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EARLY START

End of Strategic Patience?; VP Pence News Conference with Japanese Deputy PM; Transparency Issues Weigh Down White House; Questions Whether Turkish Election Was Free & Fair. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 18, 2017 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:00] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: How can we see those ties change?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, this was a decision that was made at the time in Washington when you saw Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting with President Donald Trump. They agreed these talks would go forward. There was this relationship of cooperation that was forged between these two leaders at that point.

You heard the vice president inside the prime minister's residence just now talking about the path forward on a bilateral basis, between Japan and the U.S., which is the policy of Donald Trump, in place of the TPP. But he also talked about the fact that there was this sort of personal relationship that had developed between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump. These talks, though, of course, being led by the vice president and the deputy prime minister here in Japan. You heard them also announce that they will be having another meeting, more discussions later in the year.

But today was about establishing a framework for how to proceed, how to develop potentially a free trade agreement, which you heard the vice president's goal would be free and fair agreement for both sides of a goal from the U.S., of course, opening up the Japanese markets to more U.S. products and paving the way for greater Japanese investment in the U.S., Alison.

KOSIK: One interesting side note here: I'm not sure if everybody knows this, but as governor of -- now Vice President Pence had a very close relationship with Japan, politically and economically. I mean, you look at Subaru, Honda, Toyota, all had home bases in Indiana. So, you're seeing a sort of continuation of that relationship.

DAVID BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about the North Korean -- pardon me. Let's move on to the North Korean nuclear threat. One that Mike Pence said there, it's a failure of dialogue when he spoke alongside the deputy prime minister. And yesterday, things seemed to ratchet up quite a bit.

Let's first talk about what Sean Spicer said in a press briefing related to, are there red lines that we cannot let North Korea pass.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Drawing red lines hasn't really worked in the past. He holds his cards close to the vest. You're not going to see him telegraphing how he's going to respond to any military or other situation going forward. That's just something that he believes has not serve us well in the past. So, the president has been very clear that not taking options off the table gives us a stronger hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: So, Alex, that speaks to what Mike Pence did say this morning. That it's been a failure of dialogue. But how perhaps did what the North Korean U.N. rep said yesterday ratchet up the entire situation in the region?

FIELD: Look, what the envoy of the U.N. said yesterday is very much in line with what we have been hearing out of North Korea, broadcast by state news there. They've cited an army spokesperson who said similar things, putting out basically this warning to the U.S. that any provocation, any hostile action would result in thermonuclear war. A pretty epic threat but very much in line with the rhetoric you do hear out of North Korea.

And, of course, it comes while the vice president is in the region, declaring that the U.S.'s resolve is strong and that the commitment is total to reaching the objective of denuclearizing the peninsula, and as the vice president is talking about how to achieve that objective. Of course, what's raised the level of concern is this persistent sort of drumbeat from Washington, this of the repeated motto that all options are on the table, and that that includes a military option.

And that is exactly what you heard Prime Minister Shinzo Abe responding to, reacting to today. And at one point, he did again say that Japan values this position that Washington has taken, that strategic patience is no longer the way forward. And they are entertaining all options.

But what you do hear from the allies in the region, from South Korea, from Tokyo, as their leaders meet with Mike Pence, is their insistence that they are hopeful, that there will be a peaceful resolution, the increased tension and that can be achieved through economic and diplomatic measures. The Vice President Mike Pence is, of course, reaffirmed the fact that he is leaning on partners in the region, particularly Chinas, as we continue to report in order to extract the willingness from North Korea to denuclearize by applying this kind of economic and trade pressure.

But you heard the vice president saying again that the U.S. would stand shoulder to shoulder with Japan in defense of the security of this region.

BRIGGS: Certainly one unified voice from this administration regarding that North Korean nuclear threat. Alexandra Field, live for us in Tokyo, we'll check back in with you at 5:00. Thanks so much.

KOSIK: And just before landing in Japan, Vice President Mike Pence says the trade relationship with South Korea is falling short. Pence telling South Korean business leaders that the most concerning issue is the growing trade deficit. He cites the trade deficit between the U.S. and South Korea doubling since 2012.

That's when the U.S.-Korea trade agreement was implemented. The vice president said there are trade barriers that are unfair to U.S. businesses.

[04:35:00] He says that trade deal and others will be reviewed. But experts say the deficit is not the whole story. Trade deals are meant to open up markets on both sides. And Americans' love for cheap goods has helped to make South Korea the United States' sixth biggest trade partner.

The tough talk has not translated, though, into decisive actions on any trade agreements so far. But the president will ratchet up his rhetoric today. He's going to appear in Kenosha, Wisconsin, at the Snap-On tools factory. There, he'll sign an executive order that looks to protect American workers and promote American goods while taking steps to reform the H-1B worker visa program, that's according to senior administration officials.

KOSIK: A big reward on the table for the suspect of a murder posted on Facebook. The victim's family with a message for their father's killer, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Police in Cleveland say the search for suspect Steve Stephens is now a national manhunt.

[04:35:02] Stephens is accused of fatally shooting 74-year-old Robert Godwin on Easter. He then posted video of the murder on Facebook.

The victim's grieving family talking to CNN had a surprising message for Stevens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GODWIN, JR., VICTIM'S SON: All I want to see is him brought to justice. I want my family to have closure. It just -- it's a hole in my heart right now. One thing I do want to say is I forgive him because we are all sinners. If you're out there, if you're listening, turn yourself in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: So, Stephens is still a fugitive. And police say he is still armed and dangerous. Several reported sightings, including one in Philadelphia. They haven't panned out. A suspected ping from his cell phone in Erie, Pennsylvania, that also turned out to be a false alarm.

BRIGGS: U.S. Army officials trying to determine what caused a Blackhawk helicopter to crash Monday on a Maryland golf course. One of the three crew members was killed. The two others badly injured. Officials say it happened in a routine training exercise. Witnesses say the chopper hit a patch of trees on the way down.

KOSIK: Breaking overnight, the U.S. Supreme Court blocking the state of Arkansas from executing death row inmate Don Davis. The convicted murderer was to die last night by lethal injection. He even ate his final meal before the court intervened, though, upholding a stay by the state's Supreme Court. It was the first of six executions the state planned to conduct over the next two weeks.

Arkansas officials racing against the clock to use up their supply of a controversial sedative before it expires. This is the second time in seven years Davis has been spared within hours of being put to death.

BRIGGS: The traffic headache for Atlanta motorists is now a full-on migraine. Authorities shutting down a portion of busy Interstate 20 on Monday after an underground gas leak caused the concrete roadway to actually buckle. This comes after a five-lane section of Interstate 85, another major artery there in Atlanta collapsed when a fire broke out underneath.

So, if you're keeping score, the city is now down two fully functioning major interstates. A disaster if for folks in Atlanta.

KOSIK: Lots of traffic headaches.

BRIGGS: A massive headache.

KOSIK: President Trump calling Turkey's president in the wake of a referendum, giving him sweeping powers. But there's a difference of messages in Washington. We're live in Istanbul.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:46:59] KOSIK: Welcome back.

Questions about transparency are weighing down the Trump administration. The president's taxes topping the list.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer confirming Mr. Trump's 2016 tax forms will not be made public. He's blaming an audit. Now, we should note, federal law requires an audit of the president's taxes every year. Spicer, though, refusing to say whether the American people will ever get to see the president's returns.

We get more now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Alison, today is the day that Americans must mail their tax returns in by. But we know that one will not be releasing that tax return. That is President Donald Trump.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday during his daily press briefing that the president would not change his practice and would not be releasing that 2016 tax return. He said it's under audit. Sean Spicer when pressed on the tax returns, this is what he said on Monday.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The American public know clearly where he stands. This is something that he made very clear during the election cycle. We're turned same audit that existed. So, nothing has changed.

REPORTER: You always talk about, under audit. The president says under audit. Is it time to say, once and for all, the president is never going to release his tax returns?

SPICER: We'll have to get back to you on that.

ZELENY: That's not the only question of transparency that's being asked of this White House.

The White House has made the decision to not release visitor logs. Those are those records of people who are coming here to the White House to have meetings with administration officials and perhaps even the president himself.

The Obama administration started that policy some eight years ago. The Trump administration not following suit on that. Now, this comes after President Trump said he would be the most transparent president ever, that he would have a transparent administration. Well, no visitor logs, no tax returns mean this president is not quite living up to that bill -- Alison and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Not close. Thank you, Jeff.

Lingering questions about President Trump's taxes having a hangover effect on congressional Republicans. Listen to GOP Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, trying unsuccessfully to defend the president at a feisty town hall meeting in Little Rock.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: As far as I'm aware, the president says he's still under audit.

(CROWD BOOING)

It doesn't take a lot of effort to find out where Donald Trump has mentions overseas. He puts his name on buildings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Ouch. It got hot in there.

BRIGGS: That did not go over well.

A growing number of Republicans by some estimates, as much as 12, backing a Democratic measure to force President Trump to release his tax returns. And the Democrats will certainly try a new tactic on this. They will try to tie it to any tax reform bill. KOSIK: Good luck with that.

BRIGGS: Yes, this fight is not over.

KOSIK: All right. The U.S. travel industry taking a hit. Are President Trump's policies to blame? An early start on your money next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:54:04] KOSIK: President Trump's policies are threatening the U.S. travel industry. That's at least according to a new report. That forecasts a huge drop in visitors.

One study forecasts a 10.6 million decline in travelers to the U.S. this year and next year as well. That's a 7 percent drop according to Tourism Economics, which is a forecasting firm used by the travel industry. It says the drop will cost the U.S. economy more than $18 billion in lost revenue and about 107,000 jobs. That's as companies deal with slowing demand.

Researchers say even though the president's new travel and immigration policies would affect just a fraction of all travelers, the rhetoric has hurt the U.S. brand.

President Trump offering his congratulations to Turkey's President Recep Erdogan for winning a referendum that grants him sweeping new powers. This despite objections from Turkey's opposition and voting irregularities witnessed by election monitors.

[04:55:02] BRIGGS: "The New York Times" offering a blistering editorial on Erdogan this morning, saying in part, quote, "his victory is expected to prevail leaving Turkey in the hands of an erratic and vengeful man and the world wondering whether a nation that for decades has served as a crucial bridge between Europe and the Muslim world can possibly have a stable and prosperous future under someone with so little respect for democratic structures and values."

For the latest, let's bring in CNN's Ian Lee in Istanbul.

Good morning to you, Ian.

International election observers got a look at the results. What are they saying about the allegations of voter fraud?

IAN LEE, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Dave.

We're hearing from the OSCE, which is the European mission that was here to look and validate this referendum or look at the legality of it. And their report was very scathing. They took issue with these unstamped ballots which previously wouldn't make them valid. But at the last minute, the supreme electoral board said they could be counted.

And they said because that happened, it significantly changed the validity criteria, undermining an important safeguard and contradicting the law. They also went after the media, the government-owned and private media, saying that it gave an imbalance. It gave preference treatment to the yes campaign, preferential treatment to President Erdogan, who was campaigning hard for this yes vote.

And we also heard a mixed message coming from Washington. President Trump called President Erdogan to congratulate him. They also talked about U.S. and Turkish cooperation in Syria and Iraq. President Trump also thanked President Erdogan for supporting him in is actions in Syria. But then we heard from the State Department saying they noted the concerns raised by the European monitors about the irregularities and the uneven playing field. They said Turkey needs to protect the rights and free comes to of all its citizens -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Fascinating story. Ian Lee live for us in Istanbul.

This is -- the media certainly is a story here. But they're in part -- they're jailing journalists as a common practice. So, it's hard to blame them for their balance of coverage. This is an interesting situation for the U.S. to straddle the fence on.

KOSIK: Exactly. It's also a delicate dance because, you know, you see the country as an ally in the fight against ISIS as well.

BRIGGS: Yes. He supported those Syrian missile strikes.

KOSIK: All right. Vice President Pence in Tokyo today. He's getting support from Japan's prime minister on the change of policy dealing with North Korea. We're live from the Far East, next.

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