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EARLY START

U.S. Seeks Toughest North Korea Sanctions; "Dreamer" Program to End?; Bracing for Hurricane Irma. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 5, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: But it's going the take time before the refining infrastructure is fully up and running again.

[04:00:03] You just can't just flip a switch like that. It takes time.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: No, it takes a little time.

All right. EARLY START continues right now with the latest on the North Korean nuclear threat.

(MUSIC)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: His abusive use of missiles and his nuclear threats show that he is begging for war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Nikki Haley, America's ambassador to the United Nations, lashing out at North Korea's leader, perhaps escalating tensions, as the world waits to see if they'll test yet another weapon.

KOSIK: President Trump is expected to announce today he's ending the immigration program known as DACA. What that could mean for the young, undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers that it protects?

BRIGGS: Plus, another hurricane. This one Irma, en route to American soil. Florida and Puerto Rico already declaring a state of emergency ahead of landfall.

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

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's Tuesday, September 5th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East, 3:00 a.m. in Houston, and 4:30 p.m. in Pyongyang.

And we begin with North Korea, defying international condemnation over its latest largest nuclear test with signs of more tests to come. U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, arguing at an emergency Security Council meeting that the international community must exhaust every last bit of leverage over Pyongyang to avoid a nuclear war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HALEY: The time has come to exhaust all of our diplomatic means before it's too late. We must now adopt the strongest possible measures. Kim Jong-un's action cannot be seen as defensive. His abusive use of missiles and his nuclear threats show that he is begging for war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Among North Korea's few remaining pressure points that could be targeted with sanctions, oil imports, textile exports, and the regime's other sources of foreign currency. Pyongyang slamming the U.S. via state media, bragging it will use its, quote, nuclear strategic weapons to eradicate the land of the U.S. with no trace left on earth.

KOSIK: All this as South Korea says it has spotted continuous signs the North is preparing another ICBM test.

CNN's Ian Lee joins us live now from South Korea, where that country has been conducting exercises off the east coast of the Korean peninsula.

It looks like they're flexing their muscles. You think North Korea's getting the message, though?

IAN LEE, CNN REPORTER: It doesn't look like it. They've been continuing to flex their muscle since that nuclear test.

We've seen missile tests. We've seen aircraft testing, their air-to- surface missiles. And we've seen now the navy practicing these live- fire exercises.

But it doesn't seem to be getting through to the North. In fact, we're hearing another development coming out of North Korea. This is coming from South Korea's national intelligence service, telling lawmakers that they have seen a projectile that they believe to be an ICBM.

We've heard from reports that there could be another ballistic missile test in the days, hours really to come. Although on Saturday, the country will be celebrating its national foundation day. Now, this comes as President Moon talks with President Trump about what they can do to strengthen their united front, even though there was some rocky tweets over the weekend where President Trump called President Moon's stance appeasement.

But they are trying to show a united front now to North Korea, and that includes further cooperation with the military and South Korea asking the U.S. to lift the limit on their ballistic missiles, currently capped at 500 kilograms, also talking about billions of dollars of weapons and equipment going to the South Korean army.

KOSIK: OK. CNN's Ian Lee, thanks very much.

BRIGGS: North Korea has evolved from a regional menace to a global threat. Some strong words from Yukiya Amano, the head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency. He calls Sundays' testing of a hydrogen bomb a new dimension of threat.

For more on the diplomatic efforts to cool tensions on the peninsula, let's bring in CNN's Nic Robertson live from the IAEA in Vienna, Austria.

Good morning to you, Nic. This as news that Vladimir Putin calls further sanctions, quote, useless and ineffective. Perhaps no surprise, though, with past rhetoric from Putin. Good morning to you, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, good morning to you, Dave. I mean, we're in a very, very diplomatic position as Nikki Haley is going to try to corral those principal players, Russia and China, at the U.N. Security Council to get a resolution.

You know, Russia is clearly positioning itself, Vladimir Putin clearly positioning himself further away from the U.S. position by siding with China over the issue of calling for a freeze for freeze, a freeze for the weapons drills that the South Koreans and United States are doing around the Korean peninsula, for a freeze of the nuclear activities in North Korea -- clearly a non-starter for the United States and its allies.

[04:05:27] But, you know, you have China concerned about possible trade relations with the United States going forward. Russia concerned about its standing on the global stage. It wants a bigger position. It wants sanctions lifted from it. It's at a distance from the United States.

So, trying at the moment diplomatically to bring together these principal players to get into a position where you can force North Korea to step back from the brink where it's at right now is very, very difficult. For that reason, the head of the IAEA here says that he believes that while we can't know for sure that North Korea has developed a miniaturized nuclear weapon that it can fit on an ICBM, he said essentially you have to believe that that's what they're going to do because that's what they say. And his analysis is they are making rapid progress towards that. So, the time for diplomacy really is running out.

BRIGGS: Indeed it appears that's the case. Nic Robertson live for us in Vienna, thank you, sir.

With sanctions showing little effect slowing North Korea's nuclear and missile program, everyone asking, what happens next?

To discuss this, the limited options available for ending that North Korean threat, pardon me, let's bring in CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, Cedric Leighton. He joins us from Washington.

Good morning to you, Colonel.

KOSIK: Good morning.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning, guys. How are you?

BRIGGS: We're good.

This happened over the holiday weekend. Yesterday was Labor Day. Some people may have missed what escalated the tensions. That's the latest nuclear test from the North Koreans.

What do we know about it today?

LEIGHTON: Well, so far, Dave, what we know is that it was North Korea's most powerful test. It hit 6.3 on the Richter scale. What that indicates is it's about eight times as large as the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima which was the first nuclear bomb, one of two, that was dropped in combat. And, of course, we did that back in the waning days of World War II.

So, what we're talking about is a powerful bomb, a bomb that if everything proves out based on the things that we've seen so far could have been placed in a miniaturized warhead. That miniaturized warhead could potentially be placed on an intercontinental ballistic missile. That's where the real danger comes in.

KOSIK: And then after this missile test happened over the weekend for those who weren't aware because they were away for the holiday, we then saw Defense Secretary James Mattis step before the microphones, making some very strong words. Let's roll F6 and will come back and talk after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Any threat to the United States or its territories including Guam or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming. We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea. But as I said, we have many options to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: What do you think is the massive military response? What does that -- what is that comprised of?

LEIGHTON: Well, in normal situation, a massive military response would be unleashing almost everything that we have on a particular target. So, in the case of North Korea, Alison, what we're talking about is a type of response that would involve the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, the Marine Corps, all going after certain preselected targets in North Korea. That would basically include such things as their command and control network. It would also include their leadership positions. It would include what we would call hardened and deeply buried targets, which is where they put a lot of their most important things, their command and control nodes, which is the focal point of targeting efforts, and also where their leadership bunkers would be.

So, those are the kind of things that we would go after. It would include their transportation systems. It would include really erasing a large portion of the North Korean army's infrastructure.

BRIGGS: Of course, that would put in peril some 10 million people 35 miles from the border in Seoul, South Korea. But the other option, of course, Colonel, is further economic sanctions, further isolation of the North.

Here's what U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said about that notion yesterday at a special U.N. Security Council meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY: Only the strongest sanctions will enable us to resolve this problem through diplomacy.

[04:10:01] We have kicked the can down the road long enough. There is no more road left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Perhaps oil sanctions, cutting it off from China to the North would have some impact. But is there any sense in the military community that any further sanctions will have any impact on the North's development of nuclear weapons?

LEIGHTON: It really depends, Dave, on how effective those sanctions are, and especially how well they're targeted. So, if you're looking at oil, for example, that could absolutely be something that is cut off.

The problem, though, is, is that it's a very porous border between North Korea and China. There's a lot of smuggling that goes there, and the minute that sanctions are put in place between China and North Korea, the very next day, there would be smugglers engaged in operations that would get goods like oil, other raw materials, to the North. So, they would continue to be supplied. The question would be, how robust that supply would be and how often they could replenish their stocks, the reserve stocks? So, that would be the key element there.

And those kinds of options could be effective, but the problem is, is that there are so many ways around the sanctions. And North Korea has become a master at finding its way around a lot of the sanctions that have already been put in place.

KOSIK: Even if China was going to agree to the sanctions, there are ways around it, as you say.

BRIGGS: No question.

LEIGHTON: That's right.

BRIGGS: Colonel Cedric Leighton, we'll see you in about 30 minutes. Thank you, sir.

KOSIK: Thanks very much. BRIGGS: All right. The Trump administration expected to announce

today it will end a program for young, undocumented immigrants called DREAMers. But reportedly, he'll give Congress a chance to fix it. Can they? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:15:52] BRIGGS: Later today, President Trump expected to announce his decision to end DACA. That's the Obama era program that protects so-called DREAMers, young, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will hold a briefing at the Justice Department to discuss the president's plan. Now, sources tell CNN the president wants to delay the dismantling of DACA so lawmakers have a chance to save it -- if they so choose, if they're capable.

Sara Murray has more from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave and Alison.

Sources tell CNN, even though the president is expected to end the program, he's going to do it with a six-month delay, a window that allows for Congress to come up with a legislative fix to this issue. That news was welcomed by some Republicans who say Congress is the one who should be mending this issue. They shouldn't be legislating from the White House. But others, including the head of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Democrats panned President Trump's expected announcement, calling it heartless and saying it defies what he said on the campaign trail.

As a candidate, Trump took pretty much every side of this issue. He promised to end DACA as soon as possible when he came to the White House, but he also said that he would treat the DREAMers with heart and be sure to protect them. Now, sources caution that until the president actually makes the announcement, things could always change. So, we await the words from President Trump's mouth.

Back to you, guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: All right. Thank you, Sara Murray.

A fix to DACA is just one of the long list of agenda items facing Congress as lawmakers return to work today.

Joining us now to discuss all that and more, "Washington Post" reporter Eugene Scott.

Good to see you, my friend.

KOSIK: Good morning, Eugene.

EUGENE SCOTT, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Good to see you.

BRIGGS: All right. So, look, like a lot of proposals by this president, he's been taking incoming from Republicans, both the right of the party and the left of the party.

Oddly, Lindsey Graham was one who was happy with this decision, saying if President Trump chooses to cancel the DACA program and give Congress six months to find a legislative solution, I would be supportive of such a position. I've always believed DACA was a presidential overreach. However, I equally understand the plight of the DREAM Act kids who for all practical purposes know no country other than America.

But, Eugene, bottom line here -- Congress comes back today. Harvey relief, debt ceiling, fund the government, tax reform. Would you believe there's any chance that Congress can get on the same page on immigration reform?

SCOTT: Absolutely not. I mean, the reality is this issue has not been addressed before now because they've struggled to get on the same page. And we've seen such division on this issue, even within the Republican Party right now in ways that we have not in the past.

The fact also is that this is an issue has come up to national attention during Hurricane Harvey. So, I think there's a lot of sensitivity to how people in this demographic, nearly 800,000 undocumented young people, who have also been impacted by the hurricane in Texas could be impacted by more legislation that puts their future at risk.

KOSIK: But, of course, you've got House Speaker Paul Ryan sounding confident that this -- that DACA can be fixed, at least Congress can have at it. Listen to what he had to say and we'll talk out of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: At the end of the day, though, I would say these kids don't know any other home. I think there's a humane way to fix this. I think President Trump agrees with fixing this.

And it's got to be up to the legislature. I think we need some time to be able to fix this. And so, I would support fixing this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: So, let's talk about them kind of making of the sausage, what's going to go on behind the scenes if this happens where you see President Trump punting this issue to Congress. You know, it's all about leverage, it is about negotiation. There's an indication that President Trump is still going to hammer Congress for his wall that he wants at the Mexican border.

You know, we've got like -- Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois, Democrat, a spokesman saying over the weekend that Trump's border wall is a non-starter. So, do you see this happening in Congress where you've got President

Trump saying I'll give you DACA if you give me the wall?

[04:20:05] SCOTT: I think that is very possible. It's very important to the Trump administration to get this wall built considering what he campaigned on. And I think the optics of it not moving as forward as we would have liked it to have been a bit embarrassing.

But I think what Republican lawmakers are going to have to do is pay quite a bit of attention to their constituents. The majority of Americans do not want a wall. And so, the reality is, for Trump to put forward a wall, which is something the majority of Americans don't want, and to get rid of DACA, which is another thing that a majority of Americans don't want, could be problematic for Congress in 2018.

BRIGGS: As we said earlier, Gene, it's Jeff Sessions who's going to announce the president's plans on this. But there's still question as to how the president attempts to sell this. Will he say he's boxed in legally by these 10 states' attorneys general? Is it strictly a play to the base? How will the president plan to lay out what he wants to do here? Because he's been all over the map on DREAMers.

SCOTT: I think one thing the president will stick to is the idea that he is standing on some of his earlier comments about this being -- this executive action being unconstitutional and his earlier promise to rescind everything that he believes that Obama put forward that is problematic. This approach is pretty consistent with his idea that law and order is the most important thing possible moving forward in a country that he and Jeff Sessions believe is seeing increases in areas of violence.

The challenge with that is, you're dealing with human beings, young human beings that people on both sides of the aisle have a lot of sympathy for. This is the group that is the most -- that receives the most sympathy when it comes to undocumented immigrants and concern about them violating the laws of the land just as inconsistent when you look at the overall narrative of DREAMers in the United States.

BRIGGS: Yes. Even the polling shows the majority of Republican voters support allowing DREAMers to stay here in the United States.

Eugene Scott, great to see you, my friend, from "The Washington Post". We'll see you in a little bit.

SCOTT: You too.

BRIGGS: Ahead, Hurricane Irma headed straight for the Caribbean with Florida in its path. The latest forecasts for you next on EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:26:41] KOSIK: As Hurricane Irma strengthens into a category-four storm, packing 130 mile-per-hour winds, they're preparing for the worst in the Caribbean and in Florida. American Airlines canceling flights to and from Caribbean destinations as Irma approaches. States of emergency are in effect in Puerto Rico and Florida.

Florida Governor Rick Scott saying he spoke to President Trump Sunday about Hurricane Irma. And the president offered the full resources of the federal government.

The monster storm could potentially hit south Florida this coming weekend.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is tracking Irma and joins us live.

Pedram, how's the track look now?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, guys. You know, this is a very, very menacing feature. You look at this on satellite presentation, it's as impressive as you will see it, essentially a textbook hurricane here, sitting with perfect symmetry, perfect organization, and, of course, the winds that are howling up there at a healthy category 4.

But the track stays well to the west right now. We think a potential shift a little farther south into Cuba. Say later into Thursday and eventually Friday. Now, the water temperatures are very conducive to keep the storm very healthy, the atmospheric environment also very little wind shear to shred the storm apart. So, that is the most concerning part of this feature here approaching early this weekend.

And if you look at the models, very good agreement on where this will head. We think it will shift further south into Cuba or go just south to the Bahamas into the Florida straits. But the steering environment changes beginning on, say, Saturday into Sunday. That is why we think the storm could turn right to the areas towards Florida, at this point, favoring the western periphery of Florida.

The National Hurricane Center says between four and five days out, there's about 150 to 200-mile variance in area. So, this storm could certainly end up in the Gulf of Mexico, maybe on the eastern side of Florida, as well. So, still following that carefully the next few days.

KOSIK: All right. Pedram Javaheri, thanks so much for the latest on Irma.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, chaos at a Labor Day block party in south Philadelphia. A car crashes into a crowd striking eight people. Several had to be hospitalized including a pregnant woman. The unidentified female driver telling police she tried to go around the people, but her brakes failed, causing her to crash into the crowd. But the driver has reportedly been arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

South Korea showing military force after North Korea's nuclear test as Ambassador Nikki Haley tells the U.N. that Pyongyang is, quote, begging for war. The latest on this nuclear standoff, next.