Return to Transcripts main page


New Mixed Message on Trump Syria Policy; Tillerson Heads to Moscow; United Airlines Passenger Dragged off Plane; Cubs Raise World Series Banner. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 11, 2017 - 05:00   ET


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Is President Trump redefining his red line on Syria? More mixed messages from the White House, leaving many wondering just how far the U.S. is willing to go.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tensions rise just hours ahead of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's high stakes trip to Moscow. With Syria at the forefront, what message will he deliver to the Kremlin?

SANCHEZ: And United Airlines facing a PR nightmare this morning after this disturbing video emerges of a passenger being forcibly dragged from an airplane. We've been talking about it all morning. You're not going to want to miss that footage.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Boris Sanchez.

ROMANS: Yes. I would say universal condemnation for United Airlines this morning.

[05:00:03] You know, they're alone out there on an island right now.

I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, April 11th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. We welcome all of our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.

The White House sowing new confusion this morning over President Trump's red line in Syria. Press Secretary Sean Spicer defending the missile strikes President Trump ordered against the Syrian military air field. Taken literally, Spicer seemed to significantly lower the threshold for action by the Assad regime that would trigger a U.S. military response. But the administration is now saying Spicer's words should not be taken literally.

CNN's Sara Murray has the latest from the White House.


SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris and Christine.

Ever since President Trump ordered a military strike in Syria, the question has been, what comes next? Well, yesterday, the White House offered more confusion than clarity

on that question after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said this.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bomb in to innocent people, I think you can -- you will see a response from this president. That is unacceptable.

MURRAY: Now, Spicer made a reference to barrel bombs repeatedly yesterday in that briefing. Now, if that were the administration's new red line, if they were going to intervene any time there was a barrel bomb attack, that would be a significant shift in U.S. policy. But after that briefing, administration officials began to walk it back, saying this is not a signal of a change in policy, an indication that administration officials are not necessarily on the same page when it comes to what's next in Syria.

I think one thing is clear: the administration wants to be careful about not drawing a red line that they're not willing to back up and they want to stick to the president's previous comments, that he wants to be unpredictable on military action. He does not want to forecast his next steps. One thing is clear, though, this White House is not ruling out future intervention in Syria.

Back to you, guys.


SANCHEZ: Sara, thank you.

Syria is certainly on the itinerary in a series of meeting under way right now in Italy. A critical gathering of the foreign ministers from the G7 countries, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The meeting comes amid heighten tensions between the U.S. and Russia over these missile strikes in Syria. Minutes after this meeting ends, Tillerson is going to get on a plane for Moscow, where he's going to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Let's go now live to international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson. He's in Lucca, Italy, the site of those meetings.

Nic, a recipient of the Russian Order of Friendship is heading to the Kremlin with a not-so friendly message.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNTIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Hey there. That's right. And talks are still going on here at the G7 meeting, they're overrunning we believe Secretary Tillerson right now is having a bilateral meeting with the foreign minister and that will be the last meeting here and he will brief the press before he takes off for Moscow.

But the consensus that seems to be emerging here, part of the reason for the overrun, of course, is that it's not only the G7 foreign ministers, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, but also brought in the foreign ministers this morning from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, United Emirates. So, you have more players at the table, if you will.

But the consensus that appears to be emerging is that there is a window in which the supporters and allies of the United States believe that President Putin needs to be allowed to back away from police support of President Assad in Syria, that this window is not clear how long this window should be, but that is the message that Secretary Tillerson is expected to take to Moscow.

Putin back away from support of Assad, helped build a cease-fire inside Syria, and then support the U.N. political process, the peace talks in Geneva, U.N. Security Council resolution, U.N. 254, for the auspices of that meeting, understanding Russia signed unto for that meeting.

So, that is the aim to get Russia on track with the political process that is already agreed to that would transition away from President Bashar al Assad -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Nic Robertson reporting live from Italy -- thank you. It should be interesting to see how Russia receives the message of the G7 when they were a former member, how persuasive can they be.

ROMANS: It was the G8, it was the seven largest economies and Russia, until Russia was, you know, ostracized for its invasion of Ukraine.

Joining us to discuss all of this, political analyst Ellis Henican, author of "The Trump America" column for Metro papers.

Nice to see you this morning.

SANCHEZ: Good morning.

ROMANS: Let's stay on this Syria policy and exactly what we think Rex Tillerson is going to take to the Russians. You know, "The Wall Street Journal" this morning is saying that you're starting to see -- its headline, U.S. hints at tougher stance on Syria. Others are seeing a more muddled message and what the instances on Syria that they're taking to Russia.

What do you expect?

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST & BEST-SELLING AUTHOR: Well, muddled but a little tougher. I mean, as we know, civil wars in the Middle East have a way of dragging large powers in and once we get in deeper, sometimes it's hard to get out.

[05:05:01] That's certainly the lesson of the past decade or so, isn't it?

SANCHEZ: Yes, definitely. These mixed messages that you mentioned certainly are coming from a lot of different places. Nikki Haley, Rex Tillerson, Sean Spicer with that barrel bombs flub.

But one person we haven't heard from is President Donald Trump. I want to read to you something from the "New York Times," an op-ed that is coming out today. They write, quote, "In about the days since President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike against Syria in retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians, his administration has spoken with multiple voices as it seeks to explain its evolving policy. But one voice has not been heard from, that of Mr. Trump himself."

With all this confusion over the goals in Syria, U.S. goals in Syria, isn't it time for the president to step up and speak?

HENICAN: Well, the silence has been striking. I think it would make us wonder whether there is a clear policy there towards -- before you can say one, you have to have one, don't you?

I get the sense what Christine was hitting at is the direction that we're going. It's going to be a little tougher, a little more assertive about bringing American activity back into that part of the world. You know Donald Trump ran on the platform that we don't want to be all these places, America first, but, boy, those events, those pictures really do have a way of pulling you in.

ROMANS: And we have this polling, a CBS Polling on who approves the Syrian strike, what percentage of Americans polled agree. Fifty-seven percent approve, only 36 percent disapprove. This is a president who was elected on saying, "I'm going to stay home, this is America first, we're not going to mess around in all these foreign wars and foreign efforts." This is about being home first. I think that is interesting.

HENICAN: Yes, but those Tomahawk missile strikes, that's the kind of military activity that's easy to rally around.

ROMANS: Not boots on the ground.

HENICAN: Right. It happened quick, none of our people got hurt, you know, in and out and move on. I think you may see different numbers if we're talking about some kind of intervention that really actually does involve --

ROMANS: And there are boots on the ground in Syria. I think maybe a lot of Americans don't realize that there are hundreds of American personnel on the ground, by one estimate a thousand. And Afghanistan a still a battlefield, we lost a sperm ops soldier there in the last couple of days. So, we are still really involved on the international stage.

HENICAN: If these things were easy, we'd resolve them quickly. I mean, the civil war has gone on for many years. There is no obvious answer to it. There are no clear heroes, there's no one that we have perfectly aligned with. Assad is terrible, but it's hard to shove him out and who do you get once you do.

And so, you know, once you get involved in these things, it is very hard to extract yourself.

SANCHEZ: Yes, certainly, that's the case Donald Trump made back in 2013 when he told President Obama not to act in Syria.

HENICAN: Yes, but, Boris, you see these pictures of the babies.

SANCHEZ: But then, and that leads to the question about Donald Trump's plan. He says that he doesn't want to telegraph what he wants do to his enemies, but does he actually have a plan or is this just chaos changing day to day?

HENICAN: You think maybe I'm going to be secret about this suggests that I don't know yet. Yeah.

SANCHEZ: I mean, it's possible, at least to articulate some kind of goal.

HENICAN: And then if you look for hints among others from the administration, you're pulled in opposite directions. Nikki Haley talking tough, Rex Tillerson talking not so much. Sean Spicer just tossing red meat in the briefing room.

ROMANS: Sean Spicer yesterday did talk about the Trump doctrine. I want to take 20 seconds and listen to Sean Spicer trying to clarify what is the Trump doctrine here.


SPICER: The Trump doctrine is something he articulated throughout the campaign, which is that America is first. We're going to make sure that our national interests are protected, that we do what we can to make sure that our interests both economically and national security are at the forefront and we aren't just the world's policemen running around the world, but that we have to have a clear and designed national interest wherever we act, and that it's our national security first and foremost that has to deal with how we act.


ROMANS: So does recent activity in Syria fit with that?

HENICAN: Well, you know, I would use a different world for the Trump doctrine. I'd say flexibility. I'll know is when I see it, that may be the Trump doctrine at this point.

I really don't think that you can point to, are we going to be tough? Are we not going to be tough? Are we going to be in? Are we going to be out?

I just don't think it's shaken out to that degree in Donald Trump's mind or therefore the policy of the administration.

SANCHEZ: We still have a ton to get to. Ellis Henican, we thank you so much for joining us now. We'll see you --

ROMANS: In about a half an hour.

SANCHEZ: You have to see this video. We all have that awful experience at the airport. They're likely not as bad as this one. Look at this unidentified bloodied United Airlines passenger in Chicago Sunday night. He gets yanked out of his seat and then he gets dragged through the aisle of plane as he's bleeding. He hit his head against the arm rest at one point.

The man heard saying he's a doctor trying to get home to see his patients.

[05:10:04] It seems like United overbooked this flight to Louisville, Kentucky, though, and then they asked passengers to surrender their seats for compensation in order to make room for crew members. When nobody volunteered, United says it was forced into what it called an involuntary deboarding situation.

The backlash as you might spark a social media frenzy and it already led to suspension of one of those police officers, Chicago police officer that got the man off the plane. Look at him there.

United CEO Oscar Munoz was forced to release the following statement after first defending the ejection. He writes, quote, "This is an upsetting event. All of us here at United, our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened."

Now, in these situations, when people are asked to get off the plane, priority is given to people that are with their families or, you know, basically people traveling alone are more likely to get kicked off the plane.

Important to point out, this man with us with his wife. She was sitting just a few rows behind him and it's not clear that any serious compensation was offered to these passengers to get off. You know, the FAA allows for about $1,300. Maybe if they had done that or perhaps gone a little bit further with some kind of accommodation --

ROMANS: Some report was they offered $800 and nobody took it because everybody had to get home. And it's one of those infuriating things about air travel, overbooking a flight, you know? Just crazy. It's the economics of industry.

JetBlue does not do it. Most of the other airlines, they overbook and when you buy the ticket, you agree to those terms.

In banking, this is one of the biggest scandals in banking history involving those fake accounts at Wells Fargo. It's shaken that bank to its core. A new investigation reveals a report at Wells Fargo all the way back in 2004 were told of the scandal. That report warned Wells Fargo employees had incentive to cheat that was based on the fear of losing their jobs. The report found that workers felt they couldn't meet the unrealistic sales goals without gaming the system.

It went on to say it was sent to their chief auditor, HR personnel and others. Fell on deaf ears, though. This 110-page investigation released by Wells Fargo's independent board of directors this week says there is no evidence that the report and its recommendations were further escalated.

Wells Fargo's board announced Monday it took back $75 million from former CEO John Stumpf and former head of Wells community banks. $75 million in compensation they clawed back. Board said Stumpf was too slow to investigate or critically challenged the bank's sales tactics. A lot of people really furious, especially shareholders, really furious about all of that compensation over a period of time when people were cheating.

SANCHEZ: The big question now, are we going to see criminal charges in the situation.


SANCHEZ: We've been talking about Syria, but we haven't forgotten about North Korea. They issued a blistering statement against the U.S. warning they will retaliate against any aggression. We'll tell you more about this escalating tense situation when we come back.


[05:17:14] SANCHEZ: North Korea says it will respond in kind to any acts of aggression by the U.S., as a U.S. aircraft carrier steams toward the Korean Peninsula. Following last week's missile test by North Korea, the U.S. turned the USS Carl Vinson and four support ships toward the Sea of Japan, also called the East Sea.

Officials in Pyongyang provided a statement to CNN. It says, quote, "The dispatch of the Carl Vinson nuclear powered aircraft strike group into the waters of the Korean Peninsula proves that the reckless aggression of the U.S. against the DPRK, North Korea, have now entered a grave political stage. The DPRK is willing and ready to respond to whatever methods the U.S. wants to take. We are not daunted even as to turn an eyelash."

Important to point out, this weekend marks an important date in North Korean history. They have been using these kind of moments to maximize publicity for nuclear tests and missile tests. You've got to keep an eye on North Korea this weekend.

ROMANS: It's all about the calendar sometimes.

Up next, a scene most Cubs fans never thought they would witness. Oh my gosh. The raising of the championship banner over Wrigley. And, of course, it got delayed.

Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report" -- that's next.


[05:22:52] ROMANS: All right. The Cubbies doing something never done at Wrigley Field last night, raising a championship banner in front of 41,000 of their closest friends.

SANCHEZ: They had to wait 108 years to do this.

And in true Cubs fashion, Coy Wire, they had to wait just a little bit more. Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris and Christine. Yes, they had been waiting for a long, long time for generations and yes, they would have to wait a couple hours longer because of a rain delay. Once those clouds parted, Cubs star Anthony Rizzo took the honor.


ANNOUNCER: And now, ladies and gentlemen, your Chicago Cubs will raise the 2016 World Series Championship banner.


WIRE: An amazing moment shared by Cubs legends past and present. From loveable losers to World Series champs, this is a moment that father, son, daughters, even grandparents are going to always remember.

Continuing the storybook run in Chicago, a jaw dropping finish on to their home opener. Anthony Rizzo, the hero once again, hitting the game ending walk-off single, knocks in the winning run there, Cubs top the Dodgers 3-2.

Touching moment again for the Giants homeowner in San Francisco. The family of slain Navy SEAL Ryan Owens threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. Ryan was a huge Giants fan and he and his family were friends with former Giants pitcher Javier Lopez.

Now, you may remember Ryan's widow, Karen, she was honored for her husband's sacrifice by President Trump at his joint address to Congress. Karen said her children will never forget being able to throw out that first pitch for their dad.

USA teaming up with Mexico and Canada for an unprecedented bid to land a 2026 World Cup. If successful, it would be the first World Cup to ever be hosted by more than two countries. Sixty of the 80 games would be played right here in the United States.

President Trump has taken a strong stance on immigration enforcement and wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but U.S. soccer president Sunil Gulati said that Trump encouraged them to have a joint bid and tweeted, quote, "POTUS fully supportive of our unified bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and especially pleased that Mexico is part of it," unquote.

[05:25:14] Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo trading in the star on his helmet for the broadcast booth, but first, he will make a brief appearance as a star in the NBA. Romo is going to suit up for the Mavs in their final home game and become a Dallas Maverick for a day. He will participate in warm-up, pregame shoot away, and he will be introduced with the team. He won't actually play in the game, he'll even get to sit on the bench, like he did for the Cowboys all last season, too soon. But head coach Rick Carlisle told reporters that he looks very much forward to honoring one of Dallas' all-time best athletes.

ROMANS: All right, Boris -- thanks, Coy. BORIS: Thanks a lot, Coy.

WIRE: You're welcome.

ROMANS: It says Boris right there.

SANCHEZ: In just a few hours, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will head to Moscow amid high tensions with the Kremlin. We have more on that next.