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Little Clarity On Future Of Gun Legislation; U.S.' Top North Korea Diplomat Announces Surprise Retirement; Syrian Ceasefire Broken By Shelling; Disney Donates Cut Of "Black Panther" Profits. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 27, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:20] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There's nothing to be afraid of. We have to fight them every once in a while -- that's OK.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says he's willing to fight the NRA. But after hearing from the NRA, the White House appears to be backing off of a proposal to raise the minimum age on guns.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Does Jared Kushner have access to classified information? The White House will not say, even after the deadline to deal with clearances has come and gone.

BRIGGS: And, shelling has interrupted a pause in fighting in Syria ordered by the Russian president. Why is it Vladimir Putin's call here and can peace on the ground be sustained?

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to have you back from vacation --

BRIGGS: Good to be here.

ROMANS: -- by the way. Thirty-one minutes past the hour.

Lawmakers in a nation waiting for clarity from the president on guns are still waiting. The president mentioning a few possibilities when he spoke to governors Monday at the White House.

Now, he was firm on the issue of bump stocks. Those are the devices which increase the firing rate of a semiautomatic weapon.


TRUMP: By the way, bump stocks -- we're writing that out. I'm writing that out myself. I don't care if Congress does it or not. I'm writing it out myself, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: The president also told lawmakers he is willing to stand up to the NRA and that they should be willing to stand up, too.


TRUMP: Don't worry about the NRA. They're on our side.

You guys -- half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There's nothing to be afraid of. And you know what, if they're not with you we have to fight them every once in a while -- that's OK.


BRIGGS: Despite that, the White House now appears to be backing away from the president's call to increase the age requirement for buying some weapons to 21.


LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS, "THE INGRAHAM ANGLE": They want to raise the age of --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't bring up the age raising one time in that meeting. And again, the president's listening to all the stakeholders here and when he sits with the governors at the local level who could -- who could help stop some of these shootings, when they don't bring it up that's very telling to him.


BRIGGS: The president suggested raising the age last week before sitting down with NRA leadership over the weekend.

ROMANS: And the president's son, yesterday on "FOX & FRIENDS," endorsed -- or Trump endorsed. There's no big deal to raise the minimum age on some of those guns.

Now, the president is standing by his proposal to arm teachers, at least the ones he says can handle it.


TRUMP: I don't want teachers to have guns. I want highly-trained people that have a natural talent, like hitting a baseball, or hitting a golf ball, or putting. How come some people always make the four- footer and some people under pressure can't even take their club back, right? Some people can't take their club back.


ROMANS: What does that mean, can't take their club back? I don't know -- that analogy lost me.

BRIGGS: That, Christine, is the mother of all sports analogies.

The president also made a bold claim when he discussed a sheriff's deputy who wanted to enter -- waiter, rather, to enter Stoneman Douglas High School while this mass shooting was underway.


TRUMP: You know, I really believe -- you don't know until you're tested but I think I -- I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.


BRIGGS: As long as the bone spur didn't act up.

CNN's Jim Acosta asked White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to clarify.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was just stating that as a leader, he would have stepped in and hopefully been able to help, as a number of the individuals that were in the school -- the coach and other adults, and even a lot of the students stepped up and helped protect other students.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is he trained in firing a weapon? Is he trained in using a handgun or a firearm of some sort?

SANDERS: I don't think that was the point he was making. He was saying that he would be a leader and would want to take a courageous action.


ROMANS: President Trump's suggestion of arming teachers troubling many officials, including Washington State's Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.


GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: Now, I just think this is a circumstance where we need to listen. That educators should educate and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first grade classes.

Now, I understand you have suggested this and we suggest things and sometimes then we listen to people about it and maybe they don't look so good a little later. So I just suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening, and let's just take that off the table and move forward.


ROMANS: All right.

Delta's decision to sever ties with the NRA may cost it a generous tax break. Delta is based in Atlanta. Over the weekend, it stopped offering special discounted flights to NRA members.

That prompted a backlash from Georgia Republicans. They threatened to kill part of a current bill eliminating a state tax on jet fuel. That would save Delta millions -- tens of millions of dollars.

[05:35:00] Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle tweeted this. "Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back."

Delta is one of a dozen companies breaking up with the NRA because their customers demand it. They're no longer offering special discounts to NRA members.

The NRA calls this political cowardness but Delta says its choice reflects its neutral status in the current gun debate, right? So, not giving special treatment to NRA members anymore --

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: -- as opposed to other people.

Other companies are keeping NRA-member discounts, like FedEx. It says it has never changed rates due to customers' politics, beliefs or positions on issues, but it did distance itself from the NRA's views. FedEx opposes assault rifles in the hands of civilians.

BRIGGS: It's very unusual to see a lieutenant governor make that threat on Twitter -- to put it in writing.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: We shall see where that story goes.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst Josh Rogin, columnist for "The Washington Post." It's good to see you --

ROMANS: Hey, Josh.

BRIGGS: -- again, sir.


BRIGGS: Quickly, on this gun debate which remains the top of the conversation. We should hear from Republican leadership in the House and Senate today.

What do you think the likelihood of any legislation happening and what is required of this issue right now?

ROGIN: Yes. First of all, I looked up what it -- does it mean to take your club back.

ROMANS: Thank you.

ROGIN: It's the swing. It's the -- it's the bringing it back for the windup. It's the first part of the swing. ROMANS: OK.

ROGIN: So, when you go back, that's take your club back and then you swing through. So, the president is trying to say that some people always hit with putts and some people choke under the pressure.

ROMANS: I see.

ROGIN: How that relates to what would happen in a live shooter incident is beyond me.

ROMANS: And this is a natural ability people have? Is it a natural ability or something you can learn and work on?

BRIGGS: Well --

ROGIN: Not being a golfer myself, I think what he's saying is that people deal with pressure in all sorts of ways --

ROMANS: I see.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROGIN: -- and he's a guy who's good under pressure. Whether or not that's actually true or not is another discussion. And whether or not that applies to a live shooting in a school is kind of a ridiculous notion.

ROMANS: Which is not a game. Which is not a game.

ROGIN: Right.

But, you know, focusing back on Capitol Hill, I think the leadership there is a long way from figuring out exactly what they want to do about this and, you know, we've seen this before. They're going to go into their private meetings, try to come up with the lowest common denominator -- something that they think can allow them to claim progress on the issue without actually upsetting their equities and then, they're going to fail to do that.

And I think that what you're seeing from the leadership on both sides of Congress is a recognition that that's how it's come out, so they're not rushing towards that because they're hoping to keep the string going as long as they can.

BRIGGS: Just to finish the analogy, the likelihood of getting gun legislation is like me shooting a 63 out there on the golf course. Not going to happen anytime soon.

ROMANS: Or me a hole in one?

BRIGGS: Or you a hole in one.

ROMANS: You know, I don't know where the presidential leadership is really on this because even on the issue of -- on age limit for, say, an AR-15 the president didn't mention it yesterday. His son did in the morning. He had floated it earlier but the NRA is against it, you know. Where is his conviction, we just don't know.

Let's talk about North Korea. You talked to Joseph Yun, this seasoned senior diplomat who has worked in the region who is retiring. What is the significance of that and what kind of a vacuum does it leave in terms of the U.S. and North Korea?

ROGIN: Yes, it's quite stunning because for the last year and change we've had the State Department running around the world trying to set up talks with North Korea, largely on their own. They haven't gotten a lot of support from the White House but they've been meeting with the Russians, the Chinese, the South Koreans, the Japanese, and the guy who's been doing that is Joseph Yun.

He's actually been meeting with the North Koreans through the New York channel and in third locations in Europe in clandestine settings to try to get something going. And right as it seems that we are getting something going -- and, by the way, while tensions are rising and the threat of war increases -- he's tapping out.

He's saying that he's had enough. He's ending a four-decade diplomatic career and retiring and going into the private sector. And that is a sort of -- impossible to see as anything but a rejection of -- by the State Department and the diplomatic corps -- the professional diplomatic corps of the way that the White House is handling the North Korea issue. They simply don't want to be a part of it.

They don't feel that diplomats in the State Department are having an impact or having a fair say. And whether or not the Trump White House goes forward with diplomacy or goes forward with war, it's clear to people like Joe Yun that they're not going to be in the position to make that decision so they're stepping out of the way.

So that leaves a huge vacuum in our diplomacy. It's also an opportunity.

If President Trump was really serious about negotiating with North Korea he would appoint someone who he likes and trusts and that person would have the added benefit that Joseph Yun never had, which is that he could claim to speak for the president. But seeing how diplomatic appointments go in this administration I wouldn't be holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon.

BRIGGS: So, all right, in the midst of the Olympics we heard that there were reports that the North Koreans were willing to sit down and talk with the United States.

You recently traveled there with Vice President Mike Pence. What is the likelihood of those talks in the weeks and months ahead?

ROGIN: You know, well, it's interesting. It depends who you talk to.

[05:40:00] I mean, they almost met in PyeongChang. I was there with the vice president. It came down to the last hours and the North Koreans pulled out of the meeting. Mike Pence was ready to talk to the North Koreans. It wasn't going to be a meeting that was going to produce any results or any progress. But talking is worthwhile and it does -- you know, it's very hard to start a war while you're in the middle of talking so there is that, too.

In the end, this is something that the South Koreans are pushing very hard. It's not clear whether the North Koreans are serious about actually doing things.

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: It's not clear whether the Trump administration is serious about actually doing things. But if we want to avoid war we've got to talk to them and we've got to start to explore whether or not there's a way to sit down and find a deal.

And, of course, what President Trump said on Friday was that if we don't get a deal we go to phase two and, for him, phase two is a war on the Korean Peninsula. And for the people on the Korean Peninsula that's a nightmare.

ROMANS: No, that is a nightmare.

Just quickly on Ivanka Trump representing the United States at the closing ceremonies but then, refusing to answer -- well, she did answer, actually, a question -- a controversial question asked about her father's accusers.

Is she -- is she the right person? Does she have the skills to sort of be America -- I mean, what is her role?

ROGIN: Yes. I mean, she's got three roles, right? She's the president's daughter, she is a self-purported champion for the empowerment of women, and she's the U.S. official delegation head to the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

As the president's daughter, yes, she's perfectly qualified. As the champion of women, I think that's where you're getting into some gray area because she is not -- decided not to believe her father's over a dozen accusers. And as a representative to the Olympics, yes, she's qualified. Anyone can really do that.

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: I think she did a fine job.

But, it's on that middle one --

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: If she wants to be a champion for the empowerment of women and that she wants to defend her father, those two things are going to clash and she's going to receive --

BRIGGS: Yes. ROGIN: -- a lot of criticism, and that comes with the territory, Ivanka Trump.

ROMANS: Josh Rogin, columnist for "The Washington Post," CNN political analyst. Nice to see you, as always.

ROGIN: Always.

BRIGGS: All right.

The White House refusing to say whether any interim security clearances were revoked last week. Earlier this month, Chief of Staff John Kelly ordered a stop to all interim clearances pending since June first, including Jared Kushner's.

That deadline passed on Friday, so did anyone get their interim security clearance revoked?


SANDERS: As we've said many times before, we're not going to discuss individual clearances. That goes to a broader number or an individual number so I'm not going to get into that today, just as I haven't in the past.


BRIGGS: Kelly ordered all interim security clearances revoked in the fallout from the Rob Porter scandal. The former White House aide served for a year under a temporary clearance despite domestic abuse allegations.

ROMANS: The White House communications director Hope Hicks is set to appear in private today before the House Intelligence Committee. Hicks is one of President Trump's longest-serving aides. Her appearance was delayed over whether she should discuss the transition and her time at the White House.

Hicks appears to have knowledge about key events in the first year of the Trump presidency, including that initial misleading statement about Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. A statement that was crafted, I think -- crafted aboard the plane --


ROMANS: -- that is sort of the crux of all these questions.

BRIGGS: Does she have privilege? That's what the --


BRIGGS: -- questions will be in the days ahead.

All right. Next, a humanitarian pause failing to take hold in Syria's devastated Eastern Ghouta. We're live in the Middle East, next.


[05:47:31] ROMANS: Breaking news right now.

Just minutes into a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Syria, activists report shelling from pro-Assad regime positions. The White Helmet Civil Defense group says at least one person was killed. The pause in hostilities in the battered Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Let's go back again now to Sam Kiley. He's been monitoring this all morning for us -- these latest developments live from Istanbul. What can you tell us?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, the White Helmets and other activist groups have confirmed that there have been artillery and rocket strikes particularly close to where the Syrians have been saying that they wanted to be able to establish a humanitarian corridor to evacuate particularly those with severe medical conditions. Mostly, of course, injuries from war.

The Syrian state news agency has countered, saying that rebels have mortared the route out of East Ghouta. Either way, this pause has resulted in a reduction in violence in East Ghouta, but by no means anything approaching the ceasefire that the United Nations Security Council resolution demanded over the weekend. That resolution that the Russians at least chose not to veto as they have every often in the past.

This was a humanitarian pause called by the Russians -- demanded of the -- by the Russians of the Syrians, but there have been attacks going on in both directions and skirmishing along the front lines.

So as far as the local population that we've been in touch with and medical doctors working in places like Aubin (ph) Hospital, they don't believe that either the resolution nor this humanitarian pause is worth the ink that it's written with but, rather, they anticipate more violence over the coming days and weeks as the government tries to grind East Ghouta down.

ROMANS: All right, Sam, in Istanbul. Thank you so much for that.

We also know this. Overnight, the U.K. foreign secretary Boris Johnson said if there is incontrovertible evidence of chemical weapons used, the U.K. could play a role in airstrikes against the Syrian regime.

Forty-nine minutes past the hour.

"BLACK PANTHER" raking in the big bucks at the box office. Still, $700 million and counting. Disney's going to give a little bit of that back to children. Details on "CNN Money," next.


[05:54:19] ROMANS: All 680 public schools in West Virginia closed for a fourth day by an ongoing teachers' strike. The walkout affecting more than 227,000 students.

Teachers hit picket lines last week demanding higher wages and better benefits. West Virginia Ranks 48 in the nation for teacher -- average teacher pay.

Governor Jim Justice signed legislation last week raising teacher pay but teachers say it just does not address other concerns like rising health care costs.

BRIGGS: A terrifying ordeal for passengers and crew members on a Southwest Airlines flight. Now, the plane had just taken off from Salt Lake City when passengers heard a loud explosion.

ROMANS: Oh, my.

BRIGGS: An engine on fire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got shooting flames out the side of the engine and it's crazy.

[05:55:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I kind of just got really, really, really scared and I started crying, and I just started praying and holding my sister's hand.




BRIGGS: Passengers say the pilot remained calm as he completed an emergency landing. Another jet was brought in and passengers were flown to LAX.

ROMANS: All right.

The search is on for a killer who shot a North Carolina man as he was broadcasting on Facebook live. A warning some of you may find this video we're about to show disturbing.

Fifty-five-year-old Prentis Robinson was killed in Wingate, about 25 miles southeast of Charlotte. The video shows him being approached by a man asking him "you on live" before shots are fired. CNN affiliate WSOC says Douglas Colson has been identified as a suspect.

The incident, once again, raising questions about violent content on Facebook live.

BRIGGS: All right.

More than 200 rivers near flood stage this morning from Texas to the Great Lakes and more rain headed to hard-hit areas.

Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Dave and Christine, good morning to you both.

Yes, you know, this is going to be a very serious situation for a lot of people. As we know, upwards of 200-plus river gauges that are reporting flooding as of this hour. The vast majority are in the minor flood stage levels but you notice a good number in the moderate and then certainly, about a dozen or so in the major flood stage, really stretching from the Gulf Coast all the way towards the Great Lakes.

And that's precisely where we have a frontal boundary draped across this region. Could see additional change of showers.

Unfortunately, the bullseye for the heaviest rainfall across parts of east Texas on into, say, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of southern Tennessee. Really, the areas that have been hardest hit in the past week so some of these regions could see another round of, say, three, four, maybe five inches of rainfall.

And again, several million people underneath flood watches and flood warnings this morning as a result of what's happening.

And look at the uniform nature of this incredible temperature trend. Up to 60 in Chicago. Lower 60s also down around portions of Arkansas. Middle 60s into the southern U.S. and about 60 around the northeast as well.

So this is a trend we think will last a couple of more days and then finally, a little cooler as we push to the weekend.


ROMANS: All right, thank you.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Right now, U.S. futures are down a little bit but global stocks had a great performance set by the tone on Wall Street yesterday. A big rally for U.S. stocks yesterday, up nearly 400 points for the Dow.

For now, investors stopped worrying about rising interest rates, but the tiniest rate news moves stocks here and we may get more today. New Fed chief Jerome Powell will testify before Congress.

Apple stock jumped two percent, nearly an all-time high. Warren Buffett said his company bought more Apple shares than any other this year.

And, you know, big tech moves markets. Three tech stocks have fueled nearly half of the S&P 500's rise this year -- Amazon, Microsoft, and Netflix if you're keeping score. About three-quarters of those big losses in the Dow that we had last -- this month -- have been erased. So, the market's been clawing back. New home sales hit a 5-month low in January, falling for the second month in a row. New homes are just a small slice of the entire housing market. Existing homes is bigger. Those sales also dropped in January, the sharpest annual drop in three years.

Homebuyers face some problems here. Low supply, rising prices that is sidelining many first-time homebuyers and experts worry two factors will slow things down this year in housing -- rising mortgage rates -- they're near a 4-year high right now -- and the new tax bill. It caps the mortgage interest deduction.

All right, "BLACK PANTHER," have you seen it? It is raking in the big bucks at the box office -- $700 million worldwide. Just incredible.

Disney is giving a cut of that back to children. Disney will donate $1 million of the profit to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The money will support its STEM programs for kids and teens. That is science, technology, engineering, and math.

Disney's CEO Bob Iger says it's just thrilling to see how inspired young audiences were by the technology in the film. If there's something Disney knows, it's technology.

BRIGGS: Just incredible -- $700 million. For context, "GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY" made $773 million --

ROMANS: yes.

BRIGGS: -- in five months.

ROMANS: Wow, amazing.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


TRUMP: I really believe I'd run into it even if I didn't have a weapon.


SANDERS: He was just stating he would have stepped in and hopefully, been able to help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The proposal to raise to 21 is just common sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he should be backing away from this issue.

TRUMP: By the way, bump stocks -- I don't care if Congress does it not. I'm writing it out myself, OK?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: In this case, he deserves credit for this and I hope he'll keep it up.

TRUMP: I got to watch some deputy sheriffs. They weren't exactly Medal of Honor winners.

ROMANS: The school resource officer insisting he did nothing wrong as CNN learns new details about the gunman's troubled past.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember thinking he's going to kill someone and I can do nothing about it.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, February 27th, 6:00 here in New York.

So here's our "Starting Line."