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EARLY START

Trump Doubles Down on North Korea Rhetoric; Trump Talks McConnell, Russia and More; War-Ravaged Aleppo Slowly Rebuilds. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 11, 2017 - 04:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If anything, that statement may not be tough enough.

REPORTER: What would be tougher than fire and fury?

TRUMP: Well, you'll see. You'll see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: What could be tougher than fire and fury? Hopefully we'll never know. But the president is standing by his strongman stance on North Korea.

[04:30:03] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea is just one topic the president addressed in his most wide-ranging public comments in months. We have what he said about the Senate majority leader, Russia investigation, and a curious comment about Vladimir Putin. It sounds like a play. Doesn't it?

ROMANS: Yes, exactly. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUEZ: And I'm Miguel Marquez, in for Dave Briggs on this happy Friday. Thirty minutes past the hour.

ROMANS: The president did not use the exact words "fire and fury," but didn't back down on his warning to North Korea. In fact, escalating his combative warnings to Pyongyang and criticizing, criticizing past administrations for not doing enough, he said, to curb North Korean aggression. Not only is he not backing down from that threat to unleash fire and fury, the president says maybe the phrase didn't go far enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The people that were questioning that statement, was it too tough, maybe it wasn't tough enough. They've been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years. And it's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So, if anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Now, this one day after North Korea state media said a plan would be formalized within days to launch missiles toward the U.S. island territory of Guam. The president effectively knew a new red line saying if Kim Jong-un does fire toward Guam, he would respond.

Our coverage begins this morning with Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Miguel, President Trump doubling down on the words he said to North Korea, not backing down from the fire and fury he said earlier in the week. At his golf course and resort in Bedminster on Thursday, President Trump answering many questions from journalists. More than he has in months, but specifically on North Korea. He made clear that he will not take their threat lightly.

TRUMP: If North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent, our allies or us, they can be very, very nervous. I'll tell you what, they should be very nervous, because things will happen to them like they never thought possible.

ZELENY: Now, again, the president making his policy, his doctrine indeed, toward North Korea clearer than he has ever before. He's saying that he will not accept any action from Kim Jong-un. But not saying what the United States will do. He did not rule out preemptive strike on North Korea. Of course, most presidents do not do that. He did manage to criticize all of his predecessors -- President Bush, President Clinton, indeed, President Obama.

But President Trump said that he would be different. Of course, that is yet to be known. He made clear the remarks made earlier in the week are indeed the policy of this administration -- Christine and Miguel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Thanks, Jeff Zeleny.

President Trump's heated words coming moments after North Korea threatened the United States with a shameful defeat and final doom if it continues to apply military and economic pressure. North Korean officials releasing a statement claiming they will, quote, mercilessly wipe out the provocateurs, making desperate efforts to stifle the socialist country.

We want to go live to Seoul, South Korea, and bring in CNN's Anna Coren.

Any reaction to South Korea to these latest, very harsh words from the North?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No official comment, Miguel. But, certainly, people here in South Korea not surprised by the rhetoric coming out of North Korea. They haven't been surprised for the last four decades. But, certainly, they thought that Donald Trump would have to try and ease tensions, not fan the fires, as he did addressing the media overnight Seoul time. So, really, people were shaking their heads as to why Donald Trump is enflaming the situation.

Officially, South Korea's national security supervisor spoke to his counterpart, H.R. McMaster, early this morning. They spoke about a closeness of working together and trying to ease tensions here on the Korean peninsula. This, of course, is a long-standing alliance between the United States and South Korea. And, obviously, in South Korea's best interests to work extremely closely with the U.S.

Now, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, when he was asking about the United States' readiness for war, whether it will take military action, he responded by saying, I don't tell the enemy in advance what I'm going to do. Our readiness, we are ready.

And the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Joseph Dunford, he is on a scheduled trip in the region. He will come to South Korea, as well as China and Japan to obviously discuss North Korea, which is top of mind on everybody's agenda right now, Miguel.

[04:35:04] MARQUEZ: Indeed it is, including the president. He will be meeting with the U.S. representative to the U.N., Nikki Haley, later today. Clearly, he is talking tough but seemingly trying diplomacy.

Anna Coren for us in Seoul, thank you very much.

ROMANS: All right. On Wall Street, greed is out and caution is in as tensions with North Korea escalate. U.S. stocks closing sharply lower after President Trump's latest round of rhetoric. The Dow shedding 200 points.

It's a tough day on Wall Street. The S&P down sharply. The NASDAQ really took a big hit. Global stocks this morning, they are extending that slide. Some analysts say investors may be using geopolitical concerns for a reset.

You know, volatility is up. Wall Street's fear gauge, the VIX index, surging yesterday. Highest level now since the election.

MARQUEZ: My fear gauge is going way up, too.

President Trump touched on a number of topics Thursday. Many topics, more than he has in months. In one curious moment, he had a compliment for Vladimir Putin when asked if he had a response to the Russian leader ordering sharp cuts in U.S. diplomatic staff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on payroll. As far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people. Now we have a smaller payroll. There's no real reason for them to go back. So, I greatly appreciate that they've been able to cut our payroll for the United States. We'll save a lot of money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. The move by Putin came in to a sanctions bill passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate and reluctantly signed by President Trump.

MARQUEZ: President Trump telling reporters that he has no plans to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. This despite having repeatedly called the Russia investigation a witch hunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, have you thought about or considered leading the dismissal of the president counsel?

TRUMP: I haven't given it any thought. I've been reading about it from you people. You say, oh, I'm going to dismiss him. No, I'm not dismissing anybody. I mean, I want them to get on with the task.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: The president says he's eager for House and Senate committees to finish their investigations into election meddling by Russia.

ROMANS: President Trump also saying he was, quote, very, very surprised by the FBI's early morning raid last month on the home of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Sources tell CNN that Manafort is dropping his old legal team and hiring new lawyers with expertise in tax investigations, a sign that the special counsel's probe is focusing at least in part on possible tax crimes. Manafort has denied any wrongdoing.

MARQUEZ: Now, the president's impatience with Congress' inaction rearing its head once again, calling out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Republicans' failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. He says he's disappointed in McConnell but taking a wait-and-see approach on whether McConnell should keep his job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Should Senator McConnell consider stepping down as majority leader?

TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you what, if he doesn't get repeal and replace done and if he doesn't get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn't get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure, if he doesn't get them done, then you can ask me that question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The president's been going after McConnell on Twitter since the Republican Senate leader said he thought the president had excessive expectations about how much Congress could get done. The two had what's described as an animated conversation on the phone Wednesday night. Now, members of McConnell's GOP conference are coming to his defense with several senators including Jeff Flake, Orrin Hatch, and Thom Tillis tweeting support for their embattled leader.

MARQUEZ: President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency. The surprise announcement coming two days after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price indicated the president would not be making the declaration, suggesting it wasn't necessary. The president now vowing to spend a lot of time and money on the problem. Declaring the opioid crisis an emergency means federal and state agencies will receive more resources to fight it. The bipartisan White House commission studying the epidemic told the president last week that declaring a national health emergency would be an immediate help.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump's new immigration plan would cost 4.6 million jobs by the year 2040. That's according to a study by the president's alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. It found the U.S. economy would shrink 2 percent under the proposal.

Last week, Trump endorsed the RAISE Act, that's what it's called. It aims to preserve American jobs by curbing immigration. But most economists say the labor market badly needs foreign workers because baby-boomers are retiring, and there aren't enough young Americans to replace them. Currently, 44 million Americans have retired, up dramatically since 2000. At the same time, the labor market, the labor force has only grown 12 percent. Immigration -- immigrants bridge that gap.

They also create more small businesses than U.S.-born Americans. They are twice as likely to start a business.

[04:40:00] Right now, one in 10 Americans are employed by a business owned by an immigrant, one in 10.

The White House claims the study is flawed and that jobs it promotes come at the expense of American workers. However, despite the White House backing, experts say the bill has little chance of passing in its current form.

MARQUEZ: Fascinating how immigration is always key and healthy immigration is always key to economic growth in countries here and around the world.

Now, a fierce battle in the Syrian city of Aleppo left thousands dead in the city, and the city devastated. Now, months after relative calm, signs have returned to normalcy despite big complexities. CNN brings you a firsthand look inside Aleppo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back.

This morning, CNN has a firsthand look at the rebuilding of war-torn Aleppo. Late last year, the Syrian army took back Aleppo, a divided city since the early days of protest against President Bashar al Assad.

[04:45:08] Syria's second-largest city still in ruins, but slowly rebuilding.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, traveled to Aleppo. He has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It was one of the most brutal battles in the Syrian conflict when Syrian government forces backed by Russia launched their final assault on rebel-held areas of Aleppo, taking them back from the opposition.

Nine months later, much of Syria's second-largest city still lay in ruins. But life is starting to emerge once again. Thousands have returned to former battle zone neighborhoods, many relying on aid donations to get by.

We came to this neighborhood just as residents were rushing to get bread handouts.

Most people who return are in bad need of almost everything, the local head of this NGO says. Many come back and find that their homes are reduced to just walls and ceilings. We help them as much as we can.

Some stores are also reopening and market vendors coming back. This area was once held by rebels. Some who fled fear reprisals if they return. But all the people we met were vocal supporters of the government and its Russian backers.

The Russians are our friends, this man says. They are honest with us like we are honest with them. Bashar al Assad and the Russians are one.

Amid this massive destruction, the tiny efforts at reconstruction appear almost like a drop in the bucket. But inside the bombed and burned ruins, Aleppo's industry is starting to spring back to life. We came across this textile shop where they repaired the machines and are manufacturing clothes once again.

When the people who fled see that business is coming back, they'll return, and we'll work together to make Aleppo as great as it used to be and even better, the shift leader says.

Aleppo's historic old town is a UNESCO world heritage site. Much of it now reduced to rubble. Some of the fiercest battles revolved around the highest point of the city, the Ancient Citadel.

(on camera): The Ancient Citadel was one of the main battlegrounds in Aleppo. Like so many parts of the city, repairing the damage will be a monumentous task.

(voice-over): We climbed to the highest point of the citadel getting a stunning view of all of Aleppo, one of the oldest cities in the world, badly damaged but now with a chance to stand up once again.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Aleppo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Glad we have Fred there to give the visual update on that.

MARQUEZ: Once a gorgeous city. Sad.

Some bizarre new developments in the acoustic attack on employees at the American embassy in Havana. A U.S. government official tells CNN this was not a case of eavesdropping gone wrong, and the possibility of a third country being involved is now under investigation. The theory is another country could be trying to drive a wedge between the White House and Cuba. It's now believed some kind of sophisticated audio device was used outside or potentially inside residences of U.S. diplomats in Havana.

ROMANS: Several people report hearing loss and concussion-like symptoms. Government officials in Havana are allowing FBI agents on to the island to investigate. The attacks have subsided for now, at least one Canadian diplomat in Havana has also suffered unusual symptoms. The embassy is about three miles from the U.S. embassy. Like something out of a spy novel.

MARQUEZ: A little bizarre. Somebody has an axe to grind.

ROMANS: All right. Forty-eight minutes past the hour. More trouble at Google. Its CEO cancels a meeting on diversity over safety concerns for its employees. We'll tell you why on CNN "Money Stream", next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:53:23] ROMANS: All right. No shortage of material as "SNL" as it rolled out its summer weekend update series. Its take on the wild developments in Washington while the show is on hiatus, included some shots at the president's new immigration plan and at first sons Eric and Don Jr.

Here's a little sample.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's been a crazy year these past few weeks. I don't know if you guys noticed, but there were minor staffing changes at the White House.

I don't know if Trump is colluding with Russia, but he's definitely colluding with "Dancing with the Stars."

Also, how did "SNL" miss Anthony Scaramucci? He was like Christmas in July. Actually, he was like Hanukkah in July because he was around about a week, and it's a miracle he lasted that long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump announced his support for a new immigration policy that would favor people who speak English and have higher education or well-paying job offers. Well-paying job offers? Damn, when did the Statue of Liberty get so bougie? She used to be desperate like, send me your tired, your poor, anybody, I just need a man, lord. Now, she's on Tinder like, he's got to be rich, and smart and light skinned and 6'4"--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The border has never been more secure, and the story of the summer --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you act like the Russians --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eric --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the reports that your father helped craft the statement you made to the public to mislead them deliberately?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, all my father did was give me advice, he said, son, go out and tell the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then he winked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

[04:55:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Want to play with your fidget spinner, buddy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the big deal?

Eric? Eric? You got to spin it, buddy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Fertile grounds there.

ROMANS: I'll say.

MARQUEZ: A few things to say.

Switching gears, Taylor Swift took to the stand in the civil trial in Denver that centers on her charge she was groped by former radio deejay David Mueller when they took a picture together at a fan meet and greet in 2013. Swift was combative at times with Mueller's attorney, describing the incident as horrifying and shocking and telling the lawyer, quote, I'm not going to allow you or your client to make me feel in any way that this was my fault because it isn't.

Mueller claims Swift's allegation ruined his career. He is suing her for $3 million. Swift is countersuing for one buck. The trial continues later this morning.

ROMANS: A New York City police officer saved by his bulletproof vest after being shot twice in the chest. Police say a gunman opened fire on the officer and his partner when they responded to the call of an emotionally disturbed person at a home in Brooklyn on Thursday. The officer was hit twice in the vest, once in the arm. The suspect killed himself after a standoff with police. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio praising that officer and saying he was definitely saved by his vest.

MARQUEZ: Now, miracle baby who spent three days stuffed inside a garbage bag is recovering this morning in a New York state hospital. Doctors in Elmira say the 8-month-old girl is doing well. She was discovered by a neighbor who heard a noise coming from a bag and ripped it open. The child was badly dehydrated and had stopped breathing. The infant's mother, identified as 17-year-olds Harriet Hoye (ph) of Pennsylvania is charged with attempted murder.

ROMANS: All right. Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. Time for a check of CNN "Money Stream" this morning.

Global stocks lower this morning, extending big losses on Wall Street as North Korea's tension escalates. President Trump's latest round of fiery rhetoric sending volatility up. Wall Street's fear gauge, the VIX index, surged yesterday, highest level now since the election.

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is under fire again. He's being sued by Uber investor Benchmark Capital to force him off the board. The lawsuit accuses Kalanick of withholding information about mismanagement from shareholders, trying to keep power on Uber's board even after he stepped down as CEO. Kalanick denies the claims that he was forced to resign as CEO in June, after a series of scandals at the company.

The retail apocalypse for department stores continues. Same store sales at Macy's, Kohl's, Dillard's all fell last quarter, triggering a sell-off for all three of those stocks. Macy's alone is down more than 40 percent.

MARQUEZ: Wow.

ROMANS: This is yet another sign the toll on the rise of Amazon is taking on traditional retailers. Stores are resorting to discounts and promotions to attract customers. Ultimately, that hurts profits.

Google canceling a companywide staff meeting on diversity because of fears of online harassment of its employees. The meeting was to address the fallout over the firing of that male engineer and the memo he posted saying women are not biologically fit for tech roles. Google CEO pulled the plug after employees' identities were exposed, exposing them to harassment and threats on line.

Instead of the large-scale meeting, the CEO says they will meet in smaller groups in the future. You know, Google says it's important to have the conversation but to have 60,000 employees on a live-stream when there's so much -- just unhappiness surrounding the whole --

MARQUEZ: But also interesting that a company like Google that is so good at doing technology can't do this without it leaking to everybody. The world we live in. Nothing is private anymore.

ROMANS: You're right.

MARQUEZ: EARLY START continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If anything, that statement may not be tough enough.

REPORTER: What would be tougher than fire and fury?

TRUMP: Well, you'll see. You'll see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: What could be tougher than fire and fury? Hopefully, we'll never know. The president is standing by his strongman stance on North Korea.

MARQUEZ: North Korea just one topic the president addressed in his most wide-ranging public comments in months. We have what he said about the Senate majority leader, the Russia investigation, and a curious comment about Vladimir Putin.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Miguel Marquez, in for Dave Briggs. Good morning.

ROMANS: Nice to have you here this week.

MARQUEZ: It's been a lovely week.

ROMANS: I'll miss you next week.

MARQUEZ: I know.

ROMANS: Dave Briggs will be back. He was on vacation.

I'm Christine Romans. It's Friday, August 11th, it's 5:00 a.m. in the East. It is 6:00 p.m. in Seoul, noon in Moscow.

President Trump did not use the exact words "fire and fury", but he didn't back down on his warnings to North Korea, in fact, escalating his combative warnings to Pyongyang, criticizing past administrations for not doing enough to curb North Korean aggression.