little more than $3,000 for two-year programs. The plan does not include the cost of room and board. Families will pick that up. That, sometimes, is more expensive than tuition, by the way.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed this in January. State lawmakers built it into this year's budget which passed late Sunday night. That means New York taxpayers will be paying for tuition. It's the first state to offer free tuition but other states are not far behind. Lawmakers in Rhode Island are considering a similar bill. Tennessee, Oregon, and the city of San Francisco have recently made tuition free at community colleges.

The Department of Labor pressuring Google to disclose its pay data amid accusations it pays women less than men. The Labor Department was in a San Francisco court Friday trying to gain access to Google's payroll figures. The Department of Labor says it has evidence of systemic compensation disparities across the entire workforce. That, according to multiple reports. Google is a federal contractor so it must let the Labor Department inspect records and other data to make sure it is complying with equal opportunity laws.

Google denies it has a pay gap and is fighting those accusations. Last week, Google says it has closed its gender pay gap on a global scale. Regardless, this is a major problem in the tech industry and the Department of Labor says it has found women at Google are paid less than men. That's according to its investigation findings that Google is disputing.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and this -- we know that, in part, because they're a federal contractor. You have to think about --

ROMANS: That's right.

SANCHEZ: -- all those tech companies that don't have to show their pay data.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Boris Sanchez. Thanks so much, again. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY: We called out Russia because we needed to. How can they, with a straight face, cover for Assad?

TILLERSON: Our priority is first, the defeat of ISIS. We are hopeful that we can work with Russia.

HALEY: We don't see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there.

RUBIO: The strategy he seems to be outlining is based on assumptions that aren't going to work.

GRAHAM: I think Assad's telling Trump "F" you.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: We don't want a president being able to start a war whenever they want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North Korea has been engaged in a pattern of provocative behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All options are being explored when it comes to countering the nuclear threat.

TILLERSON: They're working their way towards an intercontinental ballistic missile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are watching NEW DAY. It's Monday, April 10th, 6:00 here in New York.

The Trump administration blasting Russia for backing Bashar al-Assad, as the U.S. investigates whether Russia played a role in last week's deadly Syrian chemical attack. President Trump's top officials sending some mixed messages about what the U.S. intends to do next.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Are we seeing another message getting ready to be sent? The U.S. Navy moving an aircraft carrier-led strike group near the Korean Peninsula amid escalating tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. Now, these moves set the table for a tense of fear when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to Moscow tomorrow. This is a critical day of foreign policy challenges, this day 81 of the Trump presidency. Let's begin our coverage with Joe Johns, live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.